De La Perouse
Christianity and Economics In 1786, a French explorer, Jean-Francois de La Perouse, and his expedition landed in Monterey, California to witness the mission system at work. It had been over fifteen years since the Franciscan Monks first established their mission in Monterey, but they lacked the economic success needed to for the mission to flourish. However, in the essence of the Enlightenment; he determines that, in the otherwise economically retarded land, California has the potential to become a successful settlement. The fertile land paired with the abundance of plants and animals seems to be a perfect combination for economic success; however, California’s economics failed to reap the rewards of this rich land. One reason behind this is the missionaries’ immense dedication to Christianization. La Perouse declares that “the piety of the Spaniards has hitherto maintained these missions and presidios at a great expense, with the sole view of converting and civilizing the Indians” (63). This dedication blinded them from the wealth that
With the Manila Galleon frequenting the coast and the number of Indian workers, the settlers and missionaries of California could have utilized this opportunity to begin a promising trade with China. Had they not been preoccupied, they may have realized that the "China trade could furnish a demand for thirty thousand sea otter skins, two or three settlements to the north of San Francisco would soon procure them for the commerce of his nation" (100). Throughout his critique, the essence of the Enlightenment appears. Had the Indians been treated more fairly, more people would convert, thus increasing the population and prestige for the land. La Perouse continues by declaring that "the government of the villages converted to Christianity would be more favorable to increased population if property and a certain degree of liberty constituted its basis" (104). Throughout the account, La Perouse"tms compassion towards the Indians, disagreement with church practices, and the spirit of the enlightenment is evident. The settlers had the opportunity utilize arts in the trade market with China, but failed to see yet another potential to create a flourishing marketplace. However, through the better treatment of the Indians and focus on commerce the settlers could easily find economic success. He discloses that the Indians, who worked hard throughout the day and who were also subject to corporal punishment, were paid through "small distributions of grain" (89). While visiting Monterey, he determines that religious fever demanded the full attention of both Spaniards and Indians, distracted the settlers from the abundant treasures of the land and hindered population growth. La Perouse repeatedly illustrated and criticized the injustices towards the Indians and declared that the path towards economic success begins with changing the living conditions for the Indians. The Enlightenment was an attempt to liberate people from traditional authority such as that of the church. Religious fever seems to be an underlying cause for the hindered economy as it created one tracked minds that favored Christianization rather than trade.
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