Up to until towards the end of the 15th century, no European explorers had managed to reach the two American continents, namely North and South America. In the year 1494, sailor Christopher Columbus set out on a voyage with the objective of finding a shorter trade route to India1. Unknowingly, he discovered these two continents. The subsequent explorations on the newly discovered continents were similar to trying to discover a entirely new world, and thus the term “New World” was conceived. Soon, the English, the Spaniards and the French set out to grab a piece of the New World, albeit with a diverse range of objectives.
Spain was the first country to lay vast claims on the New World. With an iron fist the Spanish crushed the culture and political system put in place by the Native Americans2. The objectives of the Spanish incursion into the New World included the acquisition of mineral wealth, the spread of the Christian faith and the search of a Northwestern passage. The Spanish also loved the thrill of adventure.
Like the Spanish before them, the French had a desire to spread Christianity, to find wealth and to increase their influence in international matters. To protect her interests, France wanted to counter the expansion of other nations like Spain and England. The French knew they would expand their trade by finding the Northwestern passageway; but endless forests and local tribes blocked their expansion. They instead started trading in fur and other merchandise with the local Indian tribes3.
The English entrance into the New World was basically for profit-making purposes. The first colony was not funded by royal patronage, but by a stock company. Most English immigrants into the New World were young adventurers seeking new opportunities to better their lives in a land that was perceived as having endless opportunities.
Later on, missionary communities formed colonies, signing treaties with the local tribes so as to spread Christianity. Finding no silver and gold, the English established lucrative tobacco and rice farming plantations, lumber and ship building and fishing4. They were thus able to establish themselves on a firmer footing as compared to both the Spanish and the French.
1 Jonathan Locke Hart. 2001.
2 Jonathan Locke Hart, 2001
3,4 David E. Stannard, American holocaust: the conquest of the New World. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press US, 1993), 56, 101.