Thomas Davis on the fears about the Spanish and Native Americans
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Q: There's a real fear that external forces could take advantage of that population, Spanish as well as Native Americans. Talk a bit about the fears that are part of that economy.
A: The Americas of the late sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth century are a place that's hotly contested. The Europeans are vying among themselves for hegemony over particular areas. That struggle and strife is going to go on, really until the time of the American Revolution. One of the things that it does is to make life in the colonies for the various populations very unsettled, very insecure. The English colonists who are living in South Carolina are fearful of the Spanish in Florida. They think that the Spanish are going to encroach upon them and take them over. And after all, the English have come and encroached on the Spanish to begin with. So there is this continual ebb and flow. People in the colonies are very watchful of what's going on in Europe, because what's going on in Europe very directly affects them. If a war breaks out between Great Britain and Spain, then the English colonists in South Carolina worry that Spanish armies and navies will come up from the Caribbean, will come up from Florida. This is a time when the Spanish are losing territory to the British, and vice-versa. But the British are increasingly dominant. But there is this basic insecurity that is an element of life. Added to that insecurity is the question of identification and loyalty and allegiance. To whom do the Africans and the African Americans owe allegiance and loyalty? Are they part of us or are they part of them? Will they side with us or will they side with them? We see them as having grievances against us. After all, we are holding them captive and exploiting their labor. We are impinging on their life. We are standing between them and freedom. It is natural for us, then, to suspect and to expect that they will make common cause with an enemy against us. So that as foreign enemies gather to the shore or loom in the distance, the English colonists are very much afraid that their domestic enemies, whom they conceive the enslaved Africans to be, will rise up and exact a just vengeance.
Thomas J. Davis
Professor of History
Arizona State University
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