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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersAmerican Beginnings: 1492-1690
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


Resource Menu


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?

1.  Imperial Rivalry I: Spain & England» Reading Guide

- Spanish/English: Rivalry for power in the Caribbean, 1498-1670, eleven documents (excerpts)
- Maps (zoomable):

English: A New Map of the English Plantations in America, 1690 (Map #11)
Spanish: Descripcion de las . . . Indias Occidentales, 1765

In this fifth and last section of the Toolbox, we consider the fuel driving this two-hundred-year history of Europe in North America: power. Getting it, keeping it, sharing it, redefining it, losing it, and hardest of all, keeping a clear view of where one stands in the reshuffling of power relationships. Country-country, country-colony, colonists-governors, colonists-Native Americans, and colonists-Africans: each relationship will be considered separately while we remind ourselves that each is a facet of a complex whole. We begin with three country-country power struggles of the late 1600s—Spain and England in the Caribbean, Spain and France in Tejas (Texas), and France and England in the northeast mainland.

When one views North American history as "proto-United States" history, the story begins in the Spanish Caribbean with Columbus and Cortés, as it should, but rapidly heads north to the English colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth, leaving the West Indies to the footnotes of "triangular trade." But in the mid 1600s "several small but fertile subtropical islands in the West Indies, "writes historian Alan Taylor, "became the crown jewels of the English colonial empire." And their "king" crop was sugar. From its Caribbean colonies England imported more than three times more goods than from its mainland colonies—and four times more sugar than tobacco. Its sugar islands, especially Barbados, "served as the great economic engine of the English empire."

But to win islands and influence in the Caribbean, England (and France, the Netherlands, and later Denmark) had to face Spain's long-held dominance in the region. Challengers fought each other as well as Spain to claim even tiny islands. As they won and lost, they ping-ponged and even divided islands west-east (Hispaniola), north-south (St. Martin), and even west-central-east (St. Christopher, now St. Kitts). Amidst the official warfare was the incessant piracy on Spanish shipping by English and French buccaneers, so damaging to Spain's trade that it vowed to send all foreign ships "to the bottom." In these excerpts of eleven documents spanning 173 years, we study England's campaign to chip away at Spain's hegemony in the Caribbean, Spain's determination to keep it, and the 1670 treaty of agreement to co-exist, grudgingly, in the West Indies.

We recommend viewing the two online zoomable maps before you read, one English, one Spanish (be sure to study the map cartouches). We also offer a quick review of Caribbean geography and the major territorial claims as of 1660: Spanish, English, French, Dutch (bi-colored names reflect shared islands, whether officially acknowledged by both sides or not). (7 pages, excluding maps.)

CARIBBEAN (WEST INDIES) = Bahamas,Greater Antilles, Lesser Antilles
(major claims as of 1660)        ¦       ¦
Puerto Rico
Barbados, Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Lucia, Virgin Islands, St. Christopher (St. Kitts), Grenada, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Curaçao, Aruba, Saba

2.  Imperial Rivalry II: Spain & France» Reading Guide

- Spanish/French: Rivalry in Tejas (Texas), 1685-1691, four documents (excerpts)
- Maps:

French: Les costes aux environs de la rivière de Misisipi, 1701
Spanish: Mapa, que comprende la Frontera, 1769

In the rivalry among European nations in the Caribbean, Native Americans did not play a crucial role, having been decimated and subdued long before the rivalries ratcheted up. On the mainland of North America the situation was quite different: the Indians acted as the spoke of the wheel of ever-intensifying rivalries. Here we will follow (almost literally) the early competition between Spain and France for the land along the Gulf of Mexico we now call Texas and Louisiana. Specifically, we will follow their joint treks in southern Tejas in the late 1600s as they learn of each other's presence from the Indians.

In the 1670s and 1680s France probed further along the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River [see EXPLORATION #2], planning a network of trading posts to establish dominance in the North American interior. In 1682 René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, journeyed down the Mississippi River to its mouth and, two years later with the support of King Louis XIV (thus "Louisiana"), sailed from France with nearly three hundred soldiers and settlers to build a settlement in the lower Mississippi valley. Unable to locate the river, La Salle built a small fort on the coast of Tejas at Matagorda Bay. From here he and his men explored north into Tejas and learned from the Indians of the intermittent Spanish presence, although they encountered no Spaniards themselves. When La Salle was murdered in 1687 by several of his own men, the expedition fell apart. Some of the French headed northeast to New France, some southwest to New Spain, and some remained at the fort which was attacked by the Karankawa Indians in the winter of 1688-1689.

The Spanish, having long been wary of French plans for the Mississippi region, responded immediately to rumors of a French presence on the Tejas coast. Between 1686 and 1691 they dispatched a total of nine expeditions from New Spain (Mexico) to Tejas, four by sea and five by land, to search for the French. They pursued leads provided by the Indians but encountered only a few French survivors of La Salle's settlement, several of whom returned with them to New Spain. The Franciscan priests travelling with them established the first Spanish mission in Tejas (and the future United States) in 1690, and the priests continued to notify officials in New Spain of any rumors of French incursions in the region.

