White Superiority During the Colonial Period

8 August 2016

At the beginning of the colonial period, many, if not all Europeans had started to develop a sense of white superiority. This view allowed them to justify their subjugation and ultimate takeover of the natives and their land. With many similarities and differences between the Spanish, English, and French methods of subduing the natives, including the employment of missionaries and captivation and selling of natives, they all produced the same outcome: a universal belief in white superiority.

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In the Spanish colonies located in the new world, the conversion of the native population, including the prosperous Aztec Empire, stemmed from the recent union of Ferdinand and Isabella. They were the Christian monarchs that sought new converts who would supply them with a new stream of tax money. The Christian Spanish saw the religion of the natives as savage and pagan, justifying their treatment of the naive Indians.

In attempt to convert the native population, the Spanish, like the French, employed missionaries in the new world, and because they were responsible for this, the Spanish felt that if it was not for them the natives would not be saved. Also, the Spanish viewed the native value of gold as a waste. The natives only used gold in ceremonial and religious cases whereas the Spanish relied upon the shiny substance as the base of their monetary system. Since the natives did not possess a form of currency, they were viewed as sub-human because all Europeans used money.

The Spanish, looking for a quick return of capital, also raided villages for gold and quickly began to take the natives themselves in order to sell them as slaves to turn a profit. Because the natives were now viewed as a source of money, the Spanish viewed themselves as superiors to the natives, creating a sense of white superiority. Unlike the Spanish, the English took a different approach to subjugating natives and Africans. The English did not employ the help of missionaries for they thought that with a sense of faith, the slaves would rebel, causingthe loss of crops and therefore the loss of money, which the English valued more than their slaves. In the English Caribbean, the plantation owners viewed blacks as brutes, or lesser beings, that required severe punishment in order to gain their obedience. Around this time in England, parliament had settled a debate that in turn revealed a new emergence of “whiteness”. This settlement ultimately caused the replacement of the previous social structure, based on social status, with a new one, based on skin color.

Because whites were located at the top of the new social structure, the English viewed themselves as greater beings, which caused them to see those of color as inferior. This is evident in the Barbados Slave Code, in which the slave masters are only required to supply the slaves with minimal clothing and are allowed to treat the slaves however they please. The Barbados Slave Code also led to the emergence of white superiority due to the fact that slaves were viewed as property and therefore substandard which was very similar to the Spanish view of slaves. The French arrived on the scene as a result of the new fur trade.

Unlike the Spanish and English colonists, the French developed a mutual dependency with the native population. This meant that the French relied upon the natives to provide them with the best furs while they would supply manufactured goods from Europe to the natives. Both the French and the natives did what they could to please one another. The natives would always bring thick furs and trade for a low price while the French would help their new trading partners with wars on the home front. This did not last long, however, due to the change of the French traders’ view of the natives.

Most of the Indians living near the fur trade were hunter gatherers because of the temperature in present day Canada. The French, on the other hand, were used to the urban lifestyle, meaning food was grown and sold, not hunted for. This caused the French to perceive the natives as inferior peoples with savage lifestyles, ultimately leading to the development of an awareness of white superiority among the French people. Although the Spanish, English, and French exercised different methods of subduing the native population, white superiority was eventually known by all Europeans as normal.

Through the Spanish missions and enslavement, the new English social structure and Barbados Slave Code, and the French’s lifestyle differences with the natives, the color of one’s skin was beginning to grow ever more important. The development of a belief in white superiority in the colonies of the new world would later influence the world in many different and significant ways. Essay 2A: In the early years of American colonization, it was very hard to secure colonists willing to venture across the Atlantic Ocean due to the numerous hazards the voyage produced.

That soon changed, however, with a new desire for wealth, power, and converts to Christianity that many European countries quickly developed when news of the first successful colonies reached the continent. Several factors including status seeking conquistadores in Spain, overpopulation in England, and religious persecution in France, led to the further and more aggressive exploration and colonization of the Americas. During the late fifteenth century in Spain, with the recently completed Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, Christianity had become of upmost importance.

Upon the establishment of the colonies of New Spain, the Spanish crown dispatched many willing Franciscan missionaries to the new world with hopes of converting the natives, who would become taxpayers upon conversion. Around the same time, many new conquistadores sought the high status and power of discovering and controlling new areas of land, leading to an increase in exploration in the name of Spain. With the discovery of new land came the distribution of that land, mostly through encomiendas and haciendas, institutions that exploited the land and natives of Mexico which supplied Spain’s greedy desire for wealth.

The encomiendas and haciendas drew in indentured servants which resulted in the rapid growth of New Spain’s population. Consisting of many ports for trade, the New Spanish coast lured in pirates who raided treasure ships in order to obtain money for Spain. The money acquired through piracy accounted for half of the Spanish income. In the mean time, tensions were swelling between the Spanish and English, causing the English to be more aggressive in their exploration for new land. Around the same time in England, the population was growing quickly and many working class Englishmen were living on the street.

Knowing that the working class was in desperate need of more space, the Virginia Company enlisted help of promoters that convinced people to colonize the new world. Single working class Englishmen became the primary colonizers of the new English colonies. Also, because Spain had become a prominent figure in the new world, the English felt as if they were being left behind. The rising tension between England and Spain led to more English exploration. Another reason colonization was becoming more popular was the natives.

