In 1513 the Spanish explorer, Ponce De Leon discovered Florida. Five years later another captain from Spain, Cabeza de Vaca, led a small party that explored parts of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Other Spanish adventurers who made important discoveries included Francisco Coronado who traveled up the Colorado River (1540) and Hernando de Soto who explored the |Mississippi River (1541).
In the 16th century Spain took control of Florida, California and the south-west region of America. About 200,000 Spaniards migrated to the new world and founded some 200 settlements in the Americas. St. Augustine, Florida, founded by Pedro Merendez in 1565, was the first permanent settlement established by Europeans in what is now the United States. Other important settlement established by the Spanish in America included Sante Fe, Albuquerque, El Paso, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, San Jose, Monterey, and Los Angeles. The Spanish mined precious metals and was able to ship back to Europe large quantities of gold and silver.
In the 16th century English explorers were sent to the New World to seek a passage to the Indies. However, gradually the government became more concerned with establishing overseas colonies. It was hoped that these territories would provide an outlet for her surplus population, a source of raw materials for her expanding industries and a market for its manufactured goods.
In 1607 James I granted permission for a group of merchants to establish a permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown, Virginia. At first the venture attracted adventurers who hoped to make their fortunes in the colonies. The idea also appealed to people who were being persecuted for their political and religious beliefs.
The Dutch first arrived in America in 1609 when the Dutch East India Company vessel De Halve Maen, commanded by the English captain, Henry Hudson, laid anchor at Sandy Hook, before sailing up what is nw known as the Hudson River.
In 1614 Dutch merchants established a trading post at Fort Orange. Ten years later thirty families came from Holland to establish a settlement that became known as New Netherland. The Dutch government gave exclusive trading rights to the Dutch West India Company and over the next few years other colonists arrived a large settlement was established on Manhattan Island. Peter Minuit, who became governor of New Netherland, purchased the island from Native Americans in 1626 for $24 worth of trinkets, beads and knives. The chief port on Manhattan was named New Amsterdam.
To encourage further settlement, theDutch West India Company offered free land along the Hudson River. Families who came from Holland to establish estates in this area included the Roosevelts, the Stuyvesants and the Schuylers. Peter Stuyvesant became governor in 1646 and during his eighteen year administration, the population grew from 2,000 to 8,000. Descendants of these early settlers included three presidents of the United States: Martin Van Buren (1837-41), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45)
The arrival of people from England grew steadily and by 1650 the population of Virginia reached 15,000. Settlements spread from the banks of the James River to the York and Rappahannock Rivers. Others decided to leave the coastal regions and move inland. In 1685 the population of Virginia had grown to 60,000.
Another important English settlement was established in Massachusetts. In 1630 over 1,000 Puritans came to the Massachusetts Bay area and built homes in and around Boston. With harsh laws being passed in England against those criticising the Anglican Church, a further 20,000 Puritans arrived over the next ten years.
In 1628, George Calvert, first Lord Baltimore, decided to create a safe haven in the New World for Roman Catholics being persecuted for their religious beliefs in England. Calvert and his son, Leonard Calvert spent the summer in Newfoundland but its severe winter encouraged him to sail south in search of better land. He landed in Virginia but the English colonists rejected him and he went back to Ireland.
In 1632 Calvert sent Leonard Calvert and 300 settlers back to America. However, he died before his son established a new colony, Maryland, at the mouth of the Potomac River. Calvert became Maryland's first governor and although he retained ownership of the land he agreed to make laws only after consulting the freemen of the colony.
In 1638 the Swedish government employed Peter Minuit, to help them establish a colony at Christina in Delaware Bay. The Swedes became involved in the fur and tobacco trades and this brought them into conflict with Dutch and English settlers. In 1655 Peter Stuyvesantarrived in 1655 with a formidable armada and took the Swedish settlement by force.
In 1664 the English fleet arrived and demanded the surrender of the New Netherlands. Peter Stuyvesant wanted to fight but without the support of the other settlers, he was forced to allow the English to take control of the territory. New Amsterdam now became New York. Other name changes included Albany (Fort Orange), Kingston (Wiltwyck) and Wilmington (Fort Christina).
William Penn, a wealthy Quaker, purchased a large area of land in America from Charles II in 1681. Penn saw the venture as a "holy experiment" and hoped he would be able to establish a colony where people of all creeds and nationalities could live together in peace. The first settlers began arriving in Pennsylvania in 1682 and settling around Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love) at the junction of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.
The early British arrivals in America were known as colonists or settlers. The term immigrant was first used in 1787. However, it was argued at the time that there was a difference between the colonists who "established a new new society, and those foreigners who arrive only when the country's laws, customs and language are fixed."
In 1608 the explorer, Samuel de Champlain, founded the first permanent French colony at Quebec. He also explored the area that is now northern New York State. It was not until sixty years later that the French began to expand south. In 1673 Jacques Marquette and Luis Joliet explored the central portion of the Mississippi River. They were followed by Robert Cavalier de LaSalle who sailed down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and claimed the entire territory for France. He named the territory Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.