Differences In The Ways The English And The Spanish Governed

That government is best which governs least,” said Henry Thoreau. All governments governed the way they thought was best, but there was no consensus as to which one worked the finest. Obviously, Thoreau thought the best was the one with little governing. A few hundred years ago, many European nations set up colonies in the New World, each governing in their own way. The English colony of Jamestown and the Spanish colonies are examples. Even though their thoughts on government were very different, they had a few similarities. Maybe if they had not governed in the ways they did, our nation would not have turned out the way it did.

First, the English governed their colony of Jamestown in their own special way. One way they did it was by using the Magna Carta (Magnificent Charter). The Magna Carta was signed in the year 1215 by King John, who was forced to sign it. Otherwise, they nobles (who drew it up) and the rest of the people of England would have rebelled against him. The Magna Carta was signed to basically take a lot of the power out of the king’s hands, and put it into the hands of the people. I think it was written to ameliorate the English people's lives at that time of history. The Magna Carta would let the colony govern itself more independently, but not totally. In addition, the Magna Carta had a lot of rules and regulations in it, but the one I believe was the most important, was the "redress of grievances." If the people of the colonies (or the people of England) were not happy with the rule of the king (or the king was not doing things to their wishes), the people had the right to not pay the taxes, or rebel against him. That prevented King James from doing anything the people did not like. In addition, Jamestown governed with a governor. The governor was almost completely in charge over the colony, and kept it together as one without rebellion. He also repeated to the king all the happenings around Jamestown. Although the governor did not have complete control over the colony, his job was quite important! The social classes in Jamestown were set up such that there were only two classes. You were either a freeman on a non-freeman. First, in order to be a freeman, you had to be a noble or a bishop (in 1215), but then in 1295, you were a freeman if you owned land. Many of the people who came to Jamestown at first were not freemen because they did not own land. Most of the people that came over would get their voyage funded by the London Company, which was a joint stock company. They could not pay for themselves. The London Company would get someone to pay for the trip, and then the person who was coming over, would work for that person that paid for them. Once they had worked for a certain amount of years, the company would then give them property. Consequently, many people were attracted to the colony. All in all, I believe that the English ruled Jamestown in a very good way.

Second, the Spanish governed their colonies in different ways. For example, instead of the Magna Carta, they had the Laws of the Indies. These laws were drawn up such that the king and the viceroys had most of the power. The viceroys were the head of each colony, and they had almost complete control over them. They were appointed by the king. The social classes in the Spanish colonies consisted of 5 different “sets”. It was VERY hard to move up in the system. First, and the ones in the highest class, were the Peninsulares. They were from Spain, and were the only ones who could become the viceroys. Second, were the Creoles who had descendants from Spain. Third, were the Mestizos who were of Spanish decent, but had married an Indian. Fourth, were the Indians, who were slaves for quite awhile. Last in the social class, was the Africans, who were just brought over from Africa as slaves. Overall, the Spanish were quite mean to the people around them. For instance, the Spanish would take extra money from the Indians. They made it their right to demand taxes of labor from them when they wanted. This was called encomiendas. In addition to everything, to get to the colonies was not easy. You had to be a catholic (the trip was paid for by the king though), i. e. no Jews of Muslims in the colonies. I think Spain did this because they wanted a homogeneous group there, so there would not be a revolt. All in all, I believe Spain may have felt they had a good way had a good way of ruling their colonies, but I would have rather liked to have lived in Jamestown.

Although the Spanish colonies and the colony of Jamestown were governed differently, in a few ways they were similar. For instance, a major similarity between the two was the use of the governor and the viceroy. Both of these were basically the ones in charge of their colonies. They both made laws inside of them, and made sure they were obeyed. They were also the ones who related the news about the colony back to their countries. They told them how things were going there. Another albeit minor similarity, was the Magna Carta and the Laws of the Indies. They were similar in the sense that they were both written laws. On the other hand, they were different in the sense that the Magna Carta was meant to give more rights to the people, and the Laws of the Indies were meant to give more rights to the king. Another difference were the social classes. In Jamestown there were only two classes (freemen and non-freemen), and it was possible to move up from one class to the other. On the other hand, the Spanish had 5 classes and it was impossible to move up in them. Once you were in the low classes, you stayed there! The last difference, was how the people got to the two colonies. The English got there often by a private company (London Company), while the Spanish got there by the king (who sponsored them). In summary, that is basically how the two colonies compare and contrast.

In conclusion, the Spanish colonies and English colony of Jamestown ruled pretty differently, although they dad have a few similarities. I think that Jamestown was was more "people" friendly colony than the Spanish colonies were, but they were both meritorious ways of government. I know I would have liked to live in Jamestown. All in all, I believe we are very lucky to have the best form of government in the world, a democracy.

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