spacer



spacer
 

, . " "
USHISTORY.RU


SEVENTH EDITION



AMHIST11.jpg

Richard N. Current

Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

T. Harry Williams

late of Louisiana State University

Frank Freidel

Emeritus, Harvard 'University

Alan Brinkley

Harvard University

AMHIST13.jpg

ALFRED A. KNOPF NEW YORK


Preface

When the first edition of this book appeared in 1959, historians were in general agreement about what was important in the American past. The story of the United States, most believed, was the story of great public events: of politics and government, of war and peace, of great leaders and great events. Much has changed in the years since.

Historical scholarship in America (and, indeed, throughout much of the world) has experienced something close to a revolution during the last two and a half decades. Aspects of the past that received only slight attention in earlier eras have now emerged as central themes in the writing of American history. Scholars today are interested not just in great events and great leaders, but in the experiences of ordinary men and women. They are concerned not just with politics and government but with less visible changes in the structure of society. Historians in recent years have begun to reveal whole new realms of the American past about which we previously knew relatively little: the historcial experiences of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, and other minorities; the process by which America was settled by successive waves of immigrants and the process by which those immigrants adapted to their new surroundings; the rise and transformation of the city and the wrenching changes in the nature of agrarian society; the evolution of popular culture and popular values; and, perhaps most prominently in recent years, the experiences of American women and the story of the American family.

No single work can hope to tell the full story of any nation. And in the case of the United States, a country of almost unparalleled diversity, in which change has occurred at such a constant and dizzying speed that historical time seems almost to have accelerated, that task is particularly difficult. Nevertheless, this book attempts to present as full a picture as possible of the extraordinary history of the American nation and its people. This new edition, which is the result of the most significant single revision in the long life of this book, tries to ensure that this picture does justice to the many areas of the past that recent scholarship has revealed. It includes, as previous editions have, a thorough discussion of great public events, of politics and government and diplomacy. But it gives at least equal attention to the other, less familiar aspects of the American past. And, above all, it tries to illuminate the way the nation's public history and its social history have interacted with and shaped one another.

Four broad themes in particular shape the contents of this volume. First, we have told the story of the creation of the nation's political institutions and the way they have evolved in response to changing circumstances, changing popular expectations, and the achievements and failures of individual public figures. Second, we have examined the development of America's role in the world, from its position as a weak dependency of the British and Spanish empires to its rise to international preeminence. Third, we have recounted the story of the development of the American economy from its simple agrarian beginnings through its triumphant rise to industrial greatness to its present uncertain condition. And fourth, we have described the way in which the American people have lived: the cultural and social arrangements they have developed for themselves; the impact of social and economic changes on those arrangements; and the efforts of groups divided by class, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and region to find ways of living together in a single society.

Those familiar with earlier editions of this book will notice many changes in this edition. The most visible, of course, is our new full-color design and our introduction of a wholly new and much larger program of maps, charts, and illustrations. We have added as well a chronology of significant events at the end of each chapter. We have expanded and reorganized the bibliographical essays, both to bring them up to date and to make them easier to use. We have added a new essay on the Vietnam War to our series entitled "Where Historians Disagree," and we have reworked and expanded many of the existing essays in that series.

But the most important changes are those in the narrative itself. What most distinguishes this edition from its predecessors is its more extensive coverage of social, cultural, and economic historyand above all perhaps, our effort to incorporate into the story the results of the recent explosion of scholarship in the field of women's history. We have reviewed and revised virtually every section of the book in light of new evidence and interpretations. We have substantially reorganized several important sections, and we have added several entirely new ones. We have made a significant stylistic revision, to improve the consistency and flow of the narrative.

Several changes will be particularly noticeable to previous users of this book. Chapter 1 has been radically revised to provide more attention to the history of America before Columbus and to explore more fully the interaction among Europeans, Africans, and Indians that dominated the history of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century America. The chapters on the colonial period in general have been substantially recast to take into account the important and rapidly burgeoning new scholarship in that field. There have also been some significant organizational and substantive changes in the chapters dealing with the twentieth century. Chapters 21 and 22 have been thoroughly recast; Chapter 21 now provides an expanded discussion of the social underpinnings of progressive reform and of reform efforts at the state and local level, while Chapter 22 brings together the material on national reform in the progressive era. Chapter 25 consolidates and expands the discussion of the social and cultural impact of the Great Depression. Chapter 26 focuses on the history of the New Deal in its entirety. Chapter 27 offers a comprehensive picture of diplomatic developments in the period from 1921 to 1945, as well as a full discussion of both the domestic and international repercussions of World War II itself. And Chapter 32 presents new material on the Carter and Reagan presidencies and on the social, economic, and cultural events of the 1970s and 1980s. Finally, major new sections on the history of women and the family can be found throughout the book; some of the most important appear in chapters 3, 5, 9, 11, 14, 15, 18, 21, 24-27, 29, and 31. The result of all these changes, we hope, is a book that provides a fuller and richer view of American history, one that illuminates more clearly how the study of history can enhance our understanding of our own world and our own lives.

The editorial and production staffs at Alfred A. Knopf deserve much of the credit for whatever new strengths the present edition brings to this book. David Follmer helped draw up some of the, initial plans for this edition, and Chris Rogers presided expertly over the bulk of the revision. David Lindroth is responsible not only for drafting the elegant new maps and charts, but also for conceptualizing many of them. Leon Bolognese contributed a handsome new design for both the cover and the interior. Despite a very tight schedule, Deborah Bull brought both taste and imagination to the task of researching an attractive and effective new set of illustrations. Kathy Bendo and Stacey Alexander saw to the many details of photo permissions and production fellow-through with remarkable competence. Evelyn Kat-rak, as she has done in previous editions, copyedited this enormous manuscript with her usual elegance and professionalism. Our greatest debt is to Elaine Romano, who supervised the preparation of this new edition from start to finish, coordinated the many different aspects of editing and production, repaired uncountable errors and inconsistencies, arid made this a much better book than it would otherwise have beenall with unfailing patience, skill, and courtesy.

As always, we appreciate the efforts of the many scholars and teachers who read and commented on the sixth edition of this book and whose suggestions were of incalculable value to us in preparing the seventh. Many of these reviewers have asked not to be identified, and so we have chosen here to thank them all anonymously. We are also grateful to those students and teachers who have used this book over the past several years and who have offered us their unsolicited comments, criticisms, and corrections. We hope they will continue to inform us of their reactions in the future by sending their comments to the authors in care of the College Department, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.

ALAN BRINKLEY Cambridge, Massachusetts November 1986

 

PART 0NE

For thousands of centuriescenturies in which human races were evolving, forming communities, and building the beginnings of national civilizations in Africa, Asia, and Europethe continents we know as the Americas stood empty of mankind and its works. The human species was not born to the Western Hemisphere. It had to find it. And it did so in two great waves of immigration: the first from Asia, beginning between 25,000 and 40,000 years ago; the second from Europe and Africa, beginning in the sixteenth century. For humans at least, the Americas were indeed what awestruck Europeans of 400 years ago called them: the New World.

The story of this new world is unlike that of any other part of the globe. It is a story of immigrants: of men and women of courage, vision, ambition, greed; of people enchanted by the promise of an unknown land or driven by a desire to escape the hardships of the land they knew. It is a story of thousands, and then millions, who left behind everything that was comfortable, familiar, and predictable to them to seek a future in a world that was strange, sometimes hostile, and always challenging. It is a story of the creation of a civilization where none existed.

