The following is taken from The Story of Liberty, a curriculum and video course on the story of America. To learn more about The Story of Liberty, Click Here.
The Beginning of the American Revolution – April 19, 1775
April 19th, 2016 is the 243rd anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution. 243 years ago American farmers and militia fought the “British Regulars” (professional soldiers) at Concord and Lexington and chased the redcoats back to Boston. The fight is sometimes called a skirmish, because it was less than a battle. A little over a year after this fight, Americans declared their right to form a new country with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first modern republic was born with the actions of regular citizens rejecting a government that ruled without its consent.
The skirmish at Lexington and Concord was fought because the British tried to stop the Americans from preparing for war. In 1774, American leaders at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia petitioned King George III and parliament to restore their rights. When the king and parliament refused and continued to hold the people of Boston under martial law, the Americans decided to mobilize for war. Colonists established illegal, revolutionary governments, collected taxes to fund militia and even funerals for soldiers, and established arsenals, which are warehouses for guns and ammunition. Americans were already well-armed, with each family owning several guns. However, men in villages now trained as soldiers. Some, called minutemen, were chosen and financially supported by town leaders to be prepared to fight within a minute’s notice.
General Gage, the commander of the British army in Boston, wanted to surprise the colonists. He ordered Major Pitcairn to march 1,000 soldiers 20 miles to Concord to destroy colonial ammunition and to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Gage did not want a fight, but wanted take weapons from Americans so they could not fight. However, Americans in Boston learned of this plan and destroyed the surprise. On the night of April 18th, 1775, a Bostonian set two lanterns in the belfry tower of the Old North Church, thus signaling three riders, Dr. Samuel Prescott, William Dawes and Paul Revere, that the British would go to Concord initially by a sea route.
The three riders set off from Boston to Concord, warning the colonists “The Regulars are coming! The Regulars are coming!” The “Regulars” were the professional British soldiers. The three successfully alerted the colonists to arm themselves and meet the British.
On the morning of April 19th, 1775, the American Revolution started. The British Regulars met American militia assembled in Lexington, a village along the road to Concord. When the Regulars met the Americans, it was dark. Major Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse. They just stood there. Then, inexplicably, a shot rang out and the fighting started. The British killed eight and the Americans scattered. The British continued their march to Concord. In Concord, the British found the weapons and destroyed them. However, the Americans managed to defeat a smaller group of the British at the Old North Bridge, and this victory energized the colonists.
The British were now twenty miles away from Boston, in the middle of hostile territory. For the rest of the day, the Regulars marched back to the city, drums beating, in formation, along a narrow road. During this march, Americans took aim at the soldiers, firing behind trees, stone walls, and fences, and then running away when any British soldier would chase them. By the end of the day, Americans had killed nearly 300 British and had lost 85 men. Though a small victory, it was seen as a great triumph of Americans over the strongest empire in the world.
Beginning today, Maundy Thursday, over 2 billion people around the world will begin commemorating and celebrating the Passion of Jesus Christ. As a religious figure, Jesus is known as establishing Christianity. While historians may debate the historical accuracy of the life of Jesus as presented in the Bible, few argue over the significance of Christianity in Western Civilization. Christianity has had and continues to have a preeminent role in the religious, political, and economic lives of those who live in the West.
During the first century, a new religion began that would eventually become the official religion of the Roman Empire and spread throughout the Western world. Jesus Christ was a Jewish carpenter born and raised in Roman-controlled Bethlehem and Nazareth in the ancient Near East. His followers, called Christians, taught that Jesus was the son of God, that he was a savior to all people, and that all people are called to turn from their selfish ways, ask God for forgiveness, and treat each other with love. Three centuries after the death of Christ, Christians compiled this message in the Bible, their holy book. The Bible, in Romans 1:19, 2:14-15 (English Standard Version), states:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…When gentiles [non-Christians] who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…
Christians believe that all people were created in the image of God, and that all people share the same nature. According to Christians, people know what is good or bad because God gave a conscience to all people. This law of nature exists outside of man’s creation. Christians believed this idea over the centuries, and it found expression in the Declaration of Independence, when Thomas Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal” by their Creator.
The development of Christianity within the Roman Empire had ramifications not only for the empire, but for all of Western Civilization. The leader of the Roman Empire, the emperor, led the official Roman religion, which was pagan. The emperor took the title of Pontifex Maximus, meaning leader of the official pagan religion of Rome. When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity in A.D. 380, however, the emperors ceased being head of the religion. This fell to the bishop of Rome, who was called the Pope, forming a separation between the leader of the political world (the emperor) and the religious world (the Pope). Whereas the emperor formerly held ultimate authority in both the political and religious worlds, he was now limited by the Christian Church.
