Ride, Boldly Ride…

Today in History, March 20, 1616:

Gaily bedight,

A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,

Had journeyed long,

Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old—

This knight so bold—

And o’er his heart a shadow—

Fell as he found

No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength

Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow—

‘Shadow,’ said he,

‘Where can it be—

This land of Eldorado?’

‘Over the Mountains

Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

Ride, boldly ride,’

The shade replied,—

‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

-Edgar Allen Poe

On this date in 1616, Sir Walter Raleigh, English courtier and explorer, was released from confinement in the Tower of London (for the second time) so he could lead an expedition to the Americas in search of the fabled City of Gold, Eldorado (for the second time.)

In his lifetime Sir Raleigh explored Virginia, being instrumental in its settlement. He also was instrumental in popularizing the import and use of tobacco in England.

During his second search for Eldorado some of his men raided a Spanish outpost, which violated a treaty of peace between the two nations.

As a consequence, when he returned home, he was arrested and executed.

The Roosevelt Corollary

Today in History, December 6: 1904 –

The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. In 1904 President Roosevelt made an addition to the Doctrine.

There had been recent incidents in which European powers threatened actions against South American nations that they felt owed them money.

In his annual message to the Congress, TR stated that, should any developing nations in the Western Hemisphere require intervention due to unrest or an inability to handle their financial affairs, it would be the US that would intervene, not foreign nations.

Many criticize Roosevelt’s assumption of police powers in the Americas as expansionist, and with the events surrounding the building of the Panama Canal, there is likely some validity to that view. However the primary objective was to ensure that foreign powers knew the US would not tolerate their use of military force in our backyard. http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/rooseveltcorollary.htm

The Monroe Doctrine…The Original “Get Off My Lawn!”

Today in History, December 2: 1823 – The Monroe Doctrine. European powers had, in recent years, settled wars and were once again turning their attention westward…Russia had declared that the northwest American continent was theirs. In his 7th annual address to Congress, President James Monroe made it clear that while the US would not interfere with current foreign colonies in the western hemisphere, any additional attempts at colonization would draw American ire…

“….We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States….”

It would be some time before Monroe’s statement of policy would be known as the “Monroe Doctrine”, but it would set the standard for American foreign policy for two centuries. The British wanted to make a joint statement in regards to the policy, wanting to secure their interests in the Americas. Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, who drafted the statements, refused, still lacking trust of the British after the War of 1812. The Royal Navy would nonetheless enforce the Doctrine for years until the US was powerful enough to do so herself.

Presidents from James K. Polk (Texas independence), US Grant (Venezuela conflict), Theodore Roosevelt (Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine), and John F. Kennedy (Russian missiles in Cuba), and Ronald Reagan (Contra affair) have invoked the Monroe Doctrine in foreign policy incidents. Recently Presidents seem to have put the Doctrine aside (Soviet influence in Venezuela, giving up the Panama Canal, which is now primarily under Chinese control), but the future will someday be history; and I’m not convinced Monroe’s far reaching, prescient policies will not be utilized again, more in cooperation with our neighbors rather than as a “big brother.”

Today in History, October 12: 1492 – Three ships, the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria, commanded by Christopher Columbus, discover the New World. Columbus went ashore on one of the Bahama Islands and claimed it for his sponsors, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He continued on to find Cuba and Hispaniola in the days ahead, which he thought were Cathay (China) and Japan respectively. The expedition believed they had accomplished their mission of finding a western trade route to the far east. He would bring back riches to Spain that would set off a competition for new lands in the New World by the major powers of Europe.

Millions would die in the years to come due to disease brought on by the meshing of multiple cultures who had no immunity to each other. Also due to the Europeans using the indigenous peoples as slave labor. 

Should we honor Columbus and his contemporaries as heroes?  Or demonize them for their abuses?  It is possible to recognize both. History is what it is and should be studied that way. 

Columbus, the Vikings, Hudson, Magellen, etc, etc. The Americas were going to be discovered and settled by what were then foreigners. 

The atrocities which occurred did not have to have occurred. Columbus statues should not be removed…they are history. Instead, lets also recognize people who have previously been forgotten to history whose stories are just as important.