BEGINNINGS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
BY CARL LOTUS BECKER
PROFESSOR OF EUROPEAN HISTORY UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY CARL LOTUS BECKER ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Riverside Press CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS U.S.A.
THE RIVERSIDE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
In the following volumes the authors seek to present a brief account of the beginnings, development, and final unity of the people of the United States. There are many histories of the country, many biographies which are in large measure histories; but these are exhaustive works traversing minutely certain periods, like Rhodes's History of the United States from 1850 to 1877, or Nicolay and Hay's Abraham Lincoln: A History; or they are shorter "patriotic" accounts which seek to prove something, or which fail to tell the whole story. Important as these classes of historical literature are, they hardly suffice for the teachers of advanced college classes, or for business and professional men who would like to know how the isolated European plantations or corporations in North America became in so short a time the great and wealthy nation of to-day.
To meet these needs, that is, to describe in proper proportion and with due emphasis, but in the brief space of four short volumes, the forces, influences, and masterful personalities which have made the country what it is, has not been an easy task. For, contrary to the view of European students, American history is not simple. The hostile camps of Puritans and Church of England men, the Dutch of New Amsterdam and the Catholics of Maryland, could hardly be expected to merge into a single state without violent struggle. Nor could the hundreds of thousands of Scotch Calvinists, militant enemies of England and all her ways, who seized and held the fertile highlands of the Middle and Southern colonies, submit quietly to any program not of their own making. And again, in the thirties and fifties of the nineteenth century, millions of people speaking a strange tongue sought asylum in the Mississippi Valley—an isolated region whose early inhabitants, of whatsoever national strain, were strongly inclined to secession or revolt against the older Eastern communities. Never was a nation composed of more diverse ethnic groups and elements.
And the geographical environments of these groups and segments of older civilizations were quite as dissimilar as those among which the nations of Europe developed. The cold and bleak hills of New England no more resemble the rich river bottoms of the South than the sand dunes of Prussia resemble the fertile plains of Andalusia. Geographical differences tend to produce economic differences. If to these be added inherited antagonisms like those of Puritan and Cavalier, one wonders how the East and the South of the United States ever became integral parts of one great social unit. Adding to this apparent impossibility the new antagonism of the West toward the East as a whole, the historian wonders at the statecraft that could hold the diverse elements together till certain economic and social factors became powerful enough to conquer in a long and bloody war. Or was it the influence of new inventions, railways, and the tightening bonds of commerce that did the work?
Leaving the reader to answer this question for himself, it remains for the Editor to set forth in as few words as possible the method, the emphasis, and the interpretations of the authors of these volumes.
Professor Becker approaches his work, the discovery of the New World, the rise of the plantations, the slow growth of an American culture, and finally the Revolution of 1776, from the standpoint of a student of modern European history. The infant colonies are to him disjected particles of ancient Europe. Their changes under the new environment, their tendency to isolation and petty quarrels during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before the days of steam and electricity, and their defensive alliance against the new, imperialistic England of George III, are the special themes of his study. But here, as elsewhere in our cooeperative undertaking, the object has been to portray only those things which seem to have counted in the final make-up of the Confederacy of 1783, and of the United States of to-day. Moreover, the daily life of the people, amusements, manners, religious predilections, and the everyday occupations of men and women have been accorded some of the space which, from another view-point, might have been devoted to an account of government and the arguments of jurists.
Thus Professor Becker has presented a true and entertaining picture of the purposes of European capitalists interested in the plantations, of the poor people who were packed off to America to serve the ends of commerce, and of the energetic men of the eighteenth century who slowly worked out for England the conquest of North America. The reading of chapters III and V of the Beginnings of the American People can hardly fail to give one a new view of, and a new interest in, colonial history.
Nor has Professor Johnson approached his theme, Union and Democracy, in a different spirit. He is neither a champion of the wholesome nationalism which gave the Federalists their place in history nor a defender of the radical idealism which Professor Becker has shown to be the mainspring of the Revolution of 1776, and which Jefferson called to life again in his struggle to win control of the national machinery, 1796 to 1800. In treating the period 1783 to 1828, Professor Johnson had the difficult task of tracing the important influences which culminated in the Constitution of 1789, the Jeffersonian revolt of 1800, the foreign complications of 1803 to 1815, and the so-called Era of Good Feelings. Here again the popular prejudices, if one desires so to term them, land speculations, and sectional likes, and dislikes receive attention; but the formation of the Constitution, the organization of the Federal Government, international quarrels about the rights of neutral commerce, and finally the War of 1812 are naturally the main topics.
The chapters which treat of the results of the second war with England, the westward movement, and the national awakening, and especially the one which analyzes the problems which underlay the great decisions of Chief Justice Marshall, will probably prove most instructive to the reader. The author has made his narrative much clearer and the factors which entered into the political struggles of the time more intelligible by resort to many black-and-white maps; for example, those which show the popular attitude toward the Constitution in 1787-89 and the alignment of parties in the contest of 1800.
From 1829 to 1865 was the stormy period of our national history—a period in which the nationality planned by the "Fathers" was being forged from the discordant elements of East, South, and West,—from the economic interests of cotton and tobacco planters; of the owners of the industrial plants of the Middle States and the East; and of the necessities of the isolated West striving always for markets. What made the process so doubtful and so long drawn out was the unfortunate fact that the great industrial and agricultural interests coincided so exactly with the older social and political antagonisms. The leadership of the times was, therefore, sectional in a very vital way; so much was this the case that the most popular and captivating of all the public men of the time, Henry Clay, was defeated again and again for the Presidency because no common understanding between New England and the South, or between New England and the West, could be found.
Twice during the period a permanent modus vivendi seemed to have been agreed upon, in the Jacksonian Democracy of 1828, and in the Pierce organization of 1852, combinations of South and West which rested on the big plantation system with slavery underlying, and on the small farmer vote of the West charged always with the potential revolt which democracy connotes. While these subjects receive the careful attention of the author, the "way out," and the national expansion of the Polk Administration, are none the less carefully studied. But aside from the sharp and challenging problems of the time, an earnest effort has been made to describe the cultural life of the people, the pastimes, the religious revivals, the literary and artistic output of the exuberant America of 1830 to 1860. The Civil War and its attendant ills are compressed into relatively small space, though here, too, the effort is made to include all that is vital.
In like manner Professor Paxson gives much space to the "interests" which came to dominate the country soon after the cessation of hostilities in 1865. The business and the greater social tendencies of the post-bellum period had become evident during the decade just preceding the war. For this reason, the author reaches back into the midst of the conflict to take up the thread of his narrative. The economic conditions and changes of 1861 to 1865 are therefore treated in connection with the great issues of the seventies and eighties—the protective tariff and "big business." The money question, railway regulation, corruption in public affairs, never absent from our national life, are the chief themes of Professor Paxson's book. But while the motif of the volume is prosperity, business success, and commercial expansion, space has been found for sympathetic accounts of the dominating personalities of the time,—for Blaine and Cleveland; for Bryan, Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson. And as is fitting, the leaders of the industrial and intellectual interests of the time also receive attention.
Of closer personal and scholarly interest to Professor Paxson is the subject of the growth and development of the Rocky Mountain States: Far-Western railway-building, mining, cattle-raising, and the establishment of government agencies for the conservation of the national resources. While the older and dangerous sectionalism seems to be forever past, the special interests of the Far West, as shown in this work, still lend color to a new sectionalism which sometimes threatens the old political party habits; witness the contest of 1908-12 and the troubles between California and Japan. And here Professor Paxson challenges attention by his treatment of the results of the Spanish-American War, the imperialism which brought to the United States the control of the Philippines, and made the isolated and somewhat provincial country of Blaine and Cleveland a world-power, with interests in the Pacific and a potential voice in the final destiny of China.
Such have been the problems and the aims of the writers of these four short volumes. In order to visualize the main topics discussed, resort has been made to the making of maps, simple drawings intended to show at the different crises just where, or how important, were the decisive factors. This is a feature which, it is thought, will please both lay and professional readers. Certainly the making of these maps was no small part of the work of each author, and in most instances they are entirely original and made from data not hitherto used in this way; for example, the drawings which show just what sections of the States the various candidates for the Presidency "carried." The same may be said of those which treat of the cotton, tobacco, and industrial areas of the United States.
Although there may be faults and errors in the work, it seems to the Editor that, on the whole, the story of the beginnings, the growth, and the present greatness of the country, as set forth in these volumes, is both interesting and suggestive, that the real forces have been duly emphasized, and that at many points contributions to historical knowledge have been made.
WILLIAM E. DODD.