Governments in Western Civilization have expressed the understanding that the political world should be governed by someone different than the leader of the religious world. In North America, this idea can be seen in the constitutions of the English colonies, and in the United States Constitution, notably in the First Amendment. Americans may worship freely in any religion they choose, and they do not have to belong to a particular religious group. This concept of church and state having separate leaders had its beginnings with the Roman Empire.
President Calvin Coolidge, on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that the individual “is endowed with inalienable rights which no majority, however great, and no power of the Government, however broad, can ever be justified in violating. The principle of equality is recognized. It follows inevitably from belief in the brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of God.” The belief that an individual has rights over the power of government is one of the great ideas of Western Civilization.
Saint Patrick is one of Christianity's most well-known missionaries. Patrick was born in fourth century Roman Britain (c. 390-461) to a loving family of wealth. His parents were most likely successful merchants and administrators of the Roman Empire. On February 27, 380, Roman Emperor Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica and declared the official religion in the empire to be the Catholic Church. Patrick was brought up in this faith. He had a privileged childhood as the son of wealthy Roman leaders of Britain, but suffered great hardships for a number of years. Patrick brought Christianity to the Irish and changed the course of history.
At the beginning of the medieval ages, many in Europe clung to the pagan religions of the past. Ireland, the island to the west of Britain, was a land where Christianity was unknown. Celts in Ireland followed a belief called Druidism. They believed in many gods, and Druid priests had many practices that we would call barbaric. Druids sacrificed humans to keep their gods happy.
As a sixteen year-old, Patrick’s easy life of comfort and prestige changed forever. Some reports state Patrick had snuck out of his parents’ home and took part in an all-night pagan ritual. Patrick was raised Catholic Christian, but as a young person, he strayed away from his faith and attended this pagan ritual. With dawn breaking, a small band of Irish pirates raided Britain and captured Patrick. He was taken to Ireland and sold into slavery, completely separated from his loving parents. Patrick wrote later that he had left the faith of his family, and for this he was being punished.
For six years, Patrick worked as a common slave in Ireland. At any instant, he could be killed, mutilated, or beaten by his owner. He was far from his home and far from any help his Christian friends could provide. Instead of becoming desperate and sad, though, Patrick spent his time in prayer and reflection. Working as a shepherd for six years, he grew to love the Irish land and people, and yearned to one day teach them the Christian belief. He united his sufferings as a slave to the sufferings of his savior, Christ, and his love for his captors grew.
According to Patrick’s writings, he heard the Heavenly Father speak to him and tell him to escape from slavery and to walk to the coast. A boat would be waiting for him. As a slave, if he were recognized, he would have been put to death! Patrick did as he was told, and there was a boat waiting for him. The captain agreed to take him back to Britain.
Patrick’s parents were so excited to see him, but they were also disappointed to hear what he wanted to do. He wanted to become a priest and return to the people who enslaved him in Ireland. His parents wanted him to get married, become wealthy and important, and raise a family. If he returned to Ireland, wouldn’t he be killed by his former slave owner for escaping? How could he have a family if he became a priest?
Patience is a virtue Patrick practiced. He went to Gaul (France), studied to become a priest, and waited for his calling to go back to Ireland and spread Christianity. At the age of 49, after about 25 years of waiting, he finally received the order to go to Ireland as a bishop to evangelize. He returned, went to his former slave owner, and spoke about Christ. Amazingly, within Bishop Patrick’s lifetime, Ireland became a Christian country! And, since this time Irish missionaries have travelled throughout the world spreading the news of Jesus and his Church.
There are many legends attributed to Patrick in Ireland. For example, some say he chased all the snakes out of Ireland, or that he used a three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity. But, what is not legend is that within his lifetime, Ireland changed from a land of slavery, human sacrifice, and paganism, to a Catholic Christian land, where the slave trade came to a halt, and where murder and tribal warfare decreased.
Along with bringing Christianity to the Irish, Patrick established monasteries that some say saved Western civilization. In the Middle Ages, a monastery was a place where men lived and worshipped, served as doctors and nurses, fed the poor, took care of orphans, and copied important documents. It was the only place of learning in the first centuries after the Roman Empire fell. As Roman law and order gave way to chaos, Irish monks kept working, copying classic texts of the west, and spreading Christianity. For centuries after Patrick died, Irish monks spread both the Christian faith and the classics. It is for this that some historians claim that St. Patrick saved Western Civilization.
To read the writings of Saint Patrick:
Lesson Ideas for Ages 3-11:
1. Look up Ireland on a map. Sketch your own drawing of Ireland and Britain and the rest of continental Europe, or, find a map outline. Color in Ireland green. Ireland is known for being green because it rains so much in Ireland. “Irish weather” means that it is misty and wet outside. This weblink has an excellent outline map of Ireland:
2. Writing Ideas for Ages 12 and older (and for high achieving younger kids!)
a. Take the biography of St. Patrick and try to write one sentence that summarizes each paragraph.
b. Answer this question in a one-paragraph essay, “Was Patrick’s decision to become a priest and return to Ireland crazy, or was it courageous?”
