Politics

1 2 3 30

The Vietnam War was a volatile time in American history. When the war started, so did the draft. Many people protested, especially students. I suppose for them, it all felt so much closer to home, than for the older Americans. Still, the students were not alone in protesting. Many Americans agreed and protested too. The law allows for “peaceful” protesting, saying that it is “a constitutionally protected form of expression under the First Amendment in the United States. It falls under the right to free assembly, allowing every American to voice their opinions and advocate for change. However, a protest becomes a riot when one or more people within the group engage in criminal activity. This can include intentionally damaging property or causing physical harm to another person1. In other words, when a peaceful demonstration loses control and turns violent, it transitions from a protest to a riot.”

On May 2, 1970, a protest rally at Kent State University resulted in the National Guard troops being called out to suppress students who were now rioting in protest of the Vietnam War and the US invasion of Cambodia. As scattered protests continued the next day, they were dispersed by tear gas, and on May 4th class resumed at Kent State University. University officials put a ban of rallies, but it didn’t stop the rallies. By noon, some 2,000 people had assembled on the campus. The National Guard troops arrived and ordered the crowd to disperse, fired tear gas, and advanced against the students with bayonets fixed on their rifles. As is common among protesters, some refused to disperse, and even responded by throwing rocks and verbally taunting the troops.

As the situation escalated, and without firing a warning shot, 28 Guardsmen discharged more than 60 rounds toward a group of demonstrators in a nearby parking lot, killing four and wounding nine, one of whom would be permanently paralyzed. The closest casualty was 20 yards away, and the farthest was almost 250 yards away. After a period of disbelief, shock, and attempts at first aid, angry students gathered on a nearby slope and were again ordered to move by the Guardsmen. Though they were prepared to stand and even die for their beliefs, faculty members were able to convince the group to disperse, and further bloodshed was prevented. The Kent State campus was closed for six weeks following the tragedy.

News of the shootings reverberated across the globe. It also led to protests on college campuses across the country. Just five days after the shootings, 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, DC, both against the war and the killing of unarmed student protesters. The media put out photographs of the massacre, and the images became enduring images of the anti-war movement. A criminal investigation followed, and in 1974, at the end of the investigation, a federal court dropped all charges levied against eight Ohio National Guardsmen for their role in the Kent State students’ deaths. The decision was followed by outrage.

After the decision was made, the defendants issued a statement, “In retrospect, the tragedy of May 4, 1970, should not have occurred. The students may have believed that they were right in continuing their mass protest in response to the Cambodian invasion, even though this protest followed the posting and reading by the university of an order to ban rallies and an order to disperse. These orders have since been determined by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to have been lawful.

Some of the Guardsmen on Blanket Hill, fearful and anxious from prior events, may have believed in their own minds that their lives were in danger. Hindsight suggests that another method would have resolved the confrontation. Better ways must be found to deal with such a confrontation.

We devoutly wish that a means had been found to avoid the May 4th events culminating in the Guard shootings and the irreversible deaths and injuries. We deeply regret those events and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others which resulted. We hope that the agreement to end the litigation will help to assuage the tragic memories regarding that sad day.” I agree, better ways must be found by both the protesters and the authorities.

Most of us think that after the Civil War, the South simply accepted defeat and went on to become model citizens of the new America…the one without slavery. That was not the case, however. First of all, there were a number of plantation owners in the South, who just didn’t tell their slaves that they were free now. Finally, after being forced to do so, the announcement came, a whole two months after the effective conclusion of the Civil War, and even longer since Abraham Lincoln had first signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Nevertheless, even after that day, many enslaved black people in Texas still weren’t free. That part was bad enough, but that wasn’t all there was to it.

