Empire and Identity

Atlantic communities

On 20 October 1697, Samuel Sewall, who shared the hopes of his friend and fellow Bostonian, Cotton Mather, for the speedy conversion of Spain's dominions in America, went to Dorchester to wait on the Lieutenant Governor: `breakfast together on Venison and Chockalatte: I said Massachuset and Mexico met at his Honour's Table." This gastronomic encounter of British and Spanish America at a Massachusetts breakfast table was a small, but symbolic, indicator of a larger process of transformation that was by now well under way: the creation of an integrated Atlantic world. It was a world in which the rivalries of European states increasingly impinged on the colonial societies of the Americas, and in which new relationships, both transatlantic and hemispheric, were being forged in response to the combined, and frequently conflicting, requirements of trade and war.

The accelerating process of contact and conflict within the framework of a developing Atlantic community sprang from developments on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, the middle and later decades of the seventeenth century were marked by profound shifts in the international balance of power. In the Americas, which found themselves caught up in the consequences of those shifts, they saw the consolidation of colonial societies as distinctive polities with their own unique characteristics - characteristics that differentiated them in important ways from the metropolitan societies that had given birth to them, and gave rise to fundamental questions of identity which would become increasingly insistent during the opening decades of the eighteenth century.

The massive change in the relationships of the great powers of Europe in the middle years of the seventeenth century was succinctly summarized by the English publicist and political theorist, Slingsby Bethel, in his The Interest of Princes and States (1680):

Formerly the affairs of Christendom were supposed to be chiefly swayed by the two great powers of Austria (wherein Spain is understood) and France: from whom other Princes and States derived their Peace and War, according to the several parties they adhered unto. But now the puissance of the former being so much abated, that it deserves no rank above its Neighbours, France of the two remains the only formidable Potentate, of whose greatness, all Princes and States are as much concerned to be jealous, as formerly they were of Austria.2

The revolts of the 1640s in Catalonia, Portugal, Sicily and Naples had shaken the Spanish Monarchy to its core. While it eventually managed to weather the storm, although at the expense of the permanent loss of Portugal and its overseas empire, its `puissance', as Bethel observed, was `much abated'. The signing of the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, which ended almost 25 years of Franco-Spanish conflict, marked the emergence of the France of Louis XIV as the dominant military power in Europe. `Having now got the advantage of Spain,' wrote Bethel, France was aiming to `improve it to an universal monarchy, as Spain formerly designed.' Great Britain and the Dutch Republic were understandably anxious. They had not fought for so long against Spanish world domination simply to exchange one tyrannical Roman Catholic power for another as the arbiter of Europe.

New confirmation of Spain's loss of global supremacy was to be found in the terms of the Anglo-Spanish Treaty of Madrid of 1670, in which, for the first time, Spain officially conceded full British `sovereignty, ownership and possession' of ,all the lands, regions, islands, colonies and dominions, situated in the West Indies or in any part of America' held at that time by `the King of Great Britain and his subjects'. This included Jamaica, seized by Cromwell fifteen years before.' The New World monopoly conferred on the Iberian monarchs by Alexander VI in 1493 thus lost its last shreds of international legitimacy While the Spanish crown might still retain the bulk of its possessions on the American mainland, and the treasure fleets continue to return year after year to the Iberian peninsula with impressively large cargoes of silver, there was a widespread impression that Spain itself was in terminal decline.

Foreigners, following in the path of the Spanish arbitristas, made their own diagnoses of what had gone wrong. `Spain', wrote Slingsby Bethel, `is a clear demonstration that Mis-government, in suffering all manner of Frauds, and neglecting the Interest of a Nation, will soon bring the mightiest Kingdoms low, and lay their honour in the dust.'4 In the eyes of Bethel and other contemporary British observers, misgovernment included a failure to grasp the nature of the relationship between population, prosperity and liberty. As Bethel pointed out with reference to the recent successes of the Dutch and the English, `industry and ingenuity are not the effects of the barrenness of a country, oppression of the People, or want of Land ... but the effects only of justice, good laws and Liberty's The Spaniards had flouted the essential principles of good government by disregarding this fundamental truth, and were paying the inevitable price.

If Spain in the sixteenth century had furnished the model to be followed, now in the later seventeenth it was the model to be shunned. The encouragement of commerce, so neglected by the Spaniards, was coming to be seen as central to Britain's true interest. With the encouragement of commerce went a growing appreciation of the potential value to the mother country of its transatlantic colonies, although not everyone was persuaded of this. The pamphlet entitled A Discourse of Trade published by Roger Coke in 1670 feared that England was set on the same ruinous path as Spain. `Ireland and our Plantations', he wrote, `Rob us of all the growing Youth and Industry of the Nation, whereby it becomes weak and feeble, and the Strength, as well as Trade, becomes decayed and diminished ...'6 Sir Josiah Child found himself having to launch a counter-attack against `gentlemen of no mean capacities', like Coke, who argued that `his Majestie's Plantations abroad have very much prejudiced this Kingdom by draining us of our People; for the confirmation of which they urge the example of Spain, which they say is almost ruined by the Depopulation which the West-Indies hath occasioned." Far from weakening a nation, overseas plantations augmented its strength, although Child found himself wrestling with the problem of New England, notoriously unable to supply the mother country with those raw materials and commodities that justified colonies in the eyes of good mercantilists.

In practice, however, the new wealth brought to the metropolis in the second half of the seventeenth century by the rapid growth of the colonial market, and the economic stimulus provided by a buoyant transatlantic trade, spoke louder than any number of economic tracts.' The genuine if erratically pursued concern of later Stuart governments to regulate the colonial trade and reorganize colonial administration9 was a measure of the degree to which the American settlements were beginning to assume their place in the national consciousness as imperial outposts integral to the development of England's power and prosperity.

Britain's empire was therefore to be a maritime and commercial empire. As such it came to think of itself as the antithesis of Spain's land-based empire of conquest, the alleged cause of its ruin. The Glorious Revolution of 1688, in securing the Protestant succession in England and confirming its character as a parliamentary monarchy, contributed new layers of religious and political ideology to this dawning imperial vision. Commercial enterprise, Protestantism and liberty were now to be enshrined as the mutually reinforcing constituents of a national ethos which, in the long and exhausting wars against the popish tyranny of Louis XIV, would win the ultimate sanction of military success. Piece by piece, the various components of an eighteenth-century ideology of empire were being fitted into place. 10

The Glorious Revolution and its aftermath - the forging by William III of his grand anti-French coalition, and the global conflict with France culminating in 1713 in a peace settlement at Utrecht which set the seal on British claims to supremacy on the high seas - had profound if ambiguous consequences for the transatlantic colonies." It was only right that subjects of the crown who had settled overseas should enjoy the many benefits of an empire of liberty. Consequently there would be no Stuart-style attempts to interfere with the system of representative government operating through colonial assemblies, although continuing uncertainty over the relative powers of governors and assemblies would leave ample scope for conflict in the years ahead.'2

In general, the government of William III looked more benignly on the Caribbean colonies than on the mainland settlements, if only because of the growing importance of the sugar interest, and the need to assist the plantations as they sought to defend themselves against French attack.13 But it proved unable to tackle effectively the continuing problem of the survival of the proprietary colonies. Even in Massachusetts, the imposition of a royal governor under the new charter of 1691 was accompanied by a compromise which left the legislature in a potentially stronger position relative to the governor than that enjoyed by the assemblies of other royal colonies.14

Yet, even as the colonies were confirmed in their possession of institutions and liberties conforming to the broad principles of the Revolutionary Settlement, the growing recognition of their economic value to the imperial metropolis encouraged an interventionism from London in the management of trade that pointed to the potential for future conflict between the requirements of an empire of commerce and an empire of liberty. In the years immediately following the Glorious Revolution, the crown was too preoccupied with its domestic and international concerns to pursue a consistent policy towards the American settlements. But the creation in 1696 of the Board of Trade and Plantations in succession to the Lords of Trade was evidence of its determination to tighten London's control over the transatlantic trade. This seemed all the more necessary at a time when the diversionary effects of the war with France had made it easier for Scottish and Irish shipowners to break into the English monopoly created by the Navigation Acts, and sail directly to the Chesapeake and Delaware."

The creation of the Board of Trade was accompanied by the establishment in the colonies of vice-admiralty courts to try offences against the Navigation Acts. In spite of the setbacks to governmental control represented by the colonial upheavals of 1688-9, the hand of bureaucracy was reaching out towards America. By 1710 there were 42 permanent customs officers in the British colonies seeking to ensure that the Acts were observed.16 The number might be small, but the appearance of these officials was a portent. Spain's American possessions had long been accustomed to the prying activities of royal inspectors and customs agents. Where empire was established, regulation was never far behind.

At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, therefore, the presence of empire was making itself increasingly felt in England's Atlantic possessions, although imperial policy lacked the coherence and effectiveness that senior officials in London like Sir William Blathwayt would have wished. Colonial affairs inevitably took second place to the prosecution of the war in Europe. Consistency in the government's colonial policies, however, was also hampered by the divisiveness of British politics under William III and Anne. Bitter political feuding between Tories and Whigs gave an opening to colonial societies and their spokesmen in London to exploit the party political divisions in England for their own purposes. Individual colonies had begun to follow the example of Massachusetts in appointing a permanent agent to keep an eye on their interests in court and parliament. The activities of these agents and of pressure groups that emerged to defend one colonial interest or another complicated the attempts of Board of Trade officials to develop and implement a grand strategy. Colonial lobbying in London was beginning to influence the formulation of imperial policy.''

