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European Background Of American History by Edward Potts Cheyney

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followed closely by Diego Gomez, discovered the Cape Verd Islands and
passed so far around the shoulder of northwestern Africa as not only to
reach the ends of the caravan routes from Morocco, and to open up trade
in gold, ivory, and the products of the Guinea coast, but to suggest
that there was open sea now all the way eastward to India. The
temporary disappointment of finding that this was not true was left to
the successors of Prince Henry, for his death occurred in 1460. But the
work was still carried on by his nephew, Alfonso V., and by the next
king of Portugal, John II.

A series of bold pilots now passed beyond the whole Guinea coast,
crossed the equator, and made their way down almost two thousand miles
more of the African coast. The belief became assured that "ships which
sailed down the coast of Guinea might be sure to reach the end of the
land by persisting to the south"; and stone pillars six feet high were
ordered to be erected at landing-places to indicate possession and mark
the stages of the route to the Indies.

Finally, in 1486, Bartholomew Diaz, the third member of his family to
take part in the discoveries of Prince Henry, with two vessels sailed
the remaining distance on the coast, and passed so far to the eastward
that his sailors mutinied and refused to go farther. Diaz then suddenly
realized that, notwithstanding the necessity for his return, he had at
last found the passage-way to India dreamed of through so many ages and
sought for at such heavy cost.

A period of still greater discoveries was already at hand. "It was in
Portugal," says Ferdinand Columbus, "that the admiral began to surmise
that if men could sail so far south, one might also sail west and find
lands in that direction." The Portuguese were so wedded to the search
for the southeast route, and it was so nearly achieved at this time,
that their interest was but languid in the plans for a search to the
westward. Another people therefore took it up, and soon the exploration
of the New World was in full tide, and the period of pioneer effort
passed into the era of great accomplishment.

Meanwhile Portugal saw the fruition of Prince Henry's work in the
circumnavigation of Africa. Ten years later than the exploit of Diaz,
in 1496, a fleet sailed from Lisbon under Vasco da Gama which was
destined to round the Cape, make its way up the east coast of Africa
till familiar parts of the Indian Ocean were reached; then to sail
across to India, cast anchor, and secure cargo in Calicut and many
other ancient ports; and to return thence safely to its port of
departure. [Footnote: The First Voyage of Vasco da Gama, in Hakluyt
Soc., Publications, 1898.] The Portuguese search for a new route to the
lands of Eastern products was thus successful; and once found, this
path became familiar. The fleet of Cabral in 1500 immediately followed
that of Da Gama, and, driven to the westward as it sailed to the south,
discovered Brazil, as a casual incident of its successful voyage to
India. Thus, if the voyage of Columbus had never been undertaken,
America would have been found within less than a decade.

Albuquerque followed around the southeast passage in 1503; a permanent
traffic between Portugal and India was established, and thereafter
yearly fleets of merchant and war vessels rounded the Cape. Soon most
of the points of vantage of the Indies were in Portuguese control--
Ormuz, Diu, Goa, Ceylon, Malacca--and the enterprising little western
state had trade settlements in Burma, China, and Japan. [Footnote:
Hunter, Hist, of British India, I., 110-133.] The private path of the
Portuguese ultimately became the public highway of the nations. Spain,
Holland, England, and France sent fleets around the Cape of Good Hope,
and made use of the route to the East which the Portuguese had

The actual progress of scientific knowledge and practical equipment for
navigation made at Sagres, Lagos, Lisbon, and on the seas, during the
voyages sent out by Prince Henry and his immediate successors, is
unfortunately not accurately known; but some glimpses of it may be
obtained. "In his wish to gain a prosperous result of his efforts,"
says an almost contemporary historian, "the Prince devoted great
industry and thought to the matter, and at great expense procured the
aid of one Master Jacome from Majorca, a man skilled in the art of
navigation and in the making of maps and instruments, and who was sent
for, with certain of the Arab and Jewish mathematicians, to instruct
the Portuguese." [Footnote: De Barros, Decadas da Asia, quoted in
Beazley, Henry the Navigator, 161.]

When trained Italian navigators applied to Henry, as was the case with
the Venetian Cadamosto, they were readily taken into his service, and
he sent word by them that he would heartily welcome any other such
volunteers. When the prince's work fell into the hands of his nephew,
King John, the latter appointed the German Behaim, of Nuremberg, who
lived in Lisbon from 1480 to 1484, to be one of the four members of his
"Junto de Mathematicos." It was Behaim who introduced to the Portuguese
the improved ephemerides calculated by the German Regiomontanus, and
printed at Nuremberg in 1474. He also improved the astrolabe and the
staff, drew charts and made globes, and accompanied one of the West-
African expeditions in 1489. [Footnote: Major, Prince Henry the
Navigator, 326-328.] Diego Gomez, one of Henry's captains, remarks, in
describing his voyage of 1460, "I had a quadrant with me and wrote on
the table of it the altitude of the arctic pole, and I found it better
than the chart; for though you see your course of sailing on the chart
well enough, yet if once you get wrong it is hard by map alone to work
back into the right course." [Footnote: Quoted, in Beazley, Henry the
Navigator, 297, 298.] Azurara also contrasts the incorrect charts with
which Henry's sailors were provided before their explorations with
those corrected by the later observations. [Footnote: Azurara,
Discovery of Guinea, chap. Lxxvi.] His navigators, therefore, used the
compass, the quadrant, and carefully constructed charts; but their
advances in the use of this equipment are not recorded.

The first portolano to note the discoveries on the coast of Africa made
by the Portuguese was that of Gabriele de Valsecca, of Majorca (1434-
1439). A map drawn by Andrea Bianco, of Venice, at London in 1448,
seems to have been intended especially to indicate them, as it gives
twenty-seven new names along the coast to the south of Cape Boyador.
But the map which was distinctively the outcome of the new discoveries
was the so-called "Camaldolese map of Fra Mauro," drawn by Mauro,
Bianco, and other draughtsmen during the year 1457, in the convent of
Murano in Venice. King Alfonso of Portugal himself paid the expenses of
its construction, and sent charts showing the recent discoveries. It
included all the new knowledge obtained up to that time by Prince
Henry's explorers. It is the first large map drawn with the exactness
and the reliance on observed facts of the portolano, notwithstanding
the fact that it included a larger part of the earth's surface in its
field than any earlier map. Though disappointing in some respects, it
stands in the forefront of improved modern maps, and not unworthily
represents the advance made in the knowledge of the world's surface as
a result of the Portuguese efforts up to that time. The scientific
importance of the discoveries of the Portuguese and the intellectual
alertness of the Italians are alike illustrated by an incident that
occurred at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1491. Columbus
having explained to the sovereigns his scheme for a western voyage to
reach the Indies, most of the Spanish prelates who were present
declared his ideas heretical, supporting themselves upon the authority
of St. Augustine and Nicholas de Lyra. Alessandro Geraldini, an
Italian, preceptor of the royal children, who was standing behind
Cardinal Mendoza at the time, "represented to him that Nicholas de Lyra
and St. Augustine had been, without doubt, excellent theologians but
only mediocre geographers, since the Portuguese had reached a point of
the other hemisphere where they had ceased to see the pole-star and
discovered another star at the opposite pole, and that they had even
found all the countries situated under the torrid zone fully peopled."
[Footnote: Mariejol, L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et Isabelle, 96.] In
ship-building Henry and his navigators made positive progress. The
Venetian Cadamosto testifies that "his caravels did much excel all
other sailing ships afloat." Many varieties of vessels are mentioned in
the records of Prince Henry's time--the barca, barinel, caravel, nau,
fusta; the galley, galiot, galeass, and galleon; the brigantine and
carrack. Of all these the caravel became the favored for the long,
exploring voyages. It was usually from sixty to one hundred feet long
and eighteen to twenty-five feet broad, and of about two hundred tons
burden. It had three masts with lateen sails stretched on the oblique
yards which were swung from the masthead, and was steered, at least
partly, by the turning of these great, swinging sails. [Footnote:
Revista Portuguesa, Colonial (May 20, 1898), 32-52, quoted by Beazley,
Introduction to Azurara's Chronicle (Hakluyt Soc., Publications, 1899,
p. cxii.).] John II. encouraged the immigration of English and Danish
ship-builders and carried improvements still further. The greatest
service to navigation done by Prince Henry and his successors was that
of providing a school of sea-training. Not only were the whole group of
early Portuguese explorers, Henry's own captains, "brought up from
boyhood in the household of the Infant," [Footnote: Azurara, Discovery
of Guinea, chap xiii.] but there was scarcely a name great in
navigation in the succeeding period which had not in some way been
connected with these voyages. Diaz, Da Gama, Albuquerque, Da Cunha,
Cabral, and the other captains who made the Portuguese empire in the
East, Magellan, who found still another way to India by the southwest;
Estevam Gomez, who sailed to the arctic seas; Bartholomew and
Christopher Columbus--were all taught or practised in that school.
Columbus lived in Lisbon from 1470 to 1484, married there the daughter
of Bartholomew Perestrello, the discoverer and captain-general under
Prince Henry of Porto Santo in the Madeiras; and, besides his voyages
on the Mediterranean and to England and Iceland, went repeatedly to the
coast of Guinea and lived for some years in the Madeiras. Between 1477
and 1484 he was regularly engaged in the maritime service of the
Portuguese crown. Besides these great names, many navigators who had
only local repute or have remained nameless were Portuguese in birth
and training, and belonged to the same maritime school. In 1502, close
upon the English grants of exploring and trading rights to the Cabots,
came a similar concession to "Hugh Elliott and Thomas Ashehurst,
merchants of Bristol, and to John Gunsalus and Francis Fernandez, Esq.,
subjects of the king of Portugal." [Footnote: Rymer, Foedera] The
expedition of the French captain De Gonneville to Brazil, in 1503, was
guided by two Portuguese pilots; [Footnote: Pigeonncau, Hist du
Commerce, II, 50.] and twenty of the sailors on Magellan's Spanish
fleet of 1519, besides the commander, were Portuguese. [Footnote:
Navarrete, Coleccion, II, 12] Three vessels from Dieppe, under
Portuguese pilotage, in 1527, rounded the Cape of Good Hope and visited
Madagascar, Sumatra, and the coast of India. [Footnote: De Barros,
Decadas da Asia (Madrid ed., 1615), 42 decade, book V., chap, vi.,

Actual skill in navigating vessels was increased and developed to a
high degree in the struggle with the adverse maritime conditions on the
coast of Africa. The violent and disturbing currents, the terrible surf
of the beaches, the cyclones of the Guinea coast, the trade-winds,
which were always head-winds to the mariners returning from the south-
west, the uncharted reefs and bars, all favored a school of seamanship
which trained the Portuguese and Italian sailors to meet far worse
difficulties than those likely to confront them in the later and more
distant voyages to the westward.

Other experiences of the Portuguese were later utilized by the
Spaniards in their American colonies. The slave-trade was a sombre
precedent, followed only too readily; the system of grants of newly
discovered territory to captains or contractors who would continue its
discovery or conquest, exploit its resources, and pay to the crown a
large share of its products was followed, somewhat intermittently, in
the West Indies and Central and South America. [Footnote: Bourne, Spain
in America, chap. xiv.]

One of the permanent lessons of the Portuguese explorations was the
need for and effectiveness of royal or quasi-royal patronage. Italian
expeditions bore no fruit and could bear none, for this requirement of
patronage was but ill-afforded by her merchant cities or even by her
merchant princes. It was impossible for Venice or Genoa to take a part
in the new discoveries and follow the new lines of trade, not only
because of their unfavorable geographical position, not only because
they were then engaged in a desperate military and economic struggle to
retain their old Levantine trade conquests and connections, not only
because their wealth and prosperity were deeply smitten by their mutual
struggles and their common losses from the repeated blows of the
Ottoman conquest, but because Italy had no royal family to take under
its patronage distant discovery, conquest, trade, and colonization.
Italy furnished most of the knowledge, the skill, and the individual
enterprise that made the great period of explorations; but Portugal,
under the leadership of her great prince, was its true pioneer.




