Archive for October, 2006

Manifest Destiny Reading 5: A Mexican perspective

The Power of an Idea
by Miguel Ángel González Quiroga

1996 marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the war between the United States and Mexico. This is the proper time to recall an event which had lasting consequences for our two countries but which has now been mostly forgotten.

It is said that wars usually begin many years before the first shot is fired. I believe this to be so, and most especially in the case of this war. But how far back do we go? Ten years to the separation of Texas? Twenty-five years to the founding of the Mexican State? I would agree with those who hold that the die was cast when the United States was born as a nation and began its slow but inexorable expansion to the West.

The westward movement is one of several factors attributed to this war. You’ve heard them all: the slave interests of the South, the commercial interests of the Northeast, the land hunger of the West, Manifest Destiny, the Warhawks, James K. Polk. For those who blame Mexico: her internal divisions, her inability to colonize and govern the Northern lands, her rampant militarism, her unbounded arrogance.

American expansion, or growth, to use a less belligerent term, was, in my estimation, the principal cause of this great conflict. Without it, the war is simply incomprehensible. We could almost say the expansion was an irreducible brute fact.

Within the overall concept of expansion stands the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which has an immense fascination for many of us in Mexico. Without pretending to add anything new to what has been said of old, I wish to include a few words on the concept of Manifest Destiny.
It is dangerous to underestimate the power of an idea. Especially one which captures the imagination of a people. Manifest Destiny was such an idea. To extend American democracy to the rest of the continent was to place a mantle of legitimacy on what was essentially an insatiable ambition for land. Some have argued that it was villainy clad in the armor of a righteous cause, to use an expression by Lippman. It is difficult to argue against democracy and its extension to the farthest reaches of the continent although historians have pointed out that, at least in this case, extending the area of freedom also signified extending the area of slavery.

The assertion of the superiority of the American race and the concomitant denigration of Mexico is another element of Manifest Destiny. It was Walt Whitman who stated: “What has miserable, inefficient Mexico–with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many–what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the new world with a noble race? Be it ours, to achieve that mission!”

Those of us who admire Whitman as the greatest of American poets cannot but be disappointed at this stand on the war. Can this be the same poet who glorified equality and the respect for others when he said, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you?” Or when he wrote, “Whoever degrades another degrades me, and whatever is done or said returns again to me?”

How can we reconcile this contradiction? The poet of the body and of the soul himself explained it when he wrote, “I am vast, I contain multitudes.”

It is a painful exercise to look in the mirror of our past and discover that we are found wanting. It is sobering to read that we were beaten because we were a backward and decaying people. I cannot think that Mariano Otero and Carlos Maria Bustamante were the products of a decayed race. But we in Mexico cannot and do not ignore the weakness and the underdevelopment which was our lot in the 19th century. Nor do we ignore that underdevelopment was also the product of long and complex historical forces.

Manifest Destiny was a graceful way to justify something unjustifiable. It has not escaped our attention that Ulysses S. Grant, one of the most prominent of American military men, and himself a participant in the war, wrote in his memoirs, “I do not think there ever was a more wicked war than that waged by the United States in Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign.”

But as a historian I do not wish to judge or to censure. Let me state my own views on the matter: expansion was a historical process that, like a westward wind, swept all before it. Not Mexico, not any force on this continent or any continent could have prevented it. This is not a question of good demographics. European immigration led to an explosive growth of the population of the United States and this inevitably led to expansion. Expansion led to war.

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Midterm Exam Review: MIDTERM FRIDAY OCT 20!

These are excerpts taken from some of the questions on the midterm exam. Find the answers to them, and you’ve pretty much got the exam covered.

WHOA! You missed it! The questions have been taken down so I don’t have to completely redo my exam. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you did well on your midterm. If you didn’t get here in time to see the questions, let me remind you:

YOU SHOULD CHECK THIS BLOG SEVERAL TIMES A WEEK. IT IS HERE FOR YOUR BENEFIT. YOU DEFINITELY MISS OUT ON ALL KINDS OF GOOD THINGS IF YOU DON’T.

LOVE,
The Scoop

GO CARDS! WOO-HOOOO!

Quotes from Henry David Thoreau

Quotes from Henry David Thoreau

It is never too late to give up your prejudices. Walden

Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Walden

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. Walden

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. Walden

Things do not change; we change. Journal

In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.

