Comparing the Spanish and English Colonies in the New World Territories of the 17th Century

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The Spanish settlements in the American Southwest and the English colonies in New England of the seventeenth century can be contrasted in primarily two ways. First, their politics were based on entirely different ruling classes and systems of government. Second, they employed different avenues of economic development.

The Spanish settlements began with Cortes and others conquering the Native Americans of South, Central, and parts of Southwestern North America. After eradicating a large portion of the Native American population, the Spanish began to intermarry into the Native American gene pool. Consequently, only portions of the population were pureblooded Spaniards. These Spaniards occupied the highest social and political status. Those from Spain were one step above those born in the New World while those of mixed or Indian heritage were at the bottom of the social ladder. Additionally, because the Spanish came as conquerors, the resulting political system was entirely autocratic and solely devoted to the furthering of the motherland. Immediately after conquering the Native Americans, the Spanish looted large amounts of gold, silver, and other valuables. This tradition continued into the seventeenth century as Spanish ships would come annually to bring gold and other valuables back to Spain. In this way, Spain viewed Spanish America as an object useful only for its mercantilist objectives. Since mercantilism was its only objective, Spain gave its colonies little self-rule. Instead, Spanish rulers dictated all the policies of its New World territories.

The English, on the other hand, settled relatively peacefully into the Eastern Seaboard of North America. Englishmen migrated to the New World not as conquerors but rather because they wanted independence, political freedom, and economic opportunity. Combined with England's tradition of partial representation, the English Colonies had a large degree of self-government. The colonies all had some form of a...
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