Raleigh’s “New Fort in Virginia” 1585
The following data is extracted from Trinity College Historical Society .
Our many centennial celebrations within the past score of years, culminating in the glories of the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Columbus, have awakened a widespread interest in early American history, and in all the incidents connected with the Genesis of the United States. Patriotic associations, both of men and women, have sprung up throughout the country, whose aim is to encourage research among our annals, and to cherish a spirit of reverence for our historic past. Many, too, are looking anxiously at the possible effect upon our institutions and national character of the dangerous experiment of absorbing into the body politic the heterogeneous elements of all Europe; and the tendency of this trend of thought and study is to emphasize anew the fact of our Anglican origin, and to bring home to us vividly the truth that we owe what we are as a nation to our English blood and traditions.
Monuments have been erected to mark various historic spots, and now on the coast of California, where in 1579 anchored the fleet of Sir Francis Drake, in his memorable circumnavigation of the globe--(the next after that of Magellan)-and where his chaplain, Francis Fletcher, held the Anglican service on the shore for the crews and the savage natives-there is rising a large stone cross-a conspicuous landmark as seen from the ocean in bold relief against the sky on a high rocky cliff-which will ever stand as a silent but eloquent memorial of the first American rites of the national church of that people who were destined to be the masters of this great continent.
To me it seemed of supreme importance to rescue from oblivion the sacred place where our fathers first worshiped God on the Atlantic coast, where they made the first English homes in the New World, and where was the cradle of our civilization. It is on North Carolina soil, and will you not uphold my hands in the good work? A small sum will secure possession of the precious site, and we can hand it down as a priceless heirloom to our children.
Let us read together the pathetic old story of romantic adventure, of manly fortitude, of disaster and death, prefacing it with the striking prediction of one of the early navigators:
"It seemeth probable that the countries lying North of Florida, God hath reserved to be reduced unto Christian civility by the English nation."
This prophecy was made when Spain still claimed our whole coast under the decree of the Borgia Pope, when France had established herself in the North, and England had as yet no foothold on the continent. It is the utterance of one who describes himself as "Mr. Edward Haies, gentleman, and principal actour in the voyage attempted in the yeere of our Lord 1683, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, knight, and who alone continued unto the end, and by God's special assistance returned home with his retinue safe and entire."
Hayes' picturesque narrative of Gilbert's ill-starred voyage forms one of the earliest pages in the history of English colonization.
Till the close of the fifteenth century Italy was the most advanced and enlightened of the States of Europe, the chief seat of the arts and sciences; and as mistress of the Mediterranean it was natural that she should give birth to the first great navigators and explorers. Her sons had penetrated the unknown regions of Asia and Africa; they led the way to all the great discoveries, and Marco Polo, John Cabot, Columbus d Amerigo Vespucci are only the most illustrious among many adventurers. But when a new world had been found, when the Atlantic superseded the Mediterranean as the great sea of commerce, then the work of the Italian students and scientists is done, and it is the Spaniard and the Englishman who reap the fruit of the discoveries.
Strange freak of fortune that the genius and enterprise of her sons were to deprive Italy of her maritime supremacy; that Venice and Genoa, the queen-cities of mediaeval commerce, should be discrowned by the immortal exploits of their own children!
*The quotations in the text, unless otherwise stated, are from Hakluyt's Voyages, Vol. III. For a discussion of the fate of the lost colony, see an article by Prof. S. B. Weeks of Trinity College, North Carolina, in the papers of the American Historical Society, Vol. V.
Source: Trinity College Historical Society