Smith notes that the myth of the garden served an important political function by suggesting that "the West, the free lands beyond the frontier, would operate as a safety valve to keep down social and economic conflict in the East" (201). Just as Horace Greeley encouraged 19th-century adventurers with "Go West, young man, go forth into the country," sixteenth-century English writers exhorted people to look westward to the New World for relief from overpopulation and unemployment.

In 1583, John Hawkins wrote a commendary poem for Sir George Peckham's A True Report of the Late Discoveries of the New-Found Lands encouraging young men to colonize the New World, and urging those too old to colonize to support them. England, says Hawkins, is so "pestered now and choked through want of ground," that "for the want of place they crawl one o'er another's back." He compares English colonization of the New World to the expansion of the Roman and Athenian empires, and promises adventurers that their troubles will bring glory to God and country, and profit to themselves.

The following year, Richard Hakluyt noted in his Discourse on Western Planting that England should attempt to settle the New World to expand the realm, keep Spain's power in check, and to provide "imploymente of nombers of idle men."

Virgin Land

A Brief History of the European Myth of the Garden | America as the Garden during the Renaissance | Conclusion