John Smith had many characteristics that helped to make him an important person in the beginning settlement of the New World. He was a brave and strong person who seemed to have little fear. He ran away from home when he was young and became a soldier in Europe and the Near East (Barbour). He thrived for excitement and adventure. During the settlement of Jamestown, he took on the responsibility of leadership by saving the colony from starvation (Microsoft). He made the men plant crops and build houses, while he was trading with the Indians for food (Microsoft). The colony chose him President of the Jamestown settlement.
The settlers believed and trusted him because he had saved them. John Smith was a very smart man, and he wrote many accounts about the happenings in Jamestown. He also published an article about his voyage of 1614. His longest and best-known work was entitled The General History of Virginia (Gwinn). Without these accounts, we would know very little about the colony in the New World.
Not only was he a writer, but he could also draw. He drew many maps showing his expeditions and adventures. Many of these maps were used by other groups of settlers who came to the New World. John Smith was brave, strong, smart, and a good leader. His name is probably best remembered as the man who was to be beheaded by Indians, when the chief’s daughter rushed to his side and saved his life.
Many historians doubt this incident and said that Smith was just bragging and was a teller of tales (McMichael). He had so many different adventures and he sometimes stretched the truth. Even if John Smith did exaggerate at times, he was still an interesting and important character in American History.
I don’t remember learning too much on John Smith, though of course I learned about him. My reaction to his work is questioning; I’ve heard how he was this brave and courageous hero, yet in the book it asserts that he was “a vain braggart” and “a teller of tall tales”. He didn’t mention the whole Pocahontas thing, which is the first that pops in my mind when I think about Smith. However, I think I admire him more than Columbus because he seemed to be more peaceful and open-minded when it came to the Indians. It claims in the American Literature book that he “traded for food with the Indians, learned their customs and language”. It doesn’t seem like he forced anything on them or thought his way and his customs were better than theirs.
- Barbour, L. Philip. Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Incorporated, 1997. pg. 59-60.
- Gwinn, P. Robert and others. The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 1991. pg. 895-896.
- The Lincoln Library of Essential Information. The Frontier Press Company, 1974. pg. 1974.
- “Smith, Captain John”. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000. http://encarta.msn.com 1997-2000. Microsoft Corporation.
- McMichael, George and others. Concise Anthology of American Literature. 1998 Prentice-Hall, Inc. pg. 22-36.