Europeans engaged in the conquest and settlement of America were confronted by a challenge of almost inconceivable immensity - the mastering of American space. As described by William Burke in his Account of the European Settlements in America, first published in 1757, `America extends from the North pole to the fifty-seventh degree of South latitude; it is upwards of eight thousand miles in length; it sees both hemispheres; it has two summers and a double winter; it enjoys all the variety of climates which the earth affords; it is washed by the two great oceans."
As Burke indicates, American space varied enormously in its physical and climatic characteristics. There was not one America but many, and these different Americas lent themselves to different styles of settlement and exploitation.' Far to the north, Basque or English fishermen attracted from the fifteenth century by the rich fishing grounds off Newfoundland, would be faced by a bleak and inhospitable coastal landscape. Further south, the view of land from the sea was more encouraging. The Reverend Francis Higginson, writing home to his friends in England in 1629, observed the `fine woods and green trees by land and these yellow flowers painting the sea', which `made us all desirous to see our new paradise of New England, whence we saw such fore-running signals of fertility afar off'.' Inland, however, lay dark forests, and the frightening unknown. To the south again was the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia, described by Captain Smith as `a country in America that lieth between the degrees of 34 and 44 of the north latitude', where `the summer is hot as in Spain; the winter cold as in France and England. '4
The Spaniards who reached the Caribbean and moved onwards into central and southern America were faced with landscapes and climates of extreme contrasts - tropical islands in the Antilles, barren scrubland in the Yucatan peninsula, the volcanic high plateau or altiplano of northern and central Mexico, and the dense tropical vegetation of the central American isthmus. While there was a climatic unity to the tropical world of the Caribbean islands and central America, southern America was a continent of violent extremes, and nowhere more than in Peru, as the great Jesuit writer, Jose de Acosta, noted in his Natural and Moral History of the Indies at the end of the sixteenth century: `Peru is divided into three long and narrow strips, the plains, the sierras and the Andes. The plains run along the sea-coast; the sierra is all slopes, with some valleys; the Andes are dense mountains ... It is astonishing to see how, in a distance of as little as fifty leagues, equally far from the equator and the pole, there should be such diversity that in one part it is almost always raining, in one it almost never rains, and in the other it rains during one season and not another.'s
Distances in this South American world were vast, and were made still vaster by the impossible character of so much of the terrain. In the kingdom of New Granada, for instance, the combination of a hot, damp climate and dramatic changes of level between the Magdalena valley and the Cordillera Oriental of modern Colombia meant that after a sixty-day transatlantic crossing from Seville to the Caribbean port city of Cartagena, it took a minimum of another thirty days to cover the thousand kilometres from Cartagena to Santa Fe de Bogota.6
How were the Spaniards, and those other Europeans who followed them, to take possession of so much space? The mastering of America, as effected by Europeans, involved three related processes: the symbolic taking of possession; physical occupation of the land, which entailed either the subjection or the expulsion of its indigenous inhabitants; and the peopling of the land by settlers and their descendants in sufficient numbers to ensure that its resources could be developed in conformity with European expectations and practices.
The symbolic taking of possession tended to consist in the first instance of a ceremonial act, the nature and extent of which were likely to be as much conditioned by circumstance as by national tradition.' The Spanish and the English alike accepted the Roman Law principle of res nullius, whereby unoccupied land remained the common property of mankind, until being put to use. The first user then became the owner.' According to the thirteenth-century Castilian legal code of the Siete Partidas, `it rarely happens that new islands arise out of the sea. But if this should happen and some new island appears, we say that it should belong to him who first settles it.'9 A similar principle would govern land titles in Spanish colonial America: possession was conditional on occupation and use.1° In claiming sovereignty, however, the Spaniards, unlike the English, had little or no need of the doctrine of res nullius, since their title was based on the original papal concession to the Spanish crown. Arriving, moreover, in lands for the most part already well settled by indigenous populations, their principal preoccupation would be to justify their lordship over peoples rather than land.i" In this, the most serious objections faced by the crown would come from within Spain itself, rather than from foreign rivals who lacked the power to enforce their own counter-claims.
Even if claims to sovereignty were entirely valid in the eyes of those who made them, the formal taking of possession by some form of ceremony constituted a useful statement of intent, directed at least as much to other European princes as to the local population. Both in Castile and England, taking possession of a property was traditionally accompanied by symbolic acts, such as beating the bounds, cutting branches, or scooping up earth. When the Castilians seized Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1464, Diego de Herrera secured the formal submission of the local chiefs. He then had the royal standard raised, and made a circuit of two leagues, `stamping the ground with his feet as a sign of possession and cutting the branches of trees .. .'12 Columbus makes no mention of such a ceremony following his landfall at San Salvador, but he raised the standard of Ferdinand and Isabella, and had the solemn declaration of their rights to the island duly notarized. Subsequently, as he noted in his journal, he did the same in the other islands: `I did not wish to pass by any island without taking possession of it, although it might be said that once one had been taken, they all were."3
The delimitation of the areas allocated respectively to the crowns of Castile and Portugal by the bull Inter Caetera of 4 May 1493 did not preclude ceremonial assertions of possession when captains and commanders set foot on new soil. In his instructions to Pedro Margarit, dated 9 April 1494, Columbus ordered that, wherever he went, `along all the roads and footpaths' he should have `high crosses and boundary stones erected, and also crosses on the trees and crosses in any other appropriate place, where they cannot fall down ... because, praise be to God, the land belongs to Christians, and this will serve as a permanent memorial, and you should also place on some tall and large trees the names of their Royal Highnesses. 114 Comparable rituals occurred as the Spaniards made their way across mainland America, with Balboa walking into the Pacific in 1513 with raised banner and drawn sword to take possession of the ocean and the surrounding land and islands on behalf of the Crown of Castile. Similarly, Cortes was scrupulous in following the instructions given him by the governor of Cuba to `assume possession ... with all possible solemnity', and in Honduras in 1526 tufts of grass would be pulled up and earth scooped up by hand."
The clearest English analogy to these practices occurred on Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Newfoundland voyage in 1583. On landing, he had his commission under the Great Seal `solemnly read' to an assembled company of his own men, together with a motley band of English and foreign merchants and fishermen. He then `took possession of the said land in the right of the Crown of England by digging of a turf and receiving the same with an hazel wand, delivered unto him after the manner of the Law and custom of England'. The land in question, known as `Norumbega' since Verrazano's account of it in 1524, had the advantage of being of unknown dimensions and infinitely expandable boundaries. After the assembled company had affirmed its consent and its obedience to the queen, `the arms of England engraven in lead' were set up on a wooden pillar.16
Without the benefit of a papal donation, the English crown was compelled, as here, to assert its own rights over `remote, barbarous and heathen lands, countries, and territories not actually possessed of any Christian prince or people'," and trust that they would be respected by other European powers. Since Spain in fact regarded the entire Atlantic coastline from the Florida peninsula to Newfoundland as part of its own territory of La Florida," such trust was likely to be misplaced. It is in this context that the principle of res nullius became of much greater service to the English than to the Spaniards. It could be used both against other European powers which had made claims to American territory but had done nothing to implement them, and also against an indigenous population which had failed to use the land in accordance with European criteria.19 The ceremony at St John's harbour was a clear declaration of Gilbert's intention of transforming a land in which at the time of his arrival `nothing appeared more than Nature itself without art'.20 Once art was applied to nature, the land was no longer res nullius and passed into legitimate and permanent ownership.
It was naturally easier to make use of the principle of res nullius where the land was at best thinly populated by indigenous peoples than where they were very obviously present, as they were in the mainland territories seized by the Spaniards, or even in Virginia. When the Jamestown settlement was established in what was clearly Powhatan territory, the Virginia Company obviously felt that the setting up of a cross and the proclamation of James I as king were somehow insufficient to establish English sovereignty, and so resorted to the dubious staging of Powhatan's `coronation'. In Virginia and elsewhere, as on Captain George Waymouth's New England voyage of 1605, the English followed Spanish practice in setting up crosses," but in general the more elaborate rituals used by Gilbert seem not to have been followed by subsequent generations of English settlers.22 This may have reflected the lack of any felt need, given the sparseness of the indigenous population and the fact that English suzerainty over vast, if indeterminate, regions had already been asserted.
