Raleigh’s “New Fort in Virginia” 1585, Sebastian Cabot
The following data is extracted from Trinity College Historical Society .
Sebastian Cabot died probably in 1557---that lurid epoch when the Protestant martyrs were perishing at the stake but his place of death and his grave are unknown. England (as Tardneci says) "had no time to remember or mark the sepulchre of the man to whose (powerful) initiative she owes the wealth and power which have placed her among the foremost nations of the world." "Her claims in the New World have uniformly rested on his discoveries. The English language might be spoken in no part of America but for Sebastian Cabot. The commerce of England and her Navy have been deeply his debtors. Yet his birthplace has been denied and his fame has been obscured. He gave a continent to England; yet no one can point to the few feet of earth she has allowed him in return.""Now purer air
I have dwelt at some length on these earliest efforts at English colonization, because they are so generally overlooked and neglected, and because the story of them enforces any point of the exclusively English origin of our civilization.
After Cabot's discovery of the North American Continent, and his taking possession of it for the crown of England, no important expeditions were undertaken for more than half a century. In the reign of Henry VIII all the energies of the nation were absorbed in the great problems of Church and State then pressing for solution, nor could the king attempt any conquests in the New World without a rupture with his ally, the Spanish monarch. On the accession of his son, Edward VI, the spirit of maritime adventure revived, but he was on his death bed when the expedition of Willoughby set sail, and no such enterprise was practicable in the reign of Mary, the slave of Spain and of Rome. But with Elizabeth on the throne, and the Reformation triumphant, all great designs seemed possible.
The earliest attempt at colonization in his reign was made in 1578, by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and to the initiative of these two men the Anglicizing of this continent is due. The settlement of Jamestown and the establishment of the Puritans at Plymouth were only the last successful steps in a long series of great adventures. New England was founded by pursuing the path marked out by Gilbert, and Virginia by following that of Raleigh; the enterprises of these two great men-- par nobile fratrum-- are the true beginnings of the Anglo-American history. Raleigh was already conspicuous as a preux chevalier and champion of Protestantism. He had set before himself as the one great aim in life the humiliation of Spain, and the weakening of the power of the Latin race and religion. At the early age of seventeen he left the University of Oxford to join a band of a hundred volunteers, who went to the aid of Coligny and the Huguenots-"a gallant company, nobly mounted and accoutred, and bearing for a motto on their standard, 'Let valor decide the contest.' " France was then aflame with the reports of the massacre of the Huguenots in Florida, and the idea germinated in Raleigh's mind that a moral blow might be dealt to the enemy beyond the seas. From the service of Coligny he passed to that of William the Silent, and all the while was growing in him the conviction (which he expressed later in life,) that the possession of America would decide the question of the supremacy of Spain or England. "For whatsoever Prince shall possess it," wrote he, "shall bee greatest, and if the king of Spayne enjoy it, he will become unresistible. I trust in God that he which is Lorde of Lords, will put it into her heart which is Lady of Ladies to possess it." Paper on Guinea, 1595.
Raleigh took command of one of the small vessels of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's fleet, with which they hoped to reach our shores, and by establishing a colony check the progress of the Spaniards, and "put a byt into their ancient enemye's mouth." The attempt was a failure; and on the second expedition, in 1583, Raleigh, who had fitted out one of the five ships, was forbidden by the queen to accompany his brother. Gilbert took formal possession of Newfoundland, but he lost his ship off Sable island; and on the return voyage the gallant soldier went down off the Azores, with the Squirrel, his little craft of ten tons, his last noble words being, 'Courage, my friends! We are as neere to heaven by sea as by land."
To Raleigh then came the scheme of colonization almost as an inheritance; and on Lady-Day, March 25, 1584, Queen Elizabeth issued to him a patent of discovery, granting him "all prerogatives, commodities, jurisdictions, royalties, privileges, franchises, and pre-eminences, (thereto or thereabouts, both by sea and by land, whatsoever we by our letters patents may grant, and as we or any of our noble progenitors have heretofore granted to any person or persons, bodies politique or corporate.")
He equipped two vessels under command of Amadas and Barlowe, and from the pen of the latter we have an account of the expedition: "The 27 day of April, in the yere of our redemption 1584, we departed the West of England, with two barker well furnished with men and victuals. . . The tenth of June we were fallen with the Islands of the West Indes. . . The second of July, we found shole water, wher we smelt so sweet and so strong a smel, as if we had been in the midst of some delicate garden abounding with odoriferous flowers, by which we were assured, that the land could not be farre distant."
This characteristic of what Lane afterward called the "Paradise of the world" may have been in Milton's mind when he described the approach of the Evil Spirit to the garden of Eden
Meets his approach; . . . now gentle gales
Fanning their odoriferous wings dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail
Beyond the Cape of Hope, north-east winds blow
Sabean odours from the spicy shore
Of Araby the blest; with such delay
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league
Cheered with this grateful smell old Ocean smiles."*
"Keeping good watch, and bearing but slacke saile the fourth of July [America's fated day!] we arrived upon the coast, which we supposed to be a continent, and we sayled along the some 120 miles before we could find any entrance, or river issueing into the seat. The first that appeared unto us we entered, and cast anker about three harquebuzshot within the haven's mouth: and after thanks given to God for our safe arrivall thither, we manned our boats, and went, to view the land next, adjoyning, and to take possession of the sauce, in right of the Queenes most excellent, Majestie."
The explorers had coasted northward two days along the Banks, and entering probably at New inlet or Trinity harbour, had anchored not fur from Roanoke Island. "We viewed till land about us, being, whereas we first landed, very sandie and low towards the water side, but so full of grapes, as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them, of which we found such plentie, both on the sand and on the green soil on the hills, as well as on the hills, as well on every shrubbe, as also climbing towards the tops of high Cedars, that I thinke in all the world the like abundance is not to be found." This is evidently the Iuxuriaut North Carolina. Scuppernong grape, whose strong aromatic perfume might well be perceived at some distance frome the shore….. “There came unto us diver's boats, :furl in one or them the king's brother, with fortie or tilde men, levy handsome cud goodly people, and in their la haviour as mannerly and civill as any in Europe. . . The soile is the most; plentifull, sweete, fruitfull and wholesome of Al I Ire. worlde (Here were above fourteene severall sweete-smelling thriller trees, and the most part of their underwoods are Bayes and such like.)
Paradise Lost, IV, 153-165
Source: Trinity College Historical Society