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France and England Clash Over Power

Colonial Wars

If you are fortunate enough to visit eastern Canada, undoubtedly you will wish to include the city of Quebec in your travels. Quebec is perched on the sides and the summit of a steep, rocky promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence River. With narrow, winding streets and French speaking population, the city is a reminder of past centuries when France controlled much of what is now Canada. On September 13, 1759, on the plain outside Quebec, was fought one of history’s decisive battles. For several years English and French forces had been battling in North America, but neither side had been able to defeat the other. Montcalm, the French general and his army felt reasonably secure in their natural fortress at Quebec. Finally, however, James Wolfe, a brilliant young English general, worked out a bold plan for making a direct attack on the French stronghold. Wolfe discovered a narrow path leading up the steep cliff from the riverbank. To fool the French he kept the English fleet farther up the St. Lawrence. Then, on the night of September 12, the English soldiers in small boats drifted noiselessly down the river. In the darkness they climbed stealthily up the rocky path. Having surprised the guards at the top of the cliff, Wolfe and his forces at dawn were ready for battle. The French forces inside the city were short of provisions. Although his men were poorly trained, Montcalm led them out of Quebec to meet the English. The French were no match for Wolfe’s well-disciplined troops. At the height of the battle, as the English swept toward Victory, Wolfe received a fatal wound. A famous historian has given us the following report of Wolfe’s last moments. “They run! They run!” cried one of the soldiers who were carrying the stricken general from …

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Problems of a Changing World 1870-1914

trade unions

WHILE INDUSTRY was transforming the United States, the same thing was happening in Western Europe. The change was most noticeable in Germany, because Germany was not unified until 1870, it started to become industrial much later than Great Britain and France, but it soon began to catch up with its neighbours. Within a few decades it was producing more than they were of several key commodities, including the most important one of all, steel. Like the American government, the German government imposed tariffs on foreign manufactures and encouraged its national industry in other ways. The results were much the same as in the United States. Railways spread across the country in an ever denser network of tracks, connecting farmlands with cities, mines with factories and factories with seaports. New industrial cities came into being, especially in the coal-rich Ruhr Valley, next to the iron-rich province of Lorraine which Germany had seized from France in the Franco-Prussian War. Old cities doubled and tripled in size as country people flocked into them to man factory machines, shop counters and office desks. On both sides of the Atlantic, smoke billowed from factory chimneys, rows of new houses went up in the cities and freight trains carried industrial products off to market and to seaports, for shipments overseas. Such signs of industry’s growth could be seen throughout the industrial West. Elsewhere, in the less developed parts of the world, they were not so evident — but their effects were felt just the same. For, as industry expanded in Western Europe and the United States, it reached further and further afield in quest of supplies for its factories and customers for its products. In Asia, Africa, Latin America and other non-industrial regions, armies of native workers came to depend for their livelihood on the money …

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Industry Transforms America 1865-1914


VETERANS or the Union Army, returning to their home towns in New England or the Middle Atlantic states after the war were surprised at what they saw. They had grown up in towns where most of the people lived by farming, while the rest sold things to farmers or worked in local workshops. Perhaps a mill and a factory had stood on the bank of the town’s river. The farms, stores and workshops remained, but now there were many new brick buildings used for factories, mills and warehouses. American industry, concentrated in the river valleys and ocean ports of the northeast, had grown with a rush during the Civil War. Behind the fighting lines, factories had turned out rails and telegraph wires, rifles and bullets, boots, uniforms, blankets, tents — all the articles needed for the Union forces. These products of Northern industry made a big difference on the battlefields. Before the war, the South had been an agricultural land, with large plantations worked by slaves and smaller farms worked by poor white farmers. Cotton was the big crop and great quantities of it were sold, especially to the mills of Great Britain. The wealth of the South, based on the unpaid labour of slaves, had given it as much influence within the nation as the North, which was partly agricultural and partly industrial. The South had little industry. When war came, it was unable to keep its fighting men supplied with weapons and other needs. The ill-equipped Southerners were worn down by the well-equipped Northerners, until finally they were completely defeated. The victory of the Union upset the balance of power between the North and the South. With the freeing of the slaves, most of the Southern planters were ruined, while the leaders of industry in the North were …

