This Week in History

Freedom for a Treacherous King: October 1, 1823

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

Though the vast majority of those who had fought in the Spanish resistance against Napoleon had done so out of love for their homeland and devotion to their Catholic Faith, most of the resistance leaders (members of the bourgeoisie, scholars, and military officers) were thorough Liberals. After establishing a junta, these leaders had in 1812 drawn up a constitution that granted most governmental power to a legislature (called the cortes) and very little power to the king. The king had the power to sign bills into law, but no power to make laws. He had only a suspensive veto power: he could delay bills becoming laws, but he could not stop them entirely.

Proclamation of the Constitution of 1812

The Spanish “Constitution of 1812,” as it was called, was in some ways very similar to the French Constitution of 1791. But it differed from France’s constitution in some very important ways. The Constitution of 1812 said, for instance, that the “Catholic Apostolic Roman and only true faith” was the religion of the “Spanish nation.” The state, the constitution said, should protect the Church and prevent the practice of any other religion. It allowed for freedom of the press, except that publications were not permitted to attack the Catholic Faith. Yet, like the French constitution, the Constitution of 1812 did not allow the nobility or the Church to have representatives in the one-house cortes. This meant that these two estates no longer had any legal means to protect their interests and rights. (more…)

This Week in History

Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation: September 22, 1862

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here. Read the post to which this is a continuation.

“God bless you and all with you,” wrote Lincoln to McClellan after the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam). “Destroy the rebel army if possible.” But September passed, and McClellan still did not pursue Lee. On October 1, Lincoln ordered McClellan to pursue Lee. McClellan obeyed — but only after another 18-day delay.

“The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

Though not a decisive victory, the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam) was still a victory for the North; McClellan had held the field while Lee retreated. It was for just such a victory that Lincoln had been waiting — “God,” he said, “had decided in favor of the slaves.” On September 22 he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation:

On the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforth, and forever free. (more…)

This Week in History

The Cost of Delay — the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam): September 17, 1862

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Robert E. Lee

Lee’s men, said a Maryland woman, were “a most ragged, lean and hungry set of wolves.” Yet, she conceded, “there is a dash about them the northern men lacked.”

“This body of men,” said another woman, moved “along with no order, their guns carried in every fashion, no two dressed alike, their officers hardly distinguishable from the privates . . . Were these the men that had driven back again and again our splendid legions?”

Lee was marching north, but it was not clear where exactly he planned to go. Behind him, following, came the ever-cautious McClellan. He needn’t have been so careful; Lee had divided his army, sending Jackson to Harper’s Ferry to capture the Federal garrison there. McClellan’s army numbered 95,000, while Lee had only 18,000 with him. But McClellan was cautious, even after one of his soldiers found, wrapped around some cigars lying in a meadow where the Confederates had camped, a copy of Lee’s general orders. “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee,” said McClellan, “I will be willing to go home.” Still, he delayed 18 hours before he ordered an attack. (more…)

This Week in History

“At Least I Shall Die as Pope”:

September 7, 1303

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

King Philip the Fair of France (left) receiving the homage of King Edward I of England for the duchy of Aquitaine

The quarrel between Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface arose because the king needed money for a war with England and decided to tax the French clergy to get it. The French bishops did not protest against the tax, but the lower clergy appealed to the pope for help. In 1296, Boniface replied by issuing an official statement or bull, called Clericis Laicos, in which he excommunicated any king or prince who taxed the clergy without the pope’s permission. Philip retaliated by forbidding any gold or silver to leave France, thus cutting off a large part of the wealth the pope received from France. The English King Edward I took similar measures in his domains. Confronted with so much resistance, Pope Boniface was forced to allow that kings, in times of necessity, may tax the clergy of the realm without approval from Rome.

What brought about the final break between Boniface and Philip was the king’s arrest of the bishop of Palmiers on a rather flimsy charge of treason. Boniface had sent the bishop to Philip to protest against the king’s continued oppression of the clergy and to remind him of his promise to lead a crusade to retake Jerusalem. (more…)