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French, Dutch and English to America

More Europeans to Africa and the New World | Quebec, Manhattan, and Jamestown | Puritans to the Massachusetts Area | Dutch Expansion in North and South America, to 1630 | New Colonists and Conflicts, to 1640 | Montreal and the Great Lakes Region, to 1650 | More Intolerance and War, to 1676 | William Penn | Britain's Colonies to 1700 | French Expansion and King William's War

North America and the Caribbean

More Europeans to Africa and the New World

In 1518, English traders began sailing south along the Atlantic coast of Africa, seeking gold, ivory, camwood, pepper and wax, and in the 1530s French, Flemish and Dutch traders followed the English.

Protestant revolution was spreading. England's Henry VIII abandoned the Catholic Church in the early 1530s, and aggravations would increase between Protestant England and Catholic Spain.

In mid-century, English trading companies would send several expeditions to Africa's Atlantic coast. The leader of one such expedition was John Hawkins, who tried stealing slaves rather than trading for them, but this proved too much trouble. He acquired slaves from trade, as planned, and in the Americas he sailed into Spanish ports and applied an aggressive sales technique: he threatened to burn the town down if it refused to buy his slaves.

The French arrived along Africa's Atlantic coast not long after the English, hoping to trade textiles, alcoholic drink and metal goods for pepper, hides, palm oil, gold and ivory – the French less interested in selling slaves in the Americas. The French may also have brought guns for trade, in conflict with Portugal's desire to keep guns out of the hands of Africans. The French were not as interested as the Portuguese in controlling the Africans. They were at war with the Portuguese. They looted Portuguese ships and drove the Portuguese from their position at the mouth of the Senegal River.

When the French monarchy was having one of its wars with Spain's monarchy on the continent – the Italian War of 1551 – privately owned French ships, pirates in the eyes of the Spanish, attacked Spanish ships and ports in the Americas. When the war ended in 1559 the royal French government stopped backing its "privateers," leaving them with a hold on a few shorelines on unsettled Caribbean Islands, where they lived off the land and off the progeny of escaped cattle from Europe.

John Hawkins formed a syndicate of wealthy merchants to invest in trade, and in 1562 he sailed with three ships to Sierra Leone and then to the Caribbean. He hijacked a Portuguese slave ship and traded the 301 slaves in the Caribbean islands, making a profit for his London investors. Two of his ships were seized by Spaniard authorities. Spain than banned English ships from trading in its Caribbean colonies.

In 1562 the French tried to establish a colony in northern Florida, which failed. And in 1564 the French tried again, landing a couple of hundred people at St. John's River in northern Florida, at what was to be called Fort Caroline. An attack on Fort Caroline by Spaniards failed, and the Spaniards built a fort forty miles to the south, which they named St. Augustine. The people at Fort Caroline were French Protestants – Huguenots. The Spanish disliked what they saw as an "evil Lutheran sect" near them in the Americas and they attacked Fort Caroline again, killing many of the men they found there, sparing the women and children, taking over the fort and renaming it Fort San Mateo. A wealthy Huguenot, Dominique de Gourgues, sought revenge. He sold his lands and possessions in France and in 1568, with some ships and around 150 men, he destroyed San Mateo and hanged its surviving defenders.

The Spanish were left with the French to worry about and also the English. During her war against Spain, Queen Elizabeth I sent Francis Drake and other "sea dogs" against the Spanish in the Americas. Drake sacked and plundered his way up the Pacific Coast in 1579. In 1586, Drake sacked Santo Domingo and attacked the Spanish at St. Augustine in Florida, burning houses to the ground, cutting down fruit trees and carrying away everything of value. And Drake remained the nemesis of Spanish shipping until he died of fever in 1596.


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