Abraham Lincoln: Not the Great Emancipator

Since the Civil War, many historians have regarded President Abraham Lincoln as the great emancipator of African American slaves. However, scholars like W.E.B. Dubois began to question this notion based on the character of Lincoln throughout his life.

Since the Civil War, many historians have regarded President Abraham Lincoln as the great emancipator of African American slaves. However, scholars like W.E.B. Dubois began to question this notion based on the character of Lincoln throughout his life. Some have referred to him as a typical politician and accuse him of taking credit for the emancipation of African American slaves when he himself was against it altogether. Abraham Lincoln should not be regarded as the Great Emancipator of African Americans because he was not an abolitionist when he was elected president and because he did not choose to act on slavery until he was urged to by fellow Republicans in Congress at the time.

At the time Lincoln took the office of the presidency, he was not regarded as an abolitionist. Wilbert Jenkins argued in Climbing Up to Glory that “Lincoln held a mixed record on the issue of black freedom at the time he took office.” For example, while he disliked slavery, he represented a slaveholder in a case of a runaway slave, eventually, he lost the case. In his early years as a congressman, Lincoln drafted a bill that would end slavery in the District of Columbia but the bill was worded in a way not a offend slaveholders and only called for the gradual emancipation of slaves and not the immediate emancipation. Clearly, Lincoln was on the fence in regards to his own opinion on the institution of slavery as he did not want to damage his image in the mind of white slaveholders in an effort to not lose any votes. In addition to the particular wording of the bill, Lincoln also called the law to a referendum so that it would go into effect if a majority of voters supported the law. In doing this, Lincoln could not receive any political backlash and at the time, must have known that the law would not pass because only white men were allowed to vote. However, if it did, he could cash in on the success of the law but is not, his political career would not take a hit. Adding more mixed positions to Lincoln’s view of slavery is the fact that throughout the 1850’s, Lincoln was consistent in opposing the spread of slavery into the new territories but he never did anything to advocate for its abolition in the Southern states. Continue reading “Abraham Lincoln: Not the Great Emancipator”

Slavery and Poverty in the Early American Republic

Slavery and poverty in the early American republic had more in common than people often realize while at the same time, were still two distinctly different things.

The early American republic had to contend with several issues on both domestic and foreign fronts. However, the effects of a highly impoverished working class and the dependence on slavery greatly affected the economy of the republic as a whole. In those days, slavery and poverty had both many similarities and differences. In particular, both slaves and the poor were dependent upon others for food and shelter in exchange for their labor. At the same time, the poor were considered free people and had a chance to move up the social ladder given the opportunity while slaves were considered property. Slavery and poverty in the early American republic had more in common than people often realize while at the same time, were still two distinctly different things.

First, slavery was similar to poverty during this time period in the fact that people of both social backgrounds depended upon someone else to feed them. Slaves were owned by a plantation owner and they worked in the fields tending to crops in exchange for food, shelter and clothing. People of poverty were their own free people yet just did not earn enough wages in order to provide for themselves. Public relief places were set up in many cities all over the country where the poor could go and essentially trade some of their service to the community for whatever it was that they needed, be it, food, shelter, or clothing. In this sense, the poor became slaves to the wealthy in order to survive. The charity to help the poor was set up to help them eventually be able to move up the social ladder by way of community service for food. This helped some of the time but it did not entirely solve the problem of poverty.

Poverty and slavery, while having some similarities between the two still had their differences. Poverty, unlike slavery was not confined to a specific race. Anyone in the American Republic could be impoverished. Race was not the criteria on which poverty was based upon. At the same time, some nationalities were more prone to poverty than others. For example, according to the survey by The Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Public Economy, 250 of the 480 people deemed as impoverished were of Irish descent (Rockman, 41). It was often believed that African Americans made up a large proportion of the poor in Philadelphia in the years of the early republic but the data shows otherwise. According to the same statistics from The Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Public Economy, African Americans made up roughly eighteen and a half percent of the poor population (Rockman, 41). Continue reading “Slavery and Poverty in the Early American Republic”

Colonial America: A Forgotten Era

The Colonial period of the United States is often a forgotten and less-spoken of period of history. This little known period of history had huge consequences for the native peoples that lived in the area that came to be the American colonies.

The Colonial period of the United States is often a forgotten and less-spoken of period of history. Most people know about the perceived discovery of North America by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish and the period around the American Revolution but the years in the middle, which works out to be over two centuries is largely forgotten. This little known period of history had huge consequences for the native peoples that lived in the area that came to be the American colonies. This period forever changed the history between the native populations and the colonizing world powers such as England, France, the Dutch and Spain.