We have heard people say that if this or that president gets into office, they are leaving the country. People have also left the country because they didn’t want to fight is a war. However, I had never heard that approximately 20,000 Confederates decided to actually leave the country. They went to Brazil after the Civil War to create a kingdom built on slavery. These people were so set on their lifestyle that they were willing to pull up stakes and start over in order to keep their slaves and their slavery lifestyle. The reality was that after four bloody years of war, the Confederacy virtually crumbled in April 1865. Nevertheless, a rather large group of the Confederates were not ready to accept defeat.

Instead, as many as 20,000 of them fled south. They relocated to Brazil, where a slaveholding culture already existed. There, they hoped the country’s culture could help them preserve their traditions. Once there, they cooked Southern food, spoke English, and tried to buy enough slaves to resurrect the pre-Civil War plantation system. These people, known as Confederados, were enticed to Brazil by offers of cheap land from Emperor Dom Pedro II, who had hoped to gain expertise in cotton farming. Initially, most of these so-called Confederados settled in the current state of São Paulo, where they founded the city of Americana, which was once part of the neighboring city of Santa Bárbara d’Oeste. The descendants of other Confederados would later be found throughout Brazil. They were very happy with their decision to leave the United States, and very happy that they could continue to keep slaves. Nevertheless, their “victory” was not without loss too. They had to give up their citizenship in the United States, and I have to wonder if their lives have turned out as they hoped they would, or if they are living in much poorer conditions in Brazil. Nevertheless, they stayed, and to this day, the so-called Confederados gather each year to fly the Confederate flag and celebrate their lost heritage.

In any “job” or “career” there can be conflicts. Sometimes it’s all about workmanship, and other times it’s a personality conflict. Probably the most famous of these conflicts was the civilian-military confrontation between President Harry S Truman and General Douglas MacArthur who was in command of the US forces in Korea. When Truman relieved MacArthur of duty, in reality, firing him, it set off a brief uproar among the American public. Nevertheless, Truman was determined to keep the conflict in Korea a “limited war” at all costs.

General MacArthur was considered flamboyant and egotistical, and problems between him and President Truman had been brewing for months. The Korean War began in June of 1950, and in those early days of the war in Korea, MacArthur had devised some brilliant strategies and military maneuvers that helped save South Korea from falling to the invading forces of communist North Korea. As United States and United Nations forces began turning the tide of battle in Korea, MacArthur began to argue for a policy of pushing into North Korea to completely defeat the communist forces. Truman initially went along with the plan, but he was also worried that the communist government of the People’s Republic of China might take the invasion as a hostile act and intervene in the conflict. Thus began a battle of wills between the two men. MacArthur met with Truman in October 1950, and assured him that the chances of a Chinese intervention were slim.

Unfortunately, that “slim chance” materialized in November and December 1950, when hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed into North Korea and throwing themselves against the American lines, driving the US troops back into South Korea. At that point, MacArthur requested permission to bomb communist China and use Nationalist Chinese forces from Taiwan against the People’s Republic of China. Truman refused these requests point blank, and a very public and very heated argument began to develop between the two men.

Then, in April 1951, President Truman fired MacArthur and replaced him with General Matthew Ridgway. The nation was outraged, but on April 11, Truman addressed the nation and explained his actions. Truman defended his overall policy in Korea, by declaring, “‘It is right for us to be in Korea.’ He excoriated the ‘communists in the Kremlin [who] are engaged in a monstrous conspiracy to stamp out freedom all over the world.’ Nevertheless, he explained, it ‘would be wrong—tragically wrong—for us to take the initiative in extending the war… Our aim is to avoid the spread of the conflict.’ The president continued, ‘I believe that we must try to limit the war to Korea for these vital reasons: To make sure that the precious lives of our fighting men are not wasted; to see that the security of our country and the free world is not needlessly jeopardized; and to prevent a third world war.’ General MacArthur had been fired ‘so that there would be no doubt or confusion as to the real purpose and aim of our policy.'”

