Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Did Racism Impact The Latin American Revolutions and How Does It Still Impact Events Today?

During this unit, we have been learning about the Latin American Revolutions. We were introduced to this unit by making a pie chart of the populations of different races in Latin America, as shown below.

From this pie chart, we can start to see that the smallest race percentages were the races at the top of the social pyramid. The Peninsulares made up only 1% of the population, yet they were the people of highest power and social standing. The slaves and Indian people made up 11% and 50% of the population, yet they were on the bottom of the social pyramid and were forced to work for the Peninsulares. This gives us some insight into how this racial situation was bound to turn into a problem; there was a much bigger population of lower class, enslaved people who will want to revolt against the smaller, upper classes. The upper classes wouldn’t stand a chance against them because they only made up 1% of the population. We then split up into groups, and each group researched a country: either Mexico, Gran Colombia, or Brazil. Each group made a timeline for the revolution in their country, and then we shared our revolutions with the other groups. All of these activities then helped to give us insight into answering the essential question: why is it essential to acknowledge human value regardless of race and how are the events in the Latin American Revolutions evidence of this social imperative? It is important to remember how unfair this racial discrimination was so that we learn from it for the future, and it never happens again.

My group researched Brazil, and we came up with the timeline below:
After all the groups shared their timelines with each other, we had to find 2 commonalities and 2 differences between all three of the revolutions. One of the similarities of the Brazilian, Mexican, and Gran Colombian revolutions is that all of their goals were independence. They all wanted to split their ties from their European rulers. In Brazil, they fought for independence from Portuguese rule. In Mexico and Gran Colombia, they wanted independence from Spanish rule. They all wanted a form of government with more rights for the people, and they all successfully became independent. Another similarity between all of the countries was their first rulers after they became independent didn’t last long. In Gran Colombia, Bolívar helped gain independence for the country, and was appoined the leader. However, he had a hard time suppressing rebellions and he became ill, so he resigned. In Brazil, Pedro became Brazil’s  first emperor but he was disliked because he had inherited the Portuguese throne, and even though he abdicated it, people were still suspicious of him. They also disapproved of his new constitution that only gave rights to peninsulares, so he abdicated the Brazilian throne. Lastly in Mexico, Agustín de Iturbide became emperor, however republican leaders removed him from office to set up a Republic. One difference between the revolutions was that the Brazilian revolution wasn’t violent at all, while the Mexican and Colombian revolutions were excessively violent. Rather than opposing independence in Brazil, Pedro and his followers decided to lead it, making independence a peaceful movement. However, in Mexico and Colombia, the people had to fight for their independence. Another difference was that Gran Colombia split into several independent countries, while Mexico and Brazil stayed unified to form one independent country. Gran Colombia split into Venezuela and Ecuador, while Mexico and Brazil remained the same (although Mexico split up later). Race was a primary issue in all three of these revolutions. In Mexico, the revolution was launched by a priest who declared that there were three main goals for the revolution; to end Spanish rule in Mexico, to redistribute land, and to grant racial equality. This shows how race was a declared, main purpose of the revolution, so it was very important. People in Gran Colombia, and particularly Venezuela, were unhappy with the discrimination by the Peninsulares, so that was their reason for starting the revolution. All of the races who were not enslaved were extremely angry at the Peninsulares, and they were able to all come together to fight against a common enemy; the Peninsulares. In Brazil, after the revolution was over, Pedro promised to put in constitutional reforms, but he didn't grant the rights that the people wanted. Pedro only allowed people from Portugal, Peninsulares, to have highest power and most rights which is what the people fought against to gain independence, so the people were unhappy with Pedro and his discrimination in his constitutional reforms. All of these problems come back to the same issue of racism, and how unjust the harsh discrimination based on social standings and ethnicity was.

