Monday, February 11, 2013

April 3, 1882 – Jesse James Flees Missouri

As famous outlaw Jesse James prepared his gang for another robbery, he noticed a picture frame was dusty.  He climbed onto a chair and proceeded to dust and straighten it.  Behind him, one of his gang members, Bob Ford, shot at him, narrowly missing his head.  Infuriated, James jumped down the chair and threw it at Bob, who had already run out the kitchen door.  James chased him into the streets of Saint Joseph, Missouri, firing several shots before mounting his horse and disappearing, riding east.

James' life had been one of hardship.  He was born in 1847 to Baptist minister Robert S. and Zerelda James, who moved from Kentucky to Missouri and contributed to founding William Jewel College.  Robert led the family to California during the 1849 Gold Rush to become ministers.  He died there shortly after, leaving behind his widow, James, his older brother Frank, and his younger sister Susan.  Zerelda remarried, but their new stepfather Benjamin Simms was cruel to the young boys.  She divorced him and remarried again, this time to a soft-spoken man, Dr. Reuben Samuel, who left his practice to work the James farm.

While his home life became peaceful, the rest of the nation turned to war.  The James-Samuels lived on the pro-Confederacy western part of Missouri, a border state that determined to stay with the Union.  Locals formed militias known as "bushwackers" for those supporting secession and Unionist "jayhawkers", and the state became plagued with guerilla war.  Frank James joined the war on the Confederate side, fighting at the Battle of Wilson's Creek before taking sick-leave.  In 1863, Jayhawkers came to the farm hunting Frank.  They tortured Samuel by hanging him before cutting him down and reportedly whipped Jesse.  Jesse soon departed the farm to meet up with Frank, who had fought as part of Quantrill's Raiders before returning to Missouri.  The two brothers participated in massacres, learning skills in surprise tactics and psychological warfare, such as scalping and killing those who surrendered.  Jesse himself attempted to surrender near Lexington, Missouri, where he was shot in the chest and forced to sit out the rest of the war.  He was nursed back to health by his cousin Zerelda "Zee" Mimms, whom he married in 1874.

As the Civil War ended, the days of Reconstruction came.  Confederates were banned from voting, preaching, and forming corporations.  Many rebels continued the fight, operating as outlaws pulling robberies and harassing local government.  Jesse and Frank fell in with the outlaws, joining a gang of brothers headed by fellow guerilla Cole Younger.  The James-Younger gang became famous in December of 1869 when Jesse shot a bank cashier mistaking him for a former Union militia officer.  The act of revenge on the Union and the James' larger-than-life escape put his name in the newspapers.  While many dubbed them deplorable criminals, founder and editor of the Kansas City Times and former Confederate John Newman Edwards gave them a sense of heroism fighting the oppression of Reconstruction.  He began publishing letters written by James, who claimed innocence and made argument for the right to resist tyrants.

For several years, the gang committed numerous robberies over half the country.  As their fame grew, they were able to commit public robberies, even joking with fawning witnesses.  Many considered them heroically fighting corruption, though they themselves never donated any of their income.  The government attempted to crack down on them; Missouri Governor Thomas T. Crittenden stated in his inaugural address that their arrest was priority.  Companies hired the Pinkerton Detectives to hunt the gang down, but the agent sent to the James farm was later discovered dead.  In a shootout, Pinkertons killed several of the Youngers.  A robbery gone wrong at the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota, and the following manhunt wiped out the Youngers while the Jameses disappeared.

Frank decided to give up the life of an outlaw, but Jesse formed up a new gang and began a new spree.  This gang, however, did not have the cohesiveness of the ex-Confederates.  Infighting occurred, and Jesse turned paranoid.  He insisted that his two gangmembers, Charley and Bob Ford, move in with him.  His paranoia proved right when Bob attempted to murder him and collect the governor's $5000 reward.

Soon after Jesse disappeared from St. Joe, Irish poet Oscar Wilde arrived in town looking for the famous outlaw.  He had arrived in America that January and began an adventurous lecture tour on aestheticism.  Wilde was disappointed but left word of where he could be reached.  While drinking with miners in Leadville, Colorado, a man introduced himself as Jesse James.  The two sat up late talking, discussing ethics and Wilde's famous quote "It's not whether I did it or not that's important, but whether people believed I did it" in comparison with James' "heroic" outlaw life.  James seemed annoyed by Wilde's lack of conviction, but, upon Wilde's invitation to smuggle him and his family back to Europe, James agreed to travel with him.

