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Comparison Of Empires Essay, Research Paper
Comparison of Empires
Throughout the colonization of the New World, many different countries took place in the shaping of early America. The primary countries, Spain, France, and England, although all from the same continent, implemented many different plans and ideas for the development of their colonies. Contrasting cultures, languages, and governments all impacted the distinct ruling of the colonies. These policies placed restrictions on the all aspects of life including war, taxation, and mercantilism. Each different country also varied in the methods they chose to institute upon encountering the natives. These relationships were very important for the survival of the settlers from abroad. The determining factor of the success or failure of the new lands was mainly dependent on the governing of the mother country and therefore the quality of these laws was vital as history so often proves. The degree of restrictions the homeland placed on the New World also greatly impacted their survival. Because of these crucial factors, each land faced numerous hardships and had different outcomes.
Clearly, the most infamous country for development and immigration of the New World is England. Under the rule of the English monarchy, these Europeans developed their settlements with very particular economic and social classifications. Since the king held the ultimate source of legal authority in the colonies, the laws implemented in the areas of trade and mercantilism reflected the desire to profit from the new lands. The mother country ??staggered on the brink of economic chaos?(Hoffer, 128) and began importing staple North American resources. Natural resources like wood and fuel, plentiful in the New World, but needed much replenishing in England, were expunged to the mother country. Crops, such as the Caribbean type of tobacco exported by John Rolfe, and indigo, essential to the development of the southern colonies, caused English?s colonies to flourish. The New World also provided ??homelands for the immigrants?(Hoffer, 138). Migration from the mother country could not only provide the settlers with homes, but ??warehouses for surplus population?(Hoffer, 138). The varying types of colonies this country developed contributed to its success. Virginia, which started as a royal colony, and Maryland and New York, proprietary colonies, are examples of this. From the conquering of the lands in Ireland, the English felt that people who did not develop their natural resources had no claim to the land. This view justified the seizing of the native?s land. The native people often roamed the country for their survival, and the Europeans claimed ownership.
Not only did the economic motives of the English lead to the success of the colonies, but also the large amounts of settlers that came to the New World for a variety of reasons. The tales of explorers, such as John Smith, who told of the riches and prosperity that could be gained from the voyage lured people into the belief that this fruitful new land could make them money, easily and quickly. Once there, many factors proved that there were actually many hardships to overcome. Indians were one of these hardships. Viewed as noble savages, crafty, yet cowardly, they were nomads that scoured the land and maintained no set place of residence. Because of the greatly differing cultures, beliefs, and levels of civilization the interaction between the groups caused many conflicts such as the Yamasee War. Interracial marriage quickly became a hot issue for the English in the New World. Although this rarely took place, the topic remained present. Religion, another social issue amongst the people of the colonies, caused many divisions. The belief of a person was often a key factor as to the area in which that person lived. The Puritans claiming the Massachusetts Bay Colony is a good example of this. Women, now engaging in more important roles in the New World, differed from the role passive they had in their home country. Their contribution was so essential that ??without the contribution of women, farms would fail?(Hoffer, 416).
Upon arriving in the New World, the many influences greatly impacted the English?s beliefs in their view of this new land. Belief in the literal Bible and Manifest Destiny exemplify the thinking of people during this period of settlement. The settlers compared themselves to the children of Egypt in Israel who fled the city and their homes to go forth into the wilderness. From this, they felt the world was watching and judging their success, so they worked very hard to maintain stability. This ?City on a Hill? mentality can still be seen in our society today. Deuteronomy, the belief that the people were blessed by God in special ways to succeed, rationalized the word of paradox for the settlers. Another belief that is still present today is the principles of individual freedom. John Locke created a social contract theory that stated men have certain rights in the state of nature, including the right to life, liberty, and property. These views greatly impacted the development of the colonies.
Although the king maintained the ultimate rule over the Kingdom, as argued by Edward Coke, the colonies established their own form of government. Using religion as their primary guide, New England Law and Mosaic Law grows out of experiences in Europe, which are based on decisions of previous cases. Their political values, rank designations, common good, vocation, liberty to do right, and mixed government are continually fashioned to remind people of their status in society. Rank designations, not only provided titles, but also clothing they could wear, and even one?s seat in church. Seeking the common good is another political value that was upheld. This is reflected in the intentions of the Mayflower Compact. The colonists felt that their job was the definition of their life and they had a general concern in taking responsibility to discover their definition of freedom. In making the colonial government, the colonists sought to create a power that created balance in the existing political system. The actual governing that took place was frequently spelled out in charters. Terms such as deputies, freemen, ?laws and liberties?, and town meetings summarize the political happenings of the English colonies.
The colonization by the Spanish took place mostly in the southwest region of the New World. Although these colonies were not settled in such a compact region as the English, royal money was given to start the Spain?s colonies. In the area they controlled, Spain developed an economy that relied heavily on agriculture. Under the guidance of Ferdinand and Isabel, the conquistadors of Spain felt that ?upon the riches of the Indies trade they would build a centralized, hierarchical, well-disciplined state whose first order of business would be to milk the New World of its wealth to carry on the crusade against the infidel?(Hoffer, 79). Waging war and raiding the Indian?s was often the technique the conquistadors used to obtain goods. Although the plundering of the natives appeared to only negatively impact, the Spaniard?s ??cattle, horses, and sheep transformed the native economies?(Hoffer, 91). Indians that did survive not only wars, but also disease were often gathered into small communities ruled under the crown. Only a small amount of trade took place with other natives outside the established colonies.
