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Reasons for the Success and Failure of Settlement in America

Different European nations went to North America for various reasons because they all had multiple expectations about the potential benefits of the region. The need for fame and fortune was the main driving force for Spain. For example, during the colonial period, Spain had sent out settlers, conquerors, and explorers searching for gold. Spain’s territories included the Panama Isthmus, Mexico, Central America and Florida. According to Horn (34), every year, there were treasure ships from Mexico and Panama that carried pearls, silver, gold, cacao and hides that sailed to Spain heavily guarded by a squadron of warships. For this reason, Spain became the most powerful nation.

Another nation that ran to the New World was New England. In the 1570s and early 1580s, England forcefully enforced orthodox religion on everyone. The clergy were ordered to wear clerical robes, and those who objected were banned from the church and arrested (Horn 132). An example was Robert Johnson, who was jailed for being a Puritan, and later died a few months later from Jail fever (Horn 132). Hence, the main reason for abandoning England to form New England was to get the opportunity to worship per their will and beliefs.

Another nation that joined the New World was Britain. Britain arrived in New World when much of the continent had been claimed by other European countries. At that time, Spain was the most influential nation, but Britain still wanted to accumulate their wealth and power with the help of Sir Walter Ralegh. The queen was strongly attracted to Ralegh’s good looks and loyalty, and through that, he enjoyed favoritism from Queen Elizabeth I and this gave Ralegh great possibilities to acquire wealth and power that was his greatest ambition (Horn 22). The queen devised a plan with her ministers to undermine Spanish power in America by having a massive attack on Spanish Main and West Indies. The second plan was to establish a colony on the mainland of North America (Horn 102). Hence, the main reason for England’s interest in New World was to gain wealth and power.

The difference between the exploration and navigation of the explorers that settled in Roanoke and those that went to North America was significantly huge. Roanoke land would create an opportunity for Ralegh to harass Spanish shipping. Horn (60) explains that Ralegh saw the Island as a chance to organize a huge expedition to establish a harbor on the Island that the English privateers would harass Spain’s shipping in Western Atlantic and the Caribbean to undermine her empire. Sir Francis Drake would order a fleet to cause chaos in Spanish Main and West Indies (Horn 60). Another mission for the European nation was to convert the Indians to Christianity.

The European nation believed they would do God’s work in spreading Christianity. Horns (60) summarizes that Richard Hakluyt played a huge role in spreading Ralegh’s propaganda. He believed he could promote God’s work and mission to convert millions of Indians into glorious Christians (Horn 62). Ralegh also intended to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean and accumulate wealth. In Horn’s words, the English colonizers got the greatest prize after discovering that enormous wealth in the North would surpass those in Peru and Mexico. The two main attractions were silver and gold and a passage to the Pacific Ocean through the continent (Horn 63). However, the four motivations were not enough to lead to a successful settlement. Roanoke colony was a huge fail.

One word I would use to describe the failures of Roanoke would be unplanned. Before he departed three years prior, he had left his family and friends with a promise of returning with more settlers and supplies but did not think that he would fail to secure reinforcements and provisions for the people who depended on him (Horn 188). When White returned, he came unprepared with insufficient help to conquer the colony. Another reason for the Roanoke colony’s failure was that the colony faced hostility from the natives. Horn (2) summarizes that in 1587, White left England with the intention of establishing the first colony in America but faced a lot of difficulty from the hostile Indians who fiercely resisted the colonies that led him to return to England in search of help.

England also lacked allies from other nations. England was dangerously isolated. She had no allies in Europe apart from the Dutch rebels (Horn 59). The last reason for the failure to establish the Roanoke colony is the John White family’s disappearance. White left Roanoke for England to find help. He left his daughter, newborn granddaughter, and friends behind (Horn 163). White returned in 1590, three years later, only to find his family and the settlers were not there (Horn 224). The houses had been dismantled, the settlement deserted, and the colonists had left, but there were no attack signs (Horn 189). He was later forced to return to England without his family.

Settlers faced a lot of challenges in the Roanoke colony. Here are some of the ways that would have assisted in making the process a success. One would be, White would have come with many settlers. White had only left England with 118 men and children (Horn 2). When he arrived on the Island, he realized he needed a larger number to colonize the region. The second reason would be the long wait for White’s return. White took three years to return and found the settlers had left (224). The third step would be preparation in reinforcements. White had initially gone back to England to prepare more reinforcements but had failed to gather enough people and reinforcement (188). Many of these causes led to the failure of the Roanoke colony.

Work Cited

Horn, James. “A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke: Horn, James P. p” Internet Archive, New York: Basic Books, 2010,


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