It is also the story of how a number of very different peoples found themselves living together in the same land. By the time the first Europeans and Africans arrived to settle in the New World in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there were already flourishing civilizations there that had been developing for many centuries. The early history of European colonization of the Americas was dominated, then, by a sudden and at times violent collision of cultures. That collision had important effects on both European and Indian civilization in the New World.

But it was the European settlement of America, spearheaded first by the Spanish and Portuguese and then by the French, the Dutch, and above all the Britishand by the African tribespeople they forcibly transported with themthat largely created the American civilizations we now know. In the areas of Hispanic settlement, those civilizations emerged through a long, slow blending of European culture with that of native societies. In most of North America, however, European settlers made little effort to absorb the existing population. Instead, they generally attempted to isolate themselves from the native cultures, destroyed those cultures when they thought it necessary, and tried to create a society entirely their own.

They did not intend it to bea new civilization. They hoped, rather, to re-create in the New World the societies they had left behind in the Oldimproved versions of them, perhaps, but not radically different. Gradually, however, the task proved impossible. In countless ways, large and small, often unnoticed, life inthe new land forced the settlers to alter their established customs, patterns, and ideas. Always they found it necessary to adjust to conditions for which their prior experiences had not prepared them. And in the process there emerged an American civilization that, for all its familiar features, differed fundamentally from its European forebears.

The perilous, often heroic and occasionally foolhardy efforts of these early settlers to create a society for themselves in an alien land, and the long, slow process of adaptation to the New World of their descendants, constitute the story of the first phase of American history. Out of these struggles emerged the institutions, the customs, and the beliefs that would shape much of the nation's future.


Chapter 1. Two Worlds Collide

 

It is not surprising, perhaps, that most Americans have traditionally considered their history to have begun with the arrival of Europeans in the New World: with the voyages of Columbus in the late fifteenth century, the beginnings of Spanish settlement in the early 1500s, the arrival of the English a century later. The Europeans who "discovered" the Americas and began to people them looked on the continents as a "new world"unexplored, unex-ploited, untamed. So successful were they in subduing and dominating the lands they found that their descendants, along with the descendants of other, later immigrant groups, constitute the vast majority of the population of the United States today.

 

But there is another, much longer American history that stretches back over several millennia before Columbus set foot in the New World, a history about which relatively little is known. It is the history of a substantial population descended from much earlier immigrants and of the elaborate civilizations they created. The Europeans who arrived in America beginning in the sixteenth century did not find an empty land. They found diverse peoples and highly developed cultures. Before they could build their own societies, they had to come to terms with the societies that had preceded them. The coming of the Europeans, in short, was not so much the peopting of a new world as a collision between two cultures that had teen developingalong completely different lines for thousands of years. That collision changed the lives of both the Europeans and the original Americans in fundamental ways.

The Civilizations of America

No one knows precisely when the first human settlers. arrived in North America, but it is likely that various tribes of Siberian hunters began crossing the narrow Bering Straits into what is now Alaska at least 30,000 years ago, perhaps much earlier. Year after year, a few at a time, these nomadic peoples entered North America (almost certainly unaware that they were peopling a new continent) and wandered ever deeper into its heart. Ultimately, perhaps as early as 8,000 B.C., the migrations reached the southern tip of South America. By the end of the fifteenth century A.D,, when these ancient migrants had their first important contact with Europeans, America was the home of several million men and women. Scholars disagree on the numbers, but the most recent estimates suggest that well over 10 million people lived in South America in 1500 and that at least 2 million lived in North America.

America Before Columbus

The men and women of the Americas had a common Asian ancestry. There were some physical differences from one group to another, but they shared certain basic features (dark skin, straight black hair, high cheekbones) that encouraged Europeans to think of them as a single, undifferentiated people. The natives themselves, however, had no reason to consider themselves part of one race or culture. Spread widely over two enormous continents, different population groups naturally developed in very different ways. The language variations alone were staggering. There were approximately a dozen different linguistic stocks in the Americas, and hundreds of languages and dialects derived from them. In North America, native tribes spoke more than 300 different languages. There were, in addition, substantial variations among tribes in religion, systems of governance, economic life, and cultural outlook. The peoples of America were often as unlike one another as they were unlike the Europeans they eventually encountered.

Although the prehistoric settlers had been largely wandering hunters, most Native Americans eventually established themselves as farmers. As agriculture increased, the nomadic character of many of the early population groups gradually gave way to more sedentary life styles. Tribes established permanent agricultural settlements; and over time, some of them forged ties to one another and developed large and highly sophisticated civilizations.

The most elaborate of these civilizations grew up in South and Central America and in Mexico. In Peru, the Incas created a powerful empire of perhaps 6 million people. They developed a complex political system and a vast network of paved roads that managed to weld together the populations of many tribes under a single ruler. On the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and in Central America, the .Mayas built a sophisticated culture with a written language, a numerical system similar to the Arabic (and superior to the Roman), an accurate calendar, and an advanced agricultural system. They were succeeded as the dominant power in Mexico by the Aztecs, a once-nomadic warrior tribe from the north. In the late thirteenth century, the Aztecs established a precarious rule over much of central and southern Mexico and developed an elaborate administrative structure, a successful educational system, and a form of medical care (including hospitals and nurses) comparable to the most advanced in Europe at that time. The Aztecs also practiced human sacrifice on an unprecedented scale. Their Spanish conquerors discovefed the skulls of 100,000 victims in one location when they arrived in 1519. That was one of the reasons why Europeans so often considered the Aztecs "savages," despite their impressive accomplishments.

The peoples of America lacked some of the basic technologies- that had contributed to the growth of Asian and European cultures. The Incas, for example, never developed any equivalent for paper or any system of writing. And as late as the sixteenth century, no American society had yet discovered the wheel. Such absences make all the more impressive the accomplishments of these cultures. Perhaps most striking were their cities. Some were nearly as large as the greatest cities of Europe. Tenochtitlan, the Az-tec capital built on the site of the present-day Mexico Cfty, had a population of over 100,000 in 1500 and an impressive complex of majestic public buildings including temples equal in size to the great pyramids of .Egypt, The Mayas (at Mayapan and elsewhere) and the Incas (in such cities as Cuzco and Machu Picchu) produced similarly striking examples of architecture and engineering.

The peoples north of Mexicoin the lands that became the United States and Canadadid not develop political systems as complex as the Incas, Mayas, and Aztecs; nor did they produce comparable cities or technologies. But they were far from the rootless savages that many Europeans later believed them to be. Most of the tribes were engaged in various forms of farming, and in some places they established large agricultural societies. In the Southwest and in parts of the Mississippi Valley, for example, there were complicated irrigation systems and elaborate permanent settlements. On the Pacific coast, the natives established successful fishing communities, farming the surrounding lands to supplement the catch.

Elsewhere, tribes retained something of their older nomadic character. The natives of the basin and the plains were largely wandering hunters, moving their villages periodically in search of better game. In the East, most tribes engaged in farming that would often seem crude to Europeans but that was in many ways well suited to the physical realities of the region; and they tended to settle less permanently than tribes elsewhere. Some cleared land, by setting forest fires or by cutting into trees to kill thorn, and then planted crops (corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and others) among the dead or blackened trunks. After a few years, when the land became exhausted (or when the filth from a settlement began to accumulate), they moved on and established themselves elsewhere. In some parts of eastern North America, villages dispersed every winter and families foraged for themselves in the wilderness until warm weather returned and those who had survived this perilous season could begin farming once again. Even in the summer months, many combined agriculture with hunting game and gathering wild fruits and berries. Tasks tended to be divided by sex. Men did the hunting; women did most of the farming, except for clearing the land. (Europeans, when they arrived in North America, were appalled by how hard native women worked at what seemed to the Europeans to be men's tasks. Indian rnen, they concluded, were lazy; and their disapproval helped reinforce their belief in the superiority of their own culture.)

