Exploration of the American Continent

The English had visited America at different times. But they had never stayed very long. John Cabot came to Newfoundland in 1498. In 1577 Sir Francis Drake sailed along the western coast of America on his voyage around the world. In 1583 a few men with Sir Humphrey Gilbert tried to settle in Newfoundland, but they found it too cold. Soon after Gilbert`s visit, Sir Walter Raleigh, another Englishman, thought of sending ships to the New World. The first people came over in 1585. They named the land Virginia. A second company came a little later. Neither was successful.

In the year 1606, some English people decided they did not like the way their king, James the First, was treating them. They formed a group, which they called the London Company, and made plans to sail for America. King James gave the company a charter, or the right to build a colony in the new land. The London Company sent three ships to America. For weeks the little boasts were tossed about like corks upon the ocean. Then, in April, 1607, the people saw the green shores of Chesapeake Bay. The ships sailed up the river, which the colonists named the James in honour of their king. About thirty miles up the James, the party landed. A fort and a few log houses were built, and the settlement was named Jamestown.

Life was very hard in the little colony. Nearly all of the men had come from the rich or well-to-do families in England. They had never had to work. These people believed the stories of the riches which, they had been told, lay everywhere in the New World. The Indians gave them some corn, but the colonists never had enough food. Many people died. But in 1610 ships and food came from England, and Jamestown was saved.

The colonists learned to grow tobacco. And soon ships filled with tobacco sailed for England and returned with things that the colony needed.

Twenty Negroes were brought to Jamestown in 1619 and sold to the tobacco planters. This was the beginning of slavery in America.

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