On January 3, 2020, American forces killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a drone strike in Iraq. Along with Soleimani, Americans killed nine other Iranian military personnel in Iraq. Soleimani was Iran’s number one military leader in the area. In response to this, Iran launched 15 missiles aimed at American soldiers in Iraq. No American was killed, but the Pentagon reported that thirty-four Americans suffered nonimpact injuries. It is important to know the history of the area and the relations between the United States of America and Iran to understand what the current event means.
In 1921, A Persian officer, Reza Khan, orchestrated a coup of Iran, overthrew a dynasty, and took the title of Shah (king) of Iran in 1925. Reza Shah ruled until 1941, when Allied forces invaded Iran to guarantee Iranian oil would help the U.S.A., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union win World War II. The Allies replaced Reza Shah with his son, Mohammad-Reza Shah (simply known as the Shah of Iran). After World War II, the Iranian government moved against American and British interests. Iranians removed the Shah. In 1951, Iran nationalized the British-owned oil industry. Two years later, the United States and Great Britain organized a coup, overthrew the Iranian government, and placed the Shah back in power as king. Throughout his rule, the Shah of Iran instituted democratic reforms. In 1963, women gained the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This democratization of Iran upset the radical Islamic leaders of Iran. They believe that women should not have the right to vote and should be treated as second-class citizens.
The Iranian Revolution and the Islamic Republic 1979 – 2016
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many in Iran were unhappy with the Shah of Iran and his supporters, the U.S.A. and Great Britain. The main leader of the revolution was the Islamic leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, who believed that everyone requires guardianship by a leading Islamic leader. The Ayatollah was upset at the Shah’s western ties, believing the west to be evil and decadent. He did not approve that women should have the same rights as men. In 1979, massive protests throughout the country forced the Shah to leave. The Ayatollah took power, and a national vote made Iran an Islamic Republic. Iranians held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days from 1979 to 1981. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini died and the Ayatollah Khamenei replaced him as the “Supreme Leader.” Iran has a parliamentary system, but every governmental decision has to be approved and is directed by the religious leader the Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the U.S.A. is the “Great Satan,” the source of everything in the world that is evil, it officially hates Israel and seeks to destroy it, and it does not allow any freedom that goes against its strict interpretation of Islam. It publicly states its hatred for the United States and Israel, and, it openly supports terrorist organizations that kill Americans, Israelis, and anyone who opposes the Iranian view of the world. Ayatollah Khamenei uses every method of communication, including Twitter, to detail his plan for eliminating Israel. In Iran, women have much less rights than men, men can have four wives, and the government of Iran punishes those who do not follow the religious laws. For example, the punishment for homosexuality is execution and the punishment for adultery for women is execution.
Since Iran became a theocratic dictatorship, the United States has tried to isolate Iran and work with allies to confront the country. Still, Iran has been successful in sponsoring, arming, and cooperating with terrorists. For a complete list of their decades of murder and terror, simply conduct an internet search with the phrase “Iran and state-sponsored terrorism.”
The Obama Administration and the Iran Nuclear Deal
President Obama thought that the best way to change Iran was not to isolate Iran but to remove all sanctions against the country and to look the other way if Iran sponsored terror. President Obama believed that Iran would eventually join other nations if it were treated as if it were a peaceful country. During the Obama administration, American cooperation with Iran continued even though Iran kept funding and coordinating terrorist acts against Americans and its allies. In the fall of 2015, the Obama administration orchestrated what is called the Iran Nuclear Deal between the U.S.A., Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and Germany.
The Agreement between the Six Countries and Iran
President Trump ran for office decrying the Iran Nuclear Deal as the “worst deal ever negotiated.” He argued that the deal gave Iran money to sponsor more terror, did not hinder Iran from building nuclear weapons, endangered Americans and its allies, and allowed the failing Iranian dictatorship to withstand criticism at home. Iran had indeed continued to sponsor terror, and the U.S. could not get Iran to change its ways. In May of 2018, the United States of America officially withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. In 2019, Iran announced it had exceeded the limits to its stockpile of low enriched uranium and began enriching uranium to a higher concentration. It also, essentially, withdrew from the deal.
Qasem Soleimani and Attacks on Americans
Since 1998, Iranian General Qasem Soleimani had been actively involve in planning, directing, and implementing the killing of Americans and its allies in Iraq, as well as actively supporting terrorist organizations in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He was commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which was responsible for killing 608 American soldiers during the Iraq War, as well as injuring over 1,000 Americans. He abetted genocide in Syria in support of Bashar Assad, and he aided the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon with military hardware and training that went into use attacking innocent Israelis. Soleimani was Iran’s number one military commander operating in foreign countries. In late December, 2019, Soleimani-backed Iranian militias killed an American contractor and wounded American soldiers in Iraq. Also in December, Soleimani-supported terrorists attacked the American embassy in Iraq. At the time of his killing in Iraq, Soleimani was actively planning to kill more Americans and its allies in the region.
