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Imagemap: link to IRC Credits

France, Spain and England in America

In the l7th century, New Mexico, and the fortified town of St. Augustine on the east coast of Florida, were Spain's only North American colonies. Both served as buffer states -- in Florida, against the English in Georgia and the Carolinas; and in New Mexico, against the French, who from their base in Canada had claimed the entire Mississippi Valley.

France's North America empire, however, was vastly different from Spain's in purpose and practice. The French were in North America primarily for commerce, not colonization. They wanted to control the lucrative fur trade, and to get furs, they made alliances with the Indians. They didn't want Indian lands, or labor. And their Jesuit missionaries were amazingly tolerant and highly successful in dealing with the Indians. As were French fur traders, who married into Indian families and lived with natives and mixed-bloods at frontier trading posts. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

[Picture: Map of Roanoke Island]

In l600, Spain was the only European nation with colonies in North America. Samuel de Champlain had not yet established a French settlement at Quebec. And Protestant England, under Queen Elizabeth, had tried and failed to plant a colony on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. The settlers on Roanoke Island had mysteriously disappeared around l590. To this day, no one knows what happened to them.

At this point, England was at war with Spain and might have postponed colonization for some time had it not been for two of the greatest spin-doctors of the Elizabethan age, two cousins, both named Richard Hakluyt. The Hakluyts believed England's future greatness would be based on overseas colonies. In a series of massive books and reports, they implored the Crown to expel the Spanish papists from North America, convert the Indians to Protestantism, and begin trading with them. The Hakluyts described an America where the earth would produce things in abundance, as in the Garden of Eden, "without toil or labor." These are their words.

When a company of gentlemen adventurers was finally sent to in Virginia in l607, they apparently took the cousins at their word -- and died in appalling numbers. But the struggling colony was saved -- but just barely -- by the soldierly discipline of the swashbuckling captain we'll meet in our next lecture.

John Smith's mission was to make certain that, in America, the seventeenth century would be England's century.

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