James began his own lecture tour, visiting numerous cities in the United Kingdom as well as several countries on the Continent.  He and Wilde conversed a number of times again, and James signed alongside Wilde on the petition put out by George Bernard Shaw to pardon the violent strikers at Chicago's Haymarket Riot in 1886.  James noted to Wilde the importance of maintaining an unquestionable personal clout rather than depending on the law.  Wilde himself was believed to have practiced the advice when his feud with the Marquess of Queensberry ended with a fistfight between the two.

In 1892, James finally returned to America.  He had written to his brother Frank, who was living under an assumed name as a shoe salesman, and the two decided to come clean.  After a fanfare trial, the two were acquitted.  Jesse and Zee settled back on the farm, where their mother had been leading tours of the famous raid.  His son, Jesse Edward James, studied law and became a prominent Missouri politician.  James continued to write, dying in 1917 shortly after America's entry into World War I, for which he had campaigned vehemently as revenge on German u-boat attacks.


In reality, Bob Ford shot Jesse James in the back of the head.  He and his brother surrendered, were convicted of murder, and then pardoned.  Frank was later acquitted of his crimes and lived his life quietly.  Oscar Wilde narrowly missed meeting Jesse James.  Later, Wilde attempted a libel case against Queensberry due to accusations of sodomy, but he lost the case and was sentenced to two years hard labor for "gross indecency."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

April 2, 1502 – Arthur Tudor Survives

After decades of civil war, England's Wars of the Roses came to an end with Henry Tudor defeating Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485.  Henry, now Henry VII, dedicated his reign to securing the throne of England.  He married Elizabeth of York, tying together the Lancasters and the Yorks to end the matter of supremacy and defeated anyone who continued to rebel.  Henry also encouraged support from Wales by claiming Welsh descent.  Most of all, he sought European recognition, which would legitimize his rule despite his being a questionable heir.  Treaties ended war with France and called for Perpetual Peace with Scotland.  He looked to the newly unified kingdoms of Castile and Aragon whose Ferdinand and Isabella were successfully driving the Moors out of Spain.  In 1489, England and the Catholic Nobles signed the Treaty of Medina del Campo.  Ferdinand and Isabella's youngest daughter, Catherine, would marry Henry's oldest son, Arthur.

Arthur had been born September 20, 1486.  His father had prophesied that Elizabeth's child would be a boy, whom he would name Arthur as he would bring about a new golden age for England.  Henry arranged for the birth to be held at the capital, Winchester, which proved a bold and successful move.  Arthur was estimated to be born prematurely but was strong.  He was betrothed before his third birthday to Catherine, a few months older than he.  Soon he was created Prince of Wales, coinciding with the birth of his sister Margaret, who would marry James IV of Scotland and secure England's northern border.  Arthur grew up at Ludlow Castle in Wales under the guidance of tutors expert in politics, humanism, and science.  Bernard André, the blind poet and biographer, ensured he thoroughly read the Greek and Latin Classics.

During his education, Arthur wrote letters to Catherine in formal, polite Latin, and she replied in kind.  Arthur was quiet and reflective, much unlike his younger brother Henry, who preferred jousting to his clerical studies.  After they were married in proxy in 1499, Arthur wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella that he would be "a true and loving husband" to Catherine.  The two finally met and were married in November of 1501; Arthur said to his parents that he was pleased to "behold the face of [my] lovely bride."  Despite his reservedness, Arthur commented to others before his wedding that that we was "lusty and amorous" and after, "Masters, it is a good pastime to have a wife."

The couple retired to Ludlow Castle, where Arthur continued his duties as Prince of Wales.  A plague of "sweating sickness" struck the castle, including the royal couple.  After a harrowing illness, Arthur pulled through, saying he owed much to the dutiful care of his wife.  They had their first son, Edward, three years later.  Henry VII, seeing that his line was continued, died at peace in 1509.  Arthur's brother Henry, meanwhile, settled into his role in the Church, where he convinced his brother to pull away from Roman authority as the Catholic monarchs had done with their own Spanish Inquisition.  The English Inquisition, while never granted great powers, served as a significant contributor to military science following Henry's creative interests.

