English adventurers and Spanish conquerors: one in the same

English adventurers and Spanish conquerors: one in the same

The English adventurers and the Spanish conquistadors were certainly “brothers under the skin” in the sense that both set out to reap the bounties of the New World with little or no regard for the local peoples. Both faced the same problems in Europe. These problems included disease, poverty, and overcrowding. There were simply too many people competing for the same things, whether it was money, food, or land. This, along with stories of fortune and a Northwest Passage to Asia, created a sense of hope that voyages west would solve the many problems of a continent in need. For this reason, both the English and the Spanish looked to the New World with the goal of finding treasure and later colonizing. The idea that there were valuable lands, resources, and treasures located in the New World that would alleviate or solve European problems motivated both countries to try their hand at exploration.

Of course, these rewards came at a cost to the native peoples of the Americas. As “brothers under the skin,” the English and Spanish viewed the natives as savages. Both believed that they not only had the right, but also the duty to instruct these people in the ways of European civilization and Christianity. However, both used this as an excuse to exploit the local population. When Hernando Cortés stormed Tenochtitlan, he wrote about attacking before dawn, promising to do all the damage he could. This included murdering women and children, leaving them to rot in the streets while the Spanish conquistadors looted the city’s homes and businesses. The Aztecs hadn’t done much damage to Cortes; in fact, they treated him and his men like gods. However, greed prompted Cortés and his men to kill thousands. Of course, this didn’t bother anyone because the men, women and children they killed were savages who couldn’t be saved.

Richard Hakluyt, an Englishman, wrote a letter detailing an almost identical plan to involve England in the Americas. They would pass under the pretext of spreading Christianity, but they would make full use of the resources and promote the economic interests of the country. He spoke of putting England’s poor to work in the Americas. However, similar to the Spanish, the plans call for the exploitation of the natives. He wrote: “If we find the country peopled and desirous of expelling us and insultingly offending us, seeking only fair and lawful trade, then, because we are lords of navigation and they are not, we are better able to defend ourselves on account of those great rivers and disturb them in many places. (Origins of the English settlement) As you can see from this passage, not only is there a sense of entitlement and superiority within the minds of the English, but there are already plans to conquer the Indians.

For the royal governments of England and Spain, the English adventurers and the conquistadors served the same purpose. That is to secure a foothold in the New World from which to advance the country’s causes. More than that, the conquerors and adventurers were men destined to bring civilization and religion to the crude idolaters of the New World. I’m sure the leaders of England and Spain really believed they were doing the Aztecs and other Indians a service by murdering them and taking their things. Both the English and the Spanish believed that the natives were savages who were beyond salvation for the most part. Therefore, killing many was a necessary evil to save a few. They believed that, as stronger and more developed countries, it was their duty to rid the world of this evil. It was his duty to instruct the savages in the ways of the Lord. For them, adventurers and conquerors were good, moral men who did the will of God. While in reality, they were brutal and self-righteous thieves.

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