The Cambridge Modern History/Volume I/Chapter II
|The Cambridge Modern History
Volume I: The Renaissance
The story of the Age of Discovery naturally merges in that of the New World, the principal fruit of the strenuous labours to which that Age owes its name. The history, in the wider sense, of the New World begins in the remotest ages; for the habits of life and thought displayed among its aborigines at the time of the Discovery, and its indigenous languages, which stand nearer to the origin of speech than any group of languages in the Old World, carry the ethnologist back to a stage far more archaic than is indicated in any other quarter of the globe. Its history, in so far as history is a mere record of specific facts and events known to have taken place in particular districts, in a definite succession, and admitting of being distinctly connected with particular peoples and personages, is extremely limited. Its modern historical period, in fact, coincides very nearly with that of the Old World's "modern" history,—a circumstance partly due to the fact that its advanced peoples, though by no means devoid of the historical instinct, possessed but limited means of keeping historical records; and partly to the circumstance that their history, such as it was, consisted in changes of ascendancy happening in comparatively quick succession, in the course of which the memory of events connected with past dominations soon lapsed into oblivion, or dwelt but faintly and briefly in the remembrance of those peoples who happened to be dominant at the Spanish Conquest. Although the general series of American migrations, beginning with the entry of man into the New World from the Old in the remote age when Asia and America, afterwards parted by the shallow Strait of Behring, were continuous, has passed out of knowledge, it may be assumed to have proceeded on the principle of the stronger tribe expelling the weaker from districts yielding the more ample supplies of food. There is good reason to conclude that the peoples and tribes of low stature who still occur sporadically in various parts of America, represent the earliest immigrants. At the Discovery tribes and nations of tall stature, great physical strength and endurance, and a certain degree of advancement in the arts of life, were dominant in all the districts most favourable for human habitation; and it is possible in some measure to trace the movements by which their migrations had proceeded, and the steps by which they acquired dominion over lower or less powerful peoples in whose midst they settled. Foremost among these dominant peoples stand the Nahuatlaca or Mexicans, who had their chief seat at Mexico on the plateau of Anahuac, and the Aymara-Quichua, or Peruvians, whose centre of dominion was at Cuzco in the Andes. On the subjugation of these two peoples the Spanish-American Empire was founded. Next in importance, but of lower grade, come the Caribs of Venezuela and the West Indian archipelago, the first ethnological group encountered by Colombo, and the only one known to him; the Tupi-Guarani of Brazil, who had conquered and occupied most of the shore which fell to the lot of Portugal; the Iroquois, who held the district colonised by France; and the Algonquins, who occupied with less power of resistance to invasion that colonised by England. It is remarkable that all these nations appear once to have been maritime and fishing peoples, to have multiplied and developed their advancement in the immediate neighbourhood of the sea, and thence to have penetrated and settled various tracts of the interior. We trace them to three maritime districts, all extremely favourable to practice in fishing, navigation, and exploration: (1) the Nahuatlaca, Iroquois, and Algonquins, to British Columbia; (2) the Aymara-Quichua and the Tupi-Guarani to the ancient "Argentine sea"—a vast body of salt water which at no very remote period filled the great plain of Argentina—and to the chain of great lakes which once existed to the north of it; (3) the Caribs to the Orinoco, whence they spread by a natural advance to the West Indian archipelago, and probably to the valley of the Mississippi, where one branch of them, at no very remote period before the Discovery, perhaps founded large agricultural pueblos, still traceable in the earthworks which in many places line the banks of that great river and its tributaries, and threw up the "Animal Mounds" which are among the most curious monuments of ancient America.
The Nahuatlaca or "Civilised People" (nahua = rule of life; tlacatl, pi. tlaca = man) appear to have originally dwelt at no great distance from the Iroquois and Algonquins, on the North American coast opposite Vancouver Island, where their peculiar advancement had its first development. With them the history, in the ordinary sense, of aboriginal America begins. The Nahuatlaca alone among American peoples possessed a true though inaccurate chronology, and kept painted records of contemporary and past events. Pinturas preserved at Tezcuco variously assigned the years 387 and 439 of the Christian era as the date of the earliest migration to the south from maritime lands far to the north of California. A more probable date—about a.d. 780—was furnished to the earliest Spanish enquirers as the time when the first swarm of the Aculhuaque, or "Strong Men," arrived in Anahuac from Aculhuacan, their previous seat northward of Xalisco, founded the pueblos of Tollan and Tollantzinco, and entered the Mexican Valley, where they settled at Culhuacan and Cohuatlichan and built on an island in the Lake a few huts, which later grew into the pueblo of Mexico. By a long subsequent immigration were founded the Tecpanec pueblos in the South-Western corner of the Lake, to which Mexico was once tributary, and on whose subjugation by Mexico the dominion found by the Conquistadores was established about a century before the Conquest. The Tecpanec pueblos, five in number, the principal one being Azcapozalco, subjugated a rival confederacy, on the opposite shore, headed by Tezcuco, about 1406. In this conquest they were materially assisted by the people of two villages (Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco), founded on the island of Mexico nearly a century before by a wandering tribe of non-Nahuatlacan origin, to whom the Tecpanecs had given the name of Azteca, or "Crane-people." Over these lake villages, after the Tezcucans had been subdued by their aid, the Tecpanecs maintained a relentless tyranny, which at length produced a revolt, in the course of which the Mexican villagers obtained a complete victory. The Tezcucans, who rose against their Tecpanec conquerors shortly afterwards (1431), regained their liberty; and the two Mexican pueblos entered into an alliance with Tezcuco, in which Tlacopan, a Tecpanec pueblo which had remained neutral during the struggle, was also included. This confederacy conquered and considerably enlarged the dominion acquired by the Tecpanec confederacy, and held in subjection a large and populous tract extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and containing all the best parts of the southern extremity of North America, where it narrows towards the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. One important district only was excluded from it. This was a highland tract held by Tlaxcallan, Huexotzinco, and Cholollan,—pueblos of the Nahuatlaca, founded in early times, and never subjugated either by the Tecpanecs, or by the confederated pueblos who succeeded to their dominion. At the Spanish Conquest Cholollan, the largest and most prosperous of the three, was in alliance with the Lake pueblos; and there is little doubt that Tlaxcallan and Huexotzinco would have been admitted to the same status but for the Mexican Rule of Life, which demanded war every twenty days, ostensibly as a means of procuring sacrifices for the sun and other gods, but really to provide the material for the cannibal feasts by which each sacrifice was terminated. Had peace been made between the pueblos of the Lake and those of the highlands, both groups must have had recourse to distant frontiers for the means of fulfilling what was universally regarded by the Nahuatlaca as an imperative obligation. Human sacrifice, indeed, was understood to be necessary to the cosmic order, for without it the sun, who was conceived as a god of animal nature, subsisting by food and drink, would not merely cease to yield his warmth, but would perish out of the heavens.
The importance of the New World to Europe, in the first century after the Discovery, chiefly rested on the fact that it was found to be a huge storehouse of gold and silver. To a large extent its resources in this respect had already been worked by the aborigines. Gold is the only metal which occurs in its native or unmixed state, and is largely found in the debris of those rocks which are most exposed to atmospheric action. It therefore early attracts the attention of savages, who easily apply it to purposes both of use and ornament; and more elaborate working in gold is one of the first arts of advanced life. Silver attracts attention and acquires value from its similarity, in most qualities, to gold; in Mexico both metals were regarded as of directly divine origin. The Toltecs, or people of Tollan, were reputed the earliest workers in gold and silver; and as this pueblo was understood to have been founded by a Nahuatlacan tribe at least as early as A.D. 780, these metals had been sought and wrought in the Mexican district for at least 700 years. There is no reason for concluding that after being manufactured they were largely, or indeed at all, exported; hence the immense accumulations of metallic wealth which were found in the Mexican district—accumulations greedily seized by the Conquistadores, and poured through Spanish channels into the mints of Europe, where the stock of gold had probably not been substantially increased since the fall of the Roman Empire. Still larger accessions to the mineral wealth of Europe followed the discovery and conquest of Peru—especially after the Spaniards became masters of the mines of Potosi—and of New Granada, where an almost savage people had laid up great quantities of the precious metals in the form of utensils and rude works of art: and from the discovery and conquest of these richly endowed countries, and the plunder of their stored-up wealth, date the serious efforts of European nations other than Spain and Portugal to acquire territory in the New World.
