Gateway to the Classics: Streams of History: The New World by Ellwood Wadsworth Kemp
Streams of History: The New World by  Ellwood Wadsworth Kemp

The Ideas Which Spain Developed at Home and Then Planted in America

When Columbus discovered America, in 1492, there were three strong nations on the western coast of Europe-Spain, France and England. As soon as America was discovered, these three nations reached out their hands across the vast spaces of the Western ocean to lay hold of the New World. Throughout all of the sixteenth and seventeenth and the greater part of the eighteenth centuries these powers struggled for mastery of the Atlantic Ocean and the New World beyond. Before three centuries were gone it was clear that the English people and Teutonic ideas were to rule the western land. The reason why Spain and France failed in the struggle, and England so completely succeeded, was because the first two nations sought to plant medieval ideas in America, while the English colonists, led by ideals of the future and not of the past, came to the new shore full of the new ideas which had burst forth in Europe in the Renaissance, the English Parliament, the printing press, the public school and the Reformation. To study this struggle for the New World and see how it terminated is the work before us now.

We will first look at Spain and the life developed there, for the ideas Spain had at home were the ideas she brought to the New World.

Spain is a peninsula in the southwestern part of Europe, which, although lying directly east from the central part of the United States, has a much milder climate. In it grow such products as grapes, oranges, figs, dates, almonds and olives. Outside of a narrow coast-plain surrounding the greater part of the peninsula, its surface is a high plateau, broken by mountains. It was hard to subdue the mountaineers living in these fastnesses, and brave people have lived there for thousands of years.

Spain was conquered about two thousand years ago (133 B.C.) by the Romans, who settled it and ruled it very firmly for many years, working the rich mines of gold and silver which they found there and carrying the riches back to Rome. When Rome began to lose her power, the Germans overran the peninsula, and settled it about 415 years after Christ. They learned much from the Roman people they found there, and adopted many of Rome's ways, especially her way of having one man rule arbitrarily,—that is, without consulting the people's wishes, or having them vote upon questions, as we do in America.

About three hundred years after the Germans conquered Spain, that is, about the beginning of the eighth century, the Arab Moors, who were Mohammedans in religion, conquered all of Spain except the mountains in the extreme north. The Moors grew to be very industrious and well educated, and for a time had the best universities in the world. Many people from other European countries came to attend their schools. But the brave Christian people in the little mountain states of northern Spain kept fighting back the Mohammedan Moors, driving them slowly farther and farther south, till all of the northern half of Spain was regained by the Christians. Here several brave little Christian states grew up, from about 900 to 1500 A.D. These states not only fought continually against the Moors, but quarreled much among themselves, just as all the feudal states did during the Middle Ages. Two of the largest states were Aragon and Castile. In 1469 Ferdinand, Prince of Aragon, married Isabella, Princess of Castile, thus joining these two states under one power. Ferdinand and Isabella soon ruled all Spain except a little mountainous fringe in the extreme south, called Grenada, held by the Moors.

Now, fighting constantly for almost eight hundred years made the Spanish very brave, but very cruel as well. Fighting for their religion against the Mohammedan Moors made religion the uppermost thought in their minds. Likewise it helped to make them hold to one church and one religion—the Catholic—more firmly than did any other great nation of their time.

By the last of the fifteenth century the continual snarling and petty warfare between the little Spanish states were largely brought to an end by having the same king and queen rule over all. And, and as I told you, the king and queen themselves decided what they would have done in religion, government, education and the like, and did not ask the people who had helped to fight the battles much about what they would like to have done. This kind of rule is what is called despotic government, and Spain grew, like old Rome, to be more and more despotic the older she became. But now that the Spanish were united they joined against the last of the Moors, and, after ten years of fighting, completely conquered them, in 1492.

We have seen already, in the fourth volume of this series, that during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the people from all parts of Europe had gone to the Holy Land on crusades. This led to the circulation of great quantities of products between European cities and the lands of the East. It led no less to new ideas and broader views coming to the West, which filled people with a great desire to know more and to be adventurous. The art of printing, invented in the same year that Columbus was born (1446), spread the new knowledge, and soon made it possible for one to possess a library as easily as in the Middle Ages he could have possessed a single book. In fact, as we saw in our earlier studies, Europe in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was bursting with new thought, as blossoms burst with the coming of fresh showers and sunshine in the springtime.

