The Beginner's American History/Chapter 4

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Sir Walter Raleigh (1552–1618)[edit]

32. Walter Raleigh sends two ships to America; how the Indians received the Englishmen.— Although John Cabot discovered the continent of North America in 1497 and took possession of the land for the English (see Chapter 2), yet the English themselves did not try to settle here until nearly a hundred years later.

Then (1584) a young man named Walter Raleigh (Raw′li), who was a great favorite of Queen Elizabeth's, sent out two ships to America. The captains of these vessels landed on Roanoke (Ro-a-nōk′) Island, on the coast of what is now the state of North Carolina. They found the island covered with tall red cedars and with vines thick with clusters of wild grapes. The Indians called this place the “Good Land.” They were pleased to see the Englishmen, and they invited them to a great feast of roast turkey, venison,1 melons, and nuts.

33. Queen Elizabeth names the country Virginia; first settlers; what they sent Walter Raleigh.— When the two captains returned to England, Queen Elizabeth—the “Virgin Queen,” as she was called—was delighted with what she heard of the “Good Land.” She named it Virginia in honor of herself. She also gave Raleigh a title of honor. From that time he was no longer called plain Walter Raleigh or Mr. Raleigh, but Sir Walter Raleigh.

Sir Walter now (1585) shipped over emigrants2 to settle in Virginia. They sent back to him, as a present, two famous American plants—one called Tobacco, the other the Potato. The queen had given Sir Walter a fine estate in Ireland, and he set out both the plants in his garden. The tobacco plant did not grow very well there, but the potato did; and after a time thousands of farmers began to raise that vegetable, not only in Ireland, but in England too. As far back as that time—or more than three hundred years ago—America was beginning to feed the people of the Old World.

34. The Virginia settlement destroyed.— Sir Walter spent immense sums of money on his settlement in Virginia, but it did not succeed. One of the settlers, named Dare, had a daughter born there. He named her Virginia Dare. She was the first English child born in America. But the little girl, with her father and mother and all the rest of the settlers, disappeared. It is supposed that they were killed by the Indians or that they wandered away and starved to death; but all that we really know is that not one of them was ever seen again.

35. Last days of Sir Walter Raleigh.— After Queen Elizabeth died, King James the First became ruler of England. He accused Sir Walter of trying to take away his crown so as to make some one else ruler over the country. Sir Walter was sent to prison and kept there for many years. At last King James released him in order to send him to South America to get gold. When Sir Walter returned to London without any gold, the greedy king accused him of having disobeyed him because he had fought with some Spaniards. Raleigh was condemned to death and was beheaded.

But Sir Walter's attempt to settle Virginia led other Englishmen to try. Before he died they built a town, called Jamestown, on the coast. We shall presently read the history of that town. The English held Virginia from that time until it became part of the United States.

36. Summary.— Sir Walter Raleigh sent over men from England to explore the coast of America. Queen Elizabeth named the country they visited Virginia. Raleigh then shipped emigrants over to make a settlement. These emigrants sent him two American plants, Tobacco and the Potato; in that way the people of Great Britain and Ireland came to like both. Sir Walter's settlement failed; but his example led other Englishmen to try to make one. Before he was beheaded they had succeeded.


What is said about Walter Raleigh? What is said about the Indians? What name did Queen Elizabeth give to the country? What did she do for Walter Raleigh? What did Sir Walter then do? What American plants did the emigrants send him? What did he do with those plants? What happened to the Virginia settlement? What is said of the last days of Sir Walter Raleigh? Did Sir Walter's attempt to settle Virginia do any good?


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Footnotes[edit]

1 Venison (ven′i-zon or ven′zon): deer meat.

2 Emigrants: persons who leave one country to go and settle in another. Thousands of emigrants from Europe now land in this country every month.