Twenty-five years passed between Colombo's discovery and the first intelligence of Mexico. During this period Spanish America was limited to the four greater Antilles—Espanola, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. On the northern shore of the South American continent, in what is now Venezuela, attempts had been made to effect a lodgment, but in vain; this district, and indeed the continent generally, was long regarded as a mere field for slave-raiding, the captives being sold in Española and Cuba. The smaller islands, and the other adjacent continental coasts, remained unconquered and uncolonised; much as on the opposite side of the Atlantic the Canaries and the Madeira group were parcelled into feudal estates and parishes, while the neighbouring shore of Africa remained unattempted. The Spaniards, wholly new to their task, had to gain experience as colonists in a savage land. Often their settlements were founded on ill-chosen sites. When Isabella, Colombo's first colony in Espanola, had to be abandoned, San Domingo was founded on the opposite side of the island (1494); the site of this, again, was changed by Ovando, the successor of Colombo after his removal from the administration (1502); and the same thing happened at Santiago de los Caballeros. Of the eighteen towns founded in the early years of colonisation a century later only ten survived. A few towns were founded in Puerto Rico by Ovando; Cuba was colonised by Diego Velasquez, and Jamaica by Juan de Esquivel. But the settlements in both were few and unprosperous, Santiago de Cuba having in the course of a few years become almost deserted. Sugar was the only crop yielding profits; gold was procured in the smallest quantities; the best investment was to take over horned cattle, turn them loose to breed, and hunt the savage herd for its hides and tallow, which were shipped for sale to Europe.
By such means, and by mercilessly tasking the Indians as labourers in field and mine, many emigrants in time became rich men, and looked eagerly round for new and wider fields of adventure. Slave-raiding on the continental coasts was a favourite employment, and a certain quantity of gold was readily bartered for trifles by the natives, wherever the Spaniards landed; and by these pursuits the Cuban colonists at length reached the coast pueblos of Yucatan, which were comparatively recent outposts of Nahuatlacan advancement. Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, in 1518 sent a squadron of vessels to reconnoitre this coast more fully; Grijalva, who commanded, traced the shore-line as far as the tierra caliente of Mexico, and reached Vera Cruz, then as now the port of Mexico. Here Carib seamen shipped the surplus tributes and manufactured products of the Lake pueblos for barter in the southern parts of their extensive field of navigation. From Vera Cruz Grijalva coasted northwards as far as the Panuco river. Many large pueblos were descried in the distance; the names of Mexico and of Motecuhzoma, its Tlatohuani ("Speaker," in the sense of "Commander" or Supreme Chief), first fell on Spanish ears; and the description of the great Lake pueblo was listened to with more interest, because in these parts the exploring party obtained by barter an immense quantity of gold. Here, at length, signs of civilised life were found; large hopes of wealth, whether by commerce or plunder, were excited; and on the return of the expedition Velasquez ordered a new one to proceed thither without delay. His design was simply to prosecute the remunerative trade which Grijalva had begun. Others formed bolder schemes; and his secretary and treasurer, probably in collusion with the schemers, persuaded him to entrust the command to Hernan Cortes, who had conceived the plan of employing the whole military force of Santiago de Cuba at his disposal in invading Mexico and subjugating it at one blow. This Cortes accomplished only by fortune's favour; for he knew nothing of the imminent peril he was rashly encountering, and his force barely escaped annihilation.
The landing of Cortes, and his safe progress through a difficult country to the frontier of Tlaxcallan, were facilitated by the circumstance that the people of the country, who had groaned for the greater part of a century under the cruel tyranny of Mexico, welcomed him everywhere as a deliverer. The coast tribes mistook him for the ancient Toltec god Quetzalcohuatl. The Tlaxcaltecs, who had never beheld a friendly force on their borders, at first mistook him for an ally of the Mexicans; but on learning the true aspect of affairs they joined him as allies. Thus Cortes, from the territory of Tlaxcallan as his base, conducted his campaign against the Lake pueblos with the help of auxiliaries who possessed a complete knowledge of the country, and a military experience gained by a century's constant fighting. At first he posed as a friendly emissary of the great European monarch his master. Having on these terms obtained admittance to Mexico for himself and his armed force, he seized the Tlatohuani's person, put him in chains, and assumed the government. These proceedings naturally led to a rising on the part of the Mexican warriors, who attacked the Spaniards and drove them from the pueblo with great loss, taking many prisoners and sacrificing them to the Nahuatlacan gods. Driven ignominiously from Mexico, and chased by an infuriated enemy through and out of the Valley, Cortes retired by a circuitous route to Tlaxcallan, and laid his plans anew. Having refreshed his troops and renewed his supplies, he built two brigantines for action on the Lake; launched them from Tezcuco, which he occupied with little difficulty; assaulted Mexico by water; gained possession of its streets and buildings by slow degrees; and at length broke the resolute resistance of its warriors, and rased its clay-built edifices to the ground. He had won for the Castilian Crown the dominion of the confederated Lake pueblos—a tract of country extending from the Pacific to the Mexican gulf, 800 miles in length on the Pacific shore, and somewhat less on the other, comprising many large towns and above five hundred agricultural villages, and the seat of the most advanced communities of the New World.
This conquest was no barren victory over mere barbarians. Though no ethnologist would concede to the Nahuatlacan polity the title of a civilisation, it possessed the foundations on which all civilisation is built—a numerous and docile peasantry, an organised system of labour, and physical elements adequate to wealth-production. In these circumstances an unique social state had been evolved, to which the nearest analogue in the Old World is the gross barbarism of Ashanti or Dahomey. It was lower than these in that, except man himself, there were no animals kept for labour, nor were any kept for food except man and the dog. In other respects the arts of life were better developed: and to the superficial observation of the Conquistadores the large territory dominated by the Lake pueblos had an aspect sufficiently civilised to justify them in giving it the name of "New Spain." What was of most importance in the eye of the European invaders, it possessed stores of the precious metals, which had been accumulating in the hands of dominant tribes for seven centuries. Immense quantities of treasure steadily poured henceforth into Spain; and America assumed an entirely new aspect for the nations of Western Europe. Almost from the first Spain perceived that other European powers would dispute with her, and perhaps one day wrest from her, the possession of the rich New World which accident had given to her. The conquest of Mexico nearly corresponded with the opening of a period of hostility between Spain and France, which lasted, though with considerable intermissions, from 1521 to 1556. Cortes, who entered Mexico in the former year, despatched at the end of 1522 two vessels to Spain laden with Mexican treasure; Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine in the French service, captured these near the Azores, and about the same time took a large vessel homeward bound from Española, laden with treasure, pearls, sugar, and hides. Enriched by these prizes, he gave large complimentary presents to the French King and High Admiral; and general amazement was felt at the wealth which was pouring into Spain from its transatlantic possessions. "The Emperor," Francis exclaimed, "can carry on the war against me by means of the riches he draws from the West Indies alone!" Of the immense inheritance obtained by Spain in America the only parts actually reduced to possession by the Spanish monarch were the four great Antilles, and those portions of the continent which had been settled by the Nahuatlaca. Southward, the shores from Yucatan as far as the Plate River had been explored by Spain and Portugal; and all that seemed to remain to the future adventurer was the North American shore from the Mexican Gulf to Newfoundland. Jocosely refusing to acknowledge the claim of the peninsular powers to make a bipartite division of the sphere between them until they should "produce the will of Adam, constituting them his universal heirs," Francis commissioned the successful Florentine captain to reconnoitre the whole shore from Florida to Newfoundland. This being done, he intimated to Europe that he claimed it, by right of discovery, as the share of France in the great American heritage. He called it New France,—a term familiar in French ears since the beginning of the thirteenth century as the title of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, and now less inappropriately applied by transfer to the New World.
