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The voyages of the early French, Spanish, English, and Dutch navigators to the Western World, with the fabulous stories told by them on their return, incited adventurers, and opened a wide field for the settlement of colonies and for the advancement and strengthening of national power and arms. Great Britain took hold of the subject of colonization more vigorously than any other nation, and soon, by energy, enterprise, and arms, added a great portion of the Atlantic front of North America and the interior as far back as the Mississippi River to the British Crown.

After Gilbert's and Raleigh's attempt to locate colonies under the British flag, from 1583 to 1607, there were but few serious efforts by the English at colonization.

But between 1607 and 1733, the settlement at Jamestown and Oglethorpe's arrival in Georgia, a period of 126 years, colonization in America became the rage, and during this interval the thirteen original colonies were settled :

1607. The settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.

1609. Discovery and exploration of the Hudson River, as far as latitude forty-three degrees porth, by Henry Hudson, holding a commission from the King of England, but in the service of the States-General of Holland.

1620. The Dutch applied for and obtained permission from James I. to“ build some cottages" on Manhattan Island at the mouth of “Hudson's River,” and under this license they settled a colony, which they called “New Amsterdam," now New York.

1620. Landing of the Pilgrims from the Mayflower at Plymouth, Massachusetts. 1622. Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason were granted patent for New Hampshire. 1624. First city in Maine chartered-Gorgiana, now York. 1632. Patent of Maryland granted by Charles I. to Lord Baltimore. 1636. Roger Williams founded the city of Providence, Rhode Island.

1640. Delaware ceded by the Indians to its occupants; 1682 sold by the Duke of York to William Penn.

1650. First permanent settlement of Carolina by emigrants from Virginia; granted to Clarendon and others by Charles II. in 1662, and in 1732 separated into North and South Carolina.

1664. New Jersey granted to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret.
1681. Pennsylvania granted to William Penn.
1733. Oglethorpe arrived in Georgia.


Overlapping grants, ander charters or patents, were the cause of duplicate claims to lands of many of the colonies, and frequently the occasion of bloodshed. Ignoranco of this Continent prevailed from the fact that it had been explored but a short distance into the interior, and generally by water. Expeditions were met and stopped by Indians, who, swarming near the seaboard and along the navigable streams, gave the impression of a vast and teeming population in the interior. So the early navigators, whose forces were usually composed of sailors and adventurers, few in number, were reluctant to undertake land explorations.

The Crown of Great Britain in several instances gave grants for the same territory, which embarrassed the settlement of definite limits and produced difficulties. There was great ignorance among the geographers of the sixteenth century as to the area and physical conditions of this Continent, and especially during the early part of 1600, the period when the first settlements or grants were made and charters given for possessions in America.

The revolution of 1688, in England, limited the royal prerogative, and interference with chartered rights by royal authority ceased. Parliament, becoming supreme, assumed many of the former prerogatives exercised by the Crown, and took charge of the colonies. By its legislation, “ claiming the right of taxation without representation,” it precipitated the war of the American Revolution, and the colonies, by its successful issue, became the United States of America, and the United States, by cessions from the States (former colonies), became proprietor of the former colonial grants beyond the territorial limits of the States themselves, and thus obtained the nucleus of our public domain.


In 1579 Sir Humphrey Gilbert, step-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, under patent from Elizabeth, made the first attempt to plant a colony in America. Storms and an enemy forced him back. In 1583 he sailed again. Landing at Newfoundland he erected a column, but leaving the country on his return voyage, in the same year, he, with all on board his vessel, were lost at sea.

In 1584 Elizabeth of England, March 25, granted a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, known as the North Carolina charter. Amidas and Barlow, under his command, sailed for America on the 27th of April, 1584, and reached Cuba in July of the same year. Departing northward they landed upon Wocoken Island, the sonthernmost of the group which form Ocracock Inlet, on the shores of North Carolina, and having explored Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds and visited the island of Roanoke they took possession of the territory in the name of Elizabeth, and returned to England. The queen knighted Raleigh, who had named the region Virginia (in honor of her unmarried state). Two other colonial attempts were made by Raleigh in America, viz, one in 1585 and one in 1587, both on Roanoke Island, lying between Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds on the coast of North Carolina. Sir Francis Drake carried the first colonists back to England after a year of failure. The second, uuder John White, governor, located on the site of the former city of Raleigh, which was abandoned three years afterwards.

Bartholomew Gosnold attempted a colony under England in 1602. He discovered Cape Cod, Nantucket, and other points. He formed a settlement on one of the Elizabeth Islands, but the party detailed to remain, through fear of Indians and lack of supplies, went on shipboard, and the entire company returned with Gospold to England.

Martin Pring, in 1603, owing to Gosnold's report, was sent out by Bristol merchants for trade and explorations. He examined the coast of Maine and its rivers, and traded with the natives.

