colonial american history

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March 1st 1692: The Salem Witch Trials begin

On this day in 1692, three women were brought before local magistrates in Salem Village, Massachusetts, thus beginning the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The women were Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba and all three had been accused of witchcraft after local girls began experiencing strange fits. Given the lack of medical knowledge at the time and the preponderance of beliefs in the supernatural, witchcraft was the only logical explanation for their condition. The accused women matched the description of the stereotypical witch: Good was a beggar, Osborne rarely went to church and Tituba was a slave of different ethnicity. The women were interrogated by magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin and Tituba eventually confessed to witchcraft, claiming Good and Osborne were her co-conspirators. The three were then sent to jail; Osborne died in jail, Good was hanged and Tituba (as a useful confessor) was kept alive and eventually released after the trials ended. The initial interrogation was followed by many more accusations of witchcraft throughout the village and the surrounding area, fueled perhaps by local rivalries, poisoned grain or just mass fear. The manhunt resulted in 19 ‘witches’ being hanged, one pressed to death and hundreds more imprisoned in horrendous conditions. The event is a famous example of mass hysteria and has become a cautionary tale for religious extremism and false accusations.

The Army of Immigrants

Records of men who camped at Valley Forge, expose the myth of farmers throwing down their plows to fight for land they’d owned for generations.

Enlisted ranks were largely landless men in their teens or early twenties, unmarried and poor.  The army offered steady wage, food, whiskey, and clothes, so patriotism was not often the driving factor of their enlistment.  A study of 710 New Jersey Continentals showed almost all came from lower economic classes and only a small number had a profession at all.

In addition to being landless, most were not American-born. Before the revolution, over 300,000 Irish had immigrated to North America, and their bitterness of British oppression helped lead the drive for independence. In most New England Continental regiments, 10-20% of the men had Irish surnames, and in middle states that percentage was consistently higher. Units from Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware were usually around 45% Irish. In The First Pennsylvania, 315 of 660 men were Irish-born and another 215 listed “America” as their place of birth, likely second-generation immigrants.  

After the Irish, German-born men held the second-largest percentage, making up somewhere from 10-20% of the rank-and-file soldiers at Valley Forge.  They were the largest ethnic group in the United States at the time, mostly settled in New York and Pennsylvania.  

Additionally, almost 10% of Washington’s army, camped at Valley Forge, was made up of African or African American soldiers.  Many enlisted voluntarily, but it’s true that some were given as bounty for their masters to avoid enlistment.  And, many served through to the end of the war, finding better treatment among enlisted ranks as ‘brother soldiers’.

info from: “No Meat, No Soldier: Race, Class and Ethnicity in the Continental Army” Charles P. Neimeyer

Did Europeans “civilize” the Americas? Actually, anthropologists tell us that “hunters and gatherers were relatively peaceful, compared to agriculturalists, and that modern societies were more warlike still. Thus violence increases with civilization.


[…] Textbooks cannot resist contrasting "primitive” Americans with modern Europeans.


[…] Europeans persuaded Natives to specialize in the fur and slave trades. Native Americans were better hunters and trappers than Europeans, and with the guns the Europeans sold them, they became better still. Other Native skills began to atrophy.


[…] because whites “demanded institutions reflective of their own with which to relate,” many Native groups strengthened their tribal governments… New confederations and nations developed.. The tribes also became more male- dominated, in imitation of Europeans.. [there was] an escalation of Indian warfare… [the slave trade helped] to deagriculturize Native Americans. To avoid being targets for capture, Indians abandoned their cornfields and their villages.


[…] "Europeans did not “civilize” or “settle” roaming Indians, but had the opposite impact.


[…] According to Benjamin Franklin, “All their government is by Counsel of the Sages. There is no Force; there are no Prisons, no officers to compel Obedience, or inflict Punishment.” Probably foremost, the lack of hierarchy in the Native socieites in the eastern United States attracted the admiration of European observers. Frontiersmen were taken with the extent to which Native Americans enjoyed freedom as individuals. Women were also accorded more status and power.. than in white societies of the time.