The limits of Portuguese discovery and dominion were soon reached; and
as the fifteenth century advanced, Spain emerged not only as one of the
great powers of Europe but as the first exploring, conquering, and
colonizing nation of America. A century before any other European state
obtained a permanent foothold in the New World, Spain began the
creation of a great colonial empire there, which was soon occupied by
her settlers, administered by a department of her government, converted
by her missionaries, and made famous throughout Europe by the wealth
which it brought to the mother-country. Such a work at such a time
could only be accomplished by a vigorous and rising nation, and, in
fact, Spanish advancement in Europe during this period corresponded
closely with her achievements in America. There are few recorded
instances of a development so rapid and a transformation so complete as
that which took place in Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella, between
1474 and 1516.

For a career destined to be scarcely inferior to that any of the great
empires of history, Spain had at the beginning of this period an
inadequate and undeveloped political organization. Even that royal
power which was the condition precedent to distant conquest and
colonial organization was new. Spanish national unity, royal
absolutism, and religious uniformity, which were famous throughout
Europe in the sixteenth century, were all of recent growth; the
centralized control over all parts of her widely scattered colonies
which Spain, above all colonizing countries, exercised, was a power
attained and a policy adopted only at the moment of the acquisition of
those colonies.

When, in 1474, Isabella inherited the crown of Castille, and, in 1479,
her husband, Ferdinand, became king of Aragon, they united, by close
personal and political bonds, what had formerly been near a score of
domains, variously joined or detached.

The king of Aragon had already incorporated into a personal union three
separate countries--the kingdom of Aragon, the kingdom of Valencia, and
the ancient principality of Catalonia, each with its own body of
representatives, its own law, its peculiar customs, and its separate
administrative systems. Castile was in name a political unity, having
one monarch and one body of estates. Nevertheless its provinces
represented well-marked ancient divisions. Leon had once been a
separate kingdom, and was still coupled with Castile itself in the full
title of that monarchy; while Galicia, Asturias, and the three Basque
provinces were inhabited by peoples of different political history, of
different stock, and living under different customs. Navarre, Granada,
and Portugal, although within the Iberian peninsula, were, at the
accession of Ferdinand and Isabella, still independent; though the
first was destined to be united to Aragon, the second to Castile, and
even the third was to be amalgamated for eighty critical years with the
greater monarchy. Thus Spain was a congeries of states, joined by the
marriage bond of the two rulers of its principal divisions, but by no
means yet a single monarchy or a united nation. It was the work of the
Catholic sovereigns to carry this unification far towards completion by
following common aims, by achieving success in many fields of common
national interest, and by imposing the common royal power upon all
divergent and warring classes and interests in the various Spanish

The personality of Ferdinand and Isabella was the first great factor in
the strengthening of the monarchy; for they were both individuals of
authority, energy, and ability. [Footnote: Burgenroth, Col. Letters and
State Papers, Spain, I., 34, etc.] Their union was the next element;
for the royal power of the united monarchies could be used to break
down opposition in either. Great achievements in Spain and in Europe
increased their authority and power by the prestige of success.
Finally, the discoveries, conquests, and colonization of America gave a
unique position to the rulers of these distant possessions. Not only
did the products of the American mines American commercial taxation
furnish a material basis of strength and influence; not only did a
great commercial marine and a great navy grow up around the needs of
intercourse with the colonies; but the romantic interest of the
discoveries, the wild adventures, and the wonderful success of the
conquistadores, and the extent of the colonies, filled the imagination
and gave an ideal greatness to the monarchs in whose name these
conquests were made, and by whom the New World was ruled.

There was need for all the authority of the new sovereigns at the time
of their accession in 1474. Under the weak rule of Isabella's brother,
Castile had become a prey to disorder amounting almost to anarchy; in
Galicia brigandage was so common as to be unresisted, except by
townsmen staying within walls; in Andalusia private warfare among the
great noble houses had let loose all the forces of disorder and
violence; Isabella's claim to the crown was disputed and her rival
upheld by foreign support. [Footnote: Maurenbrecher, Studien und
Studien, 45, 46.] The united sovereigns met these difficulties with
vigor, and the first two years of Isabella's rule in Castile gave
repeated instances of victorious warfare, of successful assertion of
authority, and of harsh justice. The turbulent districts were reduced
to order and the foreign invader expelled.

The disorder in Andalusia seemed to demand personal action. In 1477,
therefore, the two sovereigns made a formal entry into Seville, and the
queen asserted her royal power in a way that could not be
misunderstood. In true patriarchal fashion she established her tribunal
in the Alcazar, sitting in a chair on an elevated platform surrounded
by her council and officers, in all solemnity and according to
traditional forms, listening to the complaints of high and low, rich
and poor, and granting summary justice to all who claimed it,
irrespective of rank or means. Her decrees were carried out, ill-doers
forced to make amends, and turbulent nobles reduced to promising to
keep the peace. The visit of Isabella to Seville may well be taken as
the beginning of the work of the new monarchy in Spain. [Footnote:
Perez, Los Reyes Catolicos in Sevilla, 1477-1478, p. 13.]

The next step towards an enforcement of royal authority taken by the
new monarchs involved the acknowledgment of an institution seemingly
independent of the monarchy. Spanish cities and communes had at various
times formed hermandads, leagues or brotherhoods, to enforce order, to
support themselves against great nobles, or to strengthen themselves
for the carrying out of some object of common policy. Instances could
be found in which their combined strength had been used against the
king himself or his officials. On the other hand, their united power
had been used efficaciously to form a sort of rural police, each city
undertaking the protection of certain roads and stretches of country.
[Footnote: Antequera, Hist. de la Legislacion Espanola, 194-197.]

Two influential ministers, with the approval of Ferdinand and Isabella,
in 1476, obtained the agreement of the Cortes of Castile and of a junta
of the towns for the formation of a santa hermandad, or "holy
brotherhood," for three years, for which rules were drawn up, submitted
to the monarchs, and filially promulgated. The nobles gave a reluctant
assent to the requirements of these rules, so far as they affected
their estates and vassals. Altogether two thousand horsemen were to be
equipped, each horseman supported by a body of one hundred households.
These were grouped into companies under eight captains and placed in
detachments at certain distances along all the roads. Besides the armed
soldiers of the brotherhood, a whole system of alcaldes was organized
with exclusive jurisdiction over certain kinds of offences. A common
treasury existed for the support of expenses.

When any theft, assault, arson, or rape was discovered or complained
of, immediately the bells Were rung, and the nearest detachment of
soldiers of the brotherhood started on a pursuit which was carried to
the boundaries of the next district, where its detachment took up the
pursuit, and so on until the culprit was seized or the boundaries of
the kingdom reached. No town, house, or castle could refuse the right
of search. When arrested, a decision of the nearest alcalde was given
within five days. If convicted, the culprit had hand or foot cut off or
was put to death. The favorite mode of execution in earlier times had
been to bind the offender to a stake, and shoot him with arrows "till
he died naturally"; but Isabella required that he should be hanged
first, and that only then might his body be used as a target and a
warning for others. The rapidity of pursuit and the certainty of
capture of offenders, the promptitude of justice, and the barbarism of
the punishments made a strong impression; and the combination of
popular vengeance with official sanction made the hermandad an
effective form of national police. It was introduced into Aragon in

Although this system seemed to emanate from the people, the general
control over it was preserved by Ferdinand and Isabella by placing in
influential positions in its administration trusted ministers of their
own, and by joining themselves in its organization. When its work of
insuring order was measurably accomplished and the people began to
complain of its expense, the sovereigns were able to transfer the
military force into a contingent for the Moorish war, and the treasury
into an addition to the commissariat for the same purpose. In 1498 it
was reduced to the proportions of a petty and inexpensive local police.
It had proved itself, as utilized by these strong monarchs, a means of
obtaining order and recruiting an army without cost to the royal

The vigor of the royal administration, however, expressed itself rather
in the development of purely royal organs than in those which were so
largely popular as the hermandad. A group of royal councils became,
under Ferdinand and Isabella, the most powerful instruments of the
royal will, the most effective means for obtaining additional power and
beating down all opposition. Early in the reign, the old royal council,
which traditionally consisted of twelve members, including
representatives of each of the three orders of the state, was
reconstituted so as to consist of one ecclesiastic, three nobles, and
eight or nine letrados, or lawyers. [Footnote: Cortes de los Antiguos
Reinos, 112, etc.] The last class, who made up its majority, were men
learned in the Roman law, and therefore devoted to the idea of absolute
monarchy; without connection with the church or the nobility, and
therefore interested in the strengthening of the kingship against both;
shrewd, trained, capable, and hard working.

From this time forward the council, in constant attendance on the king,
well organized, provided with a corps of clerks and officers, and
holding daily sessions, became the serviceable and effective auxiliary
of royal power. It had duties of consultation, advice, and in some
cases decision, on matters of internal and external policy, of
legislation and administration; and, in fact, of action in the whole
sphere of the affairs of state. In time the council was gradually
subdivided into three bodies: the Council of Justice, the Council of
State, and the Council of the Finances, whose functions were indicated
by their titles. The first of these was, in a certain sense, the direct
representative of the old single royal council, and was frequently
known as the Council of Castile. Its president was always considered
the highest personage in the kingdom, next the king; its members were
of that class of letrados whom the king could most securely rely on,
and to it fell the duty of enforcing the royal supremacy as against all
ancient claims, privileges, and liberties.

In addition to these outgrowths from the primitive council of the king,
new councils were created from time to time, analogous in powers, but
holding oversight over special spheres of national interest. Some of
these were temporary, others permanent. Among them were the Council of
the Hermandad, which lasted only for the twenty-two years of the
existence of that institution; the Council of the Suprema, or of the
Inquisition; the Council of the Military Orders, the Council of the
Indies, and the Council of Aragon. [Footnote: Antequera, Hist. de la
Legislation Espanola, 347, 348.] These great administrative boards were
a characteristic part of the Spanish system of government, a natural
outgrowth of its wide-spread fields of action.

The Council of the Indies was constituted in 1511, under the presidency
of Juan de Fonseca, archdeacon of Seville, and was exactly analogous to
the other councils. It accompanied the king, and had under him all
ultimate control in policy, in jurisdiction, and in legislation over
the Spanish possessions in America and in the East. Its members were
habitually drawn from those men who had had experience as public
servants in the West Indies or in the Philippines. The more direct
oversight of individual voyages to the Indies, the regulation of
details of colonial affairs, and a large sphere of general activity
were possessed by the powerful Casa le Contractacion at Seville. A
Bureau of Pilots also existed, whose office it was to collect nautical
information, provide charts, and give assistance to Spanish navigators.
But both of these offices were under the control of the Council of the
Indies. [Footnote: J. de Veitia Linage, The Spanish Rule of Trade to
the West Indies, trans. by Captain J. Stevens, book I., chap. iii.]

All these councils were stronger in discussion than the execution;
their archives came to include a vast mass of records and special
reports on subjects falling within their respective fields, and their
procedure favored penetrating investigation and full debate. But
decision was hard to come at, and the consciousness that final decision
after all rested with the king paralyzed effectiveness. The custom of
submitting all questions of policy to investigation by the appropriate
council became invariable in later Spanish history, and it resulted in
cumbrous ineffectiveness. Interminable inquiry and discussion ended
frequently only in suspension of judgment or a divided report. Points
of policy of imminent importance had to await a dilatory investigation
and equivocal conclusions. This impotence of the central organs of
government did not come in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella and their
immediate successors, and the growing inefficiency of the councils was
long overcome by the resolution of the monarchs. Nevertheless the
system was part of the price paid for centralized government, acting
independently of local initiative or independence.

