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Craig Edward Hutchison

Colonizing the New World: Pure Motives or Search for Wealth
Feb 18, 2003

There were two primary motives in colonizing the New World: to add to one's wealth and to convert souls to Christianity. Of these two motives, the one given the most weight was definitely the former: countries sought to add lands and commodities to their empire which would increase their wealth and in the process, their status among the nations of the world. A secondary reason for colonizing was the religious conversion of native peoples. The ways in which countries went about colonizing the New World mainly fell into two categories which can be characterized as "frontiers of inclusion" and "frontiers of exclusion". By a "frontier of exclusion", what is meant, is settling in such a way as to keep the peoples coming into contact separate so that very little intermixing or meshing of cultures took place. A "frontier of inclusion" can be defined as a great deal of intermixing and dealings between the races. In order to explain and demonstrate the differences between these two frontiers, France and Spain will be used as examples of "inclusion" while England is used as an example of "exclusion".

The British policy of exclusion begins, in its purest form, with how Englishmen viewed the land itself. Land to the English was a commodity to be bought and sold, to be fenced in, to be owned. They viewed the Indians, who looked at the land as part of nature to be used only to sustain oneself, as a group of people who were not getting all the benefit they could out of the land. In fact, many of the English believed that because the Indians did not use the land properly, it was "free for English taking" (Cronon, p.56). This is one characteristic of creating a "frontier of exclusion", the English had no intention of sharing the land as the Indian's philosophy put forth, they were intent on owning the land themselves and using it for their own purposes. In essence, the policy of exclusion is founded on the idea that the difference between the two groups "was not that one had property and the other had none; rather, it was that they loved property differently" (Cronon, p.80). The English saw physical goods whether it be land, crops, livestock, etc., as something to be owned by an individual and to be bought, sold, and used as commodities. The Indian saw these same things as part of nature, part of a bigger picture to be used to survive and sustain oneself but, only to that end. It must also be pointed out here that who was funding the early explorations and settlements played a role in the type of frontier that was created. In the case of the English, it was the joint stock company. The sole purpose of such a company was to make money and this impacted the style of settlement to a great degree. In contrast, the Spanish and French were financed by their respective crowns and although still in it to make money, the idea of conversion seems to play a much bigger role in their colonizing efforts.

Another key ingredient in the creation of a "frontier of exclusion" is demonstrated by the way in which the English viewed the Indians as a people. Many of the English perceived a huge culture gap that saw the Indian as a savage and inferior race. The Indian male especially was seen as lazy and one that shirked his responsibility of providing for his family. Sexual relations between the two groups was minimal "partly because of English squeamishness about women of another culture..." (Nash, P.64). The only way in which the Indian might have a part in the English way of life was through the fur trade, where they could act as trapper and hunter. But, keep in mind that the fur trade was of negligible importance in Virginia and in New England it quickly deteriorated as species were hunted to extinction. Therefore, the English saw the Indian as having "little to contribute to the goals of English colonization and was therefore regarded merely as an obstacle" (Nash, p.65).

Population is another variable that must be looked at. The English, unlike the French and Spanish, were starting to send settlers over from the Mother country in great numbers. As the population of the colonists increased they looked to inhabit more and more land. Considering the attitudes discussed above, it is not surprising then that they looked to take more and more of the Indian's land. Englishmen "had organized their society around the concept of private ownership of land and regarded this concept as important evidence of their superior culture" (Nash, p.39). One way to rationalize this taking of the land "was to deny the humanity of the Indians" (Nash, p.39). If the Indians were subhuman then that would disqualify them from owning land and it certainly was another justification for a policy of "exclusion".

By looking at the French-Indian relations, one can observe what is meant by a "frontier of inclusion". The French chose a much different approach with the Native Americans, "[w]hile the Dutch and English typically used military force or guile to wrest land and political submission from their Indian neighbors, the French in the North were forging relations of a much different kind with Indian societies" (Nash, p. 105). For one thing, the population of the French settlements must be considered. Whereas the English settled great numbers of people in the New World, the French communities consisted of small settlements which depended on the friendship of the native peoples if they were going to enlist their help in trapping furs or converting them.

Among the French settlements, there was a high proportion of males who had no inhibitions toward including Indians in their personal relationships. These men took Indian mistresses, concubines, and wives and "exhibited no embarrassment at this mixing of blood and were hard put to understand English qualms about interracial relations" (Nash, p.106). This mixing of the two peoples made for a greater understanding between the two cultures and of course is an ingredient in a "frontier of inclusion".

Another thing that characterized the French-Indian relations was the fact that "virtually every man in New France...was there either to trade furs or to evangelize among the Indians" (Nash, p.107). In order to do this the two peoples would need to cooperate. Many of the French even learned native languages and customs which helped bring a greater understanding between the two peoples. This differed greatly from the English who were looking to farm the land and therefore were seeking not to work with the Indians but, to get them out of the way.

The Spanish chose to include Indian peoples in their colonizing effort but in a different way than the French did. The Spanish came to the New World with military force in order to conquer. They forced the native peoples to work for them. When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, they simply put themselves at the top of the existing tribute structure. Spanish missionary efforts differed as well in their effort to convert the Indians: this was accomplished by persuasion mixed with force. This type of inclusion did not work nearly as well. Although there was a great deal of mixing between the races, Indian peoples resisted Spanish attempts to impose Catholicism on them and to enslave them.

In order to understand what is meant by "frontiers of exclusion" or "inclusion", one needs to look at the specific examples discussed above. The English practiced a policy of "exclusion" when it came to dealing with the Native Americans. This practice can best be understood by recognizing the English attitude toward land. Englishmen saw Land as a commodity to be divided, sold, and used to grow crops that could then be used in the marketplace. Also, the Indian was seen by many of the English as a savage and subhuman and therefore as not having a place in English society. When viewed in this light, it is not surprising that Indians became a "subject not of assimilative policies but apartheid plans which called for separation or removal. In an almost perfect reversal of Spanish Indian policy the English...worked to keep the two cultures apart" (Nash, p.65). Contrasting the English policy, one can define the Spanish and French colonizing efforts as "frontiers of inclusion". The French came in much smaller numbers and looked to cooperate with the Native peoples because they realized they needed their help to trap furs and to convert them to Christianity. Intermixing was prevalent between the two cultures because the French did not see the Indian in the same light as the English. The Spanish-Indian interaction, on the other hand, can still be characterized as "inclusion" but, in a different manner than the French. The Spanish empire was one of conquest and while the two peoples mixed, it was by Spanish force. The Indians were forced to work for them and Catholicism was imposed on them. The Spanish wanted the riches the New World had to offer but, in their case they chose to force the Natives to help them instead of either choosing to separate themselves or cooperating amicably. By analyzing these three examples, one can more readily identify and understand what is meant by "frontiers of inclusion" and "exclusion" in the colonizing of America.

Email Craig Edward Hutchison: cehceh@peoplepc.com

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