Page:Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography volume 1.djvu/14

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VIRGINIA BIOGRAPHY

Edwin Sandys, Nichols Ferrar and the Earl of Southampton—worthy successors of Gilbert and Raleigh—undertook the solution of the problem. Raleigh, confined in the Tower, could not take an active part at this time, but his friends and relations were the chief actors and workers in the new colonization schemes.

Two large associations were formed—one composed of lords, knights and merchants of the city of London, and the other of residents in the cities of Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth,—and they obtained from King James I., April 10, 1606, a joint charter which defined Virginia as the portion of North America lying between the 34th and 45th parallel of north latitude, practically the present United States. In this vast extent of territory the first Company, called the Virginia Company of London, was permitted to establish a settlement anywhere between 34 and 41 degrees; and the second, called the Plymouth Company, anywhere between 38 and 45 degrees. The actual jurisdiction of each Company was represented by a rectangle extending fifty miles north of the settlement and fifty miles south, and east and west 100 miles from the coast seaward, and 100 miles from the coast inland. The Plymouth Company was singularly unfortunate in its attempts, but the efforts of the Virginia Company were crowned with success; and by two new charters, 1609 and 1612, its jurisdiction was extended over the entire limit of its original sphere of possible settlement, and from sea to sea.

The subsequent history of Virginia affairs under the Company for nearly twenty years is one of stupendous self-sacrifice both in England and America. The men in England who had the supreme control gave freely of their money and time, and received no return except the satisfaction of having founded in America a fifth kingdom under the Crown. The men in Virginia incurred hardships without parallel in the world's history, and most of them went to the martyrdom of cruel death by climatic disease, starvation and Indian attack. It was but natural that, in those unprecedented conditions, those in England should try to shield themselves from the blame and throw upon the settlers the responsibility. But discriminating history has seen the light at last, and while the motives of the directors of the enterprise were always high and honorable, it is now recognized that in the government of the colony they made many and serious blunders. For fear of making the enterprise unpopular they refused to tell the English public the real truth as to the dangerous climate and the other natural conditions making for evil. Virginia, as a country, had to be "boomed," at all events. Thus the poor settlers, who, for the most part, consisted of the best materials in England—old sailors under Hawkins and Drake, or old soldiers of the Netherlands—were abused and shamelessly villified. The appalling mortality which overwhelmed them for a great number of years is itself a pathetic and passionate vindication. Never did any martyr suffer so patiently, so patriotically, as these devoted settlers did—a prey to Indian attack,