The Americas on the eve of independence

From Baripedia

In 1770, the entire Americas were colonies of the great European powers, namely Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland and Denmark.

The vast majority of these American territories were border areas or even uncolonized territories occupied by Amerindian nations or tribes. The present time with the colonization phase of the Amazonian forest and the last phase of colonization with the disappearance of the indigenous populations.

These territories were very sparsely populated. As these colonial powers did not control these continents, these territories were lands of refuge for fugitives, that is to say for slaves, peasants chased by their masters, criminals who were pushed towards the interior.

Distribution of populations by origin[edit | edit source]

The most densely populated areas are the east coast of what would become the United States, the entire Atlantic coast of South America, the entire Pacific coast of South America, as well as the Caribbean, Central America and present-day Mexico. On the other hand, there are areas of population along the navigable rivers, but few people settle along the banks of these rivers.

The main cities are densely populated areas. In 1770, there were 15 million inhabitants in the Americas.

In New France there are about 70,000 inhabitants; this is Louisiana as far as present-day Canada. There are 3 million inhabitants in the 13 colonies that will constitute the first United States, also 3 million inhabitants in the Kingdom of the Viceroyalty of Spain, namely Mexico, California, Texas and Central America. There are 4 million inhabitants in the rest of Spain's colonies from Colombia through Venezuela to Chile and Argentina, but also Cuba, Puerto Rico and the current Republic of Santo Domingo. Brazil has a population of 1.5 million.

The French West Indies have 600,000 inhabitants, 500,000 of whom are in Haiti and 80% of them are slaves, 300,000 in the British West Indies and inside we still have 1.5 - 2 million uncolonized Indians.

The Importance of "Racial" Belonging[edit | edit source]

The ethnic-racial question still weighs heavily in the Americas today because of the history of this continent, a colonization against the Indians and thanks to the importation of Africans.

Amerindian-majority regions[edit | edit source]

Felipe guaman poma de ayala.jpg
Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala: he rebuilt the entire Amerindian imagination after the conquest. It is an extraordinary source for historians to reconstruct what was happening at the time. The Indians were forced to provide forced labour in the mines and on the looms.

It is the region that best resisted colonization, historians estimate that there were between 50 and 60 million people in the Americas in 1500. What is tragic is that around 1600, the Amerindians numbered less than 4 million. This demographic catastrophe was due enormously to the diseases brought by the Europeans against which the Amerindians had no natural protection. Moreover, the enslavement participated in their genocide while the movements were repressed by massacres explaining the demographic fall.

What is fascinating is that in the Caribbean, where there were probably 5 million Amerindians, in 1770 there were almost none left and in 1800 almost all of them disappeared.

From 1650 - 1680 there is a recovery of the indigenous population and this in the great empires at the time of the conquest with urban civilizations and a highly developed agriculture in a densely populated territory, so that even if there was 90% population disappearance there is a resumption of population growth: these are the territories of Mesoamerica and the Andes, namely the Inca and Mayan civilizations.

In 1770, 2/3 of the population was Amerindian, but many took refuge in the non-settled territories to reconstitute their population and way of life.

Regions with a majority of European origin[edit | edit source]

Very few regions have a majority of European populations, especially the 13 colonies that will become the United States and in particular the Northern United States, namely Washington, Williamsburg and North Carolina. The number of Europeans rose from 30,000 in 1700 to 2.5 million in 1770, which is due to European migration, but also to a very high growth rate and a higher fertility level partly due to higher sanitary conditions and a longer life span than in the rest of America and even Europe.

However, Europeans are a minority everywhere, they are found in the large cities of the colonies.

Regions with a majority of African origin[edit | edit source]

The colonization of the Americas was largely carried out by slavery; each time a new region was colonized, it was colonized by the massive arrival of slaves. Between 1500 and 1780, the number of Africans deported to the Americas was four times higher than the number of Europeans who emigrated voluntarily.

