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Part 7: The Age of Empire, continued

England and the New World: An Expanding Empire
In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht firmly established England's commercial and colonial supremacy, for it gave her new possessions in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Minorca as well as Gibralter and the sole right to supply slaves to Spanish colonies. Britain's interests in the New World had begun early. An indication of its eventual triumph in Virginia had been the founding of the College of William and Mary in 1693.

Success in colonizing North America had not come without its terrible costs, yet in retrospect it seemed extremely rapid. It is a sobering fact that the first voyage of Christopher Columbus took place only 20 years after Scotland had finally acquired the Orkneys and Shetlands from Norway. Columbus had visited England in 1477 to try to obtain backing for a voyage to discover a new route to the Indies but had been turned down (his brother Bartholomew was also rejected by the English Court in 1485). Yet only five years after Columbus had landed in the Bahamas, John Cabot reached Labrador aboard the Matthew. His 35 day voyage marks the beginning of British domination of North America.

In 1496, John and Sebastian Cabot, sailing from Bristol, took their little fleet along the coasts of what were later called Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Some English scholars maintain that the name America comes from Richard Amerik, a Bristol merchant and Customs officer, who helped finance the Cabot voyages. The elder Cabot recorded the vast fishing grounds later known as the Grand Banks.

Interest in finding new lands may have been initiated by the publication of "Utopia" by Thomas More in 1515, that described the benefits of a new land. It must certainly have been influenced by the Spanish discoveries of maize, tobacco and the potato, all of which they introduced in Europe, along with oranges from the Orient. Another deciding factor was the planting of the French flag in the Gaspe Peninsular, Canada and on lands along the St. Lawrence River, by Jacques Cartier in 1534. Much of Britain's investment in North America may have been simply to prevent French influence.

Further interest in the New World was surely sparked by the explorations of Franciscan missionary de Niza who returned to Spain in 1539 with glowing accounts of the "seven cities of Cibola." One year later, Dutchman Jo Greenlander discovered that early settlers had been in what was later named Greenland. Hernando de Soto landed at Tampa Bay and Coronado explored the American southwest. In 1541 Pizarro completed his conquest of Peru and de Soto discovered the Mississippi. Perhaps the most consequential discovery of the century was that of the silver mine at Potosi by the Spanish in 1545 that fueled the commercial activity of Europe during the following century.

The efforts of Spain and Portugal in the same area also spurred further English interest in the Americas. It was especially so since the writings of Welshman John Dee had claimed the New World for Elizabeth I as Queen of an Atlantic Empire, and successor to Madoc, a Welsh prince purported to have landed in what later became known as Mobile Bay in the 12th century and whose followers, it was claimed, intermingled with the Mandans in the upper Mississippi Valley.

England's own era of exploration, initiated by the Cabots, was expanded by the journeys of Hugh Willoughby to seek a Northeast Passage to China and the spice trade. He reached Moscow by way of the White Sea and Archangel in 1553. As a result, the Muscovy Company was founded by Richard Chancellor to trade with Russia in 1555. One year later, in what many non-smokers now consider "a year of infamy," tobacco seeds reached Europe, brought from Brazil by a Franciscan monk.

In 1561, Jean Nicot (who gave his name to nicotine) sent seeds and powdered leaves of the tobacco plant to France. Such imports to Europe seized the imagination of John Hawkins who began his career of high-jacking Portuguese and Spanish ships in 1562. Hawkins' exploits, along with similar exploits of his fellow mariners, led to England's entering the Slave Trade despite Queen Elizabeth's dramatic speech against it (she later took shares in his company and even lent him a ship).

Tobacco found its way to England when John Hawkins brought some home from Florida in 1565. Three years later, David Ingram explored from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and reported finding vines with grapes as large as a man's thumbs. A great boost to exploration then came from the publication, in 1569, of the Flemish geographer Mercator's projection map of the world which represented the meridians of longitude by equally spaced parallel lines and which greatly increased the accuracy of navigational maps. English mariner Francis Drake then undertook his daring voyage of 1572 to capture the Spanish treasure fleet returning from Peru, a feat surpassed by his even greater haul one year later.