In preparing this sketch of the American colonies, I have had friendly encouragement and assistance from a number of men whose knowledge of the subject as a whole, or of certain aspects of it, is far more extensive and accurate than my own. I am particularly indebted to my colleagues in the University of Kansas, Professor F.H. Hodder and Professor W.W. Davis, who have read and criticized the manuscript chapter by chapter. The editor of the series has not only read the manuscript, but has put me in the way of much valuable material which I should otherwise have missed. Professor G.S. Ford and Professor Wallace Notestein, of the University of Minnesota, and Professor F.J. Turner, of Harvard University, have read portions of the manuscript. These good friends have saved me many minor errors and some serious blunders; and their cautions and suggestions have often enabled me to improve the work in form and arrangement, and in relative emphasis.
I. THE DISCOVERY OF THE OLD WORLD AND THE NEW 1
II. THE PARTITION OF THE NEW WORLD 30
III. THE ENGLISH MIGRATION IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 65
IV. ENGLAND AND HER COLONIES IN THE SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES 125
V. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 161
VI. THE WINNING OF INDEPENDENCE 202
GENERAL BIBLIOGRAPHY 277
Facing SCHOeNER'S GLOBE, WITH MAGELLAN'S ROUTE AND DEMARCATION LINE; DRAWN 1523 28
AREAS SETTLED BY 1660, AND BETWEEN 1660 AND 1700 134
GROWTH OF ENGLISH SETTLEMENTS, 1700-1760 178
AREA OF GERMAN SETTLEMENTS AND FRONTIER LINE IN 1775 180
AREA OF SETTLEMENT IN 1774; BOUNDARY PROPOSED BY SPAIN IN 1782; BOUNDARY SECURED BY TREATY OF 1783; AND SETTLEMENTS WEST OF ALLEGHANIES IN 1783 272
BEGINNINGS OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
THE DISCOVERY OF THE OLD WORLD AND THE NEW
We come in search of Christians and spices. VASCO DA GAMA.
Gold is excellent; gold is treasure, and he that possesses it does all that he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise.
Contact with the Orient has always been an important factor in the history of Europe. Centers of civilization and of political power have shifted with every decisive change in the relations of East and West. Opposition between Greek and barbarian may be regarded as the motif of Greek history, as it is a persistent refrain in Greek literature. The plunder of Asia made Rome an empire whose capital was on the Bosphorus more centuries than it was on the Tiber. Mediaeval civilization rose to its height when the Italian cities wrested from Constantinople the mastery of the Levantine trade; and in the sixteenth century, when the main traveled roads to the Far East shifted to the ocean, direction of European affairs passed from Church and Empire to the rising national states on the Atlantic. The history of America is inseparable from these wider relations. The discovery of the New World was the direct result of European interest in the Far East, an incident in the charting of new highways for the world's commerce. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries Europeans first gained reliable knowledge of Far Eastern countries, of the routes by which they might be reached, above all of the hoarded-treasure which lay there awaiting the first comer. Columbus, endeavoring to establish direct connections with these countries for trade and exploitation, found America blocking the way. The discovery of the New World was but the sequel to the discovery of the Old.
From the ninth to the eleventh century the people of Western Europe had lived in comparative isolation. With half the heritage of the Roman Empire in infidel hands, the followers of the Cross and of the Crescent faced each other, like hostile armies, across the sea. The temporary expansion of the Frankish Empire ceased with the life of Charlemagne, and under his successors formidable enemies closed it in on every hand. Barbarian Slav and Saxon pressed upon the eastern frontier, while the hated Moslem, from the vantage of Spain and Africa, infested the Mediterranean and threatened the Holy City. Even the Greek Empire, natural ally of Christendom, deserted it, going the way of heresy and schism.
Danger from without was accompanied by disorganization within. In the tenth century the political edifice so painfully constructed by Charlemagne was in ruins. The organization of the Roman Empire and the Gregorian ideal of a Catholic Church, now little more than a lingering tradition, was replaced by the feudal system. Seigneurs, lay and ecclesiastic, warring among themselves for the shadow of power, had neither time nor inclination for the ways of peace or the life of the spirit. Learning all but disappeared; the useful arts were little cultivated; cities fell into decay and the roads that bound them together were left in unrepair; the life of the time, barren alike in hovel and castle, was supported by the crude labor of a servile class. To be complete within itself, secure from military attack and economically self-supporting, were the essential needs which determined the structure of the great fiefs. The upper classes rarely went far afield, while the "rural population lived in a sort of chrysalis state, in immobility and isolation within each seigneury."
But the feudal regime, well suited to a period of confusion, could not withstand the disintegrating effects of even the small measure of peace and prosperity which it secured. Increase in population and the necessities of life liberated those expansive social forces, in politics and industry, in intellectual life, in religious and emotional experience, which produced the civilization of the later Middle Ages; that wonderful thirteenth century which saw the rise of industry and the towns, the foundation of royal power in alliance with a moneyed class, the revival of intellectual activity which created the universities and the scholastic philosophy, the intensification of the religious spirit manifesting itself in such varied and perfect forms,—in the simple life of a St. Francis or the solemn splendor of a Gothic cathedral.
Of this new and expanding life, the most striking external expression was embodied in the Crusades. Strangely compounded of religious enthusiasm and political ambition, of the redeless spirit of the knight-errant and the cool calculation of the commercial bandit, these half-military and half-migratory movements of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries mark the beginning of that return of the West upon the East which is so persistent a factor in all modern history. Christendom, so long isolated, now first broke the barriers that had closed it in, and once more extended its frontier into western Asia: Norman nobles, establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Latin Empire, enabled the Church to guard the Holy Sepulchre, while Italian cities reaped a rich harvest from the plunder of Constantinople and the Levantine trade.
The Latin Empire and the Kingdom of Jerusalem did not outlast the thirteenth century, but the extension of commercial activity was a permanent result of vital importance for the relations of Orient and Occident. The swelling volume of Mediterranean trade which accompanied the crusading movement depended upon the growing demand in the West for the products of the East. Europe could provide the necessities for a simple and monotonous life, without adornment or display. But the rise of a burgher aristocracy, the growth of an elaborate and symbolic ritualism in religious worship, the desire for that pomp and display which is half the divinity of kings, created a demand for commodities which only the East could supply,—spices for flavoring coarse food, "notemege to putte in ale," fragrant woods and dyes and frankincense, precious stones for personal adornment or royal regalia or religious shrines, rich tapestries for bare interiors, "cloths of silk and gold."
All these products, and many more besides, so attractive to the unjaded mind of Europe, celebrated in chronicle and romance from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, were to be found in those cities of the Levant—in Constantinople, in Antioch or Jaffa or Alexandria—which were the western termini to long established trade routes to the Far East. Wares of China and Japan and the spices of the southern Moluccas were carried in Chinese or Malay junks to Malacca, and thence by Arab or Indian merchants to Paulicut or Calicut in southern India. To these ports came also ginger, brazil-wood, sandal-wood, and aloe, above all the precious stones of India and Persia, diamonds from Golconda, rubies, topaz, sapphires, and pearls. From India, the direct southern route lay across the Indian Ocean to Aden and up the Red Sea to Cairo or Alexandria. The middle route followed the Persian Gulf and the Tigris River to Bagdad, and thence to the coast cities of Damascus, Jaffa, Laodicea, and Antioch. And by the overland northern route from Peking, by painful and dangerous stages through Turkestan to Yarkand, Bokhara, and Tabriz came the products of China and Persia,—silks and fabrics, rich tapestries and priceless rugs.
From the twelfth century Italian cities grew rich and powerful on the carrying trade between western Europe and the Levant. Venice and Genoa, Marseilles and Barcelona, whose merchants had permanent quarters in Eastern cities, became the distributing centers for western Europe. Each year until 1560, a Venetian trading fleet, passing through the Straits of Gibraltar, touching at Spanish and Portuguese ports, at Southampton or London, finally reached the Netherlands at Bruges. But the main lines to the north were the river highways: from Marseilles up the Rhone to Lyons and down the Seine to Paris and Rouen; from Venice through the passes of the Alps to the great southern German cities of Augsburg and Nuremburg, and thence northward along the Elbe to the Hanse towns of Hamburg or Lubec; or from Milan across the St. Gothard to Basle and westward into France at Chalons. The main carriers from the North of the Alps were the merchants of South Germany; while the Hanse merchants, buying in southern Germany, or in the Netherlands at Bruges and Antwerp, sold in England and France, in the Baltic cities, and as far east as Poland and Russia.
