Agriculture in Spanish Colonies America

In contrast to the eastern colonies settled by the English and Northern Europeans, agriculture in the Spanish colonies in the Southwest and California was organized around Native American labor. And, though livestock and horses were brought to North America by the Spanish as early as the sixteenth century dramatically affecting the lifestyle of Native Americans throughout the West the Spanish were not engaged in farming for export. Farming, for the most part, was subsistence farming. Spanish colonization was conducted principally by the military and by church missionaries, and the Crown was less concerned with establishing permanent settlements in the New World than in locating treasure to take back to Spain. At the same time, Spanish settlers, many of whom married Native American women, established ranches all over the Southwest. Spanish land grants were vast, and the system of awarding land to selected individuals guaranteed loyalty to Spain. Some of these holdings in the Southwest and California ranged from 1 to 11 square leagues (1 league = 4,438 acres), and it has been estimated that 750 of these land grants encumbered around 13 or 14 million acres. Spain continued this practice until the Mexican Revolution in 1821. As a result, the cattle industry grew from its simple roots into an enormous industry. Some of the byproducts, including soap, tallow for candles, and hides, were used for trade. Most importantly, the region remained a livestock-producing area and gave rise to the cowboy and large cattle spreads that still exist today. The American Revolution had a significant impact on agriculture. First, it became a formidable task to feed the army, as well as sustain the newly emerging markets that were developing abroad, including those for flour, wheat, tobacco, indigo, cattle, and barreled pork. In order to keep production going, the wives and daughters of patriots worked the fields, replacing men as farmers. Livestock production increased during the war years because of the army’s growing demand for meat products. Sheep were important for their wool. Although to meet the increased demand for the commodity, wool was often blended with flax, resulting in a fabric known as linsey-woolsey. The Revolution affected Southern tobacco planters substantially, not only because of the number of slaves who fled the region, but because the soil on many plantations was worn out. There were surpluses of crops, such as tobacco, rice, and indigo, and prices for many crops dropped. To counter this, some Maryland and Virginia farmers began cultivating wheat. In fact, by 1812, Shenandoah Valley farmers had become the leading wheat producers in Virginia, and their production reached 15 million pounds. Moreover, only a few farmers in North Carolina and Virginia continued to profit from tobacco. It would be a number of years before others recovered. Cotton farming also expanded into the Gulf Coast regions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and New Orleans soon became the cotton export center for international trade. As cotton was most effectively cultivated by the gang-labor system, slavery did not diminish. In fact, the slave trade took on new importance in the years following the American Revolution. Gail L. Jenner See also: Alcohol; Coffee; Corn; Cotton; Economy, Business, and Labor (Chronology); Economy, Business, and Labor (Essay); Food and Diet; Grain; Horses; Indentured Servitude; Indigo; Laborers, Rural; Livestock; Rice; Slavery, African American; Slavery, Caribbean; Sugar; Tea; Tobacco; Trade; Document: Tobacco Growing (1775). Bibliography McCuskler, John J., and Russell Menard. The Economy of British North America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985. Washburn, Wilcomb. The Indian in America. New York: Harper and Row, 1975. Wessel, Thomas. “Agriculture, Indians, and American History.” Agricultural History, 50:1 (January 1976). STEM: Colonial America alltravel8The Philatelic Database Archive of Stamp Collecting Articles … alltravel8New Mexico Tells New Mexico History History: Art and Architecture alltravel8

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