The preponderance of power that was being obtained by the sovereigns in
the affairs of central government by means of the royal councils was
gained in the local affairs of provinces, towns, and communes, by the
appointment of corregidores. Such officials were appointed from time to
time by earlier sovereigns to represent them in various towns, but the
system had never been extended widely. In 1480 the king and queen sent
one or more corregidores into every self-governing town and city in
Castile where such officials did not exist already. [Footnote: Pulgar,
Cronita de los Reyes, II., chap. xcv.] They were to act alongside of
the older local regidores and alcaldes as special representatives of
the crown, defending its rights and claims, and fulfilling its duties
of general oversight and protection. As a matter of fact, the great
work they accomplished was the enforcement of royal supremacy over
local privileges. Little by little they extended their powers and
encroached upon the local self-government, bringing to bear all the
weight of the central government upon local conditions. [Footnote:
Mariejol, L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et Isabelle, 172-174.] The steady
pressure of the corregidores was supplemented by the periodical visits
of the pesquidores, veidores, or inspectors, whose duty it from time to
time to visit the various localities, examining into the conduct of the
corregidores and other officials, listening to complaints against them,
reporting on the revenues, condition of the roads, and other local
conditions and needs.

Councils, corregidores, inspectors, and various other instruments of
royal power fast sapped the strength of older institutions and gave
authority and efficiency to the royal government; but they were
expensive and the crown was poor. Moreover, these institutions were
only the permanent elements in a policy which had a thousand temporary
occasions of expense. Not even Ferdinand and Isabella could carry out
so vigorous a regime unless provided with larger revenues. They
determined, therefore, to emancipate the crown from its poverty. A few
years after their accession they felt themselves strong enough,
supported by the representatives of the towns, in the Cortes of Toledo,
to convoke the great nobles and churchmen of the kingdom and demand
from them an investigation into the conditions under which the ancient
domains of the crown had been alienated. [Footnote: Pulgar, Cronica de
los Reyes, II, chap. xcv.; Calmeiro, Introduction to Cortes de los
Antiguos Reinos, II., 63, 64.] The Cardinal Pedro de Mendoza and the
queen's confessor, Ferdinand de Talavera, were appointed to judge of
the propriety of the gifts of former sovereigns. They did their work so
adequately that pension after pension, estate after estate, endowment
after endowment, were resumed by the crown. These resumptions were
principally to the loss of the great noble families which had enriched
themselves at the expense of the crown. None, it is true, were
impoverished thereby, but a more normal relation of comparative income
between sovereign and subject was established in the process.
[Footnote: Mariejol, L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et Isabelle, vi., 24.]
Another and more permanent addition to the royal income was made by the
absorption into the crown of the grand masterships of the three
military orders which existed in Castile, the Knights of Santiago, of
Calatrava, and of Alcantara. In the course of three centuries of
conquest from the Moslems these orders had added estate to estate,
territory to territory, town to town, benefice to benefice, till their
possessions extended widely through Spain, their income perhaps
equalled that of the king, and their rule as landlords extended over
almost a million people, or one-third the population of Castile.
[Footnote: Vicente de la Fuente, Hist Generale de Espana, V., 79.] At
the head of each of these orders was a grand master, whose rich income,
military following, and prestige made him one of the greatest nobles in
Europe. There was reason in the claim that these grand masterships were
antagonistic to royalty. Those who held them were the most turbulent
nobles of Spain, and in earlier times had been the leaders in many a
revolt against the crown. Their military system was co-ordinate with,
and sometimes in conflict with, that of the king; their estates
surrounded royal fortresses and sometimes excluded royal forces from
frontier districts.

In 1487 when the grand mastership of the order of Calatrava became
vacant, Ferdinand presented himself in the chapter of the commanders of
the order, exhibited a papal bull giving him the administration of the
order, and forced the assembly to elect him grand master. In 1494, with
less formality, the grand master of Alcantara was induced to resign to
the king his office, receiving, in recompense, the dignity of
archbishop of Seville. Two years later, when the grand master of the
order of Santiago died, Ferdinand had himself elected without
difficulty. [Footnote: Maurenbrecher, Studien und Skizzen, 54.] Some
time after this Isabella issued a pragmatic decree, declaring that the
grand masterships of the orders should always be annexed to crown.
These dignities were of great value; not only did they bring in a
princely income, but they practically extended the estates and
patronage of the crown by all the broad lands, cities, and villages,
the offices, honors, and benefices with which the piety and chivalry of
three centuries had endowed the orders.

When once such foundations had been laid, the crown extended rapidly
its aggressions upon the old powers, privileges, and customs of classes
and local bodies. To the nobility were interdicted the possession of
fortified castles, the practice of private warfare, the use of
artillery, the duel, [Footnote: Mariejol, L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et
Isabelle, 35.] the use of quasi-royal formulas in their documents,
[Footnote: Cortes de los Antiguos Reinos, IV., 191, 192.] and other
proud old feudal customs. No slight influence was exercised upon the
nobility by the increasing ceremony, size, and expenditure of the
court, to which they came to be attached in positions of nominal
service and honorable dependence, a position altogether favorable to
the supremacy of the monarchs and unfavorable to the independence of
the nobility.

Side by side with the consolidation of royal power went the creation of
the territorial unity of the Spanish peninsula. The greatest step was
the conquest of Granada. Rich, warlike, and proud, this ancient Moorish
state resisted the persistent attacks of the Catholic sovereigns for
eleven years, from 1481 to 1492. [Footnote: Prescott, Ferdinand and
Isabella, chap. ix.] At least once Ferdinand wearied of the struggle
and the expense, and longed to turn the efforts of the united Castilian
and Aragonese arms eastward, where the natural ambitions of his own
kingdom drew him towards France, Italy, and the islands of the
Mediterranean. [Footnote: Mariejol, L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et
Isabelle, 63.] Isabella's determination, however, never wavered, and in
1492 Granada opened her gates to her conquerors, the Moorish dynasty
disappeared from Spain, and their mountains and plains were added to
the kingdom of Castile.

In the very next year Ferdinand reunited to his dominions, by amicable
treaty with the king of France, the two northern provinces of
Catalonia, Cerdagne and Roussillon--which had been detached for thirty
years. There remained Portugal and Navarre. The first of these
independent kingdoms had already attained a degree of national
independence, power, and wealth which prevented its absorption, though
it was in the days of Spain's greatest power to be dragged for eighty
years in her train. Navarre, balanced on the Pyrenees, had long been
drawn alternately to France and to Aragon. In the closing years of the
fifteenth and the opening years of the sixteenth century, neutrality
became impossible; and in 1512 a powerful Spanish army under the duke
of Alva marched into Navarre; its castles and towns capitulated, the
latter under a promise of the maintenance of their privileges; the king
retreated to the trans-Pyrenean part of his kingdom, and Ferdinand
added to his other titles that of king of Navarre. [Footnote:
Boissonade, Reunion de la Navarre a la Castille.] By the time of the
death of Ferdinand, the unity of the peninsula, except for Portugal,
was complete. The immediate successors of the Catholic sovereigns wore
the crowns of all the countries that ever have made part of Spain.

Just as Spain became territorially one, she was made homogeneous in
race and religion so as ultimately to become a land of one race and one
faith. The Jew and the Moor were both destined to disappear; every
element alien in blood and every element unorthodox in religion to be
driven out of the land. This complete purity of blood and unity of
belief were only attained long afterwards, in a period when Spain had
little else than her orthodoxy to pride herself upon, but they were
well begun in the time of the Catholic sovereigns.

The Jews were the first to meet with serious persecution. They were
very numerous: in one town, Ciudad Real, an assessment at one time
showed 8828 heads of families, or other adult males of the Jewish race.
[Footnote: Lea, The Moriscos of Spain, 383.] They were famous as
physicians and merchants, and, as in other lands, were often money-
lenders. From time to time waves of religious antagonism swept over the
country, and under the terrible pressure of slaughter and imminent
danger, great numbers of Jews were baptized and became conversos, or
"New Christians." These converts, freed from the disabilities of their
religion and gifted with superior natural abilities, rapidly attained
to high positions in church and state. Intermarriages between the New
Christians and those of Castilian blood were frequent, and many
families of great eminence had Jewish blood in their veins.

The conversos were under constant suspicion of being Christians only
formally; it was believed that in their hearts they retained their
ancient faith and secretly performed its rites; they were credited with
antagonism to Christianity and suspected of practising sorcery to
destroy the "Old Christians." There was some basis for the first, at
least, of these suspicions. Many doubtless failed to abandon completely
their ancestral ceremonies; and not only they but even some Old
Christians felt the attraction of their mysterious and ancient
traditions. [Footnote: Mariejol, L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et Isabelle,
44.] The practice of Jewish rites, known as "Judaizing," under the wide
relationships and high connections of the conversos, long went on
unchecked. In 1475 the pope conferred on his legate in Castile full
inquisitorial powers to prosecute and punish "Judaizing" Christians;
but the mandate was not carried out. [Footnote: Lea, in Am. Hist. Rev.,
October, 1895, p. 48.]

In 1480, however, the Catholic sovereigns requested from the pope
authorization for the appointment by themselves of inquisitors to root
out this heresy. A bull for the purpose was granted them, and on
September 27, 1480, the Spanish Inquisition was established at Seville.
In January, 1481, it began its work, and branches were gradually
established in other centres till it had extended its tribunals to
cover all Castile. Its work proved heavy; in its first eight years the
tribunal of Seville alone put to death seven hundred persons and
condemned five thousand more to severe penalties. [Footnote: Bernaldez,
Hist. de los Reyes, chap. xliv., quoted by Mariejol, L'Espagne, 46.]
One of the great councils of the realm was formed to direct its
operations, at the head of which was the inquisitor-general. The third
in the line of inquisitors-general extended the Inquisition to America.

The authority of the Inquisition extended only over baptized persons;
and, therefore, Jews who had never given up their religion, although
under many disabilities, were not subject to its jurisdiction; but
immunity to unconverted Jews could not consistently be continued during
a harsh persecution of Judaizing Christians, and from the commencement
of the work of the Inquisition pressure was brought to bear by clergy
and populace upon the sovereigns to force all Jews either to be
baptized or to emigrate. [Footnote: Lea, Religious History of Spain,
437.] The policy of enforced conversion or expulsion was steadily
advocated by the inquisitors; since, if the Jews were baptized they
would come under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition; if they left the
country, Spain would be free from the reproach of harboring heretics.

Isabella seems to have hesitated to carry out this policy, as well she
might. But the tide of popular hatred rose higher and higher, driven on
by the famous case of El Santo Nino de la Guardia, the reputed murder
of a Christian child by Jews to obtain its heart for purposes of
sorcery. [Footnote: Lea, Religious History of Spain, 437-468.] Finally,
by the edict of March 31, 1492, all Jews were expelled from Spain, as
they had been from England as early as 1290, and successively from many
other states of Europe at intervening periods. [Footnote: Amador de los
Rios, Los Judios de Espana y Portugal, III., 603.] The same year that
saw the discovery of America and the capture of Granada saw the
expulsion of some one hundred thousand Jews and the enforced baptism of
the fifty thousand that remained. [Footnote: Isidore Loeb, in Revue des
Etudes Juives, 1887, p. 182, quoted in Lea, The Moriscos of Spain, 16.]
One great and costly step had been made in the direction of unity of
race and religion in Spain.