By force of circumstance, England and its colonies were being inexorably drawn into a closer relationship. The process of imperial integration was strongly driven by the expansion of the transatlantic trade - by 1700 there were at least 1,000 London merchants trading with America, and the steadily expanding British demand for sugar and tobacco was rapidly increasing the volume of transatlantic shipping. If in the 1680s fewer than 500 ships a year made the crossing from England, their number had more than doubled by the 1730s.18 Not only was transatlantic communication growing in both frequency and regularity, but the development of intercolonial trade between the mainland settlements and the West Indies, and between the various mainland settlements themselves, meant that by the 1730s British and European news was arriving more promptly, and being disseminated more widely, than fifty years earlier. In 1702 a bold wartime initiative was launched for the organization of a monthly transatlantic packet service to the West Indies, making the round trip in 100 days. Although the new service failed to survive the coming of peace, eighteenth-century correspondents on both sides of the Atlantic could write their letters with a growing confidence that they would reach their destination with a reasonable degree of predictability."

If improved communications did much to further the integration of an AngloAmerican Atlantic polity, so also did the advent of war. As England and its continental allies embarked on all-out war with France, the European struggle spread to the far side of the Atlantic, and the colonies found themselves embroiled in what was fast becoming a global conflict. King Philip's war of 1675-6 proved to be the last Indian war without external intervention. As the British settlements and the authorities in French Canada jockeyed for support among the independent Indian tribes, Indian-settler conflicts were subsumed into the wider conflict of the two colonial powers. Along the borders of New England and New York, townships were pillaged and razed by the French and their Indian allies.20

All the colonies, however, were affected to a greater or lesser extent, as London sought to induce them to unite in self-defence, while colonial governors struggled to persuade their assemblies to vote money and quotas of men for the prosecution of the war. Arms and ammunition were needed from England, and the help of the royal navy was required for the protection of the North Atlantic trade. The experience of war between 1689 and 1713 made the colonists more aware of their dependence on the mother country, while also stimulating pride in their own efforts and in the new closeness of their partnership with their English cousins. `It is no little Blessing of God', wrote Cotton Mather in 1700, `that we are part of the English Nation.'2'

While the bonds of empire were being more tightly drawn in the British Atlantic polity, the relationship between Spain and its empire of the Indies seemed to be moving no less inexorably in the opposite direction. The difference reflected the divergent trajectories of English and Spanish power during the second half of the seventeenth century. As England rose to a position of commercial and maritime supremacy, the military and economic weakness of metropolitan Spain during the final years of Philip IV and the agonizingly prolonged reign of his sickly and feeble-minded son Carlos II (1665-1700) had the effect of loosening the control of Madrid over its American territories, and giving their creole societies new and expanded space for manoeuvre.

`As the weaknes of Spain is such at home,' wrote Roger Coke in 1670, `so it is the more in his Indies, from whence his Wealth and Riches flow ...122 The effects of metropolitan weakness were felt at many points, and most obviously in the seizure by the English, the Dutch and the French of a string of islands in the Caribbean and of toeholds on the American mainland - the English in Belize and the Mosquito coast of Nicaragua, and all three powers in the Guiana region. These European outposts served as ideal bases for piracy and trade. Between the 1650s and the 1680s buccaneers swarmed through the Caribbean, raiding the Spanish American mainland and preying on Spanish ships. Jamaica in particular was a hornets' nest of pirates. Acting in collusion with the island's governor, Thomas Modyford, and in wilful disregard of the Anglo-Spanish peace treaty of the preceding year, Henry Morgan launched a devastating raid on Panama in 1671.23

Trade and piracy were liable to be synonymous in this lawless Caribbean world of the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, and buccaneers, merchants and planters became fickle accomplices in the enterprise of stripping the Spanish empire of its assets. New England merchants seized control of the export trade in central American logwood (for dye-making) from the Gulf of Campeche, and fortunes were made in Rhode Island by Newport merchants who happily combined commerce with attacks on Spanish shipping.24 Spain's islands in the Antilles were poor and vulnerable imperial outposts, requiring heavy and continuous subsidies from the Mexican treasury for their fortification and defence. The larger the subsidies that had to be remitted from New Spain to the Antilles, the less would be the silver available for shipment to Seville. By contrast, Britain's Caribbean islands, with their developing plantation economies, were to be the jewels in the crown of its American empire.

Jamaica, ideally located at the heart of the Spanish Caribbean and blessed with a splendidly sheltered harbour at Port Royal, was better placed than the Dutch island of Curacao for managing the collective larceny of Spain's overseas assets. Britain's possession of the island gave English merchants, and their New York and Boston counterparts, the edge over their Dutch competitors for domination of the contraband trade with the Spanish Indies. From their Jamaican vantage-point Anglo-American merchants infiltrated and subverted the Spanish trading system, supplying the Spanish islands and mainland with smuggled goods which they could otherwise only obtain at inflated prices when the fleets put in from Spain, or else not obtain at all. Spanish officials would wink at this illicit trade once their palms had been greased, but there were occasions when sheer necessity forced them to issue official import licences. African slaves especially were in short supply. As a result, Jamaica in the 1680s became a major supplier of slaves for despatch to Spanish America by way of Havana, Portobelo and Cartagena.

This Jamaican trade in slaves and other commodities brought handsome returns. The silver siphoned off by merchants or seized by buccaneers percolated through the Anglo-American Atlantic economy, and helped reduce Britain's trading deficit with the Far East. Jamaica became the principal supplier of bullion to the North American colonies, mitigating their endemic monetary difficulties and enabling them to purchase not only essential British commodities, but also Spanish American luxuries, like the Mexican chocolate which Samuel Sewall sipped for breakfast in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on 20 October 1697.25

While European penetration of the Caribbean was eroding Spain's monopoly of the American trade at its receiving point, a vast breach had also been opened at its point of origin in mainland Spain itself. For a century and a half this had been located in Seville. From the 1670s, however, Cadiz was beginning to replace Seville as the entrepot of the American trade, as the Guadalquivir silted up, and ships found it increasingly hazardous to navigate the river. In 1717 the Spanish crown, bowing to geographical realities, would make the transfer official, and both the House of Trade and the Consulado removed to Cadiz.26 Taking advantage of the privileges negotiated under special treaty arrangements with a weakened Spanish crown, the foreign merchants operating from the two port cities freighted the outbound fleets with large quantities of the manufactures that Spanish industry was unable to supply. These goods, fetching high prices in the American market, were exchanged for the American silver on which Britain, France and the Netherlands relied to keep the wheels of their economies turning.27

French, Flemish, Dutch and English merchants were not the only beneficiaries of the inability of Seville's Consulado to sustain its monopoly of the American trade - a monopoly undermined by massive fraud at every stage of its operations. As early as the late sixteenth century creole merchants in the Americas, and most notably those of Mexico City and Peru, had glimpsed lucrative possibilities for themselves in the structure and functioning of the Indies trade. As they appreciated, not even the elaborate mechanisms set in place by Seville could dictate every detail of a trading system spanning the Atlantic. The growing quantities of silver produced by the American mines gave them a strong hand, further strengthened by the opening of the trans-Pacific trading route from Acapulco to Manila in the late sixteenth century. This offered new opportunities for making large profits by supplying creole elites with the oriental luxuries like silks, porcelain, lacquer ware and Japanese screens, for which they developed an insatiable appetite. The purchase of these luxuries was paid for by the diversion to their Asian suppliers of silver which might otherwise have been remitted to Seville.28

By making use of their ties of contract and kinship with Sevillian trading houses, and by participating in the fairs held at Vera Cruz, Portobelo and elsewhere on the arrival of the fleets from Seville, the merchants of New Spain and Peru became important players in both the official and the unofficial economy of the Spanish Atlantic. In the opening and middle decades of the seventeenth century they proved strong enough to challenge Seville's dominance of the colonial markets, manipulating prices to suit their own purposes, and exploiting the numerous opportunities for engaging in contraband trade .21

The new-found strength and confidence of the merchant communities of the American viceroyalties was a reflection of the wider shifts that were occurring in the economic relationship between the metropolis and its American possessions. The exploitation of the continent's mineral resources, the development of agriculture and manufactures - especially textiles - to meet the needs of a growing creole and mestizo population, and the growth of home-based shipbuilding, all helped to lessen the economic dependence of the viceroyalties on the imperial metropolis.

There was also a steady growth of inter-regional trade, hinting at the emergence of a partially autonomous Hispanic American economy. Mexico City had become the centre of an informal but widespread trading system. Horizontally this ran along an axis from Manila in the Philippines to Havana in the Caribbean. There was also a north-south axis which, in spite of the 1631 ban on trade between Mexico and Peru,30 linked the Pacific coast port of Acapulco to the ports of northern Peru, and then ran on to Lima, with a spur to Potosi. The Peruvian complex had trading links with Panama, to the north, and with Chile in the south, which was vastly increasing its production of wheat in response to Peruvian demand. Another route, reluctantly authorized by the crown in the early seventeenth century, ran overland from the Peruvian mines, by way of Tucuman and Cordoba, to the growing port city of Buenos Aires, 63 days on horseback from Potosi (see map 7, p. 354).31 At this point, internal trading systems tapped into the increasingly internationalized Atlantic economy, as foreign traders descended on the La Plata region with supplies of slaves and European manufactures to exchange for illegally exported Peruvian silver.32

Although dependent on Portuguese and other foreign merchants for a steady supply of African slaves, and still relying on Europe for luxury products and essential commodities like paper and hardware, the economies of New Spain and Peru were therefore becoming more self-sufficient, and, as a result, less vulnerable to the vagaries of Spanish and European economic movements.33 This does not, however, mean that they were untouched by recession. Devastating floods struck Mexico City in 1629, and New Spain experienced serious economic difficulties over the following three decades. In the years between 1635 and 1665 there was a slump in the output of the Mexican silver mines, but production picked up strongly again in the 1670s, at a time when the indigenous population was at last beginning to recover from the demographic disaster of the century of conquest.34

The Peruvian economy seems to have escaped sustained recession in the middle years of the century, but only to run into serious trouble in the wake of the devastating earthquakes which hit central Peru in 1687. Silver production in Potosi, which reached a peak around 1610, moved in the second half of the century into a prolonged period of decline, which continued at least until the 1730s, although with moments of recovery.35 Downward trends in Peru, however, were offset by the mining revival in New Spain, where production began to outstrip that of Peru in the late seventeenth century.36 Although the registered imports of American silver into Seville slumped dramatically in the second half of the century, there are strong indications that the drop was more the result of a massive increase in fraud and contraband than of an over-all diminution of production. Enormous quantities of silver, sometimes arriving in larger consignments than during the peak period of the late sixteenth century, continued to be remitted to Europe, in spite of the retention of considerable quantities for defence and other purposes in the viceroyalties themselves, and of a constant drain of silver to the Far East by way of the Acapulco galleon and the Manila route.37

The balance of evidence, therefore, indicates that the Spanish and Spanish American economies moved in opposing directions during the seventeenth century, with the latter by now sufficiently self-supporting to be insulated from the worst effects of the economic depression that afflicted much of central and southern Europe in the era of the Thirty Years War.38 Partly because of the capture by foreign merchants of such large swathes of the transatlantic trade, and partly because of the process of transition and expansion within the viceroyalties themselves, the economic ties between Spain and its American possessions were being loosened at the very time that economic growth on both sides of the British Atlantic was tightening the relationship between England and its Caribbean and mainland colonies.

