Similarities and Differences between British, French and Spanish Colonies of North America
Spain, England, and France were the primary countries that struggled to control the continent. Their settlers crossed the Atlantic Ocean for different reasons, and the governments used different approaches in their colonies (Elliott, 2007). However, Spain, England, and France governments had some similarities on how they treated their colonies in North America.
The royal charter established the English colonies. The earliest settlements were established in Massachusetts and Virginia. They later spread to other coastal towns along the Atlantic Ocean. The French first colonies were established as trading posts. Others developed as exploration centers such as the Ports of Canada and Lawrence Valley. Crown sponsored conquests established the first colonies.
France and Spain’s colonies were governed by aristocratic leaders or sovereigns who employed absolute rule (Elliott, 2007). The colonialists were sent to North America as servants of the Crown. On the other hand, English colonialists enjoyed some freedom. The colonists were given the opportunity to govern themselves but had to adhere to the English laws and obey the King. England also allowed immigrants from others states or colonies to North America. As such, it was able to boost its population. On the other hand, Spain and France did not allow immigrants to its colonies of North America.
The majority of the English colonies were non-Catholics. However, they allowed tolerance in their colonies. Massachusetts and Puritans were allowed to form restrictive and autocratic leadership. The Protestants played a critical role in the founding of the French colonies. However, they were excluded from the colony beginning 1665. The French Catholic Clergy largely controlled the colonial life. Catholic was the dominant religion in the Spanish colonies. The Protestants were persecuted and driven out of the colony.
The Spanish settlements were interested in protecting their shipments of silver and gold to avoid competition with other European powers. The French established permanent settlements and created trade links with the Indians. They avoided confrontation with the Indians as opposed to the Spanish. The British encouraged diverse economic activities in their colonies. They knew this would allow them to establish long-term relations with the Native Americans and the Indians (Elliott, 2007). The British colonies were developed economically as compared to French and Spanish colonies. The French colonies were sparsely populated. They were mainly used to promote trade with the Indians for fur. The English and French colonies were densely populated, and the citizens were more civilized. They established large farms, mines, and big cities.
Both colonies considered Native Americans as important. They introduced new goods to the colonies. Besides, they thought that the colonies lacked authority and introduced their systems of government. Bureaucrats and lawyers headed the Spanish system of government. The King was the overall leader and the sole authority. The primary function of the colonial government systems curb aggression, establish local governance system and top-down royal governance.
The English, Spanish and French colonialist believed in Christianity. They believed in the freedom from sin. However, they did not encourage freedom of religion. Both of them had Catholic religion which they worshiped. They primary missionary mission was to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. Both the colonialists were interested in controlling the new World and imposing their authority. Therefore, the British, Spanish, French colonies had several differences and similarities. However, their primary objective was to stamp their authority in North America.
- Deutsch, Karl Wolfgang. Political Community and the North American Area. Princeton University Press, 2015.
- Elliott, John Huxtable. Empires of the Atlantic world: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830. Yale University Press, 2007.