Now Genoa, the home of Columbus, being favorably situated on the Mediterranean, had carried on extensive trade with southern and eastern Asia for three hundred years before Columbus's time; but when the Mohammedans captured Constantinople, in 1453 A.D., they stopped the ships of Genoa from traveling eastward, and her trade rapidly declined.

Some of the best-educated people at that time thought that the earth was round, though much smaller than it is; but no one had been brave enough to strike boldly toward the west into the unknown sea to prove whether it was really a sphere or not. But Columbus, full of the free spirit of the time, was bold enough to try it. With three ships furnished by Isabella of Spain, he struck fearlessly out over the vast spaces of the Western ocean to break away the narrow limits of the Middle Ages and carry on trade with Asia across the Atlantic.

The first land he discovered was the island of San Salvador, southeast of Florida, but he thought he had found Asia. How excited the Spaniards and all Europe became when he went home and told what he had found! Spain at once sent over ships to get the spices, silver and pearls of what she thought to be the East Indies, but of course these were not obtained. However, they still thought for many years that they had found Asia, and, in spite of disappointments, kept coming to the new country; for although the war with the Moors was over, the people were quite as fond of adventure as ever. Moreover, Spain wanted to explore the country and get a claim to it before any other country could do so. Monks and missionaries were anxious also to convert the natives to their religion. But besides their love of adventure, desire to extend territory, and desire to convert the natives, the Spaniards had a still stronger motive for hurrying over to explore and settle the new country,—and this was the hope of finding gold, silver, and precious stones.

They first explored and settled the fertile islands of the West Indies. The most remarkable stories were carried back to Spain of the wonderful fountains of youth, where one had but to bathe to become young again, and of cities built of gold. Many people eagerly came to America in search of these wonders, and with the hope of quickly growing rich and returning to Spain. Ponce de Leon hunted through the swamps of Florida for the fountain of youth and for gold; he found neither, but after many years of weary effort he was killed by the poisoned arrows of the Indians.

About twenty-five years after the voyage of Columbus, 1519-1521, another Spaniard, named Cortez, came to Mexico. He beat his way through the jungles of the tropical lowlands, crossed the mountains of Mexico, and reached the fertile plateau between the mountain ranges near the present city of Mexico, where the Aztec Indians had their city. The Aztecs were at that time more nearly civilized than most of the Indians of America; they had cities and an organized government, and cultivated the land. After a hard and cruel struggle the natives were conquered by Cortez, who plundered them of their gold and silver, sent many of them as slaves to the mines, and set up a government among them, which had for its purpose to get everything possible out of the country for himself and the king of Spain. Cortez was truly as arbitrary and cruel a ruler in Mexico as ever any king was in Spain.

Pizarro, a few years after, went to the mountainous country which is now called Peru, and after much cruelty and deceit conquered the Indians there. He gained even more wealth than Cortez had gained—about seventeen million dollars in gold, it is said. Such rapid accumulation of treasure as this set Spain wild. Thousands hurried to America, plunged into forests and swamps, crossed rivers, ascended mountains, endured hardships, fatigue and death, led on always by dreams of sudden wealth.

De Soto came (1539-1540) to the southern part of what is now the United States, with high hopes of finding as rich cities as Pizarro had done a few years before. He, like most of the Spanish explorers, was cruel to the Indians. He forced them to act as guides or pack-animals through the country, and killed or tortured those who refused to do so. He failed to find any treasure, though he wandered many miles through the swamps of Florida, the forests of Georgia and Alabama and at last discovered the Mississippi River. This he crossed, and, circling across the grassy western plains, again returned to the Mississippi, where he died. His followers, it is said, lowered his body at midnight in the waters of the river he had discovered.

Cortez, Pizarro and De Soto are but types of the many brave and cruel Spaniards who traversed almost all parts of South and Central America, Mexico, Texas, California, and what are now New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, during the two hundred years following the conquests of these great explorers. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Spanish soldier and adventurer and the Spanish priest came to America by the tens of thousands to gain territory, grow rich, obtain gold for the king of Spain and convert the natives to Christianity. Since the Spaniards had so much to do with the Indians, and were influenced by them so greatly, we must now know something of them.