English exploration of North America continued in 1576 when Martin Frobisher discovered Baffin's Land and Frobisher's Bay on his search for a Northwest Passage to China. Two years later Queen Elizabeth gave a patent to Sir Humphrey Gilbert to "inhabit and possess at his choice all remote and heathen lands not in the actual possession of any Christian prince." The search for the famed Northwest Passage continued unabated.

In 1580, Drake arrived back in Plymouth having circumnavigated the globe in the Pelican, renamed the Golden Hinde after the gallant ship had passed through the Straits of Magellan. Drake was then knighted by the Queen after capturing the richest prize ever taken at sea. Gilbert then tried unsuccessfully to create the first English settlement in the New World at Newfoundland. The Virginia colony was established in 1584 at Roanoke by Sir Walter Raleigh. One year later, Chesapeake Bay was discovered by Ralph Lane and Davis Strait by John Davis.

In 1585, the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World, Jamaican ginger, arrived in Europe. In 1586, Sir Richard Cavendish became the third man to circumnavigate the globe when his ship the Desire reached England after a voyage of over two years. During the same year, Raleigh planted potatoes on his estate near Cork, Ireland; and Virginia Dare was born on Roanoke Island, the first English child to be born in North America.

In 1594, after deaths from scurvy in the Royal Navy had become epidemic, Sir Richard Hawkins recommended orange and lemon juice as antiscorbutics. It eventually became standard practice in the Royal Navy to add citrus juice to the diet (conquest of scurvy played a big part in England's later domination of the seas). When the Portuguese closed its spice market in Lisbon to Dutch and English traders, the Dutch East India Company was created to obtain spices directly from the Orient.

English exploration of the New World continued, receiving a bonus when Richard Hakluyt produced a recognizable map in 1599. In 1600, the Honourable East India Company was chartered to make annual voyages to the Indies and to challenge Dutch control of the spice trade. The smoking of tobacco became fashionable in London this year. When the first spice fleet leaving for the Orient arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, James Lancaster dosed his sailors with lemon juice to make them the only crew in the entire fleet not decimated by scurvy. Coffee joined tobacco as a London fad.

In 1602, English sailor Bartholomew Gosnold explored what was later to be called "New England." He brought sassafras back, but left smallpox behind to decimate many of the native peoples, mistakenly called "Indians." After James I had made peace with Spain in 1604, he re-directed England's efforts at colonizing North America, and the Plymouth and London Companies sent ships and colonists. Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607. During the same year, Henry Hudson sought a route to China and sailed round the Eastern Shore of Greenland to reach Spitzbergen. In 1610, Hudson's ship Discovery reached the strait later to be known as Hudson Bay, Canada.

In 1612, John Smith published his "Map of Virginia" describing the colony, which eventually managed to produce an extremely profitable export commodity in tobacco. In 1614, Smith also explored the New England coast and renamed a native village, calling it Plymouth. Next, when he ventured to a latitude of over 77 degrees north to seek the Northwest Passage, William Baffin sailed farther north than any other explorer for the next 236 years. In 1616, John Smith published his "Description of New England", providing a further impetus to would-be settlers.

In 1618, the first legislative body in the New World convened at Jamestown, the Virginia House of Burgesses. This was also a year in which small pox ravaged the native population of the English North American colonies, including Chief Powhatan. One year later, the first black slaves arrived in Virginia, and the first American day of Thanksgiving was celebrated on the English ship Margaret at the mouth of the James River.

