The Virginia Experiment

The Virginia Experiment

by Alf J Mapp Jr., Alf J. Mapp Jr


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Superb volume.detailed and very entertaining.Reading this volume in conjunction with a trip would provide the best conceivable history lesson, a true appreciation of both the meager and momentous beginnings of this nation.

-The Washington Post

Lively and engrossing

-The (Louisville, KY) Courier-Journal

Mapp has a genius for narrative history almost equal to Parkman himself.Fascinating.The reader will be entertained and enriched.

-Arthur Pierce Middleton The Virginia Magazine of History

A fine scholar, caring teacher, and voluminous communicator who has won several awards as a national educator.

-President Rosanne Runte, Old Dominion University

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780595388097
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/07/2006
Pages: 596
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.32(d)

Read an Excerpt

THE Virginia Experiment

By Alf J. Mapp, Jr.

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Alf J. Mapp, Jr.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-595-38809-7

Chapter One


What manner of men were these who stood unabashed upon the storm-swept threshold of a new era?

Posterity does not answer with one voice. Some imaginative romanticists have insisted that the first settlers invaded the wilderness clad in claret velvet and armed with pedigrees of prodigious length. Some would-be realists, in over-zealous attempts at refutation, have suggested that the records of Newgate Prison might yield much information concerning the personal and genealogical history of the first Virginians. Authentic evidence reveals both generalizations to be erroneous. There was no uniform type of early settler.

In the vanguard of exploration came younger sons of noble lineage, denied material inheritance by the law of primogeniture of the Old World, but ready to pit their physical inheritance against the wilds of the new. With them came small tradesmen and merchants of meager means, men afire with the promise of a new land where they might carve out their separate destinies free from the fetters of England's unwritten caste system.

Of the more than one hundreds members of that group, forty-eight, among them a surgeon, are listed as gentlemen by one source. There was another surgeon not listed as a gentleman. Four of the colonists were carpenters. Twelve were laborers. The presence of a clergyman, a blacksmith, a tailor, a barber, a bricklayer, a mason, a sailor and a drummer made the group fairly representative of English urban society. The names of three of the company have been preserved without occupational classification, and four were mere boys. The rest remain anonymous. There were no women. Obviously, it was thought that woman had no place in the grin and often grisly business of subduing a continent.

That original band, for the most part, were destined for immortality as a group but for obscurity as individuals. And this was, in a sense, symbolic of their character. Most of them were ordinary persons endowed with ordinary talents, subject to the common faults and foibles, and possessed of the virtues and surprising latent nobility and latent cruelty of the ordinary man in any continent and in any century. But collectively they were great: when they erred, they erred greatly; but when they triumphed, they triumphed grandly. Their minds did not comprehend the staggering significance of the task which engaged their efforts, but their hearts felt the fierce tug of forces beyond their comprehension. A new century was opening, a century of exploration that would discover new lands, new peoples, and new ideas-a century that would open a new world.

Only the most phlegmatic soul could have been sluggishly unaware of the spirit of inquiry and exploration that swept like a fresh wind over a restive, feverish world grown weary of the old and impatient for the new.

There were in that little band a few men who, though denied the benefit of historical perspective that is ours today, grasped imperfectly but almost instinctively the significance of the tremendous enterprise upon which they were embarked: Looking back across the cluttered sweep of the centuries, we see them standing forth in bold and bright relief from the gray mass of anonymity.

First to claim our attention are the stocky figure, bluff, ruddy countenance, and lush beard of Captain John Smith, who makes his entrance to the clanking of prison chains. Now in his twenty-eighth year, he is old in the ways of the world, having traversed strange nations and strange seas, seen civil war and religious war, and killed more than his share of Turks and Christians in the interim. His present annoying state of captivity is no new experience. But we must not allow the colorful young captain to divert our attention for long from other figures equally significant and perhaps even equally deserving of our commendation. For he is, in theatrical parlance, a "mugger," and centuries will roll by before the public sees him as one of the greatest scene-stealers of all time.

There is Christopher Newport, commander of the expedition, one of six masters of the Royal Navy-not yet an admiral, though already regarded as one. The hero's role is old to him. A decade and a half ago he led against the Spaniards in the New World an expedition that destroyed or captured twenty enemy vessels and, in the same grand sweep, sacked four towns in the West Indies and Florida. His efforts and his fame as a colonizer are destined to exceed the confines of a single hemisphere. At present, however, perhaps his greatest prestige derives from the fact that he is the guardian of the mysterious sealed box.

There too is middle-aged Captain Edward Maria Wingfield, a loyal servant to king and country with important connections in England, but lonely among ardent Protestants who believed he was a Catholic.

We see Captain John Martin, brother-in-law to the influential Sir Julius Caesar, and a man of enterprise with a keen eye for business, a royalist to the core.