It is mainly the regions of tropical plantations, namely the Caribbean, certain regions of Brazil with Rio de Janeiro, Minas Genoa, but also the whole region of Lima and the Pacific coast where there are mines, of course the Caribbean where there are sugar and cocoa plantations, the region of Guyana or the region of Guyana where there are sugar plantations. The Caribbean is a region entirely of slaves, and in the United States they are found in the Maryland region, where there is a large slave population and many agricultural products.

At that time virtually all domestic service was in the hands of slaves. Of all the cities in the Iberian Americas, Indians were excluded, in the population of a city like Buenos Aires, in 1770 half the population was Afrodependent.

Majority Métis, Mulatto or Zambo regions[edit | edit source]

All these arrivals of slaves and whites make a great crossbreeding especially in Latin America. This happens between surviving Amerindian populations, slaves, but also whites.

Men will bond with Amerindian and slave women, accelerating the crossbreeding that will later be theorized, producing in the imagination of the settlers great concern about their racial origins. A whole art form based on "crossbreeding paintings" was developed, showing this typology of crossbreeding. In the imaginary there is the will to whiten.

In Iberian America there is an obsession with "purity of blood" that goes back to the colonization of the Christians in the Iberian Peninsula against the bit that ends just when Christopher Columbus arrives in the Americas.

All this explains the "purity of blood" which is strong at the time of the reconquest and continued until the middle of the 19th century. In order to study, to exercise higher professions, to have royal functions, ecclesiastical functions, one must prove one's purity of blood. It is necessary to be "clean of all bad races of blacks, mulattos, bitches, Jews, newly converted to our Holy Cross or punished by the Inquisition".[8].

Specifically in the Americas, the Spanish monarchy is not going to apply this dialectic to the Indians, which would contradict the primacy of settlement in America. However, all Africans and their descendants will be disqualified for the "impurity of their blood".

The Amerindians[edit | edit source]

Iberian America[edit | edit source]

The question of impurity is also the question of the illegitimacy of birth in relation to religious marriage disqualifying the person even if all his ancestors are European and of "pure" blood. To complicate matters, the practice of manual trades also disqualifies. This application in the Iberian Peninsula is exported to the Americas.

White people are part of the upper caste, there is an extremely restricted elite who hold everything in their hands. Too few men are qualified for their purity of blood, the vast majority have African blood while the illegitimacy of birth affects the majority of the population. It will really be for the important positions that "purity of blood" will be respected.

What is interesting is to see and that Spain and Portugal do not have enough men to serve in the service of the armies that requires blood purity. Blacks and free mulattos will be the main militiamen guarding the coasts. This is a rule that does not respect the letter of the law. Since these militiamen are armed to defend royalty, they are granted a number of privileges related to their status in the army.

The Andean region will see parks set up to force the Indians to work and pay their taxes to the King. These Indians are therefore considered by the King of Spain as "miners" that he must protect, so a series of laws protect them and subject them to work in the mines or weaving. It is important to see that there is this submission at the same time as a dialogue with the King to contest the taking of land by the Spaniards. In many places the Indians are going to be against the Independence process because it will go hand in hand with liberalism directly threatening their land.

We have all these differences that exist in socioracial castes, the Indians do not live in the cities. There are the few white people, a whole population that does manual work and the slaves who are either mestizos or Africans; in most Iberian cities, the white population is at most 30% of the population. These cities concentrate all the power, but their control over the territory is quite limited. The control of civil servants is relatively limited, especially in the large villages.

America is overwhelmingly rural, with no more than 10% of the population living in cities, the largest city is Mexico[9] qui concentre 100000 habitants[10].

Anglo-Saxon America[edit | edit source]

There's a sociospatial stratification, but a different one. Indians are considered sub-human and savage, even in cases where they convert to Christianity like the Cherokees. The English are mainly interested in Indian lands: "A good Indian is a dead Indian".[11][12][13][14][15]. The entire 19th century was a century of land conquest by the United States.

