The Struggle With Rivals In The West Indies
Intruding colonies in the West Indies.—In the early years of the conquest Spain had occupied the larger West Indian islands—Cuba, Española, Porto Rico, and Jamaica—but had neglected the lesser islands. They thus became a field for colonization by Spain's enemies. In the seventeenth century the subjects of Holland, France, and England began to establish settlements in the West Indies, in the heart of the Spanish sea, while England intruded in the northern mainland.
Between 1555 and 1562 the French had made unsuccessful attempts to colonize Brazil, Carolina, and Florida. Between 1585 and 1595 Raleigh had attempted to settle on Roanoke Island and in Guiana. In 1607 Jamestown was founded within Spanish dominions at Chesapeake Bay, and Spain's possessions thus delimited on the north. Between 1609 and 1612 English settlers occupied the Bermudas. Between 1609 and 1619 English, Dutch, and French all established posts in Guiana. In 1621 the Dutch West India Company was incorporated for trade and settlement. Between 1623 and 1625 both English and French settled on St. Kitts (St. Christopher). During the same period Barbados was settled by the English, and Santa Cruz by English and Dutch. By 1632 English settlements had been made at Nevis, Barbuda, Antigua, Providence Island, and Montserrat. By 1634 the Dutch had established trading stations on St. Eustatius, Tobago, and Curaçao, while in 1635 the French West India Company began the settlement of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and other Windward Islands.
Privateers.—Meanwhile French, Dutch, and English privateers swarmed the Spanish waters. Early in the century Dutch ships harassed the coasts of Chile and Peru. In 1628 Peter Heyn with thirty-one vessels pursued the Vera Cruz fleet into Matanzas River, Cuba, and captured most of a cargo worth $15,000,000. "It was an exploit which two generations of English mariners had attempted in vain." After 1633 the Dutch West India Company carried on active war against Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Within two years it sent eighty ships and nine thousand men to American waters, and its agents captured Bahía (Brazil), Pernambuco, and San Juan (Porto Rico).
English privateers in the early seventeenth century did their part. In 1642 Captain William Jackson, with a commission from the Earl of Warwick, made a raid that reminds one of Drake. With eleven hundred men he cruised the coast from Caracas to Honduras, plundering Maracaibo and Trujillo on the way. Landing at Jamaica he captured Santiago and held it for ransom.
Spanish retaliation.—The Spaniards often repaid these aggressions with good interest, and frequent raids were made on the foreign colonies. In 1629 Toledo nearly destroyed the English and French settlements on St. Kitts. Tortuga was several times assaulted. In 1635 a Spanish fleet made a five days' attack on the English colony on Providence Island but was beaten back. In 1641 Pimienta with two thousand men destroyed the forts there and captured seven hundred and seventy colonists. Ten years later a force of eight hundred men from Porto Rico destroyed the English colony on Santa Cruz Island, killing the governor and over one hundred settlers.
The English conquest of Jamaica.—Thus far the English settlements had been made chiefly on unoccupied islands. But in 1654 Cromwell sent an expedition under Venables and Penn to gain Spanish territory by conquest. They failed to take Santo Domingo but succeeded at Jamaica (1655). Twice Spain attempted to recover the island but failed (1657-1658), and in 1670 she acknowledged England's right to all her island possessions.
The Danes and Brandenburgers.—Under their absolute monarch, Frederick III, the Danes organized a West India Company, which in 1671 secured the abandoned island of St. Thomas, using it as a planting colony and a distributing center for Guinea slaves. Porto Rico and the Spanish mainland were the principal Danish markets. Even the Brandenburgers, during the latter days of the Great Elector (1685) secured a thirty-year lease of a part of the Danish island of St. Thomas, with a view to using it as a slave-trading station for supplying the Spanish colonies. But the jealousy of other European powers, especially England, prevented their securing a permanent foothold.
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