We do not enjoy poetry unless we know it to be poetry.

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.

So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet. The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal.

For more than five years I maintained myself thus solely by the labour of my hands, and I found, that by working about six weeks in a year, I could meet all the expenses of living.

On tops of mountains, as everywhere to hopeful souls, it is always morning.

All this worldly wisdom was once the amiable heresy of some wise man. Journal

I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Civil Disobedience

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. Civil Disobedience

Excerpt: Self- Reliance

Excerpt from “Self-Reliance”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.
…………………..

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
…………………..

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.

But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — `Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
…………………..

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. Shakspeare will never be made by the study of Shakspeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses, or Dante, but different from all these. Not possibly will the soul all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart, and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.

From: http://www.rwe.org

Lowell Factory Girls

As you read, consider the following questions:
1. Prior to industrialization, what role had the home played in a family’s economic activity?
2. After industrialization, how does moving economic activity out of the home affect women’s economic roles in supporting the family?
3. How accepted was this change? Was there a backlash?
4. Why did most of the Lowell girls work? What is ironic about this?

Modern History Sourcebook:
Harriet Robinson: Lowell Mill Girls

In her autobiography, Harriet Hanson Robinson, the wife of a newspaper editor, provided an account of her earlier life as female factory worker (from the age of ten in 1834 to 1848) in the textile Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts. Her account explains some of the family dynamics involved, and lets us see the women as active participants in their own lives – for instance in their strike of 1836.

In what follows, I shall confine myself to a description of factory life in Lowell, Massachusetts, from 1832 to 1848, since, with that phase of Early Factory Labor in New England, I am the most familiar-because I was a part of it.

In 1832, Lowell was little more than a factory village. Five “corporations” were started, and the cotton mills belonging to them were building. Help was in great demand and stories were told all over the country of the new factory place, and the high wages that were offered to all classes of work-people; stories that reached the ears of mechanics’ and farmers’ sons and gave new life to lonely and dependent women in distant towns and farm-houses …. Troops of young girls came from different parts of New England, and from Canada, and men were employed to collect them at so much a head, and deliver them at the factories.

At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women. In England and in France, particularly, great injustice had been done to her real character. She was represented as subjected to influences that must destroy her purity and self-respect. In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. It was to overcome this prejudice that such high wages had been offered to women that they might be induced to become mill-girls, in spite of the opprobrium that still clung to this degrading occupation….

The early mill-girls were of different ages. Some were not over ten years old; a few were in middle life, but the majority were between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. The very young girls were called “doffers.” They “doffed,” or took off, the full bobbins from the spinning-frames, and replaced them with empty ones. These mites worked about fifteen minutes every hour and the rest of the time was their own. When the overseer was kind they were allowed to read, knit, or go outside the mill-yard to play. They were paid two dollars a week. The working hours of all the girls extended from five o’clock in the morning until seven in the evening, with one half-hour each, for breakfast and dinner. Even the doffers were forced to be on duty nearly fourteen hours a day. This was the greatest hardship in the lives of these children. Several years later a ten-hour law was passed, but not until long after some of these little doffers were old enough to appear before the legislative committee on the subject, and plead, by their presence, for a reduction of the hours of labor.

Those of the mill-girls who had homes generally worked from eight to ten months in the year; the rest of the time was spent with parents or friends. A few taught school during the summer months. Their life in the factory was made pleasant to them. In those days there was no need of advocating the doctrine of the proper relation between employer and employed. Help was too valuable to be ill-treated….

The most prevailing incentive to labor was to secure the means of education for some male member of the family. To make a gentleman of a brother or a son, to give him a college education, was the dominant thought in the minds of a great many of the better class of mill-girls. I have known more than one to give every cent of her wages, month after month, to her brother, that he might get the education necessary to enter some profession. I have known a mother to work years in this way for her boy. I have known women to educate young men by their earnings, who were not sons or relatives. There are many men now living who were helped to an education by the wages of the early mill-girls.

It is well to digress here a little, and speak of the influence the possession of money had on the characters of some of these women. We can hardly realize what a change the cotton factory made in the status of the working women. Hitherto woman had always been a money saving rather than a money earning, member of the community. Her labor could command but small return. If she worked out as servant, or “help,” her wages were from 50 cents to $1.00 a week; or, if she went from house to house by the day to spin and weave, or do tailoress work, she could get but 75 cents a week and her meals. As teacher, her services were not in demand, and the arts, the professions, and even the trades and industries, were nearly all closed to her.

