This Week in History

The Cristero Revolt Begins:

January 1, 1927

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To peruse sample chapters of our books, please  go hereFor ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

President Alvaro Obregón

While Obregón, fearing to jeopardize his power, had been wary of pushing revolutionary social reforms, Calles was more resolute. In the four years he held the presidency, Calles distributed eight million acres to 1,500 villages and established agricultural banks to provide loans for the new farmers. Calles more firmly allied himself with labor than had Obregón. The new president promoted public hygiene and improved sanitation. He instituted irrigation projects to put more land into cultivation. He continued Vasconcelos’ education policies, building more schools in rural areas. Calles — at least at first — seemed genuinely committed to social reform along the lines envisioned by the Constitution of 1917; but it was not long before the basic corruption of his regime undid his would-be radicalism.

Calles ruled as an absolute dictator. He worked to concentrate power in his own hands and was ruthless to those who opposed him. Those who dared oppose him were usually executed, or they “committed suicide” in prison. Calles’ dictatorship was more bitter and relentless than Don Porfirio’s had been. Continue reading

This Week in History

Coronation of a Reluctant Emperor, December 25, 800

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

The “Arm Reliquary,” kept in the treasury of the cathedral built by Charles the Great and the site of his tomb in Aachen. The reliquary contains the ulna and radius bones of Charles’ right arm. King Louis XI of France commissioned the reliquary in 1481.

[Charlemagne] was more than a conqueror; he was a great organizer and reformer. He divided his realm into counties, each with a comes (Latin for companion), or “count,” to rule it. To keep an eye on his subordinates, the king himself throughout his life made trips to all parts of his realm, arriving with little or no warning. He also sent out emissaries, called missi dominici, to travel a regular circuit and report to him on the state of his provinces and the needs of his subjects. These royal legates, who traveled in pairs—one a count, the other a bishop—were appointed for a year’s duty over a certain number of counties. Complaints against a local count or his administrators were brought before the emissaries, and they would send the complaints up to the king.

Among the reports brought back to Charles by his missi dominici were letters from provincial bishops. Because Charles saw how badly these letters were written, he began to fear that his clergy did not have enough Latin to understand the Scriptures. He thus established schools in every monastery and cathedral for the perfect teaching of the Latin tongue. The English scholar, Alcuin, who headed the school in Charles’s palace, called the “palace school,” was commanded to staff and oversee these many schools. Scholars from the British monasteries were brought over to Charles’s kingdom to train new teachers. Thus Charles brought the Anglo-Saxon renaissance of learning to the continent. Continue reading

This Week in History

Congress Votes for Prohibition: December 18, 1917

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

Bill Sunday, preaching, 1908

Folks in Norfolk, Virginia had gathered to witness an unusual funeral on January 16, 1920. The flamboyant evangelist, Billy Sunday, commended to hell one John Barleycorn, the “body” drawn off from a cheering crowd in a 20-foot horse drawn coffin. This was a large coffin made for one whom Billy Sunday thought a big enemy — perhaps man’s biggest enemy. “Good-bye, John,” cried Sunday. “You were God’s worst enemy. You were Hell’s best friend . . . the reign of terror is over.”

John Barleycorn was, of course, no man. He was a symbol of the “demon liquor” — “barley” and “corn” being the two crops from which whiskey is distilled. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead Act that enforced it had done Barleycorn to death — and temperance crusaders, like Billy Sunday, rejoiced in his damnation. Continue reading

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…” Continue reading

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. Continue reading