The commission thus entrusted to and accomplished by Verrazzano was masked under the pretence of seeking a North-west passage to the Far East. But its real object was to lay a foundation for the claim of France to the whole of America north of Mexico, put forward in the belief, which ultimately proved well warranted, that this tract would, like Mexico, prove rich in the precious metals. Having completed the voyage by which his name is chiefly remembered, Verrazzano resumed the profitable practice of plundering the Spanish homeward-bound ships, and took some prizes between Spain and the Canaries. On his return he fell in with a squadron of Spanish war vessels, surrendered to them after a severe engagement, and in 1527 was hanged as a pirate at Colmenar de Arenas. France strenuously maintained, and sought by repeated efforts to substantiate, the right to North America which Verrazzano's coasting-voyage was supposed to have acquired. In periods of war no attempts at possession were made; but in the intervals of peace expeditions were undertaken to the Gulf of St Lawrence, with the view of exploring the passage to the Far East of which it was imagined to be the beginning. Cartier made two voyages for this purpose in 1534 and 1535; and in 1540 he sailed up the great river of Canada, and selected a site for the colony which in 1542 Roberval attempted to establish. Cartier brought to France news of the two principal native nations of North America—nations on which later French settlers bestowed the names "Iroquois" and "Algonquin," each being a purely French word embodying a peculiarity in the sound of their respective languages. The Algonquins, who were the earlier immigrants, were partially cultivators of the soil, but chiefly relied for subsistence on hunting and fishing. The more advanced Iroquois, who appear to have driven the Algonquins from the choicest parts of their territory, had nearly reached the stage in which agriculture is the main source of subsistence, though they were accomplished hunters and formidable warriors: and their compact territory was parcelled out among five tribes, who formed the confederation so well known in later history as the "Five Nations." Though Roberval's attempt failed, the example thus set was followed in a later generation in other latitudes, and other nations were encouraged to imitate it. Meanwhile the aspect of American enterprise was greatly modified, and the effect produced by the discovery of the treasures of Mexico greatly enhanced, by the discovery and conquest of Peru, the richest district of the New World hitherto revealed.
Here, again, we are struck by the comparatively modern date of the aboriginal dominion which the Spanish adventurers found established along the coast and in the valleys of the Andes. This dominion, of which the centre was at Cuzco, was very much more extensive than that of the federated Mexican pueblos. Unlike the Nahuatlaca, the Peruvian people had no reckoning of years; nor can the date of any fact in Peruvian history anterior to the conquest be accurately ascertained. All that we know is that the settlement of the nation or people who then dominated the sierra and the coast from Cuzco, where the traditions of their arrival were still fresh, was of comparatively modern date. They called themselves Inca, or "people of the sun" (Inti). They were probably an offshoot from a large group of warlike tribes, in which the Tupi-Guarani were included, long settled on the margins of the vanished Argentine sea and of a chain of great lakes to the north of it, where they subsisted by fishing and hunting. From this district they ascended to the sierra, where the huanaco and vicuña, two small cognate species of the camel genus, furnished abundant food and material for clothing. These they domesticated as the llama and paco, both being Quichua words implying subjugation; they propagated by art the pulse and food-roots of the Cordillera, and established many permanent pueblos in and near the great lake basin of Titicaca, the earliest seat of Peruvian advancement. From this district they advanced northwards, and occupied a canton almost impregnably situated in the midst of immense mountains and deep gorges, known to geographers as the "Cuzco district." In historical times they had separated into two branches, speaking two languages, evidently divergent forms of a single original, called by Spanish grammarians Aymara and Quichua; names which it has been found convenient to use as ethnical terms for the peoples who spoke them. Tradition carried back the history of the Aymara-Quichua in Cuzco and its neighbourhood about three hundred years, during which eleven Apu-Capac-Incas, or "head-chiefs of the Inca (people)" were enumerated; but it was generally considered, and is almost conclusively shown by balancing evidence, that not much more than a century had elapsed since they made their first conquests beyond the limited "Cuzco district," and that only the last five of the Apu-Capac-Incas—Huiracocha-Inca, Pachacutic-Inca, Tupac-Inca-Yupanqui, Huaina-Capac-Inca, and Tupac-atau-huallpa—all forming a chain of succession from father to son, had ruled over an extensive territory. The great expansion took place in the time of Pachacutic-Inca, and is traceable to an invasion by an alliance of tribes from the north, who had long dominated Middle Peru, and now sought to conquer the Cuzco district and the valley of Lake Titicaca. Under Pachacutic this invasion was repelled; the allies were defeated at Yahuarpampa, and the war was carried into the enemy's country: the dominion of the invading tribes now fell almost at one blow into the hands of the chiefs of Cuzco. These victories were rapidly followed by the conquest of the northern or Quito district, now forming the republic of Ecuador, and of the coast-valleys, where a remarkable and superior advancement, founded on fishing and agriculture, had existed probably from an earlier date than that of the stronger tribes of the sierra.
The Spaniards, who obtained information of the Inca people and their dominion soon after crossing the isthmus of Panama, reconnoitred the Peruvian coast in 1525, during the head-chieftaincy of Huaina-Capac. But this chief had died, and a civil war, in which the succession was contested between his two sons Tupac-cusi-huallpa ("the sun makes joy"), commonly known by the epithet Huascar ("the chosen one"), and Tupac-atau-huallpa ("the sun makes good fortune"), had been terminated in favour of the latter, when Pizarro invaded the country in 1532 with a party of 183 soldiers. Everywhere large accumulations of treasure were found; for gold and silver had been mined both in the coast-pueblos and in the sierra from remote times, and the whole of the produce still remained, largely accumulated in the numerous burial-places of a people who preserved with almost Egyptian care the corpses of the dead, depositing with them the gold and silver which had belonged to them when alive. The facilities for marching, which a century of well-organised aboriginal rule had established from one end of the dominion to the other, and in several places between the coast and the mountains, made Pizarro's progress easy. So soon as the supreme chief had been seized and imprisoned or put to death, the submission of his followers, and the subjugation of his territory, quickly followed. But it was an easier task for the vile and sordid adventurers who invaded Peru to destroy the tyranny of its aboriginal conquerors and sack its pueblos, than for the Spanish government to assert the authority of the Crown, and provide the Inca dominion with a suitably organised administration. After much bloodshed, extending over many years, this was at length accomplished; the lands which had belonged to the Inca, the sun, or the native chiefs, and the peasantry, were, with their peasant inhabitants, chiefly serfs attached to the soil, granted by the Crown to gentlemen immigrants, and held on similar terms to those annexed to the "commends" of the military Orders—the name "commend," indeed, becoming the technical term for estates so held. Here, as in Mexico, churches were built and endowed, diocesan organisations were established, and the difficult work of converting the Indians was begun and earnestly carried on by a devoted clergy; superior courts of justice were constituted, and law was administered in the village by alcaldes; the aboriginal population, freed from the grinding tyranny of their old masters, increased and throve; new mines, especially of silver, were discovered and wrought. Both Peru and Mexico gradually assumed the resemblance of civilised life; and their prosperity testified to the benefits conferred on them by conquests which, however unjustifiable on abstract grounds, in both cases redeemed the populations affected by them from cruel and oppressive governments, and bloody and senseless religions.
After the conquest of Peru the treasure sent by America to Spain was trebled; the silver mines of Europe were practically abandoned, and before long Europe's entire gold-supply was obtained from the New World. In these circumstances the naval enterprise not only of the enemies, but of the political rivals of Spain was stimulated to assume the form of piracy; and in this connexion a peculiar cause came into operation about this time, which had a strongly modifying effect on the destinies of the New World. Both Charles V and his son and successor in Spain, Philip II, had constituted themselves the champions of the Catholic Church; and they freely employed the gold of America in the pursuit of intrigues favourable to their policy in every European country. Hence, to cut off the supply at its source became the universal policy of Protestantism, now struggling for life throughout Western Europe. The persecution of the Huguenots drove large numbers of French Protestants to join the roving captains who harassed Spanish commerce; and their efforts, begun in time of war, were continued in time of peace. Thus did the French wars with Spain develope into a general war on the part of the Protestants of Western Europe against Spain as the champion of the Papacy and the author of the Inquisition. In the New World this movement resulted in the plundering of Spanish vessels, attacks on the Spanish ports with the object of holding them to ransom, and finally attempts, unsuccessful at first, but effectual when experience in colonisation had once been gained, to found new European communities, in the teeth of all opposition, on the soil of a continent which the Spaniards regarded as most justly their own, and as before all things entrusted to them for the diffusion, and the ultimate extension over the whole globe, of the Catholic faith.