The Moors in Spain were still more numerous than the Jews, though more
concentrated. Through the later mediaeval centuries, in the process of
reconquest, Moorish populations which made formal surrender were
preserved as subjects of the Christian kings; while those that were
taken prisoners in battle were retained as slaves. Both classes,
protected by the laws in their religion and their property, [Footnote:
Las Siete Partidas, pt. i., tit. v., ley 23, etc., quoted in Lea, The
Moriscos of Spain, 2.] frequently still practised their Mohammedan
faith. Practically the whole rural population of the kingdom of
Valencia was Moorish, and in the cities of the southern provinces of
Castile they made a considerable part of the population. In the century
and a half of peace just preceding the war with Granada they increased
steadily in numbers and in economic value to Spain.

The conquest of Granada, in 1492, brought the population of that
country under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella. The old body of
Moorish subjects of Aragon and Castile, now reinforced by all the
teeming population of the south, made an element of the population of
united Spain of infinite promise. They were skilful, industrious,
temperate, and moral; their agriculture and manufactures were far more
advanced than those of the Christians, and they were more laborious,
thrifty, and peaceable. They might be relied upon to furnish through
taxation a steady and abundant income to the crown, and through their
labor to make the landed estates of the nobles profitable.

Though treaty guarantees and the permanent material interests of the
new sovereigns alike favored the protection and pacification of the
Moorish inhabitants of Granada, other motives antagonized this policy.
Religious enthusiasm and racial antipathy, as well as immediate greed,
urged a disregard of the terms of capitulation, or, at least, such an
interpretation of them as would drive the Moors either to conversion or
exile. The latitudinarianism of earlier centuries had disappeared. The
whole spirit of the time was now averse to tolerance or anything
approaching local, national, or religious independence. At first, under
Talavera, a sincere, earnest, and partially successful effort was made
to convert the Moors individually to Christianity; but soon a demand
arose and became ever more urgent that the Moors, like the Jews, should
be given the simple and immediate alternative of baptism or exile. In
1500 this policy was adopted in Granada; in 1502, by royal edict signed
by Isabella, it was applied to all the dominions of the Castilian
crown; and in 1525 it was promulgated in Aragon, Valencia, and
Catalonia. As a result many of the Moors emigrated to Africa; the rest
became Moriscos--that is to say, Christians in religion, although Moors
in blood. Thus religious uniformity was attained in Spain. In theory,
at least, every inhabitant of the united kingdom was a Catholic
Christian. But the enforced Christianity required of the Moriscos
produced only an outward and imperfect conformity, and the problem of
this alien element remained long unsolved to plague the Spanish
monarchs, and to bring untold misery on the Moriscos themselves.
[Footnote: Lea, The Moriscos of Spain, chaps. v.-xi.]

Thus the fragmentary and embryonic group of Iberian nations of the
fifteenth century grew into the powerful Spanish monarchy of the
sixteenth. A single centralized government was created, and the divided
currents of national life were gathered by it into one great stream.
Notwithstanding many survivals of mediaeval conditions and later
reversions to the earlier type, internal warfare and domestic disorder
disappeared from the peninsula, and divergence of foreign policy no
longer weakened its influence in Europe. The absolute monarchy was
founded, and whatever there was of ability, enterprise, and wealth in
Spain came under its control. The sovereign was in a position to give
patronage to voyages of adventure, to legislate for distant dominions,
and to make the most remote Spanish possessions contributory to the
general objects of Spanish policy.

Spain stood out as one of the greatest states in Europe. With her close
approximation to a united nationality, her all-powerful monarchy, her
highly elaborate bureaucracy, her increasing body of law, soon to be
codified into a great whole, her nascent literature, her military gifts
and resources, the wealth and romance of the Indies, she stood on the
threshold of the sixteenth century with imposing power and dignity. The
part she played during that century was a conspicuous one. Her generals
and her troops became the most famous and the most successful in
Europe. Her diplomatic representatives were able to take the highest
tone and to win most successes among European states, in the
international intrigues of the sixteenth and early seventeenth
centuries. She was rich enough to pension or bribe the ministers and
courtiers of half the courts of Europe, and even to dazzle the eyes and
impose upon the judgment of such a sovereign as James I. of England.
Her literature and her art flourished with her political greatness, and
she had all the external appearance of a great, cultured, and
flourishing nation.

We know now, as was recognized by some observers even then, that Spain
was a hollow shell. After the reign of Charles V. population stood
stationary, or declined, and wealth decreased. Philip II. enforced
orthodoxy, excluded all non-Catholic literature, and summoned home all
Spanish students in foreign universities, thus dooming Spain to
intellectual stagnation. She exhausted her resources in unwise or
hopeless foreign struggles, like the war of conquest of Italy and the
effort to reconquer the Netherlands; she wasted her peculiar
opportunities by driving from her borders the enterprising Jews and
industrious Moriscos, and by allowing commerce and finance to fall into
the hands of foreigners. But most of these errors were, at the death of
Ferdinand, in 1516, still in the future; and the Spanish monarchy and
nation had much of the reality as well as the appearance of greatness.



America's political and social institutions are unquestionably founded
upon those of England, and these will be described in their proper
place in this volume. But the institutions of three other European
nations were for considerable periods dominant in certain parts of the
New World, and have left an impress that is even yet far from being
effaced. They are those of Spain, France, and Holland.

Since the Indies were, in theory, an outlying part of the kingdom of
Castile, they naturally reflected the recently achieved absolutism of
the Spanish monarchy. This absolutism in Castile extended over all
fields--legislation, judicial action, and administrative control.
Although the most formal and permanent statutes were drawn up by the
king with the consent of the cortes, or even at its request, yet the
custom of issuing pragmatica, or ordinances enacted by royal authority,
grew until their provisions filled a large sphere. They were
promulgated on all sorts of subjects, and became, immediately on their
issue, authoritative rules of action. The whole subsequent legislation
for the American colonies, springing as it did from the mere will of
the sovereign, was an outcome of this custom.

The king was the fountain of justice, in whose name or by whose grant
all temporal jurisdiction was exercised. In no country of Europe was
this principle more clearly acknowledged than in Spain. Immediately
attending upon him was an audiencia, or group of judicial officers
whose duty it was to carry out these functions in the most immediate
cases. The audiencia was a high court of law and equity, deciding both
civil and criminal cases; and, as is always the case in early stages of
government, exercising much administrative and financial control
through the forms of judicial action. The insufficiency for these ends
of a peripatetic body bound to follow the king in all his movements was
early recognized, and the royal audiencia was made stationary at
Valladolid. Later a second such court was established, first at Ciudad
Real, then, after the conquest, at Granada. Ultimately others were
organized in Galicia, Seville, Madrid, Burgos, and several additional
centres. The system was early transported and extensively developed in
the American possessions, where twelve independent audience existed.
There, as at home, this court system gradually superseded the more
individual and military rule of the adelantado, which had been
characteristic of the early conquest period. [Footnote: Moses, Spanish
Rule in America, 66, etc] The adelantado was the representative of the
administrative powers of the crown. Five such officials in the
fifteenth century governed respectively the provinces of Castile, Leon,
Galicia, Andalusia, and Murcia; another was appointed over Granada when
it was conquered; and still another administered the temporal affairs
of the vast estates of the archbishopric of Toledo. Their duties were
partly military, partly civil, and under them were subordinate royal
officers with a great variety of titles such as sarjento mayor, alferez
real, alcalde. The title of adelantado was naturally given to Columbus,
Pizarro, and several of the other early conquistadores as the nearest
equivalent to their position as civil and military governors of the
wide-spreading, newly conquered lands of America. [Footnote: Moses,
Spanish Rule in America, 68, 69, 113.] The supremacy of the crown
extended to the church as well as to the state. Spain, in the Middle
Ages and far into modern times, presented the anomaly of a nation and
government most ardently devoted to orthodox Christianity and to the
church, and yet jealous and impatient of the powers of the Pope. In
1482 Isabella protested against the use of a papal provision for the
appointment of a foreign cardinal to a Castilian bishopric, and claimed
a right to be consulted in all ecclesiastical appointments. A serious
contest ensued, the ultimate result of which was that the queen
obtained a clear right of appointment, which, in the reign of Charles
V., was formally recognized as such by the pope. [Footnote: Vicente de
la Fuente, Hist Generate de Espana, V, 150, quoted in Mariejol,
L'Espagne sous Ferdinand et Isabelle, 28.]

This position of the monarchs at home made easy and natural the
adoption of their position of supreme patrons of the church in Spanish
America. In the colonies conquered, settled, and Christianized under
their influence they had a completeness of control, not only over
appointments, but over the establishment of new church centres and the
disposition of the titles to ecclesiastical property generally, which
was quite unknown anywhere in Europe.

The supremacy of the crown in Spain is evidenced in no way more
markedly than by its entire freedom from dependence on the military and
landed classes of the country. Yet the nobility were numerous, rich,
and distinguished. In the sixteenth century there were twelve dukes,
thirteen marquises, and thirty-six counts in Castile, some of whom had
princely estates and power. The heads of such families as that of
Mendoza or Gruzman or Lara or Haro or Medina Celi were among the
greatest men in Europe. Yet the highest of these nobles was still an
immeasurable distance below the king. The option of royal estates, the
seizure of the grand masterships, the enforcement and extension of all
latent powers of the monarchy had freed the Spanish kings from all
danger of control by the great nobility.

The chief characteristic of the Castilian nobility, however, was not
its wealth, but its numbers. Next in rank to the great nobles, or ricos
hombres, were the caballeros, the knights, and below them was a vast
number of hidalgos, mere gentlemen. In Castile all were accounted
gentlemen who were sons of gentlemen, legitimate or illegitimate; all
those who took up their residence in a city newly conquered from the
Moors, providing themselves with horse and arms without engaging in
trade; those who lived without trade in certain provinces and cities
which had that privilege. Whether rich or poor, those who belonged to
the noble class had many privileges: they paid none of the general
taxes; they were free from imprisonment for debt; they had the
preference in appointments to office in state and church; they had
precedence on all public occasions; and, except in case of treason or
heresy, they had the privilege in case of execution of being
decapitated instead of hanged. [Footnote: Mariejol, L'Espagne sous
Ferdinand et Isabelle, 278-284.]

These hidalgos and caballeros, many of them poor, living on inadequate
estates, in service to other nobles or in irregular ways in the towns,
furnished promising material for volunteer forces in war, for distant
conquest, and for an expanding government service; but they were weak
elements of economic progress. The conquistadores of Spanish America,
the soldiers in Italy and the Netherlands, and the drones of Spain were
all to be found among the teeming lower Spanish nobility and gentry.
They made admirable soldiers. With all their pride and all their
indolence, Spanish gentlemen were not too proud to fight, even in the
ranks and afoot; or too lazy to endure effort and privation when they
were for a military end. The Spaniards as a race were then, as now,
abstemious, and could make long marches on a slender commissariat. Many
of them were used to the extremes of heat and cold of the mountainous
regions of their native country, and were fitted for the most trying of
long campaigns, All the material was ready to the hand of the king for
use in his European campaigns, or to be let loose for adventure in
America. With this acknowledged position of legislative, judicial,
administrative, and ecclesiastical supremacy at home; with the headship
of a numerous, loyal, and warlike nobility; with the possession of a
numerous trained official class, it was easy for the Spanish monarchs
to impose a centralized and homogeneous system of despotic government
upon the distant and widespread colonies of America.