There were more than two dozen different tribes living east of the Mississippi River by the end of the sixteenth century, many of them loosely linked together by common linguistic roots. The largest of these language groups, the Algonquin tribes, lived along the Atlantic seaboard from Canada to Virginia and included the Narragansetts of New England, the Powhatans of the Chesapeake and others. Somewhat less numerous, but ultimately more influential, were the Iroquois, who were centered in what is now up-state New York and who formed a wedge between the northern and southern Algonquins. The Iroquois, included at least five distinct northern "nations" Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk and had links as well with the Cherokees and the Tuscaroras farther south, in the Carolihas and Georgia,, The third largest language groupMuskogean occupied the southernmost regions of the eastern seaboard and included the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles.

Linguistic similarities did not, however, necessarily lead to social or cultural ties. The Iroquois, did manage at times to hold together the peoples of various tribes in an effective confederation; their League of Five Nations (which in the early eighteenth cen-tury grew to six) was an important and largely independent power center in North America for well over a century after the arrival of the Europeans. The Iroquois were a crucial factor in the seventeenth-century battle for control of the interior of the continenta battle that involved the British and the French as well. Other groups, however, were more deeply divided. The various Algonquin tribes, for example, spoke in such different dialects that they could understand one another no better than the English could understand the French or the Spanish; seldom did they create large or durable alliances. And while individual tribes often produced stable and coherent political systems, no group ever emerged in upper North America willing or able to create the large and powerful empires that emerged farther south.

Encounters with Europe

The arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century began a process of interaction that had profound effects on both the natives and the new immigrants. The impact was greatest on the natives, and in a few respects it was not entirely negative. Horses, which had disappeared from America in the Ice Age, returned aboard Spanish ships beginning in the sixteenth century. The Europeans introduced new crops to America, among them sugar and bananas. White colonists brought with them such livestock as cattle, pigs, and sheep. These imports were usually intended for the use of the Europeans themselves. But Indian tribes in time learned to cultivate the new crops, and the European animals proliferated rapidly and spread widely among tribes that in the past had possessed almost no domesticated beasts. The horse, in particular, became central to the lives of many natives and transformed their societies. Such tribes as the Apache, Comanche, and Sioux in the western plains of North America ultimately built their lives around the horse. They adopted an even more nomadic existence than they had previously known, and they developed new kinds of hunting and warfare.

These modest benefits, however, could not outweigh the much greater costs to the natives of their contact with Europeans. Very quickly, the arrival of white people in the New World produced a catastrophe of epic dimensions for the indigenous populations. Their greatest civilizations met with conquest and extinction. Their peoples suffered subjugation and death on a massive scale. Much of what happened was a result of the military superiority of the Europeans, which produced a series of decisive conquests. But in the beginning, at least, the most important and the most disastrous effect of the coming of Europeans to America was the arrival with them of devastating diseases.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the consequences of the exposure of Native Americans to such illnesses as influenza, measles, typhus, and above all smallpoxdiseases to which Europeans had over time developed at least a partial immunity but to which native Americans were desperately vulnerable. Millions died. Native groups inhabiting some of the large Caribbean islands were virtually extinct within fifty years of their first contact with whites; on Hispaniola where the Dominican Republic and Haiti are today and where Columbus landed and established a small colony in the 1490sthe native population quickly declined from approximately 1 million to about 500. Some groups fared better than others, of course; most (although not all) of the tribes north of Mexico, whose contact with European settlers came later and was usually less intimate, were spared the worst of the epidemics. But there is reason to believe that in some regions of the Americas as much as 95 percent of the native population died of European diseases within a century. This was a demographic disaster that had no parallel in human history.

For the Europeans, contact with the native population proved far more beneficial. There were costs, to be sure. Syphilis, a disease common in America but previously unknown elsewhere, appeared in Spain shortly after Columbus's return from America (apparently brought back by his sailors, who had contracted it during their sexual encounters with native women in the Caribbean). Within a little more than a decade the disease had spread across the Continent and into Asia. But most of what the Europeans took from the natives was of real and lasting value to them. In both North and South America, the arriving white peoples learned new agricultural techniques from the natives, techniques often far letter adapted to the demands of this new land than those they had brought with them from Europe. They discovered new crops, above all maize (corn), which Columbus took back to Europe from his first trip to America and which became an important staple of European as well as American agriculture. Such American foods as squash, pumpkins, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes also found their way into the European diet.

Natives also played an important role in advancing the growth of commerce, particularly in North America. Some aided European explorers and trappers; others traded directly with white merchants. The Iroquois and the Algonquans both played a particularly important (and enduring) role in the growth of the vital North American fur trade. And almost everywhere, Europeans found the natives to be eager customers for manufactured goods: iron pots, blankets, metal-tipped arrows, and eventually guns and rifles. Many natives also developed a taste for another European product - alcohol with often debilitating and tragic results.

In South America, Central America, and Mexico, the lines between the native and European societies began to blur in time. Many of the Indians there gradually adopted the Spanish language (or in Brazil, Portuguese), the Catholic religion, and other aspects of European social organization. But north of Mexico, there were strict limits to the exchanges between European and indigenous cultures. Christian missionaries flocked to the New World, eager to spread their religion to the "heathen." In most of North America, they found relatively few converts among the natives, who had strong religious convictions of their own. At various times, white settlers attempted to draw native peoples into their schools; but most Indians saw little point to European learning and withdrew. Nor were Europeans often able to recruit Indians successfully as workers. Natives generally worked for the white settlers only under duressand even then, they usually managed to escape. (The failure to recruit a native work force was one important reason why Europeans in North America decided to resort to the African slave trade in the seventeenth century.)

For all the influence Europeans and Native Americans had on each other, in most of North America they remained members of essentially separate cultures, and they generally attempted to keep a certain distance between them. There were some cases of natives becoming assimilated into white society ("Red Puritans," or "praying Indians," as they were called in New England). Somewhat more frequently, but still not often, whites became absorbed into Indian society, usually through marriage. On the whole, however, each group viewed the other as an alien force; and while the two worlds managed at times to live in peace, there was constant tension and constant potential for conflict.

Europe Looks Westward

Europeans were almost entirely unaware of the existence of the Americas before the fifteenth century. A few early wanderers Leif Ericson, an eleventh-century Norse seaman, and perhaps others had glimpsed parts of the New World and had demonstrated that Europeans were capable of crossing the ocean to find it. But even had their discoveries become common knowledge (and they did not), there would have been little incentive for others to follow. For Europe in the Middle Ages (roughly 500-1500 A.D.) was not an adventurous civilization. Divided into innumerable small duchies and kingdoms, its outlook was overwhelmingly provincial. Subsistence agriculture predominated, and commerce was limited; few merchants looked beyond the boundaries of their own regions. Although the Roman Catholic church exercised a measure of spiritual authority over most of the Continent, and although the Holy Roman Empire provided at least a nominal political center, power was for the most part so widely dispersed that no single leader was capable of launching great ventures. Gradually, however, conditions in Europe changed, so that by the late fifteenth century interest in overseas exploration had grown.

Commerce and Nationalism

Two important and related changes provided the first incentive for Europeans to look toward new lands. One was a result of the significant growth in the

European population in the fifteenth century. The Black Death, a catastrophic epidemic of the bubonic plague that began in Constantinople in 1347, had decimated Europe, killing (according to some estimates) more than half the people there and debilitating its already limited economy. But a century and a half later, the population had rebounded. With that growth came a rise in land values, a reawakening of commerce, and a general increase in prosperity. Affluent landlords were becoming eager to purchase goods from distant regions; and a new merchant class was emerging to meet their demand. As trade-expanded, and as advances in navigation and shipbuilding made long-distance sea travel more feasible, interest in developing new markets, finding new products, and opening new trade routes rapidly increased.

