There were a number of reasons why Europeans made their journey to the Americas. At first, it was hoped that a route to Asia would be found, and that is what Christopher Columbus thought he had done. After it became obvious that the Americas were not part of Asia, Europeans were motivated by "Gold, Glory, and God." Most of the early Spanish explorers were poor, and they were attracted by the possibility of becoming rich in the New World; they sought land and titles. Additionally, they wanted to convert Native Americans to Christianity.
The English, who came a century after their Spanish counterparts, had more complex motives. Many of the early English settlers were seeking religious freedom. This desire for an autonomous religious community motivated the Pilgrim and Puritan founders of New England.
The impact of European settlement in the Americas was catastrophic for Native American civilizations. The Spanish obliterated two great Native American empires—the Aztecs and the Incas. Those Native Americans who avoided death by Spanish swords usually succumbed to diseases for which they had no immunity. In North America, the English treatment of Native Americans was more subtle and benign. Relations between the Native Americans and the early English settlers were sometimes amicable, and full-scale hostilities did not occur at first. The English settlers and the tribes did not co-exist with that relative peace indefinitely, however.
Slavery began in the Chesapeake because a labor force was needed for agriculture and industry. Indentured servants proved to be inadequate, so Virginia legalized slavery in 1661. The Native Americans of North America did not make good slaves, so slave traders and merchants imported Africans.
As white Europeans established and peopled colonies in the Americas, Native Americans and Africans suffered greatly. The treatment of these two groups was tragic and deplorable.