Page:The Harvard Classics Vol. 51; Lectures.djvu/429

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.


But to get secure possession of the new territories it was necessary that European nations should do more than discover. They must make settlements and colonize. Spain, being first in the field, directed her energies to those regions which seemed to constitute the largest prize, that is to say, the West Indies, Central America, and the western slopes of the South American continent. In the Indies there was a fertile soil which could be made to yield its increase without much labor; on the mainland there were great areas of gold and silver ore. Portugal, coming hard on the heels of her peninsular neighbor, went still further to the south and took as her patrimony the sea coast of Brazil, a region which also promised a rich tribute in precious metals. England, being rather slow to follow up the beginnings made in her behalf by John and Sebastian Cabot, was forced to be content with territories north of the Spanish claims—the coast from Florida to the Bay of Fundy—where there were no great stores of mineral wealth to attract the adventuresome. In the long run, however, this selection proved to be the most prudent of them all. France, coming last into the field, found herself pushed still farther northward to the regions of Acadia, the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. Other countries of Europe, Sweden, and the Netherlands, were also in the race and both managed to get a precarious foothold in the new territories, the former on the Delaware and the latter on the Hudson. But both were in due course dislodged and these colonies passed into English hands. So did the territories of France after a century of conflict.


In the region along the Atlantic seaboard which England claimed for her own, two settlements were made at dates not far apart. Early in 1607 a group of about one hundred settlers established at Jamestown in Virginia the first permanent Anglo-American colony, and through the inevitable hardships of a pioneer community managed to hold the settlement on its feet. With them they had brought a royal charter couched in the legal diction of the time, and in due course established their own system of local self-government with its