If America, however, had less need of Spain, Spain never stood in greater need of America than now. By the mid-seventeenth century, the fiscal difficulties that perennially beset the Spanish crown had become acute. The prolonged struggle with the Dutch and the French, the revolts of the 1640s and Philip IV's increasingly desperate attempts to recover control over the newly independent kingdom of Portugal, placed enormous strains on a treasury perennially incapable of meeting the demands made upon it. The resulting fiscal crisis forced the crown to resort to every kind of financial expedient, both in metropolitan Spain itself and in its overseas possessions. The crisis exported itself to the royal treasuries in Mexico City and Lima, where the viceroys faced growing difficulties in raising the additional revenues demanded by Madrid.

As the economies of the two viceroyalties became more diversified, so the enforcement of new fiscal expedients became more problematic. The difficulties in raising more revenue in societies where the white and mestizo population were exempt from direct taxation were compounded by the dishonesty of the treasury officials. In Peru, traditionally a more lucrative source of revenue for the crown than New Spain, high-ranking treasury offices began to be offered for sale on a systematic basis from 1633. As the crown's difficulties multiplied, so too did the number of offices created and put up for sale. While the sale of offices proved to be a highly profitable source of revenue, it was acquired at a heavy political price. Offices that came onto the market were snapped up by creoles or by Lima merchants with strong local connections. Large sums were diverted into private pockets by corrupt officials, and viceroys watched in despair as the sale of office drastically reduced both the efficiency of the administration and their own powers of patronage, which they considered essential for the effective exercise of viceregal authority.39

The natural beneficiaries of this process were the creole elite, for whom the crown's troubles fell as manna from heaven. The purchase of offices and titles to land, the acquisition of new credit opportunities as royal revenues failed to cover costs, and informal alliances struck with corrupt royal officials for the clandestine distribution of state resources, enabled oligarchies throughout Spanish America to entrench themselves still further. By the middle years of the seventeenth century the crown was putting provincial governorships up for sale, and under Carlos II the last dam was breached when the crown began systematically selling the judicial posts in the eleven Audiencias of the Indies. Between 1687 and 1695, 24 such sales occurred, 18 of them in the jurisdiction of Peru. The control of justice as well as administration was beginning to slip from the hands of Madrid.40

Consequently, by the time of Carlos II's death in 1700, it was not only the economic ties between metropolitan Spain and its overseas possessions that were unravelling. Under the cover of continuing deference to the royal authority, the creole elites, taking advantage of the crown's continuing fiscal needs, had sidled into a semi-detached political relationship with Madrid. In principle, a highly regulated transatlantic trading system and a vast body of legislation belatedly codified in the Recopilacion de las leyes de Indias held Spanish America in a tight metropolitan grip. In practice, the spread of systematized corruption endowed the imperial structure with a flexibility that its rigid framework appeared to belie. Corruption facilitated social mobility in a hierarchically structured society, and enlarged the space in which the creole elites were able to manoeuvre.41

It is not therefore surprising that the proclamation of a Bourbon successor to Carlos II, in the person of Louis XIV's grandson, Philip V, passed off almost without incident in America, in sharp contrast to the turmoil that the events surrounding the Glorious Revolution of 1688 brought to the British colonies, where the growing interventionism of the later Stuarts had awakened dark fears of tyranny. Only in Caracas did a small group of pro-Austrian supporters, incited by a Habsburg agent provocateur, proclaim the Archduke Charles, the rival, Austrian candidate to the Spanish throne, to be the rightful monarch under the name of `Carlos III'.42 While mainland Spain would soon be plunged into civil war by the conflict of loyalties, there seemed no good reason in the American viceroyalties to contest the terms of Carlos II's last will and testament. The creole elites already possessed much of the reality, if not the appearance, of power.

Yet inevitably a question-mark hung over the new dynasty. Although the creoles constantly complained of the way in which they were treated by native-born Spaniards, they had generally fared well under the government, and misgovernment, of the House of Austria. Could they expect an equally benign treatment from a French-imported dynasty? The France of Louis XIV had already engineered for itself a dominant position in Spain's Atlantic trade. On top of this, French ministers and advisers were now descending on Madrid, carrying plans for radical reform in their baggage. Was Spain to become a mere appendage of its traditional enemy? Even if not, there was always the danger that it might be subjected to French notions of government. The auguries were far from promising in 1713 as Philip V emerged victorious over his Austrian rival at the end of the long and destructive War of the Spanish Succession.

Over the course of almost two hundred years of government the Habsburgs had in general respected the innate diversity of the realms that made up their Monarchy. Philip V, by contrast, used his victory over his rebellious territories of the Crown of Aragon to sweep away those fundamental laws, liberties and institutions which had allowed them to retain their separate identities. The eastern provinces of the peninsula were now to find themselves incorporated into a nominally unified and centralizing state controlled from Madrid - a `vertical' Spain in place of the `horizontal' Spain of the House of Austria.43

The forced incorporation of the Crown of Aragon between 1709 and 1716 contrasted sharply with another contemporary union, that of England and Scotland in 1707. Although the Scots negotiated from a position of weakness, they secured important advantages from their incorporation into the parliamentary monarchy of a United Kingdom of Great Britain. The disaster of the Darien expedition of 1698 had brought home the high price to be paid for any attempt to establish independent Scottish overseas settlements in an America to which the larger European powers had already laid effective claim. Instead, the Scots now obtained unrestricted access to the commercial and other opportunities offered by an empire that was henceforth to be not English but British. In this they had the advantage of the Irish, and of the North American colonies themselves, since their freedom of manoeuvre would cease to be limited by the Navigation Acts and other mercantilist legislation imposed by a United Kingdom parliament.44

While the British colonies might chafe under the trading arrangements dictated from London, they at least possessed, unlike Spain's American territories, barriers against the intervention of the imperial state, in the form of their own representative institutions. In the absence of such assemblies, Spain's overseas territories had been forced to rely on the crown's continuing willingness to recognize the inherent diversity of the Monarchy, and on the opportunities for manoeuvre offered by the endemic rivalries between the organisms that competed for power under the Habsburg system of conciliar government. But how far would these opportunities continue to exist under a Bourbon regime determined to modernize the structures and administrative methods of an ancien regime society? While the Council of the Indies survived, even if its functions were gradually reduced to those of a purely judicial tribunal, much of the old conciliar system was dismantled, and power began to be concentrated in the hands of a new breed of secretaries of state, including, from 1714, a secretary of the navy and the Indies.45 Most significant of all, the new regime was adopting a French-inspired language of reform. The authoritarian terminology of Louis XIV and the centralizing mercantilist terminology of Colbert were now beginning to colour the traditional, contractualist language of composite monarchy inherited from the Habsburgs.

The Indies, however, were to secure a reprieve that would last for half a century. The new dynasty was too preoccupied with the problems of domestic reform, and with the recovery of the European territories lost to Spain in 1713 at the Treaty of Utrecht, to be able to devote itself to any systematic programme of reform in America. Such changes as did occur, like the creation of a third viceroyalty, that of New Granada, fleetingly in 1717, and then definitively in 1739, were responses to immediate problems of defence and administration, rather than part of a larger strategy of reform.46 The crown's military commitments in Europe meant that it remained as short of money as ever, and, in spite of its attempts to return to the practices of an earlier age, offices in the Indies, including the judicial posts in the Audiencias, continued to be put up for sale, almost as if Carlos II were still the King of Spain.47

Yet there was also a growing awareness in Madrid that the Indies held the key to Spain's recovery. Salvation lay in the command of both silver and trade, and each had largely slipped from the grasp of the crown. Although the War of the Spanish Succession ended with Spain retaining its American empire territorially intact, it left the French pulling the strings of the transatlantic trade.

