Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31, 1888 – Lady of the Night Lauded for Defeat of Attacker

Life had been rough for Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols. She was daughter of locksmith Edward Walker, never wealthy but never starving. She married William Nichols, a printer's machinist, in 1864, and the couple had five children before falling out. Familial arguments blurred the truth of the matter (whether William had had an affair or whether Polly had deserted him), but by 1881, Polly was living practically on the streets. She had lived with her father before an argument drove them apart, dwelt in a workhouse after being arrested for sleeping in Trafalgar Square, and left a position as a servant while stealing clothes. Much of her life was spent deep in alcoholism, which had driven Polly to prostitution for survival.

On the night in question, Polly had earned well more the fourpence needed for a bed for the night, but had spent the money on alcohol. Returning to the streets, she was met by her roommate Nelly Holland, who, detecting an eerie something in the greenish Whitechapel air, warned her to be careful. Usually Polly would disregard the warning as a pleasantry, but tonight it gave her pause.

Sometime about three o'clock in the morning, Polly was approached by a man she described as “a right gentleman” who called from his carriage. They went to Buck's Row, where the man suddenly pulled a knife. Polly, having been on guard, saw the man and pulled back. Being old, he missed her by far, and Polly attacked him with her fingernails, slaps, and punches. The carriage driver gave a yelp, the old man pleaded with groans, and Polly escaped into the night.

She hid until dawn in various alcoves around London before finally returning to her lodging house, still penniless. Nelly greeted her, and the two discussed Polly's night. With such closeness to death, Polly had reexamined her life, which she found suddenly very lacking. Her story would be picked up by newspapers on what was to become a month of slow news. Giving up alcohol, she returned to the workhouse, later taking a job as a housekeeper and eventually reuniting with her husband.

Also on this day, famed physician Sir William Gull died of stroke. He had battled the disease for a year with several attacks, and this seemed the worse with a seizure that produced bruises and scratches where he must have thrown himself against the headboard of his bed. The acclaimed physician was known for his research in paraplegia, anorexia nervosa, and kidney disease. In 1871, he had served as Physician Ordinary to the Prince of Wales, saving the future king through care during a particularly nasty case of typhoid fever.




In reality, Nichols would be the first of many brutal murders by the notorious “Jack the Ripper.” Though the murderer would never be caught, a flurry of public panic would bring about one of the most important police investigations of the Victorian Era. New techniques would be developed and embraced, changing forensic science. Meanwhile, media would catch the story as well as letters sent by potential Jacks, giving cryptic messages that may or may not have been from the real killer.

Sir William Gull died in January of 1890 and was also known for his care and encouragement of women both as patients and doctors.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30, 1689 – Tsarina Sophia Assassinates Young Peter

The Tsardom of Russia stood as a massive Eurasian power first organized during the reign of the Khans. Ivan the Terrible had transformed the tributary of the falling Mongolian empire into a new kingdom for the Rus with his coronation in 1547. Since that time, Russia continued to expand in all directions, stretching west through Siberia to the Pacific Coast. The latest of these gains had been made by moving into the Amur Valley in Manchuria, causing conflict with the Chinese to the south.

Conflict bubbled in the Russian nobility as well. In 1676, Tsar Alexis had died, leaving the ill Feodor III as tsar until his own death in shortly thereafter in 1682. Ivan V, the next son in line for the throne, was also ill both in mind and body. Seeing problems of continual poor rule, the nobles in their Duma put forth as tsar ten-year-old Peter, a son from Alexis' second marriage. Though ratified by the people, Sophia Alekseyevna, a daughter of Alexis, led a coup by the Streltsy, the elites of the military. Through murder and intrigue, she placed herself as regent and the young Ivan and Peter as co-tsars.

Sophia ruled the country well, carrying out successful campaigns against Turkey, signing an eternal peace agreement with Poland, and working with China on peace agreements in the east. In 1689, however, Peter had come of age, and in the summer he began his plans to take power. She hoped to use the Streltsy to overthrow Peter, but many of them had deserted her camp and taken up with the young prince as he fortified himself in the Troitsky monastery. She invited Peter to join her at the Kremlin, but he refused and demanded execution and exile of her highest advisers.

It did not seem that she could win a civil war, and Peter was remaining resolute against her intrigue, so Sophia decided on one of politics' oldest tactics: assassination. Stalling for time, she and Peter debated through couriers for weeks until finally she was able to coax his guard weak enough for an assassin to strike. Peter was stabbed with poison blades and, though the assassin was quickly killed by his guards, died after a week of fever. Without their leader, the wayward Streltsy deserted again, and a few policing battles secured power for Sophia.

She proclaimed herself tsarina, co-ruler of Russia with Ivan V, who was weakening by the year and died in 1696. Ruling alone, Sophia worked to keep the Russian army politically strong against the nobles, with whom she had several squabbles as she delivered rights to peasants. Infighting kept Sophia busy maintaining her control over the vast tsardom.

As the Great Northern War (1700-1721) broke out, Sophia would see her power come to an end. Charles XII of Sweden had swept through Denmark and Poland and even liberated Ukraine. She brought the full might of her armies down on the Swede, but the technologically superior Scandinavians and their allies outmatched any number of Russian soldiers. As Charles approached Moscow, the nobles would finally overthrow Sophia, who died shortly thereafter in a convent. Charles' terms were hard but fair to the nobles, and Russia found itself formed up as part of the growing Swedish Empire.

With their massive force, the Swedes came to dominate Europe with their allies in Prussia, even overthrowing the growing power of the British in the War of Austrian Succession and, more importantly, the Seven Years' War. Seizing many of Britain's colonies, the Swedish Empire would find itself overstretched by the 1770s and unable to halt the American Revolution against the Swedish governors installed. With its absolute monarchy weakened, Sweden would find itself caught up in the surge of revolutions in Europe over the 1790s following the French. Sweden would hold to its empire with concessions made to the Riksdag parliament, but counter-revolutionary forces would tear the country apart.

In the Napoleonic Wars, the French defeated the Swedes and broke up their empire. For the first time in a century, the Russians were free and welcomed Napoleon as a great liberator. He established a puppet government among the boyar nobles and helped modernize Russia as he did with the German and Italian states. Nationalism would follow the Napoleonic era, and Russia would be instrumental in Germany's defeat in World War I (1914-1917), despite an attempted communist coup against the king and Duma. In World War II, Germany would give Russia its own defeat as the government crumbled in the face of Hitler's overwhelming army.

Fortunately, and thanks largely to the American A-bomb, Hitler would be defeated in 1947. Russia, like China and other countries demolished in the surge of the Third Reich, would undergo a series of civil wars until the US-sponsored Russian Republic came to power in the mid-1970s. Russia joined the growing politico-economic unit known as the European Union in 2010 in hopes of building up its lagging trade and industry.




In reality, Peter was not assassinated by Sophia. His political power grew, and he overthrew Sophia, sending her to a convent and putting down the Streltsy Uprising to reinstate her in 1698. Forceful and violent, Peter was greatly learned and worked to modernize Russia through shipbuilding, military, and science. His improvements of soldiers and tactics enabled Russia to defeat Sweden in the Great Northern War and transform the tsardom into an empire. Over the next centuries, Russia would hold major influence over Europe and the world in the form of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, which spawned from uprisings against antiquated law always in need of updating.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29, 1833 – Parliament Passes Slaves' Rights Act

Slavery had existed in the British Empire long before it could have been called an empire, but the sun seemed to set it as the nineteenth century grew prosperous. Abolitionists had worked for years to end the practice by lobbying Parliament, and a formal Anti-Slavery Society was formed in 1823 with such members as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, and Elizabeth Pease. Pitted against them were the wealthy plantation owners of the empire whose fortunes were based on cheap labor.

Another force against the abolitionists was simple inertia. Slavery had worked for so long that, while it may have been deplorable, that was simply the way things were. Many noted the question of what to do with thousands of newly freed, unemployed, uneducated former slaves. The status quo continued so, until 1831 when a planned peaceful strike of Baptist slaves broke out into violent revolt in Jamaica, put down ten days later with hundreds dead in what became known as the Baptist War.

After the rebellion, an inquiry was sent to investigate, and the brutality of the planters became known. While the abolitionists used the information to push forward their agenda, businessmen became concerned. They had lost the slave trade in 1807, but to lose all slaves would be a major financial hit. When it became suspected that even the East India Company may suffer, money acted. Through politicking and outright bribery, the years of work of the Anti-Slavery Society were absconded and twisted into a new ideal: governing the rights of slaves.

Before the abolitionists could effectively rebut it, the Slaves' Rights Act was passed in 1833. The institution of slavery was thus legally protected, and slaves were deemed a kind of lifetime apprentice. Mistreatment of slaves was made stiffly illegal with fines and even jail-time, but runaway slaves were also to be arrested and fined what little money they had. A new office of civil servant was created as Slave Inspectors (which became well paid and often relations of large slave owners). Also key to the act was the point that slave may only be bought or sold with a writ of permission from the slave. While not reigniting the slave trade, this did open legal grounds for the transport and sale of slaves.

Abolitionists decried the act as “a feeble bandage on a festering wound”, and Thomas Clarkson was quoted as saying that he was “happy Wilberforce did not live to see this day.” Still, the law improved conditions for slaves, and many were sold their freedom. Even with fewer slaves per capita, slavery continued. Reinventing themselves, many abolitionists began to use the “writ of permission” as note that the slaves must be able to write effectively, and thus schooling must be provided for all slaves, especially the young. When it was upheld in the courts, many abolitionists became educators for the slaves.