On January 3, 2020, American forces killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with a drone strike in Iraq. Along with Soleimani, Americans killed nine other Iranian military personnel in Iraq. President Trump defended the attack by arguing that anybody who kills Americans will be met by force.
Political Unrest in Iran
In response to America’s attack against Soleimani, Iran launched missiles at American military sites in Iraq. At about the same time, the Iranians mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet that had just taken off from the Baghdad Airport, killing all passengers on board. Most of the passengers were Iranian citizens. Initially claiming the jet crashed on its own, the Iranian military then admitted its error. In response, thousands of Iranians protested, demanding that the Ayatollah Khamenei step down from terror. The protesters were met with Iranian police action, including being fired upon, beaten, and arrested.
The Trump Policy Regarding Iran
President Trump has warned Iran that if any Americans are harmed due to an Iranian strike, the United States would respond militarily. He tweeted, ““Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites...some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” The 52 sites are supposed to refer to the 52 Americans held hostage in 1979-1980. It appears that the fifteen missiles Iran launched against the Americans did not meet President Trump’s criteria for military retaliation as the missiles did not directly hit Americans. Trump did announce that America would impose “powerful sanctions” against Iran until it changed its ways.
Who was the Real Saint Nicholas, also known as St. Nick, Santa Claus? And...How is Saint Nicholas Remembered in the Czech Republic?
It is late evening, somewhere in Central Europe, and three seemingly incongruent beings are roaming the cities, villages, and mountain towns of this small Slavic land. One is dressed as a bishop from the fourth century, complete with white robe, white beard and mustache, a shepherd’s staff, and mitre (bishop’s hat). Another is wearing horns, dark make-up, black clothes, and a red cape. He is jangling a long and heavy chain and has a black bag he keeps opening up in a threatening manner towards children. The third is an angel, wearing a white robe and wings. The “bishop” and “angel” are smiling gently. The bishop is carrying a bag of goodies to hand out to good kids, while the “devil” is laughing wickedly, jangling his chains, and looking for kids to put in his bag.
As the three visit homes and churches, children are brought to them. The bishop asks the children and parents if they had behaved well the previous year. Before the children can answer, the devil cackles loudly, menacingly jangles his chain, and says, “I know you’ve been a naughty child. You will come with me in my bag and I will take care of you forever.” At this moment, the child comes forth and sings a song, or recites a poem. Little “Jan” assures the bishop and devil that he has been a very good boy. The devil grimaces in pain, and says, “I thought for sure I would get this one.” The angel says, “I knew he was a good boy this year.” Little Jan sighs in relief, receives either a piece of fruit or candy, and the older kids and the parents laugh.
Every year, on the evening of December 5th in the Czech Republic, this play is acted out by thousands of bishops, angels, and devils and millions of families. The bishop, angel, and devil and parents are partners in teaching the children to be good in a way that reminds them of the ramifications of their behavior on Earth.
December 6th is the day set aside in the Roman Catholic Church to remember Saint Nicholas (Svaty Mikulas in Czech). Saint Nicholas was a fourth century bishop who lived on the Mediterranean Sea in the Roman Empire, in present-day Turkey. During Bishop Nicholas’ lifetime, stories abounded of his generosity and of miraculous events associated with him. One story is how a poor family that was considering to sell their daughters into slavery received golden apples by a mysterious person they believed to be Nicholas. Another story is how Nicholas appeared to distressed sailors on the ocean and calmed the seas. Bishop Nicholas was known by all to be incredibly generous to children. (In America, we call him “Santa Claus.”)
In the ninth century, Greek missionaries Cyril and Method converted the Slavic peoples to Christianity and created the various Slavic alphabets. Stories of Saint Nicholas’ generosity spread throughout the Slavic lands and throughout the Christian world. Sometime in the Medieval Ages, the tradition of the benevolent bishop and malevolent devil visiting families began. Originally, children were questioned on their knowledge of the Bible. Today, though, the kids get to escape the devil’s snares by reciting a poem or singing a song.
Nearly all Czech families participate in this tradition, which often takes place in the middle of St. Nicholas parties. Similar festivities on the eve or day of St. Nicholas take place throughout Europe and in some parts of the United States. In many places, it has become a secular holiday, including the Czech Republic. Since the Communist rule of this land from 1948-1989, most Czechs are professed atheists. However, they all still partake in the Svaty Mikulas festitivies, and it appears the children are strongly influenced by Bishop Nicholas, the angel and the devil to be good kids for at least one more year.