Paralleling the rise of commerce in Europe, and in part responsible for it, was the rise of new govern-ments that were far more united and powerful than the feeble political entities of the feudal past. In the western areas of Europe in particular, where the authority of the distant pope and the even more distant Holy Roman emperor were necessarily weak, strong new monarchs were emerging and creating centralized nation-states, with national courts, national armies, and perhaps most important, national tax systems. As these ambitious kings and queens consolidated their power and increased their wealth, they became eager to enhance the commercial growth of their nations.

Ever since the early fourteenth century, when Marco Polo and other adventurers had returned from the Orient bearing exotic goods (spices, cloths, dyes) and even more exotic tales, Europeans who dreamed of commercial glory had dreamed above all of trade with the East. For two centuries, that trade had been limited by the difficulties of the long, arduous overland journey to the Asian courts. But in the fourteenth century, as the maritime talents of several western European societies increased, there began to be serious talk of finding a faster, safer sea route to the Orient. Such dreams gradually found a receptive audience in the courts of the new monarchs. By the late fifteenth century, some of them were ready to finance daring voyages of exploration.

The first to do so were the Portuguese. Their maritime preeminence in the fifteenth century was in large part the work of one man. Prince Henry the Navigator, who devoted much of his life to nautical studies and the promotion of exploration. Henry's own principal interest was not in finding a sea route to Asia but in exploring the western coast of Africa where he dreamed of establishing a Christian empire to aid in his country's wars against the Moors of northern Africa and where he hoped to find new stores of gold. But the explorations he began, while they did not fulfill his own hopes, ultimately led farther than he had dreamed. Some of Henry's mariners went as far south as Cape Verde. After his death in 1460, Portuguese explorers carried on his work and advanced farther still. In 1486, Bartholomeu Diaz rounded the southern tip of the continent (the Cape of Good Hope); and in 1497-1498 Vasco da Gama proceeded all the way to India. In 1500, the next fleet bound for India, under the command of Pedro Cabral, was blown off its southward course and happened upon the coast of Brazil. But by then, another man, in the service of another country, had already encountered the New World.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, who was born and reared in Genoa, Italy, obtained most of his early seafaring knowledge and experience in the service of the Portuguese. And as a young man, he became intrigued with the possibility, already under discussion in many seafaring circles, of reaching the Orient by going not east but west. Columbus was an industrious student of geography, and his wide readings convinced him that the Atlantic could provide easier passage to the Orient than either the existing land routes or the arduous sea route around southern Africa. Columbus's optimism rested on several basic misconceptions. He concluded that the world was far smaller than it actually is. And he believed that the Asian continent extended farther eastward than it actually does. He assumed, therefore, that the western ocean was narrow enough to be crossed on a relatively brief voyage. It did not occur to him that anything lay between Europe and the lands of Asia.

Columbus failed to convince the leaders of Portugal of the feasibility of his plan; the Portuguese were more interested in establishing their route to the East around Africa. So Columbus turned from Portugal to Spain. Although the Spaniards were not yet as advanced a maritime people as the Portuguese, they were at least as energetic and ambitious. And in the fifteenth century they were, like other European nations, busy at the work of establishing a strong nation-state. The marriage of Spain's two most powerful regional rulers, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, had produced the strongest monarchy in Europe; and like other new monarchies, it would soon grow eager to demonstrate its strength by sponsoring new commercial ventures.

Columbus appealed to Queen Isabella for supportmen, money, and shipsfor his proposed western voyage. The project would, he promised, extend the sway of Christianity to new lands and, perhaps more important to Isabella, help Spain in its emerging competition with Portugal. For a time, the queen was more interested in consolidating both Christianity and her own power at home; but in 1492 she finally felt secure enough to turn her gaze to foreign ventures. In that year, the Moorish stronghold of Granada fell to the Spanish armies, and the last Muslims were driven from the country; at the same time, the Jews of Spainthe only other significant non-Christian element in the populationwere forced to choose between conversion to Christianity or emigration. Confident now other position within her own nation, Isabella finally agreed to Columbus's request.

Commanding ninety men and three shipsthe Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa MariaColumbus left Spain in August 1492 and sailed west into the Atlantic on what he thought was a straight course for Japan. Ten weeks later, he sighted land and assumed he had reached his target. In fact, he had landed on Watling Island in the Bahamas. When he pushed on and encountered Cuba, he assumed he had reached China. He returned to Spain in triumph, bringing with him several captured natives as evidence of his achievement. (He called the natives "Indians" because they were, he believed, from the East Indies in the Pacific.)

Columbus did not, however, bring back to Spain what he had promised. He had no news of the great khan's court in China; nor did he have any samples of the fabled wealth of the Indies. And so a year later, he tried again, this time with a much larger expedition. As before, he headed into the Caribbean, discovering several other islands and leaving a small and short-lived colony on Hispaniola. On a third voyage, in 1498, he finally reached the mainland and cruised along the northern coast of South America. When he passed the mouth of the Orinoco River (in present-day Venezuela), he concluded for the first time that what he had discovered was not in fact an island off the coast of China, as he had assumed, but a separate continent; such a large freshwater stream could, he realized, emerge only from a large body of land. Still, he remained convinced that Asia was only a short distance away. And although he failed in his efforts to sail around the northwestern coast of South America through to the Indies (he was blocked by the Isthmus of Panama), he returned to Spain believing he had explored at least the fringes of the Far East. He continued to believe that until the day he died.

Columbus's celebrated accomplishments made him a popular hero for a time, but he ended his life in obscurity. Ultimately, he was even denied the honor of giving his name to the land he had discovered. That distinction went instead to a Florentine merchant, Amerigo Vespucci, a passenger on a later Portuguese expedition to the New World who wrote a series of vivid (if largely fictitious) descriptions of the lands he visited. But Christopher Columbus, for all his misconceptions, deserved the fame that ultimately came to him. He had helped dispel the terrors of the unknown ocean. He had demonstrated the existence of the New World. He had opened the way for the explorers of many nations to carry on his work. Just as Columbus had done on his final voyage, they concentrated their efforts at first mainly on the search for a water passage that would lead-through the-new lands and on to the riches of the Far East. Such a passage did not exist, but the efforts to find it revealed the outlines of both continents and made known the vastness of a territory that Europeans would soon find appealing for different purposes.

Partly as a result of Columbus's initiative, Spain began to devote greater resources and energy to maritime exploration and gradually replaced Portugal as the foremost seafaring nation. The Spaniard Vasco de Balboa pushed his way across the Isthmus of Panama (1513) and became the first European to gaze westward upon the great ocean that separated America from China and the Indies. Seeking access to that ocean, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese in Spanish employ, found the strait that now bears his name at the southern end of South America, struggled through the stormy narrows and into the ocean (so calm by contrast that he christened it the Pacific), then proceeded to the Philippines. There Magellan died in a conflict with the natives, but his expedition went on to complete the first known circumnavigation of the globe (1519-1522). By 1550, Spaniards had explored the coasts of North America as far north as Oregon in the West and Labrador in the East.

The Conquistadores

In time, Spanish explorers in the New World stopped thinking of America simply as an obstacle to their search .for a route to the East. They began instead to consider it a possible source of wealth rivaling and even surpassing the original Indies. On the basis of Columbus's discoveries (and with the aid of a papal decree), the Spanish claimed for themselves the whole of the New World, except for a piece of it (today's Brazil) that was reserved for the Portuguese. And by the mid-sixteenth century, they were well on their way to establishing a substantial American empire.