With furthered education, the slaves of the British Empire became arguably more politically significant than the uneducated masses in the large cities of the Industrial Revolution. Following the reports of David Livingstone in the 1860s about the Arab slave trade, a new push for slaves' rights began and was furthered by the Emancipation Proclamation in America during its Civil War. A long discourse in Parliament began, and slavery was abolished in 1873. Newly freed, many slaves used their education to better their position: opening businesses, buying land, and employing other former slaves as workers in factories.

Toward the twentieth century, the centers of manufacturing shifted toward former plantations. Throughout the British Empire, factories sprung up beside fields, transforming towns to cities. Seaside cities solved their energy needs with offshore drilling for oil and “wave generators,” a machine capable of turning tidal motion to electricity, invented by Freedman John Stanwite of Jamaica. The Caribbean became known as South Manchester for its manufactures, though the nickname was only economically apt as its was a collection of light industry instead of heavy machines. The colonies swiftly began to move away from Britain as a “motherland.”

With the World War ending in 1918, Ireland led the colonies in searching for freedom. With a marginal downturn in the world economy over the course of the 1930s in the World Depression, political pressure forced the British Empire to evolve into a commonwealth of republics. Socialism would strike many of the former French and Spanish colonies as preferable following the example of Stalinist Russia, but the political tug-of-war between the capitalist west and the USSR could hardly be called a war, even a cold one. Instead, widespread commercialism would dominate the world by the beginning of the twenty-first century.




In reality, the act of 1833 fully abolished slavery, though not all at once. Slaves under six were freed, and the rest would be deemed “apprentices” to be freed gradually based upon employment until 1840. Many slaves led peaceful protests and were granted their freedom early. However, the Act did make note that it was not applicable “to any of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company, or to the Island of Ceylon, or to the Island of Saint Helena,” thus protecting many business interests.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28, 1917 - Suffragette Killed while Protesting President

Suffrage for women in the United States was an uphill struggle. Despite even the reminder from the earliest days of the Revolution with Abigail Adams writing to her husband, "Don't forget the Ladies," the right to vote had been kept from women for over a century. While many abolitionists worked with the suffrage movement, once the Civil War ended and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments provided rights for African Americans, women's suffrage seemed forgotten. Leaders like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Caddy Stanton continued the fight, but great political ground was made until well into the twentieth century.

America had joined World War I in April of 1917 amid a fair amount of protest of the involvement in Europe's war. President Woodrow Wilson used propaganda machines to keep the war popular, showing films of troops in training, "minute-men" giving public speeches over the importance of making the world safe for democracy, and upholding ideals of everything American. Meanwhile, the National Woman's Party, the renamed union of many women's suffrage organizations, used negative publicity against the President. He was routinely questioned why women weren't in his agenda of support for all humankind. Women picketed the White House with placards demanding the right to vote. Other placards displayed anti-war slogans, which was growing among the movement.

The protesters, nicknamed the "Silent Sentinels", had gradually ended their silence days before. As the President drove by, tipping his hat as he usually did, the women shouted at him. Outraged bystanders began to clash with the protesters, and eventually the police were brought in to calm the situation by arresting many of the women on charges of obstructing traffic. In the altercation, one of the leaders of the suffragettes, Alice Paul of New Jersey, violently slipped out of a policeman's grasp and fell, hitting her head on the pavement. Police and protesters alike attempted medical help, but Alice died in a matter of minutes. The women rose up in what many called a "riot", but police quickly arrested whoever they could catch to be placed in the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia.

As the media and the remainders of the NWP spread word about the death, Wilson faced a public relations disaster. In a change from his usual quiet on the subject, he approached Congress with a speech requesting women's suffrage, noting that they "were willing to die, just as any man in the Revolution had been." Meanwhile, the negative press only grew as the arrested women entered hunger strikes. Potential bills flew around the Congress, drowning out suggestions for a temperance amendment controlling alcohol. Opposition to suffrage repeated pseudo-scientific evidence that women had smaller brains, and it was on a demand that women could think just as well as men that a solution was found. Common throughout the South, poll tests would be established to prove literacy and basic knowledge of citizenship for a voter. The Eighteenth Amendment, establishing the National Poll Test, would be ratified January 6, 1919. Any citizen of the United States, male or female, black or white, and even of any age, could vote after passing the test and proving merit.

As the Test went into use around the United States, it became steadily obvious that, statistically, the poor would be the first to be turned away from voting. Only a few who recognized this matter took it seriously, and of those, there were ones who used it to their advantage. Workers' rights were a question of the unskilled laborers, but the increasing difficulty of the Test kept them from voting. As the economy sank into the Great Depression, social leaders spoke out against the Test. Facing his own public relations issues, President Franklin Roosevelt urged Congress to repeal the amendment with a new amendment continuing the guarantee the vote for all adults, men and women. The Nineteenth Amendment would repeal the Eighteenth in 1933, the first of many political shifts for the nation.

Although ignored in 1917, the idea of the prohibition of alcohol would arise again in 1937 along with the control of marijuana. After two decades of facing an explosion in organized crime, these measures, too, would be repealed under the presidency of Stuart Symington in 1963 shortly before his assassination in Dallas, Texas.


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In reality, no one was seriously injured at the NWP protest, though many were arrested, including leaders Lucy Burns and Alice Paul. While in Occoquan Workhouse, they would begin hunger strikes that would lead to them being force-fed while under psychiatric watch. The resulting negative press would push the government for an amendment to give women the vote, but not until after the Eighteenth Amendment began the Great Experiment of prohibition.

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27, 1941 – Roosevelt Agrees to Summit with Konoe

War in the Pacific had been brewing for years. During the 1930s, Japanese influence into China had increased to all-out war in 1937 and domination of Manchuria. With the fall of France in 1940, Japan stationed troops in French Indochina. Germany's invasion of Russia in 1941 placed Japan in a precarious position: Hitler pressured them to attack north to the Soviet Union, which would have been an easy front; French Indochina stood ready for full occupation with Vichy troops occupied in Europe. Far to the east, the United States rested like a sleeping giant.

Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoe was desperate to prevent war with America. Roosevelt routinely demanded removal of Japanese troops from China, which was an impossible agreement since the army and navy had suffered too much to give up conquests. On July 28, 1941, Japan commenced its occupation of French Indochina, and the United States retaliated by freezing Japanese assets and, more importantly, leading Britain and the Dutch East Indies in an oil embargo. Without foreign oil, Japan was stuck; within two years, the entirety of oil stockpiles would be depleted. The military had not anticipated such a rash move by the Americans, and Konoe made a last-ditch effort: a personal summit. He sent notice to Roosevelt that he would soon be arriving in Washington in hope FDR would meet him.

It was a diplomatic gamble, but Konoe's risk-taking paid off. The summit was rushed in preparation, and, on September 5, the Japanese Prime Minister was welcomed to the White House. The talks were primarily a standstill; Roosevelt made demands that Japan leave China and stop its military expansion to the south, something that Konoe could not do. While the meeting essentially gained nothing, Konoe did learn one important point: much of the American public did not want to engage in another “European” war, so the United States would never be the one to strike first.

Under the Tripartite Pact signed among Germany, Italy, and Japan in 1940, the three had agreed to join forces if an unnamed force (the United States) came into the war against them. While, militarily, an immediate strike against the small American Pacific fleet would be advantageous, it could prove costly in the long run. Konoe reported to the other Tripartite nations that the United States must never be assaulted. They could not risk a repeat of even the slightest negative PR move like the sinking of the Lusitania in the first World War.

With pressure from Hitler, the Japanese would begin their plans for war against the Soviet Union. They assured him that, without oil, they would be unable to put their armies into the field effectively. Defeat in 1939 at Khalkhin Gol also showed that Japanese ground forces were not adequate against Soviet heavy tanks, so they focused on devising a defensive war with long-reaching strikes by aircraft. However, as Operation Barbarossa became a logistical quagmire, it was obvious that Hitler had bitten off more than Germany could chew.

The Emperor did not want to be on the losing side of a war with the Soviet Union, but Konoe and his ministers could not break the Tripartite Pact. Instead, they bought time, assuring Hitler that their army would be ready for combat in the summer. On June 28, 1942, Japan launched attacks toward Soviet oil fields north of Manchuria simultaneous with Germany's operation Case Blue. Stalin let the east lose ground with only minor defensive measures, pressing most of his might into the defense of Moscow and the west. Even with two fronts, by the middle of 1943, Russia halted the tide of advance and began to push back.

Japan fell to maintaining position and working with its air force (arguably the best in the world after years of buildup) to spy on troop movements and pin down Russian reserves before they could reach the front. Germany's war with Britain had come to a standstill with Hitler giving up North Africa but holding the Mediterranean. The manpower and materiel did not seem available for an amphibious invasion of Europe until at least 1945 despite the fact that the Blitz had long passed. Instead, they fought Germany's navy while Stalin began to eat away at the back of Hitler's European fortress.

Finally, the end came for Germany with the British landing at Normandy under Operation Overlord in March of 1945. By that time, Stalin was pressing into Germany itself, and the Third Reich faced collapse. On August 14, 1945, the remainders of Hitler's government (Hitler himself had disappeared, presumed dead in his bunker via suicide) sued for peace. Stalin then joined with Britain in pressing toward the east where Japan had stood unquestioned for years. Seeing the vicious defeat of allies, Emperor Hirohito offered terms for peace, but Stalin would not accept anything less than what had been declared at Potsdam: disarmament, reduction of empire, and partial occupation.

Prime Minister Konoe, who had been in and out of power over the course of the war, approached American President Thomas Dewey for mediation. Dewey agreed, but Stalin and Prime Minister Clement Attlee did not agree to ceasefire until concessions had been made. While battles still roared in Siberia, Mongolia, China, and French Indochina, talks began. When the dust cleared, Japan would maintain Korea as a protectorate, but they would lose all other imperial gains and face limitations on armed forces.