There were, however, other and additional ways of asserting territorial possession, of which the most widely practised was the renaming of the land. Columbus was lavish in his bestowal of new names on the islands, capes and geographical features that he encountered on his voyages: sacred names, beginning with San Salvador, names of the royal family (Fernandina or Juana), descriptive names appropriate to some striking physical feature, or names that simply conformed with those already inscribed on his own imaginative landscape of the lands he had reached, starting with `the Indies' themselves.23 The obsession with names and naming was shared by his monarchs, who told him in a letter of 1494 that they wanted to know `how many islands have been found up to now Of those islands you have named, what name has been given to each, because in your letters you give the names of some but not all of these.' They also wanted to know `the names that the Indians call them'.24
While this process of renaming, which extended to all the European powers in the Americas, can reasonably be described as a `manifestation of power', and an act of `Christian imperialism', 25 it was by no means a uniquely European habit. When the Mexica incorporated the various states of central Mexico into their empire, they either transliterated their place-names into Nahuatl, or gave them new, Nahuatl names unrelated to those by which their inhabitants knew them .21 When Cortes, therefore, decided to rename Montezuma's empire Nueva Espana because of `the similarity between this land and that of Spain, its fertility and great size and the cold and many other things', he was unwittingly following the practice of his indigenous predecessors.27
The English followed suit. Norumbega is a name of unknown, but allegedly Indian origin.21 Later, it was sometimes called North Virginia, but in his `Description' of the territory in 1616, John Smith astutely renamed it New England, just as Cortes had renamed the land of the Mexica New Spain.29 Initially, however, `malicious minds amongst sailors and others, drowned that name with the echo of Nusconcus, Canaday, and Penaquid.'30 In his dedicatory preface Smith therefore appealed to the Prince of Wales `to change their Barbarous names, for such English, as posterity may say, Prince Charles was their godfather'. The prince duly obliged, although not in time to prevent the incorporation of many Indian names into Smith's A Description of New England. The text therefore had to be preceded by a table of correspondences, like Southampton for Aggawom, and Ipswich for Sowocatuck.31
The Spaniards and the English in fact seem to have adopted much the same approach to the renaming of American places, preferring new names to old when they settled, but not necessarily ruling out indigenous names, in so far as they could catch or pronounce them. Tenochtitlan became Mexico City, but Qosqo was easily transformed into Cuzco, and the indigenous Cuba prevailed over the Spanish Juana. Indigenous names, however, were frequently too long and difficult for Europeans, and, not surprisingly, a stream `called in the Indian tongue Conamabsqunoocant' was `commonly called the Duck River' by the New England colonists.32 But there was also prejudice against Indian names. In 1619, for example, the inhabitants of Kiccowtan petitioned Virginia's House of Burgesses to `change the savage name' to Elizabeth City.33 The natural tendency, in any event, was for settlers to choose the names of their home towns - Trujillo, Merida, Dorchester, Boston - and in so doing to bring the unknown within the orbit of the known.
Among Spanish captains and colonists a popular option was to choose the names of saints for whom they felt a particular devotion, or whose day in the liturgical calendar had been the day of discovery or of a town's foundation. The result, as the Spanish chronicler Fernandez de Oviedo remarked, was that `anyone looking at one of our navigational charts for one of these coasts seems to be reading a not very well ordered calendar or catalogue of the saints."' It was a practice that would later be ridiculed by the Bostonian, Cotton Mather.-3' Where English settlers were concerned, the sacred was more likely to be confined to biblical names, like Salem, or to expressions of gratitude for divine guidance and mercy, as with Roger Williams, who `in a sense of God's merciful providence unto me in my distress called the place Providence ... '36
The new names were quick to be recorded on maps, like John Smith's New England map of 1616. Cartography, too, was a symbolic taking of possession, at once recording the imposition of European rule by the eradication of indigenous names, and asserting national rights to American territory against European rivals. From the very beginnings of overseas discovery and settlement the Spanish crown had shown a keen interest in obtaining detailed information about the character and extent of its newly acquired territories. As with so much else in sixteenth-century Spain, it was the reign of Philip II, a monarch with a Renaissance thirst for knowledge combined with a passion for detail and for accurate representation, that first saw a serious attempt to bring method and system to what had previously been a haphazard process.37 In 1571 a new post of `principal cosmographer of the Indies' was created. The first holder, Juan Lopez de Velasco, was charged with producing a definitive chronicle and atlas of the New World, and Francisco Dominguez, a Portuguese cartographer, was sent out to New Spain to create survey maps. This first and apparently abortive initiative was followed in 1573 by the famous project, inspired by the great reforming president of the Council of the Indies, Juan de Ovando, for a massive questionnaire addressed to local officials throughout Spanish America, requesting the most detailed information about the character, the history and the resources of their communities, together with maps. The somewhat sporadic results of this cartographical exercise, which reflected an indigenous as well as a colonial vision of Spanish New World communities, duly found their way to Spain, where the crown's obsession with concealing knowledge of its American possessions from its rivals ensured that the maps remained hidden away in the archives.38
It was not for another 150 years that the British imperial authorities displayed a comparable interest in the acquisition and production of maps. At the end of the seventeenth century the Board of Trade possessed no more than a few maps, and it was only after the Peace of Utrecht, under the pressure of intercolonial rivalries, that changes began to occur. In 1715 the Board began searching for maps of the colonies, and requested copies of the best maps available in France. In view of the unsuccessful nature of the search, it noted `the necessity of sending an able person from hence to take a survey, and make exact maps of all the several colonies from north to south, which the French have done for themselves, from whence they reap great advantages whilst we continue in the dark'.39
Yet the lack of official interest did not preclude the making and dissemination of maps of British America in the seventeenth century, although the quality of these, in comparison with those produced by the Dutch in the same period, was poor. 41 Maps of Puritan New England reflected the establishment and growth of the `New English Canaan', constituting a sacred geography for the elect.4' But, even more important, a map with reassuring English words and names, like that included in John Smith's depiction of New England, served as a useful instrument for promoting colonization in a society where the attractions of transatlantic migration had to be sold to potential emigrants. To keep these matters secret, in the manner of the Spaniards, would simply have imposed an additional obstacle to settlement overseas.
The various maps of British North America represented a public affirmation of the new ownership of the land. But land that was claimed still had to be physically occupied, and there was a wide gap between cartographical affirmation and what was actually happening on the ground. Technically, in both Spanish and British America, the land was vested in the crown once its sovereignty had been proclaimed. It was then for the crown to arrange for its allocation, in order to attach settlers to the soil. There were various ways in which this could be done. One was to give commanders and colonizers powers to distribute plots of land once possession had been taken. In 1523, for instance, the Spanish crown, in capitulating with Vazquez de Ayllon for the exploration of Florida, authorized him to distribute `water, lands, and building lots (solares)'.42 Similarly, on his Newfoundland expedition of 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in conformity with his letters patent issued by the queen by virtue of her royal authority, `granted in fee farm divers parcels of land lying by the waterside' at St John's harbour .41
An alternative method, to which the British crown several times resorted, was to issue charters to groups of interested individuals who constituted themselves into companies, like the Massachusetts Bay Company of 1629. The nearest to company colonization in Spanish America was the authorization given in 1528 to two Sevillian agents of the German commercial house of the Welser for the discovery, conquest and settlement of Venezuela, but the name of the Welser seems to have been carefully kept out of the agreement, allowing them to disclaim responsibility for the actions of their company agents and representatives.44 More frequently the British crown, less concerned than the Spanish crown with the retention of close control over its American possessions, would make proprietary grants to chosen patentees, like George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, whose son Cecilius received the seals and charter for the colonization of Maryland in 1632.41 Proprietors in turn would proceed to allocate land on the terms most likely to prove attractive to settlers, while conserving as many rights to themselves as they could. But the process of land acquisition and settlement remained considerably more haphazard in British than in Spanish America. Some English colonies - Plymouth, Connecticut and Rhode Island - received no royal charters, and this only enhanced the ambiguities surrounding their rights to settle in Indian territory. At least in the initial stages of settlement, these New England colonists sought to resolve their legal and moral dilemmas by negotiating land purchases from the Indians.46
There could, however, be no lasting settlement of American land without the establishment and acceptance of some form of civil authority. On landing on the coast of Mexico in June 1519, Cortes's first action was to found the town of Vera Cruz. His purpose in doing this was to establish a civil authority, which would both legitimate his past and future actions, and lay the foundations for permanent Spanish settlement in Montezuma's realms. `The new alcaldes [mayors] and officers', writes Gomara, `accepted their wands of authority and took possession of their offices, and at once met in council, as is customary in the villages and towns of Castile.'47 A similar process was at work when the Mayflower dropped anchor off Provincetown in November 1620. In this instance the Pilgrims before going ashore agreed to `covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation'.48 They went on to elect John Carver as their Governor, just as the town council of Vera Cruz went on to elect Cortes as Captain and Justicia Mayor.
