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The 1905 Revolution


SOME DAY there would be no tsars, but there was little sign of that during the last years of the nineteenth century. Alexander III still held Russia in a firm grip. When he died in 1894, his son Nicholas II came to the throne. Nicholas was twenty-six years old. He was a handsome young man and a few months after his father’s death he was married to a German princess. They were in love and it looked as though Nicholas would be a popular ruler. His reign began badly. In 1896, a great crowd gathered on a field in Moscow to celebrate his coronation as tsar. It was the custom to hand out little presents, such as handkerchiefs and cups, at these celebrations. Afraid that there might not be enough for everyone, the crowd surged forward. When mounted police tried to hold back the crowd, men, women and children were pushed into ditches and two thousand persons were killed. To make it even worse, that same night the tsar and the tsarina, his wife, danced at a ball held at the French embassy. People grumbled that the tsarina was a foreigner who had no feeling for Russians and the tsar was not much better. Nor did the people like the tsar’s reply to a message of congratulation from the officials of a town near Moscow. The officials said that they hoped “the rights of individuals and public institutions will be firmly safeguarded.” Nicholas answered that he would support the principle of absolute rule just as firmly “as it was preserved by my unforgettable great father.” It was plain that under Nicholas the Russians could expect no greater freedom than they had had under Alexander III. There would be no civil liberties, no better treatment of the peasants and of minority …

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Japan Meets the West 1853-1905


The date was July 8, 1853; the place, Yedo, a sprawling collection of wooden houses overlooking an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Yedo, later known as Tokyo, was the chief city of the Japanese islands, off the east coast of Asia. It was larger than London or Paris, but since Japan had been out of touch with the rest of the world for centuries, few foreigners knew it. Yedo was also the residence of an official called the shogun, who theoretically governed the country in the name of the emperor. As they stared out at the bay that day, the people of Yedo could hardly believe what was happening before their eyes. In spite of a strong wind blowing seaward, four black ships were moving steadily toward them, trailing streamers of black smoke. Panic seized the onlookers and they rushed to defend themselves. The strange craft turned out to be warships from a distant land called the United States. They were commanded by an officer named Matthew Perry. Perry had not come to attack Yedo; instead, he bore a friendly letter from the American president to the Japanese emperor. He asked the shogun’s representatives to deliver it and sailed away, promising to come back. The following February, Perry returned, this time with seven black ships. The officials who greeted him enjoy the whiskey and other liquors he gave them and marveled at working models of a telegraph system and a steam locomotive. After a round of parties, talks began between the visitors and their hosts and on March 31, 1954, a treaty was signed between Japan and the United States. Although this treaty opened only two small Japanese ports to American traders, it was of great importance, for it cleared the way for many other treaties between Japan and the …

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War Begins on Lexington Green 1775


On the evening of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere quietly made his way through the dark streets of Boston to the Charles River. At the river’s edge he hid in the shadows, watching and waiting. He kept a sharp lookout for British patrols. Spies had brought the patriots word that the British were to launch a surprise attack; Revere, William Dawes and other members of the Sons of Liberty had made careful plans to warn the countryside. There could be no doubt that something was about to happen. Several days earlier, eight hundred of the best troops stationed in Boston had been taken off regular duty to prepare for action of some sort. According to the spies, General Gage had become alarmed at the way the colonists in every village were drilling and gathering military supplies. He was particularly concerned about the large supply of ammunition that the colonists had stored at Concord, some twenty miles from Boston. He was anxious to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were spending a few days in Lexington at the home of Reverend Jonas Clark. PAUL REVERE’S RIDE Now a number of British patrols had been sent out on the roads leading to Lexington and Concord, so the patriots were certain that their information was correct. The British intended to arrest Adams and Hancock in Lexington and then go on to destroy the ammunition at Concord. Which way would the British go? Boston was located on a peninsula, connected with the mainland by a narrow neck of land. The British might go over the neck‚ through Roxbury and Cambridge. That was the long way. They could cut off a number of miles by crossing the Charles River on boats. It was about ten o’clock when Paul Revere heard the sounds of marching …

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