Monday, May 14

Jamestown's Big 400

Today marks the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. It was the first permanent English settlement in the New World. I think it's fair to say that it kicked off all of America since it was also the founding of the Colony of Virginia.

Not to be tooting my own horn (isn't that the whole point of a blog?), but a member of my mother's family founded Jamestown. That's right, one Edward Maria Wingfield. Wikipedia says that "he became the first elected president in what is today the United States of America.

Captain John Smith wrote that Wingfield was one of the early and prime movers and organisers in 1602-1603 in “showing great charge and industry” in getting the Virginia Venture moving: he was one of the four incorporators for the London Virginia Company in the Virginia Charter of 1606 and one of its biggest financial backers. He recruited about 40 of the 105 would-be colonists, and was the only shareholder to sail. In the first election in the New World, he was elected by his peers as the President of the governing council for one year beginning May 13th, 1607, of what became the first successful, English-speaking colony in the New World at Jamestown, Virginia. He chose the site, a strong defensive position against land or canoe attack, and supervised the construction of the fort in a month and a day, a mammoth task.

But after four months, on September 10th, because "he ever held the men to working, watching and warding", and because of lack of food, death from disease and attack by the “naturals” (during the worst famine and drought for 800 years), he was made a scapegoat, and was deposed on petty charges. On the return of the Supply Boat on April 10th 1608, he was sent back to London to answer the charge of being an atheist (and one suspected of having Spanish sympathies). Smith’s prime biographer, Philip L. Barbour, however, wrote of the “superlative pettiness of the charges…none of the accusations amounting to anything.” Wingfield cleared his reputation, was named in the Second Virginia Charter (of 1609), and was active in the Virginia Company until the age of 70 (1620).

Wingfield played a crucial role in 1605-08; and without his extensive contacts and his steady input, the USA might well have been colonized by France or Spain.

That's pretty cool. First elected president in America, take that Mayflower Compact, and the first coup!

By the way, he wasn't a weirdo with a girl's name. It's because "his father Thomas-Maria Wingfield received the added name “Maria” from his godmother, Queen Mary of France (who was Henry VIII’s sister), and passed it on to his son."

America's done pretty well for itself in 400 years. Keep it up.

1 comment:

Sir Walter Raleigh said...

Jamestown sucks!

Long live Roanoke!

Croatoan Forever!