colonial american history

If anyone ever tries to tell you that slavery never existed in Canada, they’re lying to your face and are perpetuating myths of Canadian benevolence and US-Canada contrasts. They’re ignoring over 200 years of enslavement, and the recorded 2,683 Indigenous slaves, mainly from the Pawnee Nation, and the recorded 1,443 Black slaves that occupied New France ALONE before the Conquest by the British. By the way, the entire population of New France back then was apx. 60,000, and the enslaved population made up 4,200 of those.

(So if French Canadians tell you that slavery appeared with the British Conquest, in actuality the British took steps to make it easier for people to own slaves through Article XLVII of the Articles of Capitulation, that many French settlers at that time took advantage of.)

Slaves were held by fur trading post officers, colonial officials, members of the military, Jesuits, Roman Catholic Churches, Baptist Churches, 50% of the later Quebec Parliament, and the common people who often went into debt to have the status symbol of owning a slave.

In 1781, the island of St. John (now P.E.I) passed a law that legalized slavery and paid a 40 shilling bonus for every Black slave brought into the province. In 1790, the Imperial Statute allowed British Loyalists from the states to bring in slaves to the whole country without tax. The same went for the cutlery, furniture, and farm tools they brought with them.

People will try to tell you that Indigenous people owned slaves as well. They kept prisoners of war and exchanged people to pay off debts and replace war-dead, but they were never dehumanized like slaves under European slavery. The two systems are not the same and aren’t even remotely interchangeable.

Slaves weren’t treated like members of the family or like well-loved butlers. They were subject to the same treatment endured by slaves in the 13 colonies. Ownership was justified in similar ways as well: using the Labour Supply argument, where white workers were “too costly” to hire and Black slaves were sometimes said to be “too expensive to import from the French Caribbean.” (They were sold here anyways.) This explains the higher amount of Indigenous slaves.

It also means that Black people have been in Canada for as long as whites; the first recorded slave in Canada showed up in 1629. He was from either Madagascar or Guinea.

People will cite Canada’s lack of a Code Noir as proof of a lack of slavery. Just because we didn’t have a specific document to regulate it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. It did. There are newspaper advertisements in such papers as the Montreal Gazette for runaway slaves and slaves that were up for sale.

The life expectancy of a slave in Canada was 17 years old. The 1790 Act to Limit Slavery pushed by John Simcoe said that slaves born after 1790 would be freed at age 25. See how that doesn’t work?

But most importantly, people will try to tell you that slaves didn’t resist. They did. They launched legal protests and challenges, but were opposed by Judicial members who owned slaves themselves.

Well-known Canadian figures who owned slaves include but aren’t limited to:

James McGill of McGill University fame, Joseph Brant, Sir John Johnson, and William Jarvis.

Modern historians and scholars have tried to deny this. A historian who tried to tell the true story was Professor Marcel Trudel, who wrote “Canada’s Forgotten Slaves: 200 Years of Bondage” in the 1960’s. He was shunned by the academic community, relocated to Ottawa University from his previous chair, and was personally asked by Quebec politicians to stay quiet about the matter because he revealed that slavery existed in New France before the British - destroying the idea of French Canadian moral superiority in that regard. He died in 2011, and his book which so many tried to discredit but so many never could, was only translated into English in 2013.

Slavery existed in Canada. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Benjamin Tallmadge ↠ Turn: Washington’s Spies

“We make sacrifices so that others don’t have to” 

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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.

Gen. George Washington ↠ Turn: Washington’s Spies

“On behalf of those who will never know the true measure of your efforts, I thank you for them. And for all the sacrifices you have made in the name of our cause.” 

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

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. 

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

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

Popham: The Forgotten Colony

It was founded the same year as Jamestown, Virginia, but you had probably never heard of it. Popham, Maine was started in 1607 by the Virginia Company of Plymouth, the second group of investors chartered by King James I to settle Virginia. The plan was the start this northern settlement as a shipbuilding colony, just south of French Canada, and presumably supply both the English and the French with all their ship-related needs.

Located just south of what is today Bath, Popham managed to survive its first Maine winter by the skin of its teeth: half of the 125 settlers chose to return to England as winter set in. Unfortunately, that was their first and only milestone. The founder George Popham died after the first winter, which was so discouraging that the remaining settlers packed up and headed back to England too!

Side note: the map below was what was planned. Archaeological excavations are currently ongoing, but it looks like they never finished the fort.

The one thing that Popham managed to do, in its year of existence, was build a 30-ton ship and christian it the Virginia. This ship was the first ship built by Europeans in North America. It was also the ship that the settlers used to get back home.

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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