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Memorial Cross
The Memorial Cross at Cape Henry which marks the approximate site of the first landing of the Jamestown colonists on American soil, April 26, 1607.

Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English settlement in America [1607], the point at which the first representative legislative assembly convened [1619] to set a pattern for self government in America, the locale of stirring events in Bacon's Rebellion [1676—77], and the capital of the Colony of Virginia for 92 years [1607—99].

Sir Walter Raleigh

The first permanent settlement in America by the English at Jamestown was a visible manifestation of the determination of that nation to establish itself in the New World. The overthrow of Spanish seapower during the reign of Queen Elizabeth paved the way for English colonization ventures. Enterprising Britons had already established their influence in India, the Near East, and Russia. Sir Walter Raleigh had made several unsuccessful attempts to establish an enduring settlement along the Carolina coast at Roanoke Island, events now commemorated by Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert had tried, to no avail, to make a settlement in Newfoundland.

It remained for the Virginia Company of London, under its charter of April 10, 1606, to found the first permanent English settlement in America. This joint stock company, a commercial organization, from its inception assumed a national character. It was instrumental, under its charter provisions, in guaranteeing to the settlers in the New World the rights, freedoms, and privileges enjoyed by Englishmen at home and the enjoyment of their customary manner of living which they adapted to their new environment with the passage of yeats.

Jamestown was the site of the first settlement that grew into the Colony of Virginia and gave heart to those men who settled the colonies that came later. The first Virginians landed in May 1607, built houses and a fort, planted crops, and began the struggle for the conquest of a vast primitive land. They brought with them their church and respect for God, maintained trial by jury and their rights as freemen, and soon were developing representative government. All of these things are a part of the story of Jamestown.

In the words of James Bryce, British Ambassador to the United States at the time of the Jamestown Tercentenary, the settlement of Jamestown was one of the great events in the history of the world—an event to be compared for its momentous consequences with the overthrow of the Persian Empire by Alexander; with the destruction of Carthage by Rome; with the conquest of Gaul by Clovis; with the taking of Constantinople by the Turks—one might almost say with the discovery of America by Columbus." Here was born the great English-speaking nation beyond the seas, of which Gilbert and Raleigh had dreamed; and here was the cradle of our Republican institutions and liberties.


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Last Modified: Mon, Dec 2 2002 10:00:00 am PDT

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