Archive for August, 2014

Columbus’ first impressions of Native Americans

At the time of the first discoveries, Europeans tended to view the New World from one of two contrasting perspectives. Many saw America as an earthly paradise, where the native peoples led lives of simplicity and freedom similar to those enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Biblical Garden of Eden. Other Europeans described America in a much more negative light: as a dangerous and forbidding wilderness, a place of cannibalism and human misery, where the population lacked Christian religion and the trappings of civilization. But it was the positive view of America as a land of liberty, liberation, and material wealth that would remain dominant. In a letter reporting his discoveries to Luis de Sant Angel, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the King and Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) paints a portrait of the indigenous Taino Indians as living lives of freedom and innocence.

As you read the following excerpt, consider the following questions:
1. Analyze why Columbus would want to describe the natives as he does in a communication to the Spanish court.
2. In what descriptions does Columbus betray a patronizing attitude? How does this judgment influence Spanish behavior on Hispaniola?
3. How would you characterize the Natives’ attitudes toward possessions?

Two excerpts from the journal of Cristofero Colon, dated 1492 and 1493:

As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent.

Painting of a Taino
It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.

…The people of this island [Hispaniola] and of all the other islands which I have found and seen, or have not seen, all go naked, men and women, as their mothers bore them, except that some women cover one place with the leaf of a plant or with a net of cotton which they make for that purpose. They have no iron or steel or weapons, nor are they capable of using them, although they are well-built people of handsome stature, because they are wondrous timid. They have no other arms than the arms of canes, [cut] when they are in seed time, to the end of which they fix a sharp little stick; and they dare not make use of these, for oftentimes it has happened that I have sent ashore two or three men to some town to have speech, and people without number have come out to them, as soon as they saw them coming, they fled; even a father would not stay for his son; and this was not because wrong had been done to anyone; on the contrary, at every point where I have been and have been able to have speech, I have given them of all that I had, such as cloth and many other things, without receiving anything for it; but they are like that, timid beyond cure. It is true that after they have been reassured and have lost this fear, they are so artless and so free with all they possess, that no one would believe it without having seen it. Of anything they have, if you ask them for it, they never say no; rather they invite the person to share it, and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts; and whether the thing be of value or of small price, at once they are content with whatever little thing of whatever kind may be given to them. I forbade that they should be given things so worthless as pieces of broken crockery and broken glass, and lace points, although when they were able to get them, they thought they had the best jewel in the world. Even bits of the broken hoops of wine casks they accepted, and gave in return what they had, like fools, and it seemed wrong to me. I forbade it, and gave a thousand good and pretty things that I had to win their love, and to induce them to become Christians, and to love and serve their Highnesses and the whole Castilian nation… And they know neither sect nor idolatry, with the exception that all believe that the source of all power and goodness is in heaven, and in this belief they everywhere received me, after they had overcome their fear. And this does not result from their being ignorant (for they are of a very keen intelligence and men who navigate all those seas, so that it is wondrous the good account they give of everything), but because they have never seen people clothed or ships like ours. Directly I reached the Indies in the first isle I discovered, I took by force some of the natives, that from them we might gain some information of what there was in these parts; and so it was that we immediately understood each other, either by words or signs. They are still with me and still believe that I come from heaven. They were the first to declare this wherever I went, and the others ran from house to house, and to the towns around, crying out, “Come! Come! And see the men from heaven!”

Link for further information:
First Voyage of Columbus: Meeting the Islanders (1492)

Excerpt: Papal Bull Inter Caetera of 1493

Columbus’ return to the Iberian peninsula intensified the rivalry between Spain and Portugal. Apparently, he landed in Portugal, and gave details about his travels in the Caribbean when he was invited to the Portugese court on March 4, 1493. Upon hearing Columbus’ tale, King John II of Portugal claimed the lands Columbus and his crew had discovered under the terms of the Treaty of Alcacovas of 1479 and the Papal bull Aeterni regis of 1481 issued by Pope Sixtus IV. A Papal bull is an formal proclamation or order from the Pope.

