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Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Fish Tale - John Smith and Codfish

Start of Phil Konstantin's November 2007 Newsletter - Part 1
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Capt. John Smith, has been immortalized for his part in founding Virginia. In 1614 Smith explored part of the North American coast-to which he gave the name New England. Disappointed in his search gold, he set his men to fishing for cod while he went exploring in the ship's pinnace, mapping the coastline from Maine to the cape that was named for the fish.

Smith's map and description of New England and his profits from cod fishing encouraged the Pilgrims to seek a charter from the Crown to settle there. Indeed it was the cod that saved the first New Englanders. In 1640, only eleven years after Massachusetts Bay Company had been by the Puritans, it exported three hundred thousand cod to Europe. Cod was soon also being traded to the West Indies, in exchange for rum and molasses. In addition, plowing in the cod waste greatly increased the agricultural productivity of the stony New England soil. The cod proved a basis of prosperity for New England so considerable that Adam Smith singled it out for praise in his Wealth of Nations. To this day, a wooden sculpture of a cod adorns the Massachusetts Statehouse to remind the legislators of the source of their state's greatness.