The early Spanish colonists, beginning with those Columbus brought on his second voyage, settled on the islands of the Caribbean, where they tried to enslave the Indians and find gold. They had little luck at either. But then, in 1518, Hernando Cortes, who had been a Spanish government official in Cuba for fourteen years and who had to that point achieved little success, decided to lead a small military expedition (about 600 men) into Mexico after hearing stories of great treasures there. He met strong and resourceful resistance from the Aztecs and their powerful emperor Montezuma; and his first assault on Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, failed. But Cortes and his army had, unknowingly, unleashed a far more devastating assault on the Aztecs than a military invasion. They had exposed the natives to smallpox, and an epidemic of that disease decimated the population and made it possible for the Spanish to triumph in their second attempt at conquest. Through his ruthless suppression of the surviving natives, Cortes established a lasting reputation as the most brutal of the conquistadores (conquerors).

The news that silver was to be found in Mexico turned the attention of other Spaniards to the mainland. From the island colonies and from the mother country, a wave of conquistadores descended on Mexico in search of fortunea movement comparable in some ways to the nineteenth-century gold rushes elsewhere in the world but infinitely more vicious. Francisco Pizarro, who conquered Peru (15311533) and revealed to the world the wealth of the Incas, opened the way for a similar advance into South America.

The story of the conquistadores is one of great military daring and achievement; it is also a story of remarkable brutality and greed. The European invaders were already inadvertently decimating the native population by subjecting them to new diseases. They added to the disaster by quite deliberately destroying many of the most important accomplishments of the native civilizations. They razed cities and dismantled temples and monuments. They destroyed records and documents (one reason why modern scholars have been able to learn so little about the histories of these native societies). The Europeans attempted, in short, to eliminate the underpinnings of the existing civilizations so as to bring the native population under the full political and religious control of Spain. By the 1540s, they had largely succeeded; and in future years, colonization could proceed with much less fear of effective native opposition.

The Spanish Empire

Spanish exploration, conquest, and colonization in America was primarily a work of private enterprise, carried on by individual leaders, with little direct support from the government at home. Those who wished to launch expeditions to the New World had first to get licenses from the crown. By the terms of the licenses, the monarch received a fifth of any wealth found or produced in the new colonies. The organizers of colonies retained a tenth of that wealth. They also received generous estates, other lands to divide among their followers, and the right to make use of native labor. But a license did no more than confer rights; colonizers had to equip and finance their expeditions on their own and assume the full risk of loss or ruin. They might succeed and make a fortune; they might failthrough shipwreck, natural disaster, incompetence, or bad luckand lose everything, including their lives, as many adventurers did. The New World did not always attract good or intelligent settlers, but in the beginning it seldom attracted the fainthearted.

The new colonial population came only in small part from Spain itself and scarcely at all from other countries in Europe. Few Spaniards were either willing or able to emigrate, and other Europeans, with a few exceptions, were excluded from the colonies. Most of the settlers, therefore, came from various outposts of Spanish civilization in the Atlanticthe Azores, the Cape Verde Islands, and elsewhere; but even with these additional sources, the number of European settlers in Spanish America remained relatively smalla fact that helped determine the shape of the society that emerged there.

Colonial officials were expected to take their wives with them to America, but among the ordinary settlersthe great majorityEuropean men outnumbered European women by at least ten to one. Increasingly, therefore, the Spanish immigrants turned to the native population. Almost from the beginning, intermarriage was common in Spanish America, which reveals several things about the colonizers. It reveals, of course, that men living alone in a strange land craved female companionship and the satisfactions of family and that they sought those things in the only places they could. It reveals that in these new and undeveloped colonies, most settlers desperately needed laborincluding domestic labor, which their native wives helped provide. And it suggests as well that the Spanish may have had somewhat more flexible ideas about race than the later English colonists would display. The English settlers in North America often faced similar shortages of white women, similar loneliness, a similar need for labor. Seldom, however, did they intermarry with Indian women.

Intermarriage relieved only a small part of the Spaniards' substantial labor shortage. At times, they tried to overcome it by forcing Indians to work for wages. This coercive labor system, related but not identical to slavery, survived in many of the mines and on many of the ranches of the South American mainland for centuries. Yet even that was not, in the end, enough to meet the needs of the colonists particularly once the native population declined (and in some areas virtually vanished) because of disease. As early as 1502, therefore, the European settlers began importing slaves from Africa to work on the plantations of the islands and coastal areas. (The Portuguese had established the African slave trade in Europe a half-century earlier; the introduction of that trade to the New World caused it to flourish and expand greatly.)

The first Spaniards to arrive in the New World, the conquistadores, were interested in only one thing: getting rich. More specifically, they were eager to exploit the American stores of gold and silver. And in that, they were fabulously successful. For 300 years, beginning in the sixteenth century, the mines in Spanish America yielded more than ten times as much gold and silver as the rest of the world's mines together. These riches made Spain for a time the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth.

But after the first wave of conquest, most Spanish settlers in America traveled to the New World for other reasons. And it was they who were of more lasting importance to the future of America. Many went in hopes of creating a profitable agricultural economy in America. And unlike the conquistadores, who left little but destruction behind them, they helped establish elements of European civilization in America that permanently altered both the landscape and the social structure. Above all, perhaps, the Spaniards brought with them their religion. Indeed, after the era of the conquistadores came to a close in the 1540s, the missionary impulse became one of the principal motives for European emigration to America. Priests or friars accompanied all colonizing ventures. Every settlement became a Christian community. And through the work of zealous missionaries, the gospel of the Catholic church ultimately extended throughout South and Central America.

By the end of the sixteenth century, the Spanish Empire had grown to become one of the largest in the history of the world. It included the islands of the Caribbean and the coastal areas of South America that had been the targets of the first Spanish expeditions. It extended to Mexico and southern North America, where a second wave of European colonizers had established outposts. The Spanish fort established in 1565 at St. Augustine, Florida, became the first permanent European settlement in the present-day United States. Spanish missionaries ventured even farther north in the following yearsat times reaching as far as the Chesapeake Bayalthough they established no lasting presence in those areas. The Spanish Empire spread southward and westward as well: into the land mass of South Americapresent-day Chile, Argentina, and Peruwhich was the target of a third Spanish military thrust. In 1580, when the Spanish and Portuguese monarchies united (if only temporarily), Brazil came under Spanish jurisdiction as well. From California, Florida, and Mexico to Cape Horn at the tip of South America, Spain's power stood unchallenged.

It was, however, a colonial empire very different from the one that would emerge in North America beginning in the early seventeenth century. Although the Spanish ruled the New World, they did not people it. In the first century of settlement, fewer than a quarter of a million European settlers established themselves in the Spanish colonies. Despite the ravages of disease and war, the vast majority of the population continued to consist of natives. The Spanish, in other words, imposed a small ruling class on a much larger existing population; they did not create a self-contained European society in the New World as the English would attempt to do in the north. The frequent intermarriage in the Spanish colonies produced a population dominated (numerically at least) by mestizos, people of mixed race. Europeans and Indians intermarried not only with each other, but also with the Africans imported as slaves; and thus racial distinctions, while not unimportant, became far less rigid and far less central to society in Latin American colonies than they would become in English ones. One result was that slavery in these societies, although often no less brutal than its northern counterpart, was somewhat more flexible and in many areas less lasting than the North American system.

