The Tudor Period
Periods of English activities.—While the French were colonizing Canada and the West Indies, and the Spaniards were opening mines and ranches in northern Mexico, the English were founding still more vigorous settlements on the Atlantic seaboard, in the islands, and in the region of Hudson Bay.
The history of English activities in America before 1783 may be divided into four periods: (1) The Tudor epoch (1485-1603), which was a period of commercial expansion, exploration, and attempted colonization; (2) the Stuart and Cromwellian era (1603-1689), the period of colony planting; (3) the international struggle for territory (1689-1763); and (4) the struggle of a part of the English colonists for independence (1763-1783).
Henry VII.—When Henry Tudor ascended the throne of England a new era was ushered in. The continental possessions except Calais had been swept away in the Hundred Years' War. The Wars of the Roses had broken the power of the feudal barony, and the middle class Englishman had become the most important political element in the nation. The general form of the constitution had become fixed, the functions of the three branches of the government, the king and his council, parliament, and the courts, having become fairly well defined. The work of Henry Tudor was to restore the finances, to build up commerce and industry, to keep England at peace, and at the same time, by a series of marriage alliances and by adroit diplomacy to raise England to her former position as a great European power. He also built up the kingship at the expense of a subservient parliament.
The English Reformation.—During the three succeeding reigns, England played little part in exploration. While Spain was founding her vast colonial empire, the attention of Englishmen was centered on the European situation created by Charles V and on the great religious controversy, which resulted in the break with Rome and the establishment of the Anglican church.
Queen Elizabeth.—With the accession of Queen Elizabeth a new situation arose. To the Catholic powers, Elizabeth had no right to the throne of England. Philip II of Spain hoped to restore the country to the Catholic fold; his first wife was Queen Mary of England, and under his influence a short-lived Catholic reaction had been produced; if Elizabeth could now be induced to turn Catholic and marry Philip, England might be won back to the Roman church. Elizabeth, however, followed an independent course, dangling before the eyes of the Spanish ambassador the possibility of a marriage with Philip, while perfecting the organization of the Anglican church, increasing her hold upon the affections of her subjects, strengthening her treasury, army, navy, and defences, and stimulating industry and commerce. Her path was beset with additional difficulties, for the powerful Catholic party in France was intriguing to place Mary Stuart, the queen of Scotland, on the English throne. To weaken her foes, Elizabeth aided the Huguenots, assisted the Dutch in their war against Spain, and connived with English mariners to raid the Spanish Main. In 1588 the patience of Philip was exhausted, and he sought to humble the haughty queen by sending the Invincible Armada against England. A running fight occurred in the Channel and several of the galleons were sunk or driven on shore. The Armada entered the roads of Calais but a great storm shattered the fleet. Of the original one hundred and thirty vessels only one-third returned to Spain. The defeat of the Armada marks a turning point in Spanish and English history. From that time Spain was thrown on the defensive and her power on the continent gradually declined, though her colonies continued to expand. England followed up her success by taking the offensive; an era of greater commercial activity followed, and she soon entered upon her rôle of a colonizing nation.
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