Here, at length, we reach a point of view from which the general bearing of the New World on the parallel growth of European economics and politics on the one hand, and of religious theory, philosophical thought, and scientific advancement on the other, might be brought under observation. Our remarks must be confined to the latter group of topics. For during the period covered by this chapter the political system of Europe was not sensibly disturbed, while the economic changes produced by the discovery and conquest of the New World were as yet imperfectly developed. But the sudden shattering of the old geography produced by the Discovery reacted at once in a marked way on European habits of thought. Religion is man's earliest philosophy; and what affects his habits of thought and alters his intellectual points of view cannot but modify his religious conceptions. The discovery of the New World, and its prospective employment as a place for the planting of new communities of European origin, greatly contributed to substitute for the medieval law of religious intolerance the modern principle of toleration. In the Old World the former theory had hitherto enjoyed general acceptance, and it rested on a logical basis. There was Scriptural warranty for the doctrine that the Supreme Being was a jealous God, visiting the sins of men not only upon their descendants to the third and fourth generation, but also upon the nation to which such men belonged; and it followed that to believe or conceive of Him, or to worship Him, otherwise than in accordance with the revelation graciously made by Him for the guidance of man, was something more than an offence against Himself. It was an intolerable wrong to society, for it exposed the pious many to the penalty incurred by an impious minority. Plague and pestilence, famine and destruction in war, were brought on a nation by religious apostasy; and it was therefore not merely lawful, but a national duty, to stamp out apostasy in its beginnings. The history of Christendom down to the Discovery of America is in the main one long series of more or less successful applications of this perfectly intelligible principle to the general conduct of human affairs. Had it not been for the New World, the Old World might perhaps to this day have been governed in accordance with it.
But the New World was virgin soil. All Christendom, with the approbation even of Jew and Islamite, would readily have united in the opinion that its gross aboriginal idolatries should be extinguished, and the worship of the One God introduced into it, in whatever form. And in the plantation or creation of new Christian communities in America the reason for intolerance as a necessary social principle no longer existed. Each colony—and colonies in this practically vacant continent could be planted at considerable distances from each other—could now settle its religious principles for itself, for it did so at its own risk. In this way the Old World found the solution of what in France and elsewhere had, by the middle of the sixteenth century, become a serious social and political difficulty. In France, in Germany, in England, the nation was coming to be divided into two hostile camps, Catholic and Protestant. Was the one half in each case to be extinguished by the other, in an internecine war? The banishment of the weaker party by migration—and already expatriation was substituted for the death penalty in the case of greater moral crimes than heresy—was a wise and merciful alternative. The French Protestants, who felt that the course of God's dealings with man must on the whole be in their favour, were the first to think of a new career, in a new world perhaps revealed for the purpose, as the beginning of a better order of things, if not as the fulfilment of the destiny of the Reformed faith; and, as the triumph of the Catholic party in France became more and more probable, Protestant leaders cast anxious eyes towards the American shore, as a possible place of refuge for their people, should they be worsted in the struggle. An attempt of this nature was made, with the sanction and help of Coligny, the head of the Protestant party, by Nicolas Durand, better known by his assumed name of Villegagnon, a Knight of the Maltese Order who had served in the expedition of Charles V against Algiers, and who also distinguished himself as an author and an amateur theologian. Durand had resided at Nantes, where the propriety of providing a transatlantic refuge for Protestants, and the capabilities of the Brazilian coast, now frequently visited for commercial purposes by French seamen, were matters of common discussion. He resolved to be the first to carry such a scheme into effect; and he found ample support among the partisans of the Reformed religion, including Coligny, through whose influence he obtained a large pecuniary grant from the French King. In May 1555 he sailed with two ships for the coast of South Brazil, where he settled on an island, still known as Ilha de Villagalhao, near the mouth of the bay of Rio de Janeiro, two miles from the mainland. Durand named the country he proposed to occupy "Antarctic France." The voyage was understood to mark, and did in fact mark, a new era in history. It was the actual beginning of the movement which brought to the New World, as a place where they might worship God in their own way, the Puritans of New England, the Quakers of Pennsylvania and the Catholics of Maryland. Scholars called it the Expedition of the Indonauts; and a French pedant, after the fashion of the time, celebrated its departure in an indifferent Greek epigram. God looked down, he said, from heaven, and saw that the corrupt Christians of Europe had utterly forgotten both Himself and His Son. He therefore resolved to transfer the Christian Mysteries to a New World, and to destroy the sinful Old World to which they had been entrusted in vain.
Preoccupied with the task of establishing themselves in India and the Far East, the Portuguese had for thirty years after the discovery of Brazil done almost nothing by way of reducing this district into possession. A few ships frequented the coast for the purpose of trading with the natives, and setting ashore criminals to take their chance of being adopted or eaten by them. The success of Madeira as a sugar-growing island suggested the extension of this form of enterprise in Brazil, to which attention had been drawn by a recent discovery of gold; and the soil, as in Madeira, was granted out in hereditary captaincies, each grantee receiving exclusive rights over 50 leagues of sea-board. Martim Affonso de Sousa, afterwards viceroy in India, obtained the first of the fiefs, and took possession in 1531. Eleven others followed, and in 1549 the direction of the whole colony was vested in a Governor-general, whose seat was fixed at Bahia. The Portuguese settlements were in North and Middle Brazil, and by choosing an insular site far to the south Durand expected to escape disturbance. His first care was to build a fort and mount his guns. He announced his arrival to the Church of Geneva, by whom two pastors were duly ordained and sent out with the next batch of emigrants. Durand began by sharing with these ministers the conduct of divine worship; and specimens of his extemporaneous prayers, in the course of which he gave thanks to God for mercifully visiting the mainland with a depopulating pestilence, whereby the enemies of the elect were destroyed, and the Lord's path made straight, have come down to us. He devoted to theological studies the abundant leisure left him by his administration. Convinced by the arguments of Cyprian and Clement, he ordered that water should be mingled with the sacramental wine, directed salt and oil to be poured into the baptismal font, and forbade the second marriage of a pastor, fortifying himself in the position he thus assumed by argumentative appeals to Holy Scripture. When he at last publicly announced his adherence to the doctrine of transubstantiation, a breach between him and his Calvinist flock was inevitable. Only one among them, a voluble doctor of the Sorbonne whom he associated with himself in the office of the pulpit, supported his pretensions. When the scandalised colonists absented themselves from public worship, he proceeded to severe disciplinary measures; and in the end they quitted the island, threw themselves on the kindness of the savages of the mainland, and made their way to trading vessels in which they sailed for Europe. Thus the Indonaut colony, the first Protestant community in the New World, ended in a ludicrous failure.
As the struggle between the Catholics and Protestants of France became more and more desperate, the idea of founding a Protestant colony in America was revived: and it was now resolved to use for this purpose the immense tract which Verrazzano's voyage was understood to have acquired for the French Crown. Coligny, with the assent of Charles IX, equipped two vessels which he despatched on February 18, 1562, under the command of Jean Ribault, to found the first colony attempted in North America since the return of Roberval in 1540. After exploring the coast, Ribault chose Port Royal Sound in the present State of South Carolina, as the most promising site for a colony; began the construction of a fort, to which he gave the name of Charles-fort, for the protection of those whom he intended to leave behind; and returned to Europe. Their supplies being exhausted, the colonising party fell into dissensions, mutinied against the rigorous discipline enforced by their captain, and assassinated him. No reinforcements arriving from Europe, they built a pinnace, intending to return, put to sea, suffered indescribable hardships, and put back again, more dead than alive, towards the American shore. They were picked up by a homeward-bound English barque, one of whose crew had been with Ribault on the outward voyage. Some were landed in France; while those who were not too exhausted to continue the voyage were taken on to England, where the liveliest interest was by this time felt in the question of North American colonisation. How this revived interest arose, may now be briefly explained.
The history of English enterprise in connexion with the New World goes back in substance to the period of the Discovery itself. Even before this, Bristol seamen had sought for the mythical St Brandan's in the expanses of the Atlantic; possibly the ancient connexion of that port with Iceland had brought the Norse sagas to their ears, and the quest pursued by them was in substance the search for "Vineland" or New England. John Cabot, having obtained on March 5, 1496, the patent referred to on an earlier page, evidently sailed in quest of the "New Land" or "New Island" of the Northmen, and between that date and August, 1497, when he returned to Bristol, reached and investigated the shores of Labrador and Newfoundland which represent the coast called by the Northmen "Hellu-Land" (stony land). A voyage was attempted by him to the New Land in 1498, but not accomplished, and thenceforward English interest in the continent of America relaxed, although the Newfoundland waters were increasingly frequented by fishermen of other nations; so that the voyage of 1496-7 was practically forgotten, when, nearly sixty years afterwards, Englishmen began once more to turn their attention to America. From the untroubled early years of Henry VIII, when America, as yet wholly savage, and its discovery received conspicuous notice in a serious philosophical drama, to the marriage of Philip and Mary, when it stood forth in the eyes of Europe as the source of more wealth than the world had ever seen, the New World is scarcely mentioned in English literature, though the continental press teemed with accounts of it and allusions to it. But an old dramatist's picture of the new continent, as it presented itself to English eyes about 1515, becomes all the more striking through its isolation. The play, or "interlude," is entitled The Four Elements; the leading personage, named Experience, discourses at some length on the "Great Ocean"—"so great that never man could tell it, since the world began, till now these twenty year"—and the new continent lately found beyond it; a continent "so large of room" as to be "much longer than all Christendom," for its coast has been traced above 5000 miles. The inhabitants, from the south, where they "go naked alway," to the north, where they are clad in the skins of beasts, are everywhere savages, living in woods and caves, and knowing nothing of God and the devil, of heaven and hell, but worshipping the sun for his great light. The fisheries, the timber, and the copper of America are named as its chief sources of wealth; and the speaker laments, in stanzas perfectly rhythmical, though the accent is somewhat forced, that England should have missed the opportunity of discovering and colonising this vast country:
O what a [great] thing had been then, If that they that be Englishmen
Might have been the first of all That there should have taken possession, And made first building and habitation,
A memory perpetual!