1. What day are the Czechs celebrating on December 6th?
2. Why are they celebrating this person?
3. During which years did the Communists control Czechoslovakia?
4. Name one effect Communist rule most likely had on Czechs?
5. What do Americans call Saint Nicholas?
In the early 1600s, a group of people called Pilgrims left England to find a new home where they could practice their religion freely. In England, everyone who was not members of the Church of England (or, Anglicans) was persecuted. The Pilgrims were not Anglicans. They went to Holland, where there was religious freedom.
In Holland, the Pilgrims could practice their religion freely, however, they were not happy. Their children were learning to speak Dutch, practice Dutch customs, and were losing their English culture. Also, in England, the Pilgrims had been farmers. In Holland, they lived in the cities. Because of these reasons, the Pilgrims decided to leave Holland.
After returning to England for a short time, the Pilgrims left for America in 1620. After traveling 65 days, they landed their ship, The Mayflower, in the New World. Before stepping ashore, they wrote The Mayflower Compact, a short paper declaring every person’s intention to glorify God, follow the laws, and to honor the King of England. 102 English citizens set foot in America and founded Plymouth, in present-day Massachusetts. The Pilgrims stayed on their ship until homes could be built out of the wood from the forest.
The first year was incredibly harsh for the Pilgrims. Of the 102, 45 people died during a few months. Of the eighteen women, only four survived that first year. The Pilgrims were unaccustomed to the harsh winters of the Northeast, and did not know which crops grew best.
One day in Spring, an Indian walked up to the Pilgrims, and to their surprise, spoke English and befriended the Europeans. Samoset had learned English from English fishermen in North America. Samoset brought his friend, Squanto, and they taught the Pilgrims what crops to grow and how to use fish as a fertilizer. Squanto had been previously captured and made a slave by the English before retaining his freedom.
In the fall, the Pilgrims, a very religious people, decided to set aside a time to honor God and give him thanks for all of their blessings. It is amazing to think of the faith, courage, and humility of these people. In a year, half of them had died in a cold and cruel climate. They were far from their friends and comforts. And still, they wanted to have a number of days set aside to give God thanks for their blessings. They invited their neighbors, the Indians, to show them thanks for their help, and to include them in their feast.
The most famous Thanksgiving in America* took place in October 1621, lasted for three days, involved all of the Pilgrims (approximately 50), and 90 Indian men. It is believed the Indian women did not attend because the Indians didn’t trust the Englishmen. During these three days, Indians played competitive games, and the English and Indians shared the best foods together.
A few years later, in 1623, the governor of Massachusetts, William Bradford, wrote America’s first Thanksgiving Proclamation. He set aside a specific day and time for the citizens to honor God for his blessings. Beginning with President George Washington, U.S. Presidents have issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation, as well.
The residents in Massachusetts suffered for many years and the population did not grow rapidly until the company that governed it changed the community's property rights. Initially, Massachusetts' residents were to share property, share work, and share the profits. This arrangement did not work. Some residents did not work hard and received the same as those who worked hard. There was no incentive to toil. Then, the change happened. Citizens of Massachusetts were allowed to own private property and to enjoy the benefits of their hard work. Once this occurred, Massachusetts grew rapidly and became a successful colony.
In 1863, in the middle of the American Civil War, where over 600,000 Americans were killed, President Abraham Lincoln declared that the last Thursday in November be set aside as… “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Lincoln’s proclamation made Thanksgiving Day a federal holiday.
*The first Thanksgiving in America was celebrated by the Spanish in 1555 at St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish landed in St. Augustine, a city they had established, and celebrated their safe journey across the Atlantic, and the birthday of the Virgin Mary, with about 200 Indians, with a Mass and special meal. Although this is the first Thanksgiving in America, the one the Pilgrims celebrated is the one that began the American tradition practiced today.
The Mayflower Compact
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November [New Style, November 21], in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.
From the Wall Street Journal, on Thanksgiving Day, published annually since 1961:
Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford (writing in 1623), sometime governor thereof:
So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.
When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.
The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.
Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.
Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.
If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.
This editorial has appeared annually since 1961.
The Pilgrim Hall Museum – Primary Sources
PRIMARY SOURCES FOR
"THE FIRST THANKSGIVING"
There are 2 (and only 2) primary sources
for the events of autumn 1621 in Plymouth :
Edward Winslow writing in Mourt's Relation and
William Bradford writing in Of Plymouth Plantation
Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation :
"our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."
In modern spelling
"our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."
William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation :
In the original 17th century spelling
"They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; fFor as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports."
In modern spelling
"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."
NOTE : The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth in December of 1620. No further ships arrived in Plymouth until immediately after that "First Thanksgiving" - the Fortune arrived in November of 1621. One of the passengers on the Fortune, William Hilton, wrote a letter home that November. Although he was not present at that "First Thanksgiving," he does mention turkeys.
America’s First Thanksgiving Proclamation by Governor Bradford
Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
Ye Governor of Ye Colony
Thanksgiving Proclamation of President George Washington
WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;
WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
--George Washington - October 3, 1789
President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation That Established the National HolidayWashington, D.C.