Present, too, are stolid Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, veteran mariner who saw service under Sir Walter Raleigh; Captain John Ratcliffe, also a mariner of standing; ill-fated Captain George Kendall; adventurous George Percy, youngest of the Earl of Northumberland's eight sons and a veteran of the wars in the Low Countries; and ambitious Captain Gabriel Archer, who studied law at Gray's Inn.

A man apart and yet a sharer of every common burden is the Reverend Robert Hunt, Anglican clergyman-ever hopeful, ever striving, ever animating his flagging comrades.

Young Captain Smith is quick to note the "mildnesse of the ayre, the fertilities of the soyle, and situation of the rivers, ... safe harbours, much merchantable fish, and places fit for Salt coats, building of ships, making of Iron ..." in the new land that augur well for its future development as another England beyond the seas. Christopher Newport, we may be sure, is aware that he is advancing the majestic course of empire. Captain Wingfield is acutely conscious of his role in furthering his Majesty's dominions and prestige. Captain Martin's eyes gleam with realization of the new land's tremendous commercial possibilities, and perhaps with a dream of economic empire.

But what of that idealist, the Reverend Mr. Hunt? Who can divine his thoughts and emotions at this dramatic moment?

For this moment is at once a culmination and a beginning.

It is the culmination of a saga that began in the year 1000 A.D. when the stout oak keel of a storm-battered Viking ship scraped on a sandy strand of the North American coast. It is the climax of an epic that saw a ridiculed Genoese navigator plant the standard of Spain in the exotic Bahamas, that saw an Italian merchant and his son near the dawn of a day in June of 1497 claim for England all that lay beyond the fog-wrapped rocks of Newfoundland, that saw courtly Sir Walter Raleigh found a colony that vanished as suddenly and completely as the earthly estates and honors of that ill-fated courtier.

But we may be confident that thoughts such as these do not fill the minds of this small band of Englishmen. They do, however, have a sense of destiny. For the shore on which they stand is the theme of England's greatest masters of prose, poetry, and the dramatic arts. More stimulating still to the seventeenth century imagination is the awful portent of a blazing firetailed comet which swung ominously low and glowering in the heavens as the three tiny ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery plowed their lonely way through the vast and silent world of night and ocean.

But if this moment is a culmination, it is also a beginning-the inception of a project that may disintegrate and fade into the mists of obscurity as did the Roanoke Colony, or that may grow in extent and influence even beyond the generous limits of contemporary imagination.

The tiny band on this savage coast are now without a legally sanctioned leader. Captain Newport was placed in "sole charge and command" of the Virginia expedition only "until such time as they shall fortune to land upon the coast of Virginia."

Who will the new leader be? The seal is broken and the lid is lifted. The tense silence is broken by a voice reading the names of those appointed to the Council in Virginia-Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, Captain Edward Maria Wingfield, Captain Christopher Newport, Captain John Smith, Captain John Ratcliffe, Captain John Martin, Captain George Kendall. The roll is ended and no single chief official has been named. Is this then an anti-climax? Far from it! The royal failure to designate a leader for the colony has provided the perfect climax. It must choose its own executive. A few days later Wingfield is chosen by the Council in a free election on American soil, and American democracy begins.

* * *

For the modern observer, gazing in retrospection across the stretch of centuries, the granting to the London Company of the charter of 1609 brings sharply into focus the contending personalities and ideologies of a distant day in the far-removed little rustic settlement by the turbid James. The London-Plymouth patent of 1606 signified the termination of the romantic and colorful period of individual adventuring in colonization, and the beginning of the fruitful, but still far from prosaic, period of corporate enterprise. The charter of 1609 marked a radical departure from the autocratic tradition of its predecessor. In it were embodied prerogatives that made possible the evolution of self-government under the guiding hands of the company rather than the despotic sway of the royal scepter. Thus was made possible the evolution that became revolution. Within scarcely more than a decade and a half the colony developed, in penumbral but perceptible outline, a form of government and legal administration that today prevails, with the exception of the Province of Quebec and the State of Louisiana, throughout the vastness of the Continent of North America.

The charters of 1606 and 1609 designated as Virginia territory all land "along the Sea Coasts, between four and thirty degrees of Northerly Latitudes from the Equinoctial Line, and five and forty degrees of the same Latitude, and in the main land between the same four and thirty and five and forty Degrees, and the Islands thereunto adjacent, or within one hundred miles of the coasts thereof."

This tremendous tract included, in addition to the area of the present state of Virginia, in part the states of Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona; and in their entirety or very nearly their entirety, the states of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. In short, this vast virginal tract included all or part of each of forty-two of the present fifty states. The territory embraced as well Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and much of Lakes Huron and Michigan. In addition, its boundaries encompassed part of what is today the Canadian province of Ontario. This transcontinental grant stretched approximately two thousand five hundred miles in an eight hundred mile wide belt from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It also extended one hundred miles into each of those oceans, and by March 12, 1612 included all islands within nine hundred miles of the shore between the thirtieth and forty-first degrees. Among these islands were the Bermudas, then commonly known as the Summer Isles. "... This Virginia is a country in America between the degrees of 34 and 45, of the North latitude," wrote Captain John Smith. "The bounds thereof on the East side are the great Ocean: on the South lyeth Florida: on the North nova Francia: as for the West thereof, the limits are unknowne." Even then men in America looked questioningly, hopefully, to the West in quest of the last great frontier.

