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southern colonies - CHAPTER IV Colonization-The Southern...

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CHAPTER IV Colonization -- The Southern Colonies The New World had been discovered for a century, and the territory of the present United States was still a wilderness, uninhabited except by the native savage. 1 It was not possible that such a condition could endure. North America presented wonderful opportunities for future development. It was bounded by two oceans, while Europe had but one; its central river valley for extent and fertility was unequaled in the world; nor could Europe match the Great Lakes, the cataract of Niagara, the Mississippi River, the Rocky Mountains, or the Grand Cañons of the Colorado and the Yellowstone. It was only through colonization that this vast and beautiful land could become truly useful to mankind, and the time was ripe for a portion of Europe to transplant itself permanently to North America. The burning question during the closing decades of the sixteenth century was, Which of the European states will succeed in becoming the mother of civilization in North America? The chances all seemed to favor Spain. Spain had taken possession of Mexico and South America 2 and of the adjacent islands of the sea; and, moreover, she had laid claim to all of North America on the ground of the Pope's decree of a century before. Her great advantage lay in the fact that she was by far the greatest maritime power of the earth. But Spain was ill fitted to found empires and build nations. Her motives were too low. She sought, not to found self-supporting colonies, but to plunder the natives in her mad search for gold. For gold she slew the red man, for gold she enslaved the black man, and gold proved the ruin of Spain. For nearly a hundred years Spain had held undisputed sway in the New World. Neither England nor France had followed up their early discoveries with attempts at colonization. England during the sixteenth century was struggling with the Reformation and the political questions accompanying it; France was rent with civil and religious wars. Both were thus deterred for many years from giving serious attention to the new lands of the West, though both agreed in disputing the exclusive claims of Spain. Meantime Spain had a clear field. No other nation ever had such an opportunity to establish a great empire. 3 But Spain proved unworthy of her trust. The chief cause of her downfall was, as stated, her too great devotion to the god of gold. This caused a decline in her agriculture and manufacturing. But there were other causes. Spain lost her best artisans and laborers through the expulsion of the Moors; she lost much of her commercial spirit through the expulsion of the Jews; and, worst of all, the horrors of the Inquisition robbed the nation of much of its choicest blood. In addition to all this the efforts of Spain to increase her political power in Europe and to lead the forces of the counter reformation only weakened the Empire and hastened its downfall.
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