October 3, 1863By the President of the United States of America.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln, 1863
President Barack Obama's Thanksgiving Day proclamation as released by the White House, 2011:
One of our nation's oldest and most cherished traditions, Thanksgiving Day brings us closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives. The observance recalls the celebration of an autumn harvest centuries ago, when the Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to share in the fruits of a bountiful season. The feast honored the Wampanoag for generously extending their knowledge of local game and agriculture to the Pilgrims, and today we renew our gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. We take this time to remember the ways that the first Americans have enriched our nation's heritage, from their generosity centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life. As we come together with friends, family and neighbors to celebrate, let us set aside our daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us.
Though our traditions have evolved, the spirit of grace and humility at the heart of Thanksgiving has persisted through every chapter of our story. When President George Washington proclaimed our country's first Thanksgiving, he praised a generous and knowing God for shepherding our young republic through its uncertain beginnings. Decades later, President Abraham Lincoln looked to the divine to protect those who had known the worst of civil war, and to restore the nation "to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union."
In times of adversity and times of plenty, we have lifted our hearts by giving humble thanks for the blessings we have received and for those who bring meaning to our lives. Today, let us offer gratitude to our men and women in uniform for their many sacrifices, and keep in our thoughts the families who save an empty seat at the table for a loved one stationed in harm's way. And as members of our American family make do with less, let us rededicate ourselves to our friends and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand.
As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 24, 2011, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to come together – whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors – to give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.
BARACK OBAMA, 2011
President Trump's 2019 Proclamation will be posted here....
1. Trace the religious tradition of the Thanksgiving Holiday in America.
a. When did it begin?
b. Where did it begin?
2. Describe the first year of the Pilgrims in America.
3. Which U.S. President officially established the day as a federal holiday?
4. Based on the Pilgrim’s experiences, describe their character.
5. Which of the documents do you find to be most inspiring? Why?
Christmas Sale: 50% Off All Games 11/29 - 12/6
On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., fighting in World War I came to a halt. Seven months later, the Treaty of Versailles was signed that ended “The Great War,” also known as “The War to End All Wars.” One year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as “Armistice Day.” Armistice means the end of fighting.
World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
On June 4, 1919, The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
Originally, Veterans Day was Armistice Day. In 1938, Congress declared that November 11 be set aside for prayer and thanksgiving for the end of World War I. However, after World War II and the Korean War, the U.S. Congress decided to change this day to Veterans Day, thus honoring veterans of all wars.
On October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veteran’s Day Proclamation, which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
In 1968, by an act of Congress, Veteran’s Day and three other holidays were moved to Mondays, so Americans could celebrate these days with a three day weekend. Many complained that this took away from the original purpose of the holidays. In 1975, President Ford signed into law to observe Veteran’s Day on November 11, where it is celebrated today.
A poem written by Canadian soldier John McCrae during World War I is often remembered by those studying World War I. Flanders is a town in the country of Belgium. Major John McCrae was a military doctor and artillery commander, and it is believed he wrote this poem after witnessing a friend killed in war and burying him.
by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
1. Read out loud the poem, twice.
2. What date is Veteran's day?
3. Why was this particular date chosen for Veteran's Day?
4. What treaty ended World War I?
5. What were the intentions of the U.S. Congress as to how November 11th would be commemorated?
6. When was Armistice Day changed to Veteran's Day? Why?
7. Why did President Ford sign into law to commemorate Veteran's Day on November 11th?
8. What did John McRae write in May 1915?
9. What does "The Dead" urge the living to do in the poem by John McRae?
10. Based on the poem, was John McRae urging others to continue fighting or stop fighting?
Dear Angry Readers,
Two weeks ago I posted an article on 9/11 I had written a few years ago and update every year. Two angry readers responded with their objections. “Homeschool Mom” claimed the whole Muslim world “clearly stated that these peoples’ actions had nothing to do with the religion.” She also argued that throughout history there have been radicals claiming to kill in the name of Christianity. The second angry reader defended al-Qaeda and the Taliban, arguing that they were justified in attacking the United States because America and its ally Saudi Arabia chose to have American soldiers in Saudi Arabia.
A third reader, “Homeschool Mother,” refuted Homeschool mom with arguments and citations. I am posting her full response in this blog.
Regarding the radical Islamic terrorists who perpetrated the 911 attacks: It is clear the 9/11 terrorists acted out of religious fervor, and these men were all radical Muslims. Al-Qaeda is a radical Islamic terrorist organization, as is the Taliban. Members of these organizations openly promote their religion and have written and stated their goals to kill Americans, Jews, and to establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate.
Regarding Angry Readers argument about Christian radicals killing: 9/11/2019 was the eighteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. The article was meant to teach basic facts about the attack on the U.S.A. It was not an article comparing and contrasting radicals who murder but it was a specific history lesson on a catastrophic attack in American history. In addition, “Homeschool Mother” makes excellent remarks regarding Muslims using the Koran for inspiration to kill.