Ferdinand and Isabella reported the news of the discovery to Pope Alexander VI, who was by birth a Spaniard. Alexander VI issued a Papal bull, Inter caetaera, which supported the Spanish claim to the lands claimed by Columbus while granting the Portugese a share of the new lands as well. Therefore, Inter Caetera established a dividing line running from the North Pole to the South Pole along 38 degrees west latitude. Ferdinand and Isabella eventually entered into negotiations with Portugal in the Spanish town of Tordesillas, which moved the dividing line further west to a latitude of 46 degrees, 37 minutes west latitude, thus giving Portugal claim to what would later become Brazil.

As you read, consider this question: Under what justification does the Pope believe that he has the right to distribute ownership of the non-European world?

Inter Caetera, 1493
Pope Alexander VI

Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the illustrious sovereigns, our very dear son in Christ, Ferdinand, king, and our very dear daughter in Christ, Isabella, queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada, health and apostolic benediction.

Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.

Wherefore inasmuch as by the favor of divine clemency, we, though of insufficient merits, have been called to this Holy See of Peter, recognizing that as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have known you always to be, and as your illustrious deeds already known to almost the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal, and diligence, without regard to hardships, expenses, dangers, with the shedding even of your blood, are laboring to that end; recognizing also that you have long since dedicated to this purpose your whole soul and all your endeavors — as witnessed in these times with so much glory to the Divine Name in your recovery of the kingdom of Granada from the yoke of the Saracens — we therefore are rightly led, and hold it as our duty, to grant you even of our own accord and in your favor those things whereby with effort each day more hearty you may be enabled for the honor of God himself and the spread of the Christian rule to carry forward your holy and praiseworthy purpose so pleasing to immortal God.

We have indeed learned that you, who for a long time had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands remote and unknown and not hitherto discovered by others, to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants, having been up to the present time greatly engaged in the siege and recovery of the kingdom itself of Granada were unable to accomplish this holy and praiseworthy purpose; but the said kingdom having at length been regained, as was pleasing to the Lord, you, with the wish to fulfill your desire, chose our beloved son, Christopher Columbus, a man assuredly worthy and of the highest recommendations and fitted for so great an undertaking, whom you furnished with ships and men equipped for like designs, not without the greatest hardships, dangers, and expenses, to make diligent quest for these remote and unknown mainlands and islands through the sea, where hitherto no one had sailed; and they at length, with divine aid and with the utmost diligence sailing in the ocean sea, discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh. Moreover, as your aforesaid envoys are of opinion, these very peoples living in the said islands and countries believe in one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals.

And it is hoped that, were they instructed, the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, would easily be introduced into the said countries and islands. Also, on one of the chief of these aforesaid islands the said Christopher has already caused to be put together and built a fortress fairly equipped, wherein he has stationed as garrison certain Christians, companions of his, who are to make search for other remote and unknown islands and mainlands. In the islands and countries already discovered are found gold, spices, and very many other precious things of divers kinds and qualities. Wherefore, as becomes Catholic kings and princes, after earnest consideration of all matters, especially of the rise and spread of the Catholic faith, as was the fashion of your ancestors, kings of renowned memory, you have purposed with the favor of divine clemency to bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and to bring them to the Catholic faith. Hence, heartily commending in the Lord this your holy and praiseworthy purpose, and desirous that it be duly accomplished, and that the name of our Savior be carried into those regions, we exhort you very earnestly in the Lord and by your reception of holy baptism, whereby you are bound to our apostolic commands, and by the bowels of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, enjoin strictly, that inasmuch as with eager zeal for the true faith you design to equip and despatch this expedition, you purpose also, as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion; nor at any time let dangers or hardships deter you therefrom, with the stout hope and trust in your hearts that Almighty God will further your undertakings.

And, in order that you may enter upon so great an undertaking with greater readiness and heartiness endowed with the benefit of our apostolic favor, we, of our own accord, not at your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but of our own sole largess and certain knowledge and out of the fullness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth, do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde. With this proviso however that none of the islands and mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, beyond that said line towards the west and south, be in the actual possession of any Christian king or prince up to the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ just past from which the present year one thousand four hundred and ninety-three begins. And we make, appoint, and depute you and your said heirs and successors lords of them with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind; with this proviso however, that by this our gift, grant, and assignment no right acquired by any Christian prince, who may be in actual possession of said islands and mainlands prior to the said birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, is hereby to be understood to be withdrawn or taken away.

