Thursday, August 16, 2007


This is an archive of the student blogs from History 128 in the Summer of 2007.

Friday, July 20, 2007

money covers everything

On January 24, 1998, the state of California began a celebration of the 1848 discovery of gold in California. Speaking before 9,000 people at the commemoration, Pete Wilson, California's governor at the time, said: "It's a great day. What a wonderful thing, to celebrate our past and be so grateful, no matter how we got here, no matter what our origins." Wilson said. I found this article and was astonished on what the Governor was saying. I would have thought he might have been educated enough not to say these words.
Its amazing what people do not know. I was amazed to hear how President Polk was so determined to get everyone out of California who wasn't "white". My opinion, he is up there with Jackson. (see what Columbus started!)
The Gold Rush is covered with the blood of thousands of victims. Writing at the time, author Henry David Thoreau called it "the greatest disgrace to mankind." For the indigenous native people, non-European immigrants, and African-Americans, the story of the Gold Rush is one of oppression, discrimination, and genocide.

The Dred Scott Case

From the lectures in class we learned about the 1857 Dred Scott case. Dred Scott was a slave who fought for his freedom in front of the Supreme Court, but was denied. Scott’s argued that he had lived as a slave with his owner in territories where slavery was illegalj and should therefore be set free. The Supreme Court voted 7 to 2 against Dred Scott. Their decision was based on the fact that Scott owned no property and was not a citizen of the U.S. so he was therefore not legally entitled to bring a suit to the Supreme Court.

I was interested to learn of the repercussions of this court case. As a result of the court’s decision the Missouri Compromise was made void. It was also asserted that any person descended from black Africans (whether slave or free) is not a citizen of the United States. The court's decision also nationalized slavery which went against the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and voided the Kansas Nebraska Act. I was surprised to hear about the many backlashes that took place as a result of the Dred Scott case.

History in Kansas

On Monday we talked about the events that took place in Lawrence and I found those quite interesting while I had heard the stories I never really knew what happen. Growing up in Kansas and learning history you never really expect much to have happened to here. Were just the Midwest home of wheat and Wizard of Oz. But I found it interesting that while I was in a Museum on Wednesday about the Steamboat Arabia, there were articles about the massacre in Lecompton of 150 people and the burning of Lawrence. It was really fascinating to see the things we had discussed in class actually in Museum. The Museum also had some very interesting artifacts and things that Native Americans had put aboard the boat, the dyes for clothes different, different beading's for jewelry. All in all it was a great history experience to be able to apply the stuff that we have learned in class and to see actual artifacts and newspaper articles first hand. It makes being a Kansas being a little more appreciative and to think that there were things in Kansas that made an impact on American History.

California Gold Rush

While learning about California I realized that the California gold rush was a very significant time in US history. It helped develop settlement in a place that was mysterious to most settlers at this time. The first discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill on January 24, 1848, and began the frenzied rush to California of gold seekers from around the world. This restless tide of diverse humanity invaded California seeking to change their lives and fortunes. What happened in California in those few years of the Gold Rush changed not only the lives of those caught up in the rush but the very nature of California itself — and the nation it had so recently joined. California became a territory of immense complexity and diversity. 80,000 immigrants poured into California in 1849; men and women of all ethnic group worked and lived together sharing and learning new cultures. They came on the California Trail and by ship around Cape Horn or through the Panama shortcut. The majority of them came in one immense wave during mid summer the traveling conditions must have been almost unbearable. At the same time, sailing ships were heading to San Francisco. By the 1850s miners were coming from places all over the world-Britain, Europe, China, Australia, North and South America. I believe women played an important, yet underestimated role during the gold rush. At the time, women were scarce, but those who lived in California realized the entrepreneurial opportunities that existed and put their domestic skills to work and profit.

Westward Expansion and US "Imperialism"

In class we learned that historians have conflicting viewpoints than that of Frederick Jackson Turner's "Significance of the Frontier on US History". It is important also to point out that the idea of Manifest Destiny and US economic/geopolitical expansion had a very important role in the Spanish-American war of 1898 and the Presidentcy of Theodore Roosevelt.

This is jumping ahead of the time period that we are covering in class, but it is important to remember that the idea of manifest destiny and US expansion did not stop with the closing of the frontier. Some historians believe that this idea carried into the Spanish-American war and the lesser known Phillipene War which was immediately after. The US role in Cuban independence and especially the Phillipene war is less than honorable. Approximately 200K+ Phillipinos were killed during their uprising against us and the fight against the Spanish in Cuba was a complete lopsided route that could have probably been avoided. This time period is a black eye on the history of the US and there is a credible argument that this was the beginning of US "Imperialism". Some people today feel that the US is the "world police" and should drawback our "unnecessary" global influence that started after the Spanish-American war.