Regarding American soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia: The United States of America and its allies may choose if they wish to have American soldiers stationed in their countries and to hold joint military exercises. It is the right of sovereign nations to do so. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not justified in murdering innocent civilians on 9/11, even if these two organizations did not approve of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia. Although the United States no longer has soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban continue to attack Americans throughout various parts of the world. It is not true these two organizations just wanted Americans away from the Muslim holy sites.
9/11/2019 03:26:34 pm
Dear Homeschool Mom,
Thank you for giving readers an opportunity to provide you with “fact-based” evidence. Beneath your quotes (which I edited for grammar) you will find factual refutations of your “shocked” response to Mr. De Gree’s article.
“…the whole Muslim world clearly state[s] that these people[s’] actions has [have] nothing to do with religion…” Meriam Webster defines whole as “constituting the total sum or undiminished entirety; constituting an undivided unit.” The definition of whole would mean that no Muslims believe the actions of 9/11/01 were motivated by Islamic beliefs, yet video footage exists of many Muslims celebrating the attack on the twin towers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=KrM0dAFsZ8k . Video footage from CNN discusses peaceful and radial Muslims. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5BtQgTGOI4 . Based on the facts, it is clear John De Gree’s description of the attackers as radical Islamists is correct.
"Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward." This Quranic passage has been interpreted by Muslim radicals as a direct call to action, to wage war against unbelievers in today’s world. Some Muslims have interpreted these Quranic verses as justification for violence against non-believers. Again, it is inaccurate for you to claim the “…whole Muslim world clearly state[s] that these people[s’] actions has [have] nothing to do with religion…”
“No religion in the world will call for mass murdering of innocent people…” Moving to Quran 8:12…"(Remember) when your Lord inspired the angels... "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." MAS has stated that the following video footage was of a group “renting” their space, but the video footage is not of Christians or Jews; it is of radical Muslims. https://www.foxnews.com/us/video-philadelphia-muslim-society-children
“Lastly so many massacres happened throughout our history by radical[s] killing innocent people and who claim to be Christians…” There are passages in the Old Testament that describe historical violence. White supremacists are not using the passages of the Old Testament to commit their crimes. While witnesses to multiple radical Islamist crimes report hearing perpetrators yell “Allahu Akbar,” witnesses to white supremacist crimes do not report perpetrators yelling “God of the Bible is great.” White supremacists are not celebrated as martyrs, nor do their families receive praise and monetary stipends. http://jcpa.org/palestinian-authority-funding-terrorists-families . They are denounced, not celebrated. Christians around the world were not dancing and singing in the streets when the violent racist murdered people in Texas. (The Ohio murders were committed by a self-described leftist, not a white supremacist.)
“We need to teach our children the facts and keep our personal bias/racism out[.]” Homeschool Mom, you are exactly right! That’s why I encourage you to reread Mr. De Gree’s balanced article and to educate yourself with facts.
I will be meeting students twice a week for one hour each session. Our school year will be @180 days, Can you recommend a good weekly goal for going through the curriculum, and then specifically The Story of Liberty curriculum? Kerry, Budding Historian a
Thank you very much for your email and questions.
Regardless of the curriculum, my goal the first few weeks is to establish a good rapport with students. I try to accomplish this by learning their names and getting to know at least one thing they like to do. I also like them to know each other's names and to learn something about each other. Another goal I have is to establish a clear and obvious method how I assign the homework, making it crystal clear to all involved. Regardless of the age, I spend a little extra time playing the Go Fish/Collect the Cards games. I like having the students converse in a non-threatening environment before we have any discussions on history/government/economics.
Beyond this beginning, to directly answer your question about The Story of Liberty, I would try to teach about two chapters per week. This means, that for some chapters, you may decide to skip some of the workbook activities. With a smaller group of students (under 15 or so), I would make sure I have students complete the Unit Activities completely, and I try to spend time with students on the Socratic discussions. You will have to establish your homework policy with the parents, deciding about how much time students will spend on homework each week. Another important thing....when you read a primary source document the first time I strongly recommend you read it out loud and answer the questions out loud. Some students may not be used to reading these and it may be difficult.
Here is a link to our online classes, which I highly recommend! You could suggest these courses to students who won't be studying American Government and Economics with you.
I will include your question and my answer on my newsletter this week! Thank you so much for your questions.
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an explorer, cartographer (map maker), and adventurer from the Republic of Genoa (today it is part of northern Italy). In 1492, he led an expedition from Spain and discovered the islands of the West Indies. He died believing he had found a westerly route to Asia, but in reality he had opened up the continents of North America and South America for European discovery and colonization. Fifty years ago, Americans viewed Columbus as a hero, and schoolchildren across the country had the day off from school. Today, Columbus is honored by students in only a few states, and in many parts of our country he is viewed with great dislike. Columbus Day is celebrated in some places of the United States on the second Monday of October, sometimes falling on the day he discovered America, October 12th, 1492.