Nevertheless, MacArthur returned to the United States to a hero’s welcome. “Parades were held in his honor, and he was asked to speak before Congress (where he gave his famous ‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away’ speech). Public opinion was strongly against Truman’s actions, but the president stuck to his decision without regret or apology. Eventually, MacArthur did ‘just fade away,’ and the American people began to understand that his policies and recommendations might have led to a massively expanded war in Asia. Though the concept of a ‘limited war,’ as opposed to the traditional American policy of unconditional victory, was new and initially unsettling to many Americans, the idea came to define the U.S. Cold War military strategy.”

Cars are an important part of life these days, and really for many years now. So, what would you do if your ability to buy a car suddenly stopped…like hitting a wall? My guess is that you would start taking really good care of the car you had, because you wouldn’t know how long it would be before you could buy another car. Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro imposed a ban on the import of cars from abroad. This made it almost impossible for Cubans to get their hands on new cars, meaning that if they wanted a car, they had to make do and mend the vehicles that were already on the island. Basically, the Cuban people became a nation of mechanics. It was a necessity if they wanted to have a car.

In a way I find it almost strange that Castro didn’t take away the cars they had, but I guess he wasn’t concerned about them driving, just that he didn’t want any imports from the United States. The problem was that there are no car manufacturers in Cuba, so the only way to buy a car was to import it. Of course, Castro and any of his chosen people could still import vehicles, just not from the United States. These kinds of things happen between governments, and as usual, it’s the people who suffer, not the government. In this case, I’m not so sure that “suffer” is the right word. Cuba has a huge collection of classic cars, because the people became, not only great mechanics, but they also became experts at restoring and caring for classic cars.

In 2014, after 55 years of not being able to, Cubans these days, are free to import foreign cars again. Unfortunately, the cost is so high that it makes imports impossible for all but the wealthiest members of society. Now you will see some newer cars on the roads, but they tend to be owned by taxi companies or car hire firms. The general population continues to drive to the old classics that they have driven for the last 55 years. While the cars in Cuba are all old, they do have value. All classic cars do, but those that are as well preserved as the ones in Cuba, might just have more value than their owners really know about…on the open market anyway. Whether they will ever be placed on the open market or not is a different story.

I am of the opinion that most of the United States is populated by good people, who are trying to lead decent and respectful lives. I’m sure there are those who would disagree, and when faced with evil doers, it is sometimes hard to see the good because of the bad, but I think we can agree that the people who agreed with the northern states during the Civil War, far outnumbered those who agreed with the southern states. the Union had a distinctive advantage over the Confederates. There were more states and more soldiers in the Union Army. So, the Confederate Army had to find a way to get ahead of their enemies. Confederates sometimes relied on technical innovation to aid their cause, in the face of such limited resources compared with the Union Army’s sheer numbers and resources. The Union had $234,000,000 in bank deposit and coined money while the Confederacy had $74,000,000 and the Border States had $29,000,000. The Union Army had 2,672,341 soldiers, as opposed to the Confederate Army, which had between 750,000 to 1,227,890 soldiers.

Given the obvious lop-sidedness, especially in the naval conflict, the Confederates could not hope to match the Union in sheer tonnage of ships produced. They didn’t have the funds or the resources to build as many ships as the Union. Many people would actually assume that either the Confederates would lose the war quickly, or it would be mostly fought on land. The Confederates, however, did come up with two famous Confederate naval innovations…the ironclad warship, CSS Virginia and the submarine, HL Hunley. The HL Hunley was built in 1863. Who would have thought there would be a submarine built that early on.

Of course, the Union wasn’t sitting around doing nothing while the Confederates dominated the water. They were busy too. The USS Monitor was built around the same time the Virginia was being retrofitted with iron plating, and those two ships actually clashed at the Battle of Hampton Roads. While the Confederates did get in the war ship game, the superior Northern industrial capacity allowed them to build more than 80 ironclads. The North also built a submarine, called the USS Alligator. It was designed by French engineer Brutus de Villeroi, who had, amazingly, been working on submersible craft for some 30 years. Contrary to what we might think, the concept of a submarine was not a new one. In fact, there was even a primitive one employed in the American War of Independence. The submarines were a far cry from the huge 20th-century submarines of today.

