Colonization 2 Essay, Research Paper
The promise of new riches and the potential discovery of the fabled Northwest Passage were the primary objectives, which fueled the exploration of the New World. Yet these goals were not practical enough when the European nations decided to colonize the Americas. Apparently, “a prosperous and enduring colonial empire depended on self-sustaining economic development” (page 33) rather than an autocratic and rigidly controlled colony in which everything was to benefit the parent country. The degree of success in colonizing the Americas would be measured by this fact. As long as a country could quickly populate its colonies and establish a self-sufficient economy, it would be ahead in the race to colonize the New World. Although the new riches and the Northwest Passage were still sought after, they weren’t the final motivations for colonization any longer.
Each country also had their individual set of objectives for exploring the Americas. Spain, along with its quest for riches became determined to convert the “heathens” to Catholicism. The French and the Dutch stuck to the primary objectives of new riches and the discovery of the Northwest Passage. England, spurred by growing national rivalries with France and especially Spain, explored the New World for the purpose of harassing the Spanish and also in the hopes that it would not get left behind in the exploration race. Spain became the only country whose original intentions for exploring the New World translated into its final motivation for colonization. The Spanish rigorously tried to convert the Indians and continued their search for silver and gold. England’s initial quest for national superiority over Spain was added to its numerous motives for colonization, while France and Holland digressed the most from their initial intentions by setting up lucrative fur trading scenarios with the local natives in the frontiers of their colonies.
Prior to England’s victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, English exploration had been limited by religious and political turmoil. There were only two notable English explorers during this period: the Italian John Cabot who was sponsored by the king of England to search for the Northwest Passage in 1497, and Sir Francis Drake who at the approval of Queen Elizabeth I, raided Spanish settlements and boats in the New World while circumnavigating the globe. Newly Protestant England’s motives for exploration were fueled by a sudden newfound rivalry between the Catholic nations of France and Spain. This sense of national pride and rivalry translated well to England’s final motivations for colonization. The final Spanish defeat in 1604 established England as a great naval power and “cleared the way for English colonization of America.”(pg.43) England’s final motivation for colonization still included its sense of national greatness which was promoted by Richard Hakluyt: “to extend the reformed religion, to expand trade, to supply England’s needs from her own dominions, to provide bases in case of war with Spain, to enlarge the queen’s revenues and navy, to discover a Northwest Passage to the Orient, and to employ the growing number of people made idle by the surge of population growth.” (pg. 43) This sense of national rivalry and looming greatness as well as the search for religious, political and economic freedom became the final motivations for the colonization of America by England.
At the outset of the exploration of the New World, Spain had a very simplistic goal: God, Gold and Glory. Gold (i.e. new riches) was at the forefront of every explorer’s mind as expeditions ranged from as far north as Northern California and as far south as the southern tip of South America during the 16th century. After the discovery of sophisticated cultures on the mainland of Central and South America, the Spaniards decided to conquer these cultures. The first of the conquests began in present-day Mexico in 1519, when Hernando Cortes and his army arrived and systematically began to conquer the advanced civilization of the Aztecs. This was followed by numerous other conquests of the other major civilizations (e.g. the Incas and the Mayans) in the Americas by the Spanish. Conquering these cultures yielded a wealth of Indian treasure which dramatically increased Spanish revenue. The logical next step for Spain after conquering such a vast area, was to colonize the New World. Since they had to live with the native Indians, the Spanish sought the need “to displace the ‘pagan’ civilizations throughout the Americas with their Catholic-based culture”(pg. 29). As New Spain came into existence, the motherland continually advocated the search for gold and the conversion of the Indians. Spain’s initial motivation for exploring the New World was the search for riches, and when they decided on colonization that motive remained intact. Yet it also saw a new religious element added to their final motives for colonization: the quest to save the “heathens”. This religious motive fit into the scheme of the Spanish plan for colonization since the Spanish were coexisting with the Indians in the first place.
The French and the Dutch both had the same goal of searching for the Northwest Passage as a purpose for exploring the New World. Both countries also ended up with fur trading as their final motivation for settling the New World (although France’s colonies were considerably larger while Holland’s dwindled under British pressure). France’s search for the Northwest Passage began in the early 16th century, when the king of France authorized the expeditions of Italian, Giovanni da Verrazzano (1524) and Jacques Cartier (1534-1542). Both explorers skimmed the coasts of North America looking for the Northwest Passage but only claimed parts of the land for France. Nearly a century later in 1608, when France decided on colonization, Samuel de Champlain established a trading post in Quebec, an area previously claimed by Jacques Cartier. From this hub, a lucrative trade economy was established as a means for colonization. In 1609 the Dutch began their exploration of America when they sent an Englishman named Henry Hudson to likewise search for the Northwest Passage. In this endeavor Hudson discovered the river (and later the bay) that bears his name. Of course the Northwest Passage was never discovered and therefore the Dutch decided to colonize. In 1614 Dutch trading outposts were established on Manhattan Island (New Amsterdam) and at the site of present-day Albany (Fort Orange). A profitable fur trade was carried on and became the main source of revenue for the Dutch West India Company, the joint-stock company that ran the colony. The original intentions for the Dutch and the French was to search for the Northwest Passage, but as both nations decided to colonize they had to change their goals to establishing a viable market economy.
The initial intentions of the European nations were preoccupied with “exploitive and extractive economic objectives” (page 33) but as colonization began England, France, and Holland realized the need to develop a viable market economy within their colonies. France and Holland’ colonies developed their economy through the fur trade while the colonies of England was able to develop an economy due to its freedom from the parent country. The original intentions of England, France, and Holland for exploration did not translate into their final motives for colonization because they realized those original intentions would not work. Spain’s final motivation was transferable from the original intentions because Spain never realized they needed to change their priorities.