In this reading we weave excerpts from two Spanish and two French documents that reveal the countries' mutual suspicion and ultimate frustration in this stage of their rivalry in North America.
  • THE FRENCH DISCOVER THE SPANISH PRESENCE IN TEJAS. Two documents were considered crucial to the French as they prepared for their second attempt to settle the lower Mississippi. One was the journal of Henri Joutel, second in command on La Salle's expedition, who succeeded in returning to France via Canada. The second is an extraordinary interview with two young brothers, Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Talon, who survived the attack on Fort St. Louis, lived with Indians for several years, and ultimately returned to France in time to be questioned in detail before the second French expedition in 1699. (A portion of their interview that focuses on the Karankawa Indians is included in Section #6: Indian Relations.) These excerpts reveal the growing French awareness of Spanish influence (but no settlements) in Tejas.
    [Henri Joutel, A Journal of the Last Voyage Perform'd by Monsr. de la Sale, to the Gulph of Mexico, to Find Out the Mouth of the Missisipi River (1684), publ. 1714; Interview of Pierre and Jean-Baptiste Talon (Memorial on the questions asked of the two Canadians who are soldiers in Feuguerolle's company), 1698]

  • THE SPANISH SEARCH FOR THE FRENCH IN TEJAS. The five land expeditions to Tejas were led by the Spanish explorer and governor Alonso de León. In his day-by-day "itineraries" of the 1689 and 1690 expeditions we read of the Spaniards' frustrating search for the French, their discovery of the remains of La Salle's fort, and their rescue (or capture) of several surviving French soldiers and settlers. Finally, we read the plaintive letter of a Franciscan priest in the newly established Tejas mission relaying an Indian's message that Frenchmen had been seen en route to their region, perhaps, he fears, "to take vengeance upon the Spaniards for having taken away the Frenchmen who were in these regions."
    [Alonso de León, Itineraries of the 1689 and 1690 expeditions; Letter of Fr. Miguel Font Cuberta in Tejas to his custodio in New Spain, 4 Sept. 1690]
In 1699 the French returned and founded settlements along the gulf coast east of Tejas, including Biloxi, Mobile and, in 1718, New Orleans. The Spanish, having abandoned the Tejas mission in 1693 due to floods, the threat of an Indian rebellion, and the temporary removal of the French presence, returned in 1716 to re-establish missions and to confront the growing French challenge on the coast. We recommend that you study the 1701 French map before reading the selections and peruse the 1769 Spanish map after your reading. (10 pages, excluding the maps.)

3.  Imperial Rivalry III: France & England» Reading Guide

- French/English: Imperial rivalry in the northeast in the late 1600s, two views from the mid 1700s
- Maps:

French: Amérique septentrionelle, 1685
English: A new map of the north parts of America, 1720

Spain was not the only country nervously watching as the French explored the Mississippi River in the 1680s; so was England. The northern English colonies increased the competitive pressure on New France for control of the fur trade and other commerce on the Great Lakes and along the upper Mississippi valley. In response, the French built new forts on the Great Lakes and hastened their plans to settle the Mississippi River valley and "Louisiana." With the outbreak of war in Europe between France and England in 1689, the competition in North America escalated into a subsidiary war. Although the English colonial population far surpassed the French in North America—250,000 to 12,000 in 1682—the competitive edge lay not with numbers but with alliances, strategy, and execution. After eight years of attacks and counterattacks, however, the French and English negotiated a fragile peace in 1697, neither side the victor.

The strategic center of the war was Albany, New York, situated 150 miles due north of Manhattan and 225 miles due south of Montreal, the fur trading center of New France. This north-south line along the Hudson River marked the boundary at the time between the New England colonies and Iroquois territory to the west. "Albany's fur trade competition," writes historian Alan Taylor, "merged into both the imperial rivalry between England and France for commercial dominance and the Iroquois' struggle to maintain their edge in a violent and disrupted world of native peoples" [italics added]. For the Indians are the third major party in this war. The Iroquois allied with the English and the Algonquian with the French, all anxiously aware that their fates had become inextricably linked.

This shared awareness is the main point to glean from the two histories excerpted here—side-by-side French and English accounts of King William's War published in the mid 1700s. Each historian presents the imperial rivalry from his country's perspective, detailing the strategic intricacies necessitated by its Indian alliances. Each reviews the attacks upon and by the other, including the Schenectady massacre of 1690 in which the French and their Mohawk allies killed most of the English and Dutch inhabitants of the settlement near Albany.

  • FRENCH PERSPECTIVE. Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix was a French Jesuit priest in New France in the early 1700s, sent to teach in Quebec and also to travel in the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi River in search of the elusive waterway to the Pacific Ocean. Known as the historian of New France for his three-volume history published in 1744, he concludes his review of the 1680s by affirming an official's statement that "the English and French are incompatible in that part of the continent of America."
    [Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix, S.J., Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle-France (History & General Description of New France), 1744]

  • ENGLISH PERSPECTIVE. William Smith, Jr., was a member of the landed gentry in New York, a Yale graduate, legal scholar, historian, and member of the colonial council. In his two-volume history of New York published in 1757, he introduces his account of the English-French rivalry of the 1680s with an overview of the Iroquoian Indians because, as he writes, "of all those innumerable tribes of savages which inhabit the northern part of America, [the Iroquois] are of most importance to us and the French."
    [William Smith, Jr., The History of the Province of New-York, 1757]
Don't try to keep track of names, titles, and places (endnotes identify the principal players). Focus on each side's awareness of its strategic vulnerabilities and unclear fate in North America in 1690. Follow the power, especially each side's estimate of the power share of the other at any moment. Again, we recommend that you view the two maps before reading the histories, the French map published just before King William's War and the English map published two decades after the war. (9 pages, excluding the maps.)