The Indians differed in different parts of the New World, owing partly to differences in the geographical conditions of the various regions. In many parts of the country they lived by hunting and fishing, and in the warmer parts by gathering the tropical products which were obtained by little labor. Along the coast in the tropics the hot climate and fertile soil produced a luxuriant growth of vegetable life. Farther back from the coast the ground was higher and the climate not so hot and unhealthful. Corn was here grown by the Indians, two crops being raised in a year with little labor. In Brazil the great Amazon River flowed eastward to the sea. All about it stretched jungles and forests, with intertwining vines which made the forest almost impenetrable. Here, too, were fierce animals, enormous reptiles,

poisonous insects and plants. With a hot, weakening climate, many wild fruits and berries at hand, and a soil so rich that vegetation sprang up as soon as the ground was cleared, it is no wonder that the Indians of the Amazon Valley did not make the advancement that they did in Mexico and Peru. They lived in tribes, or clans, generally with a chief, or ruler, fighting their battles with bows and arrows, hard wooden spears, and swords tipped with bone or metal.

If you will take your maps, you will see that following the Pacific coast are several long mountain ranges, with high plateaus between, running through Mexico, Central America and South America. In these high mountains were rich mines of gold, silver, copper and iron. The climate on these plateaus was much cooler and pleasanter than that in the lowland regions. In many valleys the soil was fertile. The Indians living here had advanced much more toward civilization than anywhere else in North or South America; for they did not have to struggle for existence and face starvation as those in the colder North, nor were their wants supplied with little effort of their own, as in the tropical regions of Central and South America. Those in Mexico and what is now Peru lived in towns, with a regular government, and had farms with irrigating canals on which they raised cotton, corn, tobacco, bananas, oranges and olives. All of the Indians had some way of worshiping God, and a belief in the happy hunting-grounds beyond the grave. They sometimes offered human sacrifices to their gods.

Into this land, then,—a land of flowers and sunshine and ease, a land of gold and silver, a land rather thickly populated in parts by the Indians,—came the Spaniard through the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The mild climate was much the same as in the home he left behind, and the soil so fertile that it had but to be scratched to yield abundant crops. Thus the new settlers, like the Indians, had little trouble in getting enough to eat, and were not obliged to build warm houses and live close together so as to help one another, as were the English settlers along the Atlantic coast. Fifty years before the English or the French had made a single permanent settlement in the New World, Spain had explored so extensively and established military posts and missions over such vast reaches of territory that her claim seemed assured to most of South America, all of Central America and Mexico and a large part of what is now the United States.

The king of Spain, who claimed to own all the land himself, just as did the feudal lord of the Middle Ages, made grants of territory to those who wished to found settlements in America, having them promise to convert the natives and to send to Spain one-fifth of all the precious metals found. Along with the land the king granted the colonizer a certain number of Indians, who, according to the rule, were obliged to work a part of the time for the owner, another part for the king, and were then to be free to work for themselves for the rest of the time. But most of the owners obliged the Indians to work as slaves all the time, in spite of the rule. Thus you see, the way the land was granted, the way it was worked, and the treatment of those who worked it, were not essentially different from the way we saw them under Feudalism. Feudalism was no doubt a good government for the Middle Ages, but as compared to democracy, where all the people have an equal chance for the wealth, comforts and pleasures of life, it is very poor.

As Spanish settlement increased in America the territory claimed by Spain was divided for governmental purposes into four great districts, called viceroyalties. The king appointed officers, called viceroys, to come over from Spain to rule these for him. The viceroy was (1) to get as much gold as possible for the king, (2) to see that the laws were obeyed, (3) to get the colonists to raise what Spain needed, (4) to see that all had the same religion, and (5) to protect the Indians. He never failed to look carefully after the gold, both for himself and the king, but generally failed to give much thought to the rights of the Indians.

Many subordinate officers were also appointed, with various duties. The viceroyalty was divided, and each subdivision was ruled by a governor, appointed also by the authorities in Spain. All officers were told to watch one another and report any wrongdoing to the king; this tended to make the official class a body of spies, and did not lead them to work together harmoniously for free government, as was the case among the English colonists in America. As the colonies grew in population, more officers were appointed. In fact, there finally grew to be swarms of officers in the colonies, new offices being continually created for the Spanish nobles and other favorites of the king.

