Archive for the American Other Category

Conflict in Canada: French and British Hostilities in the New World

January 25, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

From the time that the land we now know as Canada was first discovered and settled, there have been many major wars and minor conflicts that have occurred throughout the centuries on its soil. Almost all of these were related in some way to the British and French interests in the New World as they vied for supremacy for over 150 years. Even though these wars were fought more than 250 years ago, the effect that these conflicts had on the shaping of the country of Canada are still visible today.

There were three periods of conflict that successively followed each other from around 1610 to 1762. The first period of conflict was the French and Iroquois War, also known as the “Beaver War”, which lasted from the early 1600’s until the beginning of the 18th century. French interests in the New World created factions and alliances among the native tribes. The French sided with the Huron-Algonquin alliance and defeated the Iroquois Confederacy in the beginning. However, the Iroquois soon began to use guerilla style warfare tactics, and with their skill in the use of rifles they soon gained the upper hand. A treaty signed by the French and Iroquois in 1701 put an end to the conflict.

King William’s War, which was fought from 1688 to 1697, followed next, with two expeditions sent by British and the American colonies against Montreal and Quebec in 1690 following the successful capture of Port Royal in Acadia from the Acadians. Both offensives were forced to withdraw, and did not succeed in their objectives; the Montreal venture had to return because of disease and lack of supplies, while the Quebec mission was forced back by French defenders. The French hold upon a large part of North America was strongest at this time. But with the turn of the century, the major French and British hostilities were just beginning.

The French built the Fortress of Louisburg in 1720, and began to build up their military strength in Canada. The British were somewhat concerned with the French army being built up in Canada fearing that it might possibly lead to a controlling French presence in North America. But the French were stretching themselves thin around the world, leaving many small garrisons spread far apart which were vulnerable to attack. Soon the British had captured many positions from the French forcing them to regroup and defend themselves in Quebec. But the French still had control of much of the eastern seaboard. This began what was known as the War of the Austrian Succession.

The 1745 Siege of Louisbourg

The 1745 Siege of Louisbourg

In 1744 part of the French forces based at Louisburg launched an attack on the more southerly town of Canso, which was controlled by the British. The French captured the town and took prisoner about 100 British soldiers after a short but fierce fight. The objective in attacking Canso was supposed to guard the supply lines from nearby settlements, and stop the British from using the town as a staging point for an attack on French Canada. The British reacted quickly to this military move and gathered together an army of Colonial militia commanded by British regulars. In the spring of 1745 the combined British and American colonial armies sailed for Louisburg.

Despite setbacks caused by foul weather and partially trained soldiers, the fleet of ships arrived off Louisburg Harbour and landed their troops with few problems. The French defenders of the beach were beaten back with few casualties on the landing forces, and the attacking forces made camp. For a few weeks a stalemate ensued; then, without warning or negotiations, the French marched out of the citadel – and surrendered. Louisburg was now in British hands and the French hold on the New World was greatly relaxed. But through the strange twisting of political intrigue, only a few years later, in 1748, it was returned to the French in exchange for towns in Belgium, ending the War of the Austrian Succession.

The 1758 Siege of Louisbourg

The 1758 Siege of Louisbourg

However, in 1758, the British once again saw reason to attack Louisburg and upset the French control over a major portion of the North American continent. Under the leadership of Sir Jeffery Amhurst and General James Wolfe, Louisburg was wrested from French hands forever. The final capture of Louisburg, and subsequent retreat of the French to Quebec, was a major point in the beginning of the Seven Year’s War, sometimes known as the French and Indian War, as it left the French with little support in Canada. Slowly the British won many of the French holdings in Canada, leaving the French with just Quebec. The final showdown between the British and the French occurred in 1759 in Quebec, just outside Montreal.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, as it came to be known, was the last major military engagement between opposing French and British forces on Canadian soil. General the Marquis de Montcalm commanded the French troops, while the attacking British regulars were led by General James Wolfe. On September 13, 1759, the fate of French Canada was decided. After cutting off French supplies and threatening connections between Quebec City and Montreal, General Wolfe scaled the cliffs below Quebec City and by 8:00 am had assembled his entire force of over 4500 men on the Plains of Abraham below Quebec City. General Montcalm had no choice but to fight. He quickly arranged his army, which was of similar size, and advanced upon the British lines. The British stood firm until the French were no more than 40 yards away and then poured in a devastating volley.

