This Week in History

Antoine-Frédéric Accepts

the Challenge: April 23, 1833

Like all Europeans, Catholics in the 1840s were divided on how to meet the challenges of their time. The Church in Western Europe was in many ways still in a state of shock because of the French Revolution and its aftermath. It was hard for Catholics, bishops and popes included, to understand fully all that had happened. Thus, when they considered what needed to be done to bring Europe back to the Faith, Catholics came up with very different answers.

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Pope Gregory XVI

There were those Catholics who thought Europe had to return to the way things were under the ancient regime. They saw the cause of the Church as tied up with the cause of the old monarchies, such as the Bourbons or the Habsburgs. The watchword of such monarchist Catholics was “throne and altar” — the old alliance of the Catholic Church and the Catholic monarchy.

Other Catholics thought the Church had to realize that Liberal society was not going to go away and so should look for what might be good in it. They thought that the Church must not only accept republican forms of government but even the new spirit of political liberty. Such “Liberal Catholics” said the Church should allow for freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, and the toleration of non-Catholic religions in Catholic countries. It was just such ideas, however, that Pope Gregory XVI condemned in his encyclical, Mirari Vos. Despite the encyclical, Liberal Catholics continued to spread their ideas, especially in France.


This Week in History

Death Day of a Queen

Who was Nobody’s Fool: April 1, 1204

Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she appeared on the obverse side of her seal

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.

At Henry I’s death, civil war engulfed England. Neither the Norman nor the English barons wanted King Henry’s chosen heir to be their king. This heir was Henry Plantagenet, the son of Matilda (King Henry I’s daughter) and Count Geoffrey Plantagenet. From Geoffrey, Henry Plantagenet inherited the French fiefs of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, as well as Normandy. After the civil war in England ended, Henry came into his inheritance there as King Henry II. (From Henry’s family name, we call his line of English kings the Plantagenets.) He controlled not only England and a large portion of northern France, but much of southern France as well. As lord of the four French fiefs, Henry II controlled a large section of France. Before becoming king he had, in 1152, married Eleanor of Aquitaine — heiress to the French provinces of Poitou, Guienne, Gascony, and most of southern France. This marriage made Henry the most powerful man in western Europe.


This Week in History

Zapata Assassinated: April 10, 1919

This text comes from our book, 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.

Venustiano Carranza

Carranza was not the author of the more radical provisions of the Constitution of 1917, and he did nothing to enforce them. Indeed, it would have been difficult to deprive foreign companies of their land and mineral rights, for they would appeal to their governments for redress. Both the Church and the landowners resisted the government’s reforms. Too, even if Carranza had possessed the power to enforce the Constitution, he had not the desire.

But when Carranza did exercise power, he used it against radicals. He did nothing to redistribute lands to the peasants; he actively suppressed workers’ attempts to organize unions. He closed the House of the World Worker in Mexico City and arrested one of its most powerful leaders, Luis Morones.

Given Carranza’s violations of the new constitution, one might have expected some general to “pronounce” against him; but Mexico was exhausted by revolution; and, besides, Carranza had pledged that he would not seek re-election. (more…)

This Week in History

Death Dance at Shiloh: April 6-7, 1862

This text comes from our book, 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.

It took over 400 vessels to ferry the immense Army of the Potomac, 121,500 strong, from its base near Washington to Fort Monroe. McClellan’s army reached Fort Monroe in mid-March and began its slow advance up the York Peninsula. On April 5, McClellan’s advanced guard reached Yorktown where, some 80 years earlier, Cornwallis had surrendered to Washington.

General Joseph Eggleston Johnston

Joe Johnston’s Confederates lay between the Army of the Potomac and Richmond. At Yorktown itself, John Bankhead Magruder generalled 11,000 men. Magruder, knowing he was vastly outnumbered by union forces, fell back on his flair for the theater. By scattering artillery fire and marching his men across the same clearing several times, Magruder made it seem that he possessed far more than 11,000 men. He fooled McClellan, who believed no fewer than 100,000 men lay across the Confederate lines. It would be foolish, McClellan thought, to challenge such a host, ensconced as it was behind fortifications; so, even though Lincoln urged him to “break the enemy’s line . . . at once,” McClellan decided to dig in and lay siege to Yorktown. (more…)

This Week in History

The Founding of Danton’s Dictator:

April 5, 1793

Georges Danton addressing the French National Convention

Danton had not been in Paris when the National Convention declared war on Great Britain. Instead, he had gone on another mission to the army in Belgium, and what he saw there was not encouraging. Returning to Paris on February 15, 1793, he described the poor state of the army to the Convention deputies. The soldiers were ill equipped and, being volunteers, many were returning to their homes, he said. With Great Britain, Holland, and now Spain joined in a coalition against France, more troops — many more troops — were needed, said Danton.

So it was that, on February 23, the Convention voted to increase the size of the army to 500,000 men. To do this, it decreed that the departments had to provide 300,000 men, by conscription if necessary. Such numbers would soon be needed, for Dumouriez had invaded Holland.

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Jean-Paul Marat

But providing more troops to the army was not Danton’s only concern. He wanted to bring peace to the Convention. His attempts to bridge the split between the Girondins and the Mountain had again failed. The Girondin leaders would have nothing to do with the rough Danton, and even the Left did not unite behind him. On the Mountain were men like Robespierre and other Jacobins who, though despising the Girondins, might still be willing to come to a reasonable agreement with them. But then there were fanatics, like the Jacobin Jean-Paul Marat, who not only wanted to force the Girondins out of the Convention but to bathe their own hands in Girondin blood. Such men only disgusted the high-toned Girondin leaders and made reconciliation between the factions even harder.