Matthew Galbraith Perry was born into the American ruling class in 1794. He entered the Navy in his teens and was soon a naval officer. It was as a Commodore (a rank with meaning in the American navy, not so in the Royal Navy) that Perry entered Tokyo Bay fifty-nine years later in July 1853, in command of four fighting ships, two under sail and two powered by the new steam engines. Japan had been closed to foreign conact for more than two hundred years because the Tokugawa Shogunate feared foreign trading would allow rebellious warlords to become rich, allowing them to buy foreign arms. Commodore Perry’s brief from his president had clarified that the US wanted to extend and expand her trade in the Far East, especially coal supplies from Japan for US ships trading with China. Continue reading
James Monroe was born in Virginia in 1758, and became the 5th President of the United States. He did not shine as a diplomat but he did manage to orchestrate the Louisiana Purchase (q.v.), one of the most important facets of US history. He became Madison’s Secretary of State in 1811, and was active in the Anglo-American War of 1812-14.
In 1817 he became President, worried by the question of slavery, because though he was not officially an abolutionist he knew that this canker on the American soul was evil. When black people were occasionally freed he encouraged sending them to Liberia, and got that country’s capital Monrovia named after him. Continue reading
Emiliano Zapata was a Mexican revolutionary, son of a peasant of mixed (meztizo) blood. At around twelve he became an agricultural worker, then entered politics by arousing the local peasants against any form of government. When the Mexican Revolution began in 1910 against President Porfirio Diaz he was already an important leader. In true South American style he attacked first the great haciendas protected only by their owners and their employees, firing the houses and killing (if he could) the inhabitants.
He then announced a reform in agrarian policies, by which the great estates would be divided up among his followers, who would employ local Indians as the work force. Latin America has had to watch many such leaders of the people. Continue reading
Though Owen was born in 1771, a son of a successful maker of saddles for horses and mules, he started work in a cotton mill in Manchester at the usual age of twelve, and by only nineteen was appointed manager. Later, moving to Scotland, he was almost solely responsible for founding a ‘new model community’ in Lanark.
Here he supervised better living conditions for the workers, better housing, better food, even building an Institute for the formation of the children’s general education and character, in true socialist style. Naturally there was opposition as he and his community grew to be famous, conservative mill owners tending to prefer 18-hour working days for their employees, and not caring too much if they were not properly fed. The Institute contained the world’s first day-nursery and a playground, and evening classes for the parents were available.
Remembering that this was still the end of the eighteenth century, it is barely credible that Owen also introduced a comprehensively stocked village shop. In 1813, at only forty-two, Owen went into partnership with another great reformer – Jeremy Bentham and a few more. They designed and formed New Lanark, which might be seen as the world’s first cooperative and socialist commune. Robert Owen wrote a book called A New View of Society in that year, in which he stated that character in the human race is formed by one’s social environment, daily work, paid holidays, shorter hours and above all education for youth.
And then it was off to America, the land of the free, where he established several cooperative Owenite communities, including one called New Harmony in Indiana. Sadly, they all failed, and Robert Owen died, exhausted, in 1858, though, as they say, his ideas lived on despite growing opposition. The now world-wide Socialist movement owes a great deal to people like Owen and Bentham.
The seventeenth President of the USA has things in common with two others who held the office – Lincoln and Lyndon Baynes Johnson: like Lincoln, Andrew J. was born in a log cabin, but unlike him he never went to school, and was taught to read by his wife. He also shares two coincidences with L.B. – his surname and the fact that both became President because they had been Vice-President when the Number One was asassinated. Continue reading
Son of an Ulsterman, Jackson was born in South Carolina 1767, a true-grit Southerner. Fame was first achieved by his leadership and reputation for courage in fighting the Creek Indians.Though he was young, his men called him Old Hickory. He broke up the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814, and, inevitably took half their territory. To make a point, plenty of other white soldiers would have taken all of it.
Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi were therefore opening up with more safety for white settlers. In the Anglo-American War, now with the rank of General, he beat up the British redcoats at New Orleans in January, 1815, after which he became an American hero, and rich as well, as he bought cheaply some of the lands he had fought for successfully, and exploited them. Among other things, he dealt stupendously in slaves. Continue reading
Immigrants – those who arrive in a new country having left their own:
Emigrants – those who leave their own country to go to another:
Emigration – the act of leaving one’s country to start a new life in another:
Immigration – the noun that describes the action of immigrants:
This brief lesson in English vocabulary is essential before starting an article about immigration or emigration. Television news programmesand the rest of the media continuously mix up the words which makes for confusion. Continue reading
Haymarket Square is in Chicago. In 1886 a diminutive anarchist movement, led by German agitators, gathered there to cause trouble. They called on the crowds to achieve reforms by violent action, after police and strikers had clashed at the McCormic Harvester factory on 3 May; three strikers had been killed in the fight, and several more badly hurt. The next day, the 4th, anarchists and strikers gathered in the Haymarket Square to protest at ‘police brutality’.
The rally was interrupted quite soon by someone throwing a bomb; it killed one policeman outright and another seven bystanders, and injured more than sixty more. This atrocity caused the police to open fire in all directions, killing four more onlookers. Eight anarchists were arrested, and it was found that all but one were foreign-born. In itself this is an interesting part of the report, because all Americans except Native Americans are or were foreign-born. In the tribunal which followed, though no evidence was shown that they had anything to do with the bomb-throwing, seven of the eight were condemned to death.
Later, two of these had the sentence reduced to life imprisonment, one killed himself, and four were hanged. In 1893 the liberal governor of the State of Illinois pardoned the three anarchists still in prison. He said in a summing-up that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Even if this was true, the statement caused tremendous public unrest, and naturally increased hostility towards the labour movement in general.
Germany attacked France in May, 1940. 136 German divisions faced 125 British, French and Belgian ones. The Germans had over two thousand tanks, but even their commander admitted half were obsolete. The Allies had a little more than three thousand six hundred tanks, among which the French armour was better than anything the Germans had. But they had many more aircraft. Only the French, with their thousand aeroplanes, could provide much opposition. 400 British fighters, mostly Hawker Hurricanes were based in France. The French seemed paralysed by ther audacity and skill of Guderian’s Panzer tanks and troops, and watched with their mouths open as the Panzers crossed the Meuse,, open a fifty-mile gap in the Allied front, and then raced along the valley of the Somme towards the channel (q.v.). By 20 May they had got there. Gamelin, the French commander, seemed immovable and was replaced by a seventy-three year old – Weygand, who had been sitting in Syria. By 28 May the Germans were in Calais, cutting off the French, British and Belgian forces in the north from the remainder of French forces. The Dutch and the Belgians surrendered. The British got to Dunkirk where, miraculously, they evacuated nearly four hundred thousand troops back to English shores, unfortunately leaving tanks and ammunition behind, as there was not sufficient time to load them on to the Royal Navy ships sent, along with hundreds of small motor and sail craft which had also crossed the Channel to help. Meanwhile the French retreated to the Loire, thus separating themselves from those still holding the Maginot line, which Guderian had contemptuously avoided. In June two million Parisians left their homes and scuttled south, joining the six million who had already fled from northern France and Belgium. Weygand was replaced by Marshall Petain, who instantly accepted German surrender terms. The Atlantic coast and all Northern France were to be occupied and controlled by German forces. The rest of the country would be governed, hand in glove with the Germans, by Petain, in what became known as Vichy France. The French Army had been beaten in six weeks. Continue reading
It was a term used, mainly by Americans, to describe frontier society in the second half of the nineteenth century. Before the eighteen fifties the huge area between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, endless plains with little rainfall, flat, ravaged by hot (or freezing) winds, had been considered as unfit for white occupation. Its not very attractive nickname was ‘The Great American Desert’, summoning images of rattlesnakes, hostile ‘Indians’ and herds of buffalo. Continue reading