The French retreated, disordered and broken, but not before both Wolfe and Montcalm were killed. The British laid siege to Quebec City and captured it before winter. Next spring the British advanced upon Montreal and captured it also. With both major cities of Quebec in British hands, the French surrendered Quebec to the British, and with the 1763 Treaty of Paris, Quebec was officially ceded to Britain. Over the next few scores of years there would be more hostility, with the American Revolution and the subsequent migration of the Loyalists to Canada, and also the War of 1812-14 which, had the British and Canadian militia not secured and protected Canada’s borders, would have made Canada the 52nd State. Through all this the British presence remained in Canada, and guarded the country until Confederation.

Battle of the Plains of Abraham

Battle of the Plains of Abraham

The conflicts between the British and the French have decidedly shaped Canada into the country we know today. From the early rivalries of the fur traders – the North-West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company – to the great military offensives on the east coast, the French and British conflicts have left their mark. The French colonization of Quebec and settlement of towns such as Montreal and Quebec City have bestowed a rich and lasting heritage upon the population of Canada, specifically Quebec. The British presence and military events which took place over the years in Ottawa, York, Niagara, and Kingston are still recognized and commemorated two hundred years later. Even now, in the 21st century, French sympathy runs quick in the blood of French-Canadians, while strong loyalties remain in the hearts of descendants of the early English pioneers.

There are still conflicting interests between French-Canadians and English-Canadians. But even though the use of politics, not open war, is the way things are fought about nowadays, tensions still flare-up between the mostly French Quebec and the rest of Canada. The Quebec Referendum of 1995 was proposed by those who wanted Quebec to separate from the rest of Canada and become its own independent country. The vote was taken and 49.5% of Quebeckers voted to separate, while 50.5% voted to remain in Canada. Despite many vocally advocating Quebec should be a separate country, it is interesting to note that the majority still want to stay in Canada. The benefits of being a province were considered to outweigh the benefits of separation.

In conclusion, through the British and French interests in Canada, there has arisen a great and long-lasting history of conquest and settlement, war and conflict, peace and justice. From the early First Nations and the French fur traders, to the British colonials and the early English pioneers, to the people who make up the population of Canada today, we can see and appreciate the rich history which has shaped this land.

Bibliography

Bond, Douglas, Guns of Thunder, P&R Publishing Co., 2007
Dickie, Donalda & Krause, Rudiger, My First History of Canada, Red Leaf Press, 1958
Marshall, Tabitha, ‘Battle of the Plains of Abraham’,
www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com, Published August 2nd, 2006, accessed December 16, 2015
Morton, Desmond, A Short History of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, 2006

 

Why do Insurance Policies Except “Acts of God” from Coverage?

January 23, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/01/22/this-is-the-reason-your-insurance-company-calls-blizzards-an-act-of-god/

The Plot to Assassinate President Truman

November 3, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=16287

Was President Zachary Taylor Assassinated?

February 19, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

http://werehistory.org/exhuming-president-taylor/

The Strange Life of ‘Lord’ Timothy Dexter

January 15, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

http://priceonomics.com/the-strange-life-of-lord-timothy-dexter/

Charles Sumner – Crime Against Kansas

January 6, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

Sumner in 1865

When Kansas sent a pro-slavery constitution to Congress to become a state, Sumner again jumped into action. He again opposed Stephen Douglas, believing that the convention which wrote the Constitution was not freely elected. One historian wrote:

Certain that Douglas’s picture of events in Kansas was totally incorrect, Sumner did not pause to consider that his own version of happenings on that remote frontier might be equally distorted. Like the rest of the senators, he was unaware that the Kansas struggle involved not merely freedom and slavery, but also land speculations, bitter rivalries over the location of the territory capital, and personal ambitions of would-be congressmen from the territory.1