The Alligator was based on an 1859 prototype and was commissioned in 1861 as part of the same flurry of naval innovation that saw the creation of the ironclad Monitor. The Alligator featured an innovative air-purification system that used limewater to remove carbon dioxide and keep the air breathable for long periods. The Alligator was manned by a 16-member crew, which was later reduced to eight. Also unusual is the fact that USS Alligator had oars to maneuver with. I suppose that wouldn’t seem unusual in its day, but it certainly does today. Sent out on a mission to remove obstructions in Charleston Harbor in advance of an attack by a Union ironclad fleet, the Alligator ran into trouble in the form of a gale on April 2, 1863, while being towed to nearby Port Royal, South Carolina. It was in the storm, and its wreckage was never recovered…but the hunt is ongoing.

“Who was Winston Churchill?” It’s not a question you often hear, because Winston Churchill had a presence. His features were distinct, but he was not a big man. Churchill stood 5’6½” tall and weighed 187 pounds. He was maybe 35 pounds overweight, but not in bad health, especially considering he smoked as many as ten cigars a day, and when you consider that he lived to be 90 years old, it would seem that none of the normal “risk factors” applied to Winston Churchill. He dealt with daily stress, poor eating habits, excess weight, and smoking, but outlived many people in this era or that. How people felt about Winston Churchill, depended on which side of the subject in question they were on. When he made up his mind on a matter, he rarely changed his mind, and he didn’t back down.

He was responsible for one of the most famous speeches of the Cold War period. It was a speech in which former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill condemned the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declared, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.” Churchill’s Cold War speech is one of the “opening volleys” announcing the beginning of the Cold War. When he was defeated for re-election as prime minister in 1945, he was invited to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, which is where he gave this speech. President Harry S Truman joined Churchill on the platform and listened intently to his speech. Expressing praise for the United States, Churchill declared that the United States stood “at the pinnacle of world power.” England and the United States have long had a “friendly, but competitive relationship,” and it would soon become quite clear that a primary purpose of his talk was to argue for an even closer “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain…the two great powers of the “English-speaking world.” But, would it be in the best interest of the United States to agree?

World War II had ended, and as in any post war situation, things were still pretty chaotic. Nevertheless, it was necessary to set policies, and to organize the losing countries so that things didn’t escalate out of control again…not an easy task. The Soviet Union was well known for its expansionistic policies and was unlikely to stop trying to take over its neighbors without some kind of intervention. In addition to the “iron curtain” that had descended across Eastern Europe, Churchill spoke of “communist fifth columns” that were operating throughout western and southern Europe. Churchill compared the Soviet Union to disastrous consequences of the appeasement of Hitler prior to World War II, saying that in dealing with the Soviets there was “nothing which they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for military weakness.” Therefore, without intervention, they would quickly get back to the same disastrous practices they used before, and the war would have to fought all over again.

The speech was well received by Truman and many other US officials. Everyone knew the truth, and somebody simply had to come right out and say it. They had decided that because the Soviet Union was determined to expand, only a tough stance on a united front would deter the Russians. Churchill’s “iron curtain” phrase immediately entered the official vocabulary of the Cold War. It was a term everyone knew, and it perfectly described the problem. Of course, agreeing with Churchill, didn’t necessarily mean that the US officials enthusiastic about Churchill’s call for a “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain. They weren’t concerned that Great Britain would again try to have some influence over the United States, but rather they were well aware that Britain’s power was weakening, and the US had no intention of being used as pawns to help support the crumbling British empire.

