During the colonial period countless issues arose. Whether it had to do with politics, economy, or society each colony had its own means of dealing with concerns, some better than others. As evident today, New Britain handled issues more successfully than New Spain for the most part. In terms of politics, although they it wasn’t at all what they sought after, New Britain prevailed, as America is the most democratic nation in our country today. In terms of economy however, Britain had a small amount of control in contrast to New Spain’s strictly enforced policies, although this is not shown today. In terms of society, although not today, the lifestyle of the lower class in New Spain was better off than that of New Britain.
The political structure of New Spain, the former Spanish possessions in the Western Hemisphere, and that of New Britain, the former English possessions in the Western Hemisphere, were different in many ways, but some certain aspects paralleled each other. New Britain seems to be quickly on the road towards democracy, while New Spain appears to be stuck under a monarch and tight control of the church. A democratic government is a form of government by the people, either directly or through elected representatives. A monarch is a sole and absolute ruler of a state or nation, in this care King Ferdinand. With Columbus’s repeated promises of Gold for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the political intentions of New Spain were originally solely to ensure maximum profit and gold for the nation.
The King and Queen ruled New Spain through Royal Patronage, meaning the King and Pope agree that the King is absolute and controls the church. With Christianity forced upon the people of New Spain along with no religious toleration, the King was only aided in ruling with absolutism in New Spain, meaning all the power vested in him, and away from self-rule, or democracy. The government system of New Spain was classified as a Bureaucracy, an administration of government through bureaus and departments, which consisted of non-elected officials.
This shows that the people of New Spain had no say in who was governing them, and they merely lived under the same rules and regulations of Spain, enforced through officials. New Britain colonies, on the other hand, had much more independent control over their government. The English government, at the time, was preoccupied with making money. This caused the English to rule New Britain with a loose hand, and not fully enforce their laws upon the people of the colonies. Although there were representatives of Britain to enforce laws in the majority of the colonies, they grew further and further apart from the British government, and founded systems of their own.
New Spain and New Britain both shared paralleling means of dealing with localized laws and decisions. New Spain’s Council of the Indies was a council of colonizers elected by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella made up of members of the Council of Castille, with Juan Rodrigues de Fonseca appointed as the highest power of the council. The King was informed on a weekly basis of the latest decisions reached by the Council. Although the King still claimed and enforced total control, the Council of the Indies was a step away from absolutism, and a step towards democracy. New Britain’s localized government, New England and Virginia in particular, paralleled this in a way. New England is the northern most states under British control.
Virginia is a state of New Britain that was the northern most state of the Southern Colonies of New Britain. Virginia developed the first elective governing body in a British colony, the House of Burgesses. This included the governor and a council, which was appointed by the colonial proprietor. This shows that New Britain was well on it’s way towards democracy, as the representatives weren’t chosen by the King. On top of this, many towns in New England held what was known as town meetings. In these meetings the people elected officials and schoolteachers, and basically ran the town. Although not controlled by the government like the Council of the Indies, the town meetings the Council had similar intentions and were established for the same reason.
New Spain and New England shared a common goal in colonization – making money. The two colonies’ economies were based on different exports, different impositions on slavery, and different government economic control. However, both colonies shared an abundance of plantations where slaves were worked hard, even to death in some instances. In New Spain, life depended on slaves to make goods, mostly by being forced to work on plantations. The plantations provided a base for economy and export, while the main exports were gold and silver. Although Columbus attempted to enslave them, the Indian slaves did not cooperate, and was forced to turn to African slaves. This began their involvement in the triangular trade. The triangular trade was a trading pattern that developed – the New Britain colonies traded rum to England, England traded guns to Africa, Africa traded slaves to the West Indies, and the West Indies traded sugar used in rum to New Britain.
The need for slaves became huge in New Spain. From 1502 to 1870 nine million slaves were imported, and 85% of these were involved with agriculture. On the other hand, most of New Britain’s slavery involvement was different, with their roles varied from rum distillers to merchants to farmers. However, the Southern colonies’ slavery conditions paralleled that of New Spain, in that the Southern Colonies’ economy was based solely on agriculture, tobacco and sugar in particular. So as in the West Indies, the Southern Colonies were rich in plantations. This meant that they were in need of slaves in order to speed up production. Although they weren’t commonly brought directly from Africa though triangular trade, there were many African slaves present.