4.  Colonial Rule» Reading Guide

- Spanish/English/French: Controlling emigration to the New World, 1500s-1600s

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.)

5.  Colonial Rebellion (English Colonies)» Reading Guide

- Barbados: Declaration of Independence, 1651, excerpts
- Virginia: Bacon's Rebellion, Bacon's View, 1675
- Virginia: Bacon's Rebellion: A Planter's View, 1676
- Massachusetts: Boston Declaration of Grievances, 1689, excerpts
- Massachusetts: Publick Occurrences, an unlicensed newspaper, 1690

For the English Atlantic colonies—the first of England's overseas possessions to win their independence—the claim to have fomented the "first rebellion against royal authority" is a mark of honor. But how should "first rebellion" be defined, and which colonial uprising merits the label? The Virginia rebellions led by John Pott in 1635 and Nathaniel Bacon in 1676? The Carolina revolt led by John Culpeper in 1677? The civil uprisings in 1689 that deposed governors in New England and Maryland after the English Revolution? Or perhaps the Barbados rebellion of 1675, even though the island colony didn't achieve independence from Britain until 1966. If independence was not the goal of a rebellion, what was? Each rebellion has the inevitable nuance that resists the simple category of "colony vs. England." Since a skill of historical analysis is identifying nuance, let's begin.
  • BARBADOS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. In Barbados, the issue was not colony-versus-England, but supporters-versus-opponents of the king of England; still, the conflict led to the first "declaration of independence" from England. Settled by the English in 1627, Barbados became a major sugar producer by the 1640s, enjoying increased autonomy from England as the home country became embroiled in political rivalry and civil war. But with the overthrow of King Charles I by Oliver Cromwell in 1649, the island fell into its own political turmoil as supporters and opponents of the monarchy competed for power. As Charles's supporters gained the upper hand, their opponents successfully urged Parliament to take action against them. The Barbadians were declared traitors, all trade was halted between the island and England, and a naval fleet was dispatched to Barbados to subdue the Royalist leaders. At this point the Barbadian governor and council issued the 1651 Declaration of Independence from England, asserting that they would not abandon "those old heroic virtues of true Englishmen."
    [A Declaration of my Lord Willoughby, Lieutenant-General and Governor of Barbados, and other Caribee Islands; as also the Council of the Island belonging to it; serving in answer to a certain Act formerly put forth by the Parliament of England, the 3rd October 1650; 1651]

  • BACON'S REBELLION—BACON'S VIEW. On one level, Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 was an uprising of backwoods farmers against the ruling class of rich planters in Virginia. On another level, it was a power struggle between two groups of planters, those in the inner circle of economic power and those excluded from it. The men who led the backwoodsmen in their revolt, primarily the young and hot-headed Nathaniel Bacon, were planters excluded from the powered elite led by Governor William Berkeley (bark-lee) and thus from the lucrative Indian trade monopolized by Berkeley's friends. Using the very real grievances of the common farmers—falling tobacco profits, rising taxes, reduced opportunities to buy their own farms, harsh shipping regulations imposed by England, and finally, the outbreak of war between the backwoods farmers and the Susquehannock Indians (with whom Berkeley wanted to maintain trade)—Bacon led the farmers in armed rebellion. Jamestown was occupied and burned; tidewater plantations were attacked and plundered. When Bacon died suddenly of dysentery, the rebellion ended. Governor Berkeley hanged twenty-three of the rebellion's leaders. At the height of his short-lived power, Bacon released this declaration "in the name of the People of Virginia," listing his followers' grievances against Governor Berkeley and his "pernicious councilors, confederates, aiders, and assisters." (Bacon's Oath of Allegiance is included in the next text.)
    [Declaration of Nathaniel Bacon in the Name of the People of Virginia, 30 July 1676]

  • BACON'S REBELLION—A PLANTER'S VIEW. Almost thirty years after Bacon's Rebellion, the son of one of Governor Berkeley's inner circle offered his perspective of the uprising. In The History and Present State of Virginia, Robert Beverley, Jr., presents Bacon as a man "in every way qualified to lead a giddy and unthinking multitude," yet he does not assign all blame to Bacon and the Indians while exonerating the governor and the crown. He methodically lists Virginia's problems in the 1660s and 1670s, from falling tobacco prices to disabling wars with the Dutch to parliamentary actions restricting colonial trade. The final aggravation of Indian raids made the backwoods settlers who were "already full of discontent . . . ready to vent all their resentment against the poor Indians." Bacon saw in the backwoodsmen's sense of abandonment by the ruling coastal planters a platform for his own struggle with the elite: a class war, perhaps.
    [Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705]

