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How Ceremonies Of Possession Presaged The Spaniard

, English And French Colonies Essay, Research Paper


The ceremonies of possession associated with the different colonies were very apparent in how they treated resided and co-habituated the land with the natives. They all treated the natives in their own distinct way. They all had different economics strategies they engaged in some being in regards to the mother countries, but most were in the self-interest of the colonists.


The ceremonies of possession greatly influenced the later development of their colonies. The Spaniards throughout time changed from being extremely aggressive to being lenient towards the natives.

Spanish/Indian Behaviour

The Spaniards were unethical when they first encountered the North American natives. They had no regard for the natives that had habituated that land for many years. The Spaniards simply read “The Requirement” and expected the natives to abide. The Spaniards not only believed that they owned the land, but the natives had to, “either accept Christian superiority voluntarily, or we will impose submission at the point of a sword or a harquebus” (Patricia Seed, 71). The Spaniards “created their rights to the New World through conquest not consent”(Patricia Seed, 70).

To initiate a war that results in legitimate political dominion over the conquered, the procedures for launching it must be carefully proscribed by the same political authorities that will later claim to have established lawful dominion. To establish the right to rule by virtue of conquest means that all the soldiers, captains, and leaders in battle must follow the political steps they have been commanded to undertake. For what is at stake is not simply their own personal control over a region, but the legitimate government of an entire state. To omit the rituals would be to jeopordize the establishment of an entire state. Hence, it was not necessary for soldiers or their leaders to find the rhetoric or logic or the declaration of war compelling or convincing. It was only necessary that they observe its protocol, as they had been commanded to do…(Seed, 70)

“until they encountered the nomadic tribes of northern Mexico the Chichimecs’– that Spaniards found it necessary to seriously modify their procedures”(Olivia Patricia Dickason. 186). The Chichimecs started to revolt against the Spaniards. This sudden and unaccepted turn of events changed the Spaniards method of stealing land and enslaving natives. They now dealt with natives differently to save, “cost of military protection for their lines of communication” (Olivia Patricia Dickason, 186). This revolt quite drastically changed the way Spaniards dealt with the natives from that point forward.

“By the time the Spaniards established themselves in what was to become the southern United States, gift-giving had become a recognized part of their frontier policy… this kind of accommodation was usually referred to as a “treaty”, it was not in the form of a written and signed document. Spaniards do not appear to have done that with frontier tribes until toward the end of the eighteenth century, when they signed a mutual assistance pact with the Creeks at Pensacola in West Florida in 1784 and another one three weeks later with the Alibamos, Chickasaws and Choctaws at Mobile.”(Olivia Patricia Dickason, 187)

This gift-giving, treaty bearing technique seemed to work with the Spaniards when it came to dealing with the natives.

Spanish/Economic Orientation

The primary focus that a typical Spaniard would adopt would be to earn money and land for themselves and pay a small royalty to the Spanish Government. This venture usually consisted of Spaniards who were poor and wished to discover rich land that would be ideal for colonization. This does not mean that all Spaniards that came to “The Americas” were impoverished but a majority of them were. The conquest of Motecuhzama treasures is a great example of the Spaniards who were only interested in money and gold. After they secured all the gold they set fire to anything that had no value to them, no matter if it had a religious or sentimental value to anybody else.

Spanish/Racial Attitudes

The Spaniards used various ranks when they classified their populous. They were very race orientated when it came to class and rank in their society.

“The inhabitants may be divided into different castes or tribes, who derive their origin from a coalition of Whites, Negroes, and Indians… Whites may be divided into two classes, the Europeans, and Creoles, or Whites born in the country…intermarriage of the Whites and the Negroes…are Mulatto.(Keen, 114- 115)

The way the Spaniards treated the natives was always changing through time. When they first encountered the natives, they showed no respect and treated them as an inferior race, but afforded them the basic necessities. They paid the natives a paltry sum for work, but then offered them credit. The natives would take advantage of the credit by spending too much and forever be in debt to the Spaniards.

Under the system of forced labour known as the mita, in the viceroyalty of Peru, one-seventh of all formally free, unskilled Indian males over eighteen years of age were required each year to provide labor services to the Crown an dits delegates in the mines, on the ranches, on public work, and in the textile mills. The Indians were often forced to travel great distances, and the pay usually did not exceed the tribute dues they had to render. Conditions were particularly harsh…”(Rosenberg, 31)


Therefore, the changing Spanish attitude towards natives was quite different from the brutal way in which they first encountered them.


The way in which the English and the Natives were introduced to each other was much like the way they colonized their presence in the new world.

English/Indian Relations

The English in first contact with the natives came across as equals who could help each other in day to day living.

… first English Ameridians relations varied considerably form those of the Spanish, Portuguese, or French. At the risk of oversimplification, it could be said that the English came neither as conquerors, as Spaniards had, nor as trader- slavers, as Portuguese had, nor as traders, as the French had; neither did they at first stress evangelization to the extent of the other three nations. Rather, they came as farmers, seeking to establish agriculturally-based colonies in regions where Amerindians had long since made similar establishments… (Dickason, 194-195).