Sumner began to prepare a speech called Crime Against Kansas to oppose this constitution. Over the last few years, his support from his home state had come and gone. Massachusetts loved his long and passionate orations against slavery. Sumner would be coming up for re-election soon, so he was driven to write this speech to please the people of his state. He included very harsh personal attacks on fellow Senators, because his constituents loved those as well. In his multi-hour speech given on May 19th and 20th, 1856, he pushed for Kansas to be immediately admitted to the Union as a free state. He went on to deal with what he called Slave Power, a conspiracy of sorts, to enslave the North one step at a time. He said this:

The wickedness which I now begin to expose is immeasurably aggravated by the motive which prompted it. Not in any common lust for power did this uncommon tragedy have its origin. It is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of Slavery; and it may be clearly traced to a depraved desire for a new Slave State, hideous offspring of such a crime, in the hope of adding to the power of Slavery in the National Government. Yes, Sir, when the whole world, alike Christian and Turk, is rising up to condemn this wrong, making it a hissing to the nations, here in our Republic, force — ay, Sir, FORCE — is openly employed in compelling Kansas to this pollution, and all for the sake of political power. There is the simple fact, which you will vainly attempt to deny, but which in itself presents an essential wickedness that makes other public crimes seem like public virtues.2

Sumner also blazed with insults for his opponents, especially Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler of South Carolina. When he was finished, Louis Cass pronounced Sumner’s speech “the most un-American and unpatriotic that ever grated on the ears of the members of this high body.”3

Caning of Sumner

Bleeding Kansas

The South was very angry at Sumner’s speech, especially Preston Brooks, a Congressman from South Carolina. He was a moderate, but he was angry that Sumner had “insulted South Carolina and Judge Butler grossly.”4 Butler was his cousin, and after waiting to read the published version of Sumner’s speech, he decided that according to the South’s code of honor, he needed to physically punish Sumner for his vicious attacks upon his relative and state. Brooks decided not to challenge Sumner to a duel because he did not see him as his social equal. Sumner was stronger than Brooks, so Brooks decided to beat him with his wooden cane. Just after the Senate adjourned on May 22nd, Brooks approached Sumner who was writing at his desk. After waiting for all the women to leave the chamber, Brooks told Sumner, “I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.” He poked Sumner with the cane to give notice of the attack, and then as Sumner brought up his hands to guard against the attack, began to beat him with his cane. As he was being struck, Sumner attempted to stand and ripped the desk out of the floor before staggering back as Brooks beat him as hard as he could. The cane quickly shattered, and in a minute it was over, and Sumner was left on the ground, unconscious and covered in blood.

Preston Brooks

There were two vastly different reactions to this “Bleeding Sumner” as it was called. The North saw the attack as the South turning the violence they used upon slaves upon an innocent politician. The South saw it as justified reply to the verbal attacks. One historian has said:

In Southern parlance, Preston Brooks had inflicted a caning, or a whipping, upon the blackguard Sumner in order to chastise him for his unprovoked insults to the hoary-headed Senator Butler and for his foul-mouthed denunciation of South Carolina. … He acted not for political reasons, but solely to redress a personal wrong. In caning Sumner, he neither violated the privileges of the Senate nor broke the constitutional guarantee of free speech to congressmen. His weapon was nothing but a common walking stick, such as gentlemen frequently use. … Though Sumner suffered only flesh wounds, he absented himself from the Senate because of the mortification of feeling and wounded pride. Brooks, with conspicuous gallantry, promptly reappeared in the House of Representatives, ready to face all accusers.