Spaniards and Englishmen therefore regarded the reconstitution of European civil society in an alien environment as the essential preliminary to their permanent occupation of the land. As participants in the same western tradition, both these colonizing peoples took it for granted that the patriarchal family, ownership of property, and a social ordering that as nearly as possible patterned the divine were the essential elements of any properly constituted civil society. But both were to find that American conditions were not always conducive to their re-creation on the farther shores of the Atlantic in the forms to which they were accustomed. The dissolving effects of space, at work from the outset, gave rise to responses which would eventually produce societies that, although still recognizably European, appeared sufficiently different to justify their being described as `American'.
These responses were determined by a combination of metropolitan tradition and local circumstance, and would vary by region as well as by nationality. The New England response, for example, was to differ in important ways from that of Virginia. But in so far as the differences between New England and Virginia were conditioned by local topography, these paled into insignificance when set against the enormous geographical and climatic differences between the areas of Spanish and British colonization on the American mainland. The Spaniards were faced with jungles, mountain ranges and deserts which made William Bradford's `hideous and desolate wilderness' of New England49 look like a garden of Eden by comparison.
The Spaniards, too, lacked great rivers like the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Ohio and the St Lawrence to take settlers deep into the interior. Yet in spite of the apparently overwhelming geographical disadvantages they encountered, the Spaniards had fanned out through the continent within a generation of the capture of Tenochtitlan. The English, on the other hand, although faced with a more benevolent geography, had a preference for clustering close to the Atlantic seaboard until the eighteenth century; only in the Hudson and Connecticut River valleys, and in parts of the Chesapeake region, did settlement of the interior begin from the outset.50 It is a striking commentary on English predilections that, for the first twenty years of its existence, the inhabitants of Dedham in Massachusetts, with immense spaces around them, continued to parcel out tiny house lots, and disposed in all of less than 3,000 acres of lands' It seems ironical that New England colonists who saw themselves as charged with an `errand into the wilderness' should so resolutely have turned their backs upon it.
The determination of the Spaniards to range far and wide through American space, in spite of the vast distances and terrible hardships involved, can be attributed partly to their ambitions and expectations, and partly to long-established Iberian traditions. Unlike the English, they soon became aware that just over the horizon were to be found large polities and densely settled lands. There was early evidence, too, of the existence of deposits of gold and silver, for which the settlers of Jamestown were to hunt in vain. Hunger for riches and lordship and a restless ambition for fame lured conquistadores like Hernando de Soto, in his epic journey through the American South between 1539 and 1542, deep into the interior in ways that few Englishmen after Sir Walter Raleigh were willing to emulate. `Why', asked Captain John Smith, `should English men despair and not do so much as any? ... Seeing honour is our lives ambition, and our ambition after death, to have an honourable memory of our life . .. '52 But appeals to honour seem to have fallen on deaf ears among English settlers who saw all around them apparently vacant land awaiting occupation. In particular, New Englanders, according to William Wood writing in 1634, were `well contented and look not so much at abundance as at competency'.53 `Competency' as an ideal left little room for glory.
'Competency'- the willingness to settle for a life-style that brought sufficiency rather than riches - was an aspiration that was not confined to English, or some English, colonists. Letters exchanged between sixteenth-century Spanish settlers in the Indies and their relatives back home suggest that the relatively modest ambition of pasar mejor - becoming better off - was seen by Spaniards as a good enough reason for risking the hazards of a transatlantic crossing, just as it was by their English equivalents. `This is a good land for those who want to he virtuous, hard-working and well-respected', wrote a settler in Mexico in 1586 about the prospects that awaited a young man thinking of emigrating from Spain.54 But the presence in Spanish-occupied lands of precious metals and a docile labour force served to perpetuate in the Hispanic world conceptions of wealth in terms of booty and lordship that were instinctive to those nurtured in the traditions created by the prolonged medieval movement of the Reconquista against Islamic Spain.-51 For new arrivals in the Spanish Indies, the ever-present possibility of a sudden bonanza served as a continuing inducement to move on.
The corollary of this was that Spanish settlers, or at least first-generation Spanish settlers, would set much less value on land as a desirable commodity in itself than the settlers of seventeenth-century English America. It was vassals, rather than land, that they wanted, and it would have been neither desirable nor practicable to clear of their indigenous inhabitants such densely settled lands as those of central Mexico.56 Those Spaniards who commanded the services of tribute-paying Indians could look forward to enjoying a seigneurial income and life-style without the trouble of developing large estates, for which in any event there were few market outlets until the immigrant population became large enough to generate new wants. Consequently, the subjugation of those regions most densely settled by the indigenous population was the immediate priority for the conquistadores and first settlers from Spain, since these were the regions that offered the best hope of lordship over vassals, and hence the easy route to riches.
The Spanish settlement of America was therefore based on the domination of peoples, and this involved taking possession of vast areas of territory. In the nature of things, such areas could only be thinly settled by the colonists, and it was natural that, if only for purposes of self-protection, they should band together in towns. But the early predisposition of Spanish colonial society in the Indies to assume an urban form can also be traced back to established practice and collective attitudes. When Ferdinand and Isabella despatched Nicolas de Ovando to Hispaniola in 1501 to restore order to a colony that had descended into anarchy, they instructed him to establish cities at appropriate locations on the islands? This would help to provide rootless colonists with a fixed point and focus. A policy of urbanization in the Indies was consonant, too, with the practices developed during the Reconquista in medieval Spain, where the southward movement of the Castilians was based on cities and towns which were granted jurisdiction by the crown over large areas of hinterland.
Spaniards in any event shared the Mediterranean predisposition towards urban life, and it was not by accident that Cortes's compact for civil government when landing in Mexico, unlike the civil compact of the Mayflower Pilgrims, assumed from the outset an urban form. The ideal of the city as a perfect community was deeply rooted in the Hispanic tradition, and for human beings to live far away from society was regarded as contrary to nature. Following the Roman tradition, too, cities were seen as visible evidence of imperium, and memories of the Roman Empire were never far away from the minds of Spanish captains and bureaucrats.
In the Antilles, to their amazement, the Spaniards encountered for the first time peoples who did not live in cities," but as soon as they reached mainland America they found themselves on more familiar ground. Here once more was an urban world with some resemblances to their own. The great pre-Columbian cities - Tlaxcala, Tenochtitlan, Cuzco - reminded them initially of Spanish and European cities, like Venice or Granada, and provided further evidence that they were now in a world that boasted a higher level of civilization than that of the Antilles. Cortes wrote of Tenochtitlan: `The city is as big as Seville or Cordoba ... There is also one square twice as big as that of Salamanca.'S9 No English settler on the thinly settled North American seaboard would have been able to draw such parallels between Indian centres of population and Norwich or Bristol. No doubt on closer inspection the resemblances between the European city and these Indian cities or ceremonial complexes of Mesoamerica and the Andes proved to be not quite as great as the conquistadores assumed in the first flush of enthusiasm. But the very existence of large Indian population centres on the American mainland confirmed Spanish preconceptions about the relationship between cities and civilized living, and offered an additional inducement to the construction in Spain's new American possessions of an essentially urban civilization.60
The town, indeed, was to become the basis for Spanish dominion in America. Occasionally it might be a pre-Columbian town, remodelled to conform to Spanish styles of living, as happened with Cuzco or with the Mexico City that arose from the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Usually it was a new foundation. But either way it offered the Indians clear evidence of the determination of the conquerors to put down roots and stay, just as it also offered clear evidence to the conquerors themselves that the crown wanted them to abandon their restless ways and establish a stable society, in accordance with metropolitan norms. It is enough to look at the ordinances for the `good government' of New Spain, issued by Hernan Cortes in 1524, to see how the earlier experience of anarchy in the Antilles had etched itself into the consciousness of those responsible for the establishment and preservation of Spanish dominion in the Indies. The ordinances insist that the conversion of the Indians made it essential that the Spaniards should stay put, and not `every day be thinking of leaving, or returning to Spain, which would destroy these lands and their inhabitants, as experience in the islands settled up to now has shown'. To achieve this, all those who possessed Indians were to promise to stay put for the next eight years; the married men among them were to bring their wives over from Castile within a year and a half, while the remainder were to marry their mistresses within the same period; and Indian-holding inhabitants of all the cities and towns of New Spain were to establish households in the towns to which they belonged.61
The town was therefore to provide the setting for the stable family life without which effective long-term colonization was regarded as impossible. It was also to act as the essential agency for the distribution, settlement and control of the land. Cortes himself, on first arriving in Hispaniola from his native Extremadura, was told by Governor Ovando's secretary that he should `register as a citizen, by which he would acquire a caballeria, that is, a building lot and certain lands for cultivation'.62 This was standard practice - the allocation of a building lot, along with an additional grant of land, with free possession,63 on the outskirts of the town. Following the system established by Ovando in Hispaniola in 1503, which itself drew on practices developed in metropolitan Spain during the Reconquista, the leading citizens of the towns of mainland America were also assigned Indians in repartimiento or encomienda.
