The dissolution of the Parliament of 1629 marked the darkest hour of Protestantism, whether in England or in the world at large. But it was in this hour of despair that the Puritans won their noblest triumph. They "turned," to use Canning's words in a far truer and grander sense than that which he gave to them, they "turned to the New World to redress the balance of the Old." It was during the years of tyranny which followed the close of the third Parliament of Charles that a great Puritan emigration founded the States of New England.
The Puritans were far from being the earliest among the English colonists of North America. There was little in the circumstances which attended the first discovery of the Western world which promised well for freedom; its earliest result, indeed, was to give an enormous impulse to the most bigoted and tyrannical among the powers of Europe, and to pour the wealth of Mexico and Peru into the treasury of Spain. But while the Spanish galleons traversed the Southern seas, and Spanish settlers claimed the southern part of the great continent for the Catholic crown, a happy instinct drew Englishmen- to the ruder and more barren districts along the shore of Northern America. England had reached the mainland even earlier than Spain, for before Columbus touched its shores Sebastian Cabot, a seaman of Genoese blood born and bred in England, sailed with an English crew from Bristol in 1497, and pushed along the coast of America to the south as far as Florida, and northward as high as Hudson's Bay. But no Englishman followed on the track of this bold adventurer; and while Spain built up her empire in the New World, the English seamen reaped a humbler harvest in the fisheries of Newfoundland. It was not till the reign of Elizabeth that the thoughts of Englishmen turned again to the New World. The dream of finding a passage to Asia by a voyage round the northern coast of the American continent drew a west-country seaman, Martin Frobisher, to the coast of Labrador, and the news which he brought back of the existence of gold mines there set adventurers cruising among the icebergs of Baffin's Bay. Luckily the quest of gold proved a vain one; and the nobler spirits among those who had engaged in it turned to plans of colonization.
[Authorities. - The admirable account of American colonization given by Mr. Bancroft ("History of the United States ") may be corrected in some points of detail by Mr. Gardiner's History. For Laud himself, see his remarkable "Diary" and his Correspondence. His work at Lambeth is described in Prynne's scurrilous "Canterbury's Doom."] (Mr. Doyle's book " The English in America " has appeared since this list was drawn up. - Ed).
But the country, vexed by long winters and thinly peopled by warlike tribes of Indians, gave a rough welcome to the earlier colonists. After a fruitless attempt to form a settlement, Sir Humphry Gilbert, one of the noblest spirits of his time, turned homewards again, to find his fate in the stormy seas. "We are as near to Heaven by sea as by land," were the famous words he was heard to utter, ere the light of his little bark was lost for ever in the darkness of the night. An expedition sent by his half-brother, Sir Walter Ralegh, explored Pamlico Sound; and the country they discovered, a country where, in their poetic fancy, "men lived after the manner of the Golden Age," received from Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, the name of Virginia. The introduction of tobacco and of the potato into Europe dates from Ralegh's discovery; but the energy of his settlers was distracted by the delusive dream of gold, the hostility of the native tribes drove them from the coast, and it is through the gratitude of later times for what he strove to do, rather than for what he did, that Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina, preserves his name.
The first permanent settlement on the Chesapeake was effected in the beginning of the reign of James the First, and its success was due to the conviction of the settlers that the secret of the New World's conquest lay simply in labour. Among the hundred and five colonists who originally landed, forty-eight were gentlemen, and only twelve were tillers of the soil. Their leader, John Smith, however, not only explored the vast bay of Chesapeake and discovered the Potomac and the Susquehannah, but held the little company together in the face of famine and desertion till the colonists had learnt the lesson of toil. In his letters to the colonizers at home he set resolutely aside the dream of gold. "Nothing is to be expected thence," he wrote of the new country, "but by labour;" and supplies of labourers, aided by a wise allotment of lands to each colonist, secured after five years of struggle the fortunes of Virginia. "Men fell to building houses and planting corn;" the very streets of Jamestown, as their capital was called from the reigning sovereign, were sown with tobacco; and in fifteen years the colony numbered five thousand souls.
The laws and representative institutions of England were first introduced into the New World in the settlement of Virginia: some years later a principle as unknown to England as it was to the greater part of Europe found its home in another colony, which received its name of Maryland from Henrietta Maria, the Queen of Charles the First. Calvert, Lord Baltimore, one of the best of the Stuart counsellors, was forced by his conversion to Catholicism to seek a shelter for himself and colonists of his new faith in the district across the Potomac, and round the head of the Chesapeake. As a purely Catholic settlement was impossible, he resolved to open the new colony to men of every faith. "No person within this province," ran the earliest law of Maryland, " professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall be in any ways troubled, molested, or discountenanced for his or her religion, or in the free exercise thereof." Long however before Lord Baltimore's settlement in Maryland, only a few years indeed after the settlement of Smith in Virginia, the church of Brownist or Independent refugees, whom we saw driven in the reign of James to Amsterdam, had resolved to quit Holland and find a home in the wilds of the New World. They were little disheartened by the tidings of suffering which came from the Virginian settlement. " We are well weaned," wrote their minister, John Robinson, "from the delicate milk of the mother-country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange land: the people are industrious and frugal.