In the aftermath of the Treaty of Utrecht, this French dominance was subject to growing challenge from the British, to whom the treaty had awarded the extremely valuable slave-trade contract, the asiento de negros, previously held by the Portuguese and the French. The concession included the famous annual 'permission ship', a South Sea Company vessel authorized to unload its cargo in Vera Cruz or Portobelo at the time of the arrival of the Seville/Cadiz fleet and the resulting trade fair. This represented the first breach of the Spanish Atlantic trading monopoly officially authorized by the crown itself.48

The authorization vividly symbolized the new economic realities. As the Spanish Atlantic became internationalized, Spain's closed world of the Indies was rapidly being cracked open. If not yet offering unrestricted access to European goods, it seemed to be headed in that direction, unless the new dynasty could find ways of reversing the trend. Not only were Spanish America's ties to the peninsular economy unravelling, but the southward advance of the British mainland settlements was creating new openings for the development of an illicit hemispheric trade between the colonial possessions of the two imperial powers. In 1717 oranges grown in Spanish Florida were being shipped to Charles Town, and by the 1730s they were being enjoyed by the residents of Philadelphia and New York .41

In Spain itself there was mounting resentment at the foreign penetration of the Indies trade. The Colbertian mercantilism that the French were attempting to establish in the peninsula stopped short of policies, such as the encouragement of Spanish manufacturing, that were likely to prove prejudicial to France's national interests.50 Understandably, reform-minded Spaniards like Geronimo de Uztariz, the author of a highly influential treatise published in 1724 on `the theory and practice of trade', wanted their own comprehensive Colbertian programme, with no selective omissions favouring the British and the French .51

The extraordinary buoyancy of Britain's commercial empire during the first half of the eighteenth century galvanized reform-minded ministers and conscientious royal officials like Uztariz, and prompted vigorous debate about ways in which Spain's American possessions might be made more profitable to the imperial metropolis. One outcome of this debate was a decision to charter a number of monopoly trading companies, on the model of those of France, England and the Dutch Republic, as a means of checking the flow of American contraband goods to foreign merchants. These companies, of which the first was the Royal Guipuzcoa Company for trade with Caracas, founded in 1728 and with its seat in Bilbao, were also intended to benefit the economies of the Iberian periphery, judged to have been prejudiced by the restriction of the transatlantic trade to Seville and Cadiz. Since, however, the new companies were only allowed to trade with marginal regions of America, like Venezuela, which were not directly supplied by the transatlantic convoys, the Andalusian monopoly - considered essential for the retention of control over the silver remittances - remained largely intact. -52

While changes might be introduced on the margins of the transatlantic trading system, the debate really concerned the whole character of Spain's American empire and its relationship to Spain itself. Uztariz himself devoted little direct attention to this, although the question was implicit in his treatise. In 1743, however, Jose del Campillo, a man with personal experience of American administration who had been appointed secretary of the navy and the Indies in 1736, composed a manuscript in which he attempted a full-scale reassessment of Spain's system of government in America.53 `A new method of government', Campillo argued, was needed `in that great portion of the Spanish Monarchy', in order that ,such a rich possession should give us advantages'. At present the islands of Martinique and Barbados brought more benefits to their imperial owners, the French and the British, than all its vast American territories brought to Spain. Why should this be? `Our system of government', he wrote, `is totally vitiated.' `Economic government', as distinct from `political government', had been neglected, and the `spirit of conquest' had been intemperately maintained, with its preference for dominion taking precedence over the advantages and utilities of trade. The empires of England and France, unlike that of Spain, had realized the need to give their colonies `freedom and space, removing the shackles and restrictions oppressing their industry, and first giving them the means to enrich themselves before enriching their mother'.54

Campillo's interpretation of the colonial policies of France and Britain was no doubt excessively rose-tinted, but his treatise, for all the ambiguities of its recommendations and the circumspect terms in which it was couched, is an indication of the way in which Spain's empire was coming to be conceptualized by ministers in Madrid in terms of its potential as a British-style empire of commerce. Sooner or later the new priorities would lead to a systematic reforming effort in the Indies, especially if military and naval expenses generated by continental and overseas wars continued to mount.

The War of Jenkins' Ear, arising in 1739 out of Spanish efforts to cut down on contraband in the West Indies, began as an Anglo-Spanish naval conflict in the Caribbean before being swept up in the wider European conflict over the Austrian succession. On both sides, the costs of war would encourage already existing attempts to tighten the bonds of empire and rethink imperial relationships. In Britain, the war unleashed a patriotic frenzy that turned to triumphalism as the news arrived in March 1740 of Admiral Vernon's capture of Portobelo. Britain's empire of the seas was resoundingly confirmed, and fittingly commemorated in the first singing of Thomas Arne's rendering of `Rule Britannia'.55 The War of Jenkins' Ear, however, generated more than a localized patriotism. It reinforced the sense of a British transatlantic community, by giving the colonies the conviction that they were participating in a joint enterprise, both Protestant and free. In so doing, it strengthened the psychological and emotional bonds that were at least as powerful as the influence of interest groups and the bonds of patronage and commerce in tying them to the mother country.56 Yet at the same time it raised awkward questions about whether the existing structure of empire was adequate to meet the expectations, and satisfy the aspirations, of either the imperial metropolis or the colonies.

In the Spanish Atlantic community, the period of warfare which ended in 1748 with very mixed results could hardly be expected to generate such positive emotional responses. But it brought with it important changes, including the licensing, in response to the hazards of wartime shipping, of transatlantic sailings by single ships in place of the traditional fleets. Even if the monopoly-minded merchants of Seville and Cadiz succeeded in 1757 in reviving the flota to New Spain, the days of the great transatlantic convoys were over. So too were the days of the American trading fairs which traditionally followed the arrival of the fleets.17 Policy and circumstance had combined to introduce a new, if still limited, flexibility into the commercial arrangements of Spain's Atlantic empire.

Except where matters of commerce and war were involved, however, the governments of both Britain and Spain showed no great disposition during the first four decades of the eighteenth century to tamper with the prevailing political and administrative relationship between the imperial centre and its transatlantic possessions. Inertia, bordering on neglect, appeared to be the order of the day - a neglect that was salutary or pernicious according to the perspective adopted.58 But the growing appreciation in both Britain and Spain of the commercial benefits of their Atlantic empires, coupled with the growing costs of imperial defence in an age of great-power conflict on land and sea, meant that the neglect could not continue indefinitely.

Yet change imposed from the imperial metropolis was likely in both instances to aggravate the latent tensions that had existed between the colonial communities and the mother country ever since colonization began. These communities saw themselves, and were seen by the metropolitan societies from which they derived, as constituent parts of polities that spanned the Atlantic - polities more closely integrated in some areas than in others, but none the less united by a common heritage and a whole complex of loyalties and interests. Over their mutual relationship, however, hovered a puzzling question. Were these overseas communities respectively British and Spanish, or were they really something different?

Creole communities

In 1567 Lope Garcia de Castro, the interim governor of Peru, informed the President of the Council of the Indies: `Your Excellency should understand that the people of this land are different from what they were before, because most of the Spaniards who depend on it for their livelihood are old, and many are dead and have been succeeded in the repartimientos [of the Indians] by their sons, and have left many children. As a result, this land is full of criollos, who are those who were born here ...'S9 To the new generation which succeeded that of the conquistadores, the Indies, not Spain, was the only home they knew They were criollos -'native-born'- a word first used in the mid-sixteenth century of black slaves born in the Indies, rather than in Africa.60 In the last twenty or thirty years of the century criollo, as applied to American-born Spaniards, began to catch on in peninsular Spain, to some extent displacing indiano, a term also used to describe someone who returned home from the Indies, having made his fortune. Its growing popularity reflected the existence in America of a new breed of Spaniards, who in some respects might differ from their Spanish-born relatives.

By the early seventeenth century, some form or other of the word criollo had entered the English language, but it was still an unfamiliar term. William Strachey found it necessary to explain its meaning in his The Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania of 1612, when, writing of `the Indian-Crollos', he added in parenthesis `(Spaniards born there) 1.61 In the middle years of the century Thomas Gage's racy account of his experiences in Mexico no doubt helped popularize the word among English readers, while also acquainting them with the antipathy between creoles and new arrivals from Spain, the so-called gachupines or penin- sulares.62 It seems, however, to have been only in the 1680s that English officials, or newly arrived immigrants, began to apply the term creole to their own compatriots born either in the Caribbean or the mainland colonies, or long settled there. Even then, there was some uncertainty about the usage, since creole could equally be applied to American-born blacks.63

Criollo and creole were words more likely to be employed by others to describe European settlers and their descendants, than used by native-born white Americans as a form of self-description. In a famous pamphlet of 1764 the Boston lawyer, James Otis, appended an explanatory note: `Those in England who borrow the term of the Spaniards, as well as their notions of government, apply this term to all Americans of European extract; but the northern colonists apply it only to the islanders [i.e. the West Indies settlers] and others of such extract under the torrid Zone.'64 The descendants of English settlers of America thought of themselves as quintessentially English, just as, in their own eyes, settlers of Spanish descent in the Indies were espanoles, as distinct from indios, mestizos and negros. The term creole, moreover, rapidly acquired a set of negative connotations. Even those who could boast pure Spanish descent, without any admixture of Indian blood, were widely believed among peninsular Spaniards to have gone to seed in the Indies. The seventeenth-century jurist Solorzano y Pereira, coming to their defence, blamed those who, through ignorance or a malicious desire to exclude creoles from offices and honours, liked to claim that they `degenerate so much as a result of the constellations and temper of those provinces, that they lose all the good effects that derive from the influence of Spanish blood', with the result that they were `scarcely worthy of being described as rational beings ...'6s

This notion that those who settled in the Indies ran the risk of degeneration was not confined to the Spanish world. Cotton Mather, in the annual election sermon of 1689 which he preached on the occasion of the opening of the Massachusetts General Court, spoke ominously of `the too general want of education in the rising generation, which if not prevented will gradually but speedily dispose us to that sort of Criolian degeneracy observed to deprave the children of the most noble and worthy Europeans when transplanted into America'.66 Such fears had dogged English settlers since the early days of their migration to a New World environment for which John Winthrop and others claimed an essentially English character, in spite of the climatic evidence to the contrary.67 `For the country itself,' he wrote to his son, `I can discern little difference between it and our own ...'68 But the growing realization that New England was not old England, just as New Spain was not old Spain, opened up the disturbing possibility of Mather's `Criolian degeneracy'.69

If settlers did indeed degenerate in their new transatlantic environment, one plausible explanation was their proximity to the Indians. The fear of cultural degeneration through osmosis was one that had haunted the English in their dealings with the Irish, and they carried it with them in their cultural baggage when they crossed the Atlantic.70 Spanish settlers who had consorted with Indians and grown used to Indian ways seem to have been less exercised by this fear than their English counterparts, but their unwillingness to protect themselves from contaminating Indian influences made them vulnerable to disparaging comments from officials and clerics who had recently come from Spain and did not like what they saw. Criticism was levelled in particular at the employment of Indian nurses and wet-nurses in creole households, not only because, in conditions of such intimacy, these women were likely to instil Indian habits into their creole charges, but also because - on the assumption that a child will `extract the inclinations which it imbibed with the milk' - its `inclinations' would naturally be perverse if the milk was Indian.71 With the creole elite already living a life of idleness and luxury, what hope was there that their children, and in due course their grandchildren, would escape the corrupting consequences of such perverse inclinations?