This supposed US "imperialsim" comes up any time that US involvement (or non-involvement) in a foreign conflict becomes difficult. We are called imperialists if we liberate a country in which a brutal dictator killed 300K+ of his own people and we are told that we did not do enough if we standby while a genocide in Rwanda or Darfur happens. Which is it? Can it be both?

The answer is simple. Does the good outweigh the bad when it comes to US foreign affairs? The US donates 80% of all the worlds foreign aid and charitable donations. Germany (which took four years to have its first democratic vote) and Japan (which took 7) are now our allies. South Korea was virtually taken over before Gen. MacArthur invaded Inchon. Women are now going to school in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bosnia and Kosovo are now stable and free from ethnic cleansing. The worlds sea trading routes are kept open and free by the US Navy at a cost of $0 to anyone else in the world.

Yes, the US has had it's fare share of foreign affairs debacles. However, I believe that the good outweighs the bad and evenmore there is no going back to isolationism, the world is too small now. The original idea of manifest destiny was wrong. However, what I am arguing is that is has evolved into the realization that the US has been blessed as the strongest country on earth and now it is our responsibility to intervene when evil rears its ugly head. Maybe we can make amends for all the misdeeds against Native Americans by intervening against evil when it is necessary.

Chinese Immigration

As we discussed in lecture this week, after the discovery of gold in California, many Chinese men immigrated with dreams of striking it rich and then returning home to their families. However, this was not the case and the most could not even afford to return home. These Chinese immigrants constituted 90 percent of the work force for the railroads. I just thought this was very interesting, because there was no initial conflict between the Americans and the Chinese. For decades now America had been living in a racially/color based hierarchy. They have also been fighting against the Mexicans and Natives for land, and used the idea that they were inferior as a reason for their claim to the land. I do not know if it had anything to do with the fact that they wanted badly to trade with Asia, but I just thought it was very interesting, especially given the recent history, that the US had not problems with the Chinese moving into California. I know there were quotas in place, and maybe there were episodes of racial violence against the Chinese that we did not discuss. It just appears to me that the US only notices race when it is convenient for them.

The Cost of Westward Expansion

"Hey Americans, what nothing better to do?/Why don't you kick yourself out, you're an immigrant too!"
--Jack White

When Frederick Jackson Turner's book "Significance of the Frontier in American History" came out, it was just another not-exactly brilliant book that hade a huge impact, hardly rare in American history. However, the message that was eventually extracted out of it, the concept of "Manifest Destiny," was perhaps a severe twist.

When Charles Darwin first wrote "the Origin of Species" and talked about natural selection, people assumed that meant that only the best and brightest survived, and the concept of "Social Darwinism" arose. This is not what Darwin meant at all--natural selection favored the best adapted in an environment, not the smartest or strongest, just whomever had favorable genetics. This is sort of the turn Turner's ideas took. Manifest Destiny became the solution to the problem with the Natives. It was their God-given right to take the land out west.

In the back of my mind, I have always wondered whether Americans would take all of this cruelty back. If it meant that Mexico included about half of the modern day US, would people be ok with that? Would they overlook the total slaughter of Native Americans?

Turner's ideas suggested economic independence and an agrarian republic, which are some major concepts that our country was founded on. The reality was much, much more ugly. I left the post short so people would comment more; would you take it all back?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

America the Land of Opportunity

In class we briefly discussed immigrant equality in the US , and I would like to further share my opinion on the matter. The general good in man is limited to a return on the initial investment. Because of this dominating groups are not going to give up power at their own expense and for no gain. Thus when people make the argument that their race, ethnicity, gender, or religion deserves equal rights and treatment their appeals are falling on deaf ears. It is not that I don't believe in equality, but rather I don't think it can acquired by complaining as so often seen today. Instead as my man Axl Rose so eloquently put it "You can have the bright lights, but you won't get them for free," meaning you must pay for them, or take them. This idea long pre-dates "American social dominance" as groups with a strong desire for equality and power have toppled and created the greatest civilizations in the world shifting power and ideals. What I am not advocating is staging a rebellion against the white man, but what I am is take action instead of talking about it, it does work. After all America is the land of opportunity.