Legend goes that the colony in Jamestown was a false start. It’s often told as a cautionary tale of lazy louts who hunted gold until they starved or shiftless settlers in need of the hard discipline of martial law. Yet, author Joseph Kelly comes to a radically different and decidedly American interpretation of these first Virginians. In his gripping account of shipwrecks and mutiny in America’s earliest settlements, he argues that the colonists were literally and figuratively marooned, cut loose from civilization, and cast into the wilderness to fend for themselves any way they could. The British caste system meant little on this new frontier: those who wanted to survive had to learn to work and fight and intermingle with the nearby native populations. Ten years before the Mayflower Compact and decades before Hobbes and Locke, these colonists invented the idea of government by the people. And, 150 years before Jefferson, they discovered the truth that all men were equal.
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