Of course, the Russian leader Joseph Stalin had a very different view of the speech, saying that it was “war mongering” and referred to Churchill’s comments about the “English-speaking world” as imperialist “racism.” The British, Americans, and Russians, all of whom were allies against Hitler less than a year before the speech, were now drawing the battle lines of the Cold War. It didn’t take long for the similarities between Hitler and the Soviet Union to become glaringly clear, and they had to be stopped. I don’t know why dictators feel the need to enslave other people. The “Iron Curtain” would “come down” like all other forms of tyranny must eventually do, but unfortunately, a lot of lives are lost before victory is achieved.

René-Auguste Chouteau Jr, who was best known as Auguste Chouteau, was the founder of Saint Louis, Missouri. While being a founder of a city is not necessarily such a strange thing, the way in which it came about is not so common. He was the only child of Marie-Thérèse (nee Bourgeois) and René Chouteau, born in either September 7th of either 1749 or 1750. René purportedly abused Marie-Thérèse, and abandoned her and René, so she returned to her pre-matrimonial home. She later remarried. In 1764, when Auguste was still a young man of just 13 years, his stepfather, Pierre Liguest sent him up the Missouri River from Fort Chartres, Illinois. Auguste was the leader of a company of 30 men. His mission was to select a site for a trading post. His stepfather must have considered the young man to be quite intelligent to put him in charge of such an enormous undertaking. Auguste didn’t let his stepfather down either. He chose a place that was not only perfect for the trading post, but would later become a great American city…Saint Louis, Missouri. After his stepfather’s death in 1778, Auguste succeeded him in the business and later formed a partnership with John Jacob Astor. Together they formed the American Fur Company. Auguste was 29 years old.

Chouteau married Marie Therese, the daughter of Jean-Gabriel Cerré, on September 21, 1786, at the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, which was a vertical-log church…long since replaced with the current church on the site. The apparently happy marriage united members of the two leading Saint Louis families. They were renowned for their hospitality, which helped strengthen his political position in the city and region. Together they had seven children…Auguste Aristide, Gabriel, Marie Thérèse Eulalie, Henry, Edward, Louise, and Emilie.

Auguste was commissioned colonel of the militia in 1808. His political career began in 1815 when he was appointed one of the commissioners to make treaties with the Indians who had fought on the British side in the War of 1812. The other two commissioners were Ninian Edwards and William Clark. I don’t suppose this would be a big step into politics, but it was an office, and the field of politics seems to take off from a smaller office. In Saint Louis, he served as Justice of the Peace and as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. He was also the first president of the Bank of Missouri, as well as several other important positions. Auguste made it his policy when dealing with the Indians, to treat them fairly. Because of that, he enjoyed their confidence and friendship until his death, which occurred on February 24, 1829.

When you think about the Civil War, you think of battles being fought back east…right? For the most part, it was. When the war began, there were 34 states, but by the end, there were 36 states. Of course, some of the Southern states, eleven to be exact, wanted to secede and form their own country. That was partly what the war was about. The Southern states wanted to keep slavery, and the Northern states did not, and because they could not agree, eleven states chose to secede, and the rest fought to keep our nation together.

Some of the battles were fought, however on the far western front. The first of those battles, was on February 21, 1862. In the Battle of Valverde, Confederate troops under General Henry Hopkins Sibley attacked Union troops commanded by Colonel Edward R S Canby near Fort Craig in the New Mexico Territory. This first major engagement of the Civil War in the far West, produced heavy casualties but ended with no decisive result. Of course, the battle was part of the broader movement by the Confederates to capture New Mexico and other parts of the West. The point was to secure territory that the Rebels thought was rightfully theirs, because it was part of the southern territories of the United States. This area had been denied them by political compromises made before the Civil War, which they felt was wrong.