In 1620, the Mayflower arrived off Cape Cod with 100 Pilgrims and two children born at sea. The Plymouth Colony celebrated its first Thanksgiving Day, but the colonists did not entertain their Indian guests at the dinner until the following year. In 1628 John Endicott arrived as the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Thousands more English settlers went to the American colonies during the reign of Charles l. In 1632, Maryland received its charter by a grant from King Charles to Cecil Calvert. Four years later, Providence was founded as a Rhode Island settlement by Roger Williams, and Harvard College came into existence.

In 1639 the first Smithfield hams arrived in England from Virginia, now starting to thrive, and the following year, Massachusetts Bay Colony began to export codfish. In the West Indies, sugar cane was grown for profit, supplying Britain with a substitute for honey, now rare after the dissolution of the monasteries, which had produced most of British honey for centuries. The manufacture of Rum from sugar cane was established in Barbados. Britain began to concentrate on the West Indies and the Americas, leaving the East Indies to the Dutch, but competing with France (and to some extent the Dutch) for North America.

In 1649, after the defeat of the armies of King Charles l, many Royalists emigrated to Virginia. In 1655, Admiral Penn captured Jamaica from the Spanish. In 1664, Nieuw Amsterdam was renamed New York after its capture from the Dutch. A year later, the New Jersey Colony was founded by English colonists. The Treaty of Westminster of 1674 returned New York and Delaware to England, freeing the English to expand their trade and grow prosperous on it.

In 1681, Pennsylvania had its beginning in the land grant given to Admiral Penn's son, the Quaker William, who wished to call it New Wales, but settled for the Welsh word for head (Pen) and the Latin for woods (Sylvania). The Frame of Government for the new colony contained an explicit clause that permitted amendments, an innovation that made it a self-adjusting constitution, as the US Constitution itself later came to be.

In a move that has been ignored by many historians, England readmitted Roman Catholics to the army in 1686, thus allowing many thousands of Irish peasants and Scots Highlanders to join the forces that would be needed to expand and control England's ever-growing empire. In 1696, William Dampier published his general survey of the Pacific, "Voyage Round the World." One year later, Parliament opened the slave trade to British merchants who began their triangular trade from taking rum from New England to Africa, slaves to the Caribbean and sugar and molasses to New England. In 1698, Dampier sailed on his Pacific expedition to explore the West Coast of Australia.

Further emigration from England to the American Colonies was encouraged during Queen Anne's reign by the 1702 publication of Cotton Mather's "Magnalia Christi Americana," a history of New England designed to show that God was at work in the colonies. A French-Indian attack on Deerfield, Massachusetts, however, was a precursor of the later war to come. Queen Anne, of a most "ordinary" character, and the last monarch of the ill-fortuned House of Stuart, died in 1714. She was succeeded by Hanover's Prince George Louis, a great-grandson of James I. During her reign, developments had taken place in England that were to shortly make it the world's leading industrial power. But first came political union with Scotland.

The Act of Union with Scotland: May 1, 1707
James II's youngest daughter Anne, whose last surviving child, Princess Anne did not survive; thus there was no direct successor to the throne. London was afraid that unless a formal, political union with Scotland was firmly in place, as distinct from the existing dynastic union (which had been established with the accession of the Stuart James VI of Scotland as James I of England in 1603), the country might choose James Edward Stuart, Anne's exiled Catholic half-brother.

The English Parliament passed the Act of Settlement in 1701 to ensure that Anne's heir was to be the Electress Sophia of Hanover, granddaughter of James l. Consequently, when William died in 1702, he was succeeded by Queen Anne, a true daughter of the last legitimate monarch, James II. On William's deathbed he had recommended union with Scotland. In 1703, the Scottish Parliament passed the Act of Security that provided for a Protestant Stuart succession upon Anne's death, unless the Scottish government was freed from "English or any foreign influence."

The English Parliament responded with an Alien's Act that prohibited all Scottish imports to England unless the Scots accepted the Hanoverian succession. When union was strongly urged by Lord Godolphin, the Scots reluctantly acquiesced in order to gain the advantage of free trade with the new British common market; the Act of Union merely cemented what had been a growing interdependence between the two countries. Union with Scotland became official on May 1, 1707 by act of Parliament. There were advantages for both countries in the Union, seen in retrospect as an act of policy, not of affection.

