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

Freedom for a Treacherous King: October 1, 1823

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.

Though the vast majority of those who had fought in the Spanish resistance against Napoleon had done so out of love for their homeland and devotion to their Catholic Faith, most of the resistance leaders (members of the bourgeoisie, scholars, and military officers) were thorough Liberals. After establishing a junta, these leaders had in 1812 drawn up a constitution that granted most governmental power to a legislature (called the cortes) and very little power to the king. The king had the power to sign bills into law, but no power to make laws. He had only a suspensive veto power: he could delay bills becoming laws, but he could not stop them entirely.

Proclamation of the Constitution of 1812

The Spanish “Constitution of 1812,” as it was called, was in some ways very similar to the French Constitution of 1791. But it differed from France’s constitution in some very important ways. The Constitution of 1812 said, for instance, that the “Catholic Apostolic Roman and only true faith” was the religion of the “Spanish nation.” The state, the constitution said, should protect the Church and prevent the practice of any other religion. It allowed for freedom of the press, except that publications were not permitted to attack the Catholic Faith. Yet, like the French constitution, the Constitution of 1812 did not allow the nobility or the Church to have representatives in the one-house cortes. This meant that these two estates no longer had any legal means to protect their interests and rights. (more…)



This Week in History

Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation: September 22, 1862

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. Read the post to which this is a continuation.

“God bless you and all with you,” wrote Lincoln to McClellan after the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam). “Destroy the rebel army if possible.” But September passed, and McClellan still did not pursue Lee. On October 1, Lincoln ordered McClellan to pursue Lee. McClellan obeyed — but only after another 18-day delay.

“The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” by Francis Bicknell Carpenter

Though not a decisive victory, the Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam) was still a victory for the North; McClellan had held the field while Lee retreated. It was for just such a victory that Lincoln had been waiting — “God,” he said, “had decided in favor of the slaves.” On September 22 he issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation:

On the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforth, and forever free. (more…)



This Week in History

The Cost of Delay — the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam): September 17, 1862

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.

Robert E. Lee

Lee’s men, said a Maryland woman, were “a most ragged, lean and hungry set of wolves.” Yet, she conceded, “there is a dash about them the northern men lacked.”

“This body of men,” said another woman, moved “along with no order, their guns carried in every fashion, no two dressed alike, their officers hardly distinguishable from the privates . . . Were these the men that had driven back again and again our splendid legions?”

Lee was marching north, but it was not clear where exactly he planned to go. Behind him, following, came the ever-cautious McClellan. He needn’t have been so careful; Lee had divided his army, sending Jackson to Harper’s Ferry to capture the Federal garrison there. McClellan’s army numbered 95,000, while Lee had only 18,000 with him. But McClellan was cautious, even after one of his soldiers found, wrapped around some cigars lying in a meadow where the Confederates had camped, a copy of Lee’s general orders. “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee,” said McClellan, “I will be willing to go home.” Still, he delayed 18 hours before he ordered an attack. (more…)



This Week in History

Napoleon III’s Waterloo — Sedan: September 2, 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. Read the post for which this story is a continuation.

Emperor Napoleon III

Napoleon III had been assured that the French army was well prepared for war, but this was untrue. The French army was in a deplorable condition, and the attempts to mobilize it were filled with mishaps. The men, moreover, were badly equipped and poorly trained. They were in no condition to meet what had become the most disciplined army in Europe, under the best military commander of the day— General Moltke.

The French placed 200,000 men at the city and fortress of Metz in Lorraine and another 100,000 at Strasbourg, in Alsace. From these two cities (called the gateways to Germany), the French thought they would invade Germany. The Prussians for their part had three armies (together numbering 424,000 men), with which they planned to force their way through the “gateways” of Metz and Strasbourg into France.

The Prussian strategy had been so well planned that the German armies moved with the precision of a machine. By mid August, the Prussians forced the French general, Marshal Patrice de Mac-Mahon, to abandon Strasbourg and withdraw from most of Alsace. On August 18, another Prussian army defeated Marshal Achille François Bazaine at Gravelotte in Lorraine and forced him to take refuge in the fortified town of Metz. Though the French fought bravely through several bloody battles, their lack of preparation brought them defeat after defeat at the hands of the Prussians. (more…)