These days the word strikes a sour note, arousing images of rough settlements, starving ‘piccaninies’, whips, shackles, thoughtless government from a distance of thousdands of miles etc. If there are any ‘colonies’ left after the post-war rush to be rid of them I think it is because the ‘colonists’ prefer it that way. 90% of colonies which achieved independence have suffered under bad or atrocious rule since being ‘freed’, with the possible exception of the United States, and even there half the settlers in the Thirteen Colonies claimed they did not wish for independence from British rule, and after 1776 sold up lock, stock and barrel and moved to Canada, where they were welcomed. Continue reading
By March, 1770 a strong sense of resentment and general feelings of unrest among American colonists, who came mainly from Britain but were intermixed with many citizens from other European states, led to violent action against British regulations and troops. On the fifth of March in that year, British troops under the command of a nervy officer were ill-disciplined enough to open heavy musket fire against a mob of revolting citizenry in the major colonial city of Boston. The fusillade killed five Bostonians, and nine British soldiers were tried for murder in a hastily gathered tribunal. As the people of Boston predicted, the result of the trial was seven acquitted (including the nervous commander), and two soldiers convicted of manslaughter. It was not good enough, and led to further trouble.
The American Revolution (q.v.), happened because of colonists’ rage at attempts to impose direct taxation in the colonies without representation in London, in addition to a general increase of discontent with British rule within most of the thirteen colonies. In 1773, again in Boston, a ‘democratic’ group of working men mixed with larking students from colonial bourgeois families stripped off their clothes, dressed again as American natives, boarded ships in the harbour carrying (heavily taxed) tea sent from Emgland, and tipped nearly three hundred and fifty chests of the stuff into the harbour. There was little opposition. The harbour changed colour, and other North American ports disallowed entry to tea-carrying ships. With typical laconic American humour, this mild incident quickly became known as The Boston Tea Party. Recently, a new US political group has called itself ‘Tea-Party’ with an eye to history.
Parliament in London over-reacted to the Boston Tea Party, as might be expected: In 1774 the Members decided to punish naughty Massachusetts and Boston in particular. They passed the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act and something called a Quartering Act, which I assume had no connection with hanging, drawing and quartering. Later the angry English MPs added a Quebec Act for good measure. In fact the latter addressed a different problem, but colonists decided they were all intolerable so they lumped them together and named called The Intolerable Acts, by which name they are still remembered.
In July, 1776 the American colonists adopted their Declaration of Independence, but much bloodshed and mayhem followed and they had to wait until the Treaty of Paris in September, 1783 for the recognised and legal independence of the United States of America. The rest, as they say, is History.
Among the first Canadians were the oddly named Métis – having a mixture of pure Native American blood with white, mostly French and Scottish. It was a robust race of independent mien, believing themselves a separate and special people, which they were. Their culture was also a mixture of aboriginal skills and manners and customs inherited from the French.
They lived an almost nomadic life which depended greatly on buffalo hunting and the uncomplicated industries that go with it, such as the curing and selling of skins as clothing for the Canadian winter. Newly arrived settlers were put off the métis by their semi-military organisation. Immigrants learned to leave them alone. Continue reading
The American Civil War had left most states, especially in the South, in chaos and sad decline. American boys from North and South had killed each other, most of them not knowing exactly why – except that they knew, as all soldiers do, that politicians must be held responsible for the insane slaughter. The South was punchdrunk and reeling from physical and economic devastation, but those southerners left were moving, by the early Seventies of the 19th century towards recovery, by dint of hard work and guts. The North, except for her sons, had lost little in comparison, as few incursions into northern states during the war had occurred. In the South the ranches and adjacent lands had been burned, the cattle herds decimated or worse, towns had been destroyed wholesale by soldiers hardly controlled by senior officers who often turned a blind eye. Continue reading
This little-known sea battle was fought between American and Japanese fleets towards the end of October, 1944. Japanese forces were seeking to stop the US re-conquest of the Philippines, which had started on October 20 with American troops invading the island of Leyte. It was seen as obvious that American success in the Philippines would cut Japan off from her oil supplies as well as essential raw materials in South-East Asia. Though they knew they were outnumbered, the Japanese decided to send all available warships into a conflict they were by no means certain to win. Continue reading
George Washington was born in the early part of the eighteenth century (1732), a son of a planter in Virginia, he was a Southerner. At 22 he was fighting for the British in both the French and Indian Wars and was present at the taking of Fort Duquesne (later to become Pittsburgh) in 1758 when he was twenty-six. Having completed his duties as a gentleman he resigned from the army and took to planting tobacco. Continue reading
This Act was passed in the US government in 1862, at the very height of the ‘Wild West’ era – brave pioneers heading west, ‘Redskins’ whose land it was biting the dust, shootists biting the dust, rumours of massive amounts of gold to be found by prospectors and so on. The intention of the Act was to encourage people in the East to settle anew in the West. Any citizen over 21, or head of a family would be allotted a property of 160 acres – to be his after five years occupation and work. In the following 38 years the government awarded more than 600,000 lucky claimants 80 million acres of mostly arable land. There were hitches however; many claimants were not farmers, they were land speculators, and farmers knew that 160 acres would make too small a farm to make it worth leaving the East and heading for the Great Plains. In fact, a better way to open up the vast ‘virgin’ lands was for individual states and the railroads to prospective settlers. The railroads had already received 520 million acres from the federal government. Perversely, railroads needed settlers to pay to ride on their trains, so they sold off much of the land they got from the government! Continue reading
This wonderful and typically American appellative refers to a prosperous group of ranchers, landowners and speculators whose intention it was to create the US state of Vermont, arising from territory whose ownership was disputed between New Hampshire and New York. Continue reading
Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821, the same year as Perú. Plenty of Mexicans had already settled in parts of northern Texas, but not enough to work the land properly, so Mexico offered cheap land grants to Americans, and by 1830 at least 20,000 Americans, mostly southerners, had taken advantage of the offer.
The Government of Mexico decided, in a state of nervousness, to forbid any more immigration by North American settlers. At the same time the government got itself into hot water by trying to ban slavery, as it was already illegal in Mexico. As a result, Texans declared their independence from everybody, and set up their own Republic of Texas. Continue reading
The twenty-seventh President of the United States was born in 1856 in Virginia, son of a Presbyterian minister. The family were slave-owners. Thirty-four years later Woodrow was made a professor at Princeton, one of the ‘Ivy League’ American universities of great prestige. He taught History and Political Science and in 1902 became president of the university.
Soon he was elected Governor of New Jersey, where he easily gained the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, promising a ‘New Freedom’ by destroying the trusts, decreasing taxes and tariffs, and beginning a severe revision of the financial system which was the life blood of ‘The American Way of Life’. He was the first Southerner to become President since A. Johnson, and the first Democrat. Continue reading