Arthur, ever-sickly after his illness, died in 1522.  Eighteen-year-old Edward VI became king and soon married Princess Renée of France, cousin and sister-in-law to King Francis I.  Catherine dominated the court, causing Reformer Thomas Cromwell to note, "If not for her sex, she could have defied all the heroes of History."  Catherine pushed Edward to prevent Protestantism from infecting England.  After Catherine's death in 1533, Renée began to be suspected of being a Calvinist heretic.  The English Inquisition interrogated her, bringing the matter of the Reformation to the forefront of English politics.  Edward began to rein in the powers of the Inquisition, which caused his uncle Henry to appeal to Rome for Edward's dismissal.  Locals, who had long been angered over the influence of foreigners (even to provoke a riot known as Evil May Day in 1517), were outraged, and more riots began.  Finally Edward followed the lead of Scandinavian countries by severing the state church from Rome.  Henry was removed from office, and Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer oversaw the transformation of England to a largely Protestant nation.

The action caused war with Catholic Spain during the reign of Edward's eldest son, Henry VIII.  The two nations fought their wars abroad, not risking the investment of direct invasion by an armada.  Civil war in Scotland in 1638 against its king Charles sparked invasion by the English to defend Protestant interests.  Success there prompted England to contribute to the Eighty and Thirty Years' Wars on the Continent, but the expense proved too great and resulted in the loss of Scotland as well as Catholic Ireland by the beginning of the 1700s.  After recuperating, England returned her attention to colonies abroad, carving out a massive empire in North America (between Scottish Canada, French Louisiana, and Spanish Mexico), India, and Africa, but always seemingly at a shortage of manpower.

As an end came to Colonialism, England reinvented her colonies into the Commonwealth, which proved to be a potent economic and defense network.  Other colonial nations, such as the Netherlands, Portugal, and Scotland, whose advancements in industrial technology in the late 1700s brought it among world leaders, lost much of their clout as the empires became fully independent.


In reality, Arthur died of unknown causes at the age of 15.  Henry VIII succeeded his father, whose dying wish it was for him to marry Catherine despite protests by the Pope and the prince himself to ensure a male heir.  The marriage ultimately failed as only one of Catherine's six children from 1510 to 1518 lived beyond a few weeks: Mary I of England.  Henry annulled the marriage, breaking with Rome when the Pope refused.  Five marriages and several heirs later, his daughter Elizabeth I had no issue, prompting the throne to be given to James VI of Scotland, unifying Britain.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

March 31, 1492 - Alhambra Decree Begins Scheme to Send Jews West

The Reconquista of Spain completed with the Battle of Granada on January 2, 1492.  Muslims had controlled the Iberian Peninsula after their invasion in 711, but gradually the Christian kingdoms of the north expanded southward.  In-fighting slowed the Christian efforts, but the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 united two of the largest kingdoms to a single force.  In twenty years of warfare, they pushed back the Muslims to Granada, where they affirmed rule of the peninsula fully in the hands of Christian monarchs.

Following the battle, Ferdinand and Isabella settled on to new projects.  With the conquest of Granada, the Catholic Monarchs had acquired vast lands but also now ruled a new population of Muslims and Jews.  Jews, as fellow "People of the Book", were initially treated with respect under early Muslim rule.  Jews from all over the Mediterranean immigrated to what was then known as al-Andalus, creating banking and centers of education.  Religious zeal increased on both sides of the peninsula as Christians called to retake lands lost by the Visigoths, and tolerance of Jews fell.  The Spanish Inquisition began in 1480, giving religious authority to the crown rather than the Pope.  Their agent, Dominican friar Tomás de Torquemada, served as Grand Inquisitor as well as confessor for Isabella.  Along with others, he encouraged the monarchs to expel non-Christians from the country to purify it.  Those who did not leave would have to convert (and the Inquisition would make certain they did not secretly practice forbidden faith) or face torture and death.

While religious fervor marked much of the reasoning behind expulsion, the matter was also economical.  Torquemada stressed that much of the economy of Spain was held by influential Jews.  With their power, they could subvert the authority of the Church or even the monarchs.  He called for their expulsion long before the conquest of Granada, but Ferdinand and Isabella did not want to risk the crash of their economy during wartime.  With the war over, they could restructure their economy as well as seize the valuable property of the Jews who chose to flee.

