Sir Sidney Lee, the editor of the “National Dictionary of Biography of England,” and the author of a series of works on Shakespeare, which has gained for him recognition as probably the best living authority on the history of the Elizabethan times, without deliberate intent, answered Draper almost directly, in the following paragraphs from his work, “The Call of The West,” which appeared originally in Scribner’s Magazine, but has since been published in book form. Since Mr. Lee cannot be suspected of national or creed affinities with the Spaniards, and his knowledge of the subject is unquestionable, his direct contradictions of Draper are all the more weighty:

“Especially has theological bias justified neglect or facilitated misconception of Spain’s role in the sixteenth century drama of American history. Spain’s initial adventures in the New World are often consciously or unconsciously overlooked or underrated, in order that she may figure on the stage of history as the benighted champion of a false and obsolete faith, which was vanquished under a divine protecting Providence by English defenders of the true religion. Many are the hostile critics who have painted sixteenth century Spain as the avaricious accumulator of American gold and silver, to which she had no right, as the monopolist of American trade, of which she robbed others, and as the oppressor and exterminator of the weak and innocent aborigines of the new continent, who deplored her presence among them. Cruelty in all its hideous forms is, indeed, commonly set forth as Spain’s only instrument of rule in her sixteenth century empire. On the other hand, the English adventurer has been credited by the same pens with a touching humanity, with the purest religious aspirations, with a romantic courage which was always at the disposal of the oppressed native.

“No such picture is recognized when we apply the touchstone of the oral traditions, printed books, maps, and manuscripts concerning America which circulated in Shakespeare’s England. There a predilection for romantic adventure is found to sway the Spaniards in even greater degree than it swayed the Elizabethan Englishman. Religious zeal is seen to inspirit the Spaniards more constantly and conspicuously than it stimulated his English contemporary. The motives of each nation are barely distinguishable one from another. Neither deserves to be credited with any monopoly of virtue or vice. Above all, the study of contemporary authorities brings into a dazzling light, which illumes every corner of the picture, the commanding facts of the Spaniard’s priority as explorer, as scientific navigator, as conqueror, as settler.”

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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