And also what an honourable thing, Both to the realm, and to the king, To have had his dominion extending
There into so far a ground, Which the noble king of late memory, The most wise prince the seventh Harry,
[Had] caused first for to be found!
Nor is this all that England has lost. Hers would have been the privilege of introducing civilisation and preaching the Gospel in this dark continent—of leading its brute-like tribes "to know of men the manner, and also to know God their Maker." This task, it is evidently felt, would more fittingly have fallen to the lot of England than of Castile and Portugal.
The American coast was doubtless occasionally sighted from English vessels. But it was only gazed on as a curious spectacle. The Northern 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, 1554, Philip of Spain arrived in England, and in the next week was married to Mary at Winchester. He brought with him immense quantities of gold and silver borne on the backs of a hundred horses. Eden's regretful comment was now misplaced, for the contents of "that Rich Treasury called Perularia" were actually on their way to the Tower of London! On October 2 there arrived at the Tower £50,000 in silver, destined to form the nucleus of Philip's "English Treasury," in which Eden had obtained a clerkship. He watched the entry of the newlymarried sovereigns into the metropolis; and his former vision, in a modified shape, now floated before him as a consequence of the match. An ancient commercial alliance was now fortified by a dynastic one; Spain and England must surely henceforth deal with the New World as partners. Eden now resolved to translate the first portion of the "Decades" of Peter Martyr, which contained a lively and popular account, in a series of Latin letters, written in the fashion of the day, of American history from the Discovery to the Conquest of Mexico. Other matter of a similar description filled up his volume; and in the preface he eloquently urges English sailors and merchants to quit the well-worn tracks of traditional commerce, and adventure boldly to the coasts of Florida and Newfoundland.
Although such ideas were doubtless widely entertained, the short reign of Mary afforded no scope for realising them; and the new Anglo-Spanish connexion left in the New World but a single and fleeting trace. A South-American official, when planning a town in a remote valley of the Argentine Andes, named it Londres, or London, in honour of the union of Philip and Mary. This was the first place in America named after an English city. Its existence was of short duration; the Indians expelled the colonists, who were fain to choose another site. The only noteworthy fact during this reign bearing upon the present subject was, that a remarkable maritime project was disastrously proved to be impracticable. Its aim was the discovery of a North-eastern passage to the Far East, answering to the South-eastern passage that was now commonly made by the Portuguese round the Cape of Good Hope. Shortly before Edward's death Sir Hugh Willoughby sailed for this purpose with three vessels. Winter came suddenly on; Willoughby laid up his ships in a harbour of Russian Lapland, where he and the crews of two of his vessels were frozen to death; while Chancellor, the captain of the third, with difficulty reached the White Sea, landed at Archangel, and returned by Moscow. This disaster stopped further search for the passage; seamen and traders henceforth turned in the opposite direction, and speculated on the discovery of a North-west passage. Elizabeth had been on the throne eighteen years, when Frobisher, a Yorkshireman who had constituted himself the pioneer of this project, obtained the means of bringing it to the test, and commenced a fruitless search, which lasted two centuries and a half, for a passage first proved in our own generation to have a geographical existence, but to be nautically impossible. Frobisher's voyages did little towards effecting their ostensible purpose. Led astray by the quest of the precious metals, he loaded his ships with immense quantities of a deceptive pyrites, which contained a small proportion of gold, but far less than enough to pay the cost of extracting it; and the scheme, which had degenerated into a mere mining adventure, was quietly abandoned.
Meanwhile the attention of Western Europe was still concentrated on "Florida,"—a term denoting all the North American continent as far northward as the Newfoundland fishery, and bestowed on it by its discoverer Ponce de Leon, who reached it on Easter Day (Pascua Florida), 1513. Eden's preface conveys the impression that the Spaniards had neglected this vast tract of the continent; nothing however could be less true. The most strenuous efforts had been made to penetrate it, in the confident expectation that it would prove as rich in treasure as Mexico itself; and Pamphilo de Narvaez, chiefly known to fame by his futile mission to arrest the campaign of Cortes, had landed here in 1528 with the object of emulating that supremely fortunate adventurer's exploits. Repulsed and forced back to the coast, he took refuge in his ships and perished in a storm. Five only of his three hundred men regained Mexico, where they published the exciting news that Florida was simply the richest country in the world. This statement was probably made in irony rather than in seriousness; yet it was not without foundation in fact, for the Appalachian mountains contain mines of gold and silver which are profitably worked to this day. By the conquest of Peru adventure to Florida received for the second time a powerful stimulus. Hernan de Soto, a lieutenant of Pizarro, who had been appointed Governor of Cuba, undertook to annex it to the Spanish dominions (1538). His ill-fated expedition, commenced in the next year, forms a well-known episode in American history. During four years De Soto persevered in a series of zigzag marches through a sparsely peopled country, containing no pueblos larger than the average village of hunting tribes, and showing no trace whatever of either gold or silver. In descending the Mississippi he sickened and died; the miserable remnant of his troops sailed from its mouth to the Panuco river in Mexico, bringing back tidings of a failure more disheartening, because the result of a more protracted effort, than that of Narvaez. In 1549 some friars of the Dominican order, elsewhere so successful in dealing with the American aborigines, landed in Florida, only to be at once set upon and massacred. By this time the Indians knew the general character and aims of the new-comers who styled themselves "Christians," and dealt with them accordingly. Outside Spain it was generally thought that Providence had prescribed limits to Spanish conquest, and reserved the Northern continent for some other European people—obviously either the French or the English.
Hence, when in 1558 a Protestant princess succeeded to the English throne, she found the policy which she was expected to pursue in this direction defined for her in public opinion. Here was Florida, the "richest country in the world," still without any owner, or even any pretender to its ownership, though sixty years had passed since Colombo discovered the continent of which it formed a large and prominent part. A whole generation had passed away since the heroic period of Spanish-American history—the conquest of Mexico and Peru; and that period had evidently closed. Clearly Providence forbade Spain to cherish the hope of succeeding in any further attempt to subjugate Florida. France, though ambitious as ever, was hopelessly entangled in civil broils. Everyone expected Elizabeth, who was in truth no bigot, to found colonies in this vast and fertile tract, so near to England and so easily reached from it; where, perhaps, her Catholic and her Protestant subjects might settle in peace, each group respectively occupying some large and well-defined district of its own. The name itself, bandied about for half a century, had by this time become a household word which was not without humorous suggestions. Satirists travestied it as "Stolida," or land of simpletons, and "Sordida," or land of muckworms; pirates, arrested on suspicion and examined, mockingly avowed themselves bound for Florida. In France experiences of a certain kind—unedifying transactions of gallantry in the base sense of the word—were called "adventures of Florida." The world was eagerly expecting the impending revelation, which should disclose the future fate of the temperate regions of North America. To the pretensions of France the fortune of events soon gave a negative answer. Nothing daunted by the failure of Ribault's party, Coligny in 1565 despatched René Laudonniere, a captain who had served under Ribault, to make a second effort. Laudonnière chose as the site of his settlement the mouth of the river called by Ribault the River of May (St John's River), from its discovery by him on the first day of that month in 1562; and here he arrived in the midsummer of 1564, with a strong and well-armed party, built a fort, and began exploring the country. Most of the intending settlers had been pirates, whom, in the close proximity of St Domingo and Jamaica, it was impossible to keep from resuming their old trade; others joined an Indian chief, and followed him to war with a neighbouring tribe in hope of plunder. The stores of Fort Caroline were soon exhausted; and, but for the timely relief obtained from John Hawkins, who passed the Florida coast on his homeward way, the emigrants must have starved, or have returned to Europe, or have been dispersed among the wild aborigines. In the next year (1565) the Spaniards destroyed what was in effect a mere den of pirates, and built the fort of St Augustine to protect their own settlements and commerce, as well as the still unspoiled treasures of Appalachia, and to prevent the heretics of France from gaining a footing on American soil; and in a few years (1572) the massacre of St Bartholomew put an end to the Huguenot designs on Florida.