Above all, however, it was the climate and the constellations that were held responsible for the perceived failings of the creoles. Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, a sympathetic observer of the Indian scene, declared that he was not surprised by the blemishes in the character of the Indians of New Spain, `because the Spaniards who live in this land, and much more those born in it, acquire these evil inclinations. Those who, very like Indians, are born there, resemble Spaniards in appearance, but not in their nature and qualities, while native Spaniards, if they do not take great care, become different people within a few years of their arrival in these regions. I ascribe this to the climate or the constellations of this land.'72

This climatic determinism, a legacy of the classical world of Hippocrates and Galen, and given a fresh impetus in sixteenth-century Europe by the writings of Bodin, was to cast a long shadow over European settlers in America and their descendants.73 It implied that they were doomed to Mather's `Criolian degeneracy', a tendency to descend to the level of the Indians in their manners and morals. This assumed process of creeping Indianization was capable not only of arousing deep anxieties among settlers, but also of creating unflattering stereotypes in the minds of European visitors and observers. A Quito-born creole bishop, Gaspar de Villarroel, who spent nearly ten years in Madrid, wrote in 1661 of his indignation when a Spaniard expressed surprise that an americano should be `as white, and well-formed, as a Spaniard, and speak Castilian just as well'.74

All such stereotypes took as their starting-point the fact, or the assumption, of difference, a difference that was cultural rather than racial, although there was some suspicion that the American environment might in due course lead also to actual physical differentiation. There was anxious debate, for instance, as to whether the descendants of Spaniards who had settled in the Indies would eventually acquire hairless bodies, like those of the Indians.71 It was in response to such concerns about the impact of environment on physique as well as temperament that seventeenth-century creole writers in Spanish America began to develop racialist theories about the Indians, in an effort to differentiate the descendants of the conquerors and settlers from the indigenous population whose environment they shared. It was `nature', not environment, that made Indians what they were; and it was nature that would prevent the environment from turning American-born Spaniards into Indians.76

English settlers, for their part, were keen to deny that the American climate had any adverse impact on their physique, and claimed that English bodies positively flourished in a New World environment, unlike those of the indigenous inhabitants who were dying of disease in their thousands. As Cotton Mather's remarks on `Criolian degeneracy' indicate, however, they were less confident when it came to the cultural consequences of living in America.77 The fear of being tarnished by the slur of cultural degeneration made it important to draw sharp distinctions between themselves and the indigenous population. English colonists seem for a long time to have been reluctant to apply to themselves the epithet American, perhaps because, at least for the Founding Fathers of New England, the `Americans' were the Indians. It is not clear whether the same holds true for Spanish America. Bishop Villarroel, using the word americano in 1661, immediately adds the confusing gloss, `that is, Indian' (indio), although he is clearly referring to creoles. The word americano does not appear in the Spanish Dictionary of Authorities, published in 1726, which suggests the infrequency of its use at that date. As in British America, the association of American with Indian may well have made the word problematic. In spite of occasional use from the later seventeenth century onward, it would only be in the second half of the eighteenth century that the creole inhabitants of both British and Spanish America began to sport American as a badge of pride .71

The attempts by the creoles to disassociate themselves in the minds of their Old World cousins from the non-European inhabitants of America failed to have the desired effect. They were unable to eradicate the perception of difference - a perception that to some extent accorded with reality. It was not simply the presence of indigenous or African populations which made the difference, although this certainly counted for much. As colonial societies were consolidated, they developed their own special characteristics, which began to mark them out in significant ways from the parent society. When, as in the Chesapeake region in the early eighteenth century, immigration from the mother country tapered off and those born on the American side of the ocean came to constitute the majority of the white population, memories of how life was lived in the homeland inevitably grew fainter, and new generations slipped naturally into the patterns of life developed by their parents and grandparents as they adapted to New World conditions.79

Self-interest, however, might well exaggerate allegations of difference in ways prejudicial to settler societies. In seventeenth-century Spanish America there was fierce competition for administrative and ecclesiastical posts between native sons and new arrivals from Spain, and it was to the obvious advantage of the newcomers to harp on the inadequacies of the creoles with whom they were competing. Even if recurrent intermarriage between Spaniards and creoles took the edge off some of the rivalry by uniting peninsulares and old-established settler families in a nexus of interests,80 there is widespread evidence of bitter hostility. Commenting on the tendency of creole women to prefer as husbands poor Spaniards to rich creoles, a Neapolitan traveller who visited Mexico City in 1697 claimed - no doubt with more than a touch of Mediterranean hyperbole - that antipathy had reached a point where the creoles `hate their own parents because they are Europeans'.81

With many fewer administrative posts in the gift of the British than the Spanish crown, one major cause of friction in the relationship between newcomers and colonists was correspondingly reduced in the British Atlantic world, although it was by no means eliminated. Settlers in the Caribbean islands and on the American mainland had constantly to struggle against charges of difference similar to those levelled by the Spaniards against their creole cousins. Disparagement began with slurs on their origins. `Virginia and Barbados', wrote Sir Josiah Child, `were first peopled by a Sort of loose vagrant People, vicious and destitute of Means to live at Home ... and these I say were such as, had there been no English foreign Plantation in the World, could probably never have lived at home to do service for this Country, but must have come to be hanged, or starved, or died untimely of some of those miserable Diseases, that proceed from Want and Vice ... '82

Early negative images were compounded by scandalous reports of the life-style of the settlers. By the early eighteenth century the planters in the Caribbean islands had become a byword for extravagance and debauchery:

Nor did the more sober New Englanders escape disparagement. `Eating, Drinking, Smoking and Sleeping', wrote Ned Ward in 1699, `take up four parts in five of their Time; and you may divide the remainder into Religious Exercise, Day Labour, and Evacuation. Four meals a Day, and a good Knap after Dinner, being the Custom of the Country ... One Husband-man in England, will do more Labour in a Day, than a New-England Planter will be at the pains to do in a Week: For to every Hour he spends in his Grounds, he will be two at an Ordinary [i.e. tavern].'84

Such slurs left the more sensitive settlers with deeply ambivalent feelings. While rejecting the criticisms as coming from malevolent or ill-informed outsiders, they simultaneously worried that they might perhaps be true. This led either to excessively strident rebuttals, or to the kind of defensiveness displayed by the historian of Virginia, Robert Beverley, when he sought to forestall criticisms of his prose style by explaining to the reader in his preface: `I am an Indian, and don't pretend to be exact in my Language ...'85 The very charge of `Indianization' - the charge that British settlers of the mainland feared most of all - was thus self-deprecatingly turned into a weapon of defence.

The first line of defence among the creoles, whether English or Spanish, was to emphasize their inherent Englishness or Spanishness, qualities which neither distance, climate nor proximity to inferior peoples were capable of erasing. Ignoring the juridical inconvenience that the Indies were conquests of the Crown of Castile, the creole inhabitants of the kingdoms of New Spain or Peru claimed comparable rights to those enjoyed by the king's subjects in his kingdoms of Castile or Aragon. Faced with new levies and imposts, they would have had no difficulty in identifying with the Barbadian planter in 1689 who complained that Barbadians were being `commanded as subjects and ... crusht as Aliens'.86 Any imputation that they were in some sense alien was deeply offensive to those who regarded themselves as entitled by birth to the status and rights of metropolitan-born subjects of the crown.

Insinuations of inferiority were particularly offensive to those creoles who claimed legitimate descent from the original conquerors of Spanish America. As the conquest itself receded into the distance, and the descendants of the conquistadores found that newcomers were preferred before them in appointments to offices, they grew increasingly embittered. `We are Spaniards - somos espanoles', wrote Baltasar Dorantes de Carranza in the early seventeenth century, as he lovingly recorded the names of the conquistadores and their descendants, and claimed that, since he and his like belonged to the `harvest and government' of Spain, they should be governed by its laws and customs.87 Because of the heroic achievements of their fathers and grandfathers, such men should be honoured and rewarded, not rejected and excluded. Yet their petitions and complaints were ignored.

Although officers of Cromwell's expeditionary force who remained on the island as planters liked to refer to themselves as `the conquerors of Jamaica',88 British America, unlike Spanish America, could claim no conquering elite. But this did not prevent the emerging class of Virginia planters from seeking to establish their claims to gentility on the model of the English gentry, just as the descendants of the conquistadores sought to model their own life-styles on the real or imagined life-styles of Castilian senores. When Virginian planters travelled to London they acquired coats of arms and had their portraits painted; and when they returned home to Virginia they built themselves handsome new brick houses, and displayed all the enthusiasm for horse-racing of their English counterparts.S9 Unlike Spanish settlers in the Indies, some of them, like William Byrd I, sent their sons back to the mother country for their education, although never on the scale of the West Indian planters, large numbers of whom chose an English education for their sons.90 The experience, at least as far as William Byrd II was concerned, seems to have led to a deep ambivalence. Never quite accepted by his fellow schoolboys at Felsted, he did his best to become the perfect English gentleman. Yet somehow his colonial origins thwarted all his efforts. Too colonial to be entirely at ease in England, and for a long time too English to be entirely at ease in his native Virginia, he was caught between two worlds without truly belonging to either.9'

The sense of exclusion, experienced to a greater or lesser degree by Byrd and his fellow colonials who visited the mother country or came into contact with unsympathetic representatives of the crown, was especially painful because it implied second-class status in a transatlantic polity of which they believed themselves to be fully paid-up members. Just as Dorantes de Carranza complained in 1604 that the descendants of the conquistadores were not enjoying the equal treatment with native-born Castilians to which they were entitled by the laws of Castile, so, exactly 100 years later, Robert Beverley complained on behalf of Virginia's House of Burgesses that `it's laid as a crime to them that they think themselves entitled to the liberties of Englishmen.'92 The rights of Castilians and the liberties of Englishmen were being denied them by their own kith and kin.