Over large parts of Spanish America the encomienda became the chosen instrument for satisfying the demand of the conquerors for a share of the spoils, in the form of Indian tribute and services, and at the same time for discouraging them from laying waste the land and moving on in search of more plunder. In arranging for the deposito or repartimiento of Indians among his restless followers, Cortes took the first steps in mainland America towards the establishment of what was to become the fully fledged encomienda system.64 He assigned encomiendas to 300 of his men - about 40 per cent of the survivors of the army that captured Tenochtitlan, and about 6 per cent of the total European population of the Indies at that time.65 Pizarro followed suit in 1532 when he made the first depositos of Peruvian Indians among his companions in San Miguel de Piura, before leaving for his encounter with Atahualpa in Cajamarca. The accompanying documents, which made it clear that these grants of Indians constituted rewards for services, specified what were to be the essential characteristics of the encomienda in its initial stages - the obligation of the Indians to perform labour services for those who held them in deposit, and the obligation of the depositories to instruct their Indians in the Christian faith, and to treat them well.66
The crown subsequently ratified the grants made by Pizarro, as it had previously ratified those made by Cortes, and by the 1540s there were some 600 encomenderos in the viceroyalty of New Spain, and 500 in Peru.67 This suggests that a New World feudal aristocracy was already in the making, but the encomienda would evolve in ways which were to disappoint the high hopes of the conquistadores. Deeply concerned by the maltreatment and brutal exploitation of their Indians by many of the encomenderos, and then by the horrifying decline in the size of the Indian population, the crown sought, with varying degrees of success, to transform the heavy labour services of encomienda Indians into the payment of tribute. In its determination to prevent the rise of a European-style aristocracy, the crown also struggled to prevent the automatic perpetuation of encomiendas through family inheritance. Although rebellion by the settlers in Peru and widespread opposition in New Spain forced it to revoke the notorious clause in the New Laws of 1542 by which all encomiendas were to revert to the crown on the death of the current holder, the transmission of the encomienda from one generation to another was never to become automatic. The crown remained the master.68
Above all, the encomienda remained what it had always been - a grant of Indians, not of land. When land was abandoned by the Indians, it reverted to the crown, and not to the encomendero to whom the Indians had been assigned.69 But although in principle the encomienda had nothing to do with land-ownership, encomenderos and their families were well positioned to take advantage of expanding opportunities as colonial societies developed and the urban population increased. Obliged by law to live in towns and cities, and not in the areas where they held their encomiendas, the encomenderos were precluded from becoming a European territorial aristocracy living on their estates.
In spite of these constraints, their privileged status, their social influence, and the income provided by their encomiendas would enable the shrewder among them to purchase large tracts of land which their heirs would one day develop for stock raising or cereal production to minister to the needs of rapidly expanding towns. In accordance with metropolitan usage, however, there remained strict limitations on land-ownership in Spain's American possessions. The possession of land was conditional on its occupation or use, although, in accordance with Castilian law, the subsoil remained the inalienable possession of the crown;70 property-owners could set up boundary markers, but were not allowed to fence off their estates - in contrast to British America, where fences were visible symbols that land had been 'improved';71 shepherds and others were allowed free passage across private estates; and woods and water remained in common ownership.72
The outcome of the process by which encomenderos and other privileged and wealthy settlers could acquire landed property would be the emergence of what was to be the classic Spanish American model of a colonial society built on the twin foundations of the city and the rural estate, the estancia or hacienda, which varied considerably in size and function according to local circumstances. In some areas, like the Oaxaca region of Mexico, there were medium or small-sized rural holdings, although the development of the mayorazgo or entail system, transmitting property as an inalienable inheritance to a single heir, gave an impulse to the long-term concentration of smaller holdings into large estates.73 But the city remained central to the enterprise, with 246, or nearly half, of the encomenderos of New Spain registered as householders, or vecinos, of the new Mexico City. The remainder became householders in newly created towns which sprang up in the wake of the conquest.74 In response to the legal requirement that encomenderos and others should also be vecinos, there was a rush to found and build such new towns in the first post-conquest decades in New Spain and Peru. By 1580 there were some 225 towns and cities in the Spanish Indies, with a total Hispanic population of perhaps 150,000, at a low estimate of six to a household.75 By 1630 the number had increased to 331,76 and many more were to be founded in the eighteenth century.
Already before Philip II's famous ordinances of 1573 on the situation and layout of New World towns," these towns had acquired the distinctive features which were now belatedly decreed as the norm: a plaza mayor, bordered by a church and civic buildings, and a regular pattern of streets on the grid-iron plan, which Ovando had adopted when he rebuilt Santo Domingo after the cyclone of 1502. There were good European precedents for this grid-iron or chequer-board pattern, not least among them the camp city of Santa Fe, from which Ferdinand and Isabella besieged the Moorish stronghold of Granada. Rectilinear town planning had the sanction, too, of the Roman architectural writer Vitruvius and had been made fashionable by Renaissance architectural theory.78 But the fundamental simplicity of the grid-iron plan, and ease of layout and construction, made it eminently transferable to a Hispanic colonial society that was in a hurry to re-establish the convivial familiarities of the urban existence it had left behind in Spain.
The rectilinear cities of Spanish colonial America, with their monumental civic and religious buildings and spacious streets, extended outwards into indefinite space. With no city walls to block the vistas (other than in coastal cities threatened by foreigners, or in dangerous frontier regions),79 they proclaimed the reality of Spanish domination over an alien world. They also had the desired effect of anchoring a potentially restless settler population, and giving a much-needed stability to the new colonial society in process of formation.
By the early seventeenth century the English were well aware of the urban pattern of Spanish settlement in the Indies, and perhaps, too, of the Spanish American model of urban design. In 1605 George Waymouth produced a set of plans, both rectilinear and radial, for a colonial town in North America, although these fanciful designs seem to have owed more to Renaissance theory than to Spanish practice.80 In 1622, however, the Virginia Company, desperate to save the struggling English colony after the recent Indian onslaught, made a direct reference to the Spanish system of colonization by means of cities in a letter of instructions to the Governor and Council of Virginia. Insisting on the importance of the colonists staying together in order to defend themselves against Indian attacks, the letter continued: `... In which regard, as also for their better civil government (which mutual society doth most conduce unto) we think it fit, that the houses and building be so contrived together, as may make if not handsome towns, yet compact and orderly villages; that this is the most proper, and successful manner of proceedings in new plantations, besides those of former ages, the example of the Spaniards in the West Indies doth fully instance . ..'81
But the settlers of Virginia proved recalcitrant. It had long since become clear that the local Indian population would produce neither the tribute nor the labour force that could form the basis of a Spanish-style encomienda system, although the Virginia Company initially seems to have envisaged something very similar when it gave instructions in 1609 that tribute should be collected from every tribal chieftain in the form of local commodities, like maize and animal skins, and that a specified number of Indians should perform weekly labour services for the colonists." The Indians, it transpired, were not prepared to co-operate. There remained the land, and once the rich potential of tobacco planting became apparent, the attractions of land occupation and ownership proved irresistible. The Indians remained a threat, and in the wake of their attack in 1622 the settlers embarked on overt anti-Indian policies, forcing them off their land in the lower peninsula. By 1633 a six-mile long pale had been constructed, leaving 300,000 acres cleared of Indian occupation.83 More forts and blockhouses were built after another Indian attack in 1644, and the frontiers of settlement were pushed inexorably forward into Indian territory. As the Indian threat diminished, so too did the need for the settlers to live together in communities on the Jamestown model. As a result, the colonial society established in Virginia was to he characterized by that very dispersal of the settlers which the council of the Virginia Company had sought to prevent in 1622.