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The American Experiment 1787 – 1801


THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION created a republic of thirteen states, the first large republic in history. The nation was to be ruled, not by a single man or group of men, but by the people themselves. The whole world watched the American experiment. After all, fighting a revolution and setting up a republic was one thing; making it work was another. Would the people have enough intelligence and strength of will to obey laws they had made themselves? The monarchs and aristocrats of Europe smiled, sure that they knew the answer. Why, the very idea of a republic was a joke! People were too stupid and selfish to govern themselves. Before long, the United States would become a kingdom or a dictatorship. Indeed, for a while it seemed as though the kings and aristocrats would be proved right. Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government of the United States had no power to speak of. It could not tax, or regulate trade, or enforce the law and each of the thirteen states could do as it pleased. Many Americans, including the leaders of the revolution, began to realize that the liberties they had fought for were in danger. If the thirteen states were not brought together under one set of laws and one strong central government, they would break up into separate little states and they might easily fall to someone who set himself up as a king or military dictator. The leaders of the Revolution — George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton and others — agreed that the Articles of Confederation were too weak and that something had to be done. Thanks to their efforts, a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787. All the states sent delegates, who soon came to the conclusion that the Articles …

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The Road to Yorktown 1777 – 1781


The big English setter did not look like a stray dag. When it came wandering into Washington’s camp one day in the fall of 1777, a soldier brought it to his officer. The officer took it directly to Washington’s headquarters and pointed out the name on the dog’s collar–“General Howe.” Washington had the dog fed while he wrote a polite note to General Howe. Half an hour later, the dog and the note were sent to the British camp under a flag of truce. The incident was not important, but it gave the Americans something to laugh and joke about for several days. There had not been much cause for laughter in recent weeks. General Howe had taken Philadelphia, America’s capital and its largest city, after defeating Washington at Brandywine and at Germantown. Washington’s losses had been heavy. He was now camped in the hills of Valley Forge, some twenty miles from Philadelphia, in desperate need of supplies of all kinds. In the North, moving down from Montreal, General Burgoyne had captured the fort at Ticonderoga and had continued on to Fort Edwards on the Hudson. Burgoyne, however, was having his troubles, too. He was almost out of food and his supply base at Montreal lay 185 miles north, through almost trackless wilderness. Burgoyne knew that east of him there were large stores of food and many cattle at Bennington, in what is now Vermont. He sent out a detachment of 1,300 men to raid the place and to bring back all the cattle and horses they could find. The detachment marched into a trap which had been set for it by John Stark and his New England militia and when the short battle was over, the British had lost. American losses were thirty killed and forty wounded. The Indians …

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The Old Fox 1776-1777


The cold winter winds howled through the streets of New York, but the houses were filled with warmth, good cheer and the merry crackle of hearth fires. It was late in December of 1776. Six months earlier the city had been the headquarters of General Washington’s ragged army of patriots. Now it was in the hands of the British and they were in a mood to celebrate. Some redcoats were making ready for Christmas. Others were writing long letters home to England, saying that the war was almost over. They told how Washington had been driven out of New York, how the British had stormed Fort Washington just north of the city and captured 2,600 American troops and large stores of military supplies. They told how Washington’s army had crossed the Hudson River and how General Cornwallis, with a large force of redcoats and Hessians, had chased him across the state of New Jersey. At his headquarters in New York, General Howe was preparing to spend a pleasant winter among his loyalist friends. He had many reasons for being cheerful. On December 13th, he had captured General Charles Lee, second in command of the American forces under Washington. The British had met with little resistance as they chased Washington through New Jersey and now some British units were as deep into New Jersey as Bordentown, only twenty-five miles from Philadelphia. Howe was particularly pleased by the fact that thousands of colonists in New Jersey had welcomed the British and had taken advantage of his offer to pardon all who renewed their oaths of allegiance to King George. What was left of Washington’s army had escaped across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Howe knew that most of the troops under Washington would be free to go home after their term of …