[…] "Indeed, Native American ideas may be partly responsible for our democratic institutions. We have seen how Native ideas of liberty, fraternity, and equality found their way to Europe to influence social philosophers such as Thomas More, Locke, Montaigne, Montesquieu, and Rousseau… Through 150 years of colonial contact, the Iroquois League stood before the colonies as an object lesson in how to govern a large domain democratically.


[…] John Mohawk has argued that American Indians are directly or indirectly responsible for the public-meeting tradition, free speech, democracy, and “all those things which got attached to the Bill of Rights.” Without the Native example, “do you really believe that all those ideas would have found birth among a people who had spent a millennium butchering other people because of intolerance of questions of religion?”


[…] Indian warfare absorbed 80 percent of the entire federal budget during George Washington’s administration and dogged his successors for a century as a major issue and expense… [in many cases] the settlers were Native American, the scalpers white.


[…] All the textbooks tell how Jefferson “doubled the size of the United States by buying Louisiana from France.” Not one points out that it was not France’s land to sell–it was Indian land… Indeed, France did not really sell Louisiana for $15,000,000. France merely sold its claim to the territory… Equally Eurocentric are the maps textbooks use to show the Lewis and Clark expedition. They make Native American invisible, implying that the United States bought vacant land from the French… [Textbooks imply that the Indians were naive about land ownership, but] the problem lay in whites’ not abiding by accepted concepts of land ownership.


[…] The most important cause of the War of 1812.. was land– Indian land… The United States fought five of the seven major land battles of the War of 1812 primarily against Native Americans… [a] result of the War of 1812 was the loss of part of our history. A century of learning [from Native Americans] was coming to a close… until 1815 the word Americans had generally been used to refer to Native Americans; after 1815 it meant European Americans… Carleton Beals has written that “our acquiescence in Indian dispossession has molded the American character.” … destroyed our national idealism. From 1815 on, instead of spreading democracy, we exported the ideology of white supremacy. Gradually we sought American hegemony over Mexico, the Philippines, much of the Caribbean basin, and, indirectly, over other nations… We also have to admit that Adolf Hitler displayed more knowledge of how we treated Native Americans than American high schoolers who rely on their textbooks. Hitler admired our concentration camps for Indians in the west “and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination–by starvation and uneven combat” as the model for his extermination of Jews and Gypsies.


[…] Yet we “still stereotype Native Americans as roaming primitive hunting folk, unfortunate victims of progress.

— 

Excerpts from  Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong 

by James W. Loewen

The Last Aztec Emperor

Cuauhtémoc was the son of Emperor Ahuizotl of the Aztec Empire. He was born around 1495. Bad, bad timing. In 1502 his uncle (or possibly cousin) Moctezuma II became ruler of the empire. Cuauhtémoc was busy going to a school for elite boys, then being a warrior. After a period of fighting Aztec enemies and capturing some for sacrificing, he was named ruler of Tlatelolco, with the title cuauhtlatoani (“eagle ruler”) in 1515.

Keep reading

As per usual, Frank Waln is bang on. Don’t ignore Indigenous voices as America attempts to move forward despite the negativity in these coming months. 

Film: 1745

Release date: 2017
Genre: Drama Studio Hopscotch Films & Compact Pictures
About: Two young black slaves escape into the wilds of 18th century Scotland, they must use all of their courage and strength to survive, unite, and stay free.
Awards: Awarded the Scottish Film Talent Network New Talent Grant in conjunction with Creative Scotland and the BFI.
Starring: Morayo Akandé, Moyo Akandé
Directed By Gordon J. Napier
Written By Morayo Akandé
Produced By John McKay

Basically what I’m getting from this is that a lot of folks have no concept of the scale of post-colonial American history. It’s like Plymouth Rock and the Roaring 20s are historically adjacent in our minds, rather than being separated by three hundred years.

