Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/463

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AMERICA 413 AMERICA once been rich in precious metals, but the Romans impoverished the land by draining the mines. Still the tradition remained, and with the tradition the longing for a return of the golden age. Until the discovery of America Europe looked to the far for llie wealth that was denied to it by nature. When tlio discovery of the Antilles revealed the ex- istence of gold, Spain neglected the, and turned her eyes to the West. The fever for gold seized all who could emigrate, and the desire for gold and silver became a powerful incentie to seek and grasj) the wealth of the New World. The tliirst for gold wiis neither more nor less intense in the sixteenth century than it is now, but it was directed to much vaster regions. Furthermore, the jirecious metaLs were found among i)eoples to whom they were of no commercial value, much less standards of wealth. To deprive the Indian of gold and silver was, to him, a mucli less serious matter than to deprive him of his gathered maize or any other staple food. The earliest periods of Spanish colonization were spent in attempts to establish a modus I'ivcmti with the aborigines and, like all epochs of that kind, proved disastrous to the weaker — namely, to the Indian. Doubts as to whether the natives were human beings or not were soon dis]5osetl of by a royal decree assert- ing their essential human nature and certain rights necessarily flowing therefrom. They were, however, (and justly, too) declared to be minors who required a stage of tutelage, before they might be made to assume the duties and riglits of the white jiopulation. Before practically reaching this conclusion, one which once for all determined the condition of the Indian in most South American Republics, and partly in the United States and Canada, much experimenting had to be done. The primitive condition of man in the New World was a problem which European culture four centuries ago was not yet capable of solving. While in Spain the old communal rights of the original components of the realm were for a long time maintaineci, and a sort of provincial autonomy prevaileil, which acted as a cheek upon growing absolutism, Spanish America was from the outset a domain of the crown. Discoverj', by land and sea, and colonization wore under the excliLsive control of the monarch; only with his permission explorations could be made, and settle- ments established. Personal initiative was thus placed ostensibly under a wholesome control, but it w;is also unfavourably hampered in many instances. Not so much, however, in the first century after Columbus as in the two following centuries. The royal patronage, at first indispensable, resulted in securing for Spanish interests an unjust ascendancy over those of the colonists. It was often, and not improperly, contended that the Creoles were in a worse [X)sition than the Indians, the latter, as special wards of the Ciovernment of Spain, enjoying more jirotection and privileges than the Spanish Americans. The latter complained particularly of the injustice of jissigning all lucrative otfices to native Spaniards, to the exclasion of Creoles. It insured the home Government a strong position in the colonies, but only too often its administration was entrusted to men unfit for the positions through want of practical acquaintance with country and people. It is true that the system of rcsidcncia , or final account at the expiration of the terms of ofhce. and the visila, or investigation with, sometimes, discretionary faculties, were a check upon abuses, but by no means sufhcient. A code of laws for the Indies, as Spain called its American possessions for a long time, had been in contemplation since the middle of the sixteenth centurj', but it only became a fact at the end of the seventeenth. Much of the delay wjis occasioned by the enormous number of royal Decrees on which legislation had to be based. These Decrees continued to be promulgated as occasion demanded, along with the Code, ana they bear testimony to the solicitous attention given by the Spanish monarchs to the most minute details in their trans-oceanic p<)s.sessioiLs. It was a so-called paternal autocracy, well intended, but most unfavourable, in the end, to the free de- velopment of the individual and of the colonies in general. In the middle of the seventeenth century Spain definitively clo.sod its colonies to the outer world, the mother-country excepted, and even the inter- course with that was severely controlled. It was a suicidal measure, and thereafter the American colonies began to decline, to the great detriment of Spain itself. Still, it should not be overlooked that the measure had, to a great extent, been forced upon Spain by the unrelenting attacks of other nations upon her colonies and her commerce with them, in times of peace as well as in war. Instruction and education were almost completely under the control of the Catholic Church. Secular institutions of learning sprang up late, although the Jesuits had taken the initiative in that direction. Considering the means at hand, much was done to study the geography of the new continent, its natural history, and other branches of science. In the eighteenth centurj' scientific explorations were made on a large scale. Previous to that time, such investigations were mostly due to individual efforts, especially by ecclesiastics. In the sixteenth century, however, Philip the Second sent to Mexico his own physician Hernandez to study specially the medicinal and ali- mentary plants of that country. Nutritive plants were imported from Europe and Asia, as well as domestic animals, and it is to the Spaniards that the planting and cultivation of fruit and shade trees in South America is due. But all these improvements did not satisfy the legitimate aspirations of Spanish- Americans, for they were made for the benefit of the native Spaniards. Add to this a vacillating and heavy system of taxation that weighed almost ex- clusively on the Creoles, heavy custom-house duties, stringently exacted, and the arbitrary conduct of odicials, high and low, and we are not surprised that the colonies took advantage of the opportunity af- forded by the weakening of Spain during the Napo- leonic period to secure their independence. The exploitation of the abundant mines of precious metals, discovered every^vhere in consequence of Spanish exploration, was carried on in the sixteentli and .seventeenth centuries according to methods that were certainly progressive, though the mines began to give out. At the same time, in the great mining centres, the Creoles became so rich that luxury and corruption rapidly spread amongst them. The great bulk of the treasure went to I'.urope without any profit for Spanish America. The statement that forced labour in the mines diminished the numbers of the Indians is greatly exaggerated. Individual and local abuses are uncleniable, but the system estalv lished after the sad exiieriences of the first colonists F roved wise and salutary when properly carried out. n general, the Indian |x>licy of the Spanish Govern- ment was based upon the idea that the Indian should in time supply the labour needed in the colon- ies; it was a policy of solicitous preservation and slow patient education through the agency of the Catholic Church. II. PoRTUO.rESE. — As Spain was securing its foothold in the New World, Portugal was rapidly pushing forward in the path of exploration. The outcome was rivalrj* l)etween the two nations and disputes about the rights and limits of discoverv'. Both crowns, Portuguese and Spanish, appealed to the Pope, who accepted the task of arbitrator. His verdict resulted in establishing a line of demarcation, the right of discovery on one side being allotted to