With large river-front plantations spreading west and north along the waterways, the Virginian response to space differed not only from that of the colonists of Spanish America but also from that of the New Englanders who were simultaneously establishing their colonies to the north.84 There were almost no towns in Virginia and the Chesapeake margins, as London officials observed with annoyance and visitors with surprise.85 The society of colonial Virginia was to be one of isolated farms and of great estates - but great estates that differed from the haciendas of Spanish America in having resident owners. Where the landowning oligarchy of New Spain and Peru lived in the cities, that of Virginia lived on its estates; and when its members met each other on public occasions, they did so not in towns, but in court houses and churches which stood dispersed through the rural landscape, located at points where residents of the county could enjoy equal access to their facilities."d
For a rather more urban landscape it was necessary to look to the more northerly English settlements, where a different pattern of colonization developed during the course of the seventeenth century. Whereas communal living was in effect abandoned in Virginia after the collapse of the Jamestown experiment, the more controlled settlement patterns of Massachusetts led to the development of a landscape of contiguous settlements consisting of small towns and those 'compact and orderly villages' for which the Virginia Company had pleaded in vain." By 1700 there were between 120 and 140 towns in New England," although their character and appearance bore little relation to those of the towns in Spanish America. Essentially the New England township consisted of tracts of land granted to a particular group, with a village sited near the centre. The village church formed a place of assembly, and each village would have its commons. As in Spanish towns, families were allocated a house lot, along with parcels of land for cultivation outside the residential centre. The allocation of land was conditional, as in Spanish America, on its being `improved' and put to use."9
By the end of the seventeenth century, however, British America had also succeeded in generating, along with innumerable villages and townships, several cities along the Atlantic seaboard: in particular Boston, Newport, Philadelphia and Charles Town, along with New York, the city founded by the Dutch as New Amsterdam.H' Outside New England, where towns tended to follow the local topography, the new cities, too, were often built with a regularity reminiscent of that of Spanish colonial cities, even if the inspiration seems to have come from Renaissance ideals of town planning. The streets of Charles Town (later Charleston), in the new settlement of Carolina, were planned around 1672 to conform to the ideals of regularity and symmetry that inspired Christopher Wren's plans for rebuilding London after the Great Fire of 1666.91 Be sure', ordered William Penn a decade later in founding Philadelphia, `to settle the figure of the town, so as that the streets hereafter may be uniform down to the water from the country bounds ... Let the houses built be in a line (fig. 9).192 In accordance with his wishes, Philadelphia was laid out on the grid-iron plan, to create what Josiah Quincy would describe in 1773 as `the most regular, best laid out city in the world'.93 The geometric regularity of Philadelphia, the largest city yet built by British settlers, proved highly influential, and by the end of the seventeenth century, the grid-iron had become, other than in New England, the predominant form of urban design in British, as in Spanish, America.94
Yet in spite of the growth of its towns, British America remained in comparison with Spanish America an overwhelmingly rural society. For all the problems of public order in Hispanic American cities, the urban character of Spanish colonial society provided a continuing element of social control, inhibiting the dispersal of the colonial population through the countryside. British America was eventually to prove a far more geographically mobile society, characterized by a steady westward migration towards the agricultural frontier as the threat of Indian attack diminished.95 This was true even of New England, where strenuous, and partially successful, efforts were made to achieve a controlled dispersal as new immigrants began to arrive. Where Virginia, in order to meet the colony's chronic need of settlers, had to tilt its land distribution heavily in favour of individual interests through its headright system of land grants for each individual brought into the colony, the so-called `Great Migration' of the 1630s, with its continuing influx of new arrivals, gave the leaders of New England's colonization sufficient leeway to frame policies which would balance more nearly the aspirations of the individual and the needs of the community.96 Moreover, where the first immigrants to the Chesapeake region were primarily young single males, at least 60 per cent of travellers to New England were accompanied by family mem- bers.97 The preponderance of families in the immigration to New England, together with a much better generational and gender balance than was to be found among the Chesapeake immigrants, gave the new colony the cohesiveness and potential for stability that would continue to elude Virginia until the final years of the century.
The New England immigrants, too, knew that they were coming to a Puritan commonwealth. It is true that, even in Plymouth Colony, there were from the beginning so-called `strangers' or `particulars' alongside the Pilgrims, whose presence proved a source of continuing dissension and strain.98 But there was a sufficient degree of consensus among the majority of the immigrants to allow the leadership to embark on their great experiment of building a godly community. `We all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim,' began the preamble to the New England Articles of Confederation of 1643, `namely, to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to enjoy the liberties of the gospel in purity with peace.'99
Yet the failure of the simultaneous Puritan experiment on Providence Island, off the Nicaraguan coast, shows that, even among `visible saints', godly discipline was not of itself sufficient to ensure the development of a viable colony.100 In an effort to secure adequate returns for its shareholders, the Providence Island Company insisted on exercising centralized control from England, including control of land distribution. Lacking security of tenure, and as mere tenants at halves, with half the profits of their labour going to the investors, the Providence Island colonists lacked the inducement to experiment and innovate. Inexperienced in growing tropical products, they persisted with the planting of tobacco, although it proved to be of poor quality. They also seem to have given up too soon on their various attempts at new forms of specialization, which would be the salvation of another island colony, Barbados, as it moved away in the 1640s from tobacco to the production of new crops, and especially sugar.101 When a Spanish invading force wiped out the Providence Island colony in 1641, they destroyed a failed settlement.
One of the reasons why the Massachusetts Bay colonists escaped the fate of Providence island was that they took their charter with them, thus establishing from the beginning local control over the regulation of their lives and the distribution of the land. In Massachusetts, as in Virginia, untrammelled private ownership of land was to be crucial to success, in spite of the attempts of contemporary Puritan publicists to suggest that the motivations behind the establishment of the two colonies were fundamentally different. `This plantation [of Massachusetts]', wrote Emmanuel Downing to Sir John Coke, `and that of Virginia went not forth upon the same reasons nor for the same end. Those of Virginia went forth for profit ... Those [of Massachusetts] went upon two other designs, some to satisfy their own curiosity in point of conscience, others to transport the Gospel to those heathen that never heard thereof.'102
This distinction, which was to become canonical, between profit-motivated Virginians and pious New Englanders obscures the awkward truth that the profit motive was strongly present in New England from the outset and exercised a powerful influence over the founding of new towns.103 While the Puritan leadership remained committed to the preservation of a communal spirit, even at the expense of expansion into the wilderness, New England towns were created and controlled by land corporations whose membership was not coterminous with the municipal, let alone the religious, community. To participate, it was necessary to be not simply a resident but an `inhabitant' - a shareholder or town proprietor, the equivalent of the Spanish American vecino.104 These land corporations of `inhabitants' were dominated by a handful of entrepreneurs and speculators, who saw the accumulation of land as a major source of profit and were responsible for launching many of the towns of seventeenth-century New England.'°5
Roger Williams, seeing his own colony of Rhode island falling prey to the designs of Boston speculators, warned that the `God land will be (as now it is) as great a God with us English as God gold was with the Spaniards. 1106 None the less, the tension between individual profit and collective ideals in the early stages of the colonization of New England proved creative. It endowed the northern colonies with a form of landscape and community distinct from that of other parts of British America. Its township pattern of land distribution inhibited the development in New England of a class of great landlords, like the tobacco planters of Virginia or the patroons of colonial New York, where settlement patterns had been established during the period of Dutch colonization.107 In 1628, the Dutch West India Company had sought to revive its fortunes by mobilizing private capital and securing immigrants through an offer of generous land grants along the New Netherland coastline and up the Hudson river to entrepreneurs prepared to import European colonists who would farm the allocated land. Although the resulting patroonships failed to produce a significant increase in the colony's population, they offered a model for the future. Following the English seizure of the colony in 1664, the later seventeenth-century governors of what was now New York showed themselves at least as lavish as the Dutch in the generosity of their land grants. Although parts of the colony were to be settled by freehold farmers, other parts, and especially the Hudson Valley region, were characterized as a result by their distinctive manorial system, and a rural society of patrician landowners and their tenant farmers, very different from New England's rural society of independent farmers.