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February 12th 1818: Chilean Declaration of Independence

On this day in 1818, Chile officially issued its Declaration of Independence from Spanish rule, following the initial declaration of September 1810. Desire for independence had been on the rise in Chile for a number of years, fueled by international independence movements, disaffection with the corrupt Spanish-appointed governor, and the political turmoil following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the capture of the Spanish king. Following Argentina’s declaration of independence in May 1810, the governor arrested patriots including the Chilean Bernardo de Vera Pintado, prompting outrage in Chile. Citizens demanded a say in their future, and 300 leading Chileans gathered for a meeting. Many of the attendees were Spaniards living in Chile, and disagreements over the question of independence divided the meeting. It was finally resolved that Chile, like Argentina, would establish an independent government, but remain nominally loyal to the exiled King Fernando VII. Count Mateo de Toro y Zambrano was named President, and the new junta set about establishing a national Congress and military. However, royalists vociferously opposed the declaration - which put Chile resolutely on the path to total independence - and the next decade saw bloody warfare between those who advocated full independence, and those who wanted to remain within the Spanish Empire. In 1814, Spanish troops reconquered Chile, but the oppressive rule of Spanish loyalists reinvigorated the independence movement. The tide turned in favour of the patriots, who retook Chile in 1818, when they defeated the last large Spanish force in the Battle of Maipú, and issued a formal declaration of independence on February 12th. The wars came to a close with the expulsion of royalists in 1821, and the surrender of the last Spanish troops in 1826. Chilean independence was therefore secured, though not formally recognised by Spain until 1844.

Ang Laya Mo’y Babantayan: The History of the patriotic song, Pilipinas Kong Mahal

Not much could be gathered of the famous patriotic song, Pilipinas Kong Mahal. Sung in numerous state events and in Philippine flag ceremonies, it doesn’t invoke the usual unfeeling tune performed by marching bands. This was understandable because these songs were designed to rouse the fighting spirit and sound the call to arms. But Pilipinas Kong Mahal stands out. When one observes the tune, one could feel a tinge of sadness that wraps up in a powerful resolve to defend Pilipinas, redeemed at such a high cost.

*The raising of the Philippine flag at the Independence Flag Pole at Rizal Park, Manila (taken last June 11, 2017).

The song itself surprises us. Its inspiration is foreign, the song, aptly rooted from the Philippine colonial experience. It arose at the time when the Philippines was under American rule. By virtue of Act No. 1696 enacted by the American-led Philippine Commission on August 23, 1907, the display of the Philippine flag, and all symbols of the First Philippine Republic, including the Katipunan flags, emblems, and the Marcha Nacional Filipina (our national anthem) were strictly prohibited. Violators were fined, or imprisoned from 3 months to 5 years.

As part of the American apparatus of pacifying the islands, Prescott F. Jernegan, an American civics teacher at Philippine Normal School (now Philippine Normal University), composed a hymn to replace the Marcha Nacional Filipina with a national hymn entitled, “Philippines, My Philippines.” The hymn was inspired by “Maryland, My Maryland,” the official anthem of the U.S. State of Maryland. 

I love my own, my native land

Philippines, my Philippines

To thee I give my heart and hand

Philippines, my Philippines

The trees that crown thy mountains grand,

The seas that beat upon thy strand

Awake my heart to thy command,

Philippines, my Philippines


Ye islands of the Eastern sea

Philippines, my Philippines

Thy people we shall ever be

Philippines, my Philippines

Our fathers lived and died in thee

And soon shall come the day when we

Lie down with them at God’s decree

Philippines, My Philippines


Yet still beneath thy ardent sky

Philippines, my Philippines

More numerous sons shall live and die

Philippines, my Philippines

In them shall breathe the purpose high

The glorious day to bring more nigh

When all may sing without a sigh

Philippines, My Philippines

The anthem was included as part of the music textbook Philippine Progressive Music Series for the Primary Grades in 1914 and taught to Filipino children. Sources suggests it was quite similar to the Maryland anthem that inspired it, which in turn was inspired by O Tannenbaum, a German Christmas song. There was nothing wrong with the lyrics, but since it’s in English, and the feel of the music was American, there was a certain distance between the common Filipino and the song being sung.

