Page:Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography volume 1.djvu/13

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PREFACE

The successful planting of an English Colony at Jamestown in 1607; had the meaning that England had become the world power in the place of Spain.

One hundred years previous, Spain became the head of the dominant religious influence and military power of Europe. She had the monopoly of America, and her treasury was filled with the gold and silver of Mexico and Peru. Her title to the whole of the new continent was based upon the great discovery of Columbus in 1492. The conscious rivalry of England with this colossal power did not begin till Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558. Then it was the rising of a nation instinct with enthusiasm, daring, and activity. For the negation of the exclusive right of Spain to the American continent, the almost forgotten voyage to North America of John Cabot in 1497, under the auspices of Henry VII., an English King, was revived by Richard Hakluyt. The next fifty years were replete with deeds of splendor and glory. Eirst. Sir John Hawkins threw down the barriers which for so long had withheld English ships from the Western continent by sailing to the West Indies and selling negroes to the Spanish planters. Then Drake and Cavendish hurled themselves upon the Spanish settlements on the west coast of South America and plundered them of their gold and circumnavigated the globe. Next, in their eager desire to outdo even Columbus in search for the East Indies, Frobisher and Davis performed their glorious voyages to the Northwest and wrote their names upon the icy waters of Labrador and British America. The grand Armada was overthrown in 1588, and the maritime power of Spain was utterly crushed by another great naval victory won by the English eight years later in the harbor of Cadiz.

Among the schemes to cut into the power of Spain was one contemplating the establishment of an English colony in North America. This noble design was conceived by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and promoted by his half brother Sir Walter Raleigh, and they are the glorious twin spirits that stand on the threshold of American history. Newfoundland and Roanoke are dedicated to their memories. Though the times were not yet ripe for success, their faith soared above all reverses. "We are as near Heaven by sea as by land," said the one as he yielded up his life in the stormy waters. "I shall yet live to see Virginia an English nation," said the other, as he went to confinement in the Tower of London, and eventually also to his death. In 1605, Spain, humbled and shorn of power. made peace with England; and now in the place of private enterprise like Gilbert's and Raleigh's, organized capital, under influences of noble spirits, like Sir Thomas Smythe. Richard Hakluyt. Sir