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A Divided Country 1776


One chilly morning in April, General Howe stepped out of his Boston headquarters and stared in amazement at a hill called Dorchester Heights, to the south of the city. It had been fortified during the night by George Washington’s rebel army. Strong breastworks of ice blocks and brown earth ran along the crest of the bill. Above the steepest slopes, barrels filled with rocks stood balanced, ready to be sent tumbling down the hill in the path of attacking troops. Studying the hill through his glass, Howe could make out several companies of riflemen and some units with muskets. What disturbed him most were the cannon, all well placed on the top of the hill where they could pound Boston and a good part of the Royal Fleet in the harbour. None of the British cannon, from their low positions‚ could possibly place their shots farther than the bottom of the hill. Howe made ready to attack, then changed his mind, probably haunted by the horrors of Bunker Hill. The British began making preparations to withdraw from the city. For the redcoats, the act of leaving Boston must have seemed like an escape from a prison city. They had been hemmed in there for many months, overcrowded‚ short of food and fuel. The civilian population had increased steadily, for a constant flow of colonial refugees had poured into the city to seek the protection of the British army. These refugees supported the mother country and called themselves loyalists because of their loyalty to the king. During the winter they had caused serious food and housing problems and greatly endangered the health of all. WASHINGTON TAKES BOSTON It may have been one of the loyalists who carried smallpox into the city. The disease had spread rapidly and raged for several weeks. …

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Good King George and the Dragon 1775

King George

Samuel Adams was an unhappy man. He moved among the other delegates to Congress like a lonely, silent shadow, keeping his thoughts to himself. He dared not open his mouth for fear of saying too much. Months had passed since the Battle of Bunker Hill. Colonial troops had made an unsuccessful attempt to drive the British from Canada. Congress had organized the Committee of Secret Correspondence to find out what help to expect from European countries in their war with England. In December of 1775, Congress had ordered the building of an American navy. Yet, in spite of all these warlike activities, Samuel Adams and other radicals did not dare speak openly about independence. It was not fear of England that kept them silent. They were already marked men and knew they would all probably hang if they fell into British hands. They were afraid the cause of freedom might be harmed if they spoke out too soon. They knew that most Americans were not yet ready to break away from the British Empire. One of the most serious obstacles to independence was the people’s feeling about King George. The colonists not only remained loyal to him, but believed him to be innocent of any wrongdoing. The radicals themselves were largely to blame. They had always been careful not to say anything critical about the king. They had believed that they could more effectively stir up public opinion against Parliament if they also proved their loyalty by praising King George at the same time. Now they did not dare to speak out against the king for fear of offending the people. The false picture of a saintly king had to be destroyed before the people would be willing to fight for independence, but Samuel Adams and other radical leaders did …

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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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The Continental Congress 1774


When Samuel Adams, his cousin John Adams and the rest of the delegates from Massachusetts arrived in Philadelphia, they found themselves very unpopular. Cousin John complained that he was avoided as if he had some sort of contagious disease. The delegates from other colonies looked upon the men from Massachusetts as radicals and did not like their wild ideas about protecting American rights with force, if necessary. Patrick Henry of Virginia made a speech pointing out that it was no longer possible for any of the colonies to stand alone. They had to unite, to work together with other colonies for the good of all. “I am not a Virginian,” he cried, “but an American!” Most of the delegates to the Congress were still loyal to the king, but, like Patrick Henry, they had begun to think of themselves as Americans rather than Englishmen. More and more, they were speaking of justice, freedom, liberty and of the natural rights of man. One of the first things they did was to write a Declaration of Rights, describing exactly what rights they claimed for themselves. The colonists‚ declared the Congress, were “entitled to life, liberty and property,” and had never given any “foreign power” authority to change, or to take away, any of those rights without consent. The Congress also stated that it was the right of Englishmen and of all free people to govern themselves. Since the colonists were not represented in the British Parliament, they were entitled to have their own law-making bodies. The colonial legislatures were the only lawmaking bodies that had authority to tax and to make laws for the various colonies. At the same time, the Congress recognized the right of the king to veto laws passed by the legislatures. The Congress also passed a plan known …

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