  • BOSTON DECLARATION OF GRIEVANCES. The Boston uprising of 1689 was one of several uprisings in which English colonists resisted autocratic governors while asserting their allegiance to the English king—in this case, at least, if the king was not James II. Having come to power in 1685, James II had appointed the autocratic Sir Edmund Andros to enforce stricter control on the northern Atlantic colonies. Andros imposed new taxes, abolished colonial assemblies, and curtailed longstanding citizens' rights. In April 1689 when Boston colonists learned that King James had been deposed the previous November (in the Glorious Revolution of 1688), they stormed the fort of Boston and demanded the ouster of Andros. Anxious to avoid worse mob violence, a group of elite Bostonians, including Cotton Mather, presented a declaration calling on Andros to step down from office. On the day of the uprising, this declaration (which exaggerates many of the grievances, scholars remind us) was read from the balcony of the Boston Town House and soon printed as a broadside. While sharing the rioters' opposition to Andros, Mather and his compatriots clearly disassociate themselves from the "people's sudden taking to arms."
    [Cotton Mather et al., Boston Declaration of Grievances, 1689]

  • PUBLICK OCCURRENCES—AN UNLICENSED NEWSPAPER. This document represents the individual vs. authority type of resistance, almost a hallowed institution in American history. It is a three-page newspaper printed in Boston in September 1690—the first and last issue of Publick Occurrences by editor Benjamin Harris (and the first multi-page newspaper in the later United States). From its content alone you wouldn't identify the paper as an act of resistance, but Harris had come to Boston from London (some say "fled") with a history of publishing pamphlets deemed seditious by the authorities. He knowingly published the paper without the required official approval, and, after reciting the recent news of disease, fire, and other tragedies, he included critical comments about the ongoing war against New France (King William's War). You will also read the declaration of the governor issued four days later asserting his "high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet, and Order that the same be Suppress'd and called in." All nondistributed copies of the paper were destroyed.

    Publick Occurrences also affords us a snapshot of life in Boston in 1690, a year bringing war and smallpox in addition to the standard news items of fires, deaths, and news from the home country. It also provides a city-specific view of the imperial rivalry between England and France during King William's War that had begun a year earlier in the northern English colonies.
    [Benjamin Harris, editor, Publick Occurrences, 25 September 1690]
And why did the French and Spanish colonies not experience similar rebellions against royal authority in the 1600s? New France was sparsely settled and, in effect, ungoverned until becoming a royal province in 1663, after which its three thousand settlers welcomed the order and protection afforded by a closer royal presence. Spain's North American colonies were under stricter royal control, and most settlers depended on imperial protection against the numerous Indian revolts. Finally, France and Spain did not share the expansion of citizens' rights occurring in England in the 1600s, rights which the English colonists had clearly come to expect. (22 pages.)

6.  Indian Relations» Reading Guide

- English/Iroquois, 1679: Virginia statement and Oneida response, 1679, excerpts
- English/Iroquois, 1684: Iroquois statements to colonial governors, 1684
- English/Leni-Lenape: William Penn on the Leni-Lenape Indians, 1683
- French/Iroquois & Karankawa: French-Indian relations in New France and Tejas, 1673-1687
- Spanish/Pueblo et al.: Indian mortality in northwestern New Spain, 1500-1678

We have come a long way from the Indian-European encounters of the late 1400s and early 1500s, when Europeans thought Indians were Orientals and Indians thought Europeans were gods, and when Europeans were vastly outnumbered by Indians and could be intimidated by native shows of force. "First encounters" continued into the nineteenth century, of course, but by 1670, as we have seen, the Indian-European relationship had evolved into a complex web of power brokering. Alliances were made, broken, and renegotiated by both sides. Indians and Europeans knew each other's languages, negotiation traditions, and soft spots, and both made strategic decisions based on decades of experience with the other. "Natives pursued their own interests," writes historian Alan Taylor, "and manipulated the wishful thinking of the colonizers."* In these selections, we consider Indian-European relationships in the late 1600s, when power could still could be won and lost on both sides.
  • ENGLISH/IROQUOIS: 1679. After the Indian wars of the mid 1670s—King Philip's War in New England and against the Indian allies of Nathaniel Bacon in Virginia—a peace treaty was finalized between the English and the Five Nations (the Iroquois confederacy comprised of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca nations). Known as the Covenant Chain, the treaty allying the English and the Iroquois against the French and the Huron continued for a century. At a 1679 meeting of the alliance, Virginia accused the Oneida of violating the treaty by stealing colonists' provisions and taking women and children as captives. The Oneida admitted the attacks and returned the captives, insisting, however, that the colonists had initially violated the treaty. These statements reflect a meeting of peers, not one of dominant and subjugated powers.
    [Proposition of Col. William Kendall, agent from Virginia, to the Oneida; and the Oneida Response, Albany, 30-31 October 1679]