The United States, now economically on its feet with its profitable Lend-Lease program, suddenly faced a world with vaporizing empires and Soviet dominance over almost all of Europe and Asia. Renewed military buildup began through the 1950s, and America found itself trailing distantly behind Russia in missile technology and space development. In 1962, Russia moved ICBMs to its ally Cuba and refused to recognize American requests that they be removed. The successful invasion at Playa Girón and subsequent seizing of those missiles began the Soviet-American War that would last until 1968 with Russian troops marching into Chicago, where the relocated American government had sat after the Bombing of Washington.




In reality, Konoe did not make the diplomatic faux pas of forcing discussion, and Roosevelt bought time with the promise of talks as long as possible to better prepare America's military base. The Japanese government realized war was inevitable, and it would fare better if it began sooner rather than later. On December 7, 1941, Japanese woke the slumbering giant with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26, 1501 – Da Vinci Agrees to Sculpt David

An enormous block of marble nicknamed “The Giant” and “David” had sat unused for some thirty-five years. Agostino di Duccio had been given the block to sculpt into a massive portrayal of the biblical David in 1464, but the death of his master Donatello in 1466 had interrupted the project. Rossellino had been commissioned to continue, but his contract had been terminated. Until 1501, the block sat in the church workshop, cataloged as “a certain figure of marble called David, badly blocked out and supine.”

Leonardo da Vinci was consulted to work on the marble, but he initially declined. Times had been rough for the Renaissance man: he had fled French troops in Milan the year before and spent the interim in Venice working as a military architect before arriving in Florence. In the meantime, the invading French had used “Gran Cavallo,” his massive clay model of a horse (larger even than Donatello's), as a practice target. He was currently working on a cartoon of the Virgin while living at a monastery, and he doubted he could take on the extra work.

When Leonardo heard that the contract was going to go to the young upstart Michelangelo (who had recently completed the much applauded Pietà), he changed his mind. Michelangelo had insulted him years ago by implying that Leonardo was incapable of casting Gran Cavallo, which, worse, proved true as the bronze promised for the statue was taken to be used for cannon to defend Milan. Leonardo interrupted Michelangelo's contract, offering to do the work for little more than room and board. After a week and a half of the two artists bickering, Leonardo finally blurted, “He might give you a sculpture that can stand, but I'll give you one that can sing!”

Michelangelo scoffed, but the Operai, the commission for overseeing the works of the Duomo, were impressed. They had heard of Leonardo's many inventions and weapons, so they decided to give the man a chance. Leonardo had originally meant the singing to be figurative, but now he was stuck in a contract that would prove to revolutionize the Renaissance world.

Leonardo buried himself in a study of automatons. Stories of Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese machines that looked like men gave precedence but no real mechanical inspiration. The Arab Al-Jazari three hundred years before had built an emulation of a four-piece band that played on a boat as well as a robotic servant for washing guests' hands. Leonardo himself had sketched a series of gears to emulate sitting up and moving arms and legs just a few years before as part of his work with the Vitruvian Man. The impossible task gradually seemed doable.

His first task was to plan the singing David, making countless sketches in a variety of positions, finally planning the David to have his face toward Heaven while stroking a lyre. While assistants carved the marble, Leonardo studied music boxes and the human voice, creating a series of leather tubes powered by a hidden bellows and recorded positions of flaps on metal discs. Tiny levers and tubes would run through hollowed holes in the marble. The final statue (finished in 1507) was unable to produce recognizable words, but his humming was described as “angelic” by all who saw it. David's arm moved on a rotating gear, striking three notes on the carefully crafted enormous lyre that rested in his hands.

The robotic David astounded Florence, spreading Leonardo's fame throughout Europe. King Louis XII brought Leonardo to court, ordering as many moving statues as the artist could produce until his death in 1519. His workshop continued his work afterward, and multiple workshops sprang up emulating their techniques. A fury for automatons ran through Europe, leading to the Clockwork Revolution of the seventeenth century when labor-saving devices were routinely created by out-of-work artists and architects. Self-rising buckets from wells, continually pounding hammers powered by hot air in blacksmiths' forges, and the sewing machine changed life as the Enlightenment blossomed. With the adoption of steam power in the early 1700s, factories began to usher in the Industrial Revolution.

Michelangelo, meanwhile, returned to Rome after creating a bust of Mona, wife of the wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, noted for its cryptic frown, almost as if frozen in a sigh. In Rome, he worked mainly on tombstones for the wealthy and powerful while his rival Raphael painted the well received, but not revolutionary, ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.




In reality, the twenty-six-year-old Michelangelo did complete the contract for David, one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance. It, as well as his Pietà and portrayals in the Sistine Chapel, helped Michelangelo become one of the most influential artists in Western history. Leonardo da Vinci's cartoon of “The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist” would be well received, but few of his works became more than the job at hand. He finished many smaller projects, such as the Mona Lisa and, under the patronage of King Francis I, a mechanical lion that could walk and open a compartment in its chest containing flowers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25, 1849 – Hawaii Declared Colony of France

The Hawaiian Islands had increasing connections with the outside world following its discovery by the Englishman Captain James Cook in 1778. Known as the Sandwich Isles for some time, Europeans and Americans would make visits for trade on the islands and some to create permanent settlements. In 1817, Russians had come to retrieve stolen goods and forced a treaty upon Chief Kaumuali'i of the island of Kauai to establish three Russian forts there. More significant, however, were the missionaries who settled the various islands and worked with natives. As missionaries began to intersect, their differing dogma caused issues between them. Gradually, the Protestant missionaries convinced the king to make Catholicism illegal, causing the imprisonment of Catholic natives and deportation of foreign priests.

In 1839, the French came to the island to defend Catholics' religious freedom. They threatened war, but Kamehameha III staved off battle with the Edict of Toleration allowing some rights to Catholics and paying $20,000 in compensation for damages. Still, Catholics were not given full rights, and, in 1849, French Admiral Louis Tromelin learned about the persecution as well as tariffs against French goods while in harbor at Honolulu. Tromelin drew up a list of grievances and had them delivered to Kamehameha on August 22.

By the 25th, there had been no reply to demands. Feeling that Hawaii must be made safe for French interests, Tromelin decided to seize control of the island nation. With 140 marines, cannon, and a few Hawaiian sympathizers, Tromelin stormed the palace and captured Kamehameha. Riots broke out over Oahu, but generations of plague and the superiority of European weapons stopped the populace from overthrowing the French. Tromelin had marginal control for a few months until reinforcements arrived from Tahiti and France and a more formal colonial government was established. Following the Crimean War, the French also legally controlled the island of Kauai, occupying Russian forts.

Gerrit Judd, an American physician and missionary, left for Paris to plead for the overthrow of Tromelin's action. However, with the testimonies of Admiral Tromelin and William Patrice Dillon, Consult to Hawaii, France decided to uphold the conquest. Over the next years, Hawaii would become an important Pacific port as well as grounds for sugar and fruit plantations. While American businessmen would seek to purchase Hawaii in the 1890s, the French would remain stalwart on the islands.

With the coming of World War II, France would fall to Hitler, and Hawaii would be under the control of Vichy France. In 1940, Japan made agreements with the French to establish bases on the islands, mostly on the Big Island of Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, Japanese fleets would use Hawaii as one of many starting points for a combined force that attacked Midway Island, bringing the United States into the war. From that point, Hawaii would be used as the farthest eastern Japanese military port, launching submarine patrols harassing the American West Coast.

Americans struck back with the bloody Invasion of Hawaii in November of 1943. Throughout the war, liberated Hawaii served as a key base for the Americans and other Allies. When the war was over, Hawaii was granted its independence for the first time in a century, though the Americans signed leases to continue a small airbase north of Pearl Harbor to make up for what was lost at Midway.

Today, Hawaii is a secure republic and leader among the Pacific islands. Its economy is based on tourism from America as well as Japan, despite its lack of first world comforts because of limited political support.




In reality, Tromelin only raided Honolulu instead of seizing control. He destroyed government offices and pillaged a few goods, then returned to the French fort, leaving by September 5. Hawaii would maintain independence until 1897 when it was annexed by the United States after the kingdom had been toppled in 1894.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24, 1814 – Ceasefire Declared at Washington

The War of 1812 had turned to a fiasco by 1814. America's invasion of Canada had been rebuffed despite taking the city of York twice (and burning public buildings there the second time). Naval victories in the Great Lakes had stalled Canadian counter-invasions. A flotilla of ships in a British expedition blockaded the Atlantic, but, even with the defeat of Napoleon, there were too few troops to do much more than raid coastal shipping. For the most part, the war was over, and commissioners had begun to meet in Ghent to discuss a treaty.

In the meantime, the raiding continued. Alexandria, Virginia, had been looted by the British, and American forces worked to defend the militarily significant Baltimore from full invasion. British General Robert Ross, however, had a different aim: the center of politics and morale for the young nation, Washington, D.C. As British landed on August 21, Americans scurried to put together militia to oppose them. On August 24, a haphazard collection of 7,000 men, including President James Madison himself armed with a collection of pistols, met with the British at Bladensburg.

The battle was yet another fiasco for the Americans. Brigadier General Tobias Stansbury had moved his exhausted men away from well defended positions to prevent a possible, but unlikely, flanking maneuver. As officials from Washington arrived, Secretary of State James Monroe ordered troops to different positions, creating confusion and weak gaps in the line. American regulars fought valiantly, but the rest were quickly routed without clear evacuation plans, and the British marched on Washington unopposed.