Cultural Differences Between Native Americans and Settlers

The first noticeable effects of the colonial settlements on the native populations were the resulting differences between their beliefs towards land ownership. The natives had no land ownership laws and everyone was entitled to their lands so long as they needed to work them to help support their tribe. The Europeans did have ownership laws which the natives did not understand. For the Europeans, land could be bought and sold whereas the natives shared their land with others. This eventually led to colonial expansion onto native lands in exchange for European technologies such as rifles and money. The Dutch and English had the most success in gaining Indians lands for their goods. The Dutch built up a prosperous fur trade with the natives. The Dutch wanted the fur that the natives were keen on trapping and collecting and they traded them European goods such as axes, knives, hatchets and kettles that the Dutch brought over with them. These tools were just as valuable to the Algonquians and Iroquois as they were to the European settlers. This resulting trade for these tools and weapons allowed some native tribes to become much more powerful than their enemy tribes. As the Dutch expanded their trading posts up the Hudson River, the Iroquois nation who previously only had access to such goods by way of the French on the St. Lawrence River were now much closer and more able to get the European tools and weapons at a cheaper rate. As the trade increased, so did tensions with the natives of the different Iroquois tribes. Alan Taylor notes in his book that “During the late 1620s the easternmost Iroquois nation, the Mohawk, improved their access to Fort Orange by displacing the Algonquian-speaking Mahican, who had lived around the post and had tried to control the trade.” This caused even more tensions because the Dutch, who wanted to continue to trade with the Mohicans who had been displaced, tried to stem the Mohawk assault. Rather than to risk any more profits, they accepted he Mohawk victory, which in turn recognized the Iroquois as their primary trade partner. To the Iroquois, Taylor notes, “Fort Orange functioned as an asset, and almost a possession, of the Iroquois, who acquired growing quantities of European weaponry.”[1] The Iroquois used this trading post as a means to get much more powerful than their enemy nations. In turn, they began to attack other nations and wipe out their populations. In addition, they seized French goods from westbound convoys to take to trade at Fort Orange. This increased regional tensions in the regions and led to more fighting. As French priest wrote in 1644 after attacks on French trading posts, “It is almost impossible to make either peace or war with these barbarians; not peace because war is their life, their amusement, and their profit all in one.”[2] A British priest also noted something similar and stated, “so enjoyable and easy is this warfare to our enemies.”[3] As it would then turn out, the Iroquois and French would become unusual allies as the French did not want the Dutch to profit off the natives and the Iroquois shared this wish. This led to the Iroquois ambushing incoming Indian convoys on their way to Fort Orange. Taylor notes that, “They [Iroquois and French] both tacitly worked to keep apart the best suppliers of furs (northern Indians) and of manufactures (the Dutch).”[4] However, this relative amount of peace in the colonies would not last forever. The Iroquois would go on to use the weaponry that they gained through trade with the Europeans to begin to annihilate their enemies. The reasons for this will be discussed later.

early-american-colonial-history-timeline-800
Timeline of major events in America and the controlling nations during the Colonial Era.

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Purpose.

Learning about how the present came to be is paramount to understanding the consequences and effects that our present actions will have on the future.

I have always had a passion for history. Learning about how the present came to be is paramount to understanding the consequences and effects that our present actions will have on the future.

In this section, I will share many of my various writings and research projects relating to several areas of history. Some look at history from a present perspective in which I am looking back upon the ways things happened. Other writings were written from a present-day perspective (at the time of writing) and look forward making predictions about the future. Some of these predictions have come to pass, and some have not.

I hope you enjoy my works and learn something from them. Hopefully you can use something that you learn here to affect your future opinions and shape your political ideology.

The Rise of Adolf Hitler

How could an Austrian-born, kind-hearted young child end up becoming one of the most ruthless and anti-Semitic German leaders that the world has ever seen?

The rise of Adolf Hitler is one that is of great interest to historians the world over. How could an Austrian-born, kind-hearted young child end up becoming one of the most ruthless and anti-Semitic German leaders that the world has ever seen? Unlike most dictators who come to power through revolution, Adolf Hitler came to power by getting him and his party elected. However, it did take a few failed revolt attempts and some time in prison for Hitler to realize this new plan. Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was the result of several factors, most importantly however was Hitler’s standing in the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, the effects Germany was feeling as a result of the Treaty of Versailles and the views the German public held for the future of Germany.

First, Adolf Hitler got his start in politics after being assigned as an intelligence agent by the German Army to investigate the German Worker’s Party in Munich in 1919. He listened to a speech entitled, “How and by what means is capitalism to be eliminated?”[i] After this speech, another man stood up and began to talk about the German state of Bavaria breaking from Germany to form a new South German nation with Austria. An enraged Hitler stood up and spoke out against the man and his proposed idea for fifteen minutes without interruption. His oratory skills impressed German Worker’s Party leader Anton Drexler who went up to Hitler and gave him a pamphlet entitled “My Political Awakening” before leaving. Hitler was impressed that the party political beliefs similar to his own.[ii] Soon after, he was inducted into the party and attended an executive committee meeting.[iii] Hitler describes the party in Mein Kampf,  “aside from a few directives, there was nothing, no program, no leaflet, no printed matter at all, no membership cards, not even a miserable rubber stamp.”[iv] Even though he was dissatisfied with the condition of the party, Hitler liked the sentiment expressed by Drexler and saw an opportunity to turn the party into a movement. “This absurd little organization with its few members seemed to me to possess the one advantage that it had not frozen into an ‘organization,’ but left the individual opportunity for real personal activity. Here it was still possible to work, and the smaller the movement, the more readily it could be put into the proper form. Here, the content, the goal, and the road could still be determined.”[v] It is clear that Adolf Hitler took joining the German Worker’s Party seriously and that he felt that the party could turn into a much larger movement.

