More than a century passed after Cabot explored the coast of North America before the English made a permanent settlement in the New World. Their rulers were concerned with domestic affairs, and felt that their country was financially unable to promote settlements across the Atlantic. However, as international rivalry increased, and as Spain became wealthy and powerful because of her colonial possessions, the English rulers became desirous of weakening the power of Spain and at the same time adding to the strength of their own country.
One of England’s statesmen at the time stated that nothing could add more to the greatness of the nation than the procuring of additional territory. Besides territory, there was a desire for gold and silver, which it was believed would add to the strength of the nation.
The nations of Europe were purchasing many things from India and China. This eastern commerce was depleting their stock of silver and gold coins and they needed an increased supply of precious metals to continue their imports. The nations of Europe were also interested in finding a waterway through America to the Pacific and the East. The early English settlers were instructed to search for this “northwest passage.”
Finally, there was the important stimulant of economic pressure. Changes were taking place in the economic life of England; large tracts of land were turned into sheep pastures because of the growing demand for wool. This denied many farm laborers a chance for making a living. The increased amount of gold and silver advanced prices at a time when many were out of employment, and people unable to earn a livelihood often became beggars or thieves. From this came the belief that England was overpopulated, and colonies were needed to find a place for the surplus population.