Afterwhile it came to be much as it once was in the worst days of Rome,—the one who would pay the most money for the office was sure to be appointed. Of course the officer must then make enough money in America to reimburse himself, and a fortune besides. This led to the greatest oppression by the official class of both the natives and the poorer Spanish colonists.

All laws for the colonies were made in Spain, not a law having been made by the colonists themselves from the day Spain set foot on the New World at the end of the fifteenth century till she withdrew from it at the end of the nineteenth. The higher judges of the courts also were sent to the colonies from Spain. If some great colonial question were to be decided, an appeal could be made from the colonies to a court in Spain, or to the king himself, for settlement; but most disputes were settled by the judges in America.

The colonists could elect no officials except some of the town officers, and it soon came about that they did not do even this. It was Spain's fixed policy, in managing her colonies, to give no rights to the colonists in making laws, and none in electing officers. Throughout her entire colonial history she treated her colonies as a parent treats a child. She never thought them old enough or wanted them to become old enough to take care of themselves; nor was she like the English king, who left his colonists to look out for themselves for so long that when he wished Parliament to make laws for them without their consent they refused to permit it. Spain watched over her colonies from the first, and checked every step which tended to teach them to walk alone.

Spain sometimes tried to enforce laws for the proper treatment of the Indians. But though some officers did their best to treat them well, it was always the case, as I have already told you, that those who bought their offices cared more to make money than to protect the Indians. It was, therefore, the general rule that in their mad struggle for gold they enslaved and brutally treated the Indian.

But I must tell you also something of the laws passed in Spain for the treatment of the Spanish colonists who came to America. The Spanish king and his counselors cared more for themselves than for the colonists, and made such laws for ruling America as they thought would bring most wealth into their own pockets and into the treasury of Spain. The colonies were not allowed to trade with other countries or with one another. All trade was to be with Spain, wholly by Spaniards and on Spanish ships. Spain thought by following this course not only to make more money, but also to keep her colonies wholly dependent on the home country, so that they would not develop an intercolonial trade and thus grow strong and independent.

Now the result of all this was that the people in Spain, by getting so much gold and produce from America without working for it, became lazy. They did less farming and manufacturing at home from year to year, and depended on American gold to buy what they wanted. They forbade the Americans to manufacture what they used, as woolen or cotton goods, or wine, or olive oil, or hoes or rakes. Thus Spain hoped to make a profit selling manufactured articles to the colonists; but when the home country ceased to manufacture, as was the case very largely through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, because her people grew idle and ignorant, she had to spend all the more money in buying of other countries what the colonists needed, as well as what she herself needed for home use. Thus, in spite of the great influx of gold from the American mines, Spain was really becoming poorer and weaker in industry, in self-reliance, economy, and in the intelligence of her people; and without these no nation can live or hope to grow strong.

The colonists were forbidden to raise olives, tobacco, grapes, or any other products that Spain wished to raise at home; but they were encouraged to grow such things as Spain needed and did not produce at home. Thus there grew to be great sugar plantations in the West Indies, where many Indians and negroes were worked in gangs as slaves. In Central America, Mexico and California, wheat and barley were raised around the monasteries, and many horses, cattle and sheep were herded on the hillsides and in the upland valleys. These generally ran wild and needed but little care.

But what the Spaniard struggled most for, as I have already told you, were the precious metals; from this it came about that one of the chief occupations in the colonies was mining. Many rich mines of gold and silver were found, especially in Mexico and Peru, and the Indians were generally compelled under the lash to work them. The Spanish law provided, that the Indians should be paid, and this was occasionally done; but more generally they were brutally treated, poorly fed and scantily clothed. Under such treatment they generally came to an early death.

The method of mining in this early time was often old-fashioned, for they had but little machinery. When the silver or gold was found near the surface, the dirt containing ore was thrown into a stream, where it was turned over and over by the water until it was washed from the ore. Sometimes it was necessary to go deep into the ground to find the metal. When this was the case two long timbers were set slantwise, with notches cut in them for steps, which the Indians used as a ladder. From day to day they toiled up the rude steps with loads of ore upon their backs. Not being used to regular and hard labor, the Indian soon broke down, when he was cast aside and others compelled to take his place. Thus Spain founded her industrial system in the New World upon slavery. In this particular as well as in the government she set up, Spain imitated Old Rome; for, as we saw earlier, when Rome grew rich and luxurious, she came to have millions of slaves, who did the work while Rome's citizens reveled in idleness, luxury and crime.