Before the middle of the thirteenth century no Italian merchant could have told you anything of the "isles where the spices grow," or of the countries which produced the rich fabrics in which he trafficked: he knew only that they came to Alexandria or Damascus from Far Eastern lands. For from time immemorial the Orient had been the enemy's country, little known beyond the bounds of Syria, a half-mythical land of alien races, of curious customs and infidel faiths, a land of interminable distances, rich and populous, doubtless, certainly dangerous and inaccessible. But in the thirteenth century the veil which had long shrouded Asia in mystery was lifted, discovering to European eyes countries so rich in hoarded treasure and the products of industry that the gems and spices which found their way to the West were seen to be but the refuse of their accumulated stores.
The discovery of Asia in the thirteenth century was the direct result of the Mongol conquest. Before the death of Jenghis Khan in 1227, the Tartar rule was established in northern China or Cathay, and in central Asia from India to the Caspian; while within half a century the successors of the first emperor were dominant to the Euphrates and the Dniester on the west, and as far south as Delhi, Burma, and Cochin China. The earlier conquests were conducted with incredible ferocity; but the influence of Chinese civilization moderated the temper of the later Khans, who exhibited a genial and condescending curiosity in the people of Christendom. Diplomatic relations were established between Tartar and Christian princes. In the Paris archives may still be seen letters written from Tabriz to the kings of France bearing official Chinese seals of the thirteenth century. For the first time Europeans were welcome beyond the Great Wall. Kublai Khan sent presents to the Pope and requested Christian missionaries for the instruction of his people. Traders and travelers were hospitably received, clever adventurers were taken into favor and loaded with benefits and high office.
It was in 1271 that two prosperous Italian merchants, Maffeo and Nicolo Polo, at the invitation of Kublai Khan, left Venice, taking with them Nicolo's son, the young Marco, destined to be the most famous of mediaeval travelers. Going out by way of the Tigris River to Hormos, they turned eastward, and after many weary months journeying across Persia and China arrived at the city of Cambulac, now known as Peking. Here they remained for twenty years, favored guests or honored servants at the court of the Grand Khan. Henceforth Maffeo and Nicolo retire into the background; we catch occasional glimpses of them, shrewd Venetians, unobtrusively putting money in their purses, while the young Marco occupies the center of the stage as royal favorite, member of the Privy Council, or trusted ambassador to every part of the emperor's wide domains. A happy chance enabled them to return at last; and by a route no European had yet taken: from Peking to Zaiton; thence by sea through the famous Malacca Straits to Ceylon and India; up to Hormos and across to Tabriz and Trebizond; and so, by way of the Bosphorus, home to Venice, with a tale of experiences rivaling the Arabian Nights, and a fortune stitched up in the seams of their clothes.
The fortune, in "rubies, sapphires, carbuncles, diamonds, and emeralds," was straightway turned out before the admiring gaze of friends; while the story was told, to friends and enemies alike, many times over, and presently, in a Genoese prison, set down in French—The Book of Ser Marco Polo the Venetian concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East. It was only one of many books of that age describing the countries of the Orient, for Marco Polo was only the most famous of the travelers of his time. Diplomatic agents, such as Carpini, the legate of Innocent IV, or William de Rubruquis, the ambassador of St. Louis; missionaries, such as John de Corvino, Jordanus de Severac, or Friar Beatus Oderic, laboring to establish the faith in India and China; merchants, such as Pegalotti and Schiltberger, seeking advantage in the way of trade:—these, and many more besides, penetrated into every part of Asia and recorded in letters, in dry and precise merchant hand-books, in naive and fascinating narrative accounts, a wealth of information about this old world now first discovered to Europeans.
For the revelations of the travelers amounted to a discovery of Asia. In the age before printing news spread from mouth to mouth. Reading had not yet replaced conversation, and a narrative of events was alike the duty and the privilege of every chance visitor from far or near. What a celebrity, then, was the Asiatic voyager, returning home after many years! It is said of Marco Polo that even in Genoa, where he was held a prisoner, "when his rare qualities and marvelous travels became known there, the whole city gathered to see him. At all hours of the day he was visited by the noblest gentlemen of the city, and was continually receiving presents of every useful kind. Messer Marco, finding himself in this position, and witnessing the general eagerness to hear all about Cathay and the Grand Chan, which indeed compelled him daily to repeat his story till he was weary, was advised to put the matter in writing." And certainly those voluble Italians were not men to remain silent. Thousands, who never read the book of Ser Marco or the charming narratives of Rubruquis or Friar Oderic, must have heard many of their wonderful stories as they were carried by the merchants and priests, students, minstrels, and high diplomatic agents who went up and down the highways of Europe in the fourteenth century.
And the tale was marvelous, indeed, to the unaccustomed ears of Europe,—a tale of innumerable populous cities and great rivers, a tale of industry and thrift and glutted markets, above all a tale of treasure. What was doubtless heard most eagerly and told again with most verve were the accounts of cities with "walles of silver and bulwarkes or towers of golde," palaces "entirely roofed with fine gold," lakes full of pearls, of Indian princes wearing on their arms "gold and gems worth a city's ransom." In that country, says Rubruquis, "whoever wanteth golde, diggeth till he hath found some quantitie." Oderic tells of a "most brave and sumptuous pallace" in Java, "one stayre being of silver, and another of golde, throughout the whole building"; the rooms were "paved all over with silver and gold, and all the wals upon the inner side sealed over with plates of beaten gold; the roof of the palace was of pure gold." As for the Grand Khan, he had, according to Marco Polo, "such a quantity of plate, and of gold and silver in other shapes, as no one ever before saw or heard tell of, or could believe." And so freely did the returned traveler discourse of Kublai Khan's millions of saggi of revenue, that he was ever after known in Italy as Ser Marco Milioni.
In contrast with this country, how small and inferior is Europe! Such is the most general impression conveyed by the accounts of the travelers. Do you think you have some powerful kings here?—they have always the air of asking—some great rivers, populous and thriving cities? But I tell you Europe is nothing. "The city of Quinsay," says Oderic, "hath twelve principall gates; and about the distance of eight miles, on the highway unto each one of the said gates, standeth a city as big by estimation as Venice and Padua." And this trade of the Levant, profitable as you think it, is but a small affair. On a single river in China, the greatest in the world, "there is more wealth and merchandise than on all the rivers and all the seas of Christendom put together." Of that great wealth, very little, indeed, ever comes to the Levant: "for one ship load of pepper that goes to Alexandria or elsewhere, destined for Christendom, there come a hundred, aye and more too, to this haven of Zaiton"; while the diamonds "that are brought to our part of the world are only the refuse of the finer and larger stones; for the flower of the diamonds, as well as of the larger pearls, are all carried to the Grand Khan or other princes of these regions: in truth, they possess all the great treasures of the world."
What a reversal of values for that introspective mind of Christendom, so long occupied with its own soul! And what an opportunity,—all the great treasures of the world possessed by people who welcome merchants but "hate to see soldiers"; being themselves "no soldiers at all, only accomplished traders and most skillful artisans." Here was the promised land for Europeans, wretchedly poor, but good soldiers enough. Here was Eldorado, symbol of all external and objective values which so fired the imagination in that age of discovery; presenting a concrete and visualized goal, a summum bonum, attainable, not by contemplation, but by active endeavor; fascinating alike to the merchant dreaming of profits, to the statesman intent on conquest, to the priest in search of martyrdom, to the adventurer in, search of gold.
And who was not in search of gold? "Gold is excellent; gold is treasure, and he who possesses it does all that he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise." So thought Columbus, expressing in a phrase the motto of many men, and conveniently revealing to us an essential secret of European history. For gold, so abundant in the East, was scarce in the West. The mines of Europe have never been adequate to the needs of an expanding industrial civilization. Importation of expensive Eastern luxuries, normally overbalancing exports, produces a drain of specie to the Orient, that reservoir to which the precious metals seem naturally to flow, and from which they do not readily return; so that to maintain the gold supply and prevent a fatal appreciation of money value has been a serious problem in both ancient and modern times. During the Roman Republic the supply of gold was maintained at Rome by the systematic exploitation of Syria and Asia Minor. But after Augustus reformed the government of the provinces, the accumulated treasure of the West began to return to the Orient: the annual exportation of 200,000,000 sesterces in payment for the silks and spices of India and Arabia, of Syria and Egypt, was one of the causes of economic exhaustion and the collapse of imperial power. "So dear," says Pliny, "do pleasures and women cost us."
During the age of feudal isolation, this ever-recurring problem did not exist; and in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it seems not to have been pressing. Imports from the Orient were nearly balanced by exports to Syria, for which the crusading movements and the Kingdom of Jerusalem created an abnormal demand. The rise of trade in the West was accompanied by an expansion of the credit system centering in the banking houses of Florence; while the supply of metals was more than maintained by the plunder of Asiatic cities, paid over by crusaders in return for supplies and munitions of war, or brought home by returning princes and nobles, by priests and merchants, by Knights of St. John or of the Temple. Between 1252 and 1284, the ducat and the florin and the famous gold crowns of St. Louis made their appearance,—the sure sign of an increased gold supply, rising prices, and flourishing trade.
