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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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The Election of 1936

townsend

As Roosevelt’s first term in office neared its end, many people in the United States — and in other countries — wondered if the New Deal could really solve America’s problems. More than that, they wondered if Americans would continue to follow the path of democracy. A wave of totalitarianism was sweeping the world; would it reach as far as America? There was no doubt that there were some Americans who supported Hitler and the Nazis. Members of the German-American Bund paraded in brown shirts and held a mass meeting in New York’s Madison Square Garden, but there were comparatively few Bundists. Many people felt that a more serious threat to democracy and to the Roosevelt administration came from three native American political leaders — Huey P. Long, Father Charles E. Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend. Most colourful of the three was Huey Long, a senator from Louisiana. Calling himself the Kingfish, he had come to power in his native state and he ran it, his critics said, as a dictatorship. He was a rousing orator and in front of a crowd he would spout folksy humour, crack sharp political jokes and play the simple country boy. His opponents, however, charged that he was a combination of brutal hoodlum and a shrewd political boss who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. He would promise the people anything — and he did keep some of his promise. He saw that Louisiana got better roads, schools and hospitals. In return, he got power. Huey Long was not satisfied with the power he had won in Louisiana; he had his eye on the White House. At first a supporter of the New Deal, he turned against it and began attacking Roosevelt. He called Roosevelt a “scrootch owl,” explaining that “a …

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The New Deal 1933

Roosevelt

WHEN Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated in 1932, he was fifty years old. A fifth cousin of former President Theodore Roosevelt, he came of a wealthy family. He grew up on a large estate at Hyde Park, New York, overlooking the Hudson River. At the age of twenty-four he married Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin and a niece of Theodore Roosevelt. Several years after graduating from Harvard and studying law at Columbia University, he entered politics and was elected to the state senate. In the presidential campaign of 1912 he supported Woodrow Wilson, who named him assistant secretary of the Navy. In 1920, Roosevelt ran for vice president, but he and his running-mate, James M. Cox, lost the election to Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Even so, Roosevelt had become nationally known and it looked as though he had a bright future in politics. Then, less than a year later while on vacation, he fell ill of poliomyelitis. At first he was paralyzed from the waist down, but slowly, painfully, he fought his way back to health. He would never be able to walk normally and he would be forced to use a wheelchair most of the time. He learned to get about with the aid of braces on his legs, leaning on canes or crutches. In 1924 he made his first Public appearance since his illness. He hobbled on crutches to the speaker’s platform at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he placed Alfred E. Smith’s name in nomination before the Democratic presidential convention. The cheers of the audience were as much for Roosevelt as they were for Smith. HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN Roosevelt’s battle against illness had left him a changed man. Francis Perkins, who later became his Secretary of Labour, said that he “emerged …

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The United States and Victory 1915-1918

war

FEW AMERICANS noticed the advertisement that appeared in the New York newspapers on May 1, 1915. Signed by the Imperial German Embassy in Washington, it reminded Americans that Germany was at war with Britain. It warned that British ships in the water near the British Isles were “liable to destruction,” and that “travelers sailing in the war zone on ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.” That same day, the British steamship Lusitania sailed from New York and among the 1,250 passengers were 188 Americans. On May 6, when the Lusitania was off the coast of Ireland, she was attacked without warning by a German submarine. She was struck by torpedoes and within fifteen minutes she had sunk. Of the 1,154 persons who died, 114 were citizens of the United States. Many Americans were horrified, but they agreed with Woodrow Wilson, who had been president since 1915, that the United States should not take sides in the war. Wilson was re-elected in 1916, after campaigning on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Since the beginning of the war, agents of both the Allies and Germany had been trying to influence Americans. Although Wilson faithfully carried out his policy of neutrality, he was personally sympathetic to the Allies. As a matter of fact, most Americans favoured the Allies. At the same time, American citizens of German descent had no wish to fight against their old “fatherland,” and Irish-Americans, who disliked British for its treatment of Ireland, felt that the England should be given no aid. Then the German submarine commanders asked their government to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. By that, they meant that once again they would be free to sink ships of all nations‚ including neutrals, in the waters around the British …

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Industry Transforms America 1865-1914

industry

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 Road to Yorktown 1777 – 1781

yorktown

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

princeton

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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The Final Break 1776

declaration

The fog was lifting over New York early on the morning of June 29, 1776, when a man named Daniel McCurtin happened to glance out over the bay. At first he saw nothing but mist hanging low over the water then suddenly he blinked and stared in amazement. Later he tried to describe the scene. He wrote that he had “spied as I peeped out the Bay something resembling a wood of pine trees trimmed. I declare, at my noticing this, that I could not believe my eyes, but keeping my eyes fixed at the very spot, judge you of my surprise when in about ten minutes, the whole Bay was full of shipping as ever it could be. I declare that I thought all London was afloat.” Washington’s lookouts on the share of Long Island were blinking, too, as General Howe’s mighty fleet of 130 ships arrived in the Lower Bay. This was the Army Howe had taken to Halifax after being forced out of Boston, but now it was greatly strengthened. The fleet anchored near Staten Island, shifting its anchorage in the bay several times during the next few days. The Americans waited, trying to guess where the attack would come. At Manhattan? Or Brooklyn? Or would Howe sail up the Hudson and attempt to join forces with a British army coming down from Canada by land? Howe finally put his army ashore on Staten Island at the month of the harbour, which was not defended. The British were not yet ready to strike. They were awaiting reinforcements from England. The delay gave Washington more time to fortify his positions in Manhattan and across the East River on Brooklyn Heights. To defend both places meant splitting his small army in half, with the East River between them. Had …

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A Divided Country 1776

british

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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The Stamp Act, 1765 – 1772

stamp act

Another unpopular step England took after the war was to reorganize her defense system in the colonies. The French and Indian War had proved to the British that the colonies could not be depended upon to defend themselves. Some new system had to be worked out in North America, to defend not only the colonies, but also Canada, Florida and the wilderness east of the Mississippi. England decided to leave this task to a standing army of ten thousand British redcoats. Such an army would cost a great deal of money. Taxpayers in England were already paying very high taxes and could not be asked to pay more. Their taxes supported the powerful British navy, which protected the colonies as well as the mother country. It seemed no more than fair that the colonies should pay at least part of the expenses of the standing army in North America. The soldiers were there, after all, for their own protection. Accordingly, the colonies were given a year to raise the money themselves. They were warned that England would have to tax them if they failed to do so. For a year the colonists did nothing. They saw no need of supporting an army they had not asked for and did not want. Since the French forces had been driven from American soil, a large standing army seemed unnecessary. The colonists suspected that the real purpose of the army was to strengthen British control over all the colonial governments. England’s law-making body in London, the British Parliament, finally passed the Stamp Act in 1765. It required the colonists to buy stamps from British tax collectors. These stamps were to be placed on all newspapers, playing cards, dice and almanacs sold in the colonies and also on certain papers having to do with …

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