The assertion of the absolute authority of the king over the Indies was
never neglected or allowed to lapse. The adventurers who discovered and
explored the West Indies, Central and South America, Mexico, and much
of what is now territory of the United States; the captains who
conquered these lands; the governors who organized and ruled them; the
colonists who occupied them--all drew their permission so to act from
the king, or if they went beyond their commissions quickly legitimated
their actions by an appeal to him for an act of indemnity and a more
adequate commission. Foreigners were by the edict of the king excluded
from the Spanish possessions, or permitted a narrow field of action
there; the policy of the colonies in matters of trade, relations with
the natives, religion, and finance was dictated by the king. Upon the
advice of his Council of the Indies he issued a continuous series of
rules and ordinances, and finally drew up for the American possessions
the "New Laws."

Yet supreme over her colonies as was the absolute monarchy of Spain, a
false idea of their condition would be obtained if it were forgotten
that the monarchy was only one of the national institutions. Other
political habits of the people were firmly established as well as that
of subserviency to the crown. Spain was the classic land of
participation of all classes in government through the cortes; almost
as old as the monarchy were the fueros, or franchises and charters;
protected by these fueros, the cities and towns had become numerous,
powerful, and almost self-governing; and even rural communities had in
many cases a complicated and semi-independent system of control of
their own affairs.

The cortes may be neglected here, since no such representative body
ever arose in the colonies; but the same is not true of local self-
governing municipalities. Not only were they characteristic of Spain,
but analogous institutions were established as a Spanish population
grew up and was organized in the Indies, where there was a strong
tendency to revert to practical self-government and thus to defeat the
centralizing policy of the monarchy.

Several hundred cities, towns, and rural communities in Spain held
fueros granted to them by the king, a great noble, or some
ecclesiastical body. These charters in many cases dated from the
eleventh or twelfth century and conceded the most extensive rights and
privileges. Under them townsmen could surround themselves with a wall,
organize a military force, elect their own magistrates, judge their own
inhabitants, collect their own taxes, pay only a fixed sum to the
crown, and in other ways live almost as a separate political body under
the general protection only of the king. [Footnote: Antequera, Hist. de
la Legislation Espanola, 128-139.]

Notwithstanding many differences among the towns in size, character,
and political privileges, among those of Castile there was a certain
similarity of organization which may be described as follows, and may
be looked upon as the type on which municipalities in Spanish America
were originally constructed. [Footnote: Bourne, Spain in America, chap.

The citizens who possessed full political rights were known in the most
general sense as vecinos; when acting as electors they were spoken of
as forming the concejo, cabildo, or council. The actual body which met
and directed municipal affairs was the ayuntamiento, made up of the
more important magistrates and officials, of whom there was usually a
considerable number and variety. The alcaldes exercised judicial
functions, both civil and criminal; the regidores had charge of the
administrative work of the community; the corregidores of its oversight
in the interest of the king; the alguazil mayor commanded the military
forces; the mayor domo had the oversight of the town property. In some
towns one or more of the alcaldes had the title of alcalde mayor, and
held a presiding function. There were various lower officials, such as
alarifes, rayones, and others in great variety. [Footnote: Antequera,
Hist. de la Legislation Espanola, App. ix., 542.] The town officials
were in some cases appointed by the king, in others elected by the
vecinos, in still others divided between royal and local appointment.
They were usually drawn from the body of the citizens, but in some
cases from gentlemen or even noblemen who had houses in the town or
simply owned property there.

This municipal organization and certain other ancient institutions
tended to reappear in the colonies, and thus to modify and limit that
absolutism of the central government which was without doubt the
leading characteristic of the Spanish colonial system. The provincial
interests of the colonists also opposed the monarchy. The great
distance of the colonies from Spain, the rigidity of official custom,
the difference between the interests of the colonists and the desires
of the government, and the lack of vigor at home combined to prevent a
really effective control of the colonies. "Obedezcase, pero no se
cumpla" (Let it be obeyed, but not enforced) was a saying sufficiently
descriptive of the attitude of the colonies towards unpopular decrees
from home.

The servitude of men of dependent races, which became such a
fundamental characteristic of Spanish America, is an instance of this
incompleteness of control by the central government. Slavery was a
product of American conditions and was not general in the mother-
country. A small number of Moorish slaves captured in war and of
negroes imported through Portugal were scattered through Spain, but
they did not form a class, and were protected rather than depressed by
the law. [Footnote: Lea, The Moriscos of Spain, 2.]

Slavery in America was always distasteful to the home government, and
only reluctantly permitted because of the apparent necessities of the
case and in the hope of ameliorating the lot of the Indians. The whole
plan of the asiento was based on the principle of regulating and
limiting slavery. The shameful extermination of the native races of the
West Indies is a long, sad history of kindly intentions and wise
regulations on the part of the home government, made nugatory by the
determined self-interest and heartless cruelty of the colonists.
[Footnote: Lea, "The Indian Policy of Spain" (in Yale Review, August,
1899); Bourne, Spain in America, chap. xviii.] The fervor of Las Casas
could readily obtain from the Spanish monarchs proclamations declaring
the freedom of the Indians and even definite statutes providing for
their good treatment; but neither his fervor nor the monarch's power
could secure the enforcement of the laws or save the miserable natives.
[Footnote: Lea, "The Indian Policy of Spain" (Yale Review, August,
1899), 132, 135, 138, 141, 143. etc]

In theory the Spanish sovereigns ruled the Indies with an autocratic
sway. In practice the colonies were governed by a bureaucracy or, more
commonly, allowed to drift. Yet by the forms of Spanish rule they were
deprived of all wholesome local freedom, of all power of independent
action, and of all deliberate choice of their own policy. They did not,
therefore, develop during their colonial period a robust provincial
life and character; and only late and with great difficulty did they
struggle into independence and obtain self-government. [Footnote:
Paxson, The Independence of the South-American Republics, chap. i.]

The institutions of France which were transferred to the New World or
which exercised a direct influence on its political development belong
to a period a century or a century and a half later than those of Spain
which have just been described. Yet during that period there had been
no essential alteration in the general direction of political
development in France, and the system which Canada reflected in the
seventeenth century was a more elaborate rather than a different system
from that of the sixteenth. This development had, indeed, been in
progress since the Hundred Years' War, and consisted in the steady rise
of the power of the centralized monarchy. In Spain we have seen a
sudden growth of absolutism and centralization within one reign. In
France the foundation of the absolute monarchy was laid earlier, it was
constructed more uniformly, and the resulting edifice was more firm and

The extension of the royal household, the sub-division of the royal
councils, the creation of the parlements, [Footnote: Lavisse, Histoire
de France, V., pt. i., 215.] the appointment of governors of provinces,
bailiffs, and intendants, and the establishment of a complicated
hierarchy of financial and judicial officers and official bodies,
[Footnote: Ibid., V., 247.] were processes which arose from the
fundamental conditions of France and from the genius of her government.
In this development there were periods of rapid growth, as that of
Francis I.; of temporary reaction, as that of the religious wars. Of
the periods of the former none was more important and definitive than
that which was in progress during the years in which Canada was
struggling into existence--that is to say, the reigns of Henry IV. and
Louis XIII., from 1589 to 1643. By the latter date, that of the
accession of Louis XIV., the work was accomplished. France was, in
theory and in practice, a despotism. It was so in theory, for Louis
himself could declare, "All power, all authority, are in the hand of
the king, and there can be none other in the kingdom than those which
be established there." The epigram attributed to that monarch, "L'etat,
c'est moi," was not an exaggerated description of the royal functions,
according to the views of the king and of his most thoughtful
ministers. "The ruler ought not to render accounts to any one of what
he ordains. ... No one can say to him, 'Why do you do thus?'" said
Bossuet. In his copy-book as a child Louis XIV. was taught to write,
"To kings homage is due; they do what they please." In practice the
absolute power was no less a reality, since by royal decree the king
not only made war and peace, determined upon foreign and internal
policy, established religion, and codified law, but also disposed of
the property of his subjects through arbitrary taxation. A systematic
scheme of government, in which all lines should converge upward to the
sovereign, could be drawn more justly for France in the seventeenth
century than for any political structure since the Notitia Dignitatum
was drawn up for the later Roman Empire.

The royal government was as simple territorially as it was in
functions. It extended over all the territory of France and of the
French possessions beyond the seas. Instead of a collection of
provinces, of some of which the king was direct ruler, of others only
feudal lord, as had been his position in the fourteenth century, he was
now king equally over every one of his subjects in every part of his
dominions. The administration of this territory had been transferred
from its feudal lords to the king by the appointment in the fifteenth
century of governors of the provinces, whose position was almost that
of viceroys.

An even more effective instrument of royal control was afterwards
created in the form of the intendants. Dating in their beginning from
the middle of the sixteenth century, reintroduced by Henry IV. in his
reconstruction of France after the religious wars, [Footnote: Rambaud,
Hist. de la Civilisation Francaise, I., 537.] these officials were
settled upon by Richelieu in the period between 1624 and 1641 as the
principal agents and representatives of royal power. Eventually each
province had its intendant alongside of the governor, and these thirty-
four officials exercised the real government over France. They were
drawn not from the great nobility, as were the governors, but from the
petty nobility or purely official class; they had no local connections
or interests apart from the crown which they served; they could be
removed at will; they exercised powers only by consent and direction of
the crown; they were, therefore, absolutely dependent. On the other
hand, they were habitually invested with powers of almost unbounded
extent. They could withdraw cases from the ordinary judges and hear and
decide them themselves; they recruited and organized the army; they had
oversight of the churches, the schools, roads, canals, agriculture,
trade, and industries; they must see that peace was kept; and they must
watch over and report on the actions of all other royal officials in
the province, including the governor. It was the intendant who made the
despotic government of the king a reality. John Law declared, in a
letter to D'Argenson, that "this kingdom of France is governed by
thirty intendants."

This despotism undoubtedly made France great, but it cost a terrible
price. Like all supreme powers, it was jealous, and suffered no other
public institutions to exist alongside of it. In competition with its
power all older bodies became weak. The Estates General did not meet
again after 1614; the parlements humbled themselves; provincial,
municipal, and communal governments dropped into obscurity; the
individual man, unless he was a functionary, lost all habit of
political initiative, independence, or criticism. The mighty machine of
the government was too vast, too complicated, and too distant for the
common man to do aught but submit himself to it and lose much of his
individual force thereby.

Enforced orthodoxy in religion was a natural outcome of the unity and
symmetry of government; hence, notwithstanding the large number of
Huguenots, the economic value of the Protestant element in the
population, and the tolerance which might be expected from so
enlightened a government, the Edict of Nantes was repealed in 1685,
and, theoretically at least, all the population of France and of the
French possessions were after this time orthodox Catholic Christians,
thus again obtaining uniformity, but at the price of almost irreparable
loss of population and of activity of mind.

Yet alongside this supreme despotic government had been preserved
certain relics of feudalism. The sovereigns and great ministers who had
humbled the aristocracy did not wish to humiliate it. While depriving
the nobles of all political power they had carefully preserved to them
their social privileges. This was done partly by giving them a favored
position in the administration of the great machine of centralized
royal government, partly by allowing the continuance of old feudal
privileges. To the nobles were reserved all the higher positions in the
army, navy, civil service, administration of the provinces, and in the
church; [Footnote: Rambaud, Hist. de la Civilisation Francaise, II.,
75-78.] and the government of French possessions beyond the seas was in
almost all cases given to noblemen.

