The Spaniards made it possible for Columbus to undertake the voyages which discovered America. Spanish leaders explored a large part of the New World and built an empire for Spain, most of which she held until well into the nineteenth century. St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, settled in 1609, are the only important cities established by the Spanish that are within the present limits of the United States.
The Spanish civilization, however, was extended in the southern and southwestern parts of the United States and thence southward to the Strait of Magellan, and also in the Philippine Islands. In Mexico, Central America and South America, with the exception of Brazil, which belonged to the Portuguese, Spain ruled supreme. The mercantile system, accepted by all European countries, was based on the idea that the entire profit from trade with the colonies should belong to the mother country. In accordance with this idea, Spanish fleets sailing from Porto Bello or Veracruz, in the New World, carried large quantities of gold, silver, and tropical products to Spain, adding greatly to her power and prestige on the continent of Europe.
The Catholic faith was taught to the Indian natives. The religion and language of Spain, as well as her literature, art, and ideals, were transplanted, and many of the elements of Spanish culture prevail to this day in Mexico, Central America, and South America. The nations occupying these lands have long since become independent and self-governing, but many elements of the Spanish civilization planted three centuries ago have left their impress on that part of the New World.
The French Explorers. The French, government for many years did not take an active part in promoting- exploration in the New World. The first explorer to sail under the French flag for the New World was Verrazano, a native of Florence. In 1524 he came to seek a new route to the Indies. He sailed along the coast of North America from what is now North Carolina to Nova Scotia and returned to France without having discovered the desired route. Ten years later Francis I, the king of France, sent out Jacques Cartier with two small ships and a crew of thirty-six men. Cartier sailed along the northern coast of Newfoundland and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. At Gasp6 Bay he planted a large cross bearing the arms of France, and returned home. In a second voyage, the following year, he went up the river as far as the site of Montreal. The winter climate there was found to be much colder than that in France.