In 1605-'06 Pring made a second voyage and a more thorough survey of Maine. Elizabeth's reign passed without a permanent English settlement in America.



In 1606, April 10, James I., of England, on petition of Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and others, made a grant for the establishment of two colonies, named, respectively, the first and second colonies of Virginia. The first enterprise was confided to a corporation of citizens of London, and is often historically referred to as the “ London Company," with headquarters at London, England. The territorial grant of the first colony covered a strip of sea-coast fifty miles broad, extending from the thirty-fourth to the forty-first parallel, with all the islands within one hundred miles of the shore. No settlements in the rear of these limits were to be permitted, except upon written license from the colonial council. To the second colony, consisting of citizens of the city of Plymouth, and hence called the “Plymouth Company," with headquarters at Plymouth, England, was assigned the tract between the thirty-eighth and forty-fifth parallels. The territory between the thirty-eighth and forty-first parallels was then embraced in both charters, but conflict of jurisdiction was a voided by providing that neither colony should establish a settlement within one hundred miles of any actual occupancy of the other.

Prior settlement was to determine the jurisdiction over this belt of three degrees.

The difficulties of colonization compelled the English Government to multiply the attractions for colonists, especially by liberalizing the land tenures. The democratic principle being thus firmly fixed in the social organism, we find no difficulty in tracing its influence upon our political institutions.

In 1607, May 13, the first colony (105 persons, under Wingfield, of the London Company) landed at old Jamestown, on the James or Powhatan River. Wingfield was supplanted in command by Captain John Smith.

A second colony of five hundred persons in nine ships were next sent out from Eng. land under Governor De La War. Most of these reached the colony, but the ship with the officers was wrecked on the Berinudas and did not reach the colony at old Jamestown nor join Smith until June, 1610. That colony was in such a deplorable condition that Newport, Somers, and the rest went aboard ship determined to abandon Virginia and sail for Newfoundland, en route to England. On their way down the river they met Lord De La War with three ships with colonists and supplies. They then returned to Jamestown.

King James I., May, 1609, on petition, granted a second charter incorporating the London Company, under the title of “The Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London for the First Colony in Virginia," and created a council to manage and control it with other necessary officers. The territorial limits of the colony were extended to embrace the whole sea-coast north and south within two hundred miles of Old Point Comfort, extending "from sea to sea, west and northwest," and also “ all the islands within one hundred miles along the coast of both seas of the precinct aforesaid," evidently meaning the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The sixth section of said charter was as follows:

(Extract from the second charter of Virginia.] SEC. 6. And we do algo, of our special grace, &c. give, &c. unto the said treasurer and company, &c. all those lands, countries, and territories, situate, lying, and being, in that part of America, called Virginia, from the point of land called cape or point Comfort all along the seacoast to the northward, two hundred miles, and from the said point of cape Comfort, all along the seacoast to the southward, two hundred miles; and all that space and circuit of land lying from the seacoast of the precinct aforesaid, up into the land throughout from sea to sea, west and northwest; and also all the islands lying within one hundred miles along the coast of both seas of the precinct aforesaid.

It transferred to this company the powers which had been before reserved to the King. The supreme council in England was to be chosen by the stockholders, and was independent of the King. The government under orders of the council now became absolute. Under this second and enlarged charter, the first permanent settlements were made at Henrico and City Point, at the latter under Lord De La War, in 1610, and at the former under Sir Thomas Dale and Sir Thomas Gates, in 1611.

The third charter of Virginia, granted by King James I., March 12, 1612, annexed to Virginia all the islands (Bermudas) within three hundred leagues of the coast and between the thirtieth and forty-first degrees of north latitude, and allowed the company to hold meetings for business--an assembly.

The three charters of Virginia were vacated by the court of King's Bench by quo warranto before July 15, 1625, the last year of King James' reign, and the London Virginia Conipany dissolved after pecuniary losses of more than £150,000 in attempting colonization in America.

In 1619 was held a house of burgesses, or colonial legislature, at Jamestown. It met on the 19th of Jane, and was the first legislative body in this country for the enactment of laws by deputies of the people for their own government.

In 1625, May 13, Charles I. was crowned, and in the same year he issued a royal proclamation for a commission to govern Virginia, alleging judicial repeal of the charters and transformed the colony into a royal province. After this, the chartered limits of the colony were reduced by including successive portions of it in other colonies. The territory of Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina, with parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Georgia, was originally included in the jurisdiction of the London Company. The residuum of the original territory of the first colony of Virginia was claimed by the State of Virginia at the breaking out of the revolutionary war, and was afterwards ceded to the Confederation for national uses.

In 1632 the laws of the colony were amended and improved.

The colony reluctantly accepted the Commonwealth in 1652, and during this period the house of burgesses gained important privileges.

