Sir Walter Raleigh, the Englishman who gave the greatest impetus to the colonization of North America, never set foot on the North American continent. In a life of endless adventure and great distinction, his personal efforts were in South America and the Indies. Raleigh was one of the noblest men of his age, gallant and courteous in manner; a scholar and a poet. His name should be remembered with respect and admiration by the people of this country. Born in 1552, he was only 17 years old when he served in France with the Huguenot forces, making his first sea venture in 1578, as a captain under his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in a raid on the Indies. On his return he served in the siege of Limerick in Ireland. This first brought him to the attention of Queen Elizabeth I, who knighted him in 1584. It was about this time that he began his persistent attempts to colonize. His first venture, towards Newfoundland, ended in disaster and the death of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Drake had been prevented from going on the expedition by the Queen.

A second expedition which Drake arranged explored the Virginia coast, while a third, under Sir Richard Grenville and Ralph Lane, settled but abandoned the settlements. In 1587 another expedition under John White tried to develop a settlement, but Raleigh's attempts to re-provision were frustrated by the treason of his captains. When he made a final attempt in 1589 the colonists had disappeared, and probably had died. Having spent all he could raise, Raleigh abandoned the effort at colonization and began importing tobacco and potatoes to England which seemed much more practical.

Several times Raleigh attempted to sail on expeditions which he organized and financed, but was prevented by the Queen who valued him greatly. In 1595 he managed to head a venture which was in search of the golden city of Manoa. On the way, he sacked Trinidad, explored the Orinoco and discovered a valuable gold mine, but duties recalled him to England, and he then sent Lawrence Kemys on an unsuccessful expedition. He himself took part in the storming of Cadiz in 1596, and the next year captured Fayal, but his fortune was running low.

The death of the Queen and the crowning of King James, whose succession Raleigh opposed, caused him to be imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1603. At his trial he defended himself with a dignity that had aroused the admiration of the world. For nearly thirteen years he was left to languish in prison. It was not till 1617 that he was released to sail on his final expedition to the Orinoco, although his real intention was probably to capture the Mexican fleet. His crews were not of the old, tough quality. After losing many men in a battle where they stormed a Spanish settlement, some of the men and several ships abandoned him. Sir Walter then sailed for home. On his return in 1617 he was arrested on the complaint of the Spanish Ambassador. He was beheaded under his old sentence on October 29, 1618. Sir Walter met his death with the calmness and self-possession of a noble character.