Meanwhile, Christopher Columbus, an Italian navigator campaigned at court for funding of an expedition that would reach the Orient by sailing west.  He had attempted to win favor from John II of Portugal, but the king had turned him away after his advisers stated the calculations for the circumference of the Earth were far too short.  Columbus had argued at court since 1486, noting the potential wealth from a new trade route.  He was given no positive answer, but he was furnished with food, lodging, and a salary, keeping him on retainer rather than seeking support from any other monarch of Europe.

When it slipped that Columbus would eventually be turned down on the advice of Torquemada, Columbus decided to change his position.  He took one item of Torquemada's agenda, the removal of the Jews, and tied it to his own.  Managing an interview with Torquemada, he pointed out the danger of letting the Jews "escape" to build up power elsewhere.  Instead, they should be sent to the East, where their wares would have to pass through Spain to market.  Torquemada approved the plan, and the monarchs soon announced the "Alhambra Decree", stating that in four months Jews would be forced to live in Granada alone.  That summer, hundreds of thousands of Jews moved to the city, allowed to keep their possessions but selling homes and businesses far under value.

In 1493, Columbus returned successfully from what was soon to be realized as the New World.  His next expedition left that September, and along with it went a large fleet of forced Jewish immigrants.  The Spanish established settlements on Hispaniola, using Jews and local natives as labor.  Over the next decade, the Jews of Spain converted, sneaked out of the country, or were deported to the New World.  During the rule of the Spanish Empire, several Jewish revolts began, but the might of the Conquistadors and the Spanish navy put down the rebellions.  Many Jews settled into their work on plantations and were joined by African slaves, creating a lucrative economy exporting to Europe.

By the seventeenth century, new hope for the Jews arrived as other nations began to colonize the Caribbean.  Piracy flourished, and, in the chaos, Jews escaped from Hispaniola by the thousands to neighboring islands.  Many settled on the far coast of Hispaniola under French rule, helping to make Saint-Domingue the most prosperous colony in the region.  The Caribbean became a popular destination for Jews fleeing oppression in other areas of Europe, particularly Germany and Italy, where corporations funded ships to transport colonists.

Antisemitism continued in the Caribbean, where for centuries the Jewish people were held as second-class citizens along with natives and Africans.  As they gained economic clout by the early twentieth century, however, the Jews won their recognition, and the Caribbean today is well known for its banking, produce, and tourism.  In modern times, many Jews hold to ideals of Zionism, wishing for a Jewish state in Palestine, where some Jews have established communities.  However, with the large Jewish population of the Caribbean, there has not been fervent international action answering the call for a geographic "Israel."


In reality, the Alhambra Decree simply expelled the Jews from Spain. Torquemada convinced Isabella to deny Columbus's request, but, as he was riding away, he was stopped by messengers from Ferdinand who had asked the queen to reconsider.  Meanwhile, the Jews of Spain fled by land or sea, where many perished as brigands sliced them open looking for swallowed jewels or captains threw them overboard after charging exorbitant fees for passage.  Many Jews escaped to the Ottoman Empire, where Sultan Bajazet boasted, "How can you call Ferdinand of Aragon a wise king, the same Ferdinand who impoverished his own land and enriched ours?"

Friday, February 8, 2013

March 28, 1854 - France and Britain join Eastern War

As the nineteenth century showed the continued waning of the Ottoman Empire, the "Eastern Question" asked what to do with the "Sick Man of Europe."  In its heyday, the empire ruled from the ancient Byzantine capital of Constantinople over lands stretching from the Balkans to Mesopotamia across North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.  While the Ottomans seemed to maintain eternal war with Austria and Russia over influence in the Balkans, nations such as Spain and France pushed back its control to Tunisia.  In 1832, the Greeks won their independence with aid from France, the United Kingdom, and, especially, Russia.  The Ottomans faced further revolts from the Janissaries as well as a rebellion by Muhammad Ali, the Wali of Egypt.  In the 1830s, Ali's wars secured independence for Egypt and Sudan and then marched outward, seizing Syria and Arabia.  Ali was finally defeated by military action backing up the Convention of London, where the major powers of Europe agreed to make him hereditary ruler of Egypt in exchange for his conquered lands.

