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John Smith, William Berkeley, and George Whitefield were famous leaders. Smith (1580-1631) was an English explorer, soldier, cartographer, governor, and writer. He served a significant role in the creation of the Jamestown colony during the early seventeenth century. Berkeley (1606-1677) was an English governor of the Virginia colony. While he was the governor, he faced Bacon’s Rebellion, which was the armed uprising organized against his moderate Native American policy. Whitefield (1714-1770) was an English minister who was among the inventors of Methodism. As an evangelist of the Church of England, he inspired the eighteenth-century revival of Protestantism all over Britain and America. This paper compares Captain John Smith, Sir William Berkeley, and Reverend George Whitefield.
Firstly, John Smith, William Berkeley, and George Whitefield were English, meaning they were natives of Great Britain. John Smith was born in 1580 in Lincolnshire, England. His father was an agriculturalist who cultivated a piece of land that belonged to a local lord. He attended a grammar school before his father perished when he was sixteen years. He became an apprentice to a wealthy merchant before leaving home to work as a seaman. He later became a mercenary who fought for the independence of the Netherlands and against the Ottoman Empire in 1601. He was apprehended and forced to be a slave in 1602, but he escaped and returned to England in 1604. William Berkeley was born in 1606 in Somerset, England. He was Sir Maurice Berkeley’s youngest son and John Berkeley’s brother. He went to study at the University of Oxford where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in 1624 and a postgraduate degree in 1629 (Powell 35). George Whitefield was born in 1714 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire. During his early high school and college years, he experienced a solid sacred awakening, which he termed the “new birth.” Whitefield invented Methodism alongside John and Charles Wesley at Oxford where they were missionaries before moving to the Georgia colony in 1738. He was as a fluent evangelist who preached all over the American colonies in addition to the United Kingdom (Dallimore 15).
Secondly, John Smith, William Berkeley, and George Whitefield were leaders, meaning they controlled groups, organizations, or colonies. John Smith was famous for being the governor of the Jamestown colony starting from 1608. The colony was the original permanent settlement in North America. He was an egotistical and strict leader who was disliked by many settlers. He demanded everybody in the colony to be working. Also, Smith established better relations with the Native Americans, especially the Powhatan tribe, which had bad dealings with the Spanish conquistadores. There were few conflicts in the colony during his tenure compared with the previous and subsequent years. However, his leg was wounded after a gunpowder accident in September 1609, compelling him to go back to England for treatment. William Berkeley became the governor of the Virginia colony in 1641. His initial tenure as governor from 1641 to 1652 was prosperous. He promoted crop diversification, manufacturing, and expansion. He handled conflicts from the Dutch and Native Americans. His allegiance to the King of England throughout the civil wars in England made him declare the Virginia colony an asylum for Charles II. His final tenure as governor between 1660 and 1677 was spoiled by economic depression, crop failures, and attacks from Native Americans. His cousin, Nathaniel Bacon, wanted the Native Americans to be expelled from the colony, but Berkeley wanted to nurture trade with the Native Americans. Therefore, Bacon launched a rebellion in 1676 against the Native Americans. Berkeley commanded his troops to fight the rebels led by Bacon. Bacon died a natural death during the rebellion while Berkeley died before he could report to King Charles II about the rebellion. George Whitefield joined the “Holy Club” at the University of Oxford in 1732 where he met John Wesley and Charles Wesley who he worked with after being ordained. He moved to North America to become a leader of revivals termed the “Great Awakening”.
Thirdly, John Smith, William Berkeley, and George Whitefield were authors, meaning they wrote (books, stories, or articles) professionally. John Smith wrote eight books that included A Map of Virginia with a Description of the Country (1612); A Description of New England (1616), The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624); An Accidence or The Pathway to Experience Necessary for all Young Seamen (1626); The True Travels, Adventures, and Observations of Captain John Smith in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (1630); and Advertisements for the Unexperienced Planters of New England (1631) (Bradley 23). William Berkeley wrote numerous articles including a play titled “The Lost Lady” (1638), a book called A Description of Virginia, and Papers of Sir William Berkeley (1605-1677)). George Whitefield wrote 106 articles that were majorly sermons, with his famous books being Selected Sermons of George Whitefield and A Short Account of God’s Dealings with the Reverend George Whitefield (Choi 64).
To sum up, Captain John Smith, William Berkeley, and George Whitefield were similar because they were English, leaders, and authors. John Smith, born in 1580, in Lincolnshire, England, was an English soldier who founded the American settlement of Jamestown in 1607. He became the governor of the settlement in 1608. After supposedly being saved from execution by Pocahontas, he formed peaceful relations with the Native American tribes before returning to England in 1609. Smith wrote eight books. William Berkeley, born in 1606 in Somerset, England was an English governor of the Virginia colony who served until his death, making him the longest-serving governor. He promoted trade between the English settlers and Native Americans in Virginia before his legacy that lasted two centuries was almost ruined by Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. Berkeley wrote numerous articles. George Whitefield, born in 1714 in Gloucester, England was an English reverend who engaged in revivals called the Great Awakening in the United Kingdom and America. After two centuries, he had conducted about 18,000 sermons that were attended by millions of individuals. Whitefield wrote 106 articles.
- Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2010.
- Bradley, A. G. Captain John Smith. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
- Choi, Peter Y. George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018.
- Dallimore, Arnold A. George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-century Revival. New York: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980.
- Emerson, Everett H. Captain John Smith. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1993.
- Miller, Susan Martins. George Whitefield: Clergyman and Scholar. Boston: Infobase Learning, 2013.
- Petrie, Kristin. John Smith. Edina: ABDO Publishing Company, 2010.
- Powell, Phelan. Sir William Berkeley: Governor of Virginia. New York: Infobase Learning, 2013.
- Taylor, Alan. Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
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