While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a standstill - little better understood, little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago. — John Adams

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Jamestown Men

After several weeks of captivity Captain Smith bargained with the Indians to set him free, in exchange for a certain number of trinkets and one of the bright brass cannons they had seen at Jamestown. This settled, he wrote a letter to the colonists, telling them what trinkets they were to give the bearers, and warning them to be sure to shoot off the cannon in the Indians' presence, so that they should not dare carry it off.

Having finished his letter, Smith gave it to his captors, bidding them take it to Jamestown. He added that it would tell the English what they wanted, and that they would hear the big noise which came out of the bright log (cannon) they coveted. All this, of course, seemed very mysterious to people who did not know how to write, so they set out for Jamestown full of curiosity.

When they saw that the white men, after looking at the letter, gave them all the trinkets they had bargained for, they were amazed. Then they tried to lift the bright log, and were surprised at its weight. Motioning them aside, the colonists next shot off the cannon. The loud noise, and the fact that the cannon ball splintered a good-sized tree, filled the Indians with such terror that, as Smith had foreseen, they refused to touch it again. When they got back to their camp they let Captain Smith go, and he bade a friendly good-by to the red men, from whom he had learned all he could during his short sojourn, in their midst.

Free once more, Captain Smith used all his energies to get enough grain for his friends; but had it not been for the Indian girl Pocahontas the colonists would probably have starved to death. Several times, in the course of that first hard winter, she brought them game and corn, and, thanks to her pleading, her father Powhatan became quite friendly, and supplied their most pressing needs.

In 1608 more colonists came over to Jamestown in search of gold; but they, too, were gentlemen, and intended to remain only a short time. They unfortunately discovered some pyrites, and in spite of all Captain Smith could say, there was "no talk, no hope, no work, but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold." The result was that the vessel in which they had come was sent home laden with worthless dirt, instead of carrying a cargo of lumber, sassafras, or furs, which could have been sold in England for considerable money.

The only man who did not share this thirst for gold was Captain Smith. He continued his explorations, and made a complete map of Chesapeake Bay to send back to England. Then, the governor having sailed away with the fool's gold, and the others having proved bad managers, Smith was soon chosen to be head of the colony.

He began his work by making a few very strict rules, which all the colonists had to obey. The fine English gentlemen, who had spent their time playing bowls in the streets of Jamestown, priding themselves upon never having done any labor, were now told that if they would not work they should not eat.

To stop the constant swearing in which these men freely indulged, Captain Smith next ordered that a can full of cold water should be poured down any offender's sleeve. This soon put an end to profanity, and by the time a third set of colonists reached Jamestown it was quite an orderly community.

Crowning Powhatan

Two women came out with these last-mentioned settlers to make real homes in Jamestown, the first English city in what is now the United States. The same ship also brought over presents from King James to the Indian King Powhatan. These were a bed, basin and pitcher, a coat trimmed with gold lace, and a crown.

Powhatan was therefore solemnly invited to Jamestown, to receive these gifts and be crowned. The Indian chief was greatly pleased with his fine red coat. But no one could make him understand that he must kneel to receive his crown. Finally, in despair, the colonists standing on either side of him leaned so heavily upon his shoulders that they forced him to bend the knee before the governor, who quickly crowned him.

To the savages' great delight, drums were loudly beaten in honor of King Powhatan, but when the cannon was shot off, too, the newly crowned king of Virginia was so amazed that he almost fell over backward. When he had recovered from his fright Powhatan gave the governor his old moccasins, or shoes, and a tattered and dirty robe of raccoon skins, telling him to send them to King James in return for his gifts!


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell