John Smith (baptized. 6 January 1580 – 21 June 1631) was an English soldier, explorer, colonial governor, Admiral of New England, and author. He played an important role in the establishment of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America in the early 17th century. He was a leader of the Virginia Colony between September 1608 and August 1609, and he led an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay, during which he became the first English explorer to map the Chesapeake Bay area. Later, he explored and mapped the coast of New England. He was knighted for his services to Sigismund Báthory, Prince of Transylvania, and his friend Mózes Székely.
Jamestown was established in 1607, and Smith trained the first settlers to farm and work, thus saving the colony from early devastation. He publicly stated, “He that will not work, shall not eat”, alluding to 2 Thessalonians 3:10. Harsh weather, lack of food and water, the surrounding swampy wilderness, and Indian attacks almost destroyed the colony. With Smith’s leadership, however, Jamestown survived and eventually flourished. Smith was forced to return to England after being injured by an accidental explosion of gunpowder in a canoe.
Smith’s books and maps were important in encouraging and supporting English colonization of the New World. He named the region of New England and noted: “Here every man may be master and owner of his owne labour and land.… If he have nothing but his hands, he may… by industries quickly grow rich.” Smith died in London in 1631.