Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

A Matter of History

Now in order that you may understand that which happened of grave importance to our country of Pennsylvania, and also know why I had an opportunity of traveling, it is necessary I repeat to you that which was told me by my father.

It may be you will not think it in any way interesting; but I beg that you will read every word carefully, and afterward think the matter over until you understand it clearly, otherwise you may never be able to explain why one settlement was made in a certain place, and others elsewhere.

First, as perhaps you already know, when white people began to come into this new world of America, the English kings claimed it as their land, saying it was discovered by John Cabot, who had been given permission to go out exploring, by King Henry VII.

Columbus had discovered that there were large countries where white people had never visited; but the English king claimed that Columbus had not really found the land which we call America, for he ended his voyage at the West Indies.

John Cabot, however, so the English kings said, had explored all the coast of North America from Newfoundland to Florida, and therefore it belonged, by right of discovery, to England.

Then, as you know full well, after some Spanish people had built a town in Florida, and another near by, King James gave to two companies of merchants all the land in Virginia, and by that he meant the whole country of North America, which was then known only as Virginia.

To the London Company he gave that part of it in the south, where Jamestown was afterward built, and the Plymouth Company landed in the northern portion where Plymouth was to be laid out.

All that was done in the year of grace 1606, and at that time the English people did not know how large was this new world of America.

The Dutch people, however, sent Henry Hudson out exploring in 1609, and he found the river to which he gave his name, whereupon a company like unto the London and Plymouth companies, was formed in Holland under the name of the West India Company, by which New Amsterdam was settled; but the English people captured the town and called it New York.

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