There were also important political differences between the Spanish Empire in America and the later British version. Although the earliest Spanish ventures in the New World had operated largely independent of the throne, by the end of the sixteenth century the monarchy had established an elaborate hierarchical structure by which its authority extended directly into the governance of local communities. Colonists had few opportunities to establish political institutions independent of the crown. The British administration of North America, by contrast, would be far looser and more casual; and European settlers there would quickly develop a political system in which the monarch often played an indirect, even nominal role.

There was, finally, an economic difference. The Spanish were far more successful than the British would be in extracting great surface wealth from their American colonies. But for that very reason, they concentrated relatively less energy on making their colonies profitable agricultural and commercial ventures. The problem was compounded by the unusually strict and inflexible commercial policies of the Spanish government. To enforce the collection of duties and to provide protection against pirates, the government required all trade with the colonies to be carried on through a single Spanish port and only a few colonial ports, in fleets making but two voyages a year. The system stifled economic development of the New World. The British colonies, on the other hand, faced far fewer restrictions and ultimately produced a large, flexible, and flourishing commercial economy that would sustain prosperity in North America long after depletion of the supplies of gold and silver had begun to debilitate the economies to the south.

The Arrival of the English

England's first documented contact with the New World came only five years after Spain's. In 1497, John Cabot (like Columbus a native of Genoa) sailed to the northeastern coast of North America on an expedition sponsored by King Henry VII. Other Englishmen, continuing Cabot's unsuccessful search for a northwest passage through the New World to the Orient, explored other areas of North America during the sixteenth century. But while England claimed dominion over the lands its explorers surveyed, nearly a century passed before Englishmen made any serious efforts to establish colonies there. Like other European nations, England had to experience an internal transformation before it could begin the work of settling new lands. And that transformation, spurred by a combination of economic and cultural changes, occurred in the course of the sixteenth century.

The Commercial Incentive

Part of the attraction of the New World to the English was its newness, its contrast to their own troubled land. America seemed a place where people could start anew, where a perfect society could be created unencumbered by the flaws and inequities of the Old World. Such dreams began to emerge in England only a few years after Columbus's discovery. They found classic expression in Sir Thomas More's Utopia (published in Latin in 1516, translated into English thirty-five years later), which described a mythical and nearly perfect society on an imaginary island supposedly discovered by a companion of Amerigo Vespucci in the waters of the New World.

More's picture of an ideal community was, among other things, a comment on the social and economic condition of the England of his own time. For Tudor England, despite its literary glory (it produced, among much else, the works of Shakespeare) and its adventurous spirit, was in many ways an unhappy nation. The population suffered greatly from the frequent and costly European wars in which England became engaged. They suffered from almost constant religious strife within their own land. But they suffered above all from a harsh economic transformation of their country. The population of England grew steadily in the sixteenth centuryfrom 3 million in 1485 to 4 million in 1603but the food supply did not increase proportionately. On the contrary, because the worldwide demand for wool was growing rapidly (neither cotton nor silk having yet emerged as a major source of cloth), many landowners were finding it more profitable to convert their land from fields for crops to pastures for sheep. Land tilled at one time by serfs and later by rent-paying tenants was steadily enclosed for sheep runs and taken away from the farmers.

Thousands of evicted tenants roamed the countryside in gangs, begging (and at times robbing), and alarming the more fortunate householders through whose communities they passed. The government passed various laws designed to halt enclosures, relieve the worthy poor, and compel the able-bodied or "sturdy beggars" to work. Such laws had little effect. The enclosure movement continued unabated; relatively few of the dislocated farmers could find reemployment in raising sheep or manufacturing wool; the pressures of surplus population increased.

Amid this growing distress, a rising class of merchant capitalists was prospering from the expansion of foreign trade. At first, England had exported little except raw wool; but the new merchant capitalists helped create a domestic cloth industry that allowed them to begin marketing finished goods. They gathered up raw material, put it out for spinning and weaving in individual households, and sold the cloth both in England and abroad. Initially, most exporters did business entirely as individualsexcept for their membership in the Company of Merchant Adventurers, which regulated some of the activities of its members, secured trading privileges for them, and provided protection for their voyages. In time, however, merchants developed more formally collective enterprises. They formed chartered companies, each of which operated on the basis of a charter, acquired from the monarch, giving the company a monopoly for trading in a particular region. Among the first of these were the Muscovy Company (1555), the Levant Company (1581), the Barbary Company (1585), the Guinea Company (1588), and the East India Company (1600). Some were simply regulated associations of individual traders, similar to the Merchant Adventurers, each member doing business separately. Others were joint-stock companies, similar in some respects to modern corporations, with stockholders sharing risks and profits on either single ventures or, as became more common, on a permanent basis. These investors often made fantastic profits from the exchange of English manufactures, especially woolens, for exotic goods; and they felt a powerful urge to continue with the expansion of their trade.

To further this drive, spokesmen for the merchant capitalists developed a set of ideas about the proper relation of government and businessideas based on the belief that the entire nation benefited from the activities of the overseas traders. The nation as a whole, they argued, would benefit from successful overseas trade in much the same way an individual merchant or firm benefited. Trade surpluses would bring additional gold, silver, and other wealth into the country. This new money would stimulate business, raise prices, and lower interest rates. Hence the government had good reason to promote a favorable balance of trade and assist merchants in expanding their exports. This economic philosophy, restated by Thomas Mun in his book England's Treasure by Forraign Trade (1664), came to be known in the eighteenth century as "mercantilism"; it guided the economic policies not only of England but also of Spain, France, and other nation-states.

At first, this mercantilistic program thrived on the basis of England's flourishing wool trade with the European continent, and particularly with the great cloth market in Antwerp. In the 1550s, however, that glutted market collapsed, and English merchants found themselves obliged to look elsewhere for overseas trade. The establishment of colonies seemed to be a ready answer to the problem, as the Oxford clergyman Richard Hakluyt argued in a series of explorers' narratives and in a 1584 essay on "western planting," which established him as the outstanding propagandist for colonization. Colonies would, Hakluyt argued, serve many useful purposes. They would, of course, create new markets for English goods. But they would also help alleviate poverty and unemployment by siphoning off surplus popu
lation and by creating work at home for the poor who lived there "idly to the annoy of the whole state." Colonial commerce would allow England to acquire from its own colonies products for which the nation had previously been dependent on foreignersproducts such as lumber, naval stores, and above all, silver and sold.

The Religious Incentive

In addition to these economic motives for colonization, there were religious ones as well, rooted in the events of the European and English Reformations. The Protestant Reformation began in Germany in 1517 when Martin Luther openly challenged some of the basic practices and beliefs of the Roman Catholic churchuntil then, the supreme religious authority and also one of the strongest political authorities throughout western Europe. Luther, an Augustinian monk and ordained priest, challenged the Catholic belief that salvation could be achieved through good works or through the church itself. He denied the church's claim that God communicated to the world through the pope and the clergy. The Bible, not the church, was the authentic voice of God. Luther claimed; and salvation was to be found not through "works" or through the formal practice of religion, but through faith alone. Luther's challenge quickly won him a wide popular following among ordinary men and women in northern Europe. He himself insisted that he was not revolting against the church, that his purpose was to reform it from within. But when the pope excommunicated him in 1520, Luther expressed open defiance and began the process that would ultimately lead his followers out of the Catholic church entirely. A schism within European Christianity had begun that was never to be healed.