In 1930, Filipino musical composer and the first Filipino director of the U.P. Conservatory of Music and known “Father of Kundiman,” Francisco Santiago, set out to compose the melody for Philippines, My Philippines. The music that came out, evoked the musical tradition of Kundiman (in ¾), the type of Tagalog music from the late 19th century that is characterized by sad, rhythmic and smooth undertones, it’s lyrics often fatalistic, often portraying a heartbroken lover willing to bear his all just to get the heart of an unreachable beautiful maiden. Kundiman comes from “Kung hindi man” (if it’s not meant to be) making it sad and beautiful. Santiago’s music was original and truly Filipino.

*“El Ciego” (The Blind Man) (1929) by Fernando Amorsolo

The exact date was lost to us in history but probably sometime in the post war years, poet Ildefonso Santos Sr., translated, shortened, and tweaked the lyrics. By this time, the song–music and lyrics– has transformed into a Filipino favorite. In effect, we have transformed something that was designed to subjugate us into something that became inherently ours. Since then, it has become part of the line up of patriotic songs in state ceremonies. Consider the simple lyrics that was sung up to the 70s. It begins with the cherishing of a country (“Ang bayan ko’y tanging ikaw…”) with a promise that our heart and life would be willingly offered to her without hesitation.

Ang bayan ko’y tanging ikaw

Pilipinas kong mahal

Ang aking puso’t buhay man

Sa iyo’y ibibigay

Tungkulin kong sinumpaan

Ang lagi kang paglingkuran

Ang laya mo’y isanggalang

Pilipinas kong hirang

Listen to the song HERE performed Philippine Constabulary Band and the Philippine Constabulary Choral Ensemble, circa 1970s. 

During the country’s experience under the scourge of dictatorship, the song further evolved, being sung among a host of other Filipino patriotic songs in massive protests that led to the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986. There was a small addition to the lyrics, but the song became more powerful.

Ang bayan ko’y tanging ikaw,

Pilipinas kong mahal

Ang puso ko at buhay man

Sa iyo’y ibibigay

Tungkulin ko’y gagampanan

Na lagi kang paglingkuran

Ang laya mo’y babantayan

Pilipinas kong hirang

It is such a wonder that such a song with a few words could stir such emotion. I’ve wondered about it when I listened to it being sung and performed at yesterday’s Independence Day rites at Luneta and at Quirino Grandstand. 

The song captures the story of the nation that has, time and time again, brought itself up to its feet from the tyranny of the oppressor (whether foreign invader or dictators). Now that we have celebrated our 119th Independence Day, may we always cherish this freedom that was bought at a high price. Let us never belittle it or take it for granted. Let us guard it with our lives, as did the Filipinos who’ve gone before us.

Indeed, “Ang laya mo’y babantayan, Pilipinas kong hirang!”


Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan sa ating lahat! (Photo taken at last night’s Philippine Independence Day Celebration, from the Manila Pavilion Hotel).

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January 17th 1893: Overthrow of Hawaii