In Northern language, the affair bore an entirely different aspect. Bully Brooks had made a brutal assault upon Sumner with a bludgeon. The act had no provocation; on the contrary, Sumner for years had silently endured a harsh stream of unparliamentary personalities from Butler and other defenders of slave power. The alleged cause of the assault, Sumner’s speech, was marked by the classic purity of its language and the nobility of its sentiments. … Brooks was the mere tool of the slave-holding oligarchy. … Though Sumner courageously tried to defend himself, the ruffian took advantage of his defenseless position and of the surprise, beat Sumner senseless, and continued to strike him after he collapsed on the floor.5

Charles Sumner remained out of the Senate for the next three years because of alleged health problems. Although his wounds were not serious and healed relatively quickly, he continued to suffer many problems. He believed that he had suffered brain damage because of the severe beating, but that is unlikely. He was probably experiencing what is called today post-traumatic stress disorder. Over the three years, he spent much time in Europe and seemed to be mostly healed, but when he tried to resume his duties, his symptoms reappeared. He underwent a very painful treatment which was supposed to fix his damaged spinal cord, which involved severely burning the skin upon his back. Although doctors then and now would say that this treatment had no medical effect, it worked as a placebo and his symptoms did not return.

Sumner in 1873

Return

When he resumed his Senate seat in 1859, the Republican party had begun to focus on issues other than abolitionism. Sumner, who wished to preserve the rabidly antislavery tone of the party, prepared another of his vicious attacks on slavery. Called the Barbarism of Slavery, it contained even more violent language towards the South than his previous speeches. Most of the Republicans believed that in giving it he had gone overboard. James Grimes of Iowa said, “[I]t sounded harsh, vindictive, and slightly brutal…. His speech has done the Republicans no good.” Charles Sumner had no desire to attempt a compromise with slavery. Instead, he launched harsh and offensive attacks on the South. He was “the most perfect impersonation of what the South wanted to secede from.”6 When the first states began to secede, Sumner would make no compromises to prevent a civil war. He worked to defeat efforts such as the Crittenden Compromise, which he believed compromised his abolitionist principles. Sumner was very influential as one of the leaders of the Republican party.

Sumner continued in the senate for the rest of his life. Throughout the Civil War, Sumner was in a position of influence in the Senate. One congressman said, “Sumner’s influence is very potential – more than any body’s else put together.”7 He was a part of the radical Republicans and wanted Lincoln to immediately emancipate the slaves. After the war, he pushed for black suffrage and other civil rights. Sumner married Alice Hooper in 1866 at the age of 55. However, they separated within a year and were eventually divorced, which was very rare for the time. Sumner died of a heart attack on March 11, 1874.

Sumner’s Grave. Source.

1Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Herbert Donald (Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Inc, 2009), p. 234-235.
2The Works of Charles Sumner (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1875) vol. 4, p. 140.
3Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, p. 240.
4Ibid, p. 243.
5Ibid, p. 258-259.
6As quoted in Ibid, p. vii.
7Ibid, p. 320.

Charles Sumner – Republican Firebrand

December 30, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

Sumner in 1850

Charles Sumner was a member of the Whig Party, which was one of the two main political parties along with the Democrats. He was part of the faction called the Conscience Whigs, who were opposed to slavery. Although he said he had no ambitions for a higher political office, he was politically active. The Conscience Whigs published a newspaper, and became popular in their disapproval of the Mexican War. Sumner became a disciple of John Quincy Adams, who had been president, and was serving in the House of Representatives. Adams noted Sumner after his Independence Day speech, and, although he did not agree with his position, he respected his courage. Sumner became Adam’s student, and Adams saw him as his successor. He told Sumner, “You will enter public life; in spite of yourself.”1 In 1848 Sumner helped lead a split off of the Conscience Whigs to join with other anti-slavery groups to form the Free Soil Party. The Free Soil Party wanted to prevent the spread of slavery into the territories, and instead leave free soil for free white labor.

