This Week in History

Roosevelt Wields the Big Stick over Panama: November 18, 1903

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here. 

Theodore Roosevelt

In his inaugural address, Roosevelt developed his ideas about the place of the United States in the world. “Much has been given us,” he said, “and much will rightfully be expected from us . . . We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. Towards all other nations, large and small, our atti­tude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and gen­erous recognition of all their rights.”

However, the president continued, justice and gen­erosity required strength. “While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others,” he said, “we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.”

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Roosevelt wields the big stick over the Caribbean, 1904

Roosevelt had said about the same thing many times before but in fewer words: “There is a homely adage which runs: ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick; you will go far.’” Roosevelt almost always spoke softly when dealing with the leaders of other nations. The fear expressed when he took over from McKinley, that he would draw the nation into war, proved unfounded. Once he became president, Roosevelt did all he could to avoid war. He had granted Cuba her independence, as McKinley had promised, and had only intervened once to restore order on the island, as the Platt Amendment allowed the United States president to do. Roosevelt also allowed the Philippines to establish a degree of self-rule, though a United States governor still presided over the island nation.

Yet, Teddy was not averse to using the “big stick” whenever he thought he needed to. He proved this in the case of Colombia. (more…)



This Week in History

The Coup of 19th Brumaire:

November 10, 1799

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.

Much had changed in Europe while Napoleon was fighting in Egypt.

King Fernando IV of Naples

At first, the French republic had achieved success after success in war. In March 1798, French armies overran Switzerland and forced the cantons to accept a centralized, republican government called the Helvetic Republic. In Italy, King Fernando IV of Naples declared war on France; in October, Neapolitan troops were able to enter Rome, but a French counterattack drove them from the city. When news of the defeat reached Naples, Fernando and his court fled by ship to Palermo in Sicily. For over two months, southern Italy had no government. Though the poor of Naples were devoted to their king, the nobility and educated classes surrendered to the French and established a republic—called the Parthenopean Republic.

This new republic, however, had a very short life. French victories, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, and the Directory’s decision in September 1798 to draft more men into the army convinced the monarchies of Europe that they had to destroy the French republic or be destroyed by it. By December 1798, Great Britain, Russia, and Austria had formed a new coalition against France. War began in March 1799, and over the next few months, allied armies were able to roll back the French conquests in Italy. In June, the Parthenopean Republic fell after an existence of only five months, and Fernando IV resumed his reign over Naples.

In France, many thought that the Directory was leading the republic into ruin. There had been continuous war, and France was losing everything she had won. The problem, many thought, was the government. Both the Council of Ancients and the Council of 500 were filled with incompetent men, many of whom used their offices to enrich themselves. Most of the directors themselves were corrupt and venal. The whole thing had become very unpopular. What could be done to restore glory to France and assure a lasting peace for the republic? (more…)



This Week in History

The Spark That Ignited the World: October 31, 1517

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.

Pope Leo X with his cardinal nephews

The year 1517 witnessed the end of the Fifth Lateran Council. This council made decrees that, if they had only been followed, could have begun the long-awaited reformation of the Church. Near the end of the council, a layman, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, told the council fathers that if churchmen did not begin to lead moral lives, then all was lost. If Pope Leo X, said Mirandola, did not punish the immoral clergy, God himself would cut off those rotten limbs and burn them in fire. Leo, however, did nothing.

Instead, the same year, Pope Leo made a deal with a wealthy German churchman, Albert of Brandenburg. Though he was already the archbishop of Magdeburg in Germany, Albert wanted to be archbishop of the German city of Mainz as well. To do this, however, Albert had to pay an enormous sum of money to the Roman curia. To help Albert come up with the money, Leo allowed him to take one-half of the funds raised in the indulgence for St. Peter’s Basilica and use it to pay off his debt to the curia. (more…)



This Week in History

The Victory of the Longbow:

October 25, 1415

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.

The Battle of Crecy

For another six years after the Battle of Sluys, the English and French fought no important battles. In 1346, however, Edward III crossed the English Channel with 15,000 men and captured the city of Caen in Normandy. The English then moved east, pillaging the country as they went. Philip, with an army of about 20,000 men, moved north. On August 26, 1346, the English and the French met at Crecy, near the Flemish border.

At Crecy, Edward III’s army used a new weapon, the cannon. The cannon used by the English, however, was not the powerful weapon it would become. It was a crude, smooth-bore gun capable of only short-range firing of two- to three-pound iron balls. But Edward’s cannon caused panic in the French cavalry lines, scaring and crippling horses and men with bouncing blows. (more…)



This Week in History

Assault at Harper’s Ferry:

October 16, 1859

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here. 

John Brown in 1859

Old Osawatomie John Brown, now sporting a long, gray beard and bearing the alias Shubel Morgan, had returned to Kansas. He had been in Chatham, Ontario in May 1859 meeting with 12 white and 24 black abolitionists, including Harriet Tubman; they had been discussing a plot of Brown’s for a violent revolution to free the slaves. Back in Kansas, John Brown was again causing trouble. Answering a plea for help from a slave who was to be sold at auction, Brown, his sons, and others crossed over into Missouri, freed the slave (along with five of his fellow slaves), and stole some horses and a wagon. Proceeding to another farm, Brown’s party freed five more slaves, killing a white man who opposed them. When the government placed a $500 bounty on Brown’s head, the old abolitionist again fled to Canada. (more…)