New England's continuing adherence to a set of common ideals gave it a stability and cohesion that another holy experiment towards the end of the seventeenth century - Pennsylvania - would have much greater difficulty in attaining. Starting later than New England and Virginia, Pennsylvania and the Middle Colonies as a whole would need time to develop the elements of cohesion provided in the north-east by the small town, and in the south by the planta- tion.108 Penn himself hoped to establish an orderly pattern of development based on contiguous townships, but his hopes of creating a structured society with a sense of community comparable to that to be found in New England were subverted by the emergence of speculative landlords and by the dilution of the original Quaker ideals of the colony as new settlers arrived. Pennsylvania enjoyed the advantage over New England of possessing a rich alluvial soil, while settler occupation was greatly facilitated by the relative thinness of Indian settlement and the abundance of land. In the Middle Colonies much of this land, unlike that of New England, had already been worked by Indians in pre-Columbian times. The cleared land, with its fertile soil, would prove ideal for the development of a rural society of small freeholders, whose conduct and attitudes had been shaped by the European family farm. With family interests tending to take priority over communal ideals, the environment of the Middle Colonies proved highly favourable to the emergence of a competitive market economy, but considerably less favourable to the achievement of social cohesion and political stability.109
Stability was in fact slow to come to the Middle Colonies, where the continuous arrival of shiploads of new immigrants kept the region in a state of flux. By the eighteenth century, these immigrants were coming no longer solely from England, but also from Scotland, Ireland and continental Europe, thus creating a volatile mixture of ethnic groups. On arrival in Philadelphia or Baltimore they soon moved out again in search of land, adding to the pressures on the western agricultural frontier produced by the rapid natural growth of a colonial population considerably healthier than that of contemporary Europe. Observers lamented their failure to settle in towns. `They acquire', complained a British official, `no attachment to Place; but wandering about Seems engrafted in their Nature ...'110
The refusal to acquire `attachment to Place' was the nightmare of the official mind in British and Spanish America alike. In Spanish America the grant of Indians in encomienda, the predilection for urban living, and the weight of royal authority in backing up this predilection with legislation and enforcement, did something to tie the colonists to place, but it seemed to successive viceroys of New Spain and Peru that they were fighting a losing battle. Encomiendas were in the hands of a privileged few; new immigrants, even when willing to work, often found it difficult to obtain employment once the new colonial societies had established themselves; and from the middle years of the sixteenth century vagrants of Spanish origin - mostly unmarried young men or those who had left their wives behind in Spain - were joined by growing numbers of mestizos, blacks and mulattoes. The Spanish crown was especially concerned by the danger presented by these vagrants to the integrity of Indian villages and communities, and continued its attempts throughout the colonial period to curb their wanderings, although with very limited success."'
In British America, the constraints were weaker from the beginning, and the pressures even more intense. In the absence of a strong royal government to give shape and direction to settlement policies, the prime constraint on movement into the North American interior in the initial years of settlement was the existence of a sparsely settled but none the less ubiquitous Indian population. This set up barriers to expansion which were not only physical but also moral and psychological. In the early stages of colonization the immigrants to Virginia and New England envisaged themselves as settling among Indians with whom they looked forward to trading and other relations to mutual benefit. Nor indeed would the first English settlements have survived without Indian assistance and Indian supplies. But even where friendly relations were established with individual Indian tribes, undercurrents of fear and prejudice added a note of wariness to the relationship. Fears of Indian `treachery' were never far from the surface, and tended to be reinforced by every incident of mutual misunderstanding. The English, too, were caught up in inter-tribal rivalries of which they had little or no knowledge or understanding, and which made it difficult for them to know whether or not they found themselves among friends. For the settlers of Virginia, the defining moment came with the `massacre' of 1622; for those of New England with the murder in 1634 by the Pequots of two captains and their crew, and the chain of events which culminated in the brutal Pequot War of 1637.112
Yet for tiny settlements of immigrants, neither total isolation nor a permanent state of hostility was a viable option. The settlers needed at least a degree of co-operation from the Indians for the practicalities of everyday life, and, as the settlements grew, they needed Indian land. In the early stages of colonization, considerations of morality and expediency alike led the colonists to negotiate land purchases from the Indians, although, as the balance of numbers tilted in favour of the colonists, the tendency simply to encroach on Indian land became increasingly hard to resist. But it became clear in Virginia as well as in New England that some modus vivendi was needed if there were not to be an unending succession of raids and counter-raids arising over territorial disputes. In Virginia a peace treaty in 1646 and a comprehensive statute passed by the assembly in 1662 attempted to provide some safeguard for Indian rights to land;"' in the New England colonies, statutory limits were placed on the rights of the settlers to purchase Indian land. For their part the Indians, their numbers much diminished by the epidemics of 1616-17 and 1633-4, were generally willing to sell as long as they could retain their right to hunt, fish and gather on the land they had surrendered. 114
Although the Pequot War left the initiative in New England firmly in the hands of the settlers, and relations were reasonably amicable with the Indian tribes in the three decades preceding the outbreak of King Philip's War in 1675, there were psychological as well as legal and moral barriers to unrestricted movement inland. On the edges of the clusters of villages lay the `wilderness' - a fraught and emotive word in the New England vocabulary of the seventeenth century. `What could they see', wrote William Bradford of the safe arrival of the Pilgrims at Cape Cod, `but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men?"" A few years later John Winthrop, after a longer acquaintance with the land, was still writing in similar terms of the colonists coming together `into a wilderness, where are nothing but wild beasts and beastlike men ... '16 The image of the wilderness, with its biblical connotations, possessed a strong hold over the minds of the settlers, and not only those of New England. Virginia's colonists, too, saw themselves as living in a `Wildernesse' and surrounded by 'Heathen'."' But the image of the wilderness was ambiguous. On the one hand it implied danger and darkness - a land where Satan ruled. But on the other it implied a place of retreat and refuge, in which trials and tribulations would strengthen and refine the faithful as they struggled to tame and improve the wild land."'
There were tensions in the thought of the settlers between these competing interpretations of the wilderness - tensions that do not seem to have troubled the Spaniards, for whom biblical imagery was less all-pervasive. The Spanish equivalent of the concept of `wilderness' would seem to have been either despoblado"9 - an isolated and `uninhabited' area far from the heartlands of empire - or `desert' (desierto). If the desert conjured up images of the early church fathers, to whom the early friars in the New World could reasonably be compared'120 it was not a place for the ordinary run of mortals, who required a social existence to realize their full potential. The Puritans too were aware of the desocializing effects of the wilderness, and sought to legislate against it, as when Massachusetts passed a law in 1635 ordering that all houses should be built within half a mile of the meeting-house.121 They sought, too, to ward off its dangers by constructing hedges, walls and fences, all of them frontiers of exclusion. The Spanish settlers, on the other hand, clustered in towns and thinly spread across a continent many of whose peoples they had subdued, sought rather to incorporate those peoples within a world the Spaniards had already claimed as their own. Frontiers would inevitably spring up - in northern Mexico or in Chile - where further Spanish incursion was blocked by powerful tribes, but even these frontiers were to prove highly permeable as the Spaniards sought to continue their advance by other means.122
Yet even as the English colonists built their palisades, they sought to push them back. The pressures to do so were in part psychological - the wilderness, for all its dangers, was there to be tamed. But they were also created by demographic facts. As the numbers of settlers grew, so too did their need for space. Against this, even the mechanisms of social control imposed by the Puritan leadership could not prevail indefinitely. The wilderness constituted no permanent barrier against the force of numbers.
Peopling the land
To establish a permanent presence in the New World, the Spaniards and the English were dependent, at least in the first stages of settlement, on a steady stream of immigrants. Mortality rates among the first arrivals were very high. A different climate and environment, different food - or sheer scarcity of food - hardship and deprivation, took a heavier toll than Indian arrows. `All of us', wrote a Franciscan who arrived in Santo Domingo in 1500, `became ill, some more, others less. 1121 During the first decade in Hispaniola two-thirds of the Spaniards may have died, while nearly half the Pilgrims perished of disease and exposure during their first New England winter.124 Until the gender imbalance inherent in the first transatlantic migratory movements was corrected, there was no chance of the white population holding its ground, let alone increasing, without a continuous supply of immigrants from the mother country.
