This Week in History

Execution of the Cristeros’ “Maestro”:

April 1, 1927

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. Please visit our blog to read our previous post on the Cristeros.

“Escena de Viernes Santo en pleno siglo XX” (A Holy Friday Scene in the Middle of the 20th Century) — a picture depicting Christ (center) as Clero (a priest), and his torturers as Calles, Morones, and Obregón.

In the early battles, the insurgents were victorious against local forces but were defeated when they confronted the federal army — which led the federal commander in Jalisco, General Jesús Ferreira, to boast that he would conduct, not a campaign, but a hunt in the state. But in the Pacific coastal state of Colima he met his match in the person of an ex-seminarian and leader of the ACJM, Enrique de Jesús Ochoa. When Ochoa removed his insurgent force from Colima city to Caucentla on the border of Jalisco, Ferreira met him there — and was repulsed.

Because of the insurgents’ war cry — Viva Cristo Rey! (“Long live Christ the King!”) — the Federals, perhaps in mockery, named them Cristo-reyes or Cristeros. But though they might despise them for being peasants, Federal commanders learned to their dismay that the Cristeros had a number of gifted leaders. These were not militarily trained but were men of the common trades who discovered in the crucible of conflict a gift for strategy and command. Along with Ochoa were Jesús Degollado, a druggist; José Reyes Vega and Aristeo Pedroza, priests; and Victoriano Ramirez and Miguel Hernandez, ranch hands. Under such leaders, in the early months of 1927, Cristero forces won significant victories against crack federal cavalry at San Francisco del Rincón in Guanajuato, and at San Julián in Jalisco. (more…)



This Week in History

A Dastardly Execution: March 21, 1804

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

Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the Republic of France

Despite the Treaty of Amiens, France and Great Britain could not keep peace for long. In the several months following the signing of the treaty, Napoleon’s suspicions of England grew. Great Britain, he claimed, was not keeping to what she agreed to in the treaty. He complained that the government of King George III allowed the Bourbon princes to live in England and even supported them with money. He bristled at the ridicule English newspapers hurled at him—he, the First Consul of France and the champion of the Republic!

The English had their own grievances against France. The king’s government could not tolerate the power France had gained on the continent. Northern Italy and Switzerland had come under the republic’s “protection,” and so had the island of Elba (between Corsica and Italy) as well as the country of Holland. In granting “protection” to the Batavian Republic, as Holland was now called, France controlled the best coastline in northern Europe. And then there was the simple snobbery of the English upper class. For them, “Buonaparte” was nothing but an upstart—a lowborn Italian who by cunning had pushed his way into the society of his betters. Admiral Horatio Nelson spoke for many English aristocrats when he called Napoleon the “Corsican scoundrel.” (more…)



This Week in History

Assassination of the Russian Constitution: March 13, 1881

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

Tsar Aleksandr II

As he had done every Sunday for many years, on the Sunday of March 13, 1881, Tsar Aleksandr II climbed into his bulletproof carriage. Then, accompanied by seven armed Cossacks, he rode along the Katerina Canal in St. Petersburg on his way to review the changing of his guards. It was a cold day, but people gathered on the sidewalks along the street to watch the passing of the tsar. One of these was a young man, Nikolai Rysakov; but he had not come simply to see the tsar. In his hands the youth held a small package. When the tsar’s carriage was before him, Rysakov threw the package. It exploded under the carriage, killing a Cossack guard and wounding the driver and several spectators on the street. (more…)



This Week in History

The Opening of the “Hundred Days”: March 6, 1933

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America (now available in hard cover). 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.

Roosevelt giving a “Fireside Chat”

The day after his inauguration, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with advisers long into the night to decide what to do about the country’s economic crisis. Since November, the federal government had done nothing about the depression. Hoover did not want to initiate any new policies to which Roosevelt would be opposed, and Roosevelt (fearful that he would be hamstrung by agreeing to policies not fully his own) refused to collaborate with Hoover in working up new policies. Facing government inaction, people took matters into their own hands and withdrew their savings from banks. Bank failures proliferated until some state governors began proclaiming “bank holidays” — days on which no transactions could occur.

It was doubtful whether the course Roosevelt finally decided to take was constitutional or not, but people were too desperate to ask any questions. On March 6, the president ordered the closing of all banks for four days. Roosevelt followed this up with more decisive action. On March 9, the first day of Congress’ session, he submitted an emergency bank bill to Congress. In the record time of eight hours, Congress passed this bill, which allowed the banks to reopen with a new license system and under the direction of conservators. This was decisive action, indeed! It caught everyone’s attention and filled them with a confidence that they had not known for three years. When the banks reopened on March 13, there was no run on savings. On March 15, the stock market began its slow upward trend.

Roosevelt again surprised the country on March 12 by addressing them on the banking crisis over the radio. This was the first of his “Fireside Chats,” as he called them, with which, over the next several years, he explained and promoted his policies to the public. Roosevelt had a resonant voice that he used to effect to instill confidence in his policies. (more…)



This Week in History

Re-Inauguration of Progressivism: March 4, 1933

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America (now available in hard cover). 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.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during the campaign of 1932

The election of 1932 was one of the most pivotal in the history of the country. It would determine whether the United States would continue to be dominated by 19th century laissez-faire policies or follow the path of such countries as Great Britain and adopt a more active role for the central government in the economy. The latter course was the path of progressivism — of Wilson, La Follette, and the Bull Moose party. Americans had rejected progressivism in 1920, but now, with the specter of a long depression ahead of them, would they again embrace it?

A number of candidates vied for their party’s presidential nomination at the Democratic Party convention of 1932. Al Smith again sought the nomination, but his poor showing at the polls in 1928 dissuaded Democratic politicos from supporting him. The two main contenders for the nomination were Democratic speaker of the House, “Cactus Jack” Garner of Texas, and the governor of New York, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt was fortunate to have the support of the wealthy financier, Joseph P. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who raised funds for him. Kennedy did Roosevelt another good turn; he convinced the wealthy newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst, to turn his support to Roosevelt. Hearst controlled the California delegates to the convention, and his support meant their support. With California’s 44 votes in the bag, Roosevelt secured the Democratic nomination for president. (more…)