Sumner held his positions firmly, and had virtually ceased his practice of law in order to work in politics and reform movements. Even when wrong, he held his positions staunchly, even to the point of losing many of his friends. Fulton, one of the “Five of Clubs” said about him, “It almost seems as if the love of man meant the hatred of men.”2

Sumner and Henry Longfellow

As part of the Free Soil Party, Sumner ran for public office several times. As a third party, they did not have nearly enough votes to elect him, so it was more to spread his message to a wider audience. But in Massachusetts in 1850, the Free Soilers formed a coalition with the Democrats, and gained a majority in the Massachusetts legislature. Sumner was put forward as the candidate for the United States Senate. There were difficulties in convincing the entire Democratic section to support him. They were a few votes short, and it took three months to finally get him appointed with the majority of one vote. Sumner accepted the position, but was more saddened than elated by it. He had remained aloof from the contest, and when elected, wrote, “For myself, I do not desire public life; I have neither taste nor ambition for it; but Providence has marked out my career, and I follow.”3

Sumner arrived in Washington and took the desk that had previously belonged to Jefferson Davis. The Senate at the time did not contain many notable men. The only one who has gone down in history was Stephen Douglas, who was advocating for his doctrine of popular sovereignty. Sumner looked the part of a dignified Senator. He was six feet four inches tall, and would never sit in a position at home in which he would not sit on the floor of the Senate. Sumner, being a Free Soiler, did not identify with either of the main political parties. He was one of only two Senators who did not get a committee appointment, because he was “outside of any healthy political organization.”

The Senate Chamber

Sumner was most famous for his long orations on the floor of the Senate. He rarely interacted in debates, but instead spent many hours preparing long speeches. He memorized these long speeches so he would be able to speak without notes. At the time, he was considered a very powerful orator, primarily for four reasons. He used many statistics to prove his points. He picked very succinct and memorable titles, which were widely adopted by abolitionists, such as The Barbarism of Slavery, or Crime Against Kansas. He used many quotations and analogies from history, the classics and the Bible, often from different languages. And last, he employed much rhetorical exaggeration. It got his point across, but personal attacks angered many. Sumner’s speeches were very long, some stretched to four hours. Audiences of the time listened carefully, and were not tired by his orations. He had no sense of humor, and used no jokes in his speeches or in personal conversations. He himself said, “you might as well look for a joke in the Book of Revelation.”4

In 1854 the Free Soil party joined with anti-slavery sections of Whigs and Democrats to form the Republican Party, and Sumner followed suit. When Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska act, which said that the people of new territories could decide by vote whether to be free or slave, Sumner became the leader of the opposition. Many Southerns and Northerners who wished to compromise were angered by Sumner’s fierce attacks. He received death threats, but was not afraid. He said, “I am here to do my duty and shall continue to do it without regard to personal consequences.”5

Charles Sumner’s House in Boston. Source.

1Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil Warby David Herbert Donald (Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Inc, 2009), p. 129.
2Ibid, p. 144.
3Ibid, p. 173.
4Ibid, p. 184.
5Ibid, p. 218.

Charles Sumner – Early Career

December 23, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

Sumner

One of the most important figures in the United States Senate before the Civil War was Charles Sumner. He was born in Boston on January 6th, 1811, the oldest of nine children. He was not good at sports, and instead spent his time reading and studying. He read Latin and Greek extensively, and studied history as well. His father was appointed sheriff and was able to send his son to Harvard. He did not do well there because of his poor skills in mathematics. However he continued to read, borrowing more books from the library than anyone else in his class. After graduating, he decided to go to Harvard Law School for lack of anything else to do, but he found he enjoyed it. He studied under Joseph Story at Harvard Law School, who was a Supreme Court Justice. Sumner became one of Story’s favorite pupils. After school, he was more distinguished in his writing and teaching on law than his actual handling of cases.

He traveled through Europe from 1837 – 1840. Upon returning home he had difficulty settling down to practice law. He disliked the drudgery of a normal law practice. Long before, he and five of his close friends had formed the “Five of Clubs,” a literary group that met once a week which included Sumner; Sumner’s law partner George Hillard; Henry Cleveland, an author; Cornelius Felton, a Harvard professor; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the famous poet; and later Samuel Gridley Howe, future member of the Secret Six and a social reformer. Sumner fell into depression after several of his friends married, and he turned to social reform. He wrote in 1845, “My name is connected somewhat with two questions, which may be described succinctly as those of peace and slavery. To these may be added prison-discipline.”1

Sumner’s Birthplace. Source.

