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- European Background Of American History - 3/42 -


Revolution is a clear idea of the political system of England, both in its larger national form and in its local government. Hence the importance of Professor Cheyney's chapters on English government. The kings' courts, council, and Parliament all had their effect upon the governors' courts, councils, and assemblies of the various colonies. Prom the English practice came the superb, fundamental notion of a right of representation and of the effectiveness of a delegated assembly. In local government the likeness was in some respects even closer; and Professor Cheyney's account of the English county court, and especially of the township or parish, will solve many difficulties in the later colonial history. In some ways Professor Cheyney's conclusions make more striking and original the development of the astonishing New England town-meetings. As the volume begins with the rise of the exploring spirit, it is fitting that Prince Henry the Navigator should furnish the frontispiece. The bibliography deals more than those of later volumes with a literature which has been a tangled thicket, and will shorten the road for many teachers and students of these subjects. The significance of Professor Cheyney's volume is that, without describing America or narrating American events, it furnishes the necessary point of departure for a knowledge of American history. The first question to be asked by the reader is, why did people look westward? And the answer is, because of their desire to reach the Orient. The second question is, what was the impulse to new habits of life and what the desire for settlements in distant lands? The answer is, the effect of the Reformation in arousing men's minds and in bringing about wars which led to emigration. The third question is, what manner of people were they who furnished the explorers and the colonists? The answer is found in these pages, which describe the Spaniard, the French, the Dutch, and especially the English, and show us the national and local institutions which were ready to be transplanted, and which readily took root across the sea.

AUTHOR'S PREFACE The history of America is a branch of that of Europe. The discovery, exploration, and settlement of the New World were results of European movements, and sprang from economic and political needs, development of enterprise, and increase of knowledge, in the Old World. The fifteenth century was a period of extension of geographical knowledge, of which the discovery of America was a part; the sixteenth century was a time of preparation, during which European events were taking place which were of the first importance to America, even though none of the colonies which were to make up the United States were yet in existence. From the time of the settlement forward, the only population of America that has counted in history has been of European origin. The institutions that characterize the New World are fundamentally those of Europe. People and institutions have been modified by the material conditions of America; and the process of emigration gave a new direction to the development of American history from the very beginning; but the origin of the people, of their institutions, and of their history was none the less a European one. The beginnings of American history are therefore to be found In European conditions at the time of the foundation of the colonies. Similar forces continued to exercise an influence in later times. The power and policy of home governments, successive waves of emigration, and numberless events in Europe had effects which were deeply felt in America. This influence of Europe upon America, however, became less and less as time passed on; and the development of the American nation has made its history constantly more independent. It is, therefore, only with some of the most important and earliest of these European occurrences and conditions that this book is occupied. The general relation of America to Europe is a subject that would require a vastly fuller treatment, and it is a subject which doubtless will increasingly receive the attention of scholars as our appreciation of the proper perspective of history becomes more clear. In so wide a field as that of this volume, it has been necessary to use secondary materials for many statements; their aid is acknowledged in the footnotes and in the bibliography. Other parts, so far as space limits allowed, I have been able to work out from original sources. For much valuable information, suggestion, and advice also, I am indebted to friends and fellow- workers, and here gladly make acknowledgment for such assistance.

EDWARD POTTS CHEYNEY.

EUROPEAN BACKGROUND OF AMERICAN HISTORY

CHAPTER I THE EAST AND THE WEST

(1200-1500)

To set forth the conditions in Europe which favored the work of discovering America and of exploring, colonizing, and establishing human institutions there, is the subject and task of this book. Its period extends from the beginning of those marked commercial, political, and intellectual changes of the fifteenth century which initiated a great series of geographical discoveries, to the close, in the later years of the seventeenth century, of the religious wars and persecutions which did so much to make that century an age of emigration from Europe. During those three hundred years few events in European history failed to exercise some influence upon the fortunes of America. The relations of the Old World to the New were then constructive and fundamental to a degree not true of earlier or of later times. Before the fifteenth century events were only distantly preparing the way; after the seventeenth the centre of gravity of American history was transferred to America itself.

The crowding events, the prominent men, the creative thoughts, and the rapidly changing institutions which fill the history of western Europe during these three centuries cannot all be described in this single volume. It merely attempts to point out the leading motives for exploration and colonization, to show what was the equipment for discovery, and to describe the most significant of those political institutions of Europe which exercised an influence on forms of government in the colonies, thus sketching the main outlines of the European background of American history. Many political, economic, intellectual, and personal factors combined to make the opening of our modern era an age of geographical discovery. Yet among these many causes there was one which was so influential and persistent that it deserves to be singled out as the predominant incentive to exploration for almost two hundred years. This enduring motive was the desire to find new routes, from Europe to the far East.

