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American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Topic: ContactTopic: ExplorationTopic: SettlementTopic: PermanenceTopic: Power
Topic: Power
Toolbox Overview: American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Resource Menu: Power
Text 1. Imperial Rivalry I: Spain and England in the Caribbean
Text 2. Imperial Rivalry II: Spain and France in Tejas (Texas)
Text 3. Imperial Rivalry III: England and France in the Northeast
Text 4. Colonial Rule
Text 5. Colonial Rebellion (English Colonies)
Text 6. Indian Relations
Text 7. Indian Wars
Text 8. Africans I: English Colonies
Text 9. Africans II: Spanish and French Colonies

Reading Guide
Colonial Rule
- Spanish/English/French: Controlling emigration to the New World, 1500s-1600s (PDF)

Rule by the mother country of its overseas possessions—the definition of imperial power—is our focus here. Aspects of colonial rule are represented elsewhere in this Toolbox, from instructions for colonial governors to questions from a royal commission on salvaging a colony, plus the reports from explorers and officials that reflect imperial will. Who can start a colony? With whose money? For what purposes? With what direct control by the home country? Once a colony is established, another set of rules applies, and these constitute our interest in this section. Who can go to a colony? By whose license or permission? With whom? For how long? For what purpose? Who will pay for the voyage and provisions? What punishment will result for violating imperial policies? What if the settlers fail? Many documents can be used to contrast the Spanish, French, and English policies of colonial rule; we choose a representative sample of three brief selections.

  • SPAIN: LIMITING EMIGRATION TO THE SPANISH INDIES, 1500s. In 1672 a Spanish historian completed a vast compilation of Spanish imperial policies for the New World, especially the "rules of trade." A selection of Spain's earliest migration regulations are included in these excerpts, which may be summarized in one phrase: "No one may go over to the Indies without leave [permission]."
    [José Veitia de Linage, Norte de la contratación de las Indias occidentales (The Rule of Trade to the [West] Indies), 1672]

  • ENGLAND: ENCOURAGING SETTLEMENT IN JAMAICA, 1655. Because there are numerous documents in this toolbox on English emigration to the north Atlantic colonies (the "proto-United States"), we will take a brief look at England's promotion of settlers to its Caribbean possessions, in this case the island of Jamaica, newly captured from Spain in 1655. Due to continuing conflict with the Spanish, however, migration to Jamaica did not flourish (except for English buccaneers invited by the new governor to provide protection from the Spanish and who welcomed a new stronghold in the Caribbean).
    [Proclamation of Oliver Cromwell promoting migration to Jamaica, 1655]

  • FRANCE: IMPROVING THE SETTLERS OF NEW FRANCE, 1691. Leave it to the French missionaries to tell it like it is. We have depended on them throughout this Toolbox, these Roman Catholic priests who dutifully sent annual reports back to France (the Jesuits) or published their own memoirs (the Franciscans/Recollects). In this case it is the Franciscan priest Chrestien Le Clercq who published in 1691 a history of the church's endeavors in New France (Canada). In these excerpts he lauds the success of new emigration policies to New France instituted in 1663 by King Louis XIV after taking control away from the private company that had, in effect, abandoned its efforts to settle and run the colony after decades of failure. No longer can it be said, says Le Clercq, that "the colony is made up only of nobodies, debauchees, libertines, fallen women, fugitives from justice" and others fleeing disgrace or misfortune in the old country. Due to the new policies, New France is stable, organized, better behaved, and "more fortunate than colonies lately established in other parts of the world."
    [Chrestien Le Clercq, Premier établissement de la Foy dans la Nouvelle-France (First Establishment of the Faith in New France), 1691]
As you read, note omissions in the imperial migration policies, i.e., specifications you would expect to find but appear nowhere. What might explain these omissions? (5 pages.)

Discussion questions
  1. What are the most apparent differences among the countries' policies for managing emigration to the New World colonies?
  2. Do you find these differences consistent with your sense of the imperial powers' "managament styles"? their goals for imperial expansion?
  3. Are there policies that surprised you or seemed "out of character" for an imperial power?
  4. Do you note similarities among the emigration policies?
  5. Who is excluded, by direct statement or implication, from migrating to the New World?
  6. How does the nature of each document—an official history, a clergyman's description, and a ruler's declaration—influence the reader's perception of the imperial policies?
  7. Compare these documents with others in the Toolbox in which imperial policies are conveyed to colonial officials, especially in Section #3: SETTLEMENT—"Instructions" and "Go Ahead?" and in this section POWER—"Imperial Rivalry I: Spain and England in the Caribbean."
  8. Compare these documents with reports from explorers and officials to the mother country that clearly articulate imperial policies, especially in Section #1: CONTACT—Cortés's 1521 report to the Spanish king and Verrazzano's 1524 report to the French king, Section #2: EXPLORATION—Coronado's 1541 report to the Spanish king, and Section #4: PERMANENCE—Gov. Dongan's 1687 report on New York to the English Board of Trade.
  9. Are there issues commonly addressed in migration policies today that are unaddressed in these documents? What do these omissions reveal?

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What power relationships had been forged among the peoples of North America by 1690?
  •  How did the European rivalries of the 1690s in North America set the stage for the later imperial conflicts of the 1700s?
  •  What did "North America" signify to Europe in 1690? to the inhabitants of North America?

Spanish/French/English rivalry:  5 pages
Supplemental Sites
Global Gateway, international digital libraries from the Library of Congress and European libraries and archives

France in America/La France en Amérique
Parallel Histories/Historias Paralelas: Spain, the United States, and the American Frontier
The Atlantic World/De Atlantische Wereld: America and the Netherlands
Meeting of Frontiers/Встреча на границах: Siberia, Alaska, and the American West
The United States and Brazil/Brasil e Estados Unidos: Expanding Frontiers, Comparing Cultures

*PDF file - You will need software on your computer that allows you to read and print Portable Document Format (PDF) files, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have this software, you may download it FREE from Adobe's Web site.

Texts: National Humanities Center

Image: João Teixeira, map of the north Atlantic Ocean, details; in atlas Taboas geraes de toda a navegação, 1630. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division, LC Luso-Hispanic World, 8.

Toolbox: American Beginnings: 1492-1690
Contact | Exploration | Settlement | Permanence | Power

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Revised: October 2006