The ore of the mine was melted, or smelted, and the pure metal taken out. At first this was done by hot fires blown by a bellows, such as you have seen in blacksmiths' shops. Afterwhile, a man in South America discovered a way to do this much more easily by the aid of quicksilver. Then the mother country required the colonists to buy quicksilver of her, and to give in return one-fifth of all the silver or gold smelted by means of it. Let us now look at the social life which grew up in the Spanish colonies. The Spanish colonist in general considered himself vastly better than the Indians among whom he lived, though some of the colonists married Indian wives. There were also sharp class distinctions between the colonists themselves. The officers and their families, who came from Spain and returned as soon as they had grown rich, considered themselves much superior to the ordinary colonists. These latter were often old soldiers, who had been given grants of land in the new country to pay for past services. Those who were born in the colonies were called Americans, and were considered inferior to both of the other classes. These were seldom appointed to office. For example, of one hundred and seventy viceroys, who ruled in the department of Buenos Ayres, four only were Americans, the remainder being sent from Spain; of six hundred and ten captains-general and governors, who ruled in the same viceroyalty, only fourteen were Americans.

Towns often grew up around the forts which Spain established on the frontiers. The houses were generally built of adobe, as sun-dried brick is called. Many of them were rudely built, with dirt floors and no chimneys or fireplaces, as fire was little needed in this sunny land to keep them warm. As they also largely led out-of-door lives, houses were little needed for any purpose except shelter and to hang their beds of rawhide in. Some houses had board floors and were whitewashed without and plastered within. The better houses, for the officers and richer planters, were built about an open square, like the houses of the old Romans, or the castles of the Middle Ages, and sometimes had beautiful fountains and flowers in the inner court. These were often richly furnished with furniture brought from Spain.

The Spanish colonists themselves led a lazy, easy-going life in most respects. The country, as we have already seen, yielded in great abundance; and since they could not make their own laws or elect their own officers, there was wanting that political stimulation which always kept the English colonists wide awake and ever on duty that their liberties should not be taken from them. The converted Indians did most of the work around the forts and monasteries, and it was easy to raise enough to eat. Many of them did not care to raise much more, for only a limited amount could be sent to Spain, and they were not allowed, as I have told you, to sell elsewhere. Sometimes when they took their produce to the seaport to ship it to Spain, the vessel would have a load without it, and it would be left to spoil. It was absolutely forbidden for one Spanish colony to trade with another.

Great herds of horses and cattle ran wild throughout many of the Spanish colonies. There was plenty of meat to eat, and a horse for every one to ride. If a person of culture and refinement were traveling through the Spanish colonies, he was freely entertained by the hospitable Spaniard, and if his horse became tired, he had but to turn it loose and catch another. At many times and places thousands of horses and cattle were slaughtered merely to reduce their number.

The upper classes of the Spanish colonists were very polite. They were also very fond of games and sports, and, like the Romans in their degenerate days, had many holidays, on which great crowds of gayly dressed men and women gathered in the towns to watch bull-fights, cockfights, and other cruel sports. A dance would follow in the evening, where the brocades and velvets of the ladies and the brilliant Spanish uniform of the officers and soldiers made an interesting scene. The guitar and banjo were the accompaniments of every social gathering. Sometimes the people held carnivals, something like the Mardi Gras held now in New Orleans. Dressing themselves in as much pomp and glitter as the knights of the days of chivalry, they paraded through the town, masked themselves, crowded through the streets, broke over one another eggshells filled with bits of silver paper or sweet-scented water, sang songs, danced, drank wine, and attended the bullfights and other sports.

We may expect people thus devoted to idleness, luxury and pleasure to care little for books or schools. Indeed, in all the centuries of Spanish rule in North, South and Central America, there were no free schools ever established. There were always monastic schools at the monasteries, just as in the Middle Ages, where religion chiefly, and occasionally reading, writing and arithmetic, were taught. These were attended by the Indians who had been converted and had been induced by the monks to live at the monastery. Most of the people had little education themselves, and cared little for educating their children. When we come to study the English colonists, we shall see how vastly different is their thirst for knowledge and the efforts they make to securely provide for it, from the careless ignorance and indifference of the Spaniard.