Returning to Washington, James Madison had planned to grab papers and escape into the countryside like most of his cabinet and Congress were doing. As he saw the evacuation of the city, he decided that the war had gone long enough. When an advance guard of British arrived under the white flag, Madison rode out to meet them. Patriots looked as if they were ready to ambush the Redcoats, but Madison's presence stopped them. After a brief discussion, the British returned to Ross with Madison and his entourage of diplomats and soldiers.

Madison met with Ross, and the two began to discuss ceasefire. On the 25th, Admiral Cockburn arrived, giving more clout to the discussion. Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, the Commaner-in-Chief of the North American Station was preparing for the bombardment of Baltimore, but messages from Ross and Cockburn about the Americans' request for peace stopped the altercation. By the end of the month, word of armistice began to spread throughout the war-weary country. Diplomacy would take many more months to sort out, but the Treaty of Ghent would officially end the war December 24, 1814.

Feeling officially independent of Britain, the Americans settled about their affairs. Madison would pass his presidency to James Monroe, who would in turn pass it to John Quincy Adams, and then to the firebrand John C. Calhoun of South Carolina (who narrowly defeated Andrew Jackson of Indian-fighting fame in party conventions). Calhoun vetoed often, such as the Tariff of 1828 and the Tariff of 1832, keeping Southern ideals of states rights in place over the more Federal-thinking Whigs.

After Calhoun's presidency, the workable federation of the United States went to war with Mexico while he still served as senator. Polk's War ended favorably with large gains in the Southwest, but this sudden gain of territory stressed the question of slavery for the nation. After countless arguments and debates in Congress, the idea of secession finally came up. The North and the South would never agree, so perhaps they would best seek their fortunes as neighbors rather than housemates. The Constitution never addressed secession completely, so legal precedent allowed the peaceful separation of the United States with the consent of Congress, which had never happened before in the minor uprisings of territories decades before. Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, under the guidance of an ancient Calhoun too weak to speak but able to write powerful pages, crafted the Act of Disunion of 1850, separating the United States of America in the North and the Confederated States of America in the South with a westward border compromised at 36 degrees, 30 minutes north.

With a stronger industrial base, the USA quickly outpaced its southern neighbor, who spent much of its political time and energy with expansionism toward Latin America, adding Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands to its domain in the Spanish-American War in the 1880s. World War I would see the South enter on the side of the Allies early in 1916 while the USA sat out. In 1941, when the Confederate base at Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan, CSA President “Cactus Jack” Garner asked USA President Franklin Roosevelt to acknowledge various treaties between the two brotherly countries and join them in battle. FDR agreed, and the two nations fought alongside one another for the first time since the Mexican War that had ended up driving them apart.

After WWII, many asked if the two nations would rejoin, but, despite its troubled economy, the South sought to maintain its independence. Racial subjugation rejected in the North under two-term president JFK was still accepted as legal in the South with gradual concessions such as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 signed by President George Wallace guaranteeing separate but equal segregation.

Despite their differences, the two American nations remain, for the most part, friendly. Their fiercest competition come in the Olympics, when the anthems of “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” and “God Save the South” are often heard.




In reality, Madison was not in Washington as the British arrived. Despite their flag of truce, the British were attacked by militia from a house (which was quickly destroyed by the Redcoats). Taking this as a sign of war, the British seized the town, raising the Union Jack above Washington. The rest of Ross's soldiers arrived and Admiral Cockburn followed, and much of the public buildings were burned in retaliation for the torching of York in Canada years before. Shortly thereafter, the Battle of Baltimore would serve as a display of American fastidiousness as well as the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's poem “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Having not heard word of the end of the war when it came in December, General Andrew Jackson performed his victory at New Orleans, catapulting him to national fame. Jackson would crack down on South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis of 1832 in which the state attempted to supersede the powers of the Federal government. With precedent established for obedience of national law to the point of military intervention, the secession of the South in 1861 would prove worthy of civil war.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 1784 – Franklin Secedes from North Carolina, but not Union

In April of 1784, the western 29 million acres of North Carolina were ceded to the Federal Government of the new United States of America to aid in its debt relief. Within months, they reneged on their gift, but the settlers there did not want to return to the citizenry of North Carolina. Instead, they voted to secede and formed their own territory, then called Frankland.

After secession had been voted upon, a man stood to ask, “What about the Indians?” The settlers agreed that they could make their own treaties with local tribes, but the question remained of what would come if the Indians refused to cooperate... or even went on the warpath. A special notice was sent to the federal government to request military aid in time of need. Congress, still heavily indebted from the Revolutionary War, decided to establish Fort Franklin there with veterans receiving their land grants nearby with extra acreage in exchange for continued service.

In 1786, Frankland petitioned for statehood, but could not accumulate the two-thirds votes from existing states required by the Articles of Confederation. Propaganda teams began to roll out ideas, and the territory decided to rename itself Franklin after the famous patriot. Benjamin Franklin was approached for endorsement, but he declined. Meanwhile, North Carolina moved troops into Franklin and reestablished its local government, though only some settlers agreed to participate.

Despite their failed petition for statehood, the people of Franklin persevered and remained in contact with the federal government. When the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, Thomas Talbot went to join them. After being physically removed from Independence Hall, he met with General Washington personally and asked for permission to attend. As president over the convention, Washington had the power to grant this, which he did, citing that he was impressed with Talbot's patriotic spirit. While allowed to speak, Talbot was not granted voting rights in appeasement to the delegates from North Carolina.

After the Constitution was approved, Franklin tried again for statehood, but Congress was busy with other items on its agenda, and North Carolina routinely blocked any proposals. In 1788, Franklin was in dire straights economically as well as peacefully as altercations with North Carolinian militia as well as local tribes began. In 1789, just as Washington was voted into office, a beleaguered Talbot met him in New York to plead for assistance. Washington did not know what his powers were as the first president, but he vowed to help. Congress was still organizing itself, and so Washington accepted Talbot's offer to visit Franklin.

Upon Washington's arrival in the summer of 1789, Franklin was on the brink of collapse. Cherokee, Chocktaw, and Chickamaunga attacks had increased, and the few federal troops at Fort Franklin were under siege. The North Carolinian militia stood by, helping only those who claimed North Carolinian citizenship. Washington rallied the soldiers with the words, “By God, men, these are Americans!” The Indians were militarily pacified, and Washington ordered the soldiers back to North Carolina. The actions of the Commander-in-Chief caused much uproar, but formed the basis of the Militia Act of 1791.

With Franklin widely in the American press, Governor Sevier used the fame to invite new settlers. The economic situation improved, and in 1792, Franklin was admitted as the sixteenth state, just a few months after Kentucky. With its legacy of ties with the federal government, Franklin was the southernmost state not to secede in the Civil War (1861-64). The federal works projects in the Franklin Valley Authority helped modernize the state and provide work for the unemployed in the Great Depression.




In reality, Frankland kept up a spirit of self-sufficiency and never depended on the federal government. When its bid for statehood fell through in 1786, Frankland seceded from the Union and acted as its own national state. As its economy sank, Governor John Sevier began to seek a loan from the Spanish government, causing North Carolina to call for his arrest. In 1790, plagued by a failing government and Indian uprising, Frankland was reabsorbed into North Carolina, but served as the basis for the later state of Tennessee.

Fort Franklin was established in Pennsylvania in 1787.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22, 1485 – Richard III Affirms Legitimacy at Bosworth Field

The Wars of the Roses had caused battles for thirty years as the House of York and the House of Lancaster made attempts whenever possible to seize the throne of England. The House of York had gained dominant control, though upheavals continued, such as the revolt led by the Duke of Buckingham in an effort to put forth Henry Tudor as king. Richard III had put down the rebellion, but the Tudors had not been utterly defeated. They would have their final confrontation at Bosworth Field near Ambion Hill in Leicestershire.

Richard, who was known for his political deviousness, was not overwhelmingly accepted. His nephews, one of whom was the former king Edward V, had disappeared shortly after Richard had taken the crown. Rumors stated that they had been killed and their bodies hidden in the Tower of London, but few were willing to challenge Richard directly. Henry Tudor had his own claim to the throne and came out of exile in France with an army, arriving in Wales on August 1. He gathered strength from allies while Richard mustered his own troops and raced to meet him.

Richard's 10,000 men were divided under the command of himself, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Earl of Northumberland. Henry opposed him with only 5,000 men. Waiting on the wings with 6,000 men were the Stanleys, brothers Thomas and William, who were forced into loyalty under Richard by the imprisonment and threatened execution of Thomas' eldest son, George. As the battle became thick, Richard found himself betrayed by the hesitating Northumberland and decided to lead the charge against Henry himself. In the gamble, Richard and his knights became separated from the main force, and the Tudors pressed upon them.

William Stanley decided that the time was right to strike. He drove for Richard, signaling his army to save the king and serve as reinforcements. With the second charge, the battle was won for Richard and the House of York. Henry Tudor was slain in battle. Tradition tells that Richard, looking over the body of Henry, mumbled, “Treason, treason, treason, treason, treason.”

Having been satisfied with the loyalty of the Stanleys, Richard released Thomas' son and rewarded William with the lands seized from Northumberland as punishment. Richard would go on to rule until 1507, marrying Anne of Lancaster and pacifying his populace to achieve a return to peace for England. He was well known as a beneficiary to the church (though rumors said his gifts were out of guilt for evil deeds past and present). He would be succeeded by his son Richard IV, and the Lancaster line would continue.

