Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/88

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

shore, the only part accessible to English adventurers without encroachment on the transatlantic possessions of a friendly power, yielded little or nothing to commerce which could not be obtained with less trouble in Europe itself. During these sixty years, which saw no break in the friendly relations between England and Spain, many English merchants resided in the latter country, who must have heard with astonishment, and probably a certain envy, of the rich treasure-districts which exploration revealed in quick succession, and occasionally visited them, or some of them, in person. Not until the marriage of the English Queen with the Spanish heir-apparent was it ever suggested that England should aspire to share in the wealth which the fortune of events had poured into the lap of Spain. About this time Mexico and Potosi shone forth with tempting lustre in the eyes of Europe. These districts were mere patches on the map of a continent which probably contained gold and silver in all its parts, and which had been designed by nature to be the treasure-house of the world. Nine-tenths of it remained unexplored. The events of the Franco-Spanish wars had proved the Spaniards incapable of excluding from it other nations whose seamen were better than their own; and English seamen, then as now, acknowledged no superiors. Other Mexicos and Potosis doubtless awaited the first adventurer bold enough to strike the blow that should secure them. Why should England again neglect her opportunity?

It was not, however, exactly in this aspect that the suggestion of "America for the English" was first put forward. The writer who earned the credit of it—one Richard Eden, Hakluyt's precursor, who to book-learning added a keen personal interest in sailors and sailors' tales—was a clerk in Philip's "English Treasury." Possibly he owed this post to a volume published by him in the year preceding that of Philip's marriage, containing a translation of a somewhat meagre account of the New World compiled by a German geographer. The object of this volume, in his own words, was to persuade Englishmen to "make attempts in the New World to the glory of God and the commodity of our country," and the sole inducement held out was America's wealth in the precious metals. Only a few years had elapsed since the produce of the mines of Potosi was first registered in the books of the Spanish King. Had Englishmen, writes Eden, been awake to their interests, "that Rich Treasury called Perularia (the bullion-warehouse of Seville) might long since have been in the Tower of London!" At this date Edward VI, a Protestant, with whom Spain's papal title to the New World was not likely to find recognition, was on the throne. His future marriage remained undecided; but it was anticipated that he would intermarry with a French princess, and that England and France, henceforth in strict alliance, would continue the process of despoiling Spain, which France alone had so successfully begun. By the death of Edward and the succession of Mary the political outlook was changed. On July 19,