At this point, where France retires for a time from the stage, leaving England to enter upon it and open the drama of Anglo-American history, we drop the thread of events to resume our survey of the effect produced by the discovery and unveiling of the New World on European ideas and intellectual habits. The complete revolution in geography, which now suddenly revealed to man his gross ignorance in the most elementary field of knowledge—the earth beneath his feet—had a wider effect. It shook the existing system of the sciences, though it had not as yet the effect of shattering it, much less of replacing it by something more nearly in accordance with the truth of things. It produced in many—over and above the suspicion already long harboured in logical minds, that neither the accepted doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church nor any modification of it likely to meet with acceptance in its place, could possibly represent the true construction of God's will revealed in Scripture—that sense of general intellectual insecurity which is best named "scepticism." Charron's future motto, "Que sais-je?," became the leading motive in intellectual conduct. It is impossible to attempt here to trace this movement in its entirety; we can but select three writers, belonging to three successive generations, and all prominent among their contemporaries as pioneers of new paths of thought, and all of whom avowedly derived much of their inspiration from the events briefly noticed above. All three were laymen; a fact not in itself devoid of significance. The writings of ecclesiastics during this period, even in the case of distinguished humanists such as Bembo or Erasmus, show scarcely a trace of the same influence. The control of thought was passing away from the Church. All three, too, were lawyers, and two of them were Lord Chancellors of England. Sir Thomas More, born ten years before the voyage of Colombo, wrote and published his Utopia in 1516, soon after the Pacific had been first descried from a mountain in Darien, and while the Spaniards in the Antilles were gathering the information which led to the conquest of Mexico and Peru, both as yet unknown. This admirable classic of the Renaissance, too keen in its satire and too refined in its feeling to have any practical effect commensurate with the acceptance which it instantly won among cultivated and thoughtful contemporaries, was avowedly suggested by the discovery and settlement of the new Western World. What possibilities of discovery, not merely in the realm of geography, but in that of social organisation, morals, and politics, were laid open by this amazing revelation of a strange world of oceans, islands and continents, covering one-third of the sphere! The extent of America to the westward, with all that lay beyond, was as yet unknown; and More was not exceeding the limits of those possibilities when he described a traveller, who had accompanied Vespucci in his last voyage, as remaining in South America with a few companions and making their way westwards home by shore and sea, thus anticipating the circumnavigation of the globe which a few more years were to see achieved. The traveller's name is Hythlodaeus, or Expert in Nonsense; and none among the countries visited by him so strongly arrests his attention as the island of Utopia, or Nowhere, where the traditional absurdities dominant in the Old World are unknown, and society is constituted on a humane and reasonable basis. Utopia is an aristocratic republic, in which the officers of government, elected annually, are presided over by a chief magistrate elected for life. Everyone is engaged in agriculture, and drones are banished from the hive; it is an accepted principle that every man has a natural right to so much of the earth as is necessary for his subsistence, and may lawfully dispossess of his land any possessor who leaves it untilled. Even the generous imagination of More did not rise to the conception of a state of society in which slavery was unknown: and the labouring population of Utopia are still slaves. Not that they are held as private property, for private property is unknown. Whatever is valuable is held as it were on lease from the community, on condition of making such use of it as shall enure for the public benefit. The family is patriarchally governed; there is no coinage; gold and silver are not used as ornaments, but are only applied to the basest purposes, and precious stones serve only to adorn children. The energies of the Utopians, released from the empty employments of Old World life, are concentrated on the development of learning and science. Many of them worship the heavenly bodies and the distinguished dead, but the majority are theists. Their priests are chosen by popular election: they have few and excellent laws, but no professional lawyers; they detest war, but are well armed, and fight intrepidly when necessary, though by preference they employ a neighbouring nation of herdsmen as mercenaries. The temples of the Utopians are private buildings, and there is no worship of images. No living thing is offered in sacrifice, though incense is burned, and wax candles are lighted during the service of God, and vocal and instrumental music is practised in connexion with it. But in all religious matters there is absolute toleration. There is indeed a limited exception in favour of the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, belief in both of which is thought to be essential to good citizenship. Yet even those who reject these doctrines are tolerated, on the principle that a man cannot make himself believe that which he might desire to believe, but which his reason compels him to reject: these, however, are regarded as base and sordid natures, and excluded from public offices and honours. The attitude of the Utopians towards Christianity, of which they hear for the first time from Hythlodaeus, is described as favourable: what chiefly disposes them to receive it is its original doctrine of community of goods. Before the strangers quit Utopia, many of the inhabitants have embraced Christianity and received baptism. The question of the Christian priesthood presents a difficulty. All the European travellers are laymen; how then can the Utopian Christians obtain the services of duly qualified pastors? They settle this question for themselves. Applying the established principle of popular election, they hold that one so chosen could effectually do all things pertaining to the priestly office, notwithstanding the lack of authority derived through the successors of St Peter. Although Christianity is thus permitted and even encouraged, its professors are forbidden to be unduly zealous for its propagation; a Christian convert who condemns other religions as profane, and declares their adherents doomed to everlasting punishment, is found guilty of sedition and banished. The Utopia, it will be seen, is no mere academic imitation of Plato's Republic. Specifically, the New World has little to do with its details. It was the mere possibilities suggested by the New World which occasioned this remarkable picture of a state of society diametrically opposed to the aspect of contemporary Europe. More's romance lost its hold on public attention, as soon as headstrong enthusiasts on the Continent endeavoured to realise some of its fundamental principles; but at a later date, through the founders of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it had some ultimate effect on, as it took its motive from, the New World which was beginning to stir European minds to their depths at the time when it was written.
From More we turn to a writer of a later generation, remarkable for the freedom and independence of his mental attitude towards contemporary ideas and institutions, and who avows in more than one place that the New World profoundly modified his habits of thought. No close reader of Montaigne will dispute that the contemplation of the New World, in connexion with the events which happened after its discovery, greatly contributed to give him that large grasp of things, that mental habit of charity and comprehensiveness, something of which passed from him to Bacon and to Shakspere, both diligent students of his writings. Michel de Montaigne, a French advocate and country gentleman, who may be called the Plato of modern philosophical literature, was born in 1533, when Pizarro was overrunning Peru. During his life the New World was growing ever larger in the eyes of mankind; and as it drew him to itself, by a species of intellectual gravitation, it detached him from the standing-ground of his time, and raised him in a corresponding degree far above it. The facts of aboriginal American history and ethnology, narrated by the Conquistadores and by other travellers, sank deeply into his mind; and his knowledge of the New World was not mere book-learning. As a counsellor of Bordeaux, he often came in contact with merchants and seamen who were familiar with America; but his chief source of information was a man in his own service, who had lived ten or twelve years in Brazil, whom he describes as a plain ignorant fellow, but from whom he seems never to have been weary of learning at first hand. Before Colombo's voyage the savage or "brute man" had been as little known in Europe, and was in fact as much of a myth, as the unicorn or griffin. When Montaigne wrote, he had become as well known as the Moor, the Berber, or the Guinea negro, and the spectacle of a new transatlantic continent, scarcely less extensive than the aggregate of those Old World countries of which Europe possessed any definite knowledge, and peopled by men scarcely above the state of nature, seized the French philosopher with a strange fascination. By its contrast with European life it suggested some startling reflections. What if civilisation, after all, were a morbid and unnatural growth? What if the condition of man in America were that for which the Creator designed him? What if those omnipotent powers, law and custom, as at present constituted, were impudent usurpers, destined one day to decline under the influence of right reason, and to give place, if not to the original rule of beneficent Nature, at least to something essentially very different from the systems which now passed under their names? Montaigne puts these questions very pointedly. In the Tupi-Guarani of Brazil, as described by one who had known them long and intimately, he recognised nothing of the character associated with the words "barbarous" and "savage." They were rather a people permanently enjoying the fabled Golden Age of ancient poetry; strangers to the toils, diseases, social inequalities, vices, and trickeries which chiefly made up civilised life; dwelling together in vast common houses, though the institutions of the family were strictly preserved, and enjoying with little or no labour, and no fears for the future, all the reasonable commodities and advantages of human life, while knowing nothing of its superfluities; refined in their taste for poetry, specimens of which were recited to him by his domestic informant, and which appeared to him Anacreontic in their grace and beauty: and employed chiefly in the chase, the universal pleasure of the human race, even in the highest state of refinement. This they carried, perhaps, a stage too far. They hunted their neighbouring tribesman for his flesh, and, like others among the more advanced American peoples, were cannibals—a name which Montaigne used as the title of the laudatory tractate here quoted. What of that? Civilised man, says the philosopher, who practically enforces servitude on nine-tenths of the human race, consumes the flesh and blood of his fellow-man alive. Is it not worse to eat one's fellow-man alive, than to eat him dead? These Americans torture their prisoners, it is true; worse tortures are inflicted in civilised Europe, in the sacred names of justice and religion. We Europeans regard these our fellow-men with contempt and aversion. Are we, in the sight of God, much better than they? Have we done, are we doing, by our fellow-man at home, according to the light which is, or should be, within us?
