This Week in History

Mexico Gets an Emperor: May 19, 1822

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. 

Agustín de Iturbide and the Army of the Three Guarantees’ triumphant entry into Mexico City

On September 27, 1821, Iturbide led his Army of the Three Guarantees in triumph into Mexico City. With flamboyant chivalry, Don Agustín, mounted on a black horse, marched his army in review past the most beautiful woman in the city. He then proceeded to the viceregal palace, where O’Donojú received the conqueror. In thanksgiving for victory and independence, the archbishop of Mexico offered Masses in the cathedral that had been built by Cortés, almost 300 years before.

At first all seemed to go well for Iturbide. In October the Spanish surrendered Veracruz, Acapulco, and Perote, and their forces retired to the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, built on an island in the bay of Veracruz. The entire mainland of New Spain, from Guatemala to San Francisco, was independent of Spain.

Yet though Mexico seemed peaceful and unified, factions and dissensions threatened the new country. (more…)



This Week in History

President Polk Gets His War:

May 13, 1846

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

President James K. Polk

The presidential election of 1844 pitted James K. Polk, a Democrat and the governor of Tennessee, against the Kentucky Whig senator, Henry Clay. The Democrat Polk had not only favored annexing Texas (which Clay had opposed), but was convinced that it was the United States’ “manifest destiny” to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The conviction that the country’s boundaries should reach ever westward – that it had almost a divine mandate to do so – had seeped into the American popular mind. Rich lands lay in Oregon and in fabled California. Many thought the latter was not ruled well by the Mexicans, who couldn’t realize its potential. California was ripe for the taking, and rather than let France or England take it (rumor said they wanted it), the United States must seize it.

President Polk wanted California but did not, if at all possible, want to go to war to get it. The Mexican government, however, had broken off diplomatic relations with the United States over Texas and so would pay no attention to Polk’s proposals to buy California. When Texas formally accepted annexation in July 1845, Polk again proposed buying California. Since it had defaulted on the payment of debts it owed American citizens for destroyed property, Mexico, Polk suggested, should give California to the United States in lieu of the debt payment. It seemed a good business deal to Polk, but the proud Mexicans thought it an insult to their honor. (more…)



This Week in History

Birth of  a Hell-Raiser: May 1, 1837

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. We offer it in commemoration of the birth of the labor activist, Mother Mary Jones. Though herself active in the public sphere, Mother Jones opposed women’s suffrage. The second excerpt offered here (following the asterisks) gives her reasons why. 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

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones

One of the more colorful of the labor leaders of this period was a woman, Mary “Mother” Jones. In Ireland, Mary Jones’ grandfather had fought against British rule and was hanged for it. Forced to flee to America to escape punishment for his own revolutionary activities, Mary’s father brought her to Toronto, where, as a young woman, she taught in a convent school. Upon mov-ing to Chicago, Mary Jones worked as a sempstress. She moved again to Memphis Tennessee in 1861, where she married an iron worker who was a stalwart member of the Iron Moulder’s Union.

In 1867, tragedy struck. Mary Jones lost her husband and their four young children to Yellow Fever. And tragedy continued to dog her. Having returned to Chicago, she lost all her possessions to the Great Fire of 1871 that destroyed over three square miles of the city. She again took work as a sempstress and became involved with the Knights of Labor. Thenceforth, union activism remained the chief occupation of her life. (more…)



This Week in History

Napoleon Reconciled with God:

May 5, 1821

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.

Pope Pius VII

Pope Pius VII did not forget Napoleon in his exile on the island of St. Helena. “It would be to my heart a joy like nothing else,” the pope wrote to Cardinal Consalvi in 1817, “if I could help in lessening Napoleon’s sufferings. He can no longer be dangerous to anyone. I could only wish that he may not cause anybody remorse.” Pius asked Consalvi to ask Great Britain’s prince-regent, George IV, to ease Napoleon’s sufferings. But the pope’s greatest gift to Napoleon was to send a priest, the Abbé Vignali, to Saint Helena. Pius had learned that Napoleon wanted to be reconciled to the Church.

Napoleon’s life on St. Helena had not been a happy one. The rocky, barren, wind-swept island was grim enough; but Napoleon’s residence, Longwood, was damp, unhealthy, and not shaded by any tree. Water had to be carried to the house, and the nearest water source was three miles away. Napoleon did receive visitors, and he had companions who shared his exile, but the island’s governor would not allow him to speak with the island’s inhabitants. Far worse, the British kept from him all news of his son, now named the Duke of Reichstadt, and of the former empress of France, Maria Louisa. (more…)



This Week in History

A Brave Bishop Leaves Prison:

April 22, 1839

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.

Friedrich Wilhelm III, king of Prussia

It was silent night, November 20, 1837. By order of the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm III, troops surrounded the archiepiscopal palace in Köln, on the lower Rhine in Germany. Escorted by police, the governor of the province entered the palace and arrested the 64-year-old archbishop, Clemens August von Droste-Vischering. After being taken from his diocese, the archbishop was imprisoned at the fortress of Minden, about 147 miles northeast of Köln. Such was the price Clemens August had to pay for defending the rights of the Church against the Prussian government.

In Prussia, it had long been the custom in mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants that the mother raised the daughters in her religion while the father raised the sons in his. This seemed an amicable way to deal with a rather difficult issue, but it ignored the fact that religion is about truth. The Catholic Church could not allow the children of a Catholic parent to be raised in what the Church recognized as a false religion. So it was that in 1830, Pope Pius VIII ruled that the Church would not bless any mixed marriages unless the non-Catholic spouse agreed that the children would be raised Catholic. It was because he refused to disobey the pope in this matter that Archbishop Droste-Vischering was imprisoned by the Prussian government in the fortress of Minden. By refusing to submit to the Prussian law, Droste-Vischering was defending not only Catholic marriage practice, but the right of the Church to be free from interference by the state. (more…)