In the 1400s, Western Europeans rapidly modernized, experienced a social mobility never before imaginable, developed high forms of art, and used technology in new ways. The Renaissance that had started in Italian city-states had spread north, and throughout Europe there was a sense that the world was waiting to be explored, discovered, conquered and civilized by those who were brave and eager enough. The Renaissance was a time where European artists and intellectuals rediscovered the beauty of the ancient Greek and Roman artists and intellectuals. City-states in Italy grew wealthy from trade with the East through the Mediterranean Sea, and countries in Western Europe wanted to be able to go directly to the East by the ocean, without having to go through the Mediterranean Sea and dealing with middle men. In 1492, the Spanish finally succeeded in liberating Spain from the African Muslims who had controlled them for over 700 years! After this 700 year war, Spain was filled with unbound confidence and believed it was a chosen country to explore, Christianize, and conquer the world.
Ocean travel is challenging, but the European mindset, Spanish confidence, new technology, and vision of Christopher Columbus made such a huge journey possible. Christopher Columbus grew up in the Republic of Genoa. His dream as an adult was to sale west from Europe and go straight to Asia, where he could open up new trade routes with China. Nobody, of course, knew that in between Asia and Europe were the Americas. Nearly all sailors knew that the Earth was round, however, no sailor knew how far the journey from Europe to the next continent was, and there was fear of starving on ship if Asia was not reached. The Asian invention of the astrolabe, an instrument that made travelling at night and away from shore possible, helped sailors like Columbus have greater confidence to sail far away.
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, fresh from their victory over the Muslims in 1492, agreed to allow Columbus to use Spanish ships and men to go on his quest. Columbus set out in three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. His goals were to find a new trade route to Asia, to find gold and bring it back to Spain, to claim new land for Spain, and to spread Catholic Christianity throughout the world. After approximately 30 days, Columbus found the new land, however, as we know, it was not Asia, it was an island in the Bahamas. Columbus believed he had found India and called the natives “Indians.”
Columbus made four different journeys to the Bahamas, established Spanish forts, was completely unsuccessful in finding any gold, and was arrested by the Spanish for being an incompetent and tyrannical governor of the new lands. Columbus’ men were so intent on finding gold that they mistreated many of the Indians they came into contact with. There are historical accounts of torture and murder by some of Columbus’ men. Columbus was either unable, or unwilling to stop them. The group of Indians Columbus first encountered, the Tainos, were extinct 50 years later. Most Indians who came into contact with the Spanish and other Europeans died from diseases, such as small pox. The natives did not have these diseases, and had no immunity built up against them. The Spanish King and Queen eventually arrested Columbus, had him brought him back in chains, tried him for incompetence and for the cruel treatment some of his men perpetrated against the Indians, and jailed him. In six weeks, the King released him.
Columbus’ legacy in the new world is mixed. He discovered America and opened up new lands for the rest of the world. Before Columbus, Indians in the Americas worshipped many gods, many practiced torture and polygamy, and some practiced cannibalism as a way of life. Europeans who came and eventually settled the Americas brought monotheism, ended polygamy, and brought literacy to the Indians. Eventually, the United States of America was founded, as was all other modern nations of North and South America. Columbus’ discovery of America was the beginning of the founding of these modern nations. Columbus has also been the focus of those who argue that the European conquest of the Americas was an immoral act against the Indians. European disease, such as small pox, is believed to have killed up to 90% of the Indian population. And, the superior strength of Europeans meant that it was easier to destroy the Indian culture.
Before the 1960s, American students and historians focused on the positive elements of Columbus’ discovery of America, and all America celebrated him. In 1971, Columbus Day became a federal holiday. After this, however, certain states began to take away the celebration of Columbus. In California, for example, students do not celebrate Columbus Day, and a public school teacher may hear his colleagues berate Christopher Columbus. In New York, however, Columbus is heralded as a hero, and New York City has a huge Columbus Day Parade that involves over 35,000 people every year. Unfortunately, over time, many American students do not even know anything about Christopher Columbus.
Was Columbus a hero or not? That is a great question to ponder on Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday in the United States of America on October 14th, but is celebrated on the second Monday of October. In many states where Columbus Day is not celebrated, students have stopped learning about him altogether.
Great Discussion Questions to Ask Your Kids
1. What did Columbus discover?
2. Who was he sailing for?
3. How did Californians celebrate Columbus in the 1970s?
4. Why do some Americans dislike Columbus today?
5. What is your opinion of Columbus? Was he a great man, a villain, neither? Explain your answer.
By John De Gree of www.classicalhistorian.com Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved. #theclassicalhistorian
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
Receive Articles and Coupons in Your Email