Treaty of Tordesillas Map

Moreover we command you in virtue of holy obedience that, employing all due diligence in the premises, as you also promise — nor do we doubt your compliance therein in accordance with your loyalty and royal greatness of spirit — you should appoint to the aforesaid mainlands and islands worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men, in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals. Furthermore, under penalty of excommunication late sententie to be incurred ipso facto, should anyone thus contravene, we strictly forbid all persons of whatsoever rank, even imperial and royal, or of whatsoever estate, degree, order, or condition, to dare, without your special permit or that of your aforesaid heirs and successors, to go for the purpose of trade or any other reason to the islands or mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic pole, no matter whether the mainlands and islands, found and to be found, lie in the direction of India or toward any other quarter whatsoever, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south, as is aforesaid, from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde; apostolic constitutions and ordinances and other decrees whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding….

Links for more information:
Papal bull
Aeterni regis

Vocabulary for this post:
Holy See
tenor (number 3)
league(definition 2)
due diligence– a legal term
ipso facto,from the Latin

The Influence of Native Americans on the US

The Iroquois Confederacy influences the Constitution!

Welcome to AP US history

Cold War Reenactors

If you are accessing this site, it is likely that you are an AP US history student or teacher. Welcome!

I retired in 2014 after teaching APUSH for 14 years. I have maintained this site for several years now, and I am happy to keep this site available for APUSH students and teachers. I myself will now be attending graduate school, but I hope to continue to help those of you taking on the challenge of mastering this curriculum.

Here’s how to best utilize this site now that I am no longer actively teaching….

1. How to find posts on documents mentioned or on questions you may have:
If you look to the right, you will see several blocks to aid navigation of this site. Probably the one that allows you to control your access to what you need is the one entitled “Categories.” At PHS, we used The American Pageant, 14th edition, as our textbook. But you can still use this site even if you use a different text. Each post– and there are about 1,000 posts on this site– has several tags or categories assigned to it. For instance, if you want information about Christopher Columbus, you could look under “Exploration,” or “Native Americans,” as well as “Chapter 1.” You can also use the “Search this Blog” feature at the top right of the main page. Remember to use good searching skills.

2. How can I find some terms that might show up on tests, and/or build up a glossary of specific terms?
If you look along the top of the main page, you will see a list of terms for each chapter in the American Pageant, divided by “Semester 1” and “Semester 2.” These were terms I used before the American Pageant started boldfacing some important terms. Even after they started that, I noticed that sometimes they omitted some terms I thought useful. So there are two pages with these kinds of terms on them.

3. I was absent during a class. How can I get a audio or visual update?
If you look at the category entitled “Audiovisual and video,” it often has videos like “Crash Course” and other resources that you can use for both reinforcement or to recover if you missed class, or for review before tests. They are also cross-posted under the applicable categories.

4. I need help with study skills. Help!
—My handy-dandy tips of how to study and how to prepare for and take multiple choise tests can be found here: Part A: Preparing; Part B: Test-Taking Strategies; Part C: Tricks of the Test-Writing Demons. You can also download the whole thing, and you are welcome to use it as a teacher, but please attribute your source if you do.
—There are also several categories to help: “AP Review,” “MC practice,” “Study Skills,” and “Test Preparation,” among others.
—There are also several links to other resources under the “Blogroll” block on the right below the Categories block.


5. I just don’t understand something. Help!
—Once again, try the categories or the search bar at the top right.
—Then try the “Links for more information page” which is located via a tab at the top of the main page. There are links for nearly every chapter in the American Pageant, although you can certainly still use these with any book.
—Then, you can try the Blogroll to the right under the “Categories” block.
—If your textbook has a website, use it!
—The College Board has all kinds of helpful info on their site. Go there!
—Form a study group with your friends! Create a Quizlet site, or something similar.
Ask your teacher for help! Arrange a time to get help AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
—If all else fails, get some test prep materials like “5 Steps to a 5,” etc.


—Seriously– READ the textbook with an open notebook next to you to write down questions you have, make sure you are concentrating on what you are doing and not distracting yourself. Make sure you write down questions, and then ASK about them in class or in study group! Use your computer to look up information rather than just give up if you can’t find it in the book or in your notes. Don’t put mental blockers into your head like “I’m not good at tests,” or “I don’t like reading.” You can change both of those things!

Have a great year!