Over the centuries Castilians had been drawn to southern Spain, and the English to Ireland, in their search for land and opportunity. The existence of this migratory tradition suggests that neither people was likely to see the Atlantic as an insuperable barrier to further migration once transatlantic sailings became reasonably well established. But there would need to be good reason to embark on the hazardous ocean crossing, and this was likely to come from severe pressures at home, or the lure of richer rewards and a better life overseas, or some combination of the two.'25
When Castile launched out on its conquest of the Indies, there was no overwhelming compulsion in terms of population pressure to expand overseas; but the system of land-ownership in some regions - notably Extremadura, which contained no more than 7 per cent of Spain's population but provided 17 per cent of its overseas migrants in the period up to 1580 - was sufficiently inequitable to encourage the more adventurous among the deprived and the disappointed to seek new opportunities elsewhere.126 Reports of fabulous riches to be found in the Indies provided a strong incentive to these mostly young men to up stakes and go, although probably with the expectation of returning home once they had made their fortunes overseas. By placing themselves in the service of an influential local figure, and drawing on the extensive family networks which soon criss-crossed the Spanish Atlantic, these first migrants - and often involuntary colonists - succeeded in making the crossing, if not necessarily the fortunes which they believed to be awaiting them in the Indies.
Once the crown was committed to establishing a permanent Spanish presence in the Indies, it was naturally concerned to curb the migration of these footloose adventurers, and encourage the transatlantic movement of potentially more reliable elements in the population, who possessed the determination and the skills to help develop the natural resources of the land. It established an appropriate instrument for control in the Casa de la Contratacion - the House of Trade set up in Seville in 1503, which was made responsible for the regulation of all emigration to the Indies - and nominated Seville as the sole point of departure for the Indies. Would-be emigrants had to present the necessary documents relating to their background and place of birth to officials of the Casa in order to receive a royal licence for the transatlantic crossing. From the earliest years, therefore, this was a controlled emigration, and restrictions were added - or sometimes relaxed - in accordance with changing priorities and needs. The passage of foreigners, for instance, was legally prohibited, except for a short period between 1526 and 1538, but the definition of `foreigner' was far from clear. Technically it even included the inhabitants of the Crown of Aragon, but in practice there seems to have been no impediment to their travelling to the Indies, although their numbers seem to have been small. This was overwhelmingly a migration from the Crown of Castile, with Andalusia providing a third of the emigrants.
Map 2. The Early Modern Atlantic World.
Based on D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America, vol. 1, Atlantic America, 1492-1800 (1986), fig. 8; The Oxford History of the British Empire (1998), vol. 1, map 1.1; and Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic, 1675-1740 (1986), figs 2 and 3.
While non-Spaniards were officially excluded from Spain's American possessions, individuals with a legitimate reason for going could apply for naturalization or secure a special licence.121 Jews, Moors, gypsies and heretics were all forbidden entry to the Indies. In the earlier years of colonization it was possible to find ways around these prohibitions, but evasion became more difficult after 1552, when it was decreed that potential emigrants must furnish proof from their home towns and villages of their limpieza de sangre, demonstrating the absence of any taint of Jewish or Moorish blood.121
In comparison with the elaborate efforts made by the Spanish crown to control and regulate the process of overseas emigration, the efforts of the early Stuarts in the same direction were puny. In 1607 James I renewed the standing restrictions on travel to foreign ports without first securing a licence, and in 1630 Charles I invoked his father's proclamation to ensure that emigrants to New England would be registered at their port of departure. During the course of the 1630s - the decade of the Great Migration - the king and Archbishop Laud became increasingly preoccupied by `such an universal running to New England' and elsewhere, at a time when settlers were needed for Ireland; but although the clerks at the port of London conscientiously recorded the names and details of emigrants, the Privy Council was unable in practice to control the movement of emigration.121
Even the Spanish crown, however, with far stricter regulatory procedures and with emigration to the Indies allowed only from a single port, achieved only a limited success. Documents could be falsified, ships' captains bribed, and there was a high rate of attrition among crew members and soldiers on the transatlantic fleets, who would jump ship on arriving at Vera Cruz, Portobelo or Cartagena de las Indias, and disappear into American space.l3o If the Spanish crown achieved only limited success in preventing clandestine emigration, its efforts in the early stages of colonization to promote the kind of emigration of which it approved were an almost total failure. In 1512, for instance, a royal councillor proposed that poor families should be shipped across the Atlantic at the state's expense. Yet assisted emigration for peasant and artisan families seems to have been of limited effect, and the crown was unwilling to approve the system of free transport in return for a period of enforced labour service on arrival in the Indies which was to have such a future in the Anglo-American world. This would have led to a form of white servitude quite unacceptable in a world so heavily populated by `free' Indians.13' As far as official efforts to redress the balance of the sexes were concerned, the constant repetition of royal orders that wives should join their husbands in the Indies suggests that they were widely flouted, and in 1575 Philip II had to suspend preferential measures to facilitate the emigration of unmarried females because of complaints from Peru that the arrival of so many dissolute women from Spain was endangering family stability and public morality. 112
For all the efforts of the Spanish crown to control and direct the movement of people to the Indies, it remained - as subsequent British migratory movements would remain - firmly subject to the laws of supply and demand. As the population of Castile grew over the course of the sixteenth century - possibly from under 4 million to 6.5 million133 - the pressures to move became more intense, but much of the movement was internal, into the towns and cities. The restriction of the port of departure to Seville must itself have acted as a deterrent for those who lived far away, especially if they were travelling with their families; and to move on from Seville to the Indies entailed extra commitment and heavy additional expense. The transatlantic crossing, including the cost of provisions for the journey, was not cheap. The 20 or more ducats required by the 1580s for the passage of a single adult, with a further 10-20 for provisions, would suggest that emigrants dependent on their wages would either have to sell up before setting sail, or would need to rely on remittances from relatives who had preceded them to the Indies. In order to meet their costs, many would sign up as the servants of more affluent passengers, or would seek to travel as part of the entourage of a new viceroy or an important royal or clerical official. 114
The total number of emigrants from Spain to the Indies over the length of the sixteenth century is generally put at 200,000-250,000, or an average of 2,000-2,500 a year. 115 The majority of these gravitated to the two viceroyalties - 36 per cent to Peru and 33 per cent to New Spain - while New Granada received 9 per cent, central America 8 per cent, Cuba 5 per cent and Chile 4 per cent.136 There was, inevitably, a heavy preponderance of men in the initial stages of emigration, but by the middle years of the century, as conditions in the Indies began to be stabilized, the proportion of women emigrants started to rise, and there was an increase in the emigration of families, often going to join a husband or father who had successfully established himself in America. During the seventeenth century, indeed, just over 60 per cent of Andalusian emigrants went in family units '117 and family and clientage networks played a crucial part in Spain's settlement of the Indies. But even in the 1560s and 1570s, when the sixteenth-century emigration flow was at its highest, women never reached as many as a third of the total of all registered emigrants.13'
Although many letters survive from sixteenth-century settlers in Spanish America begging relatives back home to join them,139 the greatest deterrent to a more massive migratory movement from the Iberian peninsula to the Indies was probably to be found neither in the cost of the journey, nor in the Sevillian monopoly of sailings and the complexity of bureaucratic procedures, but in the relatively limited opportunities once the first stage of colonization had passed. Because of the presence, especially in the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru, of a large Indian labour force, reinforced where necessary by the importation of slaves from Africa, there was no extensive labour market in the Spanish Indies to provide immigrants with work. Artisans who arrived from Spain would find themselves in competition with Indian craftsmen who had been quick to master European skills, and the unsuccessful would join the ranks of that floating population of vagrants, of which the viceroys were always complaining. 140 There was a significant return movement from America to Spain - perhaps of the order of 10-20 per cent141- and while many of those returning were ecclesiastics and officials who had completed their overseas assignment, or settlers paying short-term visits to their homeland for business or family reasons, some at least must have been emigrants whose high hopes of a new life in the Indies had been dashed.
