This Week in History

The U.S. Wins the Philippines:

December 10, 1898

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America (now available in hard cover)For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

The Battle of Manila Bay

The Spanish-American War had made Dewey, the Rough Riders, and Theodore Roosevelt national heroes. It also assured for Roosevelt the governorship of New York and the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 1900. More importantly, the war had made the United States an imperial power. In July 1898, the United States Senate approved the treaty annexing Hawai’i, and the course of the war had brought into America’s possession the former Spanish Pacific island of Guam. The annexation of the Philippines that was being discussed at the negotiations in Paris was more controversial. It brought into focus the ques­tion of whether the United States should become a colonial power.

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Emilio Aguinaldo

It seemed to many Americans that the Philippines would be granted independence, just like Cuba. Indeed, Dewey had welcomed back exiled Filipino insurgent Emilio Aguinaldo, who, with other rebel leaders, had begun organizing a republic. But other Americans argued that if the U.S. did not annex the Philippines, Germany would; before the war, Kaiser Wilhelm II had offered to buy the islands from Spain. Others argued that the United States needed a base of operations in the Far East, while still others claimed that the United States economy required colonial expansion and new markets for American manufacturers. Among these was Henry Demarest Lloyd, a prominent journalist who had exposed the monopolistic tactics of Standard Oil and other trusts and defended the Haymarket anar­chists. “American production has outrun American consumption,” wrote Lloyd, “and we must seek new markets for the surplus abroad.” Lloyd thought the subjugation of peoples like the Filipinos necessary for world progress. “It will be a great prelude to the fraternalization of the races,” he wrote, “to have all the inferior nations under the protectorate of the greater ones.” And though he thought such subjugations would bring with them “terrible abuses and faithlessness . . . it was an idle dream that we could progress from perfection to perfection while the Chinese ossified, and the Cubans and the Philippine people were disemboweled, and the Africans contin­ued to eat each other…” (more…)

This Week in History

The Council of Trent Concludes: December 4, 1563

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

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Pope Paul III

Laetare Jerusalem—“Rejoice, O Jerusalem”—was the title of Pope Paul III’s bull that called for the convoking of an ecumenical council at Trent in northern Italy on March 15, 1545. The coun­cil had been a long time in coming, and many had awaited it eagerly. Talk of an ecumenical council to correct abuses in the Church and address the Protestant challenge had been ongoing since 1529. But it had faced many obstacles. Controversy had erupted, for instance, over where to hold the council. The Lutheran princes in Germany demanded that it be held on German soil, while Pope Clement VII was in favor of an Italian venue. The pope demanded that, in order to attend the council, the Protestants had to acknowledge the teaching authority of the Church. This they refused to do.

Another problem was His Most Christian Majesty, Francis I, king of France, who kept interfering with the council preparations. He used the excuse of his war with Emperor Charles V to forbid the French bishops to attend the first scheduled meeting of the council (at Mantua, in Italy) in 1536. For this and other reasons, the meeting of the council was delayed to May 1538, then to Easter 1539, then to All Saints Day 1542. On this last date, the council fathers were to meet at Trent; but the meeting was not held. The Protestants voiced their violent opposition to the council—and their ally, Francis I, would not allow the bull convoking the council to be published in France. (more…)

This Week in History

Sand Creek Massacre:

November 29, 1864

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America (now available in hard cover)For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

“Nothing lives long except the earth and the mountains.”

White Antelope, old gray-head, arms folded, sang his death song: “Nothing lives . . .”

The ancient chief, leader of the people, refusing refuge within the banks of the murmuring creek bed, boldly faced the onslaught of the white-faces, unresisting. The whizzing bullet, whether aimed deliberately or fired recklessly, struck the old man, and he fell, like an ancient, towering pine cut down in the distant forest.

“Nothing lives long . . .”

A depiction of the Sand Creek Massacre, by Howling Wolf, an eye witness


Some would have said that White Antelope’s people, the Arapaho, had lived far too long, scouring the plains in pursuit of the herds of buffalo that fed them and clothed them. It was a new age; the white man was advancing, had been advancing, for over 20 years across the hunting grounds of the Arapaho, the Cheyenne, and the Sioux. Not many years had passed since gold had been found in the mountains of Colorado, and the white man’s city, Denver, had swelled with thousands of fortune seekers. The shiftless Indian (as the whites thought him), intent only on hunting and war, just wasted this land, just wasted it. He must submit to the white man (whose destiny it was to take the land) or die. (more…)

This Week in History

A Wince-worthy Treaty Signed: November 19, 1794

The following comes from our text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. For more information on Lands of Hope and Promisego here. To see sample chapters of this book and our other books, go hereFor ordering information on this and our other texts, please go here.

George Washington in 1795

Washington had wanted to retire at the end of his first term, but at the entreaties of Jefferson and Hamilton, he agreed to stand for a second term. No one opposed Washington in the election of 1792 and, once again, he was elected with a unanimous electoral vote.

In his second administration, Washington faced difficult problems. For one, Great Britain still refused to abandon the forts it held in American territory. More serious, British ships were seizing neutral American ships bound for France and the French West Indies and impressing American sailors. Too, the refusal of Spain to allow American farmers passage down the Mississippi jeopardized the union of the western territories with the United States. Then there were the Barbary pirates of the northern coast of Africa who seized unprotected American ships and imprisoned American sailors.

