The history of colonial North America centers primarily on the struggle of England, Spanish, and France to gain control of the continent. Settlers crossed the Atlantic for different reasons, and their governments took different approaches to their colonizing efforts. These differences created both advantages and disadvantages that affected the New World’s fate.
The countries government and values reflected their methods and means of making the New World work to their benefit. All of the countries were driven by such motives as treasure, gold, silver, and religious freedom. Also, interactions among Europeans and Native Americans varied from place to place, and members of each nation forged relationships with Indians in very different ways, depending on a variety of economic, social and political factors.
Spain is the most powerful monarchy in Europe and the Americas, wished to enrich themselves with the New World’s natural resources. They were not interested in creating a permanent society in the New World. Rather, they came for instant wealth, preferably in gold.
For a quarter century, the conquistadores concentrated their energies on the major islands that Columbus had discovered. Rumors of fabulous wealth aroused the interest of many Spaniards including Cortes, a minor government functionary in Cuba. Like other members of his class he dreamed of glory, military adventure, and riches that would transfer him from court clerk into honored hidalgo. He believed that somewhere hidden there placed great cities of golden treasure. What he did not look forward to encountering were the native of the land, the Aztecs. Upon their first encounter a battle broke out that was initially won by the tribal natives but ended up introducing the Aztecs to the most devastating of