While both nations shared the same goal of colonization and the idea of a mercantilist government, they went about different their ways of involvement and control over the colonies. There are three basic aspects that shape a mercantilist economy – real wealth is measured in gold and silver, a nation must export more good than it imports, and that overseas empires are central. This means that the colonies exist to benefit the mother country, and that colonies will serve as a market for manufactured goods of the mother country. In New Spain the government held a tight and complete control over the economy and trade. This is majorly due to the fact that their government was run by an absolute monarch. Mercantilist policies were strictly enforced here, meaning that most of the profit that was made in New Spain was brought back to the King of Spain. With the King collecting the majority of the profit from New Spain, its economic advancement struggled greatly.
Therefore the general advancement and growth of colonies struggled as well. In New Britain on the other hand, the government did not exercise near as much control over the economy and trade. Although the economy was based upon mercantilist ideas, the English government did a poor job of enforcing them. This is mostly due to the fact that England had problems of their own, and didn’t take enough of a stand to enforce mercantilism, or merely their presence of control. This lack of control caused New Britain, New England in particular, to support themselves. This mistake by England came back to haunt them, when they gradually were cut out of the triangular trade. The New England colonies were able to support themselves with all the ships they built along with their thriving economy, and realized they could trade rum directly with Africa. By cutting out England, New Britain had taken another step further towards democracy and independence.
The social lifestyle in New Spain for the lower class was better than that of New Britain, and visa versa for the people as a whole with regards to the upper class. The most extreme case in terms of slavery treatment and conditions in New Spain is found in Cuba. Here, slaves were allowed more rights than usual. Cuban slaves were seen as equal under law. This was very uncommon for the time, and rarely seen or heard of with all the racist and prejudice views present. Here, slave owners were obligated to provide personal security and freedom for their slaves. Slaves were also protected from their master’s violence. They worked for their master during their work time, and during their free time they were allowed to be involved in a side job or business. The unique thing about this was that they were allowed to keep the profit gained from their side job. On top of this, slaves were allowed to inherit property. This allowed the slaves to be much more independent and free than most other instances. However, even with all these laws in their favor, slaves were unable to change their social status.
This is because social status was based on your ancestors, so it was impossible. In contrast to Cuba, the most extreme case regarding slavery treatment and conditions of New Britain is found in Virginia. Here slaves were allowed a lot fewer rights and existed in worse off working conditions than in Cuba. In Virginia slaves were seen as unequal before the law. Therefore that eliminates all the laws that protect the slaves in Cuba. For instance violence was against slaves was present, no education, the only side jobs slaves were allowed their masters kept their profit, and slaves had no right to own land or property. Howard Zinn, a radical historian from New York, regarding the slavery system in New Britain claims “it would take either a full-scale rebellion or a full-scale war to end such a deeply entrenched system.” I believe this statement to be true. This is because although the slaves outnumbered the whites, the laws kept them from being able to congregate. This would lead to a very unorganized rebellion. In conclusion to this, it is evident that slaves in Virginia were very poorly off compared to those of Cuba.
The role of religion and religious toleration in New Spain was very different than New Britain. In New Spain the monarch strictly imposed Christianity upon the colonizers and the natives. Missionaries were sent out to convert the natives to Christianity, while colonizers were required to follow the Christian faith. The Europeans used the encomienda system in New Spain in order to Christianize the Indians. The encomienda system regulated the number of Indians living in a particular area.
This allowed for no crowded areas, and in turn made it easier for the missionaries to convert the Indians. New Britain, on the other hand, found religious toleration when the Quakers, a group of German Christians, brought their simple views to the Middle Colony state of Pennsylvania. The Quakers greatly enhanced the acceptance and toleration of religion and natives. Another example of religious toleration in New Britain was seen with Lord Baltimore, Maryland’s founder and ruler. Baltimore created an atmosphere in which Catholics and Protestants could live together. This shows that New Britain was way more advanced in terms of religious toleration and acceptance than New Spain, who seemed to lack a spokesperson.
In the greater scheme of things, New Spain and New Britain colonies claimed different accomplishments. New Spain attained short term respect with it’s strictly enforced mercantilist policies and government. New Spain accomplished what they sought after. New Britain, on the other hand, gained the obvious long term realization of becoming arguably the most dominant nation in our world today.