Fourth of July Trivia

At the outbreak of fighting in April 1775, few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. Those who did were thought to be radical. By the middle of the following year sentiments had shifted with many more colonists now being in favor of independence.

In August 1775 a royal proclamation declared that the King’s American subjects were “engaged in open and avowed rebellion.” Later that year, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the Crown. And in May 1776 the Congress learned that the King had negotiated treaties with German states to  … Read more>



This Week in History

The “Second Coming in Wrath” at Hiroshima: August 6, 1945

This text comes from our high school text, 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.

Albert Einstein (left) with J. Robert Oppenheimer

When Harry Truman became president following Roosevelt’s death, he learned for the first time that the United States had been working on a new, secret weapon. Among the refugees from Europe were a number of physicists, including the German Jew Albert Einstein, the Italian Enrico Fermi, and the Hungarian Leó Szilárd. These physicists had warned President Roosevelt that German scientists were working on the concept of uranium fission to produce a bomb that could wipe out large sections of cities. To beat the Germans, the United States commenced the Manhattan Project. In centers throughout the country, this top-secret project worked to master the splitting of the atom. On December 2, 1942, Fermi and other physicists had produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. By 1944, J. Robert Oppenheimer, at the laboratories at Los Alamos, New Mexico, had developed the first atomic bomb. On July 19, 1945, this atomic bomb was successfully exploded at Los Alamos. The United States now possessed a weapon that the broken but desperate might of Japan could not withstand. In a message to Churchill, Truman declared, “this is the Second Coming in wrath.” (more…)



This Week in History

The Fall of Robespierre: 9th Thermidor (July 27) 1794

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 satirical drawing depicting Maximilien Robespierre guillotining the executioner after he had killed of everyone else in France

The Terror now entered its darkest phase. Prisons in Paris began to overflow with thousands of accused persons. Executions increased. In the year from the beginning of the Reign of Terror to the passage of the Law of the 22nd Prairial, Paris had seen 1,256 executions; but in the six weeks following the passage of the law, 1,361 died under the guillotine. A steady stream of victims, men as well as women, patriots as well as traitors, climbed the scaffold. Among them was André Chenier, the poet who had composed the hymn to Robespierre’s god.

Among those who met their deaths during this period were the Carmelite nuns of Compiègne. Since September 1792, when the National Assembly had forced them to leave their monastery and abandon their habits, they had continued to live their religious life in small groups, near to a chapel where they heard Mass. But in June 1794, they were arrested for plotting against the republic and taken to Paris. During their trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal, the prosecuting attorney accused the nuns of being fanatics on account of their “attachment to childish beliefs” and “silly religious practices.” Without an attorney to defend them, the sisters were condemned as “enemies of the people by conspiring against its sovereign will.” They were 16 in number—ten professed nuns, one novice, three lay sisters, and two servants. (more…)



This Week in History

Bismarck Goads France into War:

July 19, 1870

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. Further down, you may read the post of which this story is a continuation.

Otto von Bismarck in 1870

The Seven Weeks’ War had made Bismarck a hero in Prussia. Even the Liberals in the Landtag had changed their opinion of him. At the request of King Wilhelm I, they enthusiastically declared that everything Bismarck had done against the Prussian constitution had been legal. Many of the Liberals even discovered that they cared more about Prussian glory than Liberalism. They formed a new National Liberal Party that would in coming years work closely with Bismarck.

Bismarck, however, was not content with these past glories. He wanted to bring the southern German states into a union with Prussia and the northern confederation, but he knew that great obstacles stood in his way. The southern Germans distrusted and disliked Prussia, for various reasons. Some wanted to keep their local independence, and the Liberals among them thought Prussia’s government too oppressive. Most of Germany’s Catholics lived in the south, and they feared living under a Protestant power. They remembered that Prussia had imprisoned Catholic bishops who dared to stand up in support of the Church’s marriage laws.

Bismarck thought that it could be many years before the southern German states would consent to unite under Prussia. He was certain, however, that a war—a patriotic war—could overcome southern German reluctance and unite those states quickly to Prussia. It was just such a war that Bismarck was planning—a war against Germany’s “ancient foe,” France. (more…)



This Week in History

The “Great Strikes” Begin: July 16, 1877

This text comes from our high school text, 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.

The blockade of engines at Martinsburg, West Virginia, from Harper’s Weekly

Only a month after the execution of the Molly Maguires, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad announced that it was cutting wages that were already at a level barely able to support a family. Workers pleaded with the owners of the Baltimore and Ohio, who merely ignored them. On July 16, railroad workers near Baltimore, Maryland went on strike. Other workers connected with the railroad joined them, as did railroad workers in other cities. Strikes and demonstrations broke out in Martinsburg, West Virginia; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; Columbus and Cincinnati; Chicago; and St. Louis, Missouri.

So began the Great Strikes of 1877, long remembered in the history of labor agitation. Strikers not only para­lyzed the railroads of the North — the lifelines of industry — but created considerable unrest in the cities. Not only men (“respectable” tradesmen among them), but women and young girls composed the throngs of workers in the cities. In Pittsburgh, armed strikers pushed engines from their tracks and defied state militia called out to pacify them. One state militia general found himself confronted by an angry mob when he tried to carry out his orders to arrest one of the ringleaders of the strike. Then someone in the mob cried out, “At them, boys! At them! Give them hell!” The militia general ordered his men to open fire, killing 16 and wounding several others. “The sight presented after the soldiers ceased firing was sickening,” wrote a reporter for the New York Herald. “Old men and boys attracted to the [scene of the standoff] . . . lay writhing in the agonies of death, while numbers of children were killed outright. Yellowstone, the neighborhood of the scene of the conflict, was actually dotted with the dead and dying; while weeping women, cursing loudly and deeply the instruments which had made them widows, were clinging to the bleeding corpses.” (more…)