I think that racism still exists in the United States today. There are still stereotypes and judgements made about race everyday. One big example of this in the news today is the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri. Very recently, the grand jury decided not to charge or bring the Police Officer Wilson to court. The story is that Officer Wilson pulled over to stop Michael and his friend, Dorian, who were walking in the middle of the road. They started arguing which quickly turned into a physical fight, and what Michael did next is in dispute. Some say he was holding his arms up surrendering while others say he was moving towards the officer to go fight him. Michael was unarmed, and many people are blaming this incident on racism. Many say that the white police officer shot Michael when he was unarmed because he was black. However, this can’t be proven or disproven, so the case was dismissed. Many people protested for the case to go to court for the racism. Whether this case was an incident of racism or not, the fact that this case has become so popular definitely shows how relevant race still is today. Even if the shooting wasn’t because of race, the fact that so many people got involved and made the racism into a big deal shows that America is still stuck on the idea of race and it is a commonly brought up topic. I think that people are extra cautious today about race to make sure it doesn’t turn into a big problem like it was throughout history, and they pay extra attention to how whites treat blacks because of historical problems. They have a good reason to be so cautious about this, however I think that by being so cautious, the problem of race will never go away because everyone is watching every move for racism. Many racism cases are debatable, just like Michael Brown’s case, but there is a timeline of facts and events that happened in this case from The New York Times (click here for the timeline). I think that our society needs to remember how unjust discrimination based on race was, and we can hopefully move on from racism by treating everyone simply as another equal human being with equal rights, regardless of race.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How Should We Remember Toussaint Loverture?

Just like some of the greatest founders and leaders of our past such as Abraham Lincoln, Toussaint Louverture had the essential qualities of political skill and moral leadership that have helped shape our modern world. Abraham Lincoln made sure to fight for what he believed was right yet make good political and governmental calls, and Toussaint did the same. Toussaint grew up as a slave and saw the hardships and bad conditions that slaves experienced. He was eventually freed by his owner, but from then on he devoted his life to abolishing slavery. He knew what was right and was willing to fight for it. He showed great leadership when the slaves were in need of organization during the Haitian Revolution, and he was able to rise up to help the people. However, during his leadership, he had to make some tough calls to help keep the government stable, and he was able to make these decisions to keep Saint Domingue organized. His legacy, or all of his work and accomplishments that he completed in his career, was extremely important to the progress of Saint Domingue and abolishing slavery. It is important to remember influential people in history so that we can learn from their successes as well as their failures. We can also learn from their qualities that helped make them successful, and encourage these qualities in leaders to come. Although Toussaint Louverture was a great military commander and liberator of slaves, he should be remembered mainly for his important work as a ruler of Saint Domingue because he had to make wise decisions and showed great leadership.

As a ruler of Saint Domingue, Toussaint Louverture had a huge impact because he helped establish, constitutionalize, and stabilize the island. Toussaint officially became the ruler of Saint Domingue in 1801, however he had been fighting to establish the island since 1789. He was able to show the people that he was a leader with a strong desire for abolishing slavery, and he wouldn't give up until it happened. Once the slaves fought for their freedom and won, the people appointed Toussaint as ruler because of his work as a Chief General. He then and headed the commission that created Saint Domingue's Constitution in 1801. The constitution clearly stated that "there cannot exist slaves in this territory, servitude is therein forever abolished". (C) Slavery was officially abolished and all people were free and equal. However, Toussaint then had a problem; how was the island supposed to make money off of sugar without the hard labor that the slaves had performed? He had to make the decision to keep everyone on the same plantations doing the same work to keep up the economy. However, slaves were free now so, "each cultivator and each worker is a member of the family and is entitled to a share in the revenues". (C) This means that the white plantation owners couldn't treat the slaves cruelly because they were equal, and the slaves must be paid for their work. Former slaves didn't like this idea because they were doing the same work for the same owners, so they didn't feel like free men; they were still forced to work. They started refusing to do work and many ran away from the plantations since they were free and could do what they want. Toussaint was faced with another tough decision as a leader; how should he require work to keep up the prosperity of the island without making people feel like slaves and angering them? He knew that Saint Domingue needed the agricultural work that the former slaves provided, and had to make a decision based on what was best for the island. He enforced the agricultural work from the constitution more strictly in a Proclamation in 1801. Only 4 months had passed since the constitution, and already rebellion had started. Toussaint knew what was best for the island, and made strict laws against the rebellions. For example, he stated that “any manager or driver of a plantation upon which a foreign cultivator (field worker from another plantation) shall have taken refuge shall denounce him to the captain or commander of the section within 24 hours under penalty or one week in prison”. (D) He is saying that the owner of a plantation on which run-away workers from other plantations are hiding will be punished and put in jail as well as the worker. He was trying to convince workers that they still needed to work even though they were free, yet rebellion continued. In fact, Toussaint’s own nephew, Moyse, the commander of the Northern Department, was the leader of one of the major rebellions against Louverture. Moyse as well as many other former slaves believed that the plantations should be split up into any smaller plantations where each man can have their own land instead of only being owned by rich landowners. Moyse and his followers also thought that Toussaint was too friendly with the white landowners and his work requirements were too harsh. So, in October, 1801, Moyse and his men massacred whites all along the Northern Plain. (E) Toussaint was again faced with a tough judgement call, and he had to make the hard decision to squash the rebellion. He ordered Moyse to be arrested and killed with a firing squad for revolting instead of enforcing the law like he was supposed to. Also, many of Moyse’s men were ordered to commit suicide by shooting themselves. (E) He wanted to make this a symbol of defeating the revolution and a reminder to all workers to stay on the plantations and work. As a ruler, this was a wise decision to make because it squashed the rebellion and prevented any more revolts, which helped to stabilize the government and economic prosperity of Saint Domingue. Toussaint knew what had to be done as a ruler, and even if he had to make some harsh decisions, he did what he had to do for the overall well-being of Saint Domingue, which showed his leadership skills as a ruler as well as his knowledge of politics.