The London Company were not at liberty to settle anywhere in Virginia that fancy might dictate, for the limits of their jurisdiction were not coterminous with the boundaries of this wilderness empire. The charter of April 10, 1606 gave royal sanction to the incorporation of the London and Plymouth Companies. The London Company were designated as the "first colony" and were enjoined to plant their first "Habitation" "at any Place upon the said coast of Virginia and America, where they shall think fit and convenient, between the said four and thirty and one and forty Degrees of the said Latitude ..." Within their jurisdiction was all territory running fifty English statute miles north along the coast from the point of first settlement and fifty south from the point "together with all the Islands within one hundred miles, directly over against the said Sea Coast ..." This coastwise stretch extended one hundred miles inland. The Plymouth Company, designated as the second colony, were permitted to settle at any point along the coast between the thirty-eighth and forty-fifth parallels and enjoyed a comparable jurisdictional grant. Article VI of the charter provided that "the Plantation and Habitation of such of the said colonies, as shall last plant themselves, as aforesaid, shall not be made within one hundred like English miles of the other of them, that first began to make their Plantation as aforesaid."

Article VII of the charter provided for a council of thirteen in each of the colonies to "govern and order all matters and causes, which shall arise, grow, or happen, to or within the same several colonies, according to such Laws, Ordinances, and Instructions, as shall be, in that behalf, given and signed with Our Hand or Sign Manual, and pass under the Privy Seal of our Realm of England." Each of the councils was authorized to use a special seal, and was given the power to coin money "for the more Ease of Traffick and Bargaining between and amongst them and the nations ..." Article VIII provided for a royally-appointed council of thirteen sitting in England to be known as the Council of Virginia. In the hands of this council was placed the "superior managing and Direction" of all matters concerning the government of both colonies and of the entire Virginia territory. This supreme council was likewise granted the use of an official seal.

The charter contained one guarantee that was later to be the theme of debate and Revolution. Article XV made the promise that all subjects dwelling within the colonies and all children born to them within the "Limits and Precincts" of the colonies should "Have and enjoy all Liberties, Franchises, and Immunities, within any of our other Dominions, to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had been abiding and born, within this our Realm of England, or any other of our said Dominions." "The rights of Englishmen" was to become a familiar rallying cry in American history.

On March 19, 1607 King James issued an ordinance enlarging the number of the council in England by twenty-six. Among those named was Sir Edwin Sandys, who deserves special consideration. Though hailed by at least one distinguished historian as "the father of colonial self-government," Sandys only recently has begun to receive the measure of acclaim and appreciation which is his due.

When we first see him in this year of 1607 he is a dignified councillor of forty-five-a bold-featured, mustached and bearded man in the prime of life, the severity of whose countenance is relieved by large, full eyes and ennobled by an expansive brow. This is an arresting face-a face to delight a Rembrandt or a Rubens. And back of this face is an arresting personality. Many people will hail him as their champion, and his sovereign will avow a preference for Satan, if need be, instead.

Let us probe into the past of this commanding figure at the council table, and learn how he came to occupy his present seat of influence. Destined to gain fame from political conflict, he was born and reared amid dissension. For he is the second son of Archbishop Edwin Sandys, whose puritan conscience kept him for so long embroiled in private squabbles and public disputes. Love of learning carried young Edwin Sandys to Oxford, already mellow with age and tradition. It is pleasant to imagine this man, so soon to become a leading protagonist in the violent social and political eruptions of his time, strolling in light-hearted conversation through the arbored walks of the University or idling with companions by the gently-flowing Cherriwell. George Cranmer and Richard Hooker, then a tutor, must have frequently accompanied him, for between them and Edwin Sandys there grew a warm friendship of long duration.


Excerpted from THE Virginia Experiment by Alf J. Mapp, Jr. Copyright © 2006 by Alf J. Mapp, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Prologue ... and Cauldron Bubble....................3
I. Brave New World (1603-1611)....................5
II. A princess and a Puritan (1611-1616)....................27
III. Legislators, Africans and "Tiger" Girls (1616-1621)....................37
IV. Tomahawk and Scepter (1622-1624)....................59
V. Dr. Pott treats the Governor (1624-1635)....................81
VI. Berkeley, Bacon and Rebellion (1635-1677)....................117
VII. "Land of Gauntlet and Glove" (1677-1722)....................173
VIII. "Virginia's War" Shakes Europe (1722-1763)....................221
IX. America Looks to Virginia (1763-1774)....................283
X. League of Rebels (1774)....................357
XI. Sword of Unity (1774-1775)....................377
XII. Voice of a Nation (1775-1776)....................407
XIII. A Place Called Yorktown (1776-1781)....................439
Footnotes to Chapters....................493

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