colonial american history


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

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


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.

The Great Philippine Experiment

The year was 1899…this vast archipelago under a government run by its own inhabitants. Untried. Untested. It was to be our very own national experiment. Known to be the first republic in Asia, this experiment was begun with bright optimism for the future. Pulsating with authority from Malolos, Bulacan, this new fledgling government, beginning on June 12, 1898, upon the proclamation of independence, laid down the foundation of what was to be a vast network of government bureaucracy, connecting the islands via cable telegram, and a complex chain of command among its own ground forces. If this government, for the first time run by Filipinos, was to work, it had to be efficient and orderly. There is no freedom with anarchy. In an age of roadless provinces, roaming bandits from the mountains, small pockets of armies made up of farmers, clerks, etc. that loosely answered to the government in Malolos, and in a country composed of islands, this was a great challenge. And for it to work at all with a few resources was an astounding feat. And at the center of it all, of this great undertaking, was a simple modest lawyer, maimed with polio, but with almost a prophetic insight that saw through other aristocrats who sought to erode this authority for selfish gain, and the Americans who initially appeared to support the new independent government but subjugated it in the end. 

*Apolinario Mabini, captioned by the American press as the Philippine “Secretary of State,” at Anda Street Police Station, 1900. From the Donovan McCune Collection. 

When Apolinario Mabini arrived late, being carried via hammock by community effort, from Laguna to Kawit, Cavite, on that fateful day of June 12, 1898 Aguinaldo saw Mabini’s potential, by the adviser of Felipe Agoncillo, the government’s diplomat. And Mabini took on the role of an adviser, without a care for any credit. He drafted all the decrees that Aguinaldo issued from June 1898 up to the time that he resigned on May 7, 1899. Ingeniously, he laid down the foundation of local government units in the provinces by a decree signed by Aguinaldo, assigning to liberated towns an election of their own leaders, and justices of the peace. He also guided the regulation of the flow of information, from the center of government in Malolos to its constituents, at the time when new technology came to the islands–technology such as the Telegraph, Trains, the Telephone. 

*Colorized image of a field telegraph station in an altar of a church in Caloocan, 1899. From the Universität Wien (University of Vienna).

The Malolos government word conventions on official letters via telegrams, the chain of command of the Chief Executive, and what was supposed to be a provisional constitution of the new Republic until it was truly ratified by a true body that represented the full spectrum of voices among the people, was all Mabini’s idea. He also set the town for the government’s foreign policy, and still insisting up to the end, that compromise with the Americans by agreeing for autonomy instead of independence, was wrong in every way, advocating the Philippine position’s legality.

*Captioned by the French press as “The Philippine Committee in Hong Kong.” Fourth from the left was Galicano Apacible, Mabini’s long time friend and regular addressee of his correspondence, 1898.

Mabini, maimed as he was, never batted an eye when rebuking what he thought was wrong leadership. He did not hold back on President Aguinaldo who hesitated to punish the excesses of the army, some of which were rape of women, and the lording over of the towns. Cracks of this great national project was already being seen, not because of the wrong structure established but because of a leadership that favors the few over the many, and one that hesitates to stand for justice. In a scathing rebuke, Mabini wrote a letter to Aguinaldo on February 28, 1899, amidst the Philippine-American War that broke out on February 4:

“We already see the disastrous effects of weakness. Not only the army but also the people notice this. And for the same reason that there is the belief that we do not punish the guilty, some soldiers might say that here it is nothing to disobey a general, while in other places such a thing is punished by musketry. If you will punish the companies that will disobey in the future, the people will say that you punish them because the soldiers are not from Kawit. At this rate, our soldiers will never know what discipline is.

Because you did not mete out punishment at the proper time to the soldiers of P– who committed abuses in Malabon, similar abuses were committed in Polo, is now here accompanied by two persons with mangled bodies, one of who is the chief of barrio Maisan himself, who was the victim of looting by seventy soldiers of P. These soldiers arrested all the men of the place, beating them with the butt of their guns.

If the townspeople do not help us, we cannot accomplish anything except being beaten by our enemies. Our soldiers will be weak if the people will not help them with food and other things they need.

God has given you the prestige that you enjoy so that you can use it to give peace and order to your people, and this cannot be accomplished if the abuses are not stopped. Without peace and order, you will lose prestige you have won, because it will come to be known that we do not know how to govern.

In these calamitous times, we need military dictatorship, not to control the townspeople, but above all, to suppress the abuses of the army, and nobody can do this but you, Chief.

If we have the people on our side, we can be sure that we shall triumph, if not today, tomorrow, or the day after. If we do not have the people with us, we shall perish. If the Americans pose serious dangers for us, our own countrymen would pose for us greater ones as a result of the abuses that can be committed against them, abuses that are often the cause of revolutions.”

[Emphasis mine].

The letter only gave a glimpse of the problems of this new government, and it would be exacerbated by the war. It is the perennial lesson of history, that nations, states, and kingdoms do not crumble from without but from within. The government only stood when people like Mabini were on the helm of leadership. It fell “like a house of cards” when they were not, when it was pulled from all directions by leaders with different selfish interest. “Woe to the Revolution,” Mabini said, “when the people, overburdened by contributions and consumed by abuses, turn to their enemies for salvation!”