Racism will increase from the 17th century onwards as slavery develops. It should be known that the colonization of British America was also done by white servants, poor whites, but also criminals who, in order to work 7 years in the land, became free and could settle freely in the territory.

Slavery will spread little by little even if it did not exist in Great Britain, no rules can be transferred to the Americas, the rules being invented as slavery develops. All blacks will become slaves reinforcing racism.

Immigration is not done by men, but by families who are often fugitives for religious reasons who will settle on land that has no reluctance for manual work.

Slavery[edit | edit source]

It characterizes the whole of the Americas is all activities, they work on plantations, in domestic services, in shops, in transport, in ports, in crafts, but also in writing some being poets, musicians ... it is an extremely diverse society with great differences in living conditions.

In the Iberian Peninsula, there was a code of law dating back to the 13th century that was to be exported to the Americas being the same as the slavery in the Roman Empire. In this code of law, slaves could buy their freedom marking the main difference with the Anglo-Saxon Americas, it was a right to buy freedom and to get out of their slave status without being freed from the "defilement of slavery". The result is that it is easier to do this in cities than on plantations.

A class of "coloured freedmen" will be formed, descendants of free slaves. For Anglo-Saxon America, this possibility does not exist. However, in the Iberian Americas, manumission will gradually be made difficult. The common denominator between all the Americas in a matriarchal society is that the status is given by the mother.

In the Spanish Americas, there would soon be more freedmen of colour than slaves.

The Slave Trade[edit | edit source]

Since the 17th century, 12 million Africans have arrived "alive" in the Americas. It can be seen that 40% of the slaves went to Brazil throughout the colonization period, followed by the English and French Caribbean. The future United States had very few slaves. The number of slaves in the United States will grow largely because slaves will have better health and food conditions. In the other colonies, it was necessary to have a massive and regular importation because the living and working conditions were catastrophic.

The greatest period of the trade was the period of "enlightenment". There is a contradiction with the philosophy of the Enlightenment, because at the same time as independence was developing, it was also the period when the trade was going to be the most intense. What is also interesting is that from 1815 onwards the slave trade was prohibited.

Agricultural production[edit | edit source]

Iberian America[edit | edit source]

The farms of the descendants of the settlers occupied the most fertile land, while small farmers and Indian communities were pushed back to the less fertile lands.

The immense land holdings will characterize the Americas until now.

Anglo-Saxon America[edit | edit source]

In the beginning there are egalitarian family farms with growing inequality without these huge plantations.

Trade of port cities[edit | edit source]

The communication routes are very bad, it took longer to reach the port cities of the Americas than port cities in Europe.

Mercantilism is the economic doctrine according to which the essential wealth of states lies in their gold and silver wealth, which goes hand in hand with protectionism and the monopoly of the metropolis on trade; that is the dominant ideology.

In this 18th century, the great metropolises are in great need of gold and silver, because they are constantly waging war against each other. America is supposed to be the great provider of capital through imports and exports.

The way mercantilism applies is different:

Anglo-Saxon America[edit | edit source]

It is a prosperous America that produces tobacco, indigo and sugar, contributing in particular to the industrial revolution in England.

The British authorities paid little attention to smuggling, as production was sufficient to fill the coffers. The ports of Boston and Philadelphia developed rapidly thanks to the prosperity of trade.

Iberian America[edit | edit source]

Everything is monopolized and must pass through the metropolis; it is forbidden for the colonies to trade with each other. This develops a class of extreme counterbandists who will largely trade at that time.

Political Administration[edit | edit source]

Iberian America[edit | edit source]

The metropolis governs in a rigid way, for the Spanish Americas it is the Council of the Indies, the executive power is in the hands of a viceroy who rules everything on the territory, but who is always a Spaniard. There is little local power even for the elites; the only kinds of regimes that exist are local councils that represent minorities.