Now we must briefly look at the religious ideas Spain brought to America. We have already seen in the study of the Reformation that the people of Spain established in their own country but one religion. In our study of the Reformation, in the previous volume of this series, we saw also that Luther did not agree with the Catholic Church, and that many others came to believe as he did. So they and others separated from it during the sixteenth century and were called Protestants; and this led to many Protestant churches being formed in many countries in northern Europe. But in Spain the king was determined that all should believe just one way in religious matters, and punished or drove from the country those who did not hold what he considered the true belief. He drove the Moors and Jews from the country, and by doing so deprived the nation of its most industrious, most intelligent, and in many cases most wealthy, population. He appointed a court to inquire carefully into what people practiced in religious matters. This court of inquiry, or Inquisition Court, as it was called, did many cruel things to the people who did not believe as the Spanish authorities thought they should. Many were burned or tortured, while thousands lost their lives because of their faith. It has been estimated that eight hundred thousand Moors were driven out of Spain by Philip III, who ruled from 1598 to 1621. His motto was, "Better not reign at all than reign over heretics." Some of the monks and priests in the Spanish colonies reported to the king and Inquisition Court that many of the newly converted Indians in America did not believe as they should. Some were burnt and many tortured. Then a request was sent to the king to ask for a branch of the Inquisition Court to be set up in America. The king consented, but was reasonable enough to say that the Indians were not well enough educated to know much about true church beliefs, and should not be tortured or burnt. But he said the Spanish colonists did know and should be made to believe as the authorities in Spain desired. The court was established in South America, and prevented different sects of religion from springing up there. As in the home country several were killed, and others tortured. This had the effect also of keeping the industrious and freedom-loving Spaniard, who was driven from his home country, from seeking a new home in the Spanish colonies. When we study the English colonies, we shall see that when the Englishman was driven from home, he fled to the colonies of his own blood in America and immediately began to develop a freer life there than existed at home. However, in judging of Spain's treatment of those who desired freedom in religious thought it is well to remember that it was in an age when no sect—either Protestant or Catholic—had come to practice religious toleration to any extent, and that Spain's policy was not different in kind but only in degree from the policy of other nations and religions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Spain, however, was different from England in preventing persons of various religious faiths from settling in her colonies. In this way she prevented free discussion, which, in religion as in all other subjects, is the best means of broadening knowledge and leading to tolerant views.

I have already told you something of the monks. In Spain there were four different orders, or great families, of monks. All were eager to come to the New World to convert the natives and obtain wealth for their order, and begged the king for permission. He gave his permission, for he knew wherever the monks set up a mission the Spanish king could claim the country. Soon many good and earnest men were traveling over New Spain,—as Spain called her possessions in America,—settling down in the most fertile valleys, converting the natives, and finally gaining vast wealth for their orders, just as the monks had done in the Middle Ages, when they pushed into the swamps and woods and converted the natives of Europe, and taught them patiently the lessons of monastic life.

Generally two monks went together into the part of country where they wanted to found a mission, and made friends with the Indians by giving them cloth, pretty beads and the like. Here they made their home, and, after slowly winning the good will of the Indians, taught them their religion.

These missions were generally close enough together that several could be overseen by one monk, who was put in charge, as a kind of superintendent, and who traveled from one to the other. As these Spanish missions spread, of course Spain's claims spread farther and farther. It was in this way, chiefly, that Spain gained possession of such a large part of South America, as well as California, New Mexico, Arizona and most of Colorado.

These monks were often noble men and oftentimes tried earnestly to secure better treatment for the natives than was given to them by the soldiers and planters, and sometimes succeeded in making the officers see to it that the Indians were not enslaved. But so strong was the love of gold, both on the part of the home country and of the officers, that the plunder of the natives was the rule, and millions of them, as we have seen, died under the inhuman burdens placed upon them, notwithstanding the entreaties of the best of the monks.