Toussaint was secondly important and legendary for his work as a liberator of slaves. Toussaint had a very strong moral leadership quality, and he used it to fuel his devotion to abolishing slavery. Toussaint grew up as a slave and knew that the harsh conditions and treatment of slavery were wrong. He wanted to do what was right and fight against slavery, and he was able to step up as a leader when the slaves were in need of one. Without Toussaint’s leadership and organization of the slave revolt, the slaves could never have been as successful and accomplished as much as they were able to in Saint Domingue. Toussaint quickly became well known as a great General, and eventually he became the Chief General of the slaves. Until 1794, Toussaint first fought against the French Government for the freedom of slaves. However, in 1794, Toussaint stopped fighting against the French and joined the French army. He did this because in 1794, Robespierre temporarily abolished slavery so that the slaves would help them fight off foreign enemies. However, Toussaint switched again to fighting against the French once the enemies were defeated and France reinstated slavery. (A) Although it may seem like Toussaint was constantly switching sides, he was actually being very consistent; he was always on the side of abolishing slavery. We can see Toussaint’s strong ideas in his letter to the French Directory when the Directory tried to reinstate slavery in 1797. He says, “Could men who have once enjoyed the benefits of liberty look on calmly while it is taken from them!… We have known how to confront danger to our liberty, and we will know how to confront death to preserve it”. (B) He is strongly opposing the Directory, and telling them that they can’t expect to let slaves have a taste of liberty and then rip it away from them without them fighting back. There is an implied threat in this letter which is that the slaves are ready to fight to their deaths to preserve their liberty, and they refuse to go back to the terrible times of slavery. Toussaint always kept in mind the ideas of the people and the morally right thing to do, and he was so confident in his morals that he was willing to fight to his death for them. Toussaint succeeded and was able to abolish slavery making Saint Domingue free because he followed his morals and was determined to liberate the slaves.

Another way we should remember Toussaint Louverture, though not as important as his work as a ruler, was his great military skill. Toussaint was a great military commander, and the slave revolt wouldn’t have been able to win so many battles if it wasn’t for Toussaint’s skill. Toussaint initially joined the slave revolt as a doctor, but soon commanded a small group of slave soldiers. (A) Within his small camp of soldiers, Toussaint was able to show his great skill as a commander by training his men in many different military tactics. He trained his men in both guerilla tactics and European shoulder to shoulder tactics so that his men were well prepared. (A) Guerilla tactics is a style of war that uses natural resources around you as a cover to hide yourself, and it usually consists of a quick attack and retreat that surprises the enemy. European shoulder to shoulder method was an open march where the soldiers stand in a line in the open to fight more traditionally. Toussaint became very well-known, and by his military genius, he was able to raise the reputation of the army, and drive the English and Spanish from the island. (F) He was able to win many battles and drive out many enemies from Saint Domingue, and he eventually gained control of it. He was able to make such a great commander because of his superior knowledge of the character of his race, his humanity, generosity, and courage which helped him gain the confidence and trust of all of his soldiers, and helped persuade many to join him. (F) Toussaint’s great training, tactics, and knowledge of his soldiers helped him conquer many enemies and take control of Saint Domingue, making him a great military commander.

