THE S-rORY OF JAMESTOWN, the first permanent English settlement in
America, has a familiar place in the history of the United States. We all
know of the tribulations that kept the colony on the point of expiring: the
shortage of supplies, the hostility of the Indians, the quarrels among the
leaders, the reckless search for gold, the pathetic search for a passage to the
Pacific, and the neglect of the crucial business of growing food to stay alive.
Through the scene moves the figure of Captain John Smith, a little larger
than life, trading for corn among the Indians and driving the feckless crew
to work. His departure in October 1609 results in near disaster. The settlers
fritter away their time and energy, squander their provisions, and starve.
Sir Thomas Gates, arriving after the settlement's third winter, finds only
sixty men out of six hundred still alive and those sixty scarcely able to walk.
In the summer of 161o Gates and Lord La Warr get things moving again
with a new supply of men and provisions, a new absolute form of government,
and a new set of laws designed to keep everybody at work. But
when Gates and La Warr leave for a time, the settlers fall to their old ways.
Sir Thomas Dale, upon his arrival in May 161 1, finds them at "their daily
and usuall workes, bowling in the streetes."' But Dale brings order out of
chaos. By enlarging and enforcing the colony's new law code (the famous
Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall) he starts the settlers working again and
rescues them from starvation by making them plant corn. By 1618 the colony
is getting on its feet and ready to carry on without the stern regimen of a
Smith or a Dale. There are still evil days ahead, as the Virginia Company
sends over men more rapidly than the infant colony can absorb them. But
the settlers, having found in tobacco a valuable crop for export, have at
last gone to work with a will, and Virginia's future is assured.