The English felt that it was their duty to help the natives convert to Christianity; however, the English did not enlist the help of missionaries for they were not as concerned as the Spanish when it came to conversion of the native population. An additional reason colonization picked up was the desire for increased social status via leadership roles including the role of governor. Also, because the new colonies were part of a charter from King James, the colonists were able to govern the land as they saw fit.

The English were gaining a stake in the new world, and, with the Spanish prominence, France began to worry. The French were known for their colonization of the northern section of the new world. Fleeing from religious persecution in their home country, Huguenots made up a fair percentage of the incoming colonists. French citizens began to relocate to the new world due to the success of the fur trade. The French were able to turn very large profits because the natives brought them thick furs in exchange for a few manufactured goods.

The furs, being worth more than the traded goods, were then shipped back to France and sold for a significant profit. The significantly cheaper cost of living encouraged more Frenchmen to move to the new world. The French, like the English, were competing with the other European countries in order to create and protect their stake in the new world. The French were also interested in exploring and colonizing the new world. They were dead set on finding the Northwest Passage, but after several tries, they were never able to locate the correct water way.

Finally, the unfair treatment of the working class by the ruling class encouraged the colonization of New France. These factors ultimately led to the increase of attention to American colonization for France. The Spanish, English, and French all had their own push and pull factors that led to the increase in colonization in the Americas. Mostly stimulated by the craving of new sources of wealth, increased power and status, and converts to Christianity, the factors for each European nation were somewhat similar.

With the Spanish conquistadores, English overpopulation, and French religious persecution, many factors boiled down to the same result: an increase in colonization of the Americas. Essay 3A: The new British colonies on the Mainland as well as the Caribbean were rapidly attracting many new emigrants because of the money to be made in cash crops. Mostly indentured servants and plantation owners during the beginning of the colonies history, the population began to shift when slaves were brought into the picture.

With many hands to tend to crops, the colonies quickly became profitable for their investors. The growing population of African slaves in the Caribbean, in conjunction with the longer growing seasons, helped develop a mercantilist cash crop economy and replaced indentured servants with enslaved Africans. Colonists from the British Southern colonies and British islands enjoyed the longer growing seasons provided by the ideal location and temperature of the colonies. The longer growing season meant that plantations were able to produce much more product versus the other northern colonies.

Because mercantilism was very prominent in the new British colonies, the goods produced on the plantations were shipped back to the mother country where they were manufactured and returned to the new world. The colonists charged the British for the product, and because they were able to produce more due to the long growing season, they made more money which in turn improved the living conditions in the colonies. Sugar and tobacco, the main exports of the Caribbean and southern colonies respectively, proved very lucrative for both the colonists and Britain.

Sugar was especially important because the bi-product was used to make rum, a very popular drink among the Europeans at that time. Now that production was picking up, the plantation owners were seeking a way of cutting costs to make a larger profit. They found their savings by replacing indentured servants with African slave labor. After slaves had been introduced in the British colonies and race based social structure had emerged, it was considered social hypocrisy to have whites performing the same work as enslaved Africans.

For this reason, indentured servants began to cease migrating to the new world. They also stopped because available land was becoming scarce due to the increasing size of the colonial plantations. Since land was part of an indentured servants pay, the lack of it caused indentured servitude to vanish. Africans gradually replaced indentured servitude for these reasons. African slaves were also more profitable because their owners did not have to give them land or money and they were able to keep their offspring, which produced even more labor sources.

Also, because the Africans were viewed as inferior beings, their masters treated them however they pleased, which they were not able to do with the indentured servants. It was also easier to spot a runaway African slave because of their different pigmentation. Because they were spotted more easily, the plantation owners rarely lost their slaves and therefore rarely lost their money. African slaves, now producing more profits than their predecessors, rapidly grew in number, quickly surpassing the plantation owners as the most populous group of people in the colonies.

As more African slaves poured into the British colonies, they brought along diseases from Africa and were introduced to many of the European diseases that had previously decimated the native population. In order to fulfill the need for labor required by the plantations, many of the owners began to import and purchase even more Africans to compensate for the amount of death the others had faced upon their arrival to the colonies. The development of sugarcane in the Caribbean colony called for quick labor which meant that more slaves were needed to complete the amount of work at a swift pace.

The constant importation of African slaves increased the population greatly. Also, the children of slaves that were born under a master belonged to said master, which in turn grew the population at an even faster rate. The slaves, because they were owned by plantation masters, had to work their whole lives or until given their freedom, which seldom happened, making them more permanent then the indentured servants that came before them. With the colonists continuously importing slaves, the African population just kept swelling.

With the long growing season in both the British southern colonies and the British island colonies, the settlers and plantation owners quickly developed a mercantilist cash crop economy, greatly increasing the profits of both colonists and the British in general. Replacing indentured servitude, the African slave population in the colonies allowed the British to make such a large profit due to the little amount of money necessary to acquire such labor. The introduction of African slave labor in the colonies led to the ultimate replacement of indentured servitude and would prove profitable for hundreds of years to come.

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