This Week in History

Birth of  a Hell-Raiser: May 1, 1837

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. We offer it in commemoration of the birth of the labor activist, Mother Mary Jones. Though herself active in the public sphere, Mother Jones opposed women’s suffrage. The second excerpt offered here (following the asterisks) gives her reasons why. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones

One of the more colorful of the labor leaders of this period was a woman, Mary “Mother” Jones. In Ireland, Mary Jones’ grandfather had fought against British rule and was hanged for it. Forced to flee to America to escape punishment for his own revolutionary activities, Mary’s father brought her to Toronto, where, as a young woman, she taught in a convent school. Upon mov-ing to Chicago, Mary Jones worked as a sempstress. She moved again to Memphis Tennessee in 1861, where she married an iron worker who was a stalwart member of the Iron Moulder’s Union.

In 1867, tragedy struck. Mary Jones lost her husband and their four young children to Yellow Fever. And tragedy continued to dog her. Having returned to Chicago, she lost all her possessions to the Great Fire of 1871 that destroyed over three square miles of the city. She again took work as a sempstress and became involved with the Knights of Labor. Thenceforth, union activism remained the chief occupation of her life. (more…)



This Week in History

Napoleon Reconciled with God:

May 5, 1821

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.

Pope Pius VII

Pope Pius VII did not forget Napoleon in his exile on the island of St. Helena. “It would be to my heart a joy like nothing else,” the pope wrote to Cardinal Consalvi in 1817, “if I could help in lessening Napoleon’s sufferings. He can no longer be dangerous to anyone. I could only wish that he may not cause anybody remorse.” Pius asked Consalvi to ask Great Britain’s prince-regent, George IV, to ease Napoleon’s sufferings. But the pope’s greatest gift to Napoleon was to send a priest, the Abbé Vignali, to Saint Helena. Pius had learned that Napoleon wanted to be reconciled to the Church.

Napoleon’s life on St. Helena had not been a happy one. The rocky, barren, wind-swept island was grim enough; but Napoleon’s residence, Longwood, was damp, unhealthy, and not shaded by any tree. Water had to be carried to the house, and the nearest water source was three miles away. Napoleon did receive visitors, and he had companions who shared his exile, but the island’s governor would not allow him to speak with the island’s inhabitants. Far worse, the British kept from him all news of his son, now named the Duke of Reichstadt, and of the former empress of France, Maria Louisa. (more…)



This Week in History

A Brave Bishop Leaves Prison:

April 22, 1839

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.

Friedrich Wilhelm III, king of Prussia

It was silent night, November 20, 1837. By order of the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm III, troops surrounded the archiepiscopal palace in Köln, on the lower Rhine in Germany. Escorted by police, the governor of the province entered the palace and arrested the 64-year-old archbishop, Clemens August von Droste-Vischering. After being taken from his diocese, the archbishop was imprisoned at the fortress of Minden, about 147 miles northeast of Köln. Such was the price Clemens August had to pay for defending the rights of the Church against the Prussian government.

In Prussia, it had long been the custom in mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants that the mother raised the daughters in her religion while the father raised the sons in his. This seemed an amicable way to deal with a rather difficult issue, but it ignored the fact that religion is about truth. The Catholic Church could not allow the children of a Catholic parent to be raised in what the Church recognized as a false religion. So it was that in 1830, Pope Pius VIII ruled that the Church would not bless any mixed marriages unless the non-Catholic spouse agreed that the children would be raised Catholic. It was because he refused to disobey the pope in this matter that Archbishop Droste-Vischering was imprisoned by the Prussian government in the fortress of Minden. By refusing to submit to the Prussian law, Droste-Vischering was defending not only Catholic marriage practice, but the right of the Church to be free from interference by the state. (more…)



This Week in History

Crusaders Sack Constantinople:

April 12, 1204

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.

Pope Innocent III, from a 13th century fresco

Innocent III’s goal, when he became pope in 1198, was to continue the reform of the Church as begun by his predecessors on the Throne of Peter. But the failure of the Third Crusade to recover Jerusalem made another crusade to the Holy Land the pope’s first priority. In the very year he became pope, Innocent ordered another crusade. Knights from France and Germany, led by Boniface, marquis of Montferrat, pledged to take up the cross.

The crusaders’ goal was first to conquer Egypt, the center of Turkish Muslim power, and from there to move against Jerusalem. The crusader leaders came to an agreement with the Italian city-state of Venice to transport their army by ship to Egypt. The crusaders, however, could not pay the entire amount the Venetians demanded. Seeing an opportunity, the Venetians said they would forgive the amount the crusaders still owed – if they helped Venice attack the Christian city of Zara, in Dalmatia, across the Adriatic Sea from Venice. The crusaders agreed and, in November 1202, Zara fell to the combined crusader and Venetian force. Sorrowful at the news of the fall of Zara, Pope Innocent excommunicated the leaders of the crusade for turning their arms against fellow Christians. (more…)



This Week in History

Congress Declares War “for Democracy”: April 6, 1917

This text, which we offer in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

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A captured U-boat on the Thames near London, 1918

By early 1917, the British blockade of Germany was beginning to have dire consequences on German civilians. Plagued by food shortages, the German people’s morale suffered and their enthusiasm to continue the war flagged. To counter the British blockade effectively, the German government decided it must resume its own blockade of Great Britain. In late January, the German government communicated, along with its minimum terms for peace, an announcement that on February 1 it would commence unrestricted submarine warfare against Allied and neutral ships sailing into the restricted “war zone.” On February 3, President Wilson broke off diplomatic relations with Germany.

Germany knew it was gambling — unrestricted submarine warfare could bring the United States into the war on the side of the Entente. Still, the German government hoped that it could break Britain’s power before America could assemble her war power. On his side, Wilson still was unwilling to push Germany into any hasty action that would force the United States to enter the war. The president even ordered a slow down on military preparedness measures. But events would not wait on the president’s desires. (more…)