The English came upon the land setting up villages, growing gardens and building fences, much like the mother country, to show possession of land. “Houses also established a legal right to the land upon which they were constructed. Erecting a fixed (not moveable) dwelling place upon a territory, under English law created a virtually unassailable right to own place(Seed, 18). They had no regard for the rightful owners of the land(the natives), due tpsolely on the fact that they did not have gardens or a permanent domicile. James Axtell, a writer for “The English Impact on Indian Culture in Colonial America”, believes that the English were,

…even more cruel than the Spaniards in their treatment of Amerindians, on the grounds that, whereas both of the European nations fought bloody wars and imposed harsh terms on the defeated, the Spaniards incorporated the survivors into colonial society, albeit usually in the lower echelons, whereas the English excluded them (Dickason, 198).

There are various different interpretations as to how the English treated the Amerindians, but overall all the English would acquire things by any means possible; quite different from the way they first met the natives.

English/Economic Orientation

The primary focus the English had economically would be tobacco and rice plantations. The first plant that they grew in vast quantities would be the weed that the natives introduced to them called tobacco. “A seemingly insatiable European demand for the new weed and blessed with good soil, a mild climate, and an excellent system of water routes, Chesapeake Bay planters produced increasing quantities of tobacco throughout the seventeenth century” (Kolchin, 61). English colonies growth depended solely on a great supply of indentured servants or black slaves. As time progressed, it became virtually impossible to acquire an indentured servant; so colonies turned towards African slaves. The African slaves in essence spurred on the growth of the English colonies, because without their assistance the colonies could not grow to the size in which they did.

English/Racial Attitudes

“A vast abundance of virgin land together a paucity of settlers defined the problem in all the mainland colonies; everywhere, land was plentiful and labor scarce”(Kolchin, 55). The English colonies turned toward slavery to cultivate their land. Firstly, they turned toward other Europeans to become servants, this was very expensive and risky for the masters. A white slave could easily mix in with the general public and escape to a new village. This also occurred with natives. Where, “The proximity of the wilderness and of friendly tribes made escape relatively easy…”(Kolchin, 55). After the two natural sources of labour that appeared to be easiest to acquire failed, they turned towards Africa for labour. “As early as 1619 the forced labor of blacks supplemented that of whites in Virginia, and by the middle of the seventeenth century blacks were to be found in all the existing English colonies”(Kolchin, 56). The major downfall of slaves was their high mortality rate; and the high cost to import them. The major benefitting force that drove the slave trade was that if they initially survived they would probably have offspring; they also would be your property. The English colonies in which tobacco plantations were not feasible started to export rice. The rice grown by the slaves was exported to the mother country quite consistently as time progressed. The English then, “discovered rice, a crop that within a few years became as much a staple for them as tobacco was to the planters of the Cheseake” (Kolchin, 62).


The English changed quite drastically from being brothers to people of the land to slave drivers only looking for crops to export. They changed from farmers to plantation owners to seek profit wherever they could.


The French were very brotherly, but cautious when it came to dealing with the first contact of the strangers of the new land. “To travel to reach said foreign country, to land and to go into it, and set these [countries] in our hand [i.e., our control, our authority] if possible by means of friendship or amicable terms.”(Seed, 64) The French continued to treat the natives in the same manner in which they first met.

French/Native Relations

The French and the natives were friendly and yearned to know the ways of the land from the natives. Old France wanted the French colonists to become friends with the natives and to, “negotiate and develop peace, alliance and confederation, good friendship, connections and communication with said people and their princes… To maintain, respect, and carefully observe the treaties and alliances you have agreed upon with them” but, “conquer if it comes to that by force of arms’” (Seed, 65). “While all Europeans from time to time formed partnerships with native peoples, only the French described the basis of their on-going political relationship to natives as an alliance, created by visible physical evidence of native consent”(Seed, 65).

French/Economic Orientation

The French transformed the natives from being conservationists of the land to detrimants of the land. They convinced the natives to slaughter the animals which preserved Indian heritage for trade back to Europe. This was very deleterious to the way natives viewed life and nature. The French would have to offer the natives great gifts to continue killing their land and disregarding their land. The natives soon began to stop hunting game that was dwindling in numbers and started to hunt animals with a high reproductive rate, such as the muskrat. This killing of game went against all things that natives believed, “the Sioux believed that the abundance of animals was a function of the way they were treated and of ritual relations with them”(White, 18). The primary focus for economic growth for the English was the Fur-trade.

The French were the closest to the natives in all aspects of colonialism. They treated the natives with respect and admiration because of their hunting techniques. Throughout time, the French treated the natives as friends rather than enemies.


Thus, the three colonist countries all had their own characteristics when it came to dealing with natives or cultivating the virgin land. The Spaniards changed from the cut-throat technique to acceptance in their colonies of the natives. The English were more interested in profits than in their first interest of simply setting up colonies and farming. The French never truly changed throughout time when it came to dealing with the natives. They always treated them more like equals rather than possessions. The colonies that were established in “The Americas” were very distinct, in that all groups treated the natives differently

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