A few years ago, I was in Oaxaca, Mexico. My friend and I visited the iconic church with twin steeples. The plaque said it was built in 1557. How could that be so? The first settlement in America was in Jamestown in 1607… that’s what my history instructors said or implied. Oh well, we in the U.S. often think we are the center of the universe.
I hated history because they couldn’t get to the point. And today, it seems our education system is worse. Thus, I thought I’d give a thumbnail overview of our history that I found interesting along with some comments.
“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” but he probably landed in the Dominican Republic where the first European settlement was in 1502, 102 years before Jamestown.
The U.S. portion of America brought slaves in 1619, 12 years after our first settlement. And, it was the British that created the radical inequality mess that has been with us for 400 years. And we had learned how to steal the land from the tribal people.
The Magna Carta of 1215 influenced our founding fathers, but to my great surprise, Cyrus the Great of Persia, who lived during biblical times (550 BC), also influenced them. Ben Franklin and others were inspired by their concepts of democracy.
In 1776, 169 years after the first British settlement, a committee of five (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Livingston, and Mason) drafted the Declaration with Jefferson as the chair. The original wording included “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Wealth,” which subsequently replaced the word “wealth” with “happiness.”
Citizenship consisted of the landed gentry, which meant white males who owned property. For purposes of a census count, as demanded by the southern states, slaves were upgraded from non-status to 3/5 of a person. The population of the U.S. at the time was about 2 million.
About 13 years later, George Washington became the first president of the united colonies.
In 1803, the U.S. under Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Purchase, consisting of all or portions of 11 states, 828 square miles, and doubling the size of the country.
In 1812, the British invaded the U.S. capitol.
On July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after our independence, both Jefferson and Adams died.
The Monroe administration was billed at the ‘Era of Good Feeling,’ indicating that we were on a roll.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America, which today is still a classic. Being French, he was the first to provide an outsider’s view of America. Alexis noted the stark contrast between the North and the South as he traveled the Ohio River— the North having an upbeat entrepreneurial energy while the South was stagnant. Alexis’ implied purpose of the trip was to observe our prison system, which then seemed to embrace a ‘restorative’ approach vs. the punitive method of the past and much of today’s methods.
The population of Chicago in 1833 was 350.
1830 brought us the Indian Removal Act, which precipitated the “Trail of Tears” of 1836 whereby over 100,000 tribal people were forced to give up their lands and resettle in the Oklahoma area from many southeastern states.
In the 1840’s we invented a concept, “Manifest Destiny,” to justify our expansion with acquisitions of lands from Texas to California via a war with Mexico. It also brought us the California Gold Rush in 1848. Abe Lincoln served in Congress from 1847-1849.
Then 1854 brought us the Kansas- Nebraska Act, which polarized the issues of the time and destroyed the Whig party, thus setting the stage for the founding of the Republican Party by Abe Lincoln and four others. The new Party consisted of business professionals, established farmers, Protestants, and factory workers. In 1866, the Blacks become a major portion of the Party.
Rich Meyer, Blogger & Author
Coming up next: Abe Lincoln