  • ENGLISH/IROQUOIS: 1684. Because the Oneida and Onondaga continued attacks in Virginia (spurred by the French who hoped to disrupt the English-Iroquois alliance), a meeting was arranged in Albany in 1684 with the Five Nations and the governors of New York and Virginia. A record of their statements is provided by New York official Cadwallader Colden in his early eighteenth-century history of the Five Nations. Here we read the "remarkable speech" of the Onondaga and Cayuga to the governors, as well as statements from the Seneca and Mohawk leaders. ("Brother Corlear" was the Iroquois term for English colonial governors.) Although the Iroquois acknowledge the power of the English, they affirm their own sovereignty and remind the governors that "we being a Free People, though united to the English, may give our Lands and be joined to the Sachem (leader) we like best."
    [Cadwallader Colden, The History of the Five Nations of Canada, 1727. 2d. ed., 1747]

  • ENGLISH/LENI-LENAPE. In one of the most reproduced images of colonial America, William Penn is depicted negotiating a land purchase with the Leni-Lenape under the "treaty tree" of Shackamaxon near Philadelphia. Although the treaty is not documented, Penn's equitable dealings with the Lenape are well documented in land deeds and independent accounts. He praised their "natural sagacity," respected their negotiating skills, and learned their language to be free of interpreters' errors. In this letter of 1683, Penn offers guidelines for clear and honest negotiations with the Lenape, emphasizing that one must "let them have justice, and you win them."
    [William Penn, Letter to the Committee of the Free Society of Traders, London, 1683]

  • FRENCH/IROQUOIS & KARANKAWA. Many texts in this Toolbox illustrate the French-Indian relationships in New France (Canada) as described by missionaries, officials, and explorers. Here we read accounts of specific negotiations between the French and Indians: (1) the 1673 peace treaty as reviewed by a French government official; (2) the announcement to the Iroquois of French plans to build Fort Niagara in 1679, as described by a Franciscan missionary and explorer; and (3) advice on negotiating with the Karankawa of Tejas (Texas) from two French brothers who had been captives of the Indians and Spanish in the late 1600s. Throughout these accounts the French sense of vulnerability to the Indians' power is apparent, even if veiled with a condescending tone.
    [Baron de Lahontan, New Voyages to North-America, 1703; Louis Hennepin, A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, 1697; Report of Two Canadian Soldiers who made La Salle's Voyage to the Mississippi, 1698]

  • SPANISH/PUEBLO et al. A study of Indian-European relations must include the disastrous effect of European diseases on Native Americans—and the resulting power adjustments as the population balance skewed toward the Europeans. Many estimates are proffered of Indian mortality rates and causation, but overall totals for the continent continue to be the subject of strong debate. To represent this phenomenon, then, we study the results of one scholar's demographic study of one region of North America. In these excerpts from Dr. Daniel Reff's study of Indian population trends in northwestern New Spain (present-day Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico), we focus on the data from 1500 to 1678 for about twenty Indian groups including the Pueblo, Pima Alto, and Yaqui. Interpreting the data and primary accounts from this region, Reff concludes that "Old World diseases destroyed upwards of ninety percent of the aboriginal population." In addition he explores the "profound changes in aboriginal culture," including the Indians' growing receptivity to Spanish missionaries that resulted from the extreme rates of Indian mortality.
    [Daniel T. Reff, Disease, Depopulation, and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764 (1991)]
An illuminating exercise would be to compare these texts with the first-encounter narratives in Topics I and II of this Toolbox, especially those of the Spanish and Mexica (Aztec) in New Spain, the French and Algonquians on the Atlantic coast (Verrazzano), the English and Coastal Miwoc on the Pacific coast (Drake), and the Russians and Alutiiq on the north Pacific coast (Steller/Bering). (21 pages.)

7.  Indian Wars» Reading Guide

- Spanish: Indian raids and rebellions in Nueva Vizcaya, New Spain, 1654
- Pueblo: Statement on the Pueblo Revolt, New Mexico, 1681
- Wampanoag: Grievances before Metacom's War, New England, 1675
- English: Colonists' view of Metacom's War, New England, 1676
- French: Danger of Indian war in New France, 1687

A chronology of Indian-European relations from 1492 to 1690 would include few years without conflict—from sporadic raids on each other's settlements to fullscale war. Some Indian groups were overcome almost immediately (the Caribbean Taino), more often they held on until near-extermination in the 1600s (the New England Wampanoag), and some were still powerful contenders in 1690 (the Iroquois). (And for some Native Americans in 1690, like the Coastal Miwok who met Francis Drake briefly in 1579, or the Alutiiq who had yet to meet Russian explorers in Alaska, life was still European-free.)