Yet even as they demanded full recognition of those rights, not least as evidence of a shared identity with their metropolitan cousins, they could not shake off the uneasy suspicion that the community of identity was perhaps less complete than they would have wished. The revealing comment of a sixteenth-century Spanish immigrant to the Indies suggests that some of them at least were conscious of a difference in themselves. In a letter to a cousin in Spain he wrote that, on returning home, he would not be what he had previously been, `because I shall return so different (tan otro) from what I was, that those who knew me will say that I am not I ...'93 His comment was an unsolicited testimonial to the transforming power of the American environment, for good or for ill.

Since metropolitan observers seemed in little doubt that the transformation was for ill, it was natural that the creoles, even as they proclaimed their identity with their Old World kith and kin, should seek to counter charges of inevitable degeneracy by loudly singing the praises of their New World environment. In the American viceroyalties a succession of writers sought to depict their American homeland as an earthly paradise, producing the fruits of the earth in abundance, and climatically benign. New Spain and the kingdoms of Peru, wrote Fray Buenaventura de Salinas, `enjoy the mildest climate in the world'. It was a climate that ennobled the spirit and elevated the mind, and so it was not surprising that those who lived in Lima should do so `with satisfaction and pleasure, and look upon it as their patria'.94 The pride of place - a place uniquely blessed by God - was to be the cornerstone of the increasingly elaborate edifice of creole patriotism.95

During the seventeenth century the creoles of New Spain began to develop a strong sense of the location of their own distinctive space in both the geographical and the providential ordering of the universe. To the east lay the Old World of Europe and Africa. To the west lay the Philippines, that distant outpost of Hispanic and Christian civilization which formed an extension to the viceroyalty of New Spain, and served as a natural gateway to the fabled lands of the East. Their homeland, therefore, was situated at the centre of the world.96 Historically, too, as well as geographically, they bridged the different worlds. Had not the apostle Saint Thomas, coming from Jerusalem, preached the gospel in the Indies as well as in India, and might not Saint Thomas be identified with Quetzalcoatl, the bearded god-hero of the ancient inhabitants of central Mexico, as the great Mexican savant Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora affirmed?97 Even if the identification was disputed, there was no doubt in creole minds that their patria enjoyed a providential status. Following the publication in 1648 of a treatise by Miguel Sanchez recounting the miraculous origins of the Virgin of Guadalupe, her cult acquired a wide following among the creole population of New Spain. The Virgin, it seemed, had graciously cast her protective mantle over their beloved patria (fig. 21).98

The increasingly regionalized American patrias of the creoles came to be located not only in space, but also in time. The conquest and conversion of the Indies were decisive and heroic achievements, worthy of eternal remembrance. But while they marked a decisive new beginning, it was not a beginning ex nihilo. The presence of such large numbers of Indians, and the survival in Mexico and the Andes of so many relics of the Indian past, drew attention to a more distant, if largely barbarous, antiquity. It clearly suited the self-image of the conquistadores as a warrior caste to dwell on the heroic qualities of the peoples they had vanquished.99 With the Indians safely defeated, the way was open, at least in New Spain, to idealize certain aspects of the pre-Columbian civilization that Cortes had overthrown.

If writers like Bernardo de Balbuena, in his poem of 1604, Grandeza mexicana, celebrated the beauties of the Mexico City built by the Spaniards, they were also very conscious of the vanished splendors of its Aztec predecessor, the great city of Tenochtitlan, once described by Hernan Cortes in such glowing terms. There was an increasing tendency to emphasize the continuities between the old and the new, as in the depiction on the city's banner, as well as on prominent buildings, of the Mexica's device of the eagle perched on a cactus with a serpent in its beak.10° This process of appropriating selected features of the Aztec past and incorporating them into the history of the creole patria reached a climax in the famous triumphal arch designed by Siguenza y Gongora for the entry into Mexico City of the new viceroy, the Marquis of La Laguna, in 1680. The arch carried statues of the twelve Mexica emperors since the foundation of Tenochtitlan in 1327, with each emperor representing a different heroic virtue, as if they were so many heroes of classical antiquity. Even the defeated Montezuma, and Cuauhtemoc, the defiant defender of Tenochtitlan, were accorded their place in the pantheon.1 '

A Mexican-style appropriation of the pre-Columbian past in order to endow the creole patria with a mythical antiquity was more problematic in Peru, where indigenous resistance was more persistent and more menacing than in New Spain. The mestizo Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, nostalgically writing the history of his homeland in far-away Andalusia, constructed for it a developmental narrative in his Royal Commentaries of the Incas. Primitive Peru with its multiplicity of gods had given way to the sun-worshipping Incaic Peru of his ancestors, only to be replaced in turn by the Peru of his own times, to which the Spaniards had brought the inestimable knowledge of the one true God.102 Garcilaso offered a vision of the Andean past - and with it of a utopian future - that was to prove highly attractive to an indigenous nobility which survived better under Spanish rule than its Mexican counterparts. But equally this vision held fewer attractions for a creole society uneasily aware of the influence exercised by the local Indian leaders (the curacas) over the sullen indigenous population of the Andes, and afraid that one day it might rise in revolt to restore the empire of the Incas. Slowly, however, attitudes began to change. It became fashionable among Peruvian creoles in the later seventeenth century to possess complete portrait series of the Inca rulers, but it was not until the eighteenth century that a patriotic ideology embracing the period of Inca rule began to attract sections of the creole population.'°3

Treacherous or warlike Indians needed to be remote, in time and space, before they could be safely appropriated into creole patriotic mythology. In much of British America they were neither. Those of Virginia, described by Beverley in the early eighteenth century as `almost wasted',104 lacked the ancient grandeur of the civilization of the Mexica, while the Indians of New England were all too close. When writing their narratives of the Indian wars of the later seventeenth century the New England Puritans defined themselves in terms of their relationship with their adversaries, the pagan Indians and the papist French.105 This self-imagining reinforced their sense of their own Englishness, and of the Englishness of the world they had created for themselves in the wilderness. `As we went along', wrote Mary Rowlandson, in her poignant narrative of captivity among the Indians, `I saw a place where English cattle had been: that was comfort to me, such as it was: quickly after that we came to an English path which so took with me, that I thought I could have freely laid down and died. 1106

The creole inhabitants of the Spanish American heartlands, who had no need to fortify their towns against Indian attack, could afford to distance themselves somewhat from the mother country and begin fashioning a distinctive and partially `American' identity, incorporating, if necessary, an Indian dimension in ways still impossible for the colonists of New England. For these, the only safe Indian had become a dead Indian. Only during the course of the eighteenth century, as the Indian menace started to recede, would a few Indians begin to be silhouetted by the colonists on the skyline of their imagined American landscape, as exemplifications either of Roman martial virtues or of unspoilt natural man. 107

Unable to endow their communities with the respectability of time stretching away into a distant Indian antiquity, British settlers needed to find other arguments to support their cause when confronted by metropolitan disparagement and contempt. As long as it remained faithful to its origins, New England could justify itself in terms of its self-proclaimed mission as a city on a hill. This gave a strong providentialist and religious cast to an emerging local patriotism which in this respect had obvious affinities with the local patriotism of the creole communities of the Spanish Indies. For other colonies, the task of identity construction was harder, and it proved easier to look to the future than to dwell on the past. The appropriate note was struck by Robert Beverley in The History and Present State of Virginia when he wrote: `This part of Virginia, now inhabited, if we consider the Improvements in the Hands of the English, it cannot upon that Score be commended: but if we consider its natural Aptitude to be improv'd, it may with Justice be accounted one of the finest Countries in the World.'108 English settlers had the duty of improving and transforming the land with which they had been blessed.

The expression of such aspirations fitted well with the developmental ideology of the commercial society of eighteenth-century England, where it could help to reinforce the metropolitan commitment to overseas colonization and legitimize the activities of the colonists. This was all the more necessary because of the widespread assumption in the mother country that all too many of the colonists, especially in the Caribbean, were mere lay-abouts. The planters and settlers therefore seized on the language of improvement as a useful device for justifying their record, in an attempt to rebut the slanderous allegations made against their lifestyles. Richard Ligon, in his True and Exact History of the Barbadoes, neatly turned the tables: `Others there are that have heard of the pleasures of Barbadoes, but are loth to leave the pleasures of England behind them. These are of sluggish humour, and are altogether unfit for so noble an undertaking ... So much is a sluggard detested in a Countrey, where Industry and Activity is to be exercised. '10' This language of industry, activity and improvement was ubiquitous in the British transatlantic world of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. No longer restricted to turning the land to good account, `improvement' now had a wide range of connotations, which ran from making a profitable investment to cultivating one's character. It implied, too, the process of acquiring gentility or civility - a process which, for members of settler communities, could be equated with the construction of their societies on a model resembling as nearly as possible that of the mother country."'