Orator

He really began his advocacy for universal peace by giving a speech entitled The True Grandeur of Nations at a large Fourth of July Celebration in 1845. In that speech Sumner, spoke against the Mexican-American war which was about to start, and passionately proposed peace between all nations. Although Sumner’s speech was fundamentally flawed because universal peace is impossible to obtain, he was bold in speaking for what he believed was right. He proclaimed that, “respectable citizens volunteer to look like soldiers, and to affect in dress, in arms and deportment, what is called ‘the pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war,’” with the officers of the Massachusetts militia sitting nearby. Although he became very popular with the radicals, he lost much by giving this speech. He was alienated from most of Boston society, where he previously had a high standing. He was not appointed as a Professor in the Harvard Law School, which had been anticipated for years. It was explained:

Sumner has become an outrageous Philanthropist – neglecting his Law, to patch up the world – to reform prisoners and convicts – put down soldiers and wars – and keep the solar system in harmonious action…. The conservative Corporation of Harvard College…consider Sumner in the Law-school, as unsuitable as a Bull in a china-shop.2

Boston

Slavery

Sumner was also active in the anti-slavery movement. He stood in the middle of two sections of abolitionists. On the one hand was most of Massachusetts, who were opposed to slavery, but were not willing to press the issue hard upon the South, and on the other the radical abolitionists, such as William Lloyd Garrison, who wished to dissolve the Union rather than be affiliated with the slave holding states. Sumner summarized his position in 1846:

I think Slavery a sin, individual and national; and think it the duty of each individual to cease committing it, and, of course of each State, to do likewise. Massachusetts is a party to slave-holding, and is responsible for it, so long as it continues under the sanction of the Constitution of the United States. I would leave it to the local laws of each State. If the South persists in holding slaves let it not expect Massachusetts to aid or abet in the wrong. I cannot be a slave-holder; nor can I help upholding slaveholding.3

Sumner did not believe the federal government should force the states to abolish slavery. However, he believed that the North should, in as many ways as possible, attempt to convince the South to abolish it with a “moral blockade.” He wanted the federal government to stifle it in its role by making no Fugitive Slave laws, by outlawing slavery in the District of Columbia, and by outlawing slavery in new territories.

Sumner in 1846

1Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil Warby David Herbert Donald (Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Inc, 2009), p. 109.
2Ibid, p. 108.
3Ibid, p. 112.

Time Capsule Placed by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams Unearthed

December 12, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

A time capsule placed in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House as been uncovered. It was placed as part of a Masonic ceremony by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and others. Read about the discovery at the Boston Globe, and you can read a historical account here.

First Picture of a President

September 25, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

Quincy

John Quincy Adams in 1843, at the age of 76.

Telegraphing Nevada’s Constitution

June 24, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

Governor Nye of Nevada

In 1864, while the Civil War was in progress, efforts were made to bring the state of Nevada into the Union. In July a convention wrote a Constitution, which the people approved in September. Before the statehood became official, the U.S. Congress had to approve it. At that time a contest a presidential election was in progress. Abraham Lincoln was running for reelection against General George B. McClellan, the Democrat candidate. The Republicans in Congress wanted to expedite Nevada’s entrance into the Union so that they could vote for Lincoln in the November election.

First Page of the Telegraphed Constitution

The Congress needed to have Nevada’s Constitution before they would vote for the state to be admitted. Paper copies were sent by train, but as October came to a close they still had not arrived in Washington. Unsure they would arrive in time, the territorial governor decided to send the Constitution by telegraph. It took two days, October 26-27, to send the 16,543 word document. This was the longest telegraph ever sent up to that time, and after paying by the word the total came to $4,303.27. This would equal more than $63,000 today. Nevada’s Constitution was received on time and the state was admitted to the Union just one week to the election. They cast their electoral votes for Lincoln, and helped him win in a landslide.

What Really Killed William Henry Harrison?

April 7, 2014 with No Comments and Posted in American Other by

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/science/what-really-killed-william-henry-harrison.html?_r=0