But in 1291 the Kingdom of Jerusalem was overthrown; successful crusading ceased, and the plunder of Syrian cities was at an end. Yet the volume of Oriental trade was undiminished; normal exports were insufficient to pay for imports; and from the end of the thirteenth to the middle of the fifteenth century the drain of precious metals from Europe was followed by the inevitable appreciation of gold. Prices fell; many communes were bankrupt; kings, in desperate straits, debased the coinage and despoiled the Church. It was in 1291 that Edward I forced his "loan" from the churches; and Philip IV, in 1296 forbidding the export of gold and silver from France, set about with unparalleled cunning and cruelty to destroy the Templars in order to appropriate the wealth which they had accumulated in the Holy Land.
It was in this very fourteenth century, when gold was appreciating and prices were falling, that the immense wealth of the Orient was first fully revealed to Europeans. All the commodities which Arab traders sold at high prices to Venetian merchants in the Levant were now known to be of little worth in the markets of India. In that country, all the reports agreed, "they have every necessity of life very cheap"; and every luxury as well—forty pounds of "excellent fresh ginger for a Venice groat"; "three pheasants for an asper of silver"; five grains of silver buying one of gold; three dishes, "so fine that you could not imagine better," to be had for less than half a shilling. It was the Arab middlemen that made the difference: the enemies of Christendom, intrenched in Jerusalem and Egypt, guarded the easy highways to the East and took rich toll of all its commerce. What a stroke for State and Church if Europe, uniting with the Ilkhans of Persia, could establish direct connections with the Orient, eliminate the infidel middlemen, and divide with Mongol allies the fruits of Indian exploitation!
Such projects, drifting from court to court in the early fourteenth century, form the aftermath of the great Crusades. In 1307 Marino Sanuto, Venetian statesman and geographer, presented to Clement V an elaborate plan for the revival of the old conflict with Islam. But Sanuto contemplated something more than the recovery of the Holy Land. Sketching with sure hand the trade routes from India to the Levant, he demonstrated that the Arabs were enriched at the expense of Christian Europe. Yet beyond the narrow confines of Syria were the Mongols, well disposed toward Christians, but enemies of Mohammedan Arab and Turk. First weaken the Moslem powers, said Sanuto, by an embargo on all exports of provisions and munitions of war to Syria and Egypt, and then overthrow them by a combined attack of Christian and Mongol armies. The great end would thus be attained: a Christian fleet on the Indian Ocean, subjugating all the coast and island ports from India to Hormos and Aden, would act as convoy for Italian merchants trading directly with the Eastern markets by way of Alexandria and the Red Sea, or down the Tigris River to the Persian Gulf.
The project of Sanuto, anticipating the achievements of England in our own day, was doubtless as vain as it was splendid. For the times, in fourteenth-century Europe, were out of joint. Clement V and his successors at Avignon, scarcely able to hold the Papal States, were little inclined to attempt the conquest of Syria. The Empire had lost its commanding position. Italian cities, released from imperial control, warred perpetually for existence or supremacy. England and France were preparing for the desolating struggle that exhausted their resources for a hundred years. "All Christendom is sore decayed and feeblished, whereby the Empire of Constantinople leeseth, and is like to lese," for lack of the "Knights and Squires who were wont to adventure themselves," but who adventure themselves no more.
In 1386, when this naive plaint was addressed to Richard II by the dispossessed King of Armenia, conditions in Asia, even more than those in Europe, were such as to make the plans of Sanuto forever impossible. Johan Schiltberger, journeying to the Orient early in the fifteenth century, encountered dangers and difficulties unknown to Marco Polo a hundred years earlier. The successors of Kublai Khan no longer ruled in China; while the Ilkhans of Persia, having long since adopted Mohammedanism, were now as ill-disposed as formerly they had been friendly toward Christian states. Eastern and central Asia was indeed once more closing to Europeans: its rulers no longer sought alliance with Christian princes; no longer requested the service of papal missionaries; no longer welcomed traders and travelers. And in the Levant itself ominous changes were portending: the Ottoman Turks, pressing upon the Greek Empire from Asia Minor and the Balkan Peninsula, were already well advanced upon their career of blighting conquest which was destined to throw Christendom upon the defensive for more than two centuries. At the opening of the fifteenth century, although the trade routes had not been closed by the Turks, the Drang nach Osten—the hope of cutting through the Moslem barrier in order to establish direct connection with India—was at an end. Unless a new way to the East could be found, the better part of the treasure of the Orient was lost to Europe.
Long before the fifteenth century many men had thought it possible to reach India by sailing around Africa. Since classical times geographers had both asserted and denied the possibility. During the Middle Ages the Ptolemaic theory was in the ascendant; but the observations of thirteenth-century travelers gave powerful support to the ideas of Eratosthenes. Europeans who had sailed from Malacca to Hormos, or had read the book of Marco Polo or Friar Oderic, knew well that no impenetrable swamp guarded the southern approaches to Asia; while those who had seen or heard of Arab ships clearing from Calicut for Aden could scarcely avoid the inference that a wider sweep to the south might have brought the same ships to Lisbon or Venice.
This inference, the alert and practical Italian intellect, unhampered by scientific tradition or ecclesiastical prejudice, had unhesitatingly drawn. The famous Laurentian Portolano, a sailing chart constructed in 1351, was precisely such a map as Marco Polo, had he turned cartographer, might have drawn: the first map in which Africa appears familiar to modern eyes; with the point of the continent foreshortened, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans joined at last, it held out to all future explorers the prospect of successful voyages from Venice to Ceylon. Sixty years earlier, even before Polo returned from China, the heroic attempt had been made; Tedisio Doria and the Vivaldi, venturous Genoese seamen, passing the Rock of Gibraltar, pointed their galleys to the south in order "to go by sea to the ports of India to trade there." They never returned, nor were ever heard of beyond Cape Non in Barbary, but the memory of their hapless venture was perpetuated in legends of the fourteenth century which credited them with sailing "the sea of Ghinoia to the City of Ethiopia."
To go by sea to the ports of India was an undertaking not to be achieved by unaided Italian effort, or in a single generation. The skill and daring of many captains might find the way, but discovery was futile unless backed by conquest, for which the support of a powerful government was essential. Not from Italian states, weak and distracted by inter-city wars, or absorbed in established and profitable Levantine trade, was such support to come, but from the rising nations of the Atlantic, which profited least by the established commercial system. Lying at the extreme end of the old trade routes, the merchants of France, England, Spain, and Portugal were mulcted of the major profits of Oriental trade. Here prices were lowest and money most scarce. Yet the future of these countries, consolidated under centralized monarchies in alliance with a moneyed class, depended upon a full royal treasury and thriving industry. "The king," said Cardinal Morton, addressing the English Commons, "wishes you to arrest the drain of money to foreign countries. The king wishes to enrich you; you would not wish to make him poor. Consider that the kingdoms which surround us grow constantly stronger, and that it cannot be well that the king should find himself with an empty treasury." To replenish the royal treasury by enriching the bourgeois class was the basic motive which enlisted the Western monarchs in maritime exploration and discovery.
Yet not to the greater states of the West was reserved the honor of first reaching the Indies by sea. The Kingdom of Portugal, first to venture, was first to reach the goal. Looking out over Africa and the South Atlantic, effectively consolidated under King John of Good Memory while its neighbors were still involved in foreign wars or the problems of internal organization, the little state enjoyed advantages denied to England before the accession of Henry Tudor, or to Spain before the conquest of Granada. And to these advantages the fates added another, and greater. For at an opportune moment it was given to Portugal to possess one of those great souls, of lofty purpose and enduring resolution, whose fortune it is to gather the scattered energies of many men and with patient wisdom direct them to the attainment of noble ends. To Prince Henry the Navigator, who raised the endeavors of the nation to the level of an epic achievement, it is chiefly due that Portugal became, in exploration and discovery, the foremost country of the age.
In origin, the Portuguese search for India was but the sequel to the century-old conflict with the Moslem, a more subtly conceived crusade. Losing their hold on the Spanish Peninsula, the Moors were still intrenched in Africa; and in 1415 a Portuguese fleet, crossing to the northern point opposite Gibraltar, took and plundered the fortress and city of Ceuta. It was on this occasion, and subsequently in 1418, that Prince Henry gained from Moorish prisoners reliable information of the rich caravan trade from the Senegal and Gambia Rivers, and from the Gold and Ivory Coasts on the Gulf of Guinea, to Timbuctoo, and across the desert to Ceuta and Tunis: information which strengthened, if it did not inspire, the guiding motive of his life. For enriching Portugal and undermining the Moorish power in Africa, how much more effective than the plunder of Ceuta would be the conquest of the Guinea Coast! Once round the shoulder of Africa and the thing was done! And who could say what lay beyond the Gulf of Guinea? Prester John, perhaps, or the shining treasures of India.