Many of the landed gentry in the Malolos Congress, saw that compromise with the Americans by accepting autonomy was good, disregarding the already shed blood of the people who sacrificed their lives for freedom from American control. They heaped upon Mabini various black propaganda, calling him, “Camara Negra” or the Black Cabinet, implying he was the real scheming power behind the throne, or that he suffered from syphilis hence his being paraplegic. But Mabini stood by Aguinaldo’s side so long as Aguinaldo still had faith in his advice. But it wouldn’t be so, for long. With Aguinaldo easily swayed, Mabini and the like-minded members of the Cabinet stepped down willingly on May 7, 1899 to give way to the autonomists. Mabini retired and stayed in Rosales, Pangasinan, where he was eventually captured by the Americans.

As Mabini have predicted, the republic predictably capitulated. President Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans on March 23, 1901 at Palanan, Isabela, and he swore allegiance to the American flag under duress. But the story didn’t end there. It went on under different circumstances, under different set of leaders, and when the People spoke once again, of independencia

The experiment, the Republica Filipina, the First Philippine Republic, inaugurated today 118 years ago, led by luminaries such as Mabini and a throng of other thinkers and heroes, echoes to us today amidst the same euphoria of optimism that it had when it was cheered upon in the streets of Malolos, and the halls of the Barasoain. Indeed, as with all representative democracies around the world, we are only as weak as when we assail our own values and own ideals. 

Would we dare look at the painful lessons of the past to guide our future?  

*Image above, including the standardized insignia of the Republica Filipina, from PCDSPO 2010-2016 designed by Derrick Macutay. 


December 9th 1824: Battle of Ayacucho

On this day in 1824, the climatic battle of the Peruvian war of independence occured at Ayacucho, ending in a decisive victory for the revolutionaries. The South American countries had been Spanish colonies for centuries, but their grip on the distant outposts began to falter at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At this time, Spain was wracked by political turmoil following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and the capture of King Fernando VII. In this climate, other Spanish colonies - including Chile in 1810 - had declared their independence. Peru, however, remained loyal to the Spanish crown until the 1820s, when the regional campaign for self-determination spilled into Peru. There, revolutionaries led by Venezuelan Simon Bolivar sought to rout royalist forces, who were under the leadership of Viceroy Jose de la Serna, and engaged in protracted warfare in the effort to liberate Peru. The revolutionaries were initially repelled by Spanish troops, but Bolivar capitalised on political instability in the colonial administration to recruit soldiers from neighboring countries and launch further attacks. By December, the revolutionaries had amassed a considerable army at Ayacucho, made up of Peruvians, Venezuelans, Colombians, Argentines, and Chileans. Here, they were able take higher ground, giving them a tactical advantage over Spanish troops. Masterful military leadership by Bolivar’s second-in-command - Antonio Jose de Sucre - helped to secure the revolutionaries’ victory at Ayacucho. The royalist defeat, and capture of the viceroy, led to the end of the Peruvian war of independence, with Spanish surrender secured. The next year, Upper Peru (modern Bolivia) was also liberated. The last of the Spanish forces finally departed Peru in 1826, and with them ended Spanish rule in South America.


M-P Goes All Crafty - Again!

Welp, after working on another singularly daft project since December, I thought it was probably time to share the finished thing now I’ve finally completed it - another doll project. This time, though. I went for something much more ambitious.
My Turn:Washington Spies Figures were much smaller. Mini-Simcoe was a modest 9 inches, whilst Anna and Major Hewlett are a teeny 5 inches, and look like toddlers next to this tall young lady.

The thought process behind this one really comes from an inspiring reblog from the awesome @ohmslewis - everyone deserves the chance to star in their own Gothic novel or period drama. Candelabras, masked balls and ghastly family secrets in the mausoleum are open to all. So, in light of this, I made the delightful 12-inch Lady Penelope Clement (who is probably a young innocent heiress to a vast estate or something. I don’t know, guys - you decide. Comedy of manners or tragic heroine?)

I was ridiculously nerdy with this one as the size was much better to work with on the sewing front, so Lady Penelope has hand sewn period-appropriate 18th century attire, down to her tiny cotton shift. She has grey stockings with embroidered ribbon garters, a proper front and back lacing set of stays, and hip pads to give her the correct silhouette, as well as a fine white cambric petticoat with a pinked ruffle at the hem.

I was particularly pleased with her gown. I used Colonial Williamsburg’s Costume Close Up book to draft the pattern for her open gown and petticoat in the lovely autumnal plaid cotton, and it gave me the opportunity to go absolutely nuts on the trim and use - wait for it! - Rococo trim. And ribbon and ruching and pinking and all manner of 18th century goodness.
The only thing I didn’t like doing was her shoes. GOD.The shoes. I foolishly assumed making those would be easy. I assumed wrong. Those little black felt and foam constructs were objects of torture!