In early 1920, Adolf Hitler was appointed chief of propaganda for the party. In February 1920, Hitler added the words “National Socialist” to the party name making it the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP). After being discharged from the German Army in March of 1920, Hitler began working for the party full-time. In this time, he began transforming the party with Drexler announcing the party’s twenty five point program and forming a security wing of the party under the guise of a gymnastics and sports division. This was originally named Ordnertruppen, but was later changed to Sturmabteilung or SA. The primary goal of such group was to keep order at Nazi meetings and suppress those that disrupted them.[vi] In time, Hitler began giving lectures at beer halls around Germany. This drew people to the party and began to spread his message. In June of 1921, a mutiny broke out in the NSDAP in Munich. Some members of its executive committee found Hitler overbearing and they wanted to merge with rival German Socialist Party.[vii] In July, Hitler resigned from the party. Members realized that if he was to do so then the party would end. Hitler announced that he would only rejoin if he was granted party chairmanship. The committee agreed that he could take over Drexler’s position as party chair. Hitler’s plan was a success. At a general membership meeting, he was granted absolute powers as party chairman.[viii] As party chairman, Hitler oversaw several meetings at beer halls which erupted into fights between SA members and opposition groups. One of the early notable beer hall melees was the Hofbrauhaus melee in Munich on November 4, 1921. Hitler spoke at the meeting and then a short time after, a fight broke out which ended with the SA defeating the opposition.[ix] The most famous beer hall event that Hitler was involved in was an attempted coup d’etat in November of 1923 know as the Beer Hall Putsch. Italy had just seen the rise of Benito Mussolini by way of a coup d’etat. This ultimately had to be on Hitler’s mind November of 1923 when he and the NSDAP led the Beer Hall Putsch. Their goal was to seize power in Munich and start off a national revolution. The confrontation between Nazis and the police left sixteen NSDAP members and four policemen dead.[x] Hitler was arrested two days later and charged with high treason. Hitler was tried and sentenced to five years in prison while his trial gained great public attention.[xi]

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The Importance of Studying History

History is the most ignored subject in school. Yet, we need it now more than ever.

As a student that is studying to teach history to high school students, I realize the importance of this subject. However, not all people, especially high school students in today’s society may see the need to learn and to study history. It is very important to learn history for many reasons. Three big reasons are that history gives students a sense of community and humility, it teaches students how to be a responsible citizen and how government is influenced by the people, and lastly, the mere study of history trains minds in how to research and find evidence for facts.

First, learning history will give students a sense of community. We can see this in the way that history and social studies are taught at the various age levels. In elementary school, students learn about community leaders such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers. As they get older, their worldview gets larger because they begin to learn about world history and then United States history. This knowledge of the world around them helps to first instill a sense of self in students and then to instill a sense of understanding of others and community. The curriculum is spiraled this way to help make real world connections from a young age. As the students grow older, their idea and understanding of the world grows larger and the curriculum helps this fact. An example of this in younger students is that it is common practice is to have students research their family history and where their family originated from. This will help provide a sense of self for the student while relating their life to other locations in the world like where their family came from and where other students’ families came from. Learning history can really help to generate a sense of self and relation with the world in young students and older students alike. Without this sense of self and of togetherness that comes from learning history, people would not know how to relate to others and more importantly, would not have any idea of a self identity. If they cannot meet these two goals, then everyone is mostly on their own. History provides a way to develop these two senses of self and togetherness. Starting from a young age and setting a solid foundation for the learning of history is an important step toward that goal.

Next, students should learn history and social studies because it teaches them how to be good citizens and to understand their role in government. History is a gateway to civics and the inner workings of government. Once students learn about the foundations of the United States and the government, then they will understand what it means to be a United States citizen and learn the rights that they have as laid out in the founding documents. If students did not learn history and about the founding of the country and our government, then they would be unaware of their rights, the workings of the government and would not know how participate in government. On the most general level, teaching civics to students through history is essentially the same as training the next generation of world leaders and citizens that are to instill the same principles in the generation after them. If we fail to learn about our history as it fits in the world then we will not a have a foundation to build upon to make the next generation that much stronger than the previous. History teaches students how to become good citizens. Building off of the previous sections of this paper, having a good sense of self and your interconnectedness with the rest of the world is one half of being a good citizen. The other part is knowing and exercising your rights as a citizen, such as petitioning the government, voting and even running for political office if you choose to. Having a knowledge of other people and yourself will help to shape your own political views and will enable you to work within the government system that we have (and you learned) to help improve society for all people. Understanding our role in government is critical to affecting public policy and the betterment of society.

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