Sometimes overlooked while discussing the reasons for Scotland's agreeing to the union is the terrible beating taken by that unfortunate nation in the Darien affair. The Scottish Parliament's grandiose scheme to finance a rival to the East India Company and its attempt to found a colony on the isthmus of Darien, or Panama, met with hostility from the English Parliament. Disease and Spanish interference brought a quick and sad end to the scheme, in which practically the whole Scottish nation had shown interest. Much of the blame was cast upon "Dutch William" and his English advisors, but Scottish mercantile interests were forced by the experience to find a workable solution. Perhaps it would be better, they reasoned, to give up a separate and divergent economic policy in favor of a merger that would be of equal benefit to both Parliaments. Not all on either side were happy with the Union that many historians see as a result of "judicious bribery". The mercantile interests in Edinburgh did not represent the whole nation. The people of the Highlands certainly were not consulted in the matter. In particular, the nation had to balance the loss of its ancient independence against the need to open itself up to a wider world and greater opportunities than it could provide by itself. For its part, England gained a much-needed security, for no longer could European powers use Scotland as a base for an attack on its southern neighbor.

Scotland kept its legal system and the Presbyterian Kirk, but gave up its Parliament in exchange for 45 seats in the House of Commons and 16 seats in the House of Lords. The Act proclaimed that there would be "one United Kingdom by the name of Great Britain" with one Protestant ruler, one legislature and one system of free trade. The Act of Union settled the boundaries of a state known as Great Britain whose people, despite their differences in traditions, cultures and languages, were held together simply because they felt different from people in other countries.

The people of Britain also felt superior; they were constantly being compared with those of other countries in Europe as being better fed, better housed and better governed. Part of the feeling of superiority came from the acquisition of so much overseas territory; part came from government propaganda and the need to suppress dissent, part came from technical advances that already heralded the coming of both the agricultural and industrial revolutions.

Eighteenth Century England
The Electress of Hanover, Sophia, died the same year as Anne. When her son George left Hanover to come to England, knowing but a few words of the English language, there were many who wished a restoration of the Stuart monarchy. In this period of rapid Anglicization of Scotland and the acceptance, through the Union, of the political and economic situation that prevailed in Protestant England, the Stuarts were not yet finished. In 1708, their hopes were raised once again when an invasion of Scotland, launched from France managed to avoid the British fleet. Unfortunately, and by now predictably, the opportunity was lost; the troops landed too far north to be effective in taking Edinburgh. Then, in 1715, James II's son, James Edward Stuart, who was James III to his supporters was persuaded to undertake an invasion of England, "the fifteen."

It had been highly apparent that attempts at restoring the Stuarts would have meant the replacement of a Protestant monarchy, however foreign and dull it appeared, with a Roman Catholic dynasty, for one thing, and it was far too late for that. For another, the restoration would have to be accomplished by a foreign (and Catholic) army of occupation. The Stuarts were backed by France, Britain's most obvious and strongest enemy, a Popish enemy at that. The British press was full of the horrors of life in the Catholic states of Europe and the blessings that the island nation enjoyed under its Protestant rulers. Despite the nostalgia and the romanticism attached to the exiled Stuarts, and their wide support in Scotland, it was unthinkable for most Britons to contemplate their return. The majority of people in the nation were not in the mood for what surely would be a bloody and prolonged civil war. They certainly did not welcome the idea of a Jacobite army that would be mainly composed of French troops marauding through their land. In addition, it seemed as if the struggle of Whig against Tory that had brought the country to the verge of civil war had exhausted everyone. The attempt of the Pretender to regain the throne for the Stuarts in 1715 thus fizzled out like a damp squib.

Resource Information

Part 7: The Age of Empire, continued


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