Another challenge to the Ottomans came when Napoleon III, newly upon the throne of France, gave a show of force and demanded to be made the defender of Christian citizens in empire.  The Ottomans refused, citing the 1774 Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca with Russia, which named the Tsar the defender of Orthodox Christians, a position which had been used to step in on affairs involving Greece.  Eventually the Ottomans caved to Napoleon's demands, inciting Nicholas I of Russia to move troops to the border on the Danube.  When the sultan rejected (at Britain's advice) a new treaty granting Russia control of Orthodox as France had authority over Catholic Christianity, Nicholas invaded the Ottomans' Danubian provinces.  After having ruled Russia for nearly thirty years, serving as the "Policeman of Europe" and aiding in the suppression of the Revolutions of 1848, Nicholas felt that he had earned the conquest.

The rest of Europe, however, convened at Vienna, hoping to find a diplomatic solution that did not contribute to the expansion of Russian power.  On the surface, Nicholas agreed with their new treaty, but he began maneuvers under the table toward France, promising them North Africa in exchange for bringing down the Ottoman Empire.  When the Sultan refused to agree to the ambiguous treaty set forth at Vienna, France marched out and joined the Russian cause.  The other nations were shocked but realized that the time had come to solve the Eastern Question.  Austria hurried to join the Russian alliance and secure influence on lands soon to be liberated in the Balkans.  Prussia, with nothing to gain, maintained its neutrality.  Britain alone stood alongside the Ottomans, attempting to maintain status quo in the Middle East.

The Eastern War dragged on for three years, Alexander II succeeding his father in 1855.  Despite the clear military advantage of the Franco-Russo-Austrian alliance, they were beleaguered by antiquated leadership.  French forces liberated Egypt and then became cut off by British naval superiority in the Mediterranean.  The British were able to shell French fortifications from sea, but could make no headway and faced humiliations such as the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Tunis.  In the Balkans, trains and telegraphy proved effective, but the masses of troops in movement brought unprecedented levels of disease.  Photography enabled an explosion of war-journalism, which ultimately contributed to the disgust of the public.  Britain suffered a "snowball riot" on January 21, 1855, when protesters threw snowballs and eventually had to be quelled by soldiers.

Due to the unpopularity of the war, Britain began discussing peace through Prussia as an arbiter for peace in 1856.  The Ottoman Empire was shrunk to Asia Minor, and its many provinces became nation-states while Palestine was granted a special international protectorate status to preserve rights to Catholicism and Orthodoxy there.  No sooner had the diplomats signed the documents than the industrialists swarmed into the region, attempting to dominate new markets.  France with its heavy influence in Egypt had a head start in the Middle East and began construction on the lucrative Suez Canal as soon as the war was over.  Britain reinforced relations with Persia as a buffer for its colonies in India.  In the Balkans, the Austrians and Russians attempted to exert control over the new nations.  When the Austro-Prussian War began in 1866, Russia and Italy contributed, tearing the empire apart much as had been done to the Ottomans.  Italy affirmed itself with the Third War of Unification adding Venice, and Prussia formed a German Empire out of its German Confederation, seizing extensive lands from the fallen Austrians.

For two generations, enormous empires sprawled over Europe.  France and Britain competed abroad while Germany and Russia divided Eastern Europe.  New major world powers arose as Japan defeated Russia in the Pacific, and the United States made a tour of its Great White Fleet.  The empires came to battle after the assassination of German Crown Prince William in 1914 by a secret society bent on ending exterior influence in the Balkans while he was touring Sarajevo.  Germany invaded Serbia, Russia moved in to protect it, prompting its ally France to move on Germany.  Britain came in as an ally against France, spreading the war over the globe.  Eventually Germany defeated Russia, sparking a civil war that would lead to a new Communist regime, ideas which spread to France's many lost colonies and to France itself, creating a Second World which came into an ideological Cold War with the First.


In reality, France entered the war on the side of the Ottomans, adding 400,000 troops against the Russians.  The allies staged an invasion of Russia at the Crimean Peninsula, which proved a stalemate at best as both sides lost more soldiers to disease than fighting.  Modern nursing, the naval use of torpedoes, and blind artillery fire are said to come out of the war, which effectually kept the status quo in Europe until the unification of Germany in 1871.

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