English Adventurers and Spanish Conquistadors – One in the Same

English Adventurers and Spanish Conquistadors – One in the Same

The English adventurers and Spanish conquistadors were most certainly “brothers under the skin” in that they both set out to reap the rewards of the New World with little to no attention to the local peoples. They both faced the same problems back in Europe. These problems included disease, poverty, and overcrowding. There were simply too many people competing for the same things, whether they were money, food, or land. This coupled with stories of fortune and a Northwest Passage to Asia produced a sense of hope that voyages west would solve the many problems of a needy continent. For this reason, both the English and the Spanish looked to the New World with the goal of finding treasures and later on, colonization. The idea that there were valuable land, 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. They both believed that they had not only a right, but also a duty to instruct these people in that ways of European civilization and Christianity. However, they both used this as an excuse to adventure the local people. When Hernando Cortes raided Tenochtitlan, he wrote of attacking before dawn, vowing to do all the harm that he could. This included murdering woman and children, leaving them to decay in the streets while the Spanish conquistadors looted the homes and businesses of the city. The Aztecs had done no great harm to Cortes; in fact, they treated him and his men as gods. However, greed spurred Cortes and his men on to kill thousands. Of course, this did not bother anyone because the men, women, and children that they killed were savages that could not be saved.

Richard Hakluyt, an Englishman, wrote a letter detailing an almost identical plan to get England involved in the Americas. They would go over under the guise of spreading Christianity, but they would make complete use of the resources and improvement the economic interests of the country. He talked of putting the poor of England to work in the Americas. However, similarly to the Spanish, the plans necessitate the exploitation of the natives. He wrote, “If we find the country populous and desirous to expel us and injuriously offend us, that seek but just and lawful traffic, then, by reason that we are lords of navigation and they are not so, we are the better able to defend ourselves by reason of those great rivers and to annoy they in many places.” (Origins of English Settlement) As you can tell by this passage, not only is there a sense of entitlement and superiority that exists within the mind of the English, there are already plans to conquer the Indians.

To the royal governments of England and Spain, the English adventurers and the conquistadors served the same purpose. That is to obtain a foothold in the New World from which to improvement the causes of the country. More than that, the conquistadors and adventurers were men meant to bring civilization and religion to the uncouth idol worshippers of the New World. I am sure the leaders of England and Spain truly believed that they were doing a service to the Aztecs and other Indians by murdering them and taking their things. Both the English and the Spanish believed that the natives were savages that were beyond saving for the most part. For this reason, killing many was an evil that was necessary in order to save a few. They believed that as stronger, more developed countries, it was their duty to rid the world of this evil. It was their duty to instruct the savages in the ways of the Lord. To them, the adventurers and conquistadors were good, moral men that were doing the will of God. While in actuality, they were brutal, self-righteous thieves.

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