In section #6, INDIAN RELATIONS, we looked at the larger strategic chess game that came to define Indian-European relationships in many regions of the continent. In this section we focus on specific flash points of the late seventeenth century when fullscale war broke out (or was planned by one or both sides). Beyond representing Indian-European antagonisms, these texts reflect the decisive conflict for dominance of the continent, leading to costly imperial burdens for the Europeans and disaster for the Native Americans. "Colonial empires never fulfilled the European fantasies of command and control," writes historian Alan Taylor," although they unleashed powerful forces of disease, trade, and war, that, although beyond European control, fundamentally disordered far-flung and diverse native peoples."*
  • NEW SPAIN: INDIAN RAIDS AND REBELLIONS. By 1650 New Spain (Mexico) had conquered and/or assimilated most of the indigenous peoples who had tried to defeat the arriving Spaniards over a century earlier. But the Native Americans in its northern region had not been subdued and its frontier defenses were vulnerable at best, a point driven hard in this 1654 report by a priest and official in the province of Nueva Vizcaya (now northern Mexico and part of southwestern United States). Diego de Medrano analyzes the friends and foes among the Indians, enumerates the sources of their power (including the influence of shamans), and recommends decisive action to counter the "riots and ruin wrought by the rebellious Indians" of Nueva Vizcaya.
    [A Report by Licenciado Diego de Medrano, Priest of the City of Durango, Capital of the Kingdom of Nueva Vizcaya, which Describes the State of the Kingdom Resulting from the Riots and Ruin Wrought by the Rebellious Indians. Durango, 31 August 1654]

  • NEW MEXICO: THE 1680 PUEBLO REVOLT. After the Spaniards' brutal suppression of Acoma Pueblo resistance in 1599 [see EXPLORATION: Villagrá], the Pueblo were resettled into controlled communities as a captive labor source for the Spanish. Many converted to Christianity, practicing a hybrid of their traditional beliefs and the rituals taught by the Franciscan missionaries. Yet the Pueblo never assimilated to the level desired by their Spanish conquerors, who were caught by surprise with the successful Pueblo Revolt of 1680 that is considered "the greatest setback that natives ever inflicted on European expansion in North America."* A year later, after the Spanish had retreated south to El Paso, they interrogated many Indians about the revolt, including a Queres Pueblo named Pedro Naranjo who explains the motives and means of the rebellion, including the influence of the charismatic leader Popé whose mystical visions served as a unifying force. When asked if any preparations were afoot for the Spaniards' return, Naranjo replies that the Indians "would have to fight to the death, for they do not wish to live in any other way than they are living at present." The Spanish reconquered New Mexico eleven years later, in 1692.
    [Declaration of Pedro Naranjo of the Queres Nation, Place of the Río del Norte, 19 December 1681]

  • NEW ENGLAND: INDIAN GRIEVANCES BEFORE METACOM'S WAR. The most devastating Indian war in New England's history was Metacom's War of 1675-1676, named for the Wampanoag leader Metacom (given the English name Philip). The instigating event was the execution of three Wampanoag men for murdering an Indian informant, but war had been considered inevitable by both Indians and colonists as the English settlements pushed farther west. The war ended with the near-complete destruction of the Wampanoag people—only four hundred survived—and the end of Native American power in New England. In this selection, a colonist records the Wampanoag grievances against New England settlers before the outbreak of war. Notice how slippery the negotiations are at this point, where misunderstanding trumps clarity regardless of the worthy intentions of some participants.
    [Metacom's statement in John Easton, A Relation of the Indian War, 1675]

  • NEW ENGLAND: COLONISTS' VIEW OF METACOM'S WAR. In contrast to Metacom's assertion that the Indians "had done no wrong, the English wronged them," Increase Mather not only denies the colonists' culpability but claims that the Indians themselves did not blame the English. He praises the colonial government for trying to help Metacom by keeping "his Land not from him but for him." As a Puritan, he partially ascribes the war's outcome to the Indians' rejection of Christianity. Finally, he presents several documents that argue that the war was "both just and necessary, and its first rise only a defensive war." This legalistic approach of the colonists frustrates the Indians, who interpret such rhetoric as self-justification.
    [Increase Mather, A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New-England, 1676]

  • NEW FRANCE: DANGER OF A "GENERAL INDIAN REBELLION." In New France, writes historian Alan Taylor, "trade, alliance, and war entangled colonizers and natives in ways that they could not have predicted, could rarely control, and might not have chosen—had they that luxury." From its earliest ventures in North America, sparsely settled New France was defined by, not just dependent on, its relations with the Indians (its Algonquian and Huron allies and its fierce enemies, the Iroquois). In the 1680s, as the English aggressively challenged the French fur trading dominance, they urged the Iroquois to attack French settlements and join them in defeating New France. In this 1687 memorandum, a French official is warned that New France faces "the extirpation of our Colony" if it does not attack and defeat the English-supplied Iroquois. War is also necessary "to avert from us a general Indian rebellion" of the longtime Huron and Algonquian allies who felt abandoned by the French under the previous governor. When war broke out between France and England in Europe two years later, the New France-New England-Indian conflicts also exploded into warfare (see Topic #3: IMPERIAL RIVALRY: FRANCE AND ENGLAND), with neither side gaining victory, land, or security.
    [Memoir for the Marquis de Seignelay, French Minister of the Navy, regarding the dangers that threaten Canada and the means to remedy them, January 1687; author unidentified in archives]
While these conflicts include several superlatives—the bloodiest Indian-English war, the last Indian war in New England, and the greatest European defeat by Native Americans—consider them in the broad history of Indian-European relations from 1492 to the late eighteenth century. By 1785 the French and Indian War, Britain's defeat of New France, the French cession of its western territories to Spain, and the American Revolution had restructured the framework in which Native Americans and Europeans competed for existence on the continent. (18 pages.)