By this time, the Confederacy was quickly going broke, and they wanted to use Western mines to fill its treasury. The Rebel troops moved from San Antonio, into southern New Mexico, which at that time included Arizona, and captured the towns of Mesilla and Tucson. Sibley, with 3,000 troops, now moved north against the Federal stronghold at Fort Craig on the Rio Grande. Canby was determined to make sure the Confederates didn’t lay siege to Fort Craig. Canby knew that the Rebels were running low on supplies, and they wouldn’t last much longer. He knew that Sibley really did not have sufficiently heavy artillery to attack the fort, so when Sibley arrived near Fort Craig on February 15, he ordered his men to swing east of the fort, cross the Rio Grande, and capture the Valverde fords of the Rio Grande. He hoped to cut off Canby’s communication and force the Yankees out into the open, thereby giving the Rebels the upper hand.

For Sibley’s Rebels, things at the fords didn’t initially go as planned. Five miles north of Fort Craig, a Union detachment attacked part of the Confederate force. The Yankees pinned the Texan Rebels in a ravine and were on the verge of routing them when more of Sibley’s men arrived and turned the tide. Sibley’s second in command, Colonel Tom Green, who was filling in for Sibley, who was ill, made a bold counterattack against the Union left flank. The Yankees retreated, heading back to Fort Craig. Sibley’s men didn’t take Fort Craig either.

During the Battle of Valverde, out of 3,100 men, the Union suffered 68 killed, 160 wounded, and 35 missing. The Confederates suffered 31 killed, 154 wounded, and 1 missing out of 2,600 troops. The battle was indeed bloody, but none of their objectives were accomplished, so it was virtually an indecisive battle. From Fort Craig, Sibley’s men continued up the Rio Grande winning battle after battle. Nevertheless, after capturing Albuquerque and Santa Fe, they were stopped at the Battle of Glorieta Pass on March 28, 1862.

With the election of Thomas Jefferson as third president, on February 17, 1801, came the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another in the United States. Nevertheless, the election was an unusual one. By this time, Jefferson had helped to draft the Declaration of Independence, had served in two Continental Congresses, as minister to France, as secretary of state under George Washington and as John Adams’ vice president. These credentials probably made him the best person for the job in the entire world.

While it was obvious that Jefferson was the best man for the job, vicious partisan warfare was the name of the game during the campaign of 1800 between Democratic-Republicans Jefferson and Aaron Burr and Federalists John Adams, Charles C Pinckney and John Jay. The ongoing battle raged between Democratic-Republican supporters of the French, who were involved in their own bloody revolution, and the pro-British Federalists who wanted to implement English-style policies in American government. The Federalists hated the French revolutionaries because of their overzealous use of the guillotine and, as a result, were less forgiving in their foreign policy toward the French. They pushed for a strong centralized government, a standing military, and financial support of emerging industries.

Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans, on the other hand, preferred limited government, complete and absolute states’ rights and a primarily agricultural economy. They feared that Federalists would abandon revolutionary ideals and revert to the English monarchical tradition. When Jefferson was secretary of state under Washington, he opposed Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton’s proposal to increase military expenditures and resigned when Washington supported the leading Federalist’s plan for a national bank.

A bloodless, but ugly campaign ensued, in which candidates and influential supporters on both sides used the press, often anonymously, as a forum to fire slanderous volleys at each other. It sounds a lot like some of our election campaigns of today. Then came the laborious and confusing process of voting, that began in April 1800. Individual states scheduled elections at different times, which I think further confuses the situation, and although Jefferson and Burr ran on the same ticket, as president and vice president respectively, the Constitution still demanded votes for each individual to be counted separately. As a result, by the end of January 1801, Jefferson and Burr emerged tied at 73 electoral votes apiece. Adams came in third at 65 votes. While that left Adams out, it left a tie for Jefferson and Burr. The result created a big problem.

The resulting tie sent the final vote to the House of Representatives. That would not make for an easy decision either. A number of those in the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives insisted on following the Constitution’s flawed rules and refused to elect Jefferson and Burr together on the same ticket. The highly influential Federalist Alexander Hamilton, who mistrusted Jefferson, but hated Burr more, persuaded the House to vote against Burr, whom he called the most unfit man for the office of president. Of course, that cause a hatred between Hamilton and Burr that led Burr to challenge Hamilton to a duel in 1804. Burr won the duel when he killed Hamilton. Two weeks before the scheduled inauguration, Jefferson emerged victorious, and Burr was confirmed as his vice president. It was the first of only two times the presidency has been decided by the House of Representatives.

