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A Changing Nation 1934 – 1936

new deal

IN THE spring of 1933, as the New Deal roared into action, business began to get better, but it dropped again and as 1933 ended and a new year began, even the most optimistic New Dealer had to admit that the depression was still on. During 1934, the government took further steps to regulate banking and finance‚ but some Americans were dissatisfied. Businessman complained that the government was making it harder to do business. In spite of all the excitement, the NRA was not working out well. The farmers were complaining that prices of farm products were still too low. Some farmers went on strike, refusing to take their crops to market. In the West, there was even violence as bands of farmers overturned trucks on highways to keep them from carrying farm products to the cities. Other farmers refused to let their neighbours’ farms be sold at auction. Surrounding the auctioneer, they would force him to sell the farm for a few cents and they would then give it back to its owner. Nature itself was working against the farmers. A long drought was creating a great Dust Bowl in the states of the Great Plains — in Oklahoma, the Dakotas, parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. As month after month went by with no rain, the wind stirred up dust storms that darkened the sky. The helpless farmers watched their soil blow away, leaving a wasteland where once there had been fertile acres. Thousands of families were forced to give up their farms. Packing their belongings into rattling, broken-down cars, they set out for California. There they looked for work picking fruit and vegetables in the vast fields. Called “Okies”–because so many of them came from Oklahoma — they became a problem in themselves. The owners of the …

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The Revolution of 1848; 1830-1848

austria

LOUIS PHILIPPE always spoke of himself humbly as the “citizen king.” Although he was dignified, friendly and tried to do things that would make him popular, his government could not satisfy the needs of the people. The reason was that only one out of every thirty Frenchmen had the right to vote. The Chamber of Deputies represented only the nobles and the rich upper crust of the middle class and often it did not even debate questions that were of importance to the great majority of the people. Many Frenchmen did not like the new king. The republicans were opposed to having any king at all. The “liberals” — people of the middle class who favoured a constitutional monarchy thought his government was too conservative and did not allow enough freedom. As the years passed, more and more Frenchmen, including the workers in the cities, turned against him because he refused to support their demand for the right to vote. The liberals were forbidden to hold meetings at which they could present their demands. To get around this, they decided to follow the British system of holding political banquets. At the first of these, held in Paris in the summer of 1847, they demanded that the election laws be changed to include most of the middle classes. They also wanted freedom of trade and of the press. The banquet was so successful that similar gatherings were held in almost every town in the nation. Then the liberals announced that a great banquet, with a parade and demonstrations in the streets, would be held in Paris on the night of February 22, 1848. When the government refused to allow it, the angry people of Paris gathered in the streets. They milled about, not knowing what to do, for no plans had …

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Democracy in France 1815-1830

AFTER THE fall of Napoleon, Louis XVIII came to the throne of France. Although his powers were limited, by following a middle-of-the-road policy he was able to rule peacefully until his death in 1824. His brother, Charles X, then became king and soon began using his influence to undo as much of the French Revolution as possible. He was able to have laws passed which required the government to pay large sums of money every year to the nobles whose land had been taken from them during the revolution. The Catholic Church was strengthened and once again priests began teaching in public schools. Republicans complained and newspapers took a strong stand against the king’s program. During a parade of the National Guard, which was known as the “army of the people,” there were demonstrations against the king. Charles struck back by disbanding the National Guard and by taking away freedom of the press. In March of 1850, the Chamber of Deputies voted that it had no confidence in the government and the king was forced to call new elections. So many opponents of the king were elected to the Chamber of Deputies that his program was in danger. Charles still had a weapon to use against his enemies — the power to issue royal decrees that had the force of law in cases of emergency. On July 26, 1830, he used that weapon to dismiss the recently elected Chamber before it had time to meet. Another decree took away freedom of the press. A third took away the voting rights of most middle-class voters and a fourth decree called for a new election on the basis of the changed voting rights. Had this election taken place, Charles would have won an easy victory. Instead, Paris rose up in revolt. Students …