Let us now see how the missionaries themselves treated the Indians. Those who had been converted, and who lived at a mission, were called neophytes (which means new converts) and were regarded as a part of the property of the mission. They must rise at sunrise, and, led by the priest, must march to the church and spend an hour in worship. Then came a breakfast of roasted barley. Then each went to his duty, some cooking food or weaving cloth, others making sandals or shoes; some tended the orchards, others sowed and reaped the wheat and barley; and yet others herded such of the cattle, horses, sheep and goats as did not run wild. All things were held in common at the mission, the labor of the Indians being considered as belonging wholly to the monastery, for which they received food, clothing and instruction. The monks gave great attention to instructing them in religious affairs, and, in their great earnestness to have them practice religious ceremonies, often gave them little other instruction. They were not generally overworked, and as the monasteries grew wealthy they came often to lead lives largely of idleness and pleasure. But one of the results of the monastic life was that the converts were taught to depend on the monks, not on themselves; in fact, the converted Indians were really the slaves of the monastery. When at last the missions were destroyed in the first half of the nineteenth century, the neophytes were scattered, and the work which the monasteries had done very largely tumbled into ruin. Here, again, Spain had slowly but surely failed to build this phase of her life in the New World upon freedom, and when the shock of a freer civilization came against it, in the nineteenth century, it fell.

Thus we have seen Spain, by far the wealthiest nation in Europe in the sixteenth century, reach out her strong arm, and, during the three centuries following Columbus's discoveries, conquer and settle, in her way, a vast amount of territory in the New World. We have seen the Spanish conquering and claiming all of South America except Brazil, all of Mexico, Central America, and what is now Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Spain began her settlements a hundred years before the French planted a single permanent settlement in the valleys of the Mississippi and St. Lawrence, or the English had a permanent footing on the Atlantic coast. She traveled over the country much faster, claimed more territory, and planted settlements in a land of ease and sunshine, where wealth could be had with little toil. With these favorable conditions and this early start, why has not Spain and Spanish institutions come finally to rule in the New World? The answer is to be found in the fact that Spain did not bring to the New World ideas and institutions which taught the people self-support, self-dependence, and that slow, natural growth in tilling the soil, building manufacturies, developing trade and practicing economy which make a people strong, free and self-reliant.

While the English colonists were coming to America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to obtain freedom of religion, and were building Puritan, Baptist, Catholic, Quaker, Episcopalian and other churches, where free discussion and free worship gradually grew, the Spanish colonists were being held by the strongest grip to a single religious thought, which prevented free discussion and developed tyranny. While the English were learning the lessons of political freedom by holding meetings in each township, county and village to elect their own officers and make their own laws, the Spanish king was sending officers from Spain to see that laws made in Spain and for Spain were arbitrarily enforced among the colonists. While the English were toiling slowly and patiently to root their institutions in their little farms cleared of the forest and stones and swamps by their own hands, the Spanish were plundering the natives for gold, reducing them to the condition of slavery on the large plantations or around the monastery, and living lives of pleasure and ease. While the English king was paying little heed to the slow but sure growth which was making the English colonists both free and wealthy, the Spanish king was drawing every ounce of gold and bushel of grain possible, back to the home country to support his large army, his luxurious court and the Inquisition. It is true that both England and Spain tried to rule their colonies for the mother country; but the difference is that the English colonists came of their own accord, and in spite of the home government began immediately to develop free religion, free government, free trade, a public school system, especially in New England, and to bring their wives and children with them to make the New World their permanent home; while the Spanish colonists were sent to America by the king and for the king, and were compelled to hold to the religious thought and practice of a single faith, to obey the governor without question, to cultivate the field with slaves, to submissively send its products back to the king's table, to establish monastic schools, but no public system of education; and only rarely did the highest class of Spaniards come to America to make it their permanent home. The English colonists had in themselves germs of new life; the Spanish, germs of decay and death. The English colonist was like a young tree planted in new soil; the Spanish, like a post driven in the ground: the one grew, the other decayed.

Thus it came about that when the English colonists resisted the unjust laws of the king and Parliament in the latter part of the eighteenth century, it was natural, and with but comparatively little difficulty, that they became independent, and immediately united themselves into a great nation and continued the free growth of their already well-rooted institutions till they spread from Atlantic to Pacific during the nineteenth century.

