Adam Smith's Simplified Wealth of Nations, Book 4, Chapter 7a: Colonies

Chapter 7a, Part 1: Motives for Establishing Colonies

1 The interest which created the first European settlements in America and the West Indies was not so plain and distinct as the interest which established ancient Greek and Roman colonies. 2 All the ancient Greek states possessed a very small territory. 3 Like most ancient republics, Rome was originally founded on an agrarian law. 4 The establishment of the European colonies in America and the West Indies arose from no necessity. 5 During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Venetians had a very advantageous commerce in spiceries and East India goods. 6 "The great profits of the Venetians tempted the avidity of the Portuguese." 7 Some years before this, the success of the Portuguese projects appeared doubtful. 8 But the countries Columbus discovered did not resemble those he was looking for. 9 Because of Columbus' mistake, the name of the Indies has stuck to those unfortunate countries ever since. 10 It was important to Columbus that his discovered countries should be represented of very great consequence to the Spanish court. 11 The Cori was something between a rat and a rabbit.
12 The vegetable food of the inhabitants was not so scanty, though it was not very abundant because of their lack of industry. 13 The cotton plant afforded the material of a very important manufacture. 14 Columbus turned to the minerals of the newly discovered countries after finding nothing in their animals or vegetables which could justify an advantageous representation. 15 Because of the representations of Columbus, the council of Castile determined to possess those defenceless countries. 16 As long as the gold could be easily got by plundering the defenceless natives, it was perhaps not very difficult to pay even this heavy 50% tax. 17 All the other Spanish enterprises in the new world after those of Columbus were prompted by the sacred thirst of gold. 18 The search for new silver and gold mines is perhaps the most ruinous of all those expensive and uncertain projects which can bring bankruptcy. 19 The judgement of sober reason and experience has always been extremely unfavourable on mining projects. 20 In the countries first discovered by the Spaniards, no gold or silver mines are presently known to be worth the working. 21 A project of commerce to the East Indies caused the discovery of the West Indies. 22 The first adventurers of all other European nations who attempted to settle in America were animated by the like chimerical views.
Words: 2876
Next: Chapter 7b: Causes of Prosperity