8.  Africans I: English Colonies» Reading Guide

- Barbados: Slave-master relationships, 1657
- Barbados: Slave conspiracy of 1692
- Pennsylvania: Anti-slavery petition, 1688
- Virginia: Servants and slaves in Virginia, 1705

The power relationships we consider here are categorically different from others in this section. Africans did not come to North America on their own initiative to pursue their own goals. Their status from the outset was subordinate at best, enslaved at worst. There was no peer-to-peer negotiation or warfare as occurred between Europeans and Native Americans and among European rivals in the hemisphere. No traditions or laws were transported from the mother country to be respected or re-interpreted by colonial authorities, as was true in varying degrees for European settlers. Any power Africans would gain in North America would derive from their response to utter powerlessness.

In this section we will focus on enslaved Africans in the English colonies, where the number of slaves varied widely by region. In 1700, 78% of the inhabitants in the English West Indies were slaves, compared to 13% in Virginia and 2% in New England.* The correlation of percentage with the power struggle in each region is apparent in these readings.
  • BARBADOS: SLAVES & MASTERS. In 1627 the first Englishmen landed on the uninhabited Caribbean island of Barbados. Twenty years later Richard Ligon arrived on the island, purchased half of a sugar plantation with colleagues, and remained for three years, writing A True & Exact History after his return to England. In separate sections he describes the masters, servants, and slaves of the island (and the few Indians, usually brought as slaves from other islands). In addition to his interpretations of the physical and cultural characteristics of the "Negroes," he offers personal experiences to illustrate the master-slave relationships that had evolved on Barbados.
    [Richard Ligon, The True & Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, 1657]

  • BARBADOS: SLAVE CONSPIRACY. By 1685 there were four times as many Africans as Europeans on the island of Barbados, and the white masters understood the power-in-numbers of their enslaved Africans. Fear of slave rebellion took hold of the masters, who stayed vigilant for rumors of rebellion and who rewarded slaves who revealed conspiracies or refused to join the uprisings (as described by Ligon in True & Exact History). Three slave rebellions were planned in the 1600s; one in 1649 was quickly suppressed and a second in 1675 was discovered before its implementation. In 1692 the third planned rebellion was discovered hours before the scheduled uprising. In this brief broadside published in London three months later, the "barbarous and bloody plot" is described as well as the conspirators' plans for "a Governour and Government of their own" and the brutal punishments devised to deter future rebellion.
    [A Brief, but most True Relation of the late Barbarous and Bloody Plot of the Negro's in the Island of Barbados on Friday the 21. of October, 1692, broadside, 1693]

  • PENNSYLVANIA: ANTI-SLAVERY PETITION. The prospect of slave rebellion appears again in this petition, but this time as a challenge to one's conscience: "Have these poor negroes not as much right to fight for their freedom as you have to keep them slaves?" Written in 1688 by four German colonists in Pennsylvania (including Mennonites and Quakers), the petition was distributed to several congregations but did not incite a larger anti-slavery campaign at the time, when even William Penn and other Pennsylvania Quakers owned slaves. (In 1700 ten percent of Philadelphia residents owned slaves, primarily to work in urban manufactures.) Quaker opposition to slavery would appear later, in the 1700s, when a core argument of this petition was resurrected: "Is there any that would be done or handled at this manner? viz., to be sold or made a slave for all the time of his life?"
    [Petition in opposition to slavery by four men of Germantown, Pennsylvania, 18 February 1688]

  • VIRGINIA SERVANTS AND SLAVES. The marked transition in the Chesapeake colonies from servant to slave labor occurred in these last years of the seventeenth century. Virginia's slave population grew from 150 in 1640, to nearly 3,000 in 1680, and by 1700 to 13,000—one sixth of the colony's population. The transition occurred primarily for two reasons: (1) the supply of indentured servants dropped as England offered more economic opportunities for its poor; and (2) the wealthy planters feared the power of the lower classes in their midst, namely the white backwoods farmers, the white indentured servants, and the black servants and slaves. White-black coalitions were an ever-present threat to the planters—Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 had made that clear (see #5: Colonial Rebellion). As the slave population increased, so did the legal controls on slaves' behavior and power, culminating in the extensive law of 1705. Also appearing in 1705 was a justification of servitude and slavery written by a Virginia planter to rebut criticism from England. "Because I have heard how strangely cruel, and severe [slavery and servitude are] presented in some parts of England," writes Robert Beverley, "I can't forbear affirming that the work of their servants and slaves is no other than what every common Freeman does." Explaining the 1705 law, Beverley cites clauses that buttress his argument and judiciously omits others, which you can identify in the excerpts included here and in the full text of the statute (see Supplemental Links).
    [Robert Beverley, Jr., "Of the Slaves and Servants in Virginia," in The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705; and An Act concerning Servants and Slaves, Virginia, 1705]
Keep in mind that these power relationships between white and black people did not exist in a vacuum, unaffected by other power struggles in colonial North America. (11 pages.)

