History of Domestic and Foreign Commerce of the United States - Vol. 1

By Emory R. Johnson; T. W. Van Metre et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II. .
THE BEGINNINGS OF AMERICAN COMMERCE, 1600 TO 1660
Newfoundland fisheries in the sixteenth century , 18.
Settlement of America begun by chartered trading companies, 18.
Services of chartered companies in early development of American commerce, 18.
The London Company and early trade of Virginia, 21.
The Plymouth colony and its early trade organization , 25.
The Massachusetts Bay colony and its early trade organization, 26.
The Laconia Company, 28.
New Netherland and its trade , 28.
Patroonships and their results, 29.
Early trade of New Jersey and Maryland , 30.
Begennings of intercolonial trade, 31.
General survey of American commerce in 1660 , 33.

The commercial intercourse of Europe with America preceded the planting of colonies in the New World. Spain, as the leader in the exploration of America, took possession of a large part of northern South America, the West Indies, and southern North America, accompanying her conquests with a confiscation of the stores of precious metals that had been garnered through preceding ages by the Indians in their slow progress from savagery towards social organization. The Indians having been robbed of their treasures, the Spaniards engaged extensively in the mining of silver, and thus it came about that, as an incident to the maintenance of her authority in her possessions and to the support of the mining operations of her subjects, Spain regularly despatched her merchantmen and galleons to carry supplies to America and to bring back the bullion her subjects had wrested from the natives or had unearthed from the rich stores of unmined metal. The returning treasure ships were eagerly awaited in Spain, where bullion was prized more highly than all other forms of wealth, and although the piratical prowess of the covetous English sea-rovers made England instead of Spain the actual destination of not a few treasured cargoes, the precious metals from America flowed, a copious stream, into and beyond Spain, thereby enriching the money supply and quickening the industries of all Europe.

The English, like the Spaniards, were drawn to America during the sixteenth century in part by their love of adventure--the lodestone that made pirates of reckless men, buccaneers of ambitious and not overscrupulous patriots, and explorers and pioneers of men of finer mold--and in part by that strange fascination which the precious metals have ever had for men of all lands. From the voyages of the Cabots at the close of the fifteenth century to the explorations of Gilbert and the unfortunate colonizing efforts of Raleigh and Gosnold during the last quarter of the sixteenth century, the main objects sought were gold and silver; indeed, the first settlers at Jamestown were so much more desirous of mining than of planting that only direst suffering and even starvation could force them to cultivate the soil while there was any hope of discovering mines of precious metals.

-17-

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