As late as 1840 there were only seven vocations outside the home into which the women of New England had entered. At this time woman had no property rights. A widow could be left without her share of her husband’s (or the family) property, an ” incumbrance” to his estate. A father could make his will without reference to his daughter’s share of the inheritance. He usually left her a home on the farm as long as she remained single. A woman was not supposed to be capable of spending her own, or of using other people’s money. In Massachusetts, before 1840, a woman could not, legally, be treasurer of her own sewing society, unless some man were responsible for her. The law took no cognizance of woman as a money-spender. She was a ward, an appendage, a relict. Thus it happened that if a woman did not choose to marry, or, when left a widow, to re-marry, she had no choice but to enter one of the few employments open to her, or to become a burden on the charity of some relative.

One of the first strikes that ever took place in this country was in Lowell in 1836. When it was announced that the wages were to be cut down, great indignation was felt, and it was decided to strike or “turn out” en masse. This was done. The mills were shut down, and the girls went from their several corporations in procession to the grove on Chapel Hill, and listened to incendiary speeches from some early labor reformers.

One of the girls stood on a pump and gave vent to the feelings of her companions in a neat speech, declaring that it was their duty to resist all attempts at cutting down the wages. This was the first time a woman had spoken in public in Lowell, and the event caused surprise and consternation among her audience

It is hardly necessary to say that, so far as practical results are concerned, this strike did no good. The corporation would not come to terms. The girls were soon tired of holding out, and they went back to their work at the reduced rate of wages. The ill-success of this early attempt at resistance on the part of the wage element seems to have made a precedent for the issue of many succeeding strikes.

FROM Harriet H. Robinson, “Early Factory Labor in New England,” in Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, Fourteenth Annual Report (Boston: Wright & Potter, 1883), pp. 380-82, 387-88, 391-92.

Outline note format Chapters 15-16

Outline format Chapters 15-16

I.  How do demographics change in American society in the first half of the 19th century?

    A. Emigrants–Settlers, pioneers, fur traders, and backwoodsmen

B. The face of immigration changes and challenges what is “American”

    Irish, Germans, Catholics

    Effects of the Revolutions of 1848

    Backlash of Nativism

C. Why do new cities grow up in the West?

D. Where is “the West?” Why does it move?

II. What were the main characteristics of early industrialization?

    A. Factory system

    B. Inventions and their impacts

        Samuel Slater, Eli Whitney

            How do these two men change the economies of the North?

 Of the South?

    C. Women’s roles are challenged—at least for the poor

    D. Industrialization on the Farm

    E. Transportation revolution

        Erie Canal, Railroads, Clipper ships, Pony Express unify the country—how?

III. Why do the changes in society and technology cause an urge to reform society and literature?

    A. What were the causes of the religious flowering in the Second Great Awakening

    B. What was revivalism? How does this compare to the First Great Awakening?

        The “Burned-Over District,” millenarianism, camp meetings and “getting saved”

    C. Key figures and groups

        Circuit riders, Unitarians, Peter Cartwright, Charles Finney, Millerites, Mormons

    D. Education as a further goad to democracy

        Primary: Horace Mann, Noah Webster, McGuffey’s Readers

        Post-secondary: U of Virginia, Troy Female Seminary, Oberlin College, Mt. Holyoke

        Lyceum and critical magazines

    E.  Treatment of criminals and the mentally ill

        Dorothea Dix

    F. Prohibition and temperance

        Neal Dow and the Maine Law of 1851

    G. What factors lead to women being newly empowered?

    H. The Utopian movements and the Transcendentalists

        Brook Farm, Shakers, Oneida Community

        Emerson, Thoreau, “Self- Reliance,”

I. Further Flowering of American Literature:

the “Knickerbocker” group, Cooper, Irving, Whitman, Whittier, Lowell, Oliver W. Holmes, Alcott, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville

Historians Bancroft, Parkman, and Prescott

QUIZ 11-14 Tuesday, October 10! PSAT FORMS DUE TUESDAY, TOO!

You’ve been warned.