Looking back on all of Toussaint’s accomplishments as a ruler of Saint Domingue, liberator of slaves, and military commander, it is clear just how much of an influential person Toussaint Louverture was. Without his hard-work, Saint Domingue wouldn’t have been as stable and prosperous, the slave revolt and ideas of abolishing slavery wouldn’t have been so organized and successful, and the revolt wouldn’t have been able to win as many battles and gain independence. This one man was able to step up in a time of need and lead the slave revolt to success. His leadership and moral and political knowledge shone through in everything he did, and he was extremely successful because of it. When remembering the success of the Haitian Revolution, it is important to remember how much Toussaint Louverture contributed to it through his devotion mainly as a ruler of Saint Domingue, and also as a liberator of slaves and military commander.

A: Timeline of Abolition in Saint Domingue- created from various sources
B: Toussaint Louverture, “Letter to the French Directory, November 1797.”
C: The Saint Domingue Constitution of 1801. Signed by Toussaint Louverture in July 1801.
D: Toussaint Louverture, “Proclamation, 25 November 1801.”
E: Madison Smartt Bell, Toussaint Louverture: A Biography, 2007.
F:William Wells Brown, “A Description of Toussaint Louverture,” from The Black Man, His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements, 2nd edition, 1863. Engraving of Toussaint Louverture, 1802.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How Do You Define A Successful or Unsuccessful Revolution?

In this unit, we learned about 5 major revolutions between 1830 and 1848. Our essential question for this unit was: were the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 really failures as many historians have concluded? In class, we first looked at the quote: “We are sleeping on a volcano. Do you not see that the Earth trembles anew? A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon” by Alexis de Tocqueville. We also looked at the quote: “When France sneezes, Europe catches a cold” by Metternich. Both of these quotes have to do with the revolutions in Europe. The governments were trying to repress revolutions, but they were all about to happen like a volcano erupting. Also, France was the first place to revolt, and the revolutionary ideas spread to all of Europe like a cold. Then, we made a scale to measure the success of failure of a revolution, so we wrote what we thought a successful revolution would look like and what an unsuccessful revolution would look like. With this scale in mind, we then moved on to learning about the revolutions. We were split into groups and each group was assigned a revolution to become experts on. We analyzed the country, date, goals, opponent, outcome, and reasons for success or failure of our revolution using a background essay and a few primary sources. We also had to analyze each primary source on our revolution to determine whether it was showing the goals, opponent, or outcome of the revolution. Once we had done all of this and had become experts on our revolution, we created a survey about it using SurveyMonkey. My groups surveys can be found in two parts: click here for Part 1 or here for Part 2. Lastly, the whole class took everybody’s surveys to learn about all of the revolutions. By doing all of this, we came to determine whether we thought that the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 were successes or failures overall.

Our group was assigned to the French Revolution of 1830, and this revolution was a partial failure. The French people were happy with their constitutional monarch, Louis XVIII, until he died in 1824. Louis had made compromises with the people and had abided by their constitution and their rights. However, when his brother, Charles X, took the throne after Louis’ death, he was not as considerate towards the people. He did not agree with the idea of constitutional monarchy; he believed in absolutism. He took away many of the people’s rights, and he “suspended the legislature, limited the right to vote, and restricted the press” (Background Essay). This caused big problems. The biggest mistake was limiting the freedom of the press. There were many newspapers and journalists in that time, and they were enraged by this restriction. Charles X’s new law stated that “No work of less than twenty printed sheets can appear without the authorization of our Minister-Secretary of State of the Interior at Paris” (Source 1), meaning that all newspapers must be checked before being printed to make sure there isn’t anything being said that goes against the king. However, Paris Journalists did not agree with these rules, and they protested. They believed that, “The Government has violated legality, we are absolved from obedience. We shall attempt to publish our papers without asking for the authorization” (Source 2). They believe that the government is violating their rights, and because of this, they no longer have to listen to the government. Radical liberals and angry workers and journalists attacked Paris. Charles X was forced to flee and the rebels took over Paris. Radical liberals wanted a Republic, but more moderate liberals compromised on a constitutional monarchy. The Chamber of Deputies decided that Charles’ cousin, Louis Philippe, should be the king because he had supported the revolutions of 1789, and seemed to be more constitutional. Louis agreed to the constitution, and he became known as the “citizen king” because he ruled through the people. “The Duke of Orleans is a citizen king...He awaits our will….It is from the French people that he will hold the crown” (Source 3). However, even though Louis promised this at first, over time his main priority was the bourgeoisie, or the upper class, and they thrived under him. Poorer workers did not benefit from Louis, and they did not get many rights. “Under Louis Philippe, the upper bourgeoisie prospered. Louis extended suffrage, but only to France's wealthier citizens. The vast majority of the people still could not vote. The king's other policies also favored the middle class at the expense of the workers” (Background Essay). The workers were still not treated equally, and many rights were still not given. Overall, this was a partial failure because the liberals did not get the Republic they wanted, and the workers still did not get rights. However, this revolution was a step in the right direction because it brought about the ideas of gaining rights for the people with a constitution or a republic. The other students in our class seemed to learn and understand our revolution well because we had a few 100% unanimous answers, and if they weren't unanimous, they were very close, as shown below. Besides multiple choice questions, there were also short answer questions in which every student submitted a response, and they were all very similar.

