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History Of Gold - The New World

 History Of Gold - The New World

By the time of the discovery of America, professional miners in the more advanced parts of Europe had won for themselves a prvileged status as free men. But in the New World the Spanish and Portuguese put the aboriginal inhabitants to work in the mines as forced labor and later supplemented their numbers by importing Negro slaves. Only in the latter part of the colonial era did free native labor, working for wages, gradually replace compulsory service. The presence of forced labor and of a racially distinct class of workers distinguished Spanish American mining from that of the North American rushes of the 19th century.

Spanish law, on the other hand, was racially unbiased. All minerals belonged to the king, who decreed that any of his subjects, be they Spanish, Creole, mestizo, or Indian, might search for minerals and acquire the right to work what they discovered. The response to this open invitation was widespread prospecting and mining, all the way from Mexico to Chile, by varied crews that ranged, as one authority has expressed it, from "lowly Indian to Spanish grandee." The "boom towns" that arose to serve the needs of these men and their gangs of laborers had many of the characteristics of later mining commnities in the United States.

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