If you travel to a different area of the country or even other English-speaking areas of the world, you will find that here are different accents and even that words are used differently. Still, just because you are visiting or move to those places, doesn’t mean that you will immediately take on those accents, or their use of words. Nevertheless, when you move to a different region, your use of the language does immediately begin to evolve, whether you realize it or not, and whether it is intentional or not. The first Englishmen to set foot on American soil with the intent to colonize the land were no exception. The language began to evolve almost immediately….and it remains a fluid, almost living process to this day. “Americanisms” have been created or changed from other English terms to produce a language that very much differs from our forefathers, signifying our uniqueness and independence.

Of course, the people didn’t notice the changes right away, but by 1720, the English colonists began to notice that their language was quite different from that spoken in their Motherland. I’m sure they wondered just how that came to be? Basically, when you hear new “slang” words, and people don’t hear the accents spoken as well, the whole dynamic of the language changes. Also, very formal words like “thee, thou, and such” might become too cumbersome and so they are discarded. Everyone in the colonies knew that English would be our native language by 1790, because when the United States took its first census, there were four million Americans, 90% of whom were descendants of English colonists. So, it made perfect sense.

Nevertheless, it would not be the same as that spoken in Great Britain. The reasons are varied, but the most obvious reason was the sheer distance from England. The main way the language evolved was that over the years, many words were borrowed from the Native Americans, as well as other immigrants from France, Germany, Spain, and other countries. In addition, words that became obsolete “across the pond” continued to be utilized in the colonies. In other cases, words simply had to be created in order to explain the unfamiliar landscape, weather, animals, plants, and living conditions that these early pioneers encountered. By 1790 it was obvious that American English would be a very different language that British English.

The first “official” reference to the “American dialect” was made in 1756 by Samuel Johnson, a year after he published his Dictionary of the English Language. Johnson’s use of the term “American dialect” was not meant to simply explain the differences but rather, was intended as an insult. This “new” language was called “barbarous” and referred to our “Americanisms” as barbarisms. Because of the dissention between England and the Colonies, the British sneering at our language continued for more than a century after the Revolutionary War. They laughed and condemned as unnecessary, hundreds of American terms and phrases, but to our newly independent Americans, they were proud of their “new” American language and considered it to be another badge of independence. In 1789, Noah Webster wrote in his Dissertations on the English Language, “The reasons for American English being different than English English are simple…As an independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of our own, in language as well as government.” In the eyes of the Colonists, that settled the matter, and when the United States was formed, the new nation was proud to be separated for the “Motherland” and would have it no other way.

Our leaders, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Rush, agreed — it was not only good politics, but it was also sensible. The most atrocious changes to the British were the heavy use of contractions such as ain’t, can’t, don’t, and couldn’t. The feelings of the “rest of the world” didn’t matter to Americans, and the language changed even more during the western movement as numerous Native American and Spanish words became an everyday part of our language. The evolution of the American language continued into the 20th century and really continues even to this day. After World War I, when Americans were in a patriotic and anti-foreign mood, the state of Illinois went so far as to pass an act making the official language of the state the “American language.” In 1923, in the State of Illinois General Assembly, they passed the act stating in part, “The official language of the State of Illinois shall be known hereafter as the ‘American’ language and not as the ‘English’ language. A similar bill was also introduced in the US House of Representatives the same year but died in committee. Ironically, after centuries of forming our ‘own’ language, the English and American versions are once again beginning to blend as movies, songs, electronics, and global traveling bring the two ‘languages’ closer together.”

1 2 3 30

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Archives
Check these out!