Smith, Captain John. “From ‘A Description of New England.’“ The Norton
Anthology of American Literature: Shorter Seventh Edition. Gen. Ed. Nina
Baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2008. 54-57.
How does Captain Smith define human character?
Captain John Smith wrote the letter “ A Description of New England “ in 1616 to recruit people who are willing to work hard with an honest and courageous attitude. Most important is that they will have to share the vision of Captain Smith’s which is “discovering things unknown, erecting townes, peopling countries, informing the ignorant, reforming things unjust, teaching virtue” (54). Only those who qualify will make the continent civilized and fulfill Captain Smith’s vision for New England.
In the letter, Captain Smith also mentions that he wants to ...view middle of the document...
In other words, spreading the gospel is agreeable to God and the righteous.
Captain Smith also suggests that diligence is a virtue, “here nature and liberty afford us that freely, which in England we want, or it costs us dearly. What pleasure can be more, than (being tired with any occasion a-shore) in planting vines, fruits, or herbs, in contriving their own grounds… to recreate themselves before their own doors” (56). In his view, there will be more opportunities and fewer restrictions in the New World. Men have a greater freedom regarding the pursuit of career, happiness, and most importantly a fulfilling life, in which they are allowed to build their own houses, gardens, boats, and lives. This, according to Captain Smith, is the greatest pleasure because men are able to enjoy products of their hard work; moreover, profit from them.
By contrast, men who “would live at home idly (or think himself any worth to live) only to eat, drink and sleep, and so die? …being descended nobly, pine with the vain vaunt of great kindred, in penury” (54). Captain Smith despises men who do not live their lives to the fullest. People who were born into wealthy families and do nothing are shameful because they are not grateful of what they have. In addition, men who “in borrowing where [they] never intendest to pay; offend the laws, surfeit the excess” (54) are a burden to the country. Unreliable, disobeying, and exuberant men are despicable, in his view.
Captain Smith’s letter addresses to “fatherless children, of thirteen or fourteen years of age or young married couple, that have small wealth to live on” (57) who are also willing to work hard in order to live a fulfilling life. Furthermore, Captain Smith defines human characteristics such as, obeying God’s laws and diligence as virtuous; while, an unfruitful life led by lazy people as vicious.