As the spirit of the Reformation spread rapidly throughout Europe, creating intellectual ferment (and in some places war), other dissidents began offering other alternatives to orthodox Catholicism. The Swiss theologian John Calvin was, after Luther, the most influential reformer and went even further than Luther had in rejecting the Catholic belief that human institutions could affect an individual's prospects for salvation. Calvin introduced the doctrine of predestination. God "elected" some people to be saved and condemned others to damnation; each person's destiny was determined before birth, and no one could change that predetermined fate. But while individuals could not alter their destinies, they could strive to know them. And in this, Calvin established the most powerful element of his religion. Those who accepted his teachings came to believe that the way they led their lives might reveal to them their chances of salvation. A wicked or useless existence would be a sign of damnation; saintliness, diligence, and success could be signs of grace. Calvinism created anxieties among its followers, to be sure; but it also produced a strong incentive to lead virtuous, productive lives. The new creed spread rapidly throughout northern Europe and produced (among other groups) the Huguenots in France and the Puritans in England.

The English Reformation began, however, less as a result of these doctrinal revolts than because of a political dispute between the king and the pope. In 1529, King Henry VIII, angered by the refusal of the pope to grant him a divorce from his Spanish wife (who had failed to bear him the son he desperately wanted), broke England's ties with the Catholic church and established himself as the head of the Christian faith in his country. He made relatively few other changes in English Christianity, however, and after his death the survival of Protestantism remained for a time in doubt, especially when Henry's Catholic daughter Mary ascended the throne. Mary quickly restored England's allegiance to Rome and harshly persecuted those who refused to return to the Catholic fold. Many Protestants were executed (the reason for the queen's enduring nickname, "Bloody Mary"); others fled to the Continent, where they came into contact with many of the most radical ideas of the Reformation. Mary died in 1558, and her half-sister, Elizabeth, became England's sovereign. Elizabeth once again severed the nation's connection with the Catholic church (and along with it, an alliance with Spain that Mary had forged).

The Church of England, as the official religion was now known, satisfied the political objectives of the queen. But it failed to satisfy the religious desires of many English Christians. To large groups of Catholics, it was an affront to their traditional faith; they continued to claim allegiance to the pope. To others, affected by the teachings of the European Reformation, it was a church that had abandoned Rome without abandoning Rome's offensive beliefs and practices. Under Elizabeth, the church began to change theologically and to incorporate some of the tenets of Calvinist faith. But the changes were not far-reaching enough to satisfy the church's critics particularly the many exiles who had fled the country under Mary and who now returned, bringing their new, more radical religious ideas with them. They continued to clamor for reforms that would "purify" the church, and they were known accordingly as "Puritans."

A few Puritans, known as the Separatists, were determined to worship as they pleased in their own, independent congregations, a determination that flew in the face of English lawwhich outlawed unauthorized religious meetings, required all subjects to attend regular Anglican services, and levied taxes to support the established church. But while most Puritans did not wish to leave the church, their demands were by no means modest. They wanted to simplify Anglican forms of worship. They wanted to reduce the power of the bishops, who were appointed by the throne and who were, in many cases, openly corrupt and highly extravagant. And perhaps above all they wanted to reform the local clergy, a group composed in large part of greedy, uneducated men with little interest in (or knowledge of) theology. The Puritans wanted, in short, to see the church give more attention to its spiritual role and less to its temporal ambitions. No less than the Separatists, they grew increasingly frustrated by the refusal of either the political or the ecclesiastical hierarchies to respond to their demands.

Puritan discontent, already festering, grew rapidly after the death of Elizabeth, the last of the Tu-dors, and the accession of James I, the first of the Stuarts, in 1603. A Scotsman, the new king was widely considered a foreigner. And although a learned man, he was a poor politicianthe "wisest fool in Christendom," some called him. Convinced that kings ruled by divine right, James made it clear from the start that he intended to govern as he pleased. He quickly antagonized the Puritans, a group that included most of the rising businessmen, by resorting to illegal and arbitrary taxation, by favoring English Catholics in the granting of charters and other privileges, and by supporting "high church" forms of ceremony. By the early seventeenth century, therefore, a growing number of religious nonconformists were beginning to look for places of refuge outside the kingdom. When combined with the economic and social incentives for colonization, this religious discontent helped turn England's gaze to distant lands.

The English in Ireland

The first experience of the English with colonization came not in the New World but in a land separated from them by only a narrow stretch of sea: Ireland. The English had long laid claim to the island and had for many years maintained small settlements in the area around Dublin. But it was only in the second half of the sixteenth century that serious efforts at large-scale colonization began. Through the 1560s and 1570s, would-be colonists moved through the country, capturing territory and attempting to subdue the native population. And in the process, they developed many of the assumptions that would guide later English colonists in America.

The most important of these assumptions was that the native population of Irelandapproximately 1 million people, loyal to the Catholic church, with their own language and their own culturewas a collection of wild, vicious, and ignorant savages. The Irish lived and worked in ways that to the English seemed crude and wasteful, and they fought back against the intruders with a ferocity that to the English seemed barbaric. Such people could not be tamed, the English concluded. They certainly could not be assimilated into English society. They must, therefore, be suppressed, isolated, and if necessary destroyed.

Whatever barbarities the Irish may have inflicted on the colonizers were more than matched by the English in return. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who was later to establish the first British colony in the New World (an unsuccessful venture in Newfoundland), served for a time as governor of one Irish district and suppressed rebellions by the natives with extraordinary viciousness. Gilbert was an educated and civilized man; yet he managed to justify, both to himself and to others, various atrocities (such as beheading Irish soldiers killed in battle) by looking on the natives as somehow less than human, not entitled to whatever decencies civilized men and women reserved for their treatment of one another. In dealing with such "savages," any tactics facilitating the transplantation of English culture and society to the new land could be justified. Gilbert himself. Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville, and others active in Ireland in the mid-sixteenth century derived from their experiences there an outlook they would take with them to America, where similarly vicious efforts to subdue and subjugate the natives ultimately succeededas they never did in Ireland.

The Irish experience led the English to another important (and related) assumption about colonization: that English settlements in distant lands must retain a rigid separation from the native population. In Ireland, English colonizers established what they called "plantations," transplantings of English society to a foreign land. Unlike the Spanish in America, the English would not simply rule a subdued native population; they would build a complete society of their own, peopled with emigrants from England itself. The new society would exist within a "pale of settlement," an area physically separated from the natives. That concept, too, they would take with them to the New World.

French and Dutch Rivals

Unlike in Ireland, English settlers in America were to encounter not only natives but also rival Europeans. To the south and southwest were the scattered North American outposts of the Spanish Empire. Despite a peace negotiated with England in 1604, the Spanish continued to look on the English as intruders, and for many years, the English in their settlements along the coast could not feel entirely safe from attack by Spanish ships.

But another and more formidable rival was appearing in the northern parts of the continent in the early sixteenth century: the French. France founded its first permanent settlement in America at Quebec in 1608, less than a year after the English had started their first at Jamestown, but the colony grew in population very slowly. Few French Catholics felt any inclination to leave their homeland, and French Protestants, some of whom might have wished to emigrate, were excluded from the colony. To the English in America, however, the French presented a danger disproportionate to their numbers, largely because of their close ties to the Algonquan Indians.

Unlike the English, who for many years hugged close to the coastline and traded with the Indians of the interior through intermediaries, the French forged close, direct ties with the Hurons and other Algonquan tribes deep inside the continent. Coureurs de boisfearless fur traders and trapperspenetrated far into the wilderness; they befriended the Indians, often lived among them, and at times married Indian women.

They also generated important resentments. Through their ties with the Algonquans and through their own tactics, the French were antagonizing the Iroquois, the Algonquans' traditional foes and the most important middlemen in the English fur trade. In 1609, Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec and discoverer of Lake Champlain, led an attack on a band of Iroquois, apparently at the instigation of his Algonquan trading partners. The encounter marked the beginning of a historic enmity between the Iroquois and the French, an enmity steadily intensified by the Iroquois resentment of French commercial competition.