Of the feudal privileges of the nobility a number were profitable in
money or gratifying to pride. Every landed noble had some degree of
jurisdiction, frequently that of "high, mean, and petty justice"--that
is to say, the right of trying and settling a large variety of judicial
matters among his tenants; his right of punishment extending in some
cases even to the infliction of the death penalty. He had the right to
receive certain payments upon every sale or lease of the lands of any
inhabitant of his fief; he received fees upon sales of cattle, grain,
wine, meat, and other articles within the limits of his lands; he alone
had the privilege of hunting and fishing or of collecting a fee for
granting the privilege to others; and he alone could keep a dove-cote
or a rabbit-warren; he had the banalites--i.e., the right of requiring
all tenants on his estates to grind their grain at his mill and to bake
at his oven; he had corvees--the right to a certain amount of unpaid
labor from his tenants; his land was exempt from the taille, the most
burdensome of taxes; and he had many other and diverse seigneurial
rights, often, indeed, more vexatious to the tenant than they were
profitable to the seigneur. [Footnote: Rambaud, Hist. de la
Civilisation Francaise, II., 84-90.] These rights of land-holders were
survivals from an earlier period; but they were survivals which still
had great value and considerable vitality. Although permitted to exist
by the absolute monarchy, they were in reality antagonistic to it in
spirit, and might at any time, and actually did, become a serious
disadvantage to it. Among the more primitive surroundings of Canada
these privileges of a landed aristocracy obtained new life and vigor,
and feudalism played a conspicuous if not a leading part in the
troubled history of that colony. [Footnote: Parkman, The Old Regime in
Canada, chaps. xii.-xv.]

Of the political institutions of Holland not so much need be said, for
New Netherland was a commercial not a political creation, the factory
of a trading company, not a self-governing colony. Yet, under the
general control of the West India Company, municipal institutions were
established at Manhattan, and in the form of the patroonships feudal
powers were granted to large landholders along the Hudson and Long
Island Sound; and in both these cases the models were drawn in large
part from the home land.

The United Netherlands was a confederation of seven provinces, Holland
being far the most influential. But Holland itself, as was true of the
others, was in many respects a confederation of municipalities. The
peculiar history of the country had been such that from a comparatively
early period the towns and cities had obtained charters from their
overlord, the count of Holland, or from lesser noblemen, granting them
the most extensive rights and privileges. These rights had continued to
be extended till the power of the count within the towns was narrowly
restricted. His representative was the schout, but that official
exercised rather a prosecuting and executing than an independent power,
bringing offenders before a town court, [Footnote: Davies, History of
Holland, I., 77.] and carrying out its judgments.

The schepens who made up this court, with two or more burgomasters and
a certain number of prominent citizens, organized as a council or
vroedschap, carried on the affairs of the city, making its laws,
exercising its jurisdiction, and administering its finances in almost
entire independence of the central government. [Footnote: Fruin,
Geschiedniss der Staatsinstellingen in Nederland,68, 69.] The
representatives of the larger towns, along with the deputies of the
nobles, also made up the states of Holland, any one city having the
right of veto in any proposed national action. [Footnote: Davies,
History of Holland, I, 85.] Outside of the towns the open country was
either domains of the count, or fiefs held from him by church
corporations or nobles. On the latter many old feudal powers survived
through the sixteenth century. The nobles exercised always low and
sometimes high jurisdiction, they taxed their own tenants, they carried
on private war with other nobles, and they enjoyed an exemption from
the payment of taxes. The feudal conditions in these rural domains and
the highly developed internal organization of the cities seem at first
glance diametrically opposed; but, after all, their relation to the
central government was much the same, the city being treated as a fief
held by its council; [Footnote: Jameson, in Magazine of Am. Hist.,
VIII., chap, i, 316.] and as a matter of fact it was these two
institutions which were introduced into New Netherland. [Footnote:
O'Callaghan, Documentary History of New York, I., 385-394.]




The priority of Portugal and Spain in distant adventure did not secure
them from the competition of the other nations of Europe, whose
awakening activity, ambition, and enterprise perceived clearly the
advantages of the New World and of the new routes to the south and
east. Almost within the first decade of the sixteenth century an
Englishman cries out: "The Indies are discovered and vast treasures
brought from thence every day. Let us, therefore, bend our endeavors
thitherwards, and if the Spaniards or Portuguese suffer us not to join
with them, there will be yet region enough for all to enjoy."
[Footnote: Lord Herbert (1511), quoted in Macpherson, Annals of
Commerce, II., 39.] Soon England, France, and the Netherlands were
sending exploring and trading expeditions abroad, and somewhat later
they all aimed at colonial empires comparable with that of Spain. These
colonial settlements were chiefly made for commercial profit and
depended closely on a new and peculiar type of commercial organization,
the well-known chartered companies. It was these companies which
established the greater number of American colonies, and the ideals,
regulations, and administrative methods of corporate trading were
interwoven into their political fabric.

Revolutions in commerce have been as frequent, as complete, and, in the
long run, as influential as have been revolutions in political
government. Europe in the fifteenth century had a clearly marked and
well-established method of international commerce; yet before the
sixteenth century was over a fundamentally different system grew up,
which was destined not only to characterize trade during the next two
hundred years, but, as has been said, to exercise a deep influence on
the settlement and government of colonies in general and on the policy
of their home governments.

A complete contrast exists between international trade in 1400 and
1600. The type of commerce characteristic of the earlier period was
carried on by individual merchants; that belonging to the later period
by joint-stock companies. Under the former, merchants depended on
municipal support and encouragement; under the latter they acted under
charters received from national governments. The individual merchants
of the earlier period had only trading privileges; the organized
companies of the later time had political powers also. In the fifteenth
century the merchants from any one city or group of cities occupied a
building, a quarter, or fondaco, in each of the foreign cities with
which they traded; in the seventeenth they more usually possessed
independent colonies or fortified establishments of their own on the
coasts of foreign countries. In the earlier period trading operations
were restricted to Europe; in the later they extended over the whole

The essential elements of the organization of trade at the period
chosen for this description are its individual character, its
restriction to well-marked European limits, and its foundation upon
concessions obtained by town governments.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century there were five principal
groups of trading cities, whose merchants carried on probably nine-
tenths of the commerce of Europe. These groups were situated: (1) in
northern Italy; (2) in southern France and Catalonia; (3) in southern
Germany; (4) in northern France and Flanders; (5) in northern Germany.
Two of them were in the south of Europe, and found their most
considerable function in transmitting goods between the Levant and
Europe; the Hanse towns of northern Germany, at the other extremity of
Europe, carried the productions of the Baltic lands to the centre and
south; the Flemish and south German groups, intermediate between the
two, exchanged among themselves and transmitted goods from one part of
Europe to another. There were of course, vast differences of
organization among the trading towns. Venice and Cologne, Barcelona and
Augsburg, Bruges and Lubeck were too far separated in distance,
nationality, the nature of their trade, and the degree of their
development to have the same institutions. And yet there were many

The city authorities obtained for their citizens the privileges of
buying and selling within certain districts and under certain
restrictions, and very frequently of having their own warehouses,
dwelling houses, and selling-places. Examples are to be found in the
fondachi of Venice, Genoa, and other Italian, French, and Catalan
cities, established in the Greek and Mohammedan districts of the
eastern Mediterranean, on the basis of grants given by the rulers of
those lands and cities. Just as characteristic examples can be found in
western Europe; in London the "Steelyard" was a group of warehouses,
offices, dwellings, and court-yards owned jointly by the towns of the
Hanseatic League, and occupied by merchants from those towns who came
to England to trade under the concessions granted them by the English
government. [Footnote: Lappenberg, Geschichte des Hansischen Stahlhofes
zu London.] The south Germans had their fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice,
and the north Germans their "St. Peter's Yard" in Novgorod. The
Venetian merchants trading to the city of Bruges usually met for
mercantile purposes in the house of a Flemish family named Van de
Burse, a name which is said to have given the word "bourse" to the
languages of modern Europe. [Footnote: Mayr, in Helmolt, History of the
World, VII., 81.]

The union among the merchants of any one city or league was one for
joint trading privileges only, not for corporate investment or
syndicated business. Each merchant or firm traded separately and
independently, simply using the warehouse and office facilities secured
by the efforts of the home government, and enjoying the permission to
trade, exemption from duties, and whatever other privileges might have
been obtained for its merchants by the same power. The necessity for
obtaining such concessions arose from the habit of looking at all
international intercourse as to a certain degree abnormal, and of
disliking and ill-treating foreigners. Hence the Germans in London, the
Venetians in Alexandria, the Genoese in Constantinople, for instance,
needed to have permission respectively from the English, the Mameluke,
and the Greek governments to carry on their trade. Although they found
it highly desirable for many reasons to hold a local settlement of
their own in those cities, such a possession was not a necessary
accompaniment of the individual and municipally regulated commerce of
the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. Where but a few
traders made their way to any one market, and that only irregularly,
they lodged with natives, sold their goods in the open market-place,
organized no permanent establishment, and had no consulate. On the
other hand, where trade was extensive and constant, the settlement was
like a part of the home land located in the midst of a foreign

As the fifteenth century progressed many influences combined to bring
about a change in this system. The most important one of these
influences was the growth of centralized states in the north, centre,
and west of Europe. As Russia, Denmark, Sweden, England, Burgundy, and
France became strong, the self-governing cities within these countries
necessarily became politically weak; and the trading arrangements they
had made among themselves became insecure. Strong nationalities were
impatient of the claims of privilege made by foreigners settled or
habitually trading in their cities; the interests of their own
international policy often indicated the desirability of either
favoring or opposing bodies of merchants, which in the time of their
weakness the governments had treated with exactly the opposite policy;
finally, the desire of their own citizens for the advantages of their
own foreign trade often commended itself to the rulers as an object of
settled policy. [Footnote: Schanz, Englische Handelspolitik.] In other
words, national interests and municipal interests were often opposed to
one another.

Internal difficulties in many cities and internal dissensions in the
leagues of cities helped to weaken the towns as guarantors of the trade
of their citizens. As a result of these political influences, before
the fifteenth century was over the distribution of commerce was much
changed and municipal control was distinctly weakened. The Italian and
the German cities became less active and wealthy, while London, Lisbon,
Antwerp, and many other centres grew richer. Individual cities and even
leagues of cities ceased to be able to negotiate with other
municipalities or with potentates to obtain trading privileges for
their citizens, since such matters were now provided for by commercial
treaties formed by national governments. One of the main
characteristics of earlier commerce, its dependence on city
governments, thus passed away.

Then came the opening up of direct commerce by sea with the East
Indies, the discovery of America, and the awakening of ambition,
enterprise, and effort on the part of new nations to make still further
explorations and to develop new lines of commerce. The old organization
of commerce was profoundly altered when its centre of gravity was
shifted westward to the Atlantic seaboard, and Europe got its Oriental
products for the most part by an ocean route. Cities which had for ages
had the advantage of a good situation were now unfavorably placed.
Venice, Augsburg, Cologne, and a hundred other towns which had been on
the main highways of trade were now on its byways. Many of these towns
made strenuous, and in some cases and for a time successful, efforts to
conform to the new conditions. [Footnote: Mayr, in Helmolt, History of
the World, VII, 64-66.] Vigorous industry, trade, and commerce
continued to exist in many of the old centres, and some of the most
famous "merchant princes" of history, such as the Fuggers and the
Medici, built up their fortunes in the old commercial cities in the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Nevertheless, these were the
exception rather than the rule, and such successes were due to
financial rather than commercial operations. In a general sense the old
commerce of Europe, so far as it followed its accustomed lines,
suffered a grievous decline. More important than the decay of the old
method was the growth of the new. A vast mass of new trade came into
existence; spices and other Oriental products, now that they were
imported by the Portuguese and afterwards by Spanish, Dutch, French,
and English, by direct routes and by water carriage, were greatly
cheapened in price, and thus made attainable by many more people and
much more extensively consumed. The early explorers of America failed
to find either the route to the East or the Eastern goods which they
sought, but they found other articles for which a demand in Europe
either already existed or was ultimately created. Sea-fish abounded on
the northeastern coasts of America to a degree that partially made up
their loss to the disappointed seekers for a northwest passage. Whale
oil and whalebone were obtained in the same waters. Dye-woods, timber,
and ship stores were found on the coasts farther south. Furs became one
of the most valued and most permanent imports from America. Gradually,
as habits in Europe changed, other products came to be of enormous
production and value. Sugar stands in the first rank of these later
products; tobacco, cocoa, and many others followed close upon it. As
colonists from Europe became established in the New World they must be
provided with European and Asiatic goods, and this gave additional
material for commerce. Besides creating an increased commerce with the
East and a new commerce with the West, the awakened spirit of
enterprise and the new discoveries widened the radius of trade of each
nation. Men learned to be bold, and the merchants of each European
country carried their national commerce over all parts of Europe and
far beyond its limits to the newly discovered lands. English, Dutch,
French, and Danish merchants met in the ports of the White Sea and in
those of the Mediterranean, and competed with one another for the
commerce of the East and the New World. Trading to a distance was the
chief commercial phenomenon of the sixteenth century, and was more
influential than any other one factor in the transformation of commerce
then in progress. Distant trading proved to have different requirements
from anything that had gone before: it needed the political backing of
some strong national government; it needed, or was considered to need,
a monopoly of trade; and it needed the capital of many men.