And so, returning from Africa in 1418, the Prince retired to the famous Sacred Promontory in the Province of Algarve, where he gave the best energies of forty years to the task of African exploration. Backed by the resources of the state, commanding the best scientific knowledge of the day, patiently enduring "what every barking tongue could allege against a Service so unservicable and needlesse," he sent out year after year the most skillful and daring sailors of Italy and Portugal, and inspired them anew, as often as they returned baffled and discouraged, with his own perennial enthusiasm. Between 1435 and 1460, famous captains in his service—Gil Eannes, Denis Diaz, the Venetian Cadamosto—made those crucial voyages round the Point of Bojador, past the desert to Cape Verde, and beyond as far as Sierra Leone. After 1443 the labors of the Navigator were no longer thought to be wasted; for when the rich traffic in slaves and gold was opened up to Portugal, the greed of gain was added to scientific interest as a motive for exploration:—"Gold," says the chronicler, "made a recantation of former Murmurings, and now Prince Henry was extolled."
When Prince Henry died in 1460 no ship had sailed beyond Sierra Leone; but the nation had caught the spirit of the master, and in the next generation the search for India replaced the exploration of the Gulf of Guinea. Escobar crossed the Equator in 1471, and fourteen years later Diego Cam sailed a thousand miles beyond the mouth of the Congo River. It was in 1486 that Bartholomew Diaz, third of that family to forward African exploration, left Lisbon determined to reach the Indian Ocean. Having passed the farthest point reached by Diego Cam the year before, he put out to sea and ran before the strong northern gale for fourteen days. Turning eastward in search of the coast, and then north, land was at last sighted to the west. The northerly trend of the coast, as they pushed on four hundred miles farther, assured Diaz that he was, indeed, in the Indian Ocean. The valiant captain would have gone on to India, but the crew forced him to turn back. It was on the return voyage that he first saw the southernmost point of Africa—object of so many notable ventures: the Tempestuous Cape, as Diaz would have named it; but no, replied the king, may it rather prove the Cape of Good Hope.
Among those for whom the voyage of Diaz was of vital importance was an unknown Italian map-maker, already possessed with the one idea that was to make him more famous than Diaz, but which as yet had brought him only poverty and humiliation. Christopher Columbus, son of a Genoese wool-comber, sailor and trader and student of men and of maps from the age of fourteen, had come, about the year 1477, from London to Lisbon, where he married in 1478 Felipe Moniz de Perestrello, whose father had been a captain in the service of Prince Henry and first governor of Porto Santo. Student of cartography and professional map-maker, expert sailor himself, who had probably been to the Gold Coast, associating with captains and sailors in this seaport town of Lisbon, Columbus must have picked up all the common sailors' gossip of the age, and all the best-known scientific speculation. With the Greek tradition that the Indies might be reached by sailing west from the Pillars of Hercules, he was probably familiar, even if he had not read the famous statement of Aristotle in Roger Bacon's Opus Majus, or in the Imago Mundi of Pierre d'Ailly; familiar also he certainly was with the persistent mediaeval legends of islands in the western Atlantic,—Atlantis, and the Seven Cities, and Isles of St. Brandan.
Here in Lisbon, poring over old maps, by fortunate miscalculation underestimating the size of the earth, noting, as expedition after expedition returned, the indefinite southern extension of the African coast, Columbus became convinced that the Portuguese had chosen the longer route to the East, and that "the Indies in the east might in the Earth's Globositie be as readily found out by the west, following the sun in his daily journey." To reach the Indies by sailing west, and to discover, for the king who should authorize him, such new lands as might fall his way, became henceforth the consuming ambition of his life. It was a project which he had already, about 1484, laid before the King of Portugal. Repulsed, and at the same time betrayed, he went to Spain, where he was encouraged by the Count Medina Celi and the Cardinal Mendoza, only to have his plan rejected by the Council to which it was referred. The queen was not unfavorably disposed, but the Moorish wars occupied her days and depleted her treasury. Weary with following the court about, it must have been with profound discouragement that Columbus heard of the success of Diaz in 1488. For the time was short; Diaz had all but reached the goal, and one more voyage might bring the Portuguese to India before Columbus could induce the Spanish sovereigns to try the better plan.
But the Portuguese did not follow up their advantage, and after four more years of waiting, when the Moorish wars were successfully concluded by the conquest of Granada, Columbus at last obtained a favorable hearing from Ferdinand and Isabella. By the King and Queen of Spain Christopher Columbus was authorized to "discover and acquire certain islands and mainland in the ocean"; to appropriate for himself a tithe of the precious metals which might be found there, and to be "Admiral of the said islands and mainland, and Admiral and Viceroy and Governor therein." Within three months all was ready, and on Friday, August 3, 1492, the famous expedition, about ninety men in three small ships, with compass and astrolabe for determining direction and altitude, but no log for the dead reckoning, left Palos for the Canaries. It was not with adverse winds or a rough sea that the admiral had to contend, but with a superstitious crew often moved to mutiny,—terrified by the strange variation of the needle, questioning whether the steady trade winds that bore them on would ever permit them to return, certain that the Sargasso Sea would prove that impenetrable marsh of which they had heard. With unfailing resourcefulness, with patience and tact, with the compelling force of a masterful character, the great commander vanquished fear and superstition, never doubting that since "he had come to go to the Indies he would keep on till he found them by the help of God."
It was on the 11th day of October, seventy days out from Spain, and none too soon, that land was sighted; and on the following morning Columbus, bearing the cross of the Church on the banner of Castile, set foot on one of the minor Bahamas, the present Watling's Island. For two months and a half he cruised in these waters, seeking gold and spices, and the evidence of great cities, "still resolved to go to the mainland and the City of Quinsay, and to deliver the letters of your Highness to the Grand Can, requesting a reply and returning with it." He did not find Quinsay or the Grand Khan, but he discovered Santa Maria, and Hayti, where the first Spanish colony in the New World was established, and Cuba, which was taken to be the mainland. Resting in this belief, the admiral set out for home, reaching Palos February 15, 1493. And it was straightway reported in Europe that the Genoese captain had "found that way never before known to the east."
The East, yet not the desired part of it,—not Cipango, or the city of Quinsay, nor yet the rich Moluccas. These, however, Columbus never doubted, would be easily found. Others were less sanguine. The Spanish sovereigns seemed scarcely convinced that the islands of Columbus were parts of Marco Polo's Indies; while King John suspected that they were really within the southern Guinea waters belonging to Portugal. Therefore the Portuguese King hastened to secure, by papal bulls and the Treaty of Tordesillas with Spain in 1494, the famous Demarcation Line which reserved to Portugal, for exploration and discovery, the regions lying east, and to Spain the regions lying west, of a meridian three hundred and seventy leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. And five years later, when Vasco da Gama at last reached Calicut by the eastern route, no one could longer maintain, so it seemed to the Portuguese King, that the Spanish explorers were in Indian waters. In July, 1499, the news of Da Gama's success reached Lisbon; and Emanuel, with pleasant malice, hastened to inform the Spanish sovereigns that the real Indies had been visited "by a nobleman of our household," and that he had found there, what every one expected to find, what Columbus had nevertheless not found, "large cities, and great populations"; as evidence of which he had brought home "cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, also many fine stones of all sorts; so that henceforth all Christendom in this part of Europe shall be able, in large measure, to provide itself with these spices and precious stones."
The conclusion which the Portuguese King so eagerly accepted was meanwhile confirmed by every western voyage. Beyond the islands which Columbus had discovered, an interminable barrier everywhere blocked the way. In 1498, the admiral himself had touched the mainland near Trinidad, and in 1502 he explored the Bay of Honduras. Hojeda and Pinzon, in 1499 and 1500, sailed along nearly the whole northern coast of South America, while in 1501 Americus Vespucci followed the eastern coast from the point of Brazil as far as 35 deg. south latitude. It could no longer be doubted, by those at least who had seen the great mouths of the Amazon and the Plate Rivers, that behind this long stretch of coast lay an immense continent; a projection of Asia, doubtless, separated from it by some narrow strait, perhaps, or possibly by an unknown sea: at any rate, a "boundless land to the south," as Columbus reported; and which "may be called a new world, since our ancestors had no knowledge of it," as Vespucci thought; "a fourth part of the world," said Waldseemueller in his Introduction to Cosmography, published in 1507, "which since Americus discovered it may be called Amerige—i.e., Americ's land or America." In 1506 Bartholomew Columbus prepared the earliest extant map showing this Mondo Novo, represented as a projection of southern Asia and extending three fourths of the distance to the shoulder of Africa.