Anglo-Saxon America[edit | edit source]

Great Britain had set up a decentralized administration, in each colony there were local legislative assemblies in which local elites sat, they decided on the taxes and finances of the colonies. However, this is not democracy.

The colonial elites will have some experience of government which will serve them well at the time of independence.

Religions and cultural diversity[edit | edit source]

Anglo-Saxon America[edit | edit source]

There is an incredible diversity of Protestantism fighting for control of a number of regions. There are ideologies that clash, it's a "Protestant Babylon". Only the quakers advocate religious tolerance and pacifism. At the beginning of the 18th century, religiosity was in decline; it was at this time that some pastors launched a religious opening called the « Great Awakening »[16][17]; the pastors upset the listeners by threatening them with hell. This movement will affect all 13 colonies with the first idea of the United States:

  • idea of the superiority of divine law
  • conviction that natural laws were given by god.

Iberian America[edit | edit source]

There is an immense territory and almost non-existent communications, Catholicism is far from being universal. The great bastions of Catholicism are the big cities with large Spanish and Portuguese populations. Parish priests are present where there are large Indian populations. In the rural areas, local virgin venerations develop, which are creations on the spot, mixing Amerindian elements with elements of the Catholic tradition that persist to this day.

The Catholic Church is practically non-existent on the plantations and in the tropical regions. There is very quickly a syncretism between African religions and Catholicism. Many religions are created hiding behind Catholicism.

There will be a very small part of the population that will have access to the ideas of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, but one of the main ones is that there are natural laws that we can try to understand and through which we can change things. Locke writes that the role of the state is to provide well-being and security to individuals who have inalienable rights to life, liberty and property.[18][19]

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Aline Helg - UNIGE
  2. Aline Helg -
  3. Aline Helg - Wikipedia
  4. Aline Helg -
  5. Aline Helg -
  6. Aline Helg -
  7. Aline Helg - Google Scholar
  8. Lewin, Boleslao. La inquisición En Hispanoamerica Judios, Protestantes y Patriotas. Paidos, 1967. p.117 url:
  9. Rico Galindo, Rosario (Septiembre de 2008). «Terminologías». Historia de México (3ra. Edición edición). Santillana. pp. 64. ISBN 970-2-9223-08.
  10. León Portilla, Miguel (1983). De Teotihuacán a Los Aztecas: Antología de Fuentes e Interpretaciones Históricas. México: UNAM, pp. 354. ISBN 978-9-68580-593-3. El autor estima en 100 000 a 300 000 la población de la ciudad.
  11. En anglais, « The only good Indian is a dead Indian. »
  12. Who Said the Only Good Indian Is a Dead One?
  13. Mieder, Wolfgang. "'The Only Good Indian Is a Dead Indian': History and Meaning of a Proverbial Stereotype." The Journal of American Folklore 106 (1993):38–60.
  14. Comanche Chief Tosawi reputedly told Sheridan in 1869, "Me, Tosawi; me good Injun," to which Sheridan supposedly replied, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead." Sheridan denied he had ever made the statement. Biographer Roy Morris Jr. states that, nevertheless, popular history credits Sheridan with saying "The only good Indian is a dead Indian." This variation "has been used by friends and enemies ever since to characterize and castigate his Indian-fighting career." - Philip Sheridan
  15. Origins of Sayings - The Only Good Indian is a Dead Indian, - About the history and origins behind the famous saying the only good indian is a dead indian.
  16. Lambert, Leslie. Inventing the Great Awakening, Princeton University Press, 1999.
  17. "Bush Tells Group He Sees a 'Third Awakening'" Washington Post, Sept. 12 2006.
  19. « pour leur conservation, pour leur sûreté mutuelle, pour la tranquillité de leur vie, pour jouir paisiblement de ce qui leur appartient en propre, et être mieux à l’abri des insultes de ceux qui voudraient leur nuire et leur faire du mal » - John Locke.Traité du gouvernement civil, 1690, édition française, C. Volland éd., Paris, 1802, p. 164