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1962 Introduction

This webpage reproduces part of
Spain in America

Edward Gaylord Bourne

in the
Barnes & Noble edition,
New York, 1962

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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p. xiii Editor's Introduction

In this volume begins the detailed narrative of the founding and development of the communities now included within the United States of America; and the story necessarily goes back to the discovery of the American islands and continents. The volume, therefore, closely connects with those chapters of Cheyney's European Background of American History (volume I of this series) which deal with the intellectual uprising in Europe and the determined efforts of the Portuguese to find a way to India. Professor Bourne in his earlier chapters summarizes and restates, with many original conclusions, the controverted points with regard to the discovery of America. He counts Columbus a genuine discoverer and a man of lofty spirit, although unequal to the task of organizing and administering a colony. Out of the accumulated details on the discovery of America this volume selects those which are essential for the understanding of the problem and its solution; and it makes especially clear the division between Spain and Portugal by the demarcation line, not only in the Atlantic, but later in the Indian Ocean.

p. xiv The earliest interest of England in the New World is described in chapter V, and the myth of Sebastian Cabot's voyages is dissipated. The volume is especially clear on the early development of the northern coast by the English and the Portuguese, and in chapters VI and X brings out the often neglected Spanish voyages along the east coast of the present United States.

Chapter VII, on Amerigo Vespucci, reveals a truth which has been much obscured, that the name America, derived from the Florentine voyager, spread slowly, was long applied only to South America, and for nearly two centuries was not habitually used by Spanish geographers. The Vespucci controversy is also made intelligible, and the solution of the writer seems inevitable.

A feature of this volume is its careful treatment of the voyages succeeding Columbus, and especially of Magellan's wonderful achievement (chapter IX); and the author seems to establish his thesis that the first circumnavigation of the globe was a more daring, difficult, and wonderful achievement than the first voyage of western discovery.

Chapters XI and XII are devoted to a summary account of the explorations north of the Gulf of Mexico and the attempts of the French to establish themselves in Florida. Except for the voyages of Verrazzano and Cartier, this is the first appearance of the French in America, and precedes, by about twenty years, the first efforts of the English to establish a footing on the continent in the New World.

p. xv The remainder of this volume (chapters XIII to XX) is devoted to an account of the system of Spanish colonization. It should be read in connection with chapters V and VI of Cheyney's European Background, which describes Spanish institutions at home. The result of Professor Bourne's investigations, a result which seems supported by his references, is to establish the existence of a Spanish culture in the colonies of an extent and degree not realized by previous writers. He shows that the first century of Spanish colonists produced larger results in relation to the natives, the building of towns and cities, the construction of roads and bridges, and the encouragement of learning than in the first century either of French or English colonization. Yet he points out the two fatal weaknesses of the Spanish system: the wretched restrictions of trade and the lack of initiative and self-government. Upon the whole, he thinks the Indian better off under Spanish rule than has generally been supposed and the institution of negro slavery milder and of less importance. On the other hand, he points out, what has escaped most writers, that the prosperity of the main-land led almost to the depopulation of the islands, which did not again become important until about the time of the American Revolution.

These original and suggestive conclusions are supported by copious foot-notes, and by a critical essay on authorities which furnished the investigator and the chance reader with a key to the p. xviprime materials to the best general works bearing upon this important field of American history.

The place of the volume in the series is to emphasize the importance of the Spanish discovery and colonization, both as showing extraordinary skill and pertinacity in exploration and in serving as the medium for the transmission of European culture to America. To this day larger areas in America are dominated by the Latin civilization than by the Anglo-Saxon. Inasmuch as the later influence has overtaken the earlier, and our realm extends over lands which for three, and in some cases for four centuries were Spanish, the volume has a most direct bearing on the founding of the American nation.

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