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Author: Joseph Kelly
Date/Time: Tuesday 11/13/2018 at 11:00 AM
Book: Marooned
Synopsis: An insightful re-examination of the 1607 Jamestown settlement, the story of which is beginning to replace the Mayflower's as America's founding myth. The author of "America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March Toward Civil War," and the editor of the Seagull Reader series, Kelly opens with a recounting of the settlement’s dismal beginning. Ships brought about 100 adventurers searching for gold and a passage to the Pacific. Neither turned up, and, unable to obtain food from the unwelcoming natives, most starved to death. Some deserted to the Indians. Others followed John Smith, an ambitious, pugnacious soldier of fortune who made himself leader in 1608 and probably saved the colony by extorting food from native villages. On his decree, "he that will not work shall not eat," rests his "reputation as the first American." However, writes Kelly, "appealing as that view is, it misinterprets what really happened that day in Jamestown. Meritocracy was not established. Democracy did not vanquish aristocracy. John Smith was a tyrant." Discovering seeds of democracy in Massachusetts' zealots or Virginia's autocratic patricians has never been easy, but Kelly's lively, heavily researched, frequently gruesome account gives a slight nod to Jamestown as the "better place to look for the genesis of American ideals."
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