Colonial America

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Student Question

In A Description of New England, what spiritual motive for colonization does Smith outline in paragraph six?

Quick answer:

Around paragraph six of John Smith’s A Description of New England, Smith provides a spiritual foundation for colonizers. He argues that the discoverer and developer of a colony must be honest, reliable, and courageous. They must have a strong spirit. In the first full paragraph on page 42, Smith talks about how colonization helps spread the spirit of Christ. In a way, New England’s colonization marks the continuation of what Smith might call the worthy Christian spirit.

Expert Answers

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I’m not sure how you and/or your teacher are counting paragraphs in John Smith’s A Description of New England, but according to my count, the sixth paragraph is a rather technical description of New England. There’s not much spirituality.

However, in the paragraph before the sixth paragraph, Smith does delve into the spiritual reasons for the colonization of New England and colonization in general. Smith asserts that the creator of a colony “requires all the best parts of Art.” This person must be honest, reliable, industrial, courageous, and diligent and must have a strong, upright, virtuous spirit.

You could also say that Smith places the possible colonization of New England within the history of other European explorers, or worthy “spirits.” You could reasonably conclude that Smith views colonization as a continuation of those prior explorers’ vaunted spirit. Smith doesn’t forget to mention how further colonization will bring greater “glory, power, and renowne [renown]” to England.

In a later paragraph—the first full paragraph on page 42 in my PDF—Smith goes into more detail about the spiritual nature of colonization. For Smith, there is something like a moral duty to make the Indigenous people—or, in Smith’s words, “Saluages [savages]”—aware of Jesus Christ.

According to Smith, colonization of New England (and in general) is all but synonymous with spreading the spirit of Christ, disseminating Christian virtue, and adding another “kingdom” to England’s powerful Christian kingdom.

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