This Week in History

California Conquered — by Mistake: October 19, 1842

The following comes from our textt, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please go here.

1838 Map of Alta California

The secularization of mission lands, along with the Mexican government’s approval of more land grants to white settlers, increased the number of private ranchos in California. These great cattle ranches centered on the hacienda — a long one-story adobe building, sometimes with porticoed wings enclosing a courtyard, but always with a shaded verandah. Rancho dons were noted for their extravagant hospitality to strangers, their rodeos, bull fights, balls, and feasting. Besides cattle raising, which was practically his sole occupation, the Californio filled his hours with singing and dancing.

For some in California, politics added a needed spice to an otherwise quiet, pastoral life. Before his death in 1836, Figueroa had appointed José Castro as civil governor; nevertheless, Lt. Colonel Nicolás Gutiérrez, a companion of the former governor, decided to unite civil and military affairs under himself. It was 1836, and centralism was triumphant in Mexico. When Governor Mariano Chico left only three months after arriving from Mexico, handing the government back to Gutiérrez, certain Liberal Californios, tired of rule by non-Californios, rose in revolt. Led by Juan Alvarado of Monterey and José Castro, Californios, Indians, and Anglo-American foreigners under Isaac Graham, attacked the governor’s residence in Monterey. When his house was struck by a cannon ball, Gutiérrez decided he had had enough and retired to Mexico. (more…)



This Week in History

Napoleone Saves the Revolution: 13th Vendémiaire (October 5), 1795

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

Louis Stanislas (Louis XVIII)

The government’s victory in the Insurrection of 1st Prairial was followed on May 31 by the return of the surviving Girondins to the Convention. The seating of these deputies who favored the bourgeoisie gave hope to the moderates and the Right that the Constitution of 1793 would be permanently set aside in favor of a more conservative plan of government. Others, the monarchists and royalists, hoped that the Convention would either simply restore the Constitution of 1791, with its National Assembly and king, or come up with a constitution similar to it.

But events worked against the plans of the monarchists and royalists. The first of these events was the forming of a new foreign coalition against the republic. Great Britain was determined to continue the war and formed a new alliance with Russia and Austria to reestablish the French monarchy and the ancient regime. Then the 10-year-old heir to the French throne, Louis XVII, who had for a year been kept in solitary confinement in the Tower of the Temple, died on June 8, 1795. This left Louis XVI’s brother, Louis Stanislas, the count of Provençe, as the heir to the throne. Louis Stanislas (or Louis XVIII) had led the émigrés’ resistance to the republic and wanted to reestablish the ancient regime. The Convention would never agree to making such an enemy of the republic the king of France.

(more…)



This Week in History

Martyrdom in California:

November 4, 1775

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.

Don Pedro Fages

In California as in Florida and other Spanish colonies, questions of jurisdiction sparked tensions between the friars and the royal governors. Fray Junípero clashed with the second governor, Pedro Fages, over the question of who commanded the soldiers at the missions. Every mission had four soldiers to guard it; and in some of the missions, soldiers were becoming a problem. Having left their wives behind in Mexico, the soldiers went after Indian women. The soldiers could be cruel. Once some soldiers hanged and mutilated a band of Indians for stealing horses.

Fray Don Antonio María Bucareli y Ursua

When Fages ignored his complaints, Fray Junípero decided to appeal to Mexico City. He undertook the long journey by sea to the capital in 1773 and there met with the viceroy, Fray Don Antonio María Bucareli y Ursua, a member of the lay Order of St. John of Jerusalem (the Knights of Malta). The viceroy listened sympathetically to Serra and asked him to write down his recommendations for California. Bucareli adopted almost all of Fray Junípero’s recommendations in the regulations for California he promulgated shortly after Serra’s return in 1774. (more…)



This Week in History

The Blackshirts March on Rome:

October 27, 1922

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.

King Vittorio Emanuele III

The end of the Great War proved a disappointment to Italian nationalists. Though Italy had gained those parts of “unredeemed Italy” she had demanded in the Treaty of London, the nationalists had wanted even more lands. The nationalists had hoped the war would make Italy a great power in the eastern Mediterranean; but, instead, the war’s end brought only hardship. The cost of food, rent, and other necessities of life had risen greatly. Many soldiers returning from the war were without jobs. King Vittorio Emanuele III’s prime minister and the Chamber of Deputies seemed incapable of solving the country’s problems. Having lost trust in the Liberal parties that had been running the country, large numbers of discharged soldiers and workers turned to the socialists, who thus won a great many seats in the Chamber of Deputies in the election of November 1919.

But the Italian socialists were not content with winning elections. Both Bolsheviks (with encouragement and aid from Moscow) and anarchists began urging revolution. The Bolsheviks called for a general strike and urged workers to establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” And, even before the August 1919 elections, the countryside responded. Jobless, former soldiers seized land; tenant peasant farmers refused to pay rent to landlords; and rural laborers demanded an eight-hour workday. Harvests were destroyed, cattle were slaughtered, and men were murdered. It looked as if Italy might well become the world’s second Bolshevik republic. (more…)



This Week in History

Moscow Routs Napoleon: October 19, 1812 

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 with General Lauriston, one of the commanders in the Grand Armée in the invasion of Moscow, by the Russian artist, Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904)

Unlike other cities he had conquered, Moscow sent no delegation of citizens to greet Napoleon. No crowds of common folk waited to hail him as a deliverer, as had happened in other places. Napoleon met no one, for scarcely anyone was left in the city. After receiving the news that Kutuzov would not defend Moscow, her people— about 200,000 of them, the rich and poor, the high placed and the lowly—had gathered what they could of their possessions and fled. It was an empty, silent city into which Napoleon made his triumphant entry on September 16, 1812.

That day, the emperor of the French took up his quarters in the Kremlin, the ancient abode of the tsar of the Russians. From its windows, he could look out on the strangely beautiful city, so different from any other city in Europe. It was a city of wooden tenements and elaborate palaces, of “modern” 18th-century structures alongside fanciful churches that seemed like visions of fairyland. It was the legendary capital of that strange oriental land, Russia, and it now belonged to Napoleon I, Emperor of the French!

But, that night of September 16, Napoleon’s wonder and pride turned to foreboding and dismay. From those same Kremlin windows he now saw flames arising in different sectors of the city. Soon he learned that these were not isolated fires; as night gave way to day, it became clear that fire was rapidly laying waste to the wooden structures of the poor as well as the stately palaces of the rich.

All of Moscow was burning. (more…)