Columbus sailed on his great voyage in 1492, "his object being to reach the Indies." [Footnote: Columbus's Journal, October 3, 21, 23, 24, etc Cf. Bourne, Spain in America, chap, 11] When he discovered the first land beyond the Atlantic, he came to the immediate conclusion that he had reached the coast of Asia, and identified first Cuba and then Hayti with Japan. A week after his first sight of land he Reports, "It is certain that this is the main-land and that I am in front of Zayton and Guinsay" [Footnote: Columbus's Journal, November 1] Even on his third voyage, in 1498, he is still of the opinion that South America is the main-land of Asia. [Footnote: Columbus's will] It was reported all through Europe that the Genoese captain had "discovered the coast of the Indies," and "found that way never before known to the East." [Footnote: Ramusio, Raccolta de Navigazioni, I, 414] The name West Indies still remains as a testimony to the belief of the early explorers that they had found the Indies by sailing westward.

When John Cabot, in 1496, obtained permission from Henry VII. to equip an expedition for westward exploration, he hoofed to reach "the island of Cipango" (Japan) and the lands from which Oriental caravans brought their goods to Alexandria. [Footnote: Letter of Soncino, 1497, in Hart, Contemporaries, I., 70.] It is true that he landed on the barren shore of Labrador, and that what he descried from his vessel as he sailed southward was only the wooded coast of North America; but it was reported, and for a while believed, that the king of England had in this manner "acquired a part of Asia without drawing his sword." [Footnote: Ibid. Cf. Bourne. Spain in America, chap v.] In 1501 Caspar Cortereal, in the service of the king of Portugal, pressed farther into the ice-bound arctic waters on the same quest, and with his companions became the first in the dreary list of victims sacrificed to the long search for a northwest passage. [Footnote: Harrisse, Les Cortereal] When the second generation of explorers learned that the land that had been discovered beyond the sea was not Asia, their first feeling was not exultation that a new world had been discovered, but chagrin that a great barrier, stretching far to the north and the south, should thus interpose itself between Europe and the eastern goal on which their eyes were fixed. Every navigator who sailed along the coast of North or South America looked eagerly for some strait by which he might make his way through, and thus complete the journey to the Spice Islands, to China, Japan, India, and the other lands of the ancient East. [Footnote: Bourne, Spain in America, chap viii.] Verrazzano, in 1521, and Jacques Cartier, in 1534, 1535, and 1541, both in the service of the king of France, and Gomez, in the Spanish service, in 1521, were engaged in seeking this elusive passage. [Footnote: Pigeonneau, Histoire du Commerce de la France, II, 142-148.] For more than a hundred years the French traders and explorers along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes were led farther and farther into the wilderness by hopes of finding some western outlet which would make it possible for them to reach Cathay and India. Englishmen, with greater persistence than Spaniards, Portuguese, or French, pursued the search for this northwestern route to India. To find such a passage became a dream and a constantly renewed effort of the navigators and merchants of the days of Queen Elizabeth; the search for it continued into the next century, even after colonies had been established in America itself; and a continuance of the quest was constantly impressed by the government and by popular opinion upon the merchants of the Hudson Bay Company, till the eighteenth century.

A tradition grew up that there was a passage through the continent somewhere near the fortieth parallel. It was in the search for this passage that Hudson was engaged, when, in the service of the Dutch government, in 1609, he made the famous voyage in the Half Moon and hit on the Hudson River; just as in his first voyage he had tried to reach the Indies by crossing the North Pole, and in his second by following a northeast route. [Footnote: Asher, Henry Hudson, the Navigator, cxcii.- cxcvi.] Much of the exploration of the coast of South America was made with the same purpose. To reach India was the deliberate object of Magellan when, in 1519 and 1520, he skirted the coast of that continent and made his way through the southern straits. The same objective point was intended in the "Molucca Voyage" of 1526-1530, under the command of Sebastian Cabot, [Footnote: Beazley, John and Sebastian Cabot, 152.] as well as in other South American voyages of Spanish explorers. Thus the search for a new route to the East lay at the back of many of those voyages of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which gradually made America familiar to Europe.

The same object was sought in explorations to the eastward. The earliest voyages of the Portuguese along the coast of Africa, it is true, had other motives; but the desire to reach India grew upon the navigators and the sovereigns of that nation, and from the accession of John II., in 1481, every nerve was strained to find a route to the far East. Within one twelvemonth, in the years 1486 and 1487, three expeditions left the coast of Portugal seeking access to the East. The first of these, under Bartholomew Diaz, discovered the Cape of Good Hope; the second was an embassy of Pedro de Cavailham and Affonso de Paiva through the eastern Mediterranean to seek Prester John, a search which carried one of them to the west coast of India, the other to the east coast of Africa; the third was an exploring expedition to the


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