These requirements were not felt in Portugal and Spain as they were in
the other countries of Europe, because each of those countries had
control of an extensive and lucrative field of commerce, and because in
them government itself took the direction of all distant trading. The
Portuguese monopoly of the trade with the coast of India and with the
Spice Islands was practically complete. Through most of the sixteenth
century her ships alone rounded the Cape of Good Hope; her only rivals
in trade in the East were the Arabs, who had been there long before
her, and their traffic was restricted to a continually diminishing

Until Portugal was united with Spain in 1580, and after that until
Holland broke in on the Portuguese-Spanish monopoly of the East Indies
in 1595, her control of Eastern commerce was as nearly perfect as could
be wished. [Footnote: Cunningham, Western Civilization, II., 183-190.]
Government regulation of this commerce extended almost to the entire
exclusion of individual enterprise. The fleets which sailed to the East
Indies were determined upon, fitted out, and officered by the
government, just as those of Venice were. [Footnote: Saalfeld,
Geschichte des Portugessche Kolonialwesens, 138, etc., quoted in
Cunningham, II., 187.] The Portuguese annual fleet sent to the Indies
counted sometimes as many as twenty vessels. In the one hundred and
fifteen years between 1497 and 1612 eight hundred and six ships were
sent from Portugal to India, [Footnote: Hunter, Hist. of British India,
I., 165.] all equipped for the voyage and fitted out by the government
with cannon and provided with armed forces.

The management of the fleet was in the hands of the government office
known as the Casa da India. The merchants who shipped goods in these
vessels and brought cargoes home in them were, it is true, independent
traders, carrying on their business as a matter of private
enterprise;[Footnote: Cunningham, Western Civilization, II., 187.] but
they were subject to government regulations at every turn and supported
by government at every step. At first foreign merchants were admitted
to the Eastern trade under these conditions, but subsequently it was
restricted to Portuguese, and ultimately became a government monopoly.
Under this system Lisbon became one of the greatest commercial cities
of the world. Venetian, Florentine, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, and
Hanse merchants took up their residence in Lisbon, purchased East
Indian goods from the merchants who imported them, and dealt in other
imports and exports resulting from this activity of trade.[Footnote:
Mayr, in Helmolt, History of the World, VII., 70.] In Spain the
government regulation of commerce was scarcely less close. All goods
which were sent from Spain to America must be shipped from the one port
of Seville, and they must be landed at either one or other of two
American ports--Vera Cruz, in Mexico, or Portobello, on the Isthmus of
Panama. Two fleets were sent from Seville each year, one for each of
these destinations. All arrangements for these fleets, all licenses for
those who shipped goods in them, and all jurisdiction over offences
committed upon them were in the hands of the government establishment
of the Casa de Contractacion at Seville. [Footnote: Veitia Linage,
Spanish Rule of Trade to the West Indies, book I., chap. iii.] No
intruders were allowed in the Spanish colonies; the only persons who
could take part in the trade were merchants of Seville, native or
foreign, who were specially licensed by the government. Monopoly as
well as government support was thus secured to the distant traders
between Spain and her colonies in the West and in the East Indies.

For two hundred years this system of government fleets in Portugal and
Spain was kept almost intact. Since the government provided merchants
with military defence and economic regulation, since it minimized
competition among them and guaranteed to them a monopoly of commerce in
the regions with which they traded, there was small need of
organization or of a union of forces among them. Consequently
commercial companies are almost unknown in Portuguese and Spanish
history. [Footnote: Moses, Spanish Rule in America, 166-171.] In Spain
and Portugal government control of trade was at a maximum. In the other
countries of Europe, notwithstanding occasional plans for such control,
as in the Netherlands in 1608, [Footnote: Jameson, Usselinx,43.] the
part which government took in commercial matters was much less, the
part taken by private merchants was far greater. In fact, many of the
earliest trading ventures were of an almost purely individual
character. The patent given by Henry VII. to the Cabots in 1497,
similar letters granted in 1502 to certain merchants of Bristol,
[Footnote: Rymer, Faidera (2d ed.), XIII., 37.] a grant to Robert
Thorne in 1527, the long series of authorized expeditions from 1575 to
1632 in search of the northwest passage, the charters given to Humphrey
Gilbert in 1578 and to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584, and many other
patents made out in the sixteenth century to prospective colony
builders, all were granted to individuals or to groups of loosely
organized adventurers. [Footnote: Brown, Genesis of the United States,
I., 1-28.] In contrast both with government--controlled commerce and
with purely private trading and enterprise, the chartered companies of
England, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark arose. They were by no
means self-controlled and independent companies; they were dependent on
their governments for many rights and privileges and for constant
support, protection, and subsidy. On the other hand, the governments
expected them not only to develop a profitable trade but to furnish
certain advantages to the nation, such as the creation of colonies, the
increase of shipping, the provision of materials for use in the navy,
the humiliation of political rivals, the preservation of a favorable
balance of trade, and ultimately the payment of imposts and the loan of
funds. They stood, therefore, midway between unregulated individual
trading, in which the government took no especial interest, and that
complete government organization and control of trade which has been
described as characterizing the policy of Portugal and Spain.

Some fifty or sixty such companies, nearly contemporaneous, and on the
same broad lines of organization, are recorded as having been chartered
by the five governments mentioned above, a few in the second half of
the sixteenth century, the great proportion within the seventeenth
century. [Footnote: Some are enumerated in Cawston and Keane, Early
English Chartered Companies, a still larger number in Bonnassieux, Les
Grandes Compagmes du Commerce.] Of course, some of these companies were
still-born, never having gone beyond the charter received from the
government; some existed only for a few years; and some were simply
reorganizations. The formation of these companies marks a distinct
stage of commercial development, and furnishes a valuable clew to the
foundation and early government of European colonies in America.

England, Holland, France, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as Scotland and
Prussia, each had an "East India Company"; Holland, France, Sweden, and
Denmark each had a" West India Company"; England, Holland, and France
each had a "Levant" or "Turkey Company"; England and France each had an
"African Company"; and a date might readily be found in the seventeenth
century when all these were in existence at the same time. The
following list of such companies shows their number and simultaneity.
The list cannot claim to be exhaustive or absolutely accurate, for the
history of many such organizations is extremely obscure, the dates of
their foundations questionable, and some companies chartered at the
time were, perhaps, not commercial in their nature.

1554. (English) Russia or Muscovy Company.

1576. (English) Cathay Company (first).

1579. (English) Baltic or Eastland Company.

1581. (English) Turkey or Levant Company.

1585. (English) Morocco or Barbary Company.

1588. (English) African Company (first).

1594. (Dutch) Company for Distant Lands.

1596. (Dutch) Greenland Company.

1597-1599. (Dutch) East India Companies (early).

1598-1599. (French) Canadian Companies (early).

1600. (English) East India Company.

1602. (Dutch) East India Company.

1602. (French) Company of New France.

1604. (French) North African Company (first).

1604. (French) East India Company (first).

1606. (English) London and Plymouth Companies.

1609. (English) Guiana Company.

1610. (English) Newfoundland Company. 1611. (French) East India Company

1612. (English) Bermuda Company.

1614. (Dutch) Company of the North, or Greenland Company.

1615. (French) East India Company (third).

1616. (Danish) East India Company (first).

1618. (English) African Company (second).

1619. (Danish) Iceland Company (first).

1620. (English) New England Company.

1620. (French) Montmorency Company.

1621. (Dutch) West India Company.

1624. (Swedish) Company for Asia, Africa, America, and Magellania.

1626. (French) Company of Senegal (first).

1626. (French) Company of Morbihan (first).

1626. (French) Company of Saint Christopher (first).

1626. (Swedish) South Sea Company.

1626. (Swedish) East India Company.

1628. (French) Company of One Hundred Associates of New France.

1628. (French) North African Company (second).

1629. (English) Company of Massachusetts Bay.

1629. (Dutch) Levant Company (first).

1631. (English) African Company (third).

1633. (French) West Africa Company (first)

1634. (Dutch) Surinam Company.

1634. (Danish) East India Company (second).

1635. (English) China or Cathay Company.

1635. (French) Company of West India Islands.

1640. (French) Company of East Africa.

1643. (French) Company of North Cape of South America.

1644. (French) Company of St. Jean de Luz.

1644. (French) Baltic Company.

1647. (Danish) Iceland Company (second).

1650. (Dutch) Levant Company (second).

1651. (French) Cayenne Company.

1655. (French) West Africa Company (second).

1660. (French) China Company.

1662. (English) African Company (fourth).

1664. (French) East India Company (last).

1664. (French) West India Company (last).

1664. (English) Canary Company.

1669. (French) Northern Company (last).

1670. (French) Levant Company.

1670. (English) Hudson Bay Company.

1671. (Danish) West India Company.

1671. (French) Bordeaux-Canada Company.

1672. (English) African Company (last).

1673. (French) Senegal Company (last).

1683. (French) Acadia Company.

1684. (French) Louisiana Company.

1684. (French) Guinea Company.

1686. (Danish) East India Company (last).

1697. (French) China Company (last).

1698. (French) Santo Domingo Company.

When the English commercial companies were to be chartered, it was not
necessary to invent an entirely new type of organization. A model
already existed ready to hand in the Society of Merchants Adventurers,
of which the origin goes back certainly to the fifteenth century,
perhaps still earlier. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Brief Hist. of the
Merchant Adventurers, xxi.-xxv.] The sphere of trade of this body of
exporting merchants extended along the coasts of France, the
Netherlands, and Germany, opposite England, and some distance into the
interior. [Footnote: Ibid,, xxvi.] It is true that the Merchants
Adventurers had many mediaeval features which assimilated them more to
the old merchant and craft guilds than to the more modern type of
chartered commercial companies which were about to come into existence.
They had, like the craft guilds, a system of apprenticeship and
different degrees of advancement in their membership. [Footnote:
Lingelbach, Internal Organization of the Merchant Adventurers, 8-18.]

The members were all controlled by a "stint," according to which an
apprentice in the last year of his term might ship one hundred pieces
of cloth in the year; while a full freeman in the society could ship
from four hundred to one thousand pieces a year, according to the
length of time he had been a member. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Laws and
Ordinances of the Merchant Adventurers, 67-74.] They were under strict
regulations against forestalling and undue competition. They could
display and sell their cloth only upon Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays, and "No person shall stand watchinge at the corners or ends of
streetes, or at other mens' Packhouses or at the house or place where
anie clothe merchant or draper ys lodged, nor seeinge anie such in the
street shall run or follow after hym with Intent to Entyce or lead hym
to his packhouse, upon pain of fyve pounds ster." [Footnote:
Lingelbach, Laws and Ordinances of the Merchant Adventurers, 89, 91.]