At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the challenge to replicate the norms and customs of the mother country was especially strong in the Caribbean colonies, where the social structure of the island communities, with white minorities asserting their mastery over rapidly expanding black populations, bore little relation to that of the English society that they sought to emulate. For this reason the planters found it all the more necessary to prove that they had not degenerated in tropical climes and lost their Englishness. `They being English', wrote Sir Dalby Thomas in 1690, `and having all their commerce from England, will always be imitating the Customs, and Fashions of England, both as to Apparrell, household-Furniture, Eating and Drinking &c. For it is impossible for them to forget from where they come, or even to be at rest (after they have arrived to a Plentifull Estate) untill they settle their Families in England ...'~~i

Many Caribbean planters were inclined to think of themselves as transient residents of islands from which they would return to the mother country to live as country gentlemen once their fortunes were made. This distinguished them from the mass of settlers in the mainland colonies, whose prime commitment was American. But even as these mainland settlers came to identify themselves with the land which they and their forefathers had `improved', they too remained anxious to display their English credentials and to share in the refinements of the polite and commercial society of eighteenth-century England. The scale of the black population in the southern colonies, and the menacing presence of the Indians in the forests of the north, were standing encouragements to maintain and strengthen ties with an English homeland which diminishing numbers of them had ever seen.

As Sir Dalby Thomas indicated, one way of asserting Englishness was to imitate the latest metropolitan fashions. Since the beginnings of colonization the settlers had looked to the mother country for inspiration as they constructed their transatlantic lives, and for the supply of such material objects as they could not produce themselves. As the ties of commerce were strengthened, it was natural that the colonies, as cultural provinces of Britain, should share the aspirations of growing numbers of Britons for more genteel forms of living and an increasing array of comforts.112 The process began at the top of the social scale in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as rich merchants and planters built their new brick mansions on the latest English pattern, with a parlour taking the place of the old hall, and the creation of an open stairway ascending to the second floor as the central feature of the house.113 Often, especially in the Caribbean, fashion tended to win out over practical considerations, as planters constructed houses in the most fashionable English style, with little regard for the difference between an English and a tropical climate. Sir Hans Sloane noted the difference in Jamaica between Spanish houses, with their tiled floors, shuttered windows and great double doors, and those built by the English, which `are neither cool, nor able to endure the shocks of Earthquakes'. 114

In practice, most colonial houses remained, as in Maryland,"' simple frame or log constructions, but the new or remodelled mansions helped to set new standards for gracious living, as their occupants surrounded themselves with growing numbers of chairs and tables, plates and glassware, knives and forks."' What once were seen as luxuries were coming to be regarded as necessities, although there was, and remained, a counter-current in the culture of the mainland colonies which favoured plain living over luxurious new refinements. `This man', wrote a diarist of Robert Beverley in 1715, `lives well; but though rich, he has nothing in or about his house but what is necessary ...111' The kind of austerity practised by Beverley was likely to have more resonance in a society which, even while becoming acquainted with the pleasures of refinement, spoke the language of hard work and improvement, than in one where, as in the Spanish viceroyalties, there was no effective rallying cry against the values exemplified by conspicuous consumption.

While church and state in Spanish America fought a long but losing battle to maintain an ordered, hierarchical and respectable society through the regulation of codes of dress, the blurring of the lines of social and ethnic distinction produced by inter-ethnic marriage or cohabitation tended to encourage extravagance in dress and adornment. `Both men and women', wrote a disapproving Thomas Gage, `are excessive in their apparel, using more silks than stuffs and cloth ... A hat-band and rose made of diamonds in a gentleman's hat is common, and a hatband of pearls is ordinary in a tradesman. Nay, a blackamoor or tawny young maid and slave will make hard shift, but she will be in fashion with her neck-chain and bracelets of pearls, and her ear-bobs of some considerable jewels.'" As creoles, mestizos, mulattoes and blacks bedecked themselves with an extravagance that shocked and dismayed the authorities, it is clear that the population at large had come to see richness of apparel as a fairer measure of social status than the colour of one's skin.

By contrast, in the North American colonies, where black was black and white was white and there was little in between, those who chose to cultivate austerity on religious or ethical grounds were not haunted by the fear that the choice of a frugal life-style would undermine their social worth. Indeed, as Beverley's comportment suggested, frugality might send out as powerful a social message as conspicuous consumption. Yet, in British America too, the pressures to consume were growing, as the colonial societies found themselves caught up in an expanding commercial empire, an `empire of goods'. From the 1740s, as British manufacturers, in their search for profitable markets, turned their attention to the possibilities offered by a rapidly expanding American population and made available to it an increasing number and range of goods at affordable prices, the rush to consume in the mainland colonies became vertiginous. Growing supply was matched, or exceeded, by growing demand."'

The response of the North American colonists indicated that it was not only hierarchically organized societies, like those of Spanish America, that were driven by the urge for conspicuous consumption. A rough equality of status generated its own pressures to keep ahead of one's neighbours. The desire to follow the latest metropolitan fashions, however, also responded to a collective psychological need. The colonists needed to prove to themselves, as well as to their parent societies, that they had triumphed over the innate barbarism of their New World environment. Yet it would not be easy to persuade sceptical Europeans that their efforts had transformed America into an outpost of civility.

Cultural communities

The British and Hispanic communities that bridged the Atlantic were at least as much cultural communities as political and commercial. Spanish colonization, however, was driven, far more strongly than British colonization, by the urge to raise the indigenous inhabitants of America to the levels of civility which Europeans claimed as unique to themselves. From the start, this gave Spain's colonial enterprise a strong religious and cultural dimension that did much to shape the development of its transatlantic possessions. The priority given by church and crown to policia - civility - made it natural for the creoles, from an early stage, to point with pride to their cultural achievements. In 1554, only a generation after the conquest, Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, one of the first teachers in the newly founded university of Mexico, published a set of Latin dialogues in which two citizens pointed out to a newcomer some of the sights of Mexico City - its broad and regular streets, its handsome houses, its viceregal palace adorned with columns of Vitruvian proportions. The dialogues, dwelling with special pride on the university, gave the author an opportunity to blow his own trumpet. As one of the participants in his dialogues explained, Cervantes de Salazar had done his best to ensure that `young Mexicans', by the time they left the university, should be `erudite and eloquent, so that our illustrious land should not remain in obscurity for lack of writers, who until now have been in short supply'.120

By 1700, Spanish America could boast nineteen universities, as against the two colleges in British America - Harvard and William and Mary - rising to three with the founding of the future Yale University in 1701.121 Although many of them were at best mediocre, the Spanish American universities were a source of intense regional pride, and seventeenth-century creole writers lovingly listed the names of the luminaries they had produced.122 Yet, as Bishop Villarroel complained in 1651, the merits of their graduates were ignored by the Spanish authorities. It seemed to be assumed in Madrid that only in the university of Salamanca were the letters and learning requisite for service to church and state to be found.123

Such complaints reflect the uneasy relationship normally to be found between a metropolitan centre and its cultural provinces. The provinces receive, and seek to imitate, the high styles of the metropolis, only to find their efforts dismissed as `provincial' and crude. Imitation, however, is only a part, and not necessarily the most important part, of a relationship that is often too complex to be summarily reduced to questions of mimesis and influence. Distance from the sources can inspire creative transformation, as the artistic achievements of colonial Hispanic America amply testify. 121

The `Spanish' culture transmitted to the societies of the Indies by way of Seville was itself a hybrid culture. In religion, literature and the visual arts, peninsular Spain was exposed to a variety of influences, and most immediately those coming from its dominions in the Netherlands and Italy. As the centre of a world-wide empire - a centre dominated by a highly formalized court, a powerful church and a wealthy and cultivated elite - it sought to accommodate those influences to its own tastes and needs, while passing on to the outlying parts of its empire fashions and styles that arrived with the cachet of metropolitan approval.

The most direct transmitters of peninsular styles and techniques to Spanish America were the painters, architects and craftsmen who crossed the Atlantic to use their skills in a new and potentially rewarding environment - artists like the sixteenth-century Flemish painter Simon Pereyns, or the Aragonese artist and architect, Pedro Garcia Ferrer, who travelled with Bishop Palafox to New Spain in 1640 and played a crucial part in the completion of the bishop's most durable monument, Puebla cathedral.121 Styles and images were primarily diffused across America, however, through books, engravings and imported works of art. Many of these were specifically intended for the American market, like the canvases produced in Zurbaran's workshop in Seville, or Flemish engravings and paintings on canvas or copper, done initially in the mannerist style and subsequently assuming baroque forms under the influence of Rubens.126

Inevitably there was a time-lag. This was especially true of architecture, since many of the great cathedrals, like those of Mexico City, Puebla, Lima and Cuzco, were begun to designs drawn by Philip II's architects, but often had to wait for their completion until well into the seventeenth century.'27 By the last third of the seventeenth century, however, Spanish America was using with growing assurance the visual and architectural language of Spanish baroque, itself a hybrid language with strong Italian and Flemish components. To this were added further, more specifically American, and even oriental, components, in response to local tastes and requirements. Biombos, for instance, the Japanese-inspired folding screens which divided up the spaces in upper-class Mexican houses, reflected the Asian influences introduced into New Spain through the Acapulco galleon trade with Manila (fig. 23). Indigenous craftsmen in the sixteenth century, working with materials traditional to their own culture, like feathers, were quick to appropriate European models and then reinterpret them in their own fashion, manipulating the visual language of the conquerors to reshape it as their own (fig. 24).128 Now, a century later, and more fully integrated into urban life, they continued to bring their own stylistic traditions to a baroque culture that sought to enfold within its capacious embrace all the ethnic and social groupings of an increasingly variegated and complex society.