Thus we see that the Spanish colonists were always kept in check by the most despotic laws. We have also seen that the Spanish king drove the Moors, the Jews, and those accused of heresy from Spain, and in doing so lost more in national wealth, strength and glory than could be regained in all the mines of Mexico and Peru. As Spain's freer population was driven out of the country her tyrannical population grew less healthy and her national life fell rapidly into decay. Many of her citizens became idle, many became beggars,—her looms stopped, her fields became wastes. With all this, the gold and silver mines in America began to fail in the eighteenth century, which led Spain to tax her citizens all the heavier to secure the food and clothing which she no longer produced herself, and to keep up the great army and the expensive court. By his strict laws of trade and taxation the king had destroyed commerce and made his nation a land of beggars.

The tyranny of the king, the oppression of the clergy, and the unjust laws of trade, finally led, in the first part of the nineteenth century, to the rebellion of the Spanish colonies in America from the mother country. As they dropped away from Spain they came either into the possession or under the protection of the United States. The United States bought Florida in 1819. Beginning with 1821 and continuing for nearly twenty years the colonies of Mexico and Central and South America, largely under the leadership of General Bolivar, gained their independence of Spain, and set to work to establish independent governments for themselves. Since these colonies had been given no practice in self-government during the three hundred years of Spanish rule, they did not at first know how, and have not yet learned, to carry forward free government with such ability as has been shown by the Anglo-Saxon race.

By the Monroe Doctrine, declared in 1823 by President Monroe, we showed our sympathy for these revolting colonies by saying that if European countries, such as Russia, Austria and France, should ally themselves with Spain, and help her to conquer the revolting colonies and hold them in subjection, we would regard such an act on their part as unfriendly to the United States. Thus the sympathy of the United States greatly aided the Spanish colonies to gain their independence and has been a constant protection to them ever since they became free.

The people of Texas became as dissatisfied with the rule of Mexico, after Mexico had become independent of Spain, as they had been with that of Spain herself. They rebelled, therefore, in 1836, from Mexico, and Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845. This soon led to war between the United States and Mexico. At the close of this war, in 1848, and as a result of it, the United States obtained New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona (except the Gadsden Purchase), and the greater part of Colorado. Thus was Spain's grip gradually drawn from every foot of territory within the present bounds of the United States. It was the final triumph, after three and a half centuries of growth in the New World, of the principles of the Teutonic-American race, represented by the United States, over those of the Roman-American race, represented by Spain. And this triumph was the triumph of liberty over despotism.

When gold was discovered in 1848, and people rapidly rushed into California, the old monastic centers were destroyed and the Indians scattered. Even those Indians who had learned to farm, and owned land of their own, were driven away, often unjustly, and the land was taken by the whites. Thus did the last living traces of Spanish civilization disappear from the boundaries of the United States, overrun by the stronger, freer life, which, in its onward march, was ever hungry for more land upon which to establish the free institutions which it had been developing and strengthening for a thousand years.

Four hundred and six years after Spain gained her first colony (1898) Porto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines (the last colonies in the world still remaining to Spain) were freed from oppression through the assistance of the United States, and rapidly took on new life and new hope through the freer schools, free government and new industries which sprang up within their midst, when guided by the Teutonic hand, almost as quickly and abundantly as does the vegetation from their exhaustless soil.

Thus have we seen the Spanish nation conquer and explore a vast territory in a mad rush for gold. We have seen her extend an arbitrary but loose government over such an extent of territory as to make her the greatest power in Europe in the sixteenth century. At the end of the nineteenth every foot of this territory had either torn itself away or been torn from her by another, and Spain, from being the greatest power in the world, had fallen to be one of the weakest. And why was this? Because when Spain had a chance to stand for freedom she stood for oppression. When she had a chance to plant the New World with new thought, she turned her face backward and sought to plant it with the seeds of the Middle Ages. The parliament, the printing press, the free school, free labor and free discussion are the mighty forces which move modern civilization. Spain gave none of these to America, hence her ideas and institutions here weakened and died.

A nation is like a tree,—in order to live it must continually grow; and modern nations in order to live must grow on the sap of freedom—not freedom for the few  but freedom for all.  Spain lost this sap, both in the trunk at home and in the spreading colonial branches. The result has been decay in the trunk and complete loss of the branches.

Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.