This Week in History

Death of Chief Osceola:

January 30, 1838

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. 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. 

1830 map of Cherokee nation within Georgia

White settlers, however, had long been encroaching on Cherokee lands. In 1828, gold was discovered in Cherokee country, and white encroachments on tribal lands increased until, by 1830, about 3,000 white settlers were occupying Cherokee lands. The legislature of Georgia for its part ignored a 1791 federal treaty that had acknowledged the Cherokee as an independent nation; instead, the state encouraged the dispossession of the Cherokee. In 1832, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Marshall ruled that Georgia had no authority over the Cherokee because they constituted a sovereign nation; but the state legislature denounced the court and ignored the ruling. In this case, President Jackson did not back federal authority with threats of force, or anything else; he took Georgia’s side. “John Marshall has made his decision,” Old Hickory said. “Now let him enforce it.”

John Ross

When Georgia held a lottery to dispose of Cherokee lands to whites, a delegation under Chief John Ross went to Washington in 1835 to plead the Indians’ case. Ross, whose Indian name was Coowes Coowe, was the son of a Scottish loyalist and a mother who was one-fourth Cherokee. The Cherokee returned with a treaty of removal that they submitted to a tribal council that met at Red Clay, Tennessee. Ross and others opposed the treaty, and the entire council rejected it. To prevent Ross’ return to Washington, Georgia officials had him imprisoned, and to hide this breach of justice, suppressed the publication of the Cherokee Phoenix. (more…)



This Week in History

Louis XVI Guillotined: January 21, 1793

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.

Louis XVI in the Tower of the Temple

It was Malesherbes who first reported the Convention’s decision to the king. Louis received the news with great calm. Only Malesherbes’ distress seemed to affect him. He sought to comfort the old man, who had once served him as a minister of state; but, said the king, “For myself, death does not frighten me; I have the greatest confidence in the mercy of God.”

Later that Sunday, January 20, an official delegation of the Convention—led by the minister of justice, Dominique Joseph Garat—formally informed the king that he was to die. They, too, were impressed by the king’s demeanor as he received the news; he seemed calm and at peace with his fate. Quel homme! Quelle résignation! Quel courage! (“What a man! What resignation! What courage!”) said Minister Garat of the king.

Imprisonment and suffering had seemed to transform Louis XVI. The dull, weakwilled, and imprudent man had now truly become a king. He commanded himself. Moreover, he gave no thought to himself but to the comfort of his loved ones who shared his durance. Over the weeks and months of their imprisonment, the royal family had suffered insult and many small cruelties from their guards. The king was never allowed to speak to anyone, not even to his wife, without the presence of a guard. When the royal family walked in the gardens of the Temple fortress, they endured the mockery of their captors. Yet Louis’s response was to forgive. “I pardon very willingly those who have been my guards for the ill treatment and cruelty which they have thought fit to use towards me,” he wrote in his will on Christmas Day. (more…)



This Week in History

Louis XVI Condemned: January 17, 1793

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.

A French revolutionary infantry flag. The words on the flag read (from upper left corner, clockwise): King, Nation, Law, Liberty

The Jacobins in the Convention feared Louis XVI. As long as the king was alive, he could be the focal point around which a counterrevolution could form. This threat had to be gotten rid of, and the revolutionaries of the Mountain were determined to get rid of it.

Accusations against the king were easy to find. Chiefly, he was charged with conspiring with foreign enemies against the republic. Agents of the Convention examined the king’s papers in the palace of the Tuileries and discovered evidence that he had been corresponding with the Prussians and the Austrians. On November 3, 1792, the Jacobins presented their allegations of the king’s “treason” to the Convention deputies. The Mountain pushed for a trial, but the Girondins resisted them. Did the Convention have the legal authority to try a man who had formerly been head of state, asked the Girondin deputies? But such bland, legal arguments could not triumph over the desire for revenge. Popular anger, stirred up by the Jacobins, won the day. The trial of Louis XVI was set for early December 1792.

On December 10, a committee presented its indictment of the king before the Convention. The next day, Louis himself and his three lawyers appeared before the Convention. For the next two weeks, the deputies debated; Girondin members sought to save the king, and the Jacobins pushed for his condemnation. (more…)



This Week in History

Wilson Issues “Fourteen Points” for Peace: January 8, 1918

This week we remember on its centenary an important American intervention in World War I. The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. 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. 

Woodrow Wilson

A little over four months after he rejected Pope Benedict’s peace proposal, Woodrow Wilson offered one of his own. In a speech he delivered to Congress, January 8, 1918, on war aims and peace terms, Wilson reminded Congress that what “we demand in this war . . . is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safer to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression.”

The “Fourteen Points” for peace Wilson delivered to Congress were very similar to Pope Benedict’s seven points, which the president had dismissed as unrealistic. Benedict’s second point, calling for reciprocal decrease of armaments, was essentially Wilson’s fourth point. The pope’s third point was Wilson’s 14th point, where the president called for “a general association of nations . . . formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike” — a “league of nations,” in other words. Wilson’s second point was Benedict’s fourth, calling for freedom and community of the seas. Wilson’s points five, eight and, in part, 11, were more detailed versions of Benedict’s point six, while Benedict’s seventh point (in which the pope proposed an examination of territorial claims), was, in substance, found in Wilson’s points nine, ten, part of 11, and in points 12 and 13. (more…)