Marginal stability would reign in the sixteenth century until the Protestant Reformation took hold of Europe. Under Richard V, England would maintain its connection with Rome despite the efforts of reformist Thomas Cromwell, but the Scots in the north began to adopt Calvinism. While the Thirty Years' War raged in the Germanies, Scotland and England were both well known for sending mercenaries to their respective sides. Eventually, the war would spill onto Britain with the Bishops' War would begin in 1633. Much of the North of England was devastated, and recurring drafts caused uprisings among the English, finally ending with the Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell for the Protestants.

After the wars when Protestant England gave up its short-lived republic for rule by William of Orange, interrupted peace would continue between it and Scotland. Both would participate on various sides in wars, continually sparring for domination in colonies both in the Old and New World. Finally, with the Seven Years' War in 1763, Scotland and England would define a boundary across the St. Lawrence River with Scotland in Canada and England in New England to the south. When the American Revolution broke out the next decade, the Scots were quick to help the rebels establish their independence. England would return the favor in the Canadian Revolution in 1864-67.

When World War I broke out in 1914, great bloodshed would follow in the trenches of Northumberland, but Scotland would find itself on the losing end with the collapse of Germany in 1918. The following economic depression cost England its longtime possession of Ireland, but Scotland would join Italy, Germany, and other European states in fascist revolutions. World War II would be even bloodier for Scotland, but occupation by English, Americans, and French would prove beneficial as the nation rebuilt into a productive member of the European Union today. England, meanwhile, continues as a stable state with distant memories of Bosworth Field as retold in Shakespeare's stirring history, Richard III.




In reality, the Stanleys, seeing Richard in trouble, charged their knights against him, risking the life of Thomas' son. Richard would be killed in battle, though remembered as fighting valiantly. Having helped win the day for the Tudors, the Stanleys would be richly rewarded. The Tudor line, however, would prove unstable as Henry VIII broke from Rome, his son Edward VI would reign only six years, and Elizabeth would die without an heir, prompting England and Scotland to share the monarch James I (VI) and forever tie the two British nations together.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21, 1831 – Nat Turner Begins his Slave Exodus

Nat Turner, born October 2, 1800, in southern Virginia, was a bright slave who had repeatedly received visions from God command his life. When he had run away from his master at the age of 23, he returned having had a vision showing him to do so. A persuasive speaker, Nat often gave services for a black Baptist congregation, earning him the nickname “The Prophet.” In 1828, he received one of his most powerful visions. He described the experience, which was written later in a book by his lawyer Thomas Gray as hearing “a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.” It struck him that he was to lead a great insurrection to bring down the machine of slavery.

A solar eclipse in February of 1831 showed him that the time for his rebellion had come. While he and his fellow conspirators had planned to liberate themselves on July 4th, illness and logistics had delayed them. On August 13, atmospheric interference (which could have been debris from the recent eruption of Mount Saint Helens) made the sun appear a rich bluish-green. Nat realized that his first interpretation of overtaking of the whites was not what he was meant to do; that was why the insurrection was unable to take place on the fourth of July. Instead, he was looking for a land of blue water and greenery to match the vision. Otherwise, the sun would have been blood red.

Seeking guidance, Nat remembered the story of Moses and his exodus to the land of milk and honey. The fight against the serpents of the desert had merely slowed down the Israelites, much like the whites had kept back the black slaves. Fashioning a rough copper snake and attaching it to a rod matching that of Moses, Nat put forth his plan to lead his people out of bondage. He chose the direction of Northwest, across the mountains and Ohio valley toward the Great Lakes, perhaps even to Canada.

At midnight on August 21, he and his trusted followers arose and marched out of their quarters. They went from plantation to plantation further, freeing other slaves as they went. For protection, the slaves carried with them knives and axes, though a few had firearms. At Nat's direction, the slaves fought back only when whites tried to stop the growing army of slaves. Several white masters were left beaten, but none were killed (some later died of injuries).

For two days, the slave revolt grew until a white militia was organized and place roadblocks in the way of the singing, marching slaves who sought their freedom. Nat halted his people and attempted to preach at the whites, though only a few words could be heard over the jeering. Someone opened fire, missing Nat, but causing panic in both crowds. The armed blacks charged, overwhelming the outnumbered whites, who dispersed after a brief struggle. Swearing revenge, the whites spread the word that the blacks had attacked so that US Army troops were called up throughout Virginia.

The slaves crossed the Shenandoah Valley into western Virginia before the soldiers caught up with them. Artillery, horsemen, and eight hundred infantry (many of whom had come from as far away as Norfolk, where the USS Natchez and the USS Warren were anchored) attacked the camps of the slaves, and the exodus was stopped. Dozens of slaves were killed, hundreds returned to their masters. A few, including Nat Turner, managed to evade capture in the wilderness. Most of those escaped into Ohio, but Nat turned back, realizing that even Moses had not been able to go into the holy land. Instead, he returned to call for the release of his people who had been captured.

The call was answered by immediate arrest. Nat was convicted as a murderer in a well publicized trial that approached a kangaroo court. He was hanged, flayed, beheaded, and quartered, the archaic punishment for treason, which inflamed abolitionists throughout the United States. Several small slave revolts sparked through the South, but they were quickly put down.

More effective was the writing of Nat's lawyer, Thomas Gray. His book gave the firsthand account of Nat's exodus, including descriptions of life under slavery. It spread even across the Atlantic, where it became a bestseller among the abolitionists of Britain. The intelligence of black men was proven, and, after the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, Britain began putting diplomatic and economic pressure on the United States to do the same.

The South struggled to shake its black badge of slavery led by President Andrew Jackson and wealthy slave owners. However, the damage had been done to its reputation, and increasing pressure not to buy slave goods caused economic depression. Southerners called for relief from the Federal government, which was enabled through President Polk's signing of the Manumission Act of 1846, freeing the slaves and giving compensated value for each slave. After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, many of these African Americans moved westward in what modern scholars call the Southern Exodus, recalling thought of Turner's Exodus.

Despite the end of slavery in the United States, racial tensions have continued even to the point of attempted secession of the New Mexico territory that caused the short American Civil War in the 1880s. Along with Native Americans, Asian Americans, and other minorities, it would be another century before leaders were able to establish equal rights under law.




In reality, Nat Turner kept with his plan to attack and kill whites, slave owner and poor alike. Panic spread through the whites of the South, and reprisals caused the deaths of an estimated 200 blacks (56 were formally executed by the state of Virginia, plus many killed by the US Navy and militias). Nat escaped until caught in a hole covered by fence posts on October 30. He was hanged, flayed, beheaded, and quartered, but the major aftermath of his rebellion was the legislation of laws prohibiting education for blacks as well as restricting practices of assembly and religion for slaves. The next thirty years of slavery would be among the worst seen in the United States.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 20, 1858 – Wallace's Theory of Environmental Government Published

One of the most important biological and philosophical ideas of modern society was published on this day in the The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London. In this work, “The Father of Evolution” Alfred Russel Wallace outlined his ideas of the environment acting as a government for the directed control of the transmutation of species, an idea already old by the mid-nineteenth century. The body of the paper was presented while Wallace was away from London, still observing nature in Borneo, by biologists Charles Lyell and Joseph Hooker and had been recommended by Wallace's friend Charles Darwin, another biologist who died of scarlet fever just before the presentation.

The paper was not immediately recognized as significant, in fact it was said by Dublin's Professor Haughton that “all that was new in them was false, and what was true was old.” Despite the lack of immediate recognition, Wallace continued to determine speciation by means of “natural selection”, a term he borrowed from the late Darwin. He bundled data from his experiments and observations over decades to argue against the alternate view of “sexual selection” and instead explore the effects of environment on survival. In 1889, he published On the Origin of Species, a work that combined his biological data with many of his Spiritualist beliefs. The theory was expanded to include humans in The Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man Deduced from the Theory of 'Natural Selection'. Though derided by biologists such as Hooker, other biologists such as Lyell picked up the ideas, which were to work their way into the public's general understanding of the world.

Taking into account the influence of nature, people were able to understand much of the social psychology that plagued poor living conditions. However, with such non-adaptive mental phenomena as music, mathematics, and art, it was proven that men were more than just advanced animals. The “the unseen universe of Spirit” (which was embraced as the Christian God, though has become more general in modern times) agreed with the story of Creation: cellular life on Day 3 (Genesis 1:10), animals on Day 5 and 6 (Genesis 1:20-25), and consciousness in higher animals (Genesis 1:26). Combining the two, science joined with religion to persuade the mind of man toward creating a beneficial governing environment for all humanity. On the political and economic front, many would also find similar ideals in the writings of the philosopher Marx, but the idea of communism would be superseded.

Social activists (one of whom was Wallace himself) campaigned for engineered societies to free the spirit of man rather than restrict it or sharpen the species by point of the lesser-known theory of eugenics. In the reshaping of Europe in the 1920s and the economic turmoil of the 1930s, many countries found their chances. Wallacism (a form of democratic socialism) rebuilt Germany, pervaded America and British beyond Progressivism, and served as the basis for revolution in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere. The Soviet Union under Stalin's rule put down several Wallacist uprisings while Japan continued its hold on regimented Imperialism.

With the Pacific War from December 1941 to May 1944, propaganda and public sentiment would shift Wallacism into a demand for paternalism. Recalling Woodrow Wilson's words that “the world must be made safe for democracy,” the Allies launched into a campaign to organize the “world environment” through the United Nations, formed after the Soviet Liberation of 1955-60. Enforced immunizations, guaranteed resource development and management, and environmental resettling camps for offenders (called by many as “brainwashing” camps) became required throughout the globe.

Though naysayers exist, high standards of living and technological development are proof that the Human Spirit is triumphing through Evolution.




