Shays Rebellion of 1786, the 1st American Insurrection

Shays Rebellion closes courthouses in Massachusetts
Shays Rebellion storms courthouses in Massachusetts

Shays Rebellion of 1786 was a series of violent attacks by rural landowners on county courthouses and armories in Massachusetts.  It led to a full-blown military confrontation with the state militia in the winter of 1787. The angry rebels were mostly ex-Revolutionary War soldiers, now mostly farmers. They opposed the state’s tax and debt policies causing wide-spread foreclosures. The rebellion was named after Daniel Shays, one of the insurrection leaders, a farmer and former captain in the Continental Army.  Shays’ Rebellion shocked the Founding Fathers. It was one of the catalysts of the Constitutional Convention the following year in Philadelphia.

Independence from Great Britain did not bring instant economic prosperity for the new U.S.  Britain restricted U.S. trade with the British Empire, including the lucrative trade with the nearby West Indies. Continuing inflation made the new paper dollar nearly worthless. Meanwhile, states raised taxes in order to pay off Revolutionary War debts and make up for the loss of foreign loans to Britain.

Merchants and bankers in eastern Massachusetts demanded the debt payments from hard-pressed farmers in western Massachusetts.  Meanwhile, the state legislature had raised taxes to pay the state’s wartime debt and meet the national Congress’s requests of taxes. Western farmers were burdened by high taxes, unable to pay their debts, including mortgages on their farms. Lawyers called them before county courts, and they often lost their property.

Unlike other state legislatures, the Massachusetts government did not respond to the crisis by passing pro-debtor laws. As a result, judges told local sheriffs to seize many foreclosed farms.  Some farmers who couldn’t pay all their debts were put in debtors prison.  All this provoked anger against the state government, and led to the first armed rebellion in the new United States. In the farmers’ minds, it was much like 1776, Americans resisting high taxes and an apathetic government.

In the summer of 1786, western farmers assembled to petition the Massachusetts legislature for relief. They asked that no taxes be collected for 1 year and that courts be closed so property could not be confiscated. Eastern bankers and merchants from whom these farmers had borrowed money disagreed.  They insisted that contracts be honored, and debts be paid.  Boston critics called the farmers “Turncoats,” even though many had fought in the Revolutionary War.

Leaders of the farmers’ movement called on the former Revolutionary Minutemen to defend their rights, as they had during the war. They met in taverns, town meetings and churches to rally members and plot their next move.  Committees of town leaders drafted a document of grievances and proposed radical demands for the legislature in Boston to enact.

Beginning in late August, they took their next steps.  Insurgents armed themselves and converged on county courthouses, planning to close them by force.  If the courts could not meet, they would not lose their property.  Soon, events would flare into a full-scale revolt.  On August 29th, 1,500 armed and angry men seized the Northampton Courthouse and blocked judges and jurors from entering.

Massachusetts Governor James Bowdoin issued an angry proclamation: “A large concourse of people, many armed with guns and swords, in contempt and open defiance of the Government, did, by their threats of violence, take possession of the Court-House. I call upon all Sheriffs, Constables, and military officers, within this Commonwealth, to prevent and suppress all such violent and riotous proceedings.”  

He also appealed to Massachusetts residents to aid and assist the officers. And to unite in preventing and suppressing such “treasonable acts.” On September 5, the judges in Worcester tried to convene their courts, but 300 bayonet-wielding insurgents blocked their access, and released debtors in jail. Over the next month, the rebels shut down additional courts in Middlesex, Plymouth, and Berkshire Counties.  

In late September, a crowd of 1,500 men led by Revolutionary War captain Daniel Shays, prevented the Massachusetts Supreme Court from meeting in Springfield. He negotiated with the justices to keep the court open, while allowing the protesters outside. The court eventually had to close when it couldn’t find any jurors to serve.

Many of its members however were locals who refused to muster against their own neighbors, and in some cases, joined them. Daniel Shays was a farmer in Pelham and an ex-Captain who fought at in Bunker Hill and other battles. Shays had taken part in the Northampton Courthouse action. He was offered a leadership position afterwards, but initially refused. Soon, however, Shays gravitated back into leading the sizable group at Springfield.  The governor, looking for a ring leader, claimed Shays was the leader of the entire rebellion.

Captain Daniel Shays, one of the leaders of Shays Rebellion
Captain Daniel Shays, one of the leaders of Shays Rebellion

Some thought the “Shayites” were patriots, like in the American Revolution. Others saw them as dangerous insurrectionists whose actions could topple the young republican government. Henry Knox, a commander during the Revolutionary war (and future U.S. Secretary of War), wrote to George Washington in to warn him about the rebels.

In Philadelphia, Knox asked Congress to send national troops to quell “Shays Rebellion.”  In particular, to protect the federal armory at Springfield.  It stored some 7,000 guns, artillery, bayonets and gunpowder. Congress agreed, but that required both money and recruits from other states.  Because of the weak Articles of Confederation, little was forthcoming.

Chief Justice William Whiting was a wealthy conservative who publicly spoke out in favor of the rebels, accusing the state legislatures of making money off the struggling farmers.  He claimed the farmers were within their rights to disrupt a government they saw as unfair. Famous Boston patriot Samuel Adams, however, called for the arrest and execution of the traitors.

In October, Governor Bowdoin called his legislature into session and warned that wicked and devious men were conspiring to “destroy all confidence in our new government.”  The legislature provided some relief by suspending debt payments and property foreclosures for several months. However, it also passed several new stricter measures to deal with the crisis:

The Militia Act made it punishable by court martial or even death for any militiaman who joined the sedition.  The Riot Act prohibited 12 or more armed people from assembling, and empowered sheriffs to jail, and even kill rioters if necessary. Finally, the writ of habeas corpus was suspended, authorizing the detention without bail of suspected traitors. Amnesty was also offered to the rebels if they disavowed their efforts and took oaths of allegiance to the state.

In October, the rebel farmers went home, needing to harvest the crops in their fields. Another round of troubles, however, occurred in November and December,  when rebels regrouped and forcible closed courts in Worcester and Springfield. The farmers continued to shout what they felt were their patriotic rights and protested the suspension of their liberties.

In early January 1787, Governor Bowdoin authorized a force of more than 4,400 men.  It would be paid through funds privately raised amongst wealthy Boston businessmen. An army of nearly 2,000 was eventually placed under Revolutionary War General Benjamin Lincoln. His orders were to secure order in western Massachusetts. Lincoln marched west to defend the courthouses.  A separate force of 1,200 militiamen occupied the Springfield Armory to deny it to the rebels.

Shays and the other insurgent leaders called on the western farmers to assault the armory. Immediately assemble in arms to support and maintain your rights and liberties. Guided by the Revolutionary War ideal that they had the right to replace an unwanted government, the insurgents announced their intention to smash the “tyrannical administration in Massachusetts.”

The rebels controlled all the roads to Springfield, seized supplies going to the militia, and sent threatening ultimatums to General Lincoln.  Shays’ opponents in Boston considered themselves the true Patriots that created the new independent democracy.  The increase in taxes was a consequence of needing to pay for the war.  Those who loaned money to the