This new world of America, a seemingly impenetrable barrier, lay between Spain and the Indies—the real Indies from which the Portuguese were yearly bringing home a rich freightage of gems and spices. In 1509 their ships first reached Malacca; two years later that "golden Chersonese" was taken by Albuquerque; and in 1512 D'Abreu returned with the first cargo of cloves from Amboina and Banda, the very "isles where the spices grow." To find a passage through the Mondo Novo, which Columbus had discovered, became therefore the aim of future Spanish exploration—inspiring the second voyage of Pinzon in 1508, the expedition of Balboa across the Isthmus in 1513, the fatal last cruise of Solis to the mouth of the Plate River, and the final triumphant venture of Ferdinand Magellan.
For the world was not so large but that the spice islands, three thousand miles east of Calicut, must be in Spanish waters. Firm in this belief, the Portuguese Fernam Magalhaes, who had been with Albuquerque at Malacca, offered to King Charles of Spain his services in search of the western passage. It was in 1519 that this man, "small in stature, who did not appear in himself to be much," yet withal a "man of courage and valiant in his thoughts," set out in five worn-out ships, manned by Spanish officers and a treacherous crew, to achieve the greatest feat of navigation ever recorded in the world's annals. Undaunted by an almost fatal mutiny or the terrors of an Antarctic winter, he pushed on through the dangerous straits which bear his name, north and west over that sea which, pacific as it was found to be, he would scarcely have attempted had he known its vast extent. Sailing on month after month, the crew depleted by sickness and death, living at last on rats and biscuit worms and roasted soaked leather thongs, the little expedition finally reached the Philippine Islands. Here the heroic commander lost his life; and but few of those who left Spain ever returned. One ship only out of five, the Victoria, crossed the Indian Ocean and at last, September 7, 1522, three years out from Spain, sailed with eighteen survivors into the port of St. Lucar.
For the first time a single ship had circled the round earth. And through all the vicissitudes of that notable voyage, the object which during fifty years had inspired so many fruitless ventures was not forgotten. The little Victoria had shipped at Moluccas, and now deposited at St. Lucar, twenty-six tons of cloves. Yet few ships would ever again, in the way of trade, sail west from Spain for the spice islands; for between the Indies of Columbus and the Indies which he had hoped to find lay an uncharted and boundless ocean which reduced the Atlantic to the measure of familiar inland waters; and between the two seas, dimly perceived as yet, stretched the continent which was indeed a Mondo Novo—the New World of America.
An excellent brief account of the discovery of America is in Channing's History of the United States, I, chs. I-II. For the relations of Europe and Asia, and the Portuguese explorations, see Cheyney's European Background of American History, chs. I, II, IV. An excellent brief sketch of the life of Columbus is in Ency. Brit., 11th ed. Marco Polo is most conveniently found in Everyman's Library (Dutton). The standard edition is that of Henry Yule, 2 vols., London, 1903. Azurara's Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea is printed by the Hakluyt Society, 2 vols., London, 1896. Chapter VII gives five reasons for Prince Henry's interest in African exploration. In recent years Henry Vignaud has maintained with much learning and critical ability that the famous Toscanelli letter is a forgery, and that Columbus's first voyage to the west was for the purpose of discovering new countries, but that he had no intention of reaching the Indies. The first point he has probably established, but as much cannot be said for the second. See Vignaud, Toscanelli and Columbus. Dutton, New York, 1902.
THE PARTITION OF THE NEW WORLD
The time approacheth and now is, that we of England may share and part stakes, both with the Spaniard and the Portingale, in part of America, and other regions yet undiscovered. RICHARD HAKLUYT.
No feeling of exultation accompanied the discovery of America. The Portuguese alone were well content to see rising on the western horizon a new continent blocking the way to India. It was more than thirty years before the Spanish explorers found the rich cities which Columbus sought; and a century after the voyage of Magellan the vain hope of reaching the South Sea by some middle or northwest passage still inspired the activities of French and English adventurers. In 1534 Verrazano, in the service of Francis I, skirted the coast from Cape Fear to Sandy Hook seeking the way to China. Fifty years later Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Discourse of a North West Passage led to the voyages of Frobisher and Davis. Undismayed by their failures, the excellent Hakluyt assured the queen in 1584 that the passage to "Cathaio may easily, quickly, and perfectly be searched oute as well by river and overlande as by sea." And as late as 1669, when Virginia had been settled for half a century, Sir William Berkeley still had faith "to make an essay to doe his Majestie a memorable service, which was to goe to find out the East India Sea."
Yet before the middle of the sixteenth century America took on a value of its own, and ceased to be regarded as a mere obstacle, in the path of trade. After the conquest of Mexico and Peru, the New World, found to be rich in silver and gold, was thought to be a new Indies indeed. To the idealizing mind of the age America already spelled opportunity; and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the maritime states of Europe established their spheres of influence there—still seeking, through its trackless forests, a waterway to the South Sea, still seeking gold, falling back at last upon the prosaic business of colonization and the exploitation of its less attractive resources. The Spaniards found no lack of treasure, but in North America gold ever turned to ashes, and the great South Sea receded like a mirage before every advance. Yet the failure of many voyages to the frozen North, and of many inland expeditions ending in disaster and death, could not quench the optimism which the gentlemen adventurers caught from the men of the Renaissance and bequeathed to the colonist, and which for two hundred years the frontiersman has preserved as a priceless heritage of the New World.
When Columbus returned from his first voyage of discovery in 1493, he brought home some gold trinkets which the Indians had readily exchanged for glass beads. The transaction is symbolical of two centuries of South American history. The achievements of the Conquistadores have scarcely a parallel in the annals of conquest; but it was the desire for treasure that led them on; and the treasure they discovered became the foundation of the Spanish Empire. In exchange for their gold and silver, Spain imposed upon the native races of America an enlightened despotism and the benefits of Christian civilization.
From Hispaniola as the first center, the Spaniards soon extended their dominion over the islands of Cuba, Porto Rico, and San Domingo, and to the mainland of North America. Seeking gold and the fountain of perpetual youth, Ponce de Leon explored Florida in 1513, and in 1521 and 1525 Allyon and Gomez skirted the eastern coast as far north as Labrador. They found no fountain of youth, nor any passage to the South Sea, nor treasure. It was twenty-five years after Columbus's first voyage, when Velasquez reached Cozumel off the coast of Yucatan, that the Spanish explorers first encountered a people advanced beyond savagery, and came upon evidences of that wealth which determined the future of their empire. Two years later Hernando Cortez, the greatest of the Conquistadores, was given command of the expedition which ended in the capture of Mexico and the overthrow of the Aztec power. The simple Mexicans, who had never seen a white man, first welcomed Cortez as the long expected Culture God, and the hapless Montezuma gathered as a present for the invader treasure equal in present value to the sum of six and a half million dollars. Most of this was lost in the lake during the fatal retreat from the city; but when the conqueror returned to Spain in 1528, he brought with him, to that very port of Palos where Columbus had landed in 1493, three hundred thousand pesos of gold and fifteen hundred marks of silver.
The silver mines of Mexico were not exploited until many years later, but the conquest gave an immense impetus to further exploration. It was the hope of rivaling the brilliant success of Cortez that inspired those fruitless expeditions through what is now the southern part of the United States. Cabeza de Vaca and three companions, sole survivors of Narvaez's ill-fated expedition to conquer an empire in Florida, wandered for many years over the country between the Mississippi and the Gulf of California. Picked up in 1536 by Spanish slavers, De Vaca's report of the vast country to the north induced Mendoza, the Governor of New Spain, to send out Friar Marcos from Mexico in 1539 to find the famous Seven Cities. The friar found no cities, but during the next three years the search was continued by Coronado, who penetrated as far north as the present State of Kansas. It was also in 1539 that De Soto, who had accompanied Pizarro in the conquest of the Incas cities, set out from Florida in search of another Peru. After three years of untold hardship he died of swamp fever in the region of the great river which he discovered and in which he lies buried. The only result of all these expeditions was to establish the claims of Spain to an immense territory; and it was not until 1565 that the Spaniards founded, at St. Augustine in Florida, the first permanent European settlement north of the Gulf of Mexico.