In reality, Darwin did not die from scarlet fever, though his son did. Distraught, Darwin did not attend the conference but soon began work on his On the Origin of Species, which was published in 1859. Wallace would disagree with Darwin upon the abstract mental facilities of mankind, which Darwin argued could be described scientifically through sexual selection. Though often untrusted for his delving into spiritualism, Wallace stands as the “Father of Biogeography” as one of the greatest biologists of the nineteenth century. Named for Wallace are the Wallace Line (a separation of biodiversity through Indonesia between Australian and Asian influence) and the Wallace Effect of warning coloration in animals.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 19, 1942 – Dieppe Raid Canceled

In the midst of the darkest times of the Second World War, Germany and its allies had conquered most of Europe, devastated much of Britain with the Blitz, invaded the Soviet Union, and dug in over most of North Africa. Stalin demanded the rest of the Allies open a new front with Germany, but Americans and Britons disagreed where. FDR wanted to move directly on Europe, while Churchill hoped to check the Axis expansion into Africa and then strike at the “soft underbelly of Europe.”

As an exercise in logistics as well as to prove that Europe was not as wholly invincible as the Axis wanted to believe, Operation Jubilee (earlier known as Operation Rutter) was designed as a combined Canadian and British raid on the French port city of Dieppe. They would seize the major port, though holding it permanently would be out of the question.

Two days before the launch, the Daily Telegraph published a crossword with the answer of the clue “French port (6)” as Dieppe. Suspicious, an investigation was launched under Lord Tweedsmuir and MI5. The report showed that the answer may have been a fluke, but Allied command decided not to risk the chance. Just after midnight, the mission was canceled, and the test of raiding had to be conducted elsewhere.

Churchill suggested moving forward with Operation Torch into North French Africa, but Stalin was furious at having to face Hitler's European armies alone. The cancellation at Dieppe made it seem as if the Allies were not even attempting to support the Soviet Union. Britain needed to strike somewhere to keep face, and finally the exiled King Haakon VII of Norway offered a suggestion. His country had been invaded by Germany two years before and gave fair resistance. With Norway's ports and airfields at Hitler's command, the Battle of the Atlantic continued as Nazi forces could penetrate the North Atlantic around British blockades. Churchill fell to agreement, and the raid was planned for the end of the month.

Using many of the resources already in place for Dieppe and adding much more, an Allied fleet of British, Canadians, and volunteer Americans left Scotland while battleships protected their flank from U-boats. The force landed at Trondheim in the middle of Norway, catching the German forces unawares. After a major struggle, the port was captured. German forces fell back to regroup for counterattack.

Just as Churchill prepared to pull back the assault with his point proven, word of the liberation had spread throughout the country. Rumors said that the raid was the establishment of a beachhead to march in forces for the overthrow of German invaders. The whole country erupted into rebellion, and the Germans were unable to conduct their counterattack. The Allies were left with an accidental foot in the door of Scandinavia.

At the urging of FDR and Stalin, Churchill opened up reserves of troops meant for Africa and poured them into Norway. With only a few real weeks left before winter set in, the Allies seized as much ground as they could. Hitler sent reinforcements wherever they could be spared from the Russian front, but continual assault from Norwegian sabotage and snipers slowed down the German counterattack. By November 1942, when the weather halted large military movements, Norway had been split with the north in the hands of the Allies.

During the winter, Operation Torch moved the main battles south to Africa, but Hitler was furious at the loss of gained ground in Europe. In spring of 1943, Africa fell due to lack reinforcements, all of which Hitler had reassigned to retake Norway. German forces departed from Denmark and began to raze the countryside as nearly continual fighting pressed the defending Allies back. Resources were stretched thin as the Allies pressed with Operation Husky to take Sicily, which succeeded on August 17. Italy fell apart, and Hitler had to shift soldiers to control what of Italy remained, ending the major assaults in Norway. Patton was reassigned to Norway, and the Americans pushed down the peninsula long after the rational fighting season had ended.

In spring of 1944, Operation Checkmate began with the amphibious invasion of Denmark. Smaller raids kept German forces occupied in Italy, Finland, Poland, Vichy, and Normandy in northern France, but the brunt of the attack was focused on piercing Germany. Supported by superior air power from Norwegian airbases, Allies were able to leave behind many of the Nazi satellite countries and strike straight for Berlin. Seeing that the end of the war was coming soon, Germans rebelled against an increasingly frantic Hitler. Upon the overthrow and execution of Hitler on October 12, 1944, the war with Germany was finished. Through the course of the next months, the puppet governments around Europe fell while bloody anarchy reigned over most of the continent.

At the Treaty of Yalta in 1945, Europe was broken up among the Allies for occupation and reconstruction. The Soviet Union became responsible for Eastern Europe, while Britain and America handled most of the West. North and South France were broken into occupied zones until being eventually reunited in 1955. Scholars understand that the real winners of the war was America, as the USA captured nearly all of the German scientists promoted by the Nazi government. Taking something of a generational leap ahead in development over the rest of the world, along with singly controlling atomic bomb technology until successful Soviet tests in 1954, America became the undisputed world leader for the rest of the twentieth century.




In reality, the crossword puzzle was found, to quote Lord Tweedsmuir, to be “just a remarkable coincidence.” Other double agents, however, had notified German authorities about the raid, and Dieppe as well as other ports were on high alert. The attack began at 5 AM, and within six hours the order to retreat had been given. Thousands of Allied troops, primarily Canadians, were killed, wounded, or captured. The experience would teach many lessons about amphibious landings that would be put into use in North Africa and Normandy through the rest of the war.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18, 1969 – Music Festival Descends into Violence

For three days, a massive outdoor concert of a half-million listeners had reigned over an upstate New York dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur. Organizers for the Woodstock Music & Art Festival had chosen the farm for its natural bowl shape, perfect for acoustics. Originally the festival was to charge, but as funds ran dry and far more attendees appeared than expected, the organizers decided to skip setting up fences and security, instead focusing on readying the music.

The concert seemed on the brink of disaster from the beginning. With so many people, there was little or no access to food, water, or sanitation. Attendees camped or slept in the elements, much of which was rain over the course of the weekend. Yasgur's fields turned to giant mud pits. Despite the discomfort, or perhaps because of it, people embraced nature and enjoyed the concert featuring stunning performances by Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferston Airplane, Johnny Winter, and Jimi Hendrix.

As the concert came to a close in the wee hours of Monday morning, people began to pack up after listening to a wobbling rendition of the national anthem on Hendrix's guitar. According to various reports in the apocryphal film Woodstock, someone, somewhere, said, “Hey, this is groovy. Why do we have to leave?”

The idea spread through the crowd like wildfire. While thousands left the area, tens of thousands more stayed. A cluster seized the stage, declared it public property, and began something of an “open mic” day. John Roberts, one of the festival organizers, attempted to regain control with his crew of security guards, but they were booed, used as targets for rotten food, and finally beaten with various blunt instruments. Yasgur called the police, and the festival quickly escalated to a riot. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller sent in 10,000 National Guard, as he had been prepared to do the day before when Roberts had calmed his fears. Now 10,000 scarcely seemed enough.

Journalists, who had been covering the massive traffic tie-ups throughout the weekend, covered the escalation live. The National Guard began to arrive as well as protesters from around the area. Evening settled, and the National Guard took up a siege of the farm, only to find themselves surrounded by more protesters pouring in from around the country, some having driven through the night from as far away as Missouri and Wisconsin. Thrown rocks and chants were traded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The riot spread to neighboring counties, and Rockefeller declared a wide state of emergency, inviting President Nixon to take charge of the wild situation.

Though later denied and subject of the investigation that would find Nixon impeached, ultimately resigning in 1971, the order was given to use live ammunition on the “damn hippies” that were “tearing up” the state of New York. Peace and love had fallen, conquered by blood and steel. Social upheaval would spread throughout the nation, causing sit-ins, demonstrations, and further riots, primarily centered around universities. At Kent State in Ohio, the fall semester would be broken up by further shootings, and calamity would spread anew throughout the country. The New Years' Bloodbath in San Francisco would result in the deaths of over one thousand rioters.

Nixon declared a state of emergency and began systematically to crack down on the counter-culture movement, even to the point of calling back troops from Vietnam. Curfews were enforced with heavy fines, substance control penalties were raised to military executions, and even dress and living codes were adopted to eliminate hippie culture. A “black list” of rock and roll songs was created, though immediately tied up in courts from the First Amendment. Over the course of 1970, America would become something of a police state. Gradually, the tempers would calm, and people began to cry out for peace or at least “some kind of sanity,” to quote journalist Walter Cronkite.

With elections in 1970, the government wrung itself out to establish moderate rule. Nixon and many others were put on trial, but many of their policies were kept with weaker punishments. In 1972, Democrat George McGovern won narrowly over Republican John Ashbrooke. In the following decade, the United States would turn away from international involvement and return to isolationism, praising the ideals of forefathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

International power shifted to the Soviet Union, which would overstretch itself in the late '70s and '80s with invasions of Afghanistan and Iran. The collapse of Soviets came in 1992, soon followed by the liberation of many dependencies, such as the reunited Germany of 1994. The world stood without a clear leader for more than a decade, but gradually the growing strength of the European Union came to shadow world policy. Many suggest the military successes of China in the '90s and early new millennium in the policing of Southeast Asia suggest it as the new superpower, but others doubt their lackluster economy with allow them sufficient clout.