The extensive attempt the Spanish made to blend cultures exemplifies a very distinct characteristic of this country. The Church, a very dominant body at this time, required ?holy wars? and ?just wars.? Bartolomeo de Las Casas, a great defender of the natives said, ? ?I know by certain infallible signs that the wars waged by the Indians against the Christians have been justifiable wars and that all the wars waged by the Christians against the Indians have been unjust wars, more diabolical than any other wars ever waged anywhere in the world??(Hoffer, 93). Religion, being the second pillar of the empire, caused many of the Spaniards to sympathize with the treatment of the savages in books such as Relations des Jesuits. The main group that promoted the merging of the vastly different cultures was the religious group the Jesuits. The primary approach of this group was to protect the natives, but they attempted to communicate with them, and even tried converting them to Christianity, but the debate over baptizing the natives caused much controversy.Being the first country to explore the New World, the emerging of the trading of African slave take place. From the slave trade emerged two types of societies. Slaveholding societies, in which slaves ?have some degree of personal independence, controlling their time, space, and social and domestic relations?(Hoffer, 98), gave slaves more freedom. Slave holding societies were societies where slavery was ??only one form of labor, and slaves are not the majority of the population?(Hoffer, 98). This social structure could be seen throughout the Spanish empire.
Beliefs of the people from the foreign empire towards the Indians were that of much controversy. The ??Spanish scholars, priests, and royal lawyers debated the moral basis for the empire. At the issue for the thinkers was whether the natives were by nature fit only for slavery or could become loyal, productive, and pious subjects of the kings of Spain-in effect, whether the Indians have souls?(Hoffer, 92). Another aspect of the thinking of the Spanish people was education, whether it is the Jesuits learning the languages of the natives, teaching the natives Spanish or Latin, or the establishment of schools played an important role during the first encounters. The development of higher education in North America first began in Mexico with the opening of the University of Mexico.
Hoffer considered Spanish law the first pillar of the Spanish empire in North America. The Spanish crown tightly controlled many aspects of their land. It appeared that the conquistadors were set to simply purge and plunder, but in reality, the monarchy had a very detailed plan. In fact, ?Spain was the most legalistic of all the European powers?(Hoffer, 91). In the center of the towns presidio and churches could be found. This put the government and church in opposition on many issues. Then, the natives were brought together outside of the towns to be taught and work. Also, the Spanish believed in requerimiento. Under this provision, if the Indians pledged loyalty to the crown, then they were taken under the empire?s protection. In all aspects of governing the new lands, the Spanish tried to justify and evaluate each official?s performance. The Trial at Acoma and utilizing audiencias exemplifies their positive intentions. Under the Ferdinand and Isabella?s tight rule, the Spanish empire constantly sought ??to provide a check on the whole system, report on particular problems, and simply keep everyone on their toes?(Hoffer, 94).
Paddling down the Saint Lawrence River and on the Newfoundland coast, the French began their empire. Developing a ?commercial empire?(Hoffer, 131), these Europeans traded extensively with Indians of this region like the Ojibwas, Hurons, and the Algongonquins. Many goods were traded amongst the men. Beaver fur, the ??mark of high fashion and elevated economic status?(Hoffer, 130), was so desired that it was hunted to extinction. The French sought to monopolize the trade in the area they occupied. Samuel de Champlain, a French soldier, realized the necessity in having the Indians as allies and decided that ?French Canada had to be a joint European-Indian project?(Hoffer, 133). He began uniting his country?s trading posts along the coast. If the Indians had not helped the French, ??fur trade would have been impossible, and the French continued Champlain?s wise policy of conciliation and alliance?(133).
From the mother country, the French crown maintained a centrally controlled government. Since few settlers came to the New World, objection to their rule was minimal. The French sought to develop a commercialized empire, one that relied on trade with the Indians and their help. Coming to the empire, the explorers had precise instructions to achieve their plans.
Because of this country?s strong desire to commercialize and profit from their empire, very few people from the motherland voyaged to settle this New World. Traders, like Champlain, were the main people to make the voyage. Another prominent group that came from France was the Jesuits. These religious men came to the New World in attempt to convert the Indians to their religion. To do this, they set up social communities in which deeply faithful congregations gathered to attract the Indians. As depicted in Black Robe, the French sought to learn the language of the natives and teach them about their culture. The distinct feature of this European country is they had better relationships with the natives than that of other European countries.
Being that the spreading of religion and developing an understanding of other cultures was so important to the French, learning the beliefs of the Indians was an important aspect. They promoted ??to discover points of commonality between Catholicism and native religions??(Holifield, 72). By being able to communicate with the Indians, the Jesuits engaged them in theological discussions to gain insight on their beliefs. Indians, also great admirers of long, in depth arguments, enjoyed rhetorical conversations with the Jesuits. Although attempting to blend the religions, certain elements of the native?s beliefs, like sacred time, space, objects, community, and language and song, were some cultural views the natives held fast to. Discovering the religion of the people of the New World was a major concern of the French.
Each European country examined had distinct characteristics upon encountering the natives of the New World. Their attitude, actions, and laws immensely impacted the development of our country. Although all countries are from Europe, their various beliefs and ideas affected the development of their colonies. English, being the most dominant power in North America, clearly had the largest empire, which is reflected in the large amount of roots that come from this country. The relationships that emerged between the natives and the foreigners greatly affected each country in different ways. Both extremes can be seen. The conquistadors who frequently waged war on the natives, and the French, who sought to develop peaceful, religious relationships. Each country had positive aspects and negative aspects that played an important role in the forming of their empires in the New World.
Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Brave New World: A History of Early America. New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
Holifield, E. Brooks. Era of Persuasion. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
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