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The Fall of King Louis 1789-1793

jacobin

“Down with the King!” That cry was heard again and again on the night of August 9, 1792, as restless mobs gathered in the streets of Paris. They had only one purpose in mind and that was to make certain the king was toppled from his throne. The Assembly had been warned to dispose of the king before midnight and that deadline was only hours away. If the Assembly failed to act, the mobs would join forces, march on the royal Palace and seize the king themselves. As the midnight deadline approached, the frightened members of the Assembly were still in session. It was their duty to protect the king, yet, if they sent more troops to the palace, they could be held responsible for starting a civil war. The Tuileries, as the royal palace was called, was already well guarded by a Swiss guard of 900 troops, about the same number of police and 2,000 of the National Guard. The members of the Assembly were troubled by many questions, for France now had a constitution and the members were the elected representatives of the Legislative Assembly. The new government was less than a year old. Since the king served as the head of that government, what would happen to it if the king were dragged from his throne? On the other hand, could the new government survive under the leadership of a king who had lost the trust of the people? King Louis had done a number of things which had turned the people against him. It was his threat to use troops against the people that had brought about the fall of the Bastille three years earlier. Then, on the night of June 20, 1791, he and his family had made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the …

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“The King to Paris!” 1789

paris

In the towns and cities of the provinces, the news of the fall of the Bastille led to wild celebrations and a series of revolts against local governments. These governments had long been unpopular, since most of them were controlled by nobles and others who had bought their government positions from the king. The town people set up new governments, similar to the one in Paris and organized local units of the National Guard. The revolution spread to the countryside as well. There the peasant uprising had started even before the fall of the Bastille. The peasants made up at least 75 per cent of the population and they had been mistreated and abused by the nobles for many centuries. Due to their poor farming methods and the limited amount of land available to them, these farm people were barely able to support themselves, yet they had been burdened with the heaviest tax load in the country. They paid direct and indirect taxes to the king. They paid the church tax. They also paid various fees and rents to the nobles who owned the land. It was true that many peasants were landowners themselves, but even they had to pay fees to the nobles. Peasants had to serve in the army and they were required to furnish horses and wagons for the army whenever necessary. They were forced to work on public roads without pay. They were not allowed to hunt or gather wood in the forests. Only the nobles could hunt there — but the nobles could also hunt on lands rented or owned by the peasants. Cattle belonging to the peasants had to be kept at home, but cattle belonging to the nobles could wander about at will over the lands of the peasants, sometimes causing considerable damage. …

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The Fall of the Bastille 1789

bastille

On Sunday, July 12, 1789, the people of Paris learned that Necker, the popular minister, had suddenly been dismissed by the king. They could only guess at the king’s reasons for wanting Necker out of the way. It seemed clear enough that Necker’s dismissal had something to do with the recent arrival of Swiss and German troops in the Paris area. It was said that more troops were arriving every day. Why? People were almost afraid to guess at the answer. The news of Necker spread quickly and angry crowds gathered in the streets. A young man named Desmoulins leaped to the top of the table and warned the people to arm themselves. He probably repeated many of the ugly rumours then circulating in Paris. The king was bringing in troops to destroy the Assembly at Versailles. The king had entered into a plot with the nobles to smash the revolution, massacre the patriots in Paris and become once again the absolute ruler of France. Desmoulins drew a pistol and waved it above his head. “There is not a moment to lose,” he shouted. “We have only one course of action to rush to arms. . .” A growing crowd followed him through the streets. “Aux armes!” they cried. “To arms!” A regiment of the king’s German cavalry tried to scatter them and some of the people were slightly wounded. They screamed that they were being massacred and the crowd became a maddened mob. People armed themselves with sticks and pipes. They broke into the shops of gunsmiths to snatch up weapons. French soldiers left their barracks and joined them. The German cavalry, forced to retreat, hurriedly withdrew from the city. The police had also disappeared, leaving Paris in the hands of the rioters. Under more normal conditions, the armed …

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