In many respects, on the other hand, the Merchants Adventurers were
quite similar to the later chartered companies, whose period of
existence their own overlapped. In fact, considering the early date of
their origin, the tardy development of English economic life, and the
obstacles to trading in a foreign country even so near as the
continental seaboard, the conditions which confronted them were much
the same as those which the later companies had to meet, and they met
them in much the same way. They obtained a charter of incorporation
from the king; they possessed a monopoly of trade in a certain
territory, as against other men of their own nation; they had a common
treasury for joint expenses; and they acted as, and were even called,
"the English nation," in the foreign country which was their abiding-
place. [Footnote: Lingelbach, Internal Organization, 29-34; Laws and
Ordinances, passim; and Charters of 1462 and 1564.] The Merchants
Adventurers, therefore, might be looked upon as a late surviving
mediaeval merchant guild, modified in form by the necessity of adapting
itself to trading in a foreign country; or it might be considered as
the earliest of the modern chartered commercial companies, still
retaining in the seventeenth century some of its mediaeval features.
Viewed in either aspect, the Merchants Adventurers were a living model
for the organization of the new type of companies, and the powers and
form of government of the latter show a similarity to the older company
which is certainly not accidental.

The five or six English companies whose dates of foundation lie within
the sixteenth century all yield in importance, interest, and later
influence to the East India Company, which was destined to an almost
imperial existence of two centuries and a half, and which may well
serve as the representative of the English chartered companies. Its
origin was closely connected with the international relations of the
last decades of the sixteenth century.

The availability of the port of Lisbon as the western distributing
centre for Eastern goods ceased in 1580, when Portugal became a part of
the dominions of the king of Spain. As war already existed between
Spain and the Netherlands, and was soon to break out between Spain and
England, commerce was much disturbed; and after a few years of troubled
intercourse that port was closed to the merchants of Holland and
England. The union of the crowns of Spain and Portugal at this time had
much the same effect on the supply of Eastern goods to these two
Protestant seaboard states that the conquests of the Turks in the
eastern Mediterranean had had for the Italian cities a century before.

It was not likely that the two most vigorous, free, and commercially
enterprising states of Europe would allow themselves long to be
excluded from the most attractive and lucrative trade in the world.
After England, in her resistance to the Armada in 1588, applied the
touchstone to the naval prestige of Spain and showed its hollowness,
her merchants and mariners took heart and pressed directly to the East.
In 1591 an English squadron of three ships, under Captains Raymond and
Lancaster, with the queen's leave, sailed down the western coast of
Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, followed the east coast to
Zanzibar, and then passed across to Cape Comorin, Ceylon, and the Malay
peninsula. They had mixed fortune, but one vessel returned home laden
with pepper, obtained for the most part from the hold of a Portuguese
prize. In 1595 the first direct Dutch voyage was made along much the
same route. Other English and Dutch voyages followed; and in 1600 and
1602, respectively the English and Dutch East India companies were
chartered. The following analysis of the charter of the former of these
companies will give the main characteristics of the new commercial
system: [Footnote: Charters Granted to the East India Company, 3-26,]

1. The charter, granted by Queen Elizabeth on December 31, 1600, was
addressed by name to the earl of Cumberland and two hundred and fifteen
knights and merchants, whom it created a corporation and a body politic
under the name of "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London
Trading to the East Indies."

2. The territory to which they were given privileges of trade consisted
of all continents and islands lying between the Cape of Good Hope and
the Straits of Magellan--that is to say, the east coast of Africa, the
southern shore of Asia, the islands of the Indian Ocean, and the west
coast of America; so long as they made no attempt to trade with any
port at the time of the charter in the possession of any prince in
league with Elizabeth, who should protest against such trade.

3. The corporation was for all time; but the privileges of trade under
the charter were granted for fifteen years, with a promise, if they
should seem profitable to the crown and the realm, to extend them for
fifteen years more; and with a reservation, on the other hard, of the
power to terminate them on two years' notice.

4. The powers of the company were those of an ordinary corporation and
body politic. The members of the company and their employees possessed
a complete monopoly of trade in the regions described, so far as
English subjects were concerned, having, moreover, the right to grant
licenses to non-members to trade within their limits.

5. They could buy land without limitation in amount, and as a matter of
fact the company gained its first foothold in each of its stations in
the East by buying a small piece of land from the native government.

6. The company could send out yearly "six good ships and six pinnaces
with five hundred mariners, unless the royal navy goes forth," and
these ships should not be seized even in times of special naval
restraint, unless the queen's need was extreme and was announced to the
company three months before the ships were impressed.

7. They had the right, in assemblies of the company held in any part of
the queen's dominions or outside of them, to make all reasonable laws
for their government not in opposition to the laws of England, and they
could punish by fine and imprisonment all offenders against these laws.
8. Nothing is said in the original charter of the powers of offence and
defence, alliance and military organization; but these were probably
taken for granted, as they were so generally used by merchants and
navigators at the time, and were, as a matter of fact, exercised
without limitation by the company from its first voyage.

9. Especial privileges and exemptions were granted to the company by
freeing its members from the payment of customs for the first four
voyages, by giving them from six to twelve months' postponement of the
payment of subsequent import duties, and by allowing them re-export of
Indian goods free from customs duties. The laws against the export of
bullion were also suspended in their favor to the extent of allowing
them to send out on each voyage 30,000 pounds in coin.

10. The organization of this company was comparatively simple,
consisting of a governor, deputy governor, and twenty-four members of a
directing board, "to be called committees," [Footnote: The word
"committee" at that time was used for a single person, as in the case
of "trustee," "nominee," "employee," and similar terms] all to be
elected annually in a general assembly or court of the company. The
governor and committees must all take the oath of allegiance to the
English sovereign.

The East India Company remained for some years a somewhat variable
body, as each voyage was made on the basis of a separate investment, by
different stockholders, and in varying amounts. But in 1609 the charter
was renewed, and in 1612 a longer joint-stock investment fixed the
membership more definitely. By this time the company had become, in
fact, as permitted by its charter, a closely organized corporation,
with well-understood and clearly defined rights and powers, and it was
soon started on its career of trade, settlement, conquest, and
domination. [Footnote: Hunter, "Hist of British India," I, 270-305.] A
new type of commercial organization had become clearly dominant.



An exactly typical chartered commercial company, which combined all the
characteristics of such companies, of course did not exist. The
countries with which they expected to trade ranged all the way from
India to Canada; the political services which their governments imposed
upon them varied from the production of tar, pitch, and turpentine to
the weakening of naval rivals; while the personal qualities of the
founders of the companies, and the sovereigns or ministers who gave the
charters differed widely. Moreover, the later development of many of
these companies had but little to do with the settlement of America.
Nevertheless, three companies may be chosen which exerted a deep
influence on American colonization, and which, with the English East
India Company described in the last chapter, are fairly typical of the
general system. These are the English Virginia Company, the Dutch West
India Company, and the French Company of New France.

The charter of 1606 granted to the London and Plymouth companies was of
an incomplete and transitional character; [Footnote: H. L. Osgood, "The
Colonial Corporation" (Political Science Quarterly, XL, 264-268). This
charter is printed in Stith, Hist, of Virginia, App. I.; in Brown,
Genesis of the United States, and elsewhere.] the second Virginia
charter, [Footnote: Printed in full in Stith, Hist, of Virginia, App.
II., and, with a few omissions, in Brown, Genesis of the United States,
I., 208-237.] however, which was granted at the request of the company,
May 23, 1609, created a corporate trading and colonizing company
closely analogous to the East India Company, as will appear from the
following analysis: 1. The company was chartered under the name, "The
Treasurer and Company of Adventurers and Planters of the City of London
for the First Colony in Virginia." It was fully incorporated, with a
seal and all legal corporate powers and liabilities. In the charter
itself were named some twenty-one peers, ninety-six knights, eighty-six
of the lesser gentry, a large number of citizens, merchants, sea-
captains, and others, and fifty-six of the London companies--in all,
seven hundred and fifteen persons and organizations. They included a
large proportion of the enlightenment, enterprise, and wealth of the
capital, and, indeed, of all England. The grant was made to the company
in perpetuity, although, as will be seen, some of its special
exemptions and privileges were for a shorter term only.

2. The region to which the grant applied was the territory stretching
four hundred miles along the coast, north and south from Chesapeake
Bay, and "up into the land, from sea to sea westward and northward."

The possession of the soil was given to the company by the most
complete title known to the English law, but with the requirement that
it be distributed by the company to those who should have contributed
money, services, or their presence to the colony.

3. Its commercial powers extended to the exploitation of all the
resources of the country, including mines, fisheries, and forests, as
well as agricultural products; and to the requirement that all
Englishmen not members of the company should pay a subsidy of five per
cent, of the value of all goods brought into or taken out of the
company's territory, and all foreigners ten per cent, of the value of
the goojis. The company might send to Virginia all shipping, weapons,
victuals, articles of trade, and other equipment that might be
necessary, and also all such colonists as should be willing to go.

4. Powers of government in its territory were granted to the company
with considerable completeness, the charter declaring that it might
make all orders, laws, directions, and other provisions fit and
necessary for the government of the colony, and that the governor and
other officers might, "within the said precincts of Virginia or in the
way by sea thither and from thence, have full and absolute power and
authority to correct, punish, pardon, govern, and rule" all the
inhabitants of the colony, in accordance with its laws already made.

As to offensive and defensive powers, it had the right to repel or
expel by military force all persons attempting to force their way into
its territories and all persons attempting any hurt or annoyance to the
colony. The governor might exercise martial law in the colony, and was
provided with the general military powers of a lord-lieutenant of one
of the English counties. Thus the company and its colony were organized
not exactly as an imperium in imperio, but at least as an outlying

5. As for special subsidies and privileges, the government of King
James was scarcely in a position to make money contributions for such
an enterprise, or to give to it ships such as the continental
governments might give to their companies; but for seven years the
company was allowed to take out all that was necessary for the support,
equipment, and defence of its colonists, and for trade with the
natives, free of all tax or duty; and for twenty years it should be
free from customs on goods imported into Virginia, and should forever
pay only five per cent import duty on goods brought from Virginia to
England. Among privileges of less material value, but long after
remembered for other reasons, the charter promised to the company that
all the king's subjects whom it should take to inhabit the colony, with
their children and their posterity, should have and enjoy all
liberties, franchises, and immunities of free-born Englishmen and
natural subjects of the king just as if they had remained or been born
in England itself.

6. The duties to be performed by the company as respects the government
were very few. In recognition of the socage tenure on which the land
was held, a payment of one-tenth of all gold and silver was required;
and the members of the council of the company were required to take an
oath of allegiance to the king in the name of the company. The main
requirement from the company was colonization. It was fully
anticipated, and in the preamble expressed, that the process of taking
out settlers should be a continuous one; and a failure to transport
colonists by the company's efforts would certainly have been a failure
to fulfil the conditions of its charter.

7. Although there was no requirement of absolute conformity with the
established church of England, yet on the ground of the desire to carry
only true religion to the natives it was made the duty of the officials
of the company to tender the oath of supremacy to every prospective
colonist before he sailed, and thus to insure the Protestantism of the

8. The form of government of the company in England received much
attention in the charter, as well it might, after the failure of the
arrangements of the former charter. The membership, quarterly
assemblies of the general body of the members, more frequent meetings
of a governing council of fifty-three officers, and their duties, were
all minutely formulated; and the supremacy of this council, so
consonant with the ideas of King James, and so opposed to the needs and
the tendencies of the times, was carefully but, as it proved,
unsuccessfully provided for. [Footnote: Osgood, "The Colonial

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