9.  Africans II: Spanish & French Colonies» Reading Guide

- Spanish: Maroons and free blacks, 1600s, three documents (excerpts)
- Spanish: Black Code in Cuba, 1574
- French: Black Code in the Caribbean islands, 1685
- Images: Labor of enslaved Africans (three illustrations), 1500s-1600s

In Spanish America arose the first extensive dependence on Africans for slave labor, and thus the first master-slave power struggles in the hemisphere. On the masters' side, this struggle manifested itself in slave codes that upheld the legality of slavery and controlled the actions of slaves, freed slaves, and masters, often with the stated or implied goal of protecting the white people from the potential power of the black people. On the Africans' side, the struggle manifested itself in numerous forms, the most disturbing to the Spanish being the communities of runaway slaves (maroons) in the often mountainous interiors of their colonies. Maroon communities also thrived in the French and English West Indies into the 1700s and 1800s. We will look at several documents that reveal the white-black power struggles in the Spanish and French colonies. How successful is each side in perceiving its own power realistically and in generating an effective response?
  • MAROONS AND FREE BLACKS. Although a tiny minority of the African population in North America, maroons and free blacks in Central America and the Caribbean became a political force to be reckoned with. The well known maroon revolts and leaders, such as Cudjoe in Jamaica and Toussaint L'Ouverture in Haiti, came later in the 1700s, but examples abound of maroon power in the 1600s. Here we read of two maroon communities in Guatemala and Hispaniola and a free black community in Costa Rica.
    [Thomas Gage, The English-American his Travel by Sea and Land . . . , 1648; Francisco, Archbishop-elect of Santo Domingo, Letter to King Philip IV of Spain, 15 Sept. 1662; Governor and Town Council of Cartago, Costa Rica, Decision concerning petition of inhabitants of La Puebla, 1676]

  • BLACK CODE in CUBA. By the mid 1500s the Cuban Indians had been virtually wiped out, and the Spanish began to import Africans to work in the port city of Havana and in the scattered rural plantations and ranches. Soon they realized the need for laws to control not only the slaves and free blacks, but also the owners whose excessive punishments and fraudulent schemes to gain others' slaves multiplied the problems wrought in a slave economy. In these regulations of 1574 you will also see the relative autonomy of Africans at this stage and the unease it caused the Spanish.
    [Municipal ordinances for the city of Havana and other villages of this island, 14 January 1574]

  • BLACK CODE in the FRENCH WEST INDIES. France faced similar problems as its Caribbean possessions increased in the mid 1600s and the plantations owners became dependent on the labor of imported Africans. In 1685 King Louis XIV issued a code noir (black code) to "settle issues dealing with the condition and quality of the slaves" in the islands. Like the Spanish code of 1574 and the Virginia code of 1705, the code set strict limits on the actions and status of slaves and freed slaves as well as regulating the masters' treatment of their "charges," i.e., property.
    [King Louis XIV, Edict on the subject of the Policy regarding the Islands of French America, March 1685]
Slave codes were also devised in the English Caribbean islands, e.g., the Barbadian slave code of 1661 served as a model for the South Carolina code of 1696 (worth comparing with the 1705 Virginia code; see Supplemental Links). Runaway slave communities, however, did not develop to the same extent in the mainland English colonies as they did in the Caribbean. Why might this be so? Before you read, study the drawings of slave labor in the West Indies (there are few extant first-hand illustrations of slavery in mainland North America before the mid 1700s). What European attitudes toward slavery and forced labor are implied in the drawings? (13 pages, including the images.)

–Metacom (King Philip). Paper-and-ink print entitled King Philip of Mount Hope, and labelled "Fanciful portrait of King Philip by Paule Revere," n.d., published in John Fiske, The Beginnings of New England, 1889. Reproduced by permission of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (Memorial Hall Museum), South Deerfield, Massachusetts, #L00.053.

–Nathaniel Bacon. Engraving by T. Chambars, between 1760 and 1800, "after an original at Lord Viscount Grimston's at Gorhambury" by Seipse. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, #LC-USZ62-91133.

–Edmund Andros, governor of the Dominion of New England, 1686-1689. Undated engraving. Reproduced by permission of the New York Public Library, Print Collection, Digital ID #420869.

–James II, king of England, 1685-1688. Mezzotint portrait, 1805, replica of original print by Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1697. Reproduced by permission of the New York Public Library, Prints Collection, Digital ID #478489.

–Maroon leader of Surinam, late 1700s. Illustration entitled A Coromantyn free negro, or Ranger, armed; in John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a five years' expedition, against the revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the wild coast of South America; from the year 1772, to 1777, 1806. Reproduced by permission of the New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Digital ID #1252627.

–Cavelier de La Salle. Engraving, n.d. Digital image from Ifremer, Institut Français de Recherche pour L'exploitation de la Mer. Permission pending.

–Viceroy of New Spain (1653-1660), Francisco Fernández de la Cueva. Engraving by unidentified artist, published Madrid, 1884. Digital image from Permission pending.

Quoted statements from:
–Karen Ordahl Kupperman (Silver Professor of History, New York University; Fellow, National Humanities Center, 1984-85). "North America and the Beginnings of European Colonization," in series Essays on the Columbian Encounter. Washington: American Historical Association, 1992.
–Alan S. Taylor (Professor of History, University of California-Davis; Fellow, National Humanities Center, 1993-1994). American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Viking/Penguin, 2001.

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