On this day in 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy of Queen Lilioukalani was overthrown with the support of the United States. Throughout the nineteenth century, a number of American sugar planters moved to the Hawaiian kingdom. Determined to secure more power for themselves, these planters pushed through measures to drastically reduce the monarch’s role and limit non-whites’ voting power. Queen Liliuokalani, who ascended to the throne in 1891, sought to reassert Hawaiian sovereignty. Concerned about their financial prospects, a group of American businessmen planned to depose the monarch. On January 17th 1893, the conspirators gathered their supporters in Honolulu to launch a coup d’etat, which had the tacit support of the U.S. government. The next day, conspirators captured the government building and declared a provisional government, which was immediately recognised by the U.S. Queen Liliuokalani stepped aside in the hope of avoiding bloodshed, and American troops raided Honolulu. The new President, Grover Cleveland, opposed annexation and supported reinstating the monarchy, but the provisional government refused. Hawaii was eventually annexed by the U.S. in 1898, as the strategic base at Pearl Harbor proved useful during the Spanish-American War. Hawaii was officially designated the fiftieth U.S. state in 1959, despite enduring concerns about the legality of the overthrow. Many indigenous Hawaiians continue to object to American rule and call for a return to sovereignty; the U.S. government officially apologised for the overthrow of Hawaii in 1993.

“The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe and this is the golden hour for the United States to pluck it.”
- U.S. minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, in a letter to the Secretary of State after the coup

This is our dream, this is the desire we cherish in our hearts: to restore the honor of the woman, who is half of our heart, our companion in the joys and tribulations of life.  If she is a maiden, the young man should love her not only because of her beauty and her amiable character, but also on account of her fortitude of mind and loftiness of purpose, which quicken and elevate the feeble and timid and ward off all vain thoughts.  

Let the maiden be the pride of her country and command respect, because it is a common practice on the part of Spaniards and friars here who have returned from the Islands to speak of the Filipina as complaisant and ignorant, as if all should be thrown into the same class because of the missteps of a few, and as if women of weak character did not exist in other lands…

Why does the girl not require of her lover a noble and honored name, a manly heart offering protection to her weakness, and a high spirit incapable of being satisfied with engendering slaves?  Let her discard all fear, let her behave nobly and not deliver her youth to the weak and faint-hearted.

When she is married, she must aid her husband, inspire him with courage, share his perils, refrain from causing him worry and sweeten his moments of affection, always remembering that there is no grief that a brave heart can not bear and there is no bitterer inheritance than that of infamy and slavery.  

Open your children’s eyes so that they may jealously guard their honor, love their fellowmen and their native land, and do their duty. Always impress upon them they must prefer dying with honor to living in dishonor.  The women of Sparta should serve you as an example in this.

— 

Jose Rizal, Letter to the Young Women of Malolos, December 12, 1888. 

Originally written in Tagalog and published in La Solidaridad, Rizal addressed this letter of encouragement and high praise to the Filipina women in Malolos who bravely petitioned Governor General Valeriano Weyler to open a “night school” for them. This was, despite the great resistance of the Spanish friars in Malolos. Numerous attempts at education were shut down by authorities. But at the time, the women heard of the news that the Spanish Governor General was in Malolos for a short visit, and immediately, these women organized themselves, went to the house where the Governor-General was (to his and the friars’ surprise), and handed to him themselves their petition. 

When Rizal heard of the news, he immediately wrote this letter to them.

Even when the school was granted and was eventually closed again, this group of women made waves–some eventually joined the Katipunan, and many of them joined the first Philippine Red Cross in the First Philippine Republic. Some of them lived on and established local feminist organizations that paved the way for the championing of women’s rights in the Philippines during the American Colonial Period and the eventual passage of the women’s suffrage during the Commonwealth.

The musical docu-drama Ang Kababaihan ng Malolos (2014), directed by Kiri Dalena and Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena with screenplay by Nicanor Tiongson, was dedicated to them.

“The Whites of Their Eyes” by artist Ken Riley. I rather like this painting of the Battle of Bunker Hill simply because of it’s perspective. We don’t often see viewpoints of the American forces other than from the redoubt itself. This one is painted from the view of the split rail fence. 

Today in History, November 29th, 1781,

The Zong Massacre 

On November 29th, 1781 the crew of the slave ship Zong threw 142 African slaves overboard, including women and children.  When the ship ran out of water following a navigational mistake, the captain and crew decided to throw the cargo of slaves overboard and claim the loss on their insurance policy.

It rained heavily the next day.