In reality, the Woodstock Festival stood as one of the greatest moments in the Peace and Love movement. Despite the constant potential for violence, goers were more concerned with music and merriment. Farmer Max Yasgur, who did not rent his farm for another festival the next year, was nonetheless impressed by the hippies, saying that they “can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17, 1947 – Radcliffe Cloud Unveiled

The subcontinent of India, ruled for nearly a century by the British Crown, was broken into its many states following its independence just two days before. The Punjab, a term denoting the area rich in diversity with Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, was to be broken into West Pakistan for the Muslim population and India for the Hindu population. As the British Raj was preparing to leave (Parliament had declared on July 15 that its government would end in a months' time), Sir Cyril Radcliffe was appointed as chair of committees to draw this line as well as another for the separation of Bengal to become East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

It was hoped that Radcliffe, who had never been to India, could serve as a fair and impartial decider. The Muslim League and the India National Congress had many of their own ideas to submit, but voting was so balanced that the final decision belonged to Radcliffe. Behind secrecy to avoid political pressures, speculation, and reprisals before the publication of the decision, Radcliffe worked with haste to determine an objective border that would grant proper transport, communication, and waterways to both sides while keeping both sides toward their majority population. At the same time, he worked to develop another line to demarcate India, East Pakistan, and Burma.

Upon hearing of the Buddhist majority in the Chittagong Hills, yet another people-group to recognize, Radcliffe suffered something of a breakdown. No matter what he did to draw boundaries, no one would be completely satisfied. The pressure of coming up with at least something workable in five weeks had pushed him, and Radcliffe made the decision to have the people vote for themselves.

On August 15, Independence Day, Radcliffe gave his plan with the new government and left the country. With political turmoil slowing down publication, it was not until the 17th that Radcliffe's plan became published. He had drawn intense and complicated borders through states, creating mini-states within populated sectors. He recommended that special elections held by the people would establish whether these countries would go toward Pakistan, India, Burma, or even strike out on their own. The “Radcliffe Cloud” was born.

A cry went out that Radcliffe had overstepped his powers to create new countries, but, via telegraph from his ship, he assured governments and peoples alike that he had simply drawn the borders. Without the peoples' agreement in the first place, there would be no government. A commission through the winter would investigate Radcliffe, but in the end he would exonerated and, in many circles, applauded.

Elections, well guarded by the Punjab Boundary Force, carried through the rest of August. The hills above Chittagong, now in East Pakistan, voted to stay with India, despite the inaccessibility (which would be later solved by a massive bridge and highway project). Several new small states that had been split by Radcliffe's many lines divided into India and Pakistan. A few states tried for independence, but most were absorbed within the end of the decade after facing budgetary constraints. Only the nations of Kashmir, Sikkim, and South Pakistan (now Hyderabad) stand as independent to this day.

Not everyone was content, however, and fighting broke out sporadically after the separation. Businessmen and farmers complained about water rights in certain areas, and legal issues have caused minor conflicts. There have been several border altercations since, such as 1971 when India became involved in the Pakistani Dissolution that gave independence to Hyderabad and Bangladesh, but no wars of international importance have come out of the balkanized Indian Subcontinent to this day.




In reality, Radcliffe drew his borders as quickly and fairly as he could to complete his task and give foundation to the new countries. The line of separation divided villages, heavily populated areas, private land, and even homes. This rapid demarcation caused the largest migration in human history: 14 million people displaced as Muslims moved to Pakistan and Hindus to India. Thousands would be killed in the chaos as the mere 50,000 men of the Punjab Boundary Army could not begin to police the area. Radcliffe himself left on the Independence Day of August 15, burning all of his papers as he went, and the new nations had to govern themselves. Since then, several wars and in-country police actions have come over the nations as they worked bloodily to sort themselves out.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16, 1841 – Tyler Signs New Charter for Third Bank of the United States

The Bank of the United States had a troubled past. The First Bank had begun in 1791 to aid in the central government of the young nation. Its charter had run out in 1811, and Congress chose not to grant a new one. Overall, the bank had done much good in loans to the growing country and its citizens, but it had also served as a haven for speculators. In 1816, the Second Bank gained a twenty-year charter, and it served much like the first, keeping down inflation caused by the War of 1812.

National banks, however, were terribly unpopular with the Democrats and, especially, Andrew Jackson. He and many others held that the bank was built for the rich and offered no real aid to the poor, only taking its money in taxation. While in office, Jackson worked to hobble the bank by giving an executive order not to deposit government funds there. John Tyler, a Whig, agreed with Jackson about banking policies despite the rest of his party being staunch supporters of improving the business environment.

In 1836, the Second Bank's charter expired, and it was not renewed. Despite efforts of Whigs and anti-Jacksonians, they could not override Jackson's veto during his presidency. The Bank became private, surviving only five years. After the Panic of 1837, Henry Clay and his Whig allies attempted a new charter, but it became obvious that Tyler would be against it as he had already vetoed much of the Whigs' agenda.

Swallowing his pride, Clay sat down with the president and the two talked for more than seven hours, finally working out a plan for a new kind of bank. Rather than a single national bank against the many state banks that stood around the country, this bank would serve as a link between the state and federal level, operating to moderate speculation but also supply good loans to growing areas. There was not precedent for it in the Constitution, but it could be enacted as a bill from Congress. At last, Tyler agreed.

The Third Bank of the United States was given a twenty-year charter like the former two and served with success. Scholars noted investment money from the South flow northward and then back again, creating a tie between wealthy Southerners and the growing industrial class in the North. With loans available in the South during bad growing seasons, farmers were able to float their harvests and maintain a booming agricultural environment. As the crisis over slavery loomed, it was decided that the economy was strong enough to put forth an effort to “buy out” the slaves from Southern owners, a bill put forth by Democrat Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and signed by Republican Abraham Lincoln.

With a large available workforce and a system of loans, the South became heavily industrialized through the later half of the nineteenth century. It was estimated that the government made more than its money back through taxation for purchasing freedom for the former slaves. With its titan economy, the United States entered the world scene in the early days of the twentieth century, which it would dominate despite dark days of a southern communist rebellion in the 1930s.




In reality, Tyler vetoed the bill. Henry Clay was not a man to swallow his pride, and he began to make increasing political threats against the president. At the veto, the most violent protest on the grounds of the White House to this day took place as Whigs treated Tyler as a traitor. After a second veto in September, Clay led Whigs in resigning from the cabinet, which would cause Tyler great difficulty in replacing over the rest of his administration. Clay even pushed the Whigs to remove Tyler from their ranks formally. Still, Tyler did not waver.

Abandoned by the Whigs, Tyler turned to the Democrats. The increased party politicking caused regional recognition to take over, making the South more “Democrat” and the North more “Whig.” Over the next two decades, the regional separation would spark the Civil War, costing the lives of some 600,000 Americans.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15, 1935 – Will Rogers Narrowly Survives Crash

In 1935, Will Rogers was invited along on a trip to determine an air route through the Alaskan Territory in an experimental plane by his friend, one-eyed pilot Wiley Post. Will, always up for a new opportunity, agreed and decided to cover the trip in his weekly New York Times column. Outside of the town of Barrow, while taking off from a lagoon, the engine failed, and the plane crashed in shallow water. Wiley Post was killed instantly, but Rogers survived with internal bleeding and head wounds. Locals managed to rescue him and nurse him back to health.

The crash would prove a life-changing moment for Will. His had been a life full of changing moments already: his beloved mother had died when he was 11, he had escaped from military school, worked as a cowboy in Oklahoma and a gaucho in Argentina, joined Texas Jack's Wild West Circus in South Africa, performed rope tricks and, later, comedy in Vaudeville, made dozens of films in Hollywood as one of the highest paid actors through the 1920s, and wrote for numerous newspapers and magazines as well as performing on radio and lecture tours. Movie camera technology, travel, and aviation also fascinated him, and he was delighted to go with Post on the journey.

When he was well enough to travel, he returned to his California ranch amid great applause for his recovery. Will had given much thought to his life and decided that he needed to give more back to his fellow man. Recovery through the Great Depression was slow, and Will worked as hard as he could to bolster morale, stimulate industry, and serve as guest speaker for innumerable fundraisers. When World War II broke out, Will was a staunch supporter of neutrality until the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when he joined the war effort, leading many entertainers to do the same. When asked about his change, Will said, “Back in the schoolyard there was a valuable code: when a bully hits you, you hit him back until you knock him down so hard he'll never hit you again. Then you offer a hand to help him up. I see no reason this can't apply to international relations as well.”

Will worked the Home Front with his columns of support and several films, including 1942's Real Men, for which he beat out Walter Huston for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. As the war progressed, Will's wife became ill with cancer, and he retreated from the public life to care for her. She passed away in 1944, three years after writing her book Will Rogers: His Wife's Story. For days after her death, Will was nearly inconsolable with grief, but gradually he returned to the public, where he seemed to find new life.

In July, Will attended the Democratic National Convention in Chicago as a special guest. While there, he became aware that many were hoping he would be voted in as Vice-President since Henry Wallace had irked too many with his overly leftist ideals. Will had only minor political experience, being a goodwill ambassador to Mexico and mayor of Beverly Hills, but he had learned much from his efforts with the Great Depression and the war. At FDR's request, he put his hat in and was easily confirmed. The election in November was a runaway.

Will settled into Washington and continued much of the same work he had already done, and he joked, “At least I'm getting a paycheck. Not much of one, but it covers the taxes on it.”

Tragedy struck in 1945 when Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia, but the nation was proud to have Rogers sworn in as president. Relying on many of the same wartime aides, Rogers kept the policies of FDR running smoothly and hoped the end of war was in sight. One month later, Germany surrendered, and America under Will turned their attention to the Pacific. In July, the successful testing of the atomic bomb at Trinity gave Will a weapon to end the war, but he was hesitant to use it. Later, it was said that he commented, “Every time somebody gets a bigger gun, somebody's got to get a bigger one. Bigger and bigger, where will it all end?”