Besides the Spanish and the French, the English were soon to find in the New World another European rival, the Dutch. Holland in the early seventeenth century, having won its independence from Spain, was one of the leading trading nations of the world. Its merchant fleet was larger than England's, and its traders were active not only in Europe but in Africa, Asia, andincreasinglyin America. In 1609, an English explorer in the employ of the Dutch, Henry Hudson, sailed up the river that was to be named for him, convinced for a time that he had found the long-sought water route through the continent to the Pacific. He had not found it, of course; but his explorations led to a Dutch claim on territory in America and to the establishment of a permanent Dutch presence in the New World.

For more than a decade after Hudson's voyage, the Dutch maintained an active trade in furs in and around what is now New York. Not long after the first two permanent English colonies took root in Jamestown and Plymouth, the Dutch created a wedge between them when the Dutch West India Company established in 1624 a series of permanent trading posts on the Hudson, Delaware, and Connecticut rivers. The company actively encouraged settlement of the regionnot just from Holland itself, but from such other parts of northern Europe as Germany, Sweden, and Finland. It transported whole families to the New World and granted vast feudal estates to "patroons" who would bring still more immigrants to America. The result was the colony of New Netherland and its principal town. New Amsterdam, on Manhattan Is
land. Its population, diverse as it was, remained relatively small; and the colony was only loosely united, with chronically weak leadership. It would ultimately prove a much less serious rival to English domination of the region than the French.

The First English Settlements

The first permanent English settlement in the New World was established at Jamestown, in Virginia, in 1607. But for nearly thirty years before that, English merchants and adventurers had been engaged in a series of failed efforts to create colonies in the New World. Those failures helped prepare the way for the more lasting ventures to come.

Through much of the sixteenth century, the English had harbored mixed feelings about the New World. They were aware of its existence and intrigued by its possibilities. And like other European peoples, they wereunder the leadership of their brilliant and popular ruler, Elizabeth Ideveloping a strong sense of nationalism that encouraged dreams of expansion into America. At the same time, however, England was leery of Spain, which remained the dominant force in America and, it seemed, the dominant naval power in Europe. Especially after Elizabeth dissolved the Anglo-Spanish alliance that her predecessor, Mary, had created, England remained for a time cowed by the Spanish threat.

All of that changed in the course of the 1570s and 1580s. English "sea dogs" such as Sir Francis Drake won nationwide fame for their successful raids on Spanish merchant ships and began the process of raising confidence about England's ability to challenge Spanish seapower. But far more important was a single event: the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. Philip II, the powerful Spanish king who had recently united his nation with Portugal, was determined to subjugate his annoying English rivalto end its challenge to Spanish commercial supremacy and to bring that nation back into the Catholic church. He assembled one of the largest military fleets in the history of warfare to carry his troops across the English Channel and into England itself. But Philip's bold venture turned into a fiasco when the smaller English fleet, taking advantage of its greater maneuverability and the English seafarers' superior knowledge of the waters, dispersed the armada and, in a single stroke, ended Spain's domination of the Atlantic. What inhibitions the English had retained about establishing themselves in the New World were now removed.

The pioneers of English colonization were Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half-brother Sir Walter Raleighboth friends of Queen Elizabeth, both veterans of earlier colonial efforts in Ireland. Even before the defeat of the armada, Gilbert was insisting at court that English bases in America would give still greater opportunities for sapping the power of Spain. In 1578, he obtained from Elizabeth a patent granting him, for six years, the exclusive right "to inhabit and possess at his choice all remote and heathen lands not in the actual possession of any Christian prince."

That same year, Gilbert and Raleigh, with seven ships and nearly 400 men, set out to establish a base in the New World; but storms turned them back before they had crossed the ocean. Gilbert waited five years while he sought to raise enough money to try again. Then, in 1583, he sailed with a second and smaller expedition, reached Newfoundland, and took possession of it in the queen's name. He proceeded southward along the coast, looking for a good place to build a military outpost that might eventually grow into a profitable colony, of which he would be proprietor. Once more a storm defeated him; this time his ship sank, and he was lost at sea.

Raleigh was undeterred. The next year, he secured from Elizabeth a six-year grant similar to Gilbert's and sent a small group of men on an expedition to explore the North American coast. They returned with two captive Indians and with glowing reports of what they had seen. They were particularly enthusiastic about an island the natives called Roanoke and about the area of the mainland just beyond it (in what is now North Carolina). Raleigh, an astute politician, received permission from Elizabeth to name the region "Virginia" in honor of the "virgin queen." He hoped for financial aid in return. Elizabeth offered none. So Raleigh turned to private investors to finance another expedition.

In 1585, Raleigh recruited his cousin. Sir Richard Grenville, to lead a group of men (most of them from the English plantations in Ireland) to Roanoke to establish a colony. Grenville deposited the settlers on the island, remained long enough to antagonize the natives (by razing an Indian village as retaliation for a minor theft), and returned to England. The follow-ing spring, when supplies and reinforcements from England were long overdue, Sir Francis Drake unexpectedly arrived in Roanoke. The colonists boarded his ships and left.

Raleigh tried again in 1587, sending an expedition carrying ninety-one men, seventeen women (two of them pregnant), and nine childrenthe nucleus, he hoped, of a viable "plantation." The settlers landed on Roanoke and attempted to take up where the first group of colonists had left off. (Shortly after arriving, one of the women gave birth to a daughter, Virginia Dare, the first American-born child of English parents.) Their commander, John White, returned to England after several weeks (leaving members of his own family behind) in search of supplies and additional settlers; he hoped to return in a few months. But the hostilities with Spain intervened, and White did not return to the island for three years. When he did, in 1590, he found the island utterly deserted, with no clues as to the fate of the settlers. Some have argued that the colonists were slaughtered by the Indians, in retaliation for Grenville's (and perhaps their own) hostilities. Others have claimed that they left their settlement and joined native society, ultimately becoming entirely assimilated. But no conclusive answers to the mystery of the "lost colony" have ever been found.

The Roanoke disaster marked the end of Sir Walter Raleigh's involvement in English colonization of the New World. In 1603, when James I succeeded Elizabeth, Raleigh was accused of plotting against the king, stripped of his monopoly, and imprisoned for more than a decade. Finally (after being released for one last ill-fated maritime expedition) he was executed by the king in 1618. No later colonizer would receive grants of land in the New World as vast or undefined as those Raleigh and Gilbert had acquired. But despite the discouraging example of their experiences, the colonizing impulse remained very much alive.

In the first years of the seventeenth century, a group of London merchants to whom Raleigh had assigned his charter rights decided to renew the attempts at colonization in Virginia. A rival group of merchants, from Plymouth and other West Country towns, were also interested in American ventures and were sponsoring voyages of exploration farther north, up to Newfoundland, where West Country fishermen had been going for many years. In 1606, James I issued a new charter, which divided America between the two groups. The London group got the exclusive right to colonize in the south (between the 34th and 41st parallels), and the Plymouth merchants the same right in the north (between the 38th and 45th parallels). These areas overlapped, but neither company was allowed to start a colony within a hundred miles of the other. Each company, as soon as it had begun actual colonization, was to receive a grant of land 100 miles wide and 100 miles deep. The settlers themselves were to retain all the "liberties, franchises, and immunities" that belonged to English citizens at home. Through the efforts of these and other companies the first enduring English colonies would be planted in America.


 

 



© ..
2003 - 2010