Overall, I think all the revolutions were both a failure and a success. Looking at the facts, almost all the revolutions failed to gain what they initially fought for. Most of the revolutions were partial failures just like the 1830 revolution in France. The Decembrist Revolt was a failure because Constantine never succeeded the throne after Tsar Alexander’s death in 1825 like the revolutionaries wanted. Many people in Russia didn’t like Tsar Alexander because of his “failure to grant meaningful constitutional change. Some had plotted to assassinate the Tsar but his unexpected death and delay in announcing the arrangements for his succession allowed them the opportunity to attempt a coup” (Background Essay). The revolutionaries saw his unexpected death as an opportunity to seize control of Russia and put in a more constitutional monarch. Constantine, next to the throne, was believed to be more liberal than Alexander, and the people wanted him to be king, however he denied the crown. This angered the people, and they revolted against the new king-to-be, Tsar Nicholas, because he was more involved with the military and less involved with constitutional change. The result of these battles were many people from both sides, especially revolutionaries, were killed, and Nicholas remained in control. The revolutionaries lost and Russia rapidly declined, so it was a failure. Another failure was the Frankfurt Assembly. The people of German were fighting for both liberal and nationalist reforms; to try to gain rights and unite Germany. The Frankfurt Assembly met to debate whether to try to create a Republic, like middle-class workers wanted, or a constitutional monarchy. They finally offered the constitutional monarch of Prussia, Frederick William IV, the crown of German, but he denied because “because the Assembly has not the right, without the consent of the German governments, to bestow the crown which they tendered me” (Source 4); the lower people of German offered the crown to him, not the royalty. Fighting then broke out between radical middle-class workers and conservatives which killed many and caused many Germans to flee their country. Lastly, the French Revolution of 1848 was a partial failure. Revolutionaries fought two main battles; one in February and one in June. They made Louis Philippe abdicate the crown, and they took control of the government, establishing the Second Republic. However, it was very short lived before moderate liberals and socialists wanted reforms. The hungry, poor workers became angry with the upper and middle class workers, and they revolted against them. With all the confusion, a constitutional monarch, Louis Napoleon, was put in place, however he soon became more like an absolute monarch, and he mainly helped the bourgeoisie. "For the bourgeoisie, the early days of the Second Empire brought prosperity and contentment. In time, however, Napoleon III would embark on foreign adventures that would bring down his empire and end French leadership in Europe” (Background Essay). The revolutionaries failed to create a Republic and ended up in the same place that they started in with Napoleon. However, in the long run, these revolutions brought about amazing revolutionary ideas that inspired many. They also showed the government that they weren’t afraid to fight for their rights, and they forced the government to be more considerate for their people because they are capable of revolution.

Source 1: The July Ordinances, July 25, 1830 By Charles X and His Ministers
Source 2: Protest of the Paris Journalists, July 26, 1830. In Laurisse and Rambaud, Histoire Genrale, 283.
Source 3: Theirs, Adolphe.2 "Orleanist Manifesto." July 30, 1830. In Laurisse and Rambaud, Histoire Genrale, 287-288.
Source 4: Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia: Proclamation of 1849
Background Essay and all primary sources for the French Revolution of 1830 can be found at: http://www.edline.net/files/_5YGkl_/40dea4b950785ead3745a49013852ec4/France_1830.pdf
Background Essay for the Decembrist Revolt can be found at:
Background Essay for the French Revolution of 1848 can be found at: