England in the New World
England’s claim to North America was based upon the discoveries of the Cabots, who reached the mainland shortly after Columbus made his first landing on the West Indies. But Spain was the leading naval power in Europe. She controlled the Netherlands, and her mighty fleets sailed far and wide over the seas. England was not then the power she is now, and she was not strong enough to prevent Spain from carrying out her plans in America. So English explorers did not venture into that part of America to which Spain had laid claim. Their efforts were directed chiefly to discovering a northwest passage to Asia, since they regarded America as only a barrier between Europe and Asia. During the latter part of the sixteenth century, however, conditions changed. In 1567 the Netherlands revolted against the rule of Spain, and for forty years carried on war with that country. In this war, which was partly religious, England was on the side of the Netherlands. Thus Spain had to contend with tow countries at once, and found the great struggle a constant drain up her strength. During these forty years of warring Spain received blows from which she never recovered. The “Invincible Armada,” her mighty fleet of war vessels, met with crushing defeat at the hands of English seamen (1588). From that date England’s naval power was on the increase.