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The sixteenth century was resplendent with the light of reformed Christianity, but, as at the first, it derived much of its brilliancy from the sparks struck by the rough hand of persecution.

The claim of Spain to America was based upon its discovery by Columbus, and the grant of Pope Alexander VI. These so-called muniments of title were fortified by explorations and settlements. From these last Spain derived immense riches, and became the most powerful nation of Europe. But her wealth was devoted to the destruction of the reformed faith, which, kindled in Germany by Luther, was spreading rapidly over the continent. But God, who restrains the wrath of man and makes the remainder thereof to praise him, brought good out of the evil designed.

The refusal of the pope to divorce the Spanish wife of Henry VIII. of England, caused that royal Blue Beard to separate his kingdom from the domination of the Catholic see, and to encourage its tendency to embrace the principles of the Reformation. The effort of the papacy to crush out the Reformation in France and the Netherlands led to the implantation in America of the Protestant English race.

Among the English who volunteered, in 1569, for the defense of the Protestant religion on the continent, was a youth of seventeen, who left Oxford and his studies to learn the art of war under Admiral Coligny and William the Silent. While thus engaged, he conceived a mortal hatred to Spain, and perceiving that her strength lay in her American possessions, he conceived the idea of wresting the New World from her by English colonization. This youth became the celebrated soldier, statesman, courtier, poet, historian, and philosopher, Sir Walter Raleigh. When, by his courage, he had won military renown, and by his address had won the favor of his great sovereign, Elizabeth, and wealth came with honor, he devoted it to the realization of his great design. His colony at Roanoke Island, planted in 1584, perished, indeed, because he was forced to neglect it to aid in the defense of England against the great Spanish Armada, designed to crush out Protestantism in that kingdom. But the inspiration of his genius did not die. The pusillanimous James, who succeeded his heroic mistress on the throne, cast him into the Tower, after the mockery of a trial for treason, and finally beheaded him, at the behest of the Spanish king. But if Catholic Spain compassed his death, it was not till he had struck that power a mortal blow, at Cadiz, on 21st June, 1596, in the destruction of her fleet and the capture of the city, a blow which marks the beginning of her decadence as a great power. Nor was he put to death till he had seen the beginning of the fulfillment of his prediction, that he should " live to see America an English nation." In his prison walls, he heard of, if he could not see, the departure of the little fleet which carried the English colony to Jamestown, in 1607; and before his execution, in 1618, Virginia had become a vigorous colony under the London Company, which had succeeded to his charter rights.

The planting of that colony marks a most important era in the history of the world. It was the beginning of the system of English colonization, which has belted the earth, and has made the inhabitants of the little British Isles the greatest power in the world. From that feeble germ, preserved from destruction by an Indian maiden, has been developed an English nation which controls the continent of North America, and, within three hundred years, has become one among the foremost nations of the earth. Had not Pocahontas thrown herself between the heroic Smith and the uplifted club raised for his execution, the feeble colony would have lost its protecting genius, and would, doubtless, have perished. Had it perished, the Latin nations, with imperialism in church and state, would, doubtless, have possessed the continent they already so largely occupied. What would have been the result we may see by looking upon Mexico, with her degenerate people and unstable government, permanent in nothing but in oppression and misrule.

But in the councils of heaven it had been determined that the tree of liberty should be planted in America, and should so flourish in its genial soil that it should fill the land and cast its benign influences over all the earth. For this great trust, but one people was fitted--the liberty-loving, the liberty-preserving Anglo-Saxon race. They came with English Protestantism, and English constitutional law, developed under Magna Charta by free Parliaments. In the keeping of that handful of men who landed at Jamestown in 1607, was the hope of America lor free institutions.

But, as has been the history of liberty in all ages, its preservation here has cost a continuous struggle. Not only on American soil, but on European fields, the possession of America was the bone of contention between Catholic and Protestant powers for a century and a half. Finally, in 1763, Protestant England was left in possession of the continent east of the Mississippi, except the Floridas bordering the Gulf of Mexico. The hand of Providence had thus prepared the way for the great republic, soon to succeed the British power in all of its territory south of the lakes. In this preparation, as we look back at it now in the light of history, nothing is more striking than the training of the peoples for their great work of establishing free institutions in America. In the school of tyranny, they learned to value liberty.

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