American expressions of this baroque culture, whether in its visual or literary manifestations, might well be too naive, or too overwrought, to meet with the approval of those whose tastes had been formed in Seville or Madrid. To peninsular Spaniards the turns of phrase employed by the creoles could appear as convoluted as the gilded wooden retablos that framed the altars of their churches. 121 Yet between 1670 and the 1760s the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru succeeded in creating a distinctive Hispano-American culture that transcended replication, and represented a genuine transmutation of the forms and images borrowed from Spain (fig. 25).

This distinctive culture was to be seen in the vast theatrical canvases of the greatest of Mexican baroque painters, Cristobal de Villalpando, and in the depictions of elegant arquebusier angels and archangels by anonymous painters of the Cuzco school (figs 27 and 18).130 It was to be seen, too, in the ornate work of Peruvian silversmiths (fig. 28),131 and in the spectacular churches that arose in New Spain and the Andes, with their elaborate baroque facades and their interior surfaces intricately decorated by Indian and mestizo craftsmen and dazzling with gold. It found expression in the scintillating poems written in her Mexico City convent by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, described in the second (1690) edition as ,the unique American poetess, the tenth muse . . .' (fig. 29) 132 and in the ingenious erudition of Sor Juana's friend and admirer, Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, mathematician, natural scientist, historian and philosopher.133

Literary and artistic tastes in Spain's American cultural provinces suggest that the creoles had set themselves to outperform the productions of the mother country in their pursuit of an idiom that would express their own distinctive individuality. At the same time, however, the kind of culture they were in process of creating possessed an internal coherence which suggests that it was well attuned to the characteristics of the racially mixed societies now developing in the Indies. It was, above all, a culture of show, in which imagery was called upon to promote the social and political aspirations of these increasingly complex communities. The sense of theatre was everywhere. Essentially urban, and overwhelmingly religious, this was a creole-dominated culture, which found its most popular expression in the fiestas and processions that formed a constant accompaniment to city life. These great ceremonial events, marking significant occasions in the life of the church and the monarchy, were so orchestrated as to create the illusion of an integrated society, every section of which was entitled to its own carefully delineated space. Ethnic and social tensions found miraculous, if temporary, resolution as all ranks of society came together to express their allegiance and devotion to the higher powers that ruled their lives - God and the king. Through these celebrations the authorities could remind the people that they were participants in a universal order. Yet the universal found its counterpoise in the particular, as creole elites used the celebrations to proclaim the unique glories of their various patrias.'34

There was nothing comparable to all this in the contemporary cultural life of the British colonies, although, in so far as Britain itself participated in an international culture of the baroque, North America, too, felt its influence. The selfconscious erudition of Cotton Mather, with its philosophical speculations deeply rooted in theological certainty, had something in common with that of Siguenza y Gongora, his contemporary in New Spain (figs 30 and 31).1;5 The morbid and the miraculous were far from being the exclusive prerogative of Hispanic, or Latin, civilization, and the Puritan culture of Massachusetts was not without its own tendencies towards `baroque' excess. Nor were the reading tastes of the two colonial worlds widely dissimilar, as a comparison of the inventories of book dealers in Boston and Mexico City in 1683 reveals. Readers in both cities, while turning to the classics and history, showed a strong preference for devotional works, sermons and moral disquisitions. Only where dramatic literature was concerned was there a real parting of the ways. Spanish America, where companies of actors gave public performances of plays written by Spanish or local playwrights in the major urban centres, was an enthusiastic participant in the theatrical culture of the metropolis. New England was not, and its hostility to the theatre was shared by Quaker Pennsylvania, where in 1682 the assembly prohibited the introduction of stage plays and masques. Although small troupes of actors from England toured the southern colonies with some success in the opening decades of the eighteenth century, it was not until the 1750s that the theatre in any sustained form arrived in North America, and hostility remained deeply rooted in Philadelphia and New England.136

If Spanish America far outshone British America in the coherence and sophistication of its cultural life at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there were good reasons for this. Spanish America, unlike British America, had created an urban civilization, in which civic elites, largely Jesuit-educated 117 and with time on their hands, spoke a common religious and cultural language that spanned the continent. The viceregal courts of Mexico City and Lima transmitted to the New World the latest fashions in the court culture of the Old, and provided the patronage and the setting for the kind of activities that lay at the heart of baroque culture - dramatic spectacles, masquerades and literary jousts, in which competitors sought to outdo each other in elaborate conceits and ingenious word-play. Above all, a rich and powerful church had not only stamped its authority on society, but deployed its massive resources to convey its message to vast populations through spectacle and imagery.

The scattered populations of British America possessed neither the resources nor the political and religious cohesion to follow suit. The majority of Britain's colonies were still struggling societies, far younger than those of the Spanish Indies. Only in 1743 was Benjamin Franklin able to write that the first Drudgery of Settling new Colonies, which confines the attention of People to mere Necessaries, is now pretty well over; and there are many in every Province in Circumstances that set them at Ease, and afford Leisure to cultivate the finer Arts, and improve the common Stock of Knowledge. 138

Over the preceding three decades certain sections of colonial society had in fact already transcended `the first Drudgery of Settling new Colonies' and revealed a quickening interest in acquiring the refinements of life, as their increasing expenditure on clothes and furnishings from England made clear. Their civic projects, too, had become more ambitious, although, in contrast to Spanish America, ceremonial considerations tended to take second place to commercial. Sir Christopher Wren's plans for the rebuilding of London in 1667, themselves inspired by French town-planning, may partly have inspired the design of Annapolis. Planned by Governor Francis Nicholson of Maryland in 1694, this was intended to be a characteristically baroque city, its principal streets radiating outwards from two circles, which housed respectively the centre of colonial government and the Anglican church. It was Nicholson, too, who as governor of Virginia, projected the colony's new capital of Williamsburg, where the governor's `palace', begun in 1706 in the manner of Wren, helped set the fashion for `Virginian baroque' - the style chosen by planters and gentry for the mansions they constructed in the following decades.139

Even the grandest of these mansions, however, were small-scale affairs when compared with the magnificent country houses that the English nobility were building for themselves (fig. 32).140 If these testified to a wealth beyond compare, it was none the less true that substantial wealth was to be found on the American seaboard, both among the southern planters and in port cities like Philadelphia, where the urban professional classes built their town houses in the style made fashionable in the home country by Wren. But the colonies were as yet no more than distant cultural provinces of a Britain still establishing its own criteria for gentility. Colonial patrons remained uncertain about the fashions they should follow, while craftsmen who commanded the latest styles and techniques remained in short supply.

It is not therefore surprising that the cultural achievements of Britain's American colonies around the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were a good deal less independent of their sources than those of their Spanish American counterparts. In general, the English colonies were still at the stage of imitation, and had yet to transmute metropolitan influences into distinctive and original styles of their own. The very absence, indeed, of an indigenous workforce, of the kind to be found in the Spanish viceroyalties, may have reduced the chances for originality and innovation, although the presence of Dutch and German colonists offered the possibility of creative alternatives to predominantly British tastes and fashions.

Nevertheless, a distinctive British American culture did begin to emerge as the eighteenth century progressed. When contrasted with Spanish America's culture of show, it could fittingly be described as a culture of restraint (fig. 26). Although the pursuit of English-style gentility by the wealthier colonists meant that they were happy to fill their houses with growing quantities of English luxury goods, and to deck themselves out in the latest English fashions with printed cottons, linen, ribbons and lace imported from Britain, their taste, more classical than exuberantly baroque when it came to the construction of their houses or to their locally produced furniture, tended towards the simple, the convenient and the practical. This taste, which gave rise to a degree of stylistic uniformity through the mainland colonies, no doubt drew its inspiration both from New England's traditional culture of moderation, and from a Chesapeake culture that had long emphasized the virtues of simplicity, perhaps as a form of self-protection against English gibes about the backwardness of the colonies in the arts of civilization. 141

A similar restraint was apparent in the approach of the North American colonial elite to commissioning and acquiring works of art. There was a brisk market in prints imported from England, but the only paintings on their walls were likely to be portraits of themselves and family members. Painted for the most part in a highly formulaic manner by artists who travelled through the colonies in search of commissions, these family portraits were a mark of social status and a record for posterity of personal and family achievement (fig. 33). To the frustration of the more talented artists there was no market for still lifes, landscapes or genre scenes. Nor, in a Protestant society, was there any demand for the devotional paintings which provided a living for so many artists in the Hispanic world, although biblical scenes were popular subjects for the prints with which the colonists decorated their walls. Lacking the patronage provided in Spanish America by the church and the viceregal courts, and restricted to the endless production of family portraits, it is not surprising that the more ambitious North American artists of the eighteenth century - Benjamin West, Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stuart - should have set their sights on London. They went, not only in search of fame and fortune, but also to study the works of the great European masters and enjoy the wider creative possibilities that were not available to them at home.142 By contrast, large numbers of original Spanish and Flemish paintings were available in Spanish America for studying and copying, 14' and Mexican and Peruvian artists apparently felt no comparable need to travel to Madrid.

Artists and craftsmen in Spanish and British America alike, however, were caught between conforming and not conforming to Old World conventions. When artists, writers and artisans produced their own innovative variations on the styles reaching them from Europe, fidelity to the original still remained the measure by which Europeans judged their cultural attainments. Creoles, for their part, believed that the more closely they approached the levels of civilization of the mother country, the stronger would be their claims for inclusion in a partnership of esteem. Yet, even as they struggled to assert those claims, they were striving to find and assert an identity that was distinctively their own.

Not surprisingly, the effort to reconcile these conflicting aspirations proved to be a source of tension and anxiety. The stronger the determination of creole communities to demonstrate their similarity to the mother country, the more obvious it became, not only to Europeans but also to themselves, that the resemblance fell short. This paradox had far-reaching implications both for their own future and for that of their parent societies. If ever the moment should arrive when, in an act of collective rejection, they should choose to base their identity, not on the expectation of similarity but on the assertion of difference, they would be turning their backs on that larger community in which their fondest dream was to be accepted as full partners by their transatlantic cousins.

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