In North America, by contrast, with its more sparsely settled indigenous population, labour prospects for immigrants were far better. England, too, was believed by contemporaries to be suffering from overpopulation. Its total area of 50,333 square miles supported a population of some 4 million in 1600,142 whereas the population of the Crown of Castile (147,656 square miles) fell from some 6.5 million in the middle decades of the sixteenth century to 6 million at its end as a result of devastating harvest failure and plague in the 1590s.143 The pressures in England for overseas migration were correspondingly stronger. But the West Indies or the North American mainland were not the only possible destinations for English emigrants. The principal deterrent to New World emigration in the early seventeenth century was not the absence of opportunity but the much easier option of migration to Ireland, which received some two hundred thousand immigrants from England, Wales and Scotland during the first seventy years of the century.144 If the new transatlantic settlements were to be peopled, therefore, it would be necessary to offer substantial inducements to potential emigrants to make the more expensive and hazardous crossing to America, and to resort to recruitment devices which were hardly needed in Spanish America, with its rich supply of indigenous labour. Projectors and proprietors went to great lengths to promote settlement in their colonies by emphasizing their attractiveness in promotional literature - a genre which did not exist in Spain, where a work like Sir William Alexander's An Encouragement to Colonies (1624) would have had little point or purpose.
Promotional tracts like New England's Plantation (1630) made much of the opportunities of a land that was represented to the English public as largely empty, and ripe for improvement: `Here wants as yet the good company of honest Christians to bring with them horses, kine and sheep to make use of this fruitful land: great pity it is to see so much good ground for corn and for grass as any is under the heavens, to lie altogether unoccupied, when so many honest men and their families in old England through the populousness thereof, do make very hard shift to live one by the other ... The Indians are not able to make use of the one fourth part of the land, neither have they any settled places, as towns to dwell in, nor any ground as they challenge for their own possession, but change their habitation from place to place.' Here, then, was space in abundance, together with no more than a thin population of Indians `who generally profess to like well of our coming and planting here ...'145 - a benign picture comparable to that found in the early promotional literature for Virginia, where the image of the Indian was suitably adjusted to refute popular notions of his bestiality.141
Mere promotion, however, was unlikely to do much more than bring the possibilities of emigration to America to the attention of people who might not otherwise have considered them; and in any event letters from settlers, comparable to those sent home from Spanish America, and encouraging friends and relatives to join them on the other side of the ocean, are likely to have proved more influential than impersonal publicity. `Here', wrote the minister Thomas Welde in 1632 to his former parishioners in Tarling, `I find three great blessings, peace, plenty, and health in a comfortable measure ...'147 The message was attractive, and when it could be presented as promoting God's work and God's design, it could be counted upon to receive a particularly attentive and sympathetic hearing from the more godly members of the community.
Religion, which in the Spanish movement to the New World was channelled into the evangelizing activities of members of the religious orders anxious to win new converts for the faith, exercised a broader influence over English transatlantic emigration. It played its part in the settlement of Virginia - which received a significant influx of Puritans148 - and of Maryland, originally founded to provide a place of refuge for Catholics. But although the prospect of building John Winthrop's `city upon a hill' was one impelling element in the Great Migration to America in the 1630s, it hardly represents the exclusive and overwhelming force that subsequent generations claimed it to be as they rewrote the history of New England to shape it to their own preconceptions and agenda.141 Only 21,000 of the 69,000 Britons who crossed the Atlantic in the Great Migration went to New England. 150 Of these some 20-25 per cent were servants, who may or may not have had Puritan inclinations, and there were enough profane and ungodly settlers to prove a source of constant anxiety to the New England ministers.
Among British, as among Spanish, emigrants the motives for emigration were naturally mixed, and the cost of the journey - described in 1630 as `wondrous dear'151 - was a deterrent in the British Isles, just as it was in Spain. The basic cost of the eight- to twelve-week transatlantic passage was about the same in the two countries in the early seventeenth century - £5 or 20 ducats (at an exchange rate of 4 ducats to the pound) - and to this had to be added the cost of provisions and of commodities which would be needed on arrival in America. In order to make the crossing, therefore, the majority of emigrants from the British Isles, as from Spain, would either have to sell up their property, or secure some form of assisted passage. But since the need for settlers was greater in British than in Spanish America, more intensive and systematic efforts had to be made to find ways of financing the passage of those emigrants from the British Isles who could not pay for themselves.
Accordingly, from 1618 Virginia developed its headright system, under which a hundred acres of land was offered to each settler, and a further hundred for every person he brought with him. 112 But throughout the Anglo-American world indentured service became the most effective and pervasive instrument for the encouragement of transatlantic emigration.153 Terms of service varied, but most servants emigrating to the Caribbean and the Chesapeake signed up for four to five years '154 and legal and institutional constraints were much more binding than the kind of arrangements generally negotiated by Spanish emigrants who secured a free passage by entering the service of some travelling dignitary, and who could usually expect to gain their independence through voluntary agreement within a relatively short time after arrival in the Indies.155 In British America conditions of service varied widely, according to time and place, and some servants were able, as in Maryland, to make use of their legal rights as contracted labourers to secure redress in the county courts from tyrannical masters.156 But for many others indentured service was the equivalent of slavery.
Until plantation-owners in the West Indies and the Chesapeake found an alternative, and - as they hoped - more submissive, source of labour in the importation of African slaves, unfree white labour was vital for the peopling and exploitation of British America. Indentured servants constituted 75-85 per cent of the settlers who emigrated to the Chesapeake in the seventeenth century, and perhaps 60 per cent of the emigrants to all British colonies in America during the course of the century came with some form of labour contract.117 Of the indentured servants, 23.3 per cent were women. 1's
These figures make it clear that in the British world, as in the Spanish, there was a massive superiority of men to women in the first century of colonization, the exception being the emigrants to New England, 40 per cent of whom between 1620 and 1649 were women.159 The much more favourable sex ratio of women to men in New England than in the other colonies created a white population that by 1650 was nearly able to sustain itself by reproduction alone, whereas the white population of the Chesapeake could only be sustained by a constant supply of new immigrants. With male immigrants to the region outnumbering female by six to one in the 1630s and still by as many as three to one in the 1650s, large numbers of men remained unmarried.160
Mortality rates, too, in the tidewater region were appallingly high, with possibly as many as 40 per cent of the new arrivals dying within two years, many of them of the malaria that was endemic in the swampy, low-lying land.161 The effect of this was to be seen in brief marriages, small families, and children often deprived of one or both of their parents at an early age. At an annual death rate of around 10 per cent, perhaps 40 per cent of all indentured servants arriving in the middle decades of the seventeenth century died before they could complete their term of service. Those who survived to become freedmen married late, or did not marry at all, and tended to become bachelor inmates in the households of others. The combined effect of such high mortality rates in Virginia and Maryland and of the prevailing sexual imbalance was to create volatile societies in which patterns of behaviour were subjected to the disproportionate influence of newly arrived immigrants. It was only in the last years of the century that the population born in the Chesapeake colonies finally outnumbered the new arrivals. 162
As New England, with the benefit of its healthy climate and an early age for marriage, succeeded in the second half of the seventeenth century in meeting its labour needs largely from natural growth, its supply of immigrants tapered off, with new arrivals choosing the West Indies or the Middle Colonies in preference. Yet the overall level of emigration to the New World remained high. During the first century of the British colonization of America, some 530,000 men and women crossed the Atlantic - between twice and four times the number of Spanish emigrants during the equivalent period a century earlier. But there was more need of their labour in the territories claimed by the British crown, and more readily available land to be `improved'.
The different rates of migration are at least crudely reflected in the comparative figures for the size of the settler populations of the Caribbean and mainland America. By 1570, three-quarters of a century after the first voyages of discovery, the white population of Spanish America is thought to have been of the order of 150,000. By 1700, some eighty years after the settlement of Jamestown, British America had a white population of some 250,000. 161 It was a population that, if it lived on the mainland, still hugged the Atlantic seaboard, but was increasingly beginning to look westward in the search for more space. This meant, necessarily, more Indian land. By contrast, strung out across the central and southern hemisphere, an urbanized Spanish population of immigrants and their Americanborn children and grandchildren suffered few of the same spatial constraints. They looked out from the window grills of their town houses over landscapes that had been rapidly emptying themselves of their Indian inhabitants. For their confrontation with American space was also a massive confrontation with its indigenous population - a confrontation that brought demographic catastrophe on an almost unimaginable scale.