Montaigne was perhaps only half serious. Yet such views commended themselves more or less to perfectly serious thinkers in other European countries; and they accorded with a feeling, which had long been gaining ground, of revolt against the hollow pageantry, the rigid social and political forms, the grasping at an empty show of power and dignity, which marked medieval life, and of expectation advancing towards more of simplicity, sincerity, and accordance with truth and nature. These views affected men's religious conceptions, and had something to do with the Protestant and Puritan views of religious duty and theory. They were more amply represented in the Quakerism of a later age; and while they originated in the Old World, they had their freest and fullest development, as will appear later on in this History, in the New. Held in check in Europe, where power tenaciously clung to the machinery of feudalism, they fermented in, and began to permeate, social strata on which that machinery rested with crushing weight, and produced those revolutionary and socialistic doctrines which have so largely affected modern European society, but have found less favour in America. The emigrant in the New World was conscious of breathing different air. In this spacious continent much seemed trifling, and even ridiculous, which had commanded his respect, and even devotion, at home. Much of the burden of the Past seemed to fall from his shoulders. Industry ensured subsistence, even to the poorest: security of subsistence led by an easy transition to competence, and often to affluence. In all these stages a general sense of independence was fostered, felt in different degrees in different parts, but common, to some extent, to the Spanish landowner among his Indian serfs, the sugar-planter among his slaves, the missionary among the converts he was reclaiming from savagery, and the peasant wrestling with the forest and turning it into an expanse of fertile fields. The political tie which bound the emigrant to the European power commanding his allegiance was scarcely felt. The merchant made large profits: capital earned high interest. There was everywhere a large measure of freedom in local government. Even in Spanish America the European distinction between the noble and the plebeian was never introduced, nor could the Courts of justice exercise jurisdiction of hidalguia. Such a condition of things necessarily had its reaction on the mother countries: and Europe almost from the first felt that reaction, in however slight a degree.
In one respect the medieval constitution of Europe received from the New World, in the period immediately subsequent to the Discovery, a decided accession of strength. The conquest and settlement of Spanish and Portuguese America opened an immense field of operations to the Catholic Church; and this field was forthwith entered upon with extraordinary vigour and success. During the sixteenth century Rome was gaining in the New World more than she was losing in the Old. In Mexico, in Peru, and in New Granada foundations already existed from which the missionary had but to sweep away an effete superstructure to erect a loftier and more durable one. The aborigines were deeply imbued with religious ideas, and trained from childhood to regular habits of worship and ritual; the houses of the gods, numerous and often magnificent, were held in deep veneration, and endowed with extensive estates; the superiority of the great "Dios" of the Spaniards—a title understood by the Indians to be the proper name of a deity to whose worship the people of Europe were especially devoted—had been abundantly manifested in the military successes of his votaries; conversion was insisted on by the conquerors; and as the images of the old deities were destroyed, their shrines defaced, and their rites forbidden, compliance was dictated by the very spirit of aboriginal paganism. In Mexico, where the ancient rites demanded human sacrifices in vast numbers, and in a cruel and repulsive form, their abolition was effected with comparative ease. In Peru, where human sacrifice was chiefly limited to infant victims, who were simply strangled and buried, the Indians were more firmly attached to their old religion; and a serious obstacle to its abandonment lay in their devotion to the practice of ancestor-worship. Long after the mass of them had accepted the doctrine and practice of Christianity, they secretly offered sacrifice to the desiccated bodies of the dead; and a rigorous and prolonged inquisition had to be organised and carried into effect before the idolatry of Peru was extirpated. Meanwhile the settlement of the Church proceeded on the general lines recognised in Europe; but in America, as in the Spanish districts conquered from the Moors, the Holy See forbore some of its prescriptive rights in favour of the Crown. Notwithstanding the ordinances of the Lateran Council, Alexander VI in 1501 granted to the Crown all tithes and first-fruits in the Indies. The consideration for this "temporalisation" of property which of right belonged to the Church was the conquest of territory from infidels, and their conversion to Christianity. The right of patronage in all sees and benefices was also vested by the Pope in the Spanish sovereigns, as fully as had already been done in the case of the Kingdom of Granada, subject only to the condition that it should remain in the Crown inalienably. The Crown was further appointed the Pope's legate in America. The limits of dioceses were at first laid down by the Popes; but even this right, together with the power of dividing and consolidating them, was granted to the Crown, and no American Bishop could return to Europe without the Viceroy's licence. The Church in America held its own Councils, under the direction of the metropolitans of Mexico and Lima; and no appeal in ecclesiastical matters was carried to Rome. The Crown obtained the income of vacant sees, a part of which was assigned to the defence of the coasts against heretic pirates. These concessions were amply justified by the immense revenue which poured into Rome from Spanish America in the form of donations, of proceeds of bulls for the Holy Crusade, and of the sale of indulgences and dispensations. What the Holy See bestowed with one hand it received back, in larger measure, with the other.
Outside the limits of settled life the work of evangelisation was vigorously pursued by Franciscan, Dominican, and Augustinian friars, who from the first flocked to the New World in all its parts; but the chief share in this labour was borne by the newly-founded Company of Jesus. Among the exigencies which led to its establishment may certainly be reckoned the need of adequately grappling with the task of preaching Christianity in America, as well as in India and the Far East; and the numerous "Reductions" in the savage districts of North and South America abundantly testify to the devotion and energy of the Jesuit Fathers. At first the regular clergy greatly outnumbered the secular. In many cases they received, by dispensation, valuable benefices; and being in all respects better educated and trained than the secular clergy, they more easily acquired the American languages. The surplus incomes of these regularised benefices were remitted to the superiors of their incumbents in Europe, and were ultimately applied to the foundation of houses of the several Orders in the New World. The Franciscan, Augustinian and Jesuit colleges in Peru were in effect the chief centres of European civilisation; and the Jesuits have left a durable monument of their zeal in the Republic of Paraguay. To those members of these Orders who engaged in missionary work the ethnologist and historian are greatly indebted. But for their labours the deeply interesting history and folk-lore of Mexico and Peru would have been inadequately preserved, and the languages of many tribes outside the pale of settled life must have perished. Together with the fine churches attached to the mission settlements, the cathedral and parish churches of Spanish America, often built on the sites of ancient temples, form an unique series of historical monuments. Entirely built by native labour, and largely by voluntary contributions from native sources, they were to a great extent served by pastors of Indian or partly Indian descent—a class whom it was the policy of Spain to foster, and through which her control of her vast American dominions was in some measure maintained.