George Washington reviews troops in Cumberland, Maryland, before marching against Pennsylvania farmers.

Closer to home, a rebellion of farmers in western Pennsylvania challenged federal power. In 1791, to fund the federal government’s assumption of state debt, Congress had laid an excise tax on whiskey, which affected the farmers of the Appalachian region, who could only transport their corn by distilling it into spirituous liquors. The tax was especially heavy on small farmers, for they could not afford the flat yearly rate of $54 that larger distilleries paid to get out of the per-gallon tax. When farmers in western Pennsylvania refused to pay the tax and rose in revolt, the Jeffersonian Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Thomas Mifflin, did nothing to hinder them. With Washington’s urging, however, Congress called up the militia of four states. Led by Washington, and joined by Hamilton sporting military dress, the militia dispersed the farmers, putting an end to what was jokingly called the “Whiskey Rebellion.”

“Mad Anthony” Wayne

More serious were developments farther west. The British lieutenant governor of Upper Canada (later named Ontario), John Graves Simcoe, built a fort on the Maumee River, 100 miles southwest of Detroit — well within United States territory. Worse, Simcoe was mobilizing and arming the Indians in the Northwest Territory. Fortunately for the United States, the western army of 2,000 men was under the command of Maj. General Anthony Wayne. Called “Mad Anthony” by his men for his reckless courage, Wayne was a consummate strat­egist and expert in the art of forest warfare, in which he relentlessly drilled his men.

Reinforced by several hundred Kentucky riflemen, Mad Anthony moved north towards the Maumee, fighting Indians in the dense forest lands of Ohio and Indiana. Reaching the Erie Plain, where lay the log cabins and cultivated fields of the Indians, Wayne built Fort Defiance and offered the Indians peace. They refused his offer and retreated to the vicinity of the British fort. There, behind a natural stockade of fallen trees, members of the Miami, Shawnee, Ojibwe, Potawotomi, Sauk and Fox, and Iroquois peoples, along with a contingent of Canadians led by an old loyalist commander, awaited Wayne’s advance. On August 20, 1794, Wayne attacked the Indians and Canadians in what became known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers, a short fight that in 40 minutes completely routed the Indian force. Wayne followed up the victory by burning Indian homes and laying waste their fields. At the forks of the Maumee in Indiana he raised Fort Wayne.

A year later, tribes from the region between the Mississippi, the Great Lakes, and the Ohio met with Wayne and signed the Treaty of Greenville. In this treaty, the Indians ceded to the United States the entire southeastern section of the Northwest Territory, as well as the sites of Vincennes, Detroit, and Chicago. In return, they received $20,000 and the promise of a yearly payment of $9,500 in goods.

But the Treaty of Greenville did not end the disputes between the U.S. and Great Britain. To resolve the disputes, President Washington had sent Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate a new treaty with Great Britain; but when Washington saw the treaty, he feared to publish it.

John Jay

Jay’s Treaty, signed November 19, 1794, did contain some provisions favorable to the United States. For one, the British agreed to evacuate all their forts on United States ter­ritory by 1796 and granted American ships a limited right to trade with the British West Indies; and while the United States agreed to pay back debts amounting to 600,000 pounds, the British offered 1,317,000 pounds in reparation for the illegal capture of American ships. But other parts of the treaty, Washington knew, would only stoke Republican ire — and they made even Washington wince. For one, the treaty forbade American ships from transport­ing, as they long had been doing, certain products, including cotton, molasses, and sugar, from the British West Indies to America. It did not press the British to compensate slave owners for slaves taken at the end of the war — Jay was opposed to slavery and did not insist on the provision. Finally, the treaty made no mention of the impressing of American sailors. (more…)

This Week in History

The End of “The War to End All Wars”: November 11, 1918

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

Italian troops march through the Val d’Assa during the battle for Vittorio Veneto

The battle that ended Austria-Hungary’s participation in the war occurred on October 23, 1918, when the Italians, with British, French, and American reinforcements, attacked Austrian positions on the Piave River and in the Alps. The stout resistance the Austrians made in the mountains surprised the Italian commander, Armando Diaz. He could make little headway against the Austrian, German, Czech, Slovak, Magyar, Croat, Pole, and Ukrainian soldiers of the Emperor’s army, who disputed every inch of ground with the enemy. Elsewhere, along the Piave, the Italians made more progress, and by October 30 had captured the town of Vittorio Veneto, thus splitting the Austrian army in two.

The day before the capture of Vittorio Veneto, Austria and Italy had begun armistice negotiations that resulted in the calling of a truce on November 2. Despite the truce, after the Austrians had laid down their arms, the Italians continued to advance into the mountains of Trentino until they reached the Brenner Pass. When the armistice was finally signed, Italy was occupying lands of “unredeemed Italy” that the Allies had promised her in the secret Treaty of London. The defeat at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto was the death knell of the empire. One by one, each of the outlying regions of the empire, inhabited by Croats, Slovenes, Poles, and Ukrainians, proclaimed their independence. In Hungary, the government collapsed; in Austria, socialists were calling for the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Though many groups supported the monarchy, all knew what the powerful President Wilson was demanding—the abdication of the Habsburg emperor. (more…)