In 1660 they readily accepted Charles II.

In 1676 occurred Bacon's rebellion, a revolt against the tyranny and avarice of the governors, Sir William Berkeley, Arlington, and Culpepper, in exacting excessive taxes and other oppression.

In 1689 William and Mary were acknowledged.

In 1765 Virginia adopted resolutions against the right of any foreign government to levy taxes therein.

In June, 1775, Lord Dunmore, governor from 1772, became so offensive to the people by his intolerance and exactions that he was forced to abandon the capital, which then was Williamsburg, and take refuge on board a man-of-war in James River.

A bill or declaration of rights was adopted by a convention composed of forty-four members of the colonial house of burgesses which met at Williamsburg, May 6, 1776, and which adopted said bill of rights on the 12th of June, 1776.

A constitution was framed by the same convention and adopted by it June 29, 1776.

The constitution thus framed was ratified by the popular vote and remained in force until 1830. On the 26th of June, 1788, Virginia adopted the Constitution of the United States, and thereby became a member of the Union.

She also became successor to the Crown and colony in the ownership of the unap propriated and vacant lands within her limits, and to the land rights of the Crown.

Her enormous western possessions north of the Ohio River were ceded by her to the National Government March 1, 1784. The lands thus ceded lie in the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

South of the Ohio she owned the territory of the present State of Kentucky, whose organization into a State she consented to.

The ceding by Virginia of her lands to the National Government, the first definite cession, virtually settled one of the most vexatious of all the questions before the Congress of the Confederation, and gave the first actual public domain for disposition by the Congress of the Confederation.




For several years after the permanent settlement of the Virginia, or first, color y, the second, or Plymouth Company, was unsuccessful; and finally, becoming discouraged in regard to the establishment of colonies within its charter limits, it was reorganized, in 1620, “for location in New England, in America."

This charter was granted November 3, 1620, from the fortieth to the forty-eighth degree of north latitude. It confirmed the grants previously made, and the territory it included, named New England, was placed under the government of the Council of Plymouth, at Plymouth, Devon, England.

A number of Puritans, having been driven from England by the persecutions inflicted upon them during the reign of Elizabeth, had settled at Amsterdam, in Holland. Failing to obtain from James I. a relaxation of the persecuting policy, they determined to seek an asylum in North America, and first directed their attention to the valley of the Hudson. After tedious negotiations with the London Company, of Virginia, for a settlement within the limits of the first colony of Virginia, they finally obtained a patent for a tract of land in the name of John Wincomb, but without explicit assurance of security in the rights of conscience. After some hesitation, they embarked their first company of emigrants upon the Mayflower, at Delft Haven, and after a voyage of sixty-three days they arrived, November 11, 1620, at Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod, and there signed a compact on ship-board. Sailing northwest along the coast, on December 22, 1620, they landed at Plymouth and begun the fonndation of New England. The place of their landing being outside the limits of tbe first colony of Virginia, their patent from the London Company was useless, and they were compelled to settle upon the territory of the northern colony, trusting to circumstances for legal authority. From this settlement arose one of the noblest reorganizations of society by colonization that history records. Overcoming herculean dificulties of climate and soil, the colonists achieved within the following decade such a measure of success and substantial progress that the Plymouth Company was induced, in spite of aristocratic and ecclesiastical prejudices, to grant them a charter in January, 1630, covering a tract lying between the Cobasset and Narraganset rivers, and extending westward "to the utmost bounds of a country in New England called Pokanoket, alias Sowamset.” The grant embraced also a tract lying fifteen miles wide along each side of the Kennebec River, which was subsequently incorporated with the province of Maine. They obtained several other patents or grants from the Plymouth Company after this, but none were confirmed by the Crown.

Lord Sheffield gave a patent, in January, 1623, to the New England Company, for the location of a colony at Cape Ann, but it did not succeed. Other colonies were planted after 1622.

In March, 1023, the Council of Plymouth sold to Sir Henry Roswell, Sir John Young, and four associates, a patent for that part of New England lying between the parallels passing through points three miles north of the mouth of the “Merrimack" and three miles south of the mouth of Charles River, extending westward to the Pacific. This territory, called Massachusetts, from the Indian name of a bay upon its coast, was settled by English nonconformists, who purchased rights under the patent to the Massachusette Company. On the petition to this company, seconded by the influence of Lord Dorchester, Charles I., March, 1629, confirmed the grant of the Council of Plymouth to Roswell and his followers, with the assignments that had been made under it, in a charter incorporating the colony under the name of “The Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay,” in New England. The officers provided for this colony were appointed at tbe then seat of government, Plymouth, England), August 29, 1629, and under resolution of the company the official government was transferred to Massachusetts. The colonists under this charter, two bundred in number, settled at Salem in 1630, where Jolin Endicott had arrived in 1628.

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