In August, after hearing reports of the estimated one million American casualties upon an invasion of Japan, Will gave the order to drop the bomb. While the war came to an end, Will was never the same person. Aides complained that he refused to listen to reports about radioactive fallout. When told of the cancer rates among survivors, it was said that Will turned ghastly pale and did not speak for over three minutes. Most famously, while the rest of America applauded the bomb, when asked to comment on it, Will said coldly, “There's nothing funny about that.”

In 1948, Will refused to run for reelection, despite Democratic Party officials literally begging him. Senator Harry S Truman was narrowly defeated by Republican Thomas Dewey, which began a twelve-year post-war Republican period that lasted until the Kennedy administration. Will, meanwhile, retired to California, writing and receiving visitors, but rarely leaving his ranch. He died in July of 1958 and given a national day of mourning as America's Native Son.




In reality, Rogers was killed in the crash in Alaska. It was an especially dark time in the dark days of the Great Depression. Even though he was a comedian and not officially an American leader, Congress closed its doors in honor of him, the same sentiment as was felt throughout the United States. It was said that the nation ground to a halt in mourning for a week.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14, 1900 – Boxers Defeat Foreigners in Peking

A grassroots movement had been building for years among the Chinese to throw off the chains of imperialism that had been eating away at their country. The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (or “Boxers”) served as a secret society training in martial arts around the laws of commoners not being allowed weapons. Spurred by economic turmoil, flooding, opium abuse, and weak central government bowing to foreign powers, the Boxer Rebellion began after the attempts made in the Hundred Days' Reform fell under the coup of Empress Dowager Cixi.

As early as 1898 but primarily in 1900, Boxers from the north spread their wake of destruction, burning Christian homes and killing foreigners. Fleeing in distress, foreigners of all kinds gathered in protected compounds in the Legation Quarter of Peking (Beijing). Boxers, now joined by Cixi's troops upon her declaration of war against all powers, took up siege of embassies and cathedrals, attacking wherever a weak spot was shown.

The international community balked. Eight nations formed an alliance to put forth nearly 50,000 troops from Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Marching from Tianjin (where a previous army had been bogged down, also awaiting rescue) 75 miles away under 110 degree weather and minor military harassment, the force arrived in Peking on August 14. There was minimal resistance, and the international forces began to wonder if the stories were blown out of proportion. They raced into the city to be the first to liberate the Legation Quarter, falling out of rank and order.

Then, the Qing army and Boxers began a counterattack. Boxers emerged from hidden sites all over the city, sweeping into the disarrayed soldiers, killing and stealing weapons. Initial casualties were massive on both sides, but the Boxers had vast superiority in numbers. Qing soldiers formed up a siege of their own city and progressed inward, crushing any foreigner the Boxers had left behind. After two days of cacophony, only a few foreign soldiers had survived, ones who had managed to escape into the compound inside the Legation Quarter with the other holdouts. Using foreign field guns, the Qing were able to smash their way inside on August 16, and the killing was completed.

Shock spread over the world. Many called for an end to imperialism in China as too dangerous, but most agreed that the civilized world could not stand for such barbarism (or such defeat). The Eight-Nation Alliance regrouped with more formal declarations of war, and the Chinese World War lasted until 1909. The nations carved up China into occupied zones, Russia gaining much of the northwest and Japan the northeast, while the others had smaller spheres of influence to the south. Five years later, the Great War would break out, and Japan would make great strides in conquest of German colonies as well as Russian territories yielded by the new government after the Russian Civil War.

Now supplied with oil, coal, and metal resources from China and Siberia, Japan grew into a powerful force in the western Pacific. They became increasingly expansionist, but also wary of what an alliance of European powers could do. As Nazi Germany began its assaults in the Second Great War, Japan sat out the war, watching as the Germans, Italians, French, British, and later Russians and Americans (who entered upon the sinking of a US-flagged cargo ship in 1942) tore themselves apart.

When the Soviet War began in the mid-1950s, Japan felt ready to join with the Allies against the Communist threat that had already given signs among the less fortunate in their militaristic imperial regime. American atomic bombs ended the war in 1960, and Japan collected more holdings in a new occupation of Siberia. Since then, they have worked to increase their ability harvesting resources in the frozen wastelands, using technology that many accuse of raising carbon dioxide levels worldwide. After a great deal of international political pressure including suggestions of embargo, Japan yielded to the Kyoto Accord limiting pollution.

Even under restrictions, Japan continues to be the world's second largest economy (just $5 trillion behind the United States) with many of its factories in Japanese China.




In reality, there was no counterattack by Chinese forces. By the time the army of the Eight-Nation Alliance had arrived in Beijing, the rebels and soldiers alike had seen that they were outgunned. When the international army took the city, weeks of looting followed that disgusted the world. Empress Dowager Cixi was pressured into signing the Boxer Protocol, punishing the rebels, and paying billions in reparations. The weakened monarchy would continue to weaken, eventually falling to revolution in 1911.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 13, 1521 – Aztecs Ambush Conquistadors

Death had surrounded the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan for two years since the arrival of the Spanish under Hernán Cortés. Initially, the foreigners had been greeted as welcome visitors (some even said gods, avatars of the feathered-serpent, Quetzalcoatl). Tensions increased as the Spanish were given tribute, allowed to steal more, then refused to pay for what had been gifts of food, water, and lodging. Montezuma had shown them the power of his empire and tried to learn what weaknesses he could of the Spanish to defeat them.

On the Spanish end, Cortés plotted conquest. He learned much of the Aztec way of life, specifically the system of tribute and treaties that cobbled together the empire. The Crown and Governor Velazquez had not granted him this power, and Velazquez had even sent Narvaez with an army of a thousand men to return the rogue conquistador. Cortés met with Narvaez under the guise of peace, kidnapped him, and assumed command of the army, bribing them with promises of Aztec gold.

While Cortés was gone, the conquistadors in Tenochtitlan had misunderstood the wild celebrations of the Aztecs as a potential war gathering and massacred untold hundreds in preemptive self-defense. A rebellion broke out to destroy the Spanish, but Cortés returned and joined with Montezuma to quell them. Though they were allies for the moment, the two quickly began to plot to eliminate the other.

The next year gave devastation to the Aztecs. A slave among Narvaez's men carried smallpox, and the “huey ahuizotl” (great rash) broke out in the city and countryside, killing upwards of forty percent of the population, including the new king following Montezuma, Cuitláhuac. Famine approached the next year as so many of the Aztecs were ill and could not work the fields. In all of the chaos, Cortés plotted and gathered supplies.

In May of 1521, Cortés and his allies began their siege of Tenochtitlan. He used ships that had been scuttled at the end of the voyage from the Caribbean and newly built ones to cross the lake and canals of the city. Cuauhtémoc, the new king, fought back, stopping the invasion and beginning a stalemate in naval combat across the canals. Traps of spear-filled pits, battles over causeways, and ambushes traded small victories, but the Aztecs were running out of food, and the Spanish crept closer.

At last, the Cuauhtémoc decided to use a new strategy he had learned from the Spanish: outright lying. On August 13, he feigned surrender and threw open the last bastions of his city. The conquistadors and their allies marched in, parading under the view of the citizens of Tenochtitlan on rooftops. Just as Cortés approached the king, Tlapaltecatl Opochtzin leaped out dressed in ceremonial owl warrior garb and plunged a dart deep under the helmet of the conquistador. The Aztec warriors began assaults from the buildings all around the invaders, who were caught almost defenseless. Panic struck the Spanish, and their allies deserted them.

The slaughter continued until nightfall when the last few Spanish surrendered and were executed by stoning. A small force Cortés had left behind were able to slip back to Vera Cruz, escaping into the open sea and returning to Spanish colonies. Over the rest of the summer, Cuauhtémoc punished the allies of the conquistadors and affirmed his rule.

With the Aztecs affirmed, the Spanish moved their colonial domain southward, giving more attention to Andes mines and attempting to maintain peace with the powerful Aztec in the north. Over the course of the next centuries, the Aztec would distrust outsiders but still trade with them, gaining black powder weapons from Dutch, French, and English who wished to keep the Spanish Empire from expanding. Careful laws kept the loyal Aztec army armed and the slave city-states suppressed while destroying any European force that threatened Aztec borders. Later, in the 1700s, Aztecs began imperial expansion of their own northward, massacring great numbers of Pueblo and Plains Indians while establishing colonies.

In the early 1800s, the Aztec ran into another expansionist force: the United States of America. In the 1830s, American settlers encroached on Aztec lands west of the Mississippi, and war broke out, lasting from 1836 to 1848. After the Aztec War, Americans had gained great swaths of the southwest in the state of Jefferson (north of the Grand River), Montezuma Territory, and Polk (where gold was discovered in 1849, leading to rapid settlement). The Aztec Empire collapsed after the taking of Tenochtitlan by US Marines, giving way to fractured small city-states.

The small countries met with mixed fortunes: some prospering on their own, others succumbing to European colonialism (many seized by France under the rule of Napoleon III), and a few even going on to join the United States in later years. Today Meso-America, as the former Aztec nations and various former colonies north of Columbia are called, stands as a developing region continuing in mixed fortunes of tourism, industry, drug cartels, and warfare.




In reality, Cortés had defeated the Aztec king with his political maneuvers and hundreds of thousands of allies. Upon the surrender of Cuauhtémoc, he was taken hostage and later executed by the conquistadors. Looting and killing surrounded the city for days afterward, but eventually the havoc would settle, and Mexico would remain unified as an important Spanish colony.

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