"To the south, to the South," cried Peter Martyr, "for the riches of the Aequinoctiall they that seek riches must go, not into the cold and frozen north." It was a judgment justified in the event. Francisco Pizarro, having verified the report of rich kingdoms to the south, received in 1528 from the Emperor Charles V a commission to conquer the country of the Incas in Peru. With reckless daring equaled only by cunning treachery and unspeakable cruelty, the little band of adventurers that followed Pizarro made its way to the city of Cuzaco. The Incas were more civilized than the Aztecs, their defense less resolute, their wealth more abounding. The ransom of Atahucellpa and the plunder of the capital, when melted down into ingots, measured nearly two million pesos of gold. And to the south of the capital city were the inexhaustible silver deposits of the Andes. In 1545 the Government registered the mines of Potosi, the main source of the treasure which, flowing in ever-increasing volume into Spain, so profoundly influenced the history of Europe and America.
It is said of the Emperor Charles V that his eyes "sparkled with delight" when he gazed upon the vases and ornaments wrought in solid gold which Hernando Pizarro, returning from Peru in 1534 with the royal fifth of the first fruits of plunder, displayed before him. Yet the profit and the burden of the empire which Charles established in America fell mainly to his son, Philip II. And a great revenue was as essential to Philip as to Charles; for, although he did not succeed to the imperial title, he aspired no less than his father to the mastery of Europe. Circumstances seemed not unfavorable. With the close of the Council of Trent in 1563, the policy of conciliation was at an end, the Jesuits were in the ascendant, and the forces of the Counter-Reformation were prepared to do battle with the heresies that disrupted Christendom. In this death struggle the King of Spain was well suited to be the leader of Catholicism. Crafty in method and persistent in purpose, sincerely devout, unwavering in his loyalty to the true faith, never doubting that God in his wisdom had singled him out as the champion of the Church, Philip identified his will with truth and saw in the extension of Spanish power the only hope for a restoration of European unity and the preservation of Christian civilization. To set his house in order by extirpating heresy and crushing political opposition was but the prelude to the triumph of Church and State in Europe. Germany and France were rent by dissension and civil war. England was scarcely to be feared; without an effective army or navy, half Catholic still, governed by a frivolous and bastard queen whose title to the throne was denied by half her subjects, the little island kingdom could by skillful diplomacy be restored to the true faith or by force of arms be added to the Empire of Spain.
For an ambition so inclusive, the American revenue was essential indeed. And in the second half of the century it reached a substantial figure. The yearly output of the mines rose to about eleven million pesos per annum, and the amount which the king received for his share, between the years 1560 and 1600, was probably on an average not far from one and three quarters millions, while at the same time other sources of revenue from America became of considerable importance. It was a goodly sum for those days, but it was not enough for the king's needs. When Charles abdicated, the imperial treasury was indebted in the sum of ten millions sterling; and much of the bullion which was carried by the treasure fleets that plied regularly between Porto Bello and Cadiz was pledged to German or Genoese bankers before it arrived, while some of it found its way into the pockets of corrupt officials. What remained for the king, together with the last farthing that could be wrung from his Spanish and Italian subjects, was still inadequate, to his far-reaching designs; and Philip II, reputed the richest sovereign in Christendom, was often on the verge of bankruptcy.
It was a disconcerting fact, indeed, that although Spain and Portugal had divided the world between them, the thrifty Dutch seemed to reap the major profits of their discoveries. Within half a century Antwerp had risen to be the chief entrepot and financial clearing-house of western Europe. English wool was marketed there, and there English loans were floated. There Portuguese spice cargoes, purchased while still at sea, were brought to be exchanged at high prices for the gold and silver that found its way into the hands of Spain's creditors in Germany, Italy, and France. A wealthy people were these Dutch subjects of Philip II; subjects, yet half free, escaping his control. It was intolerable that the Netherlands, infested with heresy, drawing their wealth from the enemies of Spain, and from Spain itself, should not contribute their share to the service of the empire.
To control the Netherlands and to divert the profits of Dutch trade into the Spanish treasury was thus an essential part of Philip's policy. When the Duke of Alva left for Brussels in 1567 he promised to make the Netherlands self-supporting and to extort from them an annual revenue of two million ducats. But the methods of Alva were destined to failure. He was a better master of war than of finance, and by ruining Dutch trade he killed the goose that laid the golden egg. The Southern Netherlands were finally conciliated by a more skillful policy than any known to Alva; but the city of Antwerp never recovered from the ruin which Philip's unpaid soldiers inflicted upon it in 1576, and when the war was over, the commercial and industrial activities which had made it prosperous were to be found in Amsterdam in the independent Netherlands, and in London across the Channel.
Yet if the Netherlands escaped the direct control of Philip, their wealth might be appropriated at its source. The Portuguese were still intrenched in the East, and Dutch prosperity was in no small part founded on privileges granted at Lisbon. Philip's opportunity came in 1580 when a disputed succession to the throne opened the way to intervention and the rapid conquest of Portugal. At a stroke the Portuguese dominions in Africa and the East Indies were added to Spain's American possessions. Throughout Europe Philip was thought to have played a winning card; for the most desired sources of the world's wealth were at the disposal of the Catholic king if he could but police the sea. But so complete a monopoly was not to be endured by his rivals; and France, Holland, and England, as a necessary prelude to their colonizing activities in the New World and in the Old, gathered their forces to dispute the maritime supremacy of Spain.
It was well understood that the power of Philip II depended upon his American treasure, and his treasure upon his control of the sea. "The Emperor can carry on war against me only by means of the riches which he draws from the West Indies," cried Francis I when Verrazano brought home some treasure taken from Spanish ships in Western waters. And Francis Bacon expressed the belief of the age when he wrote that "money is the principal part of the greatness of Spain; for by that they maintain their veteran army. But in this part, of all others, is most to be considered the ticklish and brittle state of the greatness of Spain. Their greatness consisteth in their treasure, their treasure in the Indies, and their Indies (if it be well weighed) are indeed but an accession to such as are masters of the sea."
It was not for France to contest the maritime supremacy of Spain in the sixteenth century. The wars of Francis I and Charles V bred a swarm of corsairs who harassed Spanish trade and penetrated even to the West Indies; but before 1559 the resources of the French Government were mainly devoted to resisting the Hapsburgs in Europe, and after 1563 the country was distracted by civil war. The Mediterranean proved, indeed, an attractive field for French commercial expansion. The common enmity of French and Turk toward the Hapsburg found expression in the commercial treaty of 1536 between Solyman and Francis I, and in the following half-century the "political and commercial influence of France became predominant in the Moslem states." But in Western waters the activity of France was slight. Without the naval strength to resist Spain, she could not afford to offend Portugal, who was her effective ally. Francis I interdicted expeditions to Brazil because the Portuguese King protested, and Coligny's Huguenot colony in Florida was destroyed by the Spaniard Menendez in 1565. Breton fishermen plied their trade off the Grand Banks; but in this century the only French expedition having permanent results for colonization was undertaken in 1534 and 1535 by Jacques Cartier, who sailed up the St. Lawrence as far as Montreal, and in the name of Francis I took possession of the country which was to be known as New France.
The Dutch did yeoman service against the navy of Philip during the war of independence, but the task of breaking the maritime power of Spain fell mainly to England in the age of Elizabeth. Cabot's notable voyage was without immediate result. Neither the frugal Henry VII, who gave "L10 to him that found the new isle," nor his extravagant son, who was engaged in separating England from Rome and in enriching the treasury with the spoils of the monasteries, coveted the colonies of Spain or greatly feared her power in Europe. But Elizabeth, seated on the throne by precarious tenure, confronted at home and abroad by the rising fanaticism of the Catholic reaction, found the ambition of Philip a menace to national independence. And she knew well that Spain must be met in the Netherlands and on the sea. Yet the task which confronted her was one for which the naval resources of the state were inadequate, and the politic and popular queen turned to the nation for assistance in the hour of need.
And not in vain! For year by year the national opposition to Spain gathered force. Products seeking markets and capital seeking investment were increasing, while opportunities for profit abroad were diminishing. Merchant and capitalist were everywhere confronted by the monopoly of Spain and Portugal, and thus the maritime and commercial supremacy of the queen's chief enemy was at once a national menace and a private grievance. English Protestants, driven into exile in the days of "Bloody Mary," returned in the time of Elizabeth, bringing back the spirit of Geneva, and imbued with an uncompromising hatred of Papists which was fanned to white heat by the Jesuit plots, supposed to be inspired by Philip himself, against the queen's life. The rising opposition to Spain thus took on the character of a crusade: for statesmen it was a question of independence; for merchants a question of profits; for the people a question of religion. And so it happened that in time of peace the ships of Spain were regarded as fair prize. When piracy wore the cloak of virtue there were many to venture; and the queen was ready to reward the buccaneer for the crimes that made him a popular hero. Cautious in her purposes, devious in her methods, too frugal and too poor to embark on great undertakings or open hostility, Elizabeth encouraged every secret enterprise and every private adventure which had for its object the enrichment of her subjects at the expense of the common enemy.
