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Significance Of Jamestown

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What is the significance of Jamestown? “Jamestown introduced slavery into English speaking North America; it became the first of England’s colonies to adopt a representative government; and it was the site of the first clashes between whites and Indians over territorial expansion. Jamestown began the tenuous, often violent, mingling of different peoples that came to embody the American experience.” Dr. James Horn A Land As God Made It.

In the 1400’s Europe had very little land for agriculture and settlement. The Europeans desired riches such as gold, luxury food items, land, and timber. None of these products could be produced in Europe so they had to find these resources elsewhere. This led to a lot of importing and trading with distant lands such as Asia. Trading with distant lands required dependable, faster ships, and led to the desire to discover shorter more efficient routes. Christopher Columbus believed he could sail west to reach Asia faster and Spain endorsed his adventure. What he found instead was the America’s. Spain claimed the entire new world as its own except for Brazil which was determined to belong to Portugal. Spain’s intentions on settling the new world was to obtain wealth. Spain acquired gold and silver from Mexico. By 1565 the first European settlement was established in Florida.

Spain had developed its own empire in America. Although Spain’s main endeavor had been to find riches such as gold by the end of the 15th century they had decided it would be more profitable to steal land and crops and use Indians for labor than to continue to search for rumored cities of gold. The Pueblo Indians retaliated but the battle ended with many losses for the Indians. “By the early 1700’s the Spanish monarch ruled three times more Indian subjects than Spaniards.” Carnes, Mark C and John Garraty The American Nation.. The biggest problem for the Spanish empire was that the Indian population was dying rapidly. Europeans killed more natives by bringing disease such as smallpox, measles, bubonic plague, flu, and yellow fever. Europeans had evolved enough that they had built up resistance to the diseases but the Indians having never been exposed had no resistance and the diseases spread very rapidly across America nearly wiping the Indians out. Europeans brought with them their native plants to grow but quickly switched to potato and maize cultivation. Because they had wiped out most of the Indian population they had to start bringing in slaves captured from Africa to work the land.

By the sixteenth century Spanish colonization was a success. One quarter of Spain’s revenue came from America. France and England were too busy fighting over religion to make permanent settlement in America. The English after “suffering war after war, religious disagreement, and a poor economics saw America as a place to establish the perfect society.”Garvin, David. US History 101. Course home page. Jan 2008-May2008. Highland Community College. Feb.26,2008.<> England and most of Europe at this time were in favor of mercantilism, however it was at its peak in Europe and the mercantilists needed to branch out and search for overseas trading colonies. Europe had strong governments but with it came religious persecution. The Protestant, English and other Reformations caused a great deal of argument between Orthodox Catholicism and its alternatives. Many religion non-conformists were looking for a new place to live and worship. For various reasons ranging from economics to religion many people were in favor of settling in a new land.

England was too weak at this time to challenge Spain, but under the direction of Queen Elizabeth, “Captain Francis Drake set sail and captured the Spanish treasure ship Cacafuego which was full of Peruvian silver. He then claimed the coast of California as belonging to England, and returned to England in 1580”. Carnes, Mark C and John Garraty The American Nation. Elizabeth then sent Sir Walter Raleigh to explore the east coast of North America which he names Virginia. In 1585 he settled about 100 men on Roanoke Island, but they did not settle and returned a year later. In 1587 he sent another group to settle that included a number of women and children. A supply ship was sent to the settlers but was delayed by the attack of the Spanish Armada on England in 1588. Help did not arrive until 1590, but it was too late and there was no one to be found. The attack of the Spanish Armada was spurred by King Phillip the 2nd. His motives were religious as England seemed committed to Protestantism as well as for economic and political reasons. An English fleet of 197 ships were able to conquer the invasion and led to Spain no longer being able to prevent the English from settling in the New World.

The plan at this time was for English colonies to go to America to spread the Protestant religion and expand the market for English woolens; this would bring in valuable tax revenues. The American forests could be used for timber and naval stores to build a bigger navy and merchant marine. Queen Elizabeth did not condone this as she was too cautious and so settlement was not acted upon until after her death in 1603. The new king James the 1st granted licenses for two groups of English merchants to colonize Virginia. The first charter revealed the motives of the king when it spoke of spreading Christianity and bringing the savages to civility along with the rights to dig, mine and search for all matters of gold, silver, and copper. On December 20, 1606, the London Company dispatched about a hundred settlers aboard the Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed. It reached the Chesapeake Bay area in May of 1607 and founded Jamestown, the first permanent English Colony in the New World.

The Settlement of Jamestown was far from easy. The immigrants first tried to establish in a mosquito ridden swamp area because they thought it would be easily defensible against Indian attack. They did not get a crop going in time and were almost out of food. More than a third of the settlers were gentlemen never having done manual labor. During the first winter more than half of the settlers died. People skilled in agriculture and building were needed but because all the land was owned by the company, most of the settlers were hired laborers only contracted to work for seven years.

One settler, Captain John Smith could see how foolish the company was being in settling in Virginia. He realized that building houses and growing crops were more important than searching for gold and riches. “John Smith was in favor of dominating the Indians but not killing them, and



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