What was the effect of the New World in the realm of learning and science? Here, on the whole, the New World, at least in the first eighty years of its history, figures rather as a consequence than a cause. At Montaigne's death Francis Bacon, designing to reconstruct the system of the sciences, was meditating and elaborating the great series of books and tractates in which his views were given to the world; and in many of his writings it is clear that America with its physical features, its plants and animals, and its aboriginal race, was largely the subject of his meditation, and that the vast array of facts associated with it enlarged and modified his opinions and forecasts. To some extent Bacon was the scholar of Montaigne, whose conception of America as the middle one of three island-continents which once lay westward of the Old World—the vanished Atlantis which gave its name to the Atlantic, the new-found America beyond it, and a third, still undiscovered, but probably soon to be revealed in the unknown expanses of the Pacific, and called by Bacon "New Atlantis," as bearing the same geographical relation to the New World which the earlier Atlantis had borne to the Old—underlies his noble philosophical romance bearing that name as its title. Bacon's habit of thought and study had induced in him a broader and profounder conception of the New World than that presented in the pages of his French predecessor. The phenomena of society, which chiefly attracted Montaigne, had for him only a secondary interest. Thirsting to know the Causes of Things, he aspired to comprehend nature in her entirety, to penetrate her secret, and to interpret her message: and the New World lent him opportune and unexpected help. The configuration of sea and land surfaces, the mountains, the tides and winds, the animals and plants of the New World, opened for the first time an enormous field of physical enquiry. The New World, for example, threw new light on the distribution of terrestrial and maritime areas. Like the continents of the Old World (Europe and Asia for the purpose of this comparison counting as one) both North and South America broadened out towards the north and tapered towards the south, the alternative principle of termination by variously shaped peninsulas being found here also to recur. What, Bacon asked, was the shape of that supposed continent lying south of the Strait of Magalhaes, and commonly called Terra Australis? The conflicting or according phenomena of the tides in different places; the water-spouts; the refrigeration of the air by icebergs on the Canadian coast; the balmy breezes blowing to seaward from Florida; the trade-winds, which had lent Europe wings to carry her across the Atlantic: the constant westerly or anti-trade winds blowing towards the Portuguese shore, from which, it was sometimes said, Colombo had inferred the existence of a western continent generating them; the comparatively cold climate of North America, the frozen expanse of Labrador being in the latitude of Britain, and the contradictory phenomena of the Peruvian coast, which lay almost under the Equator, while its ocean breezes, blowing hardest at the full moons, were said to produce a climate like that of Southern Europe; the strange inequalities of temperature experienced in different parts of the Peruvian Cordilleras; the alleged phenomenon that the peaks of the Andes remain destitute of snow, while it thickly covers their lower elevations, with the effects produced on man by their attenuated air, not so much cold as keen, piercing the eyes and purging the stomach;—such enquiries as these, never previously formulated, make Bacon the founder of modern physical geography. American man, in his physical and ethnological aspect, strongly attracted Bacon's attention. Was the extraordinary longevity of the Brazilian and Virginian tribes, who retained manly vigour at the age of 120 years, connected with their practice of painting the skin? What was the cause of a similar phenomenon in Peru? Was it true, as some alleged, that the fearful "morbus gallicus," then for the first time raging in Europe, and supposed, though erroneously, to have been imported from America, had its origin in the loathsome practice of cannibalism? What was the effect on American man of maize, as his staple diet? In America, where flint was scarce, fire was universally kindled by the wooden drill. The American Prometheus, then, in Bacon's words, "had no intelligence with the European," and the arts of life must have originated independently in the New World;—an inference somewhat boldly made from a single pair of facts, but which accorded, though Bacon knew it not, with the traditions of Mexico and Peru, and is amply confirmed, in our own well-informed age, by everything known as to the general progress of the American aborigines. By an effort of judgment for which the materials scarcely existed, and which had certainly never been made before his time, Bacon mentally arrayed against each other the polished nations of Europe and the barbarous or savage ones of America, and asked himself the reason of the contrast. Was it to be sought in the soil, in the sky, in the physical constitution of man? These suggestions he answered negatively; the difference, he concluded, lay solely in the fact that the American peoples, for some as yet unknown reason, had made less progress in the arts of life. We know the reason to be Nature's parsimony in furnishing the western continent with animals capable of labour and amenable to domestication.
Here another question presented itself to this prince among thinkers. Was the project of planting the civilisation of Europe among the American savages—a project widely entertained in Western Europe—a feasible one? Bacon answered this also in the negative. Nor is it doubtful that, having regard to the contemporary idea of "planting," Bacon was right. The idea of teaching the Indians "to live virtuously, and know of men the manner, and also to know God their Maker," was not yet obsolete; and the Spaniards, according to their lights, were vigorously prosecuting the task in Mexico and elsewhere. It has been reserved for a later age, in most respects more advanced, to acquiesce in a system of colonisation which dispossesses the aboriginal owners of the soil, and deals with them as with vermin to be hunted down, or stamped out, or deported to holes and corners of the land, to dwindle and die out under the effect of poverty, chagrin, and vices introduced by their civilised conquerors. From the Discovery to the time when European nations adopted a commercial policy and a commercial morality—from Colombo to Penn—those of the natives who submitted to European rule were regarded as men to be civilised and christianised, and ultimately to be blended in one race with their European brethren. Bacon discountenanced this view so far as concerned the savages of "Florida" or North Eastern America, and the foundation of English colonies there on a corresponding footing. He bade Englishmen throw aside ideas which to his thinking savoured less of reality than of antiquated romances like Amadis de Gaul, and take up Caesar's Commentaries. If Englishmen must perforce colonise, he pointed out to them as the proper field of colonial enterprise, the adjacent island of Ireland, whose aboriginal people were sunk in a barbarism more shameful than American savagery, because of their immediate proximity to, and close relations with, one of the most civilised nations on the globe.
These instances by no means represent the full influence exercised by the New World on the most powerful mind of modern times, and through him on ages which have realised his ideas without adding anything to their transcendent scope and penetration. There can be little doubt that Bacon's whole scheme for the reconstitution of knowledge on a broader basis and firmer foundation, in accordance with the truth of things and without regard to the routine of scholastic tradition, and with such fulness that, in his own words, the "crystalline globe" of the understanding should faithfully reflect all that the "material globe," or external world, offers to his apprehension, was suggested to him by the facts briefly sketched in the foregoing pages. Truth, he wrote, was not the daughter of Authority, but of Time. America was certainly "the greatest birth of time"; Bacon applied these words to the philosophic system of which he was the founder. The discovery of America gave the human intellect what is known to mechanics as a "dead lift." It dispelled a secular illusion; it destroyed the old blind reverence for antiquity, which Spenser might well have depicted as a sightless monster, stifling mankind in its serpentine embraces. Truth, to borrow from Milton an allegory worthy of Bacon, had been hewn, like the body of Osiris, into a thousand pieces. Philosophy, like Isis, the disconsolate spouse, wandered over the earth in quest of them: and the time would come when they should be "gathered limb to limb, and moulded into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection." What "grounds of hope," to use Bacon's phrase, for that glorious reunion—or rather, what certain auguries of its ultimate attainment—he gathered from the New Cosmography, his writings abundantly testify. His own vast survey of knowledge, attained or that ought to be attained, he modestly described as a coasting voyage or periegesis of the "New Intellectual World." He loved to compare his own conjectures and anticipations of the boundless results which he knew his method destined to achieve in the hands of posterity with the faint indications which had inspired Colombo to attempt that "mirabilis navigatio," that daring six weeks' voyage westward across the Atlantic. Feebly, indeed, and through the darkness of night, he says, blew the breeze of hope from the shores of the New Continent of knowledge and power towards him, as from his lonely elevation he eagerly watched for those cheering signals which he knew would sooner or later greet the patient eye of expectant philosophy, though he himself might not be destined to behold them. Those signals, he wrote, must one day come, unless his own faith in the future should prove vain, and men were content to remain intellectual abjects. Humanity had waited long ages for the accomplishment of Seneca's prophecy—a prophecy which was in every mouth at the Discovery, and of which Bacon, like all his contemporaries, hailed the Discovery as the destined fulfilment;
|Venient annis saecula seris|
|Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum|
|Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus,|
|Tiphysque novos detegat orbes,|
|Nec sit terris ultima Thule.|
Possibly he had pondered over a less-known passage in the prose writings of the same author, who predicts that the time shall come when knowledge shall be vastly increased, and men shall look back with amazement at the ignorance of the Greeks and Romans. There was confirmation for such hopes in Holy Scripture. The anticipation of the Chaldean seer that in the latest times "many should run to and fro, and knowledge be increased" he interpreted as foreshadowing the opening of five-sixths of the globe, hitherto closed, to man's travel, study, and reinvigorated powers of reasoning. Into the future of history in the narrow sense of the word, Bacon ventured only by one memorable forecast, since abundantly verified, and more abundantly by momentous events of quite recent occurrence. He prophesied that the great inheritances of the East and the West, both at the time ready to slip from the feeble grasp of Spain, must alike fall to those who commanded the ocean—to that Anglo-Saxon race of which he will remain to all time one of the most illustrious representatives.