But, I got there in the end. And she really looks so lovely I can’t help but feel damn proud I made her.

“The suppression of Indigenous languages is part of a colonial enterprise designed to completely subjugate everything Indigenous while establishing the dominance of the colonizing class. As bell hooks points out, ‘When I realize how long it has taken for white Americans to acknowledge diverse languages of Native Americans, to accept that the speech their ancestral colonizers declared was merely grunts or gibberish was indeed language, it is difficult not to hear in standard English always the sound of slaughter and conquest.’ It was with extreme violence that our languages were silenced. The brutality of the federal government and church-run boarding schools is still being realized as Indigenous Peoples continue to suffer the long-term consequences of those experiences and begin to place them in their proper context. The boarding schools themselves meet the criteria of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which states that 'forcibly transferring children of the group to another group’ constitutes a form of genocide. The United States leadership has yet to take ownership of and responsibility for this government-mandated genocidal policy, and thus part of the colonization process has been to minimize the severity of boarding-schoolviolence on the most vulnerable and impressionable segments of Indigenous populations — the children. These assaults perpetrated against the children were profoundly damaging to whole generations of Indigenous Peoples and threatened the very foundations of our cultural and spiritual life. The forbidding of speaking Indigenous languages in itself constitutes ethnocide, yet these issues remain swept under the vast rug of American history. Out stories of pain surrounding this issue have been silenced in American society, just as our children’s voices speaking out beautiful languages were silenced in schools across North America.”

Remember This! Dakota Decolonization and the Eli Taylor Narratives, Waziyatawin Angela Wilson

“Living history” museums are like senior citizen housing centers. They’re remarkable reminders of the past, they dress and smell a little strangely, and all of the residents are effectively trapped there, waiting for people to visit. Every year, fourth-graders on field trips and old people collectively go on pilgrimages to places that people used to live in before highways and the Internet were invented, staffed by actors wearing period costumes and pretending the world was frozen in place 300 years ago by some kind of time ray.

The actors choose to live there, taking on the role on a daily basis. Their kids, on the other hand, have no choice. We spoke to one of the former children who grew up in Colonial Williamsburg during the late ‘80s and who took a break from partying like it’s 1699 to tell us…

5 Insane Realities Of My Life In A Fake Colonial Town


January 29th 1737: Thomas Paine born

On this day in 1737 the English revolutionary Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, Norfolk. Involved in British politics, Paine decided to emigrate to the American colonies in 1774, after the encouragement of Benjamin Franklin. Paine’s political writings in the 1776 pamphlet ‘Common Sense’ is considered a pivotal factor that encouraged the American colonists to declare independence from Great Britain, due to its fierce critique of the reign of King George III. Paine’s writings helped to convert a general desire among Americans for greater autonomy to full fledged radical desire for independence. As suggested by its title, ‘Common Sense’ was designed to appeal to the common man, unlike much other Enlightenment-era writings. After penning the pamphlet, Paine lived in France and was very involved in the French Revolution. In 1791 he wrote another key piece, ‘Rights of Man’, and was eventually imprisoned during the 'Reign of Terror’ during the revolution.  Thomas Paine then returned to America, and died in New York City in 1809, aged 72.


This was the original costume I wore my first year working at Mary Washington House in Fredericksburg. The outfit consisted of handmaid items:

  • A blue and white striped short gown
  • A green side tie petticoat
  • A white kerchief 
  • A white mop cap
  • A white tie apron

The materials used for the main components of the outfit are made from linen, while the mop cap and kerchief are made from cotton. The clothing items were handmaid by one of the tour guides who still works at the House. She followed original patterns that can be found simply online.

I paired this outfit with my own jewelry, a monocle in the first picture, a compass necklace to add a modern yet old twist in the second, and drop handmaid earrings that were the same blue as the short gown stripes. Since this was my very first 18th century reenactment outfit I did not have any of the basic 18th century undergarments yet. Underneath the whole outfit I wore shorts and t-shirt or a sun dress because it was the summer and Virginia gets humid and hot. My shoes were also plain black flats from Payless and my stocking consisted of long white socks that reached to my knee cap I had since I was little. 

During the first year I kept my makeup basic and used modern day products like concealer, powder, mascara, etc.. My hairstyle was a simple bun that pulled my hair back and away from my face.

Overall this costume was and actually is still my favorite at the House. I still borrow parts of the outfit I do not have personally such as the short gown and kerchief for when I work during the summers. Since learning more about the 18th century and the clothes worn during that time, my “reenactment” outfit is much more accurate now.

This is my first review on this blog! Also I guess this could considered part 1 for my costume because it has changed so much, but that’s another post for another time :)

“Michael E. Neagle has written a superb social history of American Empire in Cuba focusing on the longstanding U.S. attempt to colonize and annex the Isle of the Pines off the southwest coast of Cuba in the early 1900s. His meticulously researched and beautifully written work relies upon a broad range of U.S., Cuban and Caribbean sources. America’s Forgotten Colony makes an important contribution to the growing field of U.S. imperialism studies and earns high marks for its fascinating historical analysis.”