John Hawkins will ever be memorable as the man who first openly contested the double monopoly of Spain and Portugal, and taught English merchants "how arms might signally help the expansion of trade." Descended from seafaring ancestors, his own apprenticeship was served in voyages to the African coast. Negroes were plentiful there, and laborers scarce in the West Indies. Well considering that the slave trade would insure the salvation of the benighted heathen and redound to the profit of thrifty planters, the devout Hawkins set about serving God and mammon for the advancement of his own fortunes and the glory of England. With capital supplied by City merchants, three vessels were equipped; and in 1562 Hawkins sailed for Sierra Leone, where he procured by force or purchase three hundred negroes, who were exchanged with no great difficulty at Hispaniola for a rich cargo of merchandise. An enterprise which netted sixty per cent profit was not to be abandoned, and in 1564 a second voyage was made, with greater profit still. But the third voyage, in 1567, came to grief at San Juan de Ulloa, where Hawkins fell in with the Spanish plate fleet. The fleet might have been plundered, but the naive Hawkins, relying in vain upon the pledged word of the Spaniards, was treacherously attacked and his ships mostly destroyed, while he himself barely escaped with his life.
Accompanying Hawkins on this voyage, and escaping with him from San Juan de Ulloa, was "a certain Englishman, called Francis Drake." Reared in a Protestant family which had felt the effects of the reaction under Queen Mary, he had an instinctive hatred of the Roman Church, and his experience at San Juan de Ulloa inspired him at the age of twenty with a lifelong animosity toward all Spaniards. Renouncing the semi-peaceful methods of Hawkins, Drake devoted his life to open privateering, never doubting that in plundering Spanish ships he was discharging a private debt and a public obligation. And of all the gentlemen adventurers who made plunder respectable and raised piracy to the level of a fine art, he was the greatest. He carried himself in the "pirate's profession with a courtesy, magnanimity, and unfailing humanity, that gave to his story the glamour of romance." No other name struck such fear into Spanish hearts, or so raised in English ones the spirit of adventure and of contempt for the queen's enemies. He is known in Spanish annals as "the Dragon," and before he died the maritime power of Spain had passed its zenith.
Three years after the disaster at San Juan de Ulloa the trend of events favored the bolder course. In 1570 the Pope's Bull deposing Elizabeth from the English throne was nailed to Lambeth Palace; and in 1572, not without the tacit approval of the Government, and backed by the rising national hostility to Spain, Drake set out for the Indies, where he operated for two years, planning attacks on Cartagena and Nombre de Dios, or rifling the treasure trains as they came overland from Panama. Henceforth the watchfulness of Spain was redoubled in the West Indies; but the Pacific, which Drake had seen from the Peak of Darien, was still regarded as a safe inland lake. Into the Pacific, with its coasts unprotected and its ships scarcely armed at all, he therefore determined to venture. Authorized by the queen and with Walsingham's approval, he set out in 1577. Quelling a mutiny as his great predecessor had done at St. Julian, he passed the Straits of Magellan, and sailed northward along the coast, harming no man, but taking every man's treasure until the ship was full. He would have returned home by some northeast passage, but failed to find any, and so at last crossed the Pacific—the second to circumnavigate the globe. We are told that the queen "received him graciously, and laid up the treasure he brought by way of sequestration, that it might be forthcoming if the Spaniards should demand it."
It is not recorded that the treasure was ever restored, but it is known that Drake was knighted by the queen on the deck of the Golden Hind. And it is recorded that in 1588 Philip prepared the Invincible Armada, which appeared in the English Channel to demand the submission of England. It was a decisive moment in the history of America; and it is doubtful what the issue might have been had the queen been dependent upon the royal navy alone. But round the twenty-nine ships of the royal navy there gathered more than twice as many of those privateers who in a generation of conflict had become past masters in dealing with the ships of Spain. Manned by sailors seasoned to every hardship, equipped with the best cannon of the day, rapid and dexterous in movement, the English ships, outnumbered though they were, sailed round and round the unwieldy galleons of the Armada, crippling them by broadsides and destroying them with fire-ships, without ever being brought to close quarters. And so the "Invincible navy neither took any one barque of ours, neither yet once offered to land but after they had been well beaten and chased, made a long and sorry perambulation about the northern seas, ennobling many coasts with wrecks of noble ships; and so returned home with greater derision than they set forth with expectation."
The defeat of the Armada was followed by a carnival of conquest. Within three years eight hundred Spanish ships were taken; and in 1596, shortly after the deaths of Drake and Hawkins, Sir Thomas Howard of Effingham captured the city of Cadiz and returned home with ships full of plunder. It was the last great operation of the war, and the beginning of the end of the Spanish Empire; for the way was now clear for the maritime and colonial expansion of her rivals. The Dutch, with independence assured, organized those India companies through which they ousted the Portuguese from the spice islands, and established, at the mouth of the river discovered by Henry Hudson in 1608, the colony of New Netherland in America. With the civil wars of religion happily closed, France was free to complete the work of Cartier. In 1603 Champlain, in the service of a St. Malo merchant, sailed up the St. Lawrence to Montreal; and five years later he established a post on the Heights of Quebec, destined to be the capital of the great inland empire of New France. And England, whose ships now sailed the sea unchallenged, began to build a more lasting empire in America and the Orient. It was in 1607 that Virginia was planted; and three years later Captain Hippon, in the service of the East India Company, established an English factory at Masulipatam in the Bay of Bengal.
A notable result of the struggle with Spain was the growth of an active interest in colonization. Knowledge of the wide world, which Richard Eden had freshly revealed to Englishmen in the reign of Mary, was greatly enriched by the voyages of the Elizabethan seamen. John Davis, returning from the Far East, made known "as well the King of Portugal his places of Trade and Strength, as of the interchangeable trades of the eastern Nations among themselves"; and Cavendish, who was the third to "circompasse the whole globe of the world," brought to the queen "certain intelligence of all the rich places that ever were known or discovered by any Christian." By the side of Drake and his followers, whose ambition it was to destroy the power of Spain in the New World, stand the brilliant Gentlemen Adventurers, who labored to plant there the power of England: Frobisher and Davis, the gentle and heroic Gilbert, and Raleigh, poet and statesman, the very perfect knight-errant of his age, whose faith in America survived many failures and is registered in words as prophetic as they are pathetic—"I shall yet live to see it an English nation." The adventurous and pioneering spirit of the time is forever preserved in that true epic of the Elizabethan age, the incomparable Voyages of Richard Hakluyt; and in the Discourse on Western Plantinge, which he wrote at the request of Raleigh for the enlightenment of the queen, as well as in the general literature of the next fifty years, are revealed to us the ideas, mostly mistaken and often naive, which gave to America the glamour of a promised land.
Of the motives which inspired the colonizing activity of England at the close of the sixteenth century, the desire to spread the Protestant religion was no unreal one. The war for independence, having taken on the character of a crusade, had touched with emotional fervor the Englishman's loyalty to the national faith. Religion became a national asset when it was thought to be served by an extension of the queen's domain. The pride of patriotism, as well as the sense of duty, was stirred by the fact that whereas Spanish Papists had been "the converters of many millions of infidells," English Protestants had done nothing for "thinlargement of the Gospell of Christe." It was felt to be the duty of Englishmen to take on this "white man's burden," and for the sake of the true faith plant "one or two colonies upon that fyrme, learn the language of the people, and so with discretion and myldeness Instill into their purged myndes the swete and lively liquor of the Gospell."
Yet the religious motive was buttressed by others more material and less disinterested. Until well into the seventeenth century, when much bitter experience had proved the contrary, America was still thought to be a land of wealth easily acquired—"as great a profit to the Realme of England as the Indies to the King of Spain." Many credible persons, said Hakluyt, had found in that country "golde, silver, copper, leade, and pearles in aboundaunce; precious stones, as turquoises and emaurldes; spices and drugges; silke worms fairer than ours of Europe; white and red cotton; infinite multitude of all kindes of fowles; excellent vines in many places for wines; the soyle apte to beare olyves for oyle; all kinds of fruites; all kindes of oderiferous trees and date trees, cypresses, and cedars; and in New founde lande aboundaunce of pines and firr trees to make mastes and deale boards, pitch, tar, rosen; hempe for cables and cordage; and upp within the Graunde Baye, excedinge quantitie of all kinde of precious furres." So that one may "well and truly conclude with reason and authoritie, that all the commodities of our olde decayed and daungerous trades in all Europe, Africa, and Asia haunted by us, may in short space and for little or nothinge, in a manner be had in that part of America which lieth betweene 30 and 60 degrees of northerly latitude."