unified cultural need to establish their dominance in another land is the most important reasons for the foothold established by the English and the Spanish in the New World. It is true that a plethora of different races, ethnic groups, nationalities, and cultures arrived on the North American soil prior to 1776, the year that America began its process of embarking upon its independence, of officially becoming the independent country of United States of America.
This begs the question of why did the Spanish (and Spanish Americans) and later primarily the English (and English Americans) become the dominant ethnic groups in the New World, and not the other nations that established settlements, for instance, perchance, the Dutch?
This paper will argue that the predominant historical evidence, as discussed in The Ethnic Dimension in American History and Major Problems in American Immigration and Ethnic History as well as American Mosaic suggests that the reason for this dominance was twofold. First of all, Spanish and the English dominated the seas and the land, militarily, in the way that other European nations such as the French did not. English settlers in particular had religious as well as economic reasons for developing a cultural and sociological foothold as well as an economic foothold in the new nation. The fact that the British and Spanish nations were both more unified, had more mercantile capitol support, and were technically more advanced than their rivals, particularly on the seas, coupled with their greater need to establish settlements in the new land to ensure their dominance. It is tempting to view the English dominance purely as a product of military might, of course. But while this undoubtedly played a factor in the domination of the English and the Spanish, ultimately the reasons for British and Spanish were more cultural than purely military or technological, this essay will argue.
On a level of military technology the English in particular exercised military dominion, winning what came to be known as ‘Prince Phillips War,’ defeating Native American alliance against the New England colonists. The British also later dominated France and the still existing strong Native American tribes in what came to be known as ‘King William’s War’ in 1689. In May of 1702, England declared war on France after the death of the King of Spain, Charles II, to stop the union of France and Spain. This ‘War of the Spanish Succession’ was called ‘Queen Anne’s War’ in the colonies and the English and American colonists continued to battle the French, their Native American allies, and the Spanish for the next eleven years.
Militarily, in the New World, the English dominated the French and the Native Americans the French had allied with. In terms of their population, the Anglo colonists far exceeded the French. True, some French had fled feared persecution in their homeland. But the English domination of the land was so long lasting and entrenched in terms of the existing governmental structures, the French and eventually even the Spanish had no corresponding long-standing geographic and political existence from an organizational standpoint in the New World.
Despite the French alliance with the Native American peoples of the region, the British triumphed because of their superior technology, superior numbers, but most importantly because of the greater unity of their alliance. The Native Americans were at war amongst themselves, and the French, Spanish, and Native American coalition quite tenuous. The English colonists were united by pre-existing and stronger governmental structures, and also by a more common culture than their enemies were. (Ethnic Dimension in American History 3rd Edited James S. Olson; 5-30; 47-52; 62-66; 80-86; 101-108; 139-143) In contrast to the French, the British’s settlement’s permanent footholds in the New World stretched back to 1620 when the Mayflower landed at Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with over a hundred colonists, when a permanent settlement was established in the New World (or the Old World of the Native Americans.) The Mayflower compact established a form of purely local government in which the colonists agreed to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good of the colony. America did not begin as a country founded on religious toleration, true, but this early colony was formed on the basis of shared ideals. This makes it quite distinct from the contrasting efforts by earlier explorers of Dutch and French extraction to establish a colony. (American Mosaic 165-167) The extent of the duration of British settlement gave the settlers a greater knowledge of the terrain as well as a greater sense of unity as a developed nation. Technologically, these settlers were used to the hard work necessary to create a colony and stay alive in the New World. The Southern colonies as well had long established patterns of producing exportable goods, fueled, it must be sadly said, with the African-Americans imported to the New World as slaves.
It might be argued then why did not similarly persecuted people, such as the Scots and the Irish, establish dominance in the land, and why did the religiously unified, Catholic Spanish establish their dominance well? For instance, the French and Dutch did form communities throughout the developing colony. The French explorer LaSalle founded Louisiana in 1682. It is also true that many French citizens fled France after the Edict of Nantes, fearing religious persecution.
Thus is must be conceded that some of the reasons for British and Spanish are technical as well as theological. The British and Spanish fleets were both notable for their dominance of the seas during this period. This mobility gave them access to the world, and although the Spanish did not have a corresponding dissenting religious need to colonize the nation, the importance that the Spanish placed upon exploration and mercantile goods, in contrast to the Germans, for instance, made exploration a priority. The Spanish also had a different but still extant theological need to establish dominance in contrast to other nations — Spain wished to win land in the name of their holy, Catholic king and in the name of the Catholic Church that other nations were not similarly motivated by. Spain also had more mercantile capital and more far-reaching support in the form of the Vatican. (Gjerde Major Problems in American Immigration and Ethnic History Chapter 1; 3; 4; 31-45)
The reasons for the eventual British domination of the New World can thus be summed up in terms of their greater numbers, their greater military might, and their greater sense of internal unity. All of this was further solidified because of the greater need of the British religious dissenters had experienced. Their greater unity arose from both their long-standing political organization in the region and their greater need to maintain a homogenous culture. Like so many historical events, as a result of a greater cultural unity, developed out of a previous need for success amongst the population, the settlers were thus united, despite their differences, in their desire for religious expression and to create more permanent governmental structures. Although the French were on land, quite strong technically in military terms, they engaged in internal fighting with their Native American allies in a way that did not allow those allies to triumph. The French also did not dominate the seas, as did Spain.
But even Spain’s force, though considerable did not ultimately generate the unique constellation of events and forces that allowed the British to emerge triumphant, temporarily, in the European war to dominate the New World. Spain had superior mercantile capital than other nations, as well as military might. But so did Britain, and coupled with Britain’s cultural capital, Britain’s dominance of the New World became complete.
Class Notes and Discussion
Gierde, J Major Problems in American Immigration and Ethnic History. New York:
Houghton Mifflin College Edition, 1998.
The Ethnic Dimension in American History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
History 10 Reader
Rico, Barbara Roche and Mano, Sandra. American Mosaic. New York, 2000.
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