The Horrors of Colonization

The construction of the democratic society of the contemporary United States lasted for not one century. The formation of America as a state began as a colonization of the New World by the Spanish, followed by a wave of immigration of the European citizens. The development of the colonies was accompanied by the extermination of the local population, bloody wars, enslavement, looting, and inhumane treatment. Both the witnesses of the Spanish predatory conquests and the survivors of the exhausting voyages over the ocean assert that a great number of people, who either were killed in battles or died on the way to America, were sacrificed to build the modern United States.  

The narration of Juan Gines De Sepulveda questions lawfulness and fairness of a war against Indians, who were perceived by his contemporaries as barbarians. The author seems troubled by the numerous unnecessary deaths of the local communities and the cruelty of the Spanish conquerors. He recounts the discussion that questions whether it was right, just and corresponding to Christian ideas and charity for the Spaniards to start a war against the Indians, who, as he believes, were innocent and harmful.

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The popular public opinion stressed that besides such reasons for a just war like repelling force with force, recovery of things seized unjustly, and punishing evil-doers, the other cause for the just war is the conquest by arms of those, who by their natural state ought to obey others and refuse to do so. It was believed that those, who are slow and retarded, although physically strong, are the slaves by nature and must serve those, who surpass the others in wisdom and talent. This idea is supported by the Bible that states that a fool shall serve the wise. If the slaves by nature reject servitude, it is just to start a war against them. It was believed that the Spanish had to show the barbarians the way of truth, which lies through Christian teachings. Therefore, in order to bring the barbarians to preachers, the Indians had to be subjected to their rules and conquered. Thus, both the ideas of natural law and Christian concepts made the wars against the Indians justified and De Sepulveda’s conscience was calmed.

Bartolome de las Casas, who saw the evil activity of the Spanish conquerors, supports and agrees with the ideas of De Sepulveda that there was nothing noble in the actions of the Spanish. However, compared to De Sepulveda, he directly expresses his resentment and contempt of the conquerors’ activity. The goal of his message was to draw attention of the king of Spain to stop the massacres he witnessed. It is clear that Bartolome de las Casas tried to do everything he could to help the tortured and oppressed locals. He witnesses that although the lands of Indies were given to conversion to Christianity to make them prosper, the only things that those lands experienced were the evils and harms committed by the tyrants, who persecuted the local population, which was humble and did not wish to offend anyone. 

De las Casas calls the Indians the suffering nation, which first encountered the unjust, cruel and bloody war, and later were oppressed by the violent bondages and slavery. He condemns the greed and ambitions of the colonists, who destroyed so many humans only to get the Indians’ gold, while the Indians themselves never tried to harm the conquerors. Being a monk, de las Casas expresses hope that God will not destroy his homeland for the sins committed in the New World by his fellow citizens. He acknowledges that the actions of the Spaniards in the newly discovered lands are the treachery against the will of God. Thus, by asking the kind of Spain to end the evils conducted by the Spanish he demonstrates his compassion to the Indians.  De las Cases discussed the issue of servitude and captivity, but in his narration, Indians became the subjects of negative treatment. De Las Cases emphasized that Indians were the major victims in this situation. The reason for it was the fact that they were deprived of freedom to own their households, preserve traditions, and continue their lifestyle. Indians were tuned into slaves, as were given the heaviest kinds of work. De Las Casas is right, as Native Indians were actually the owners of the continent. And immigrants came to the foreign land, introduced their rules, enslaved the inhabitants, and started verbalizing severe forms of disagreement towards the negative treatment from the side native residents.

Mary Rowlandson provides completely different attitude towards the issue of captivity and servitude, as she was taken captive in 1674. Mary Rowland emphasizes that one of key reasons for her hostage conducted by American Indians was the fact that she was a wife of minister in Lancaster. Mary Rowland was captured together with her children, and the youngest daughter Sarah died in captivity. In the captivity, Rowland suffered from certain level of physical and sexual abuse. Forcing to make a new life in captivity made Mary Rowland reassess her life role.  The narrative by Mary Rowland is essential, as it manifests completely new attitude towards captivity. She has experienced on practice, and it affected her treatment of Native Indians. Unlike, De las Casas, she did not perceive Indian the suffering nation, because she became their victim.

After the extermination of the local communities, the colonies needed human resources to repopulate and develop the new territories. Indentured, or bonded, servants, and convicts made up the majority of the colonial workers. Thousands of prisoners were sentenced from England to work in the colonies for particular number of years, after which they were freed. Also, during the 17th and 18th centuries many immigrants came to America from Europe in search of a better life and opportunities. Thus, in order pay for their passage, immigrants had bound themselves to work for some particular period of time, after which they could be absolutely free.

Gottlieb Mittelberger was an immigrant, who survived his trip to America and witnessed the horrors of that voyage. Since his experience of servitude was not as misfortunate as of the others, he shares his views on the structure of the slavery system rather calm. Mittelberger retells the horrible facts about the immigrants’ life as a mere story without resentment or anger, compared to De las Casas and De Sepulveda, who cried for help for the oppressed people. Analyzing his witnesses it becomes clear that his main goal was not to draw attention to the inadequate attitude towards immigrants and slaves, but simply to make records about his experience and to describe the state and conditions of the society of his time.

Mittelberger recounts in details that, firstly, the conditions of the voyage were inhuman – people were packed like herrings in large ships, which carried four to six hundred men. The trip from Holland to England, where the vessels took their full cargo, could take to 4 weeks, so the passengers ate all of their provisions and spent their last money before the ship even started moving to America. Therefore, many people suffered from hunger not only when sailing the ocean, but also on the way to England.

If the person had no money to pay for the passage, he was not allowed to leave the ship. Such people had to wait until they are purchased. Since the buyers preferred strong and healthy people, many sick individuals remained on board for two or three weeks and frequently died there. When an immigrant was purchased, he became the servant for the agreed number of years, usually 3 to 6. The youth starting ten years old had to serve till they reached the age of 21. Also, if a child took the debt of his parents, the adults were free. Thus, many people sold their children, and usually never saw them again. If a husband or wife died during the voyage, the survivor had to work not only for his own debt but also for the dead relative. It was also almost impossible to run away from the harsh masters since a good reward was given to those, who brought back the deserters. In addition, for a day of absence the servant had to work a weak as a penalty, for one week a month, and for one month six months. Mittelberger’s narration demonstrates that not only the local population, but also the European immigrants suffered from the inhumane attitude of the American colonists.

The provided works explained the issues of captivity and servitude and accurate analysis showed that colonization was a tough experience, especially for Native Indians. When colonizers went to the new continent, they had to be ready towards the challenges. The difficulties, accurately discussed by Mittelberger, do not arouse surprise. Long journey to the foreign land is difficult. Native Indians found themselves in a much more complex position. They lived their ordinary lifestyle, when one day, the colonizers came and started introducing their own rules, laws and norms on their land. For Native Indians, colonization was a politer manifestation of conquer. It brought them severe sufferings, enslavement, and total captivity. They responded to such treatment with the desire of revenge and started capturing Europeans. Their response was logical. They tried to express their disagreement, hatred, and anger.

Summing up the abovementioned evidence it is possible to conclude that colonization and servitude brought a lot of misery to both Indians and European immigrants. During the colonization process there was no distinction between the races or nationalities. Both conquerors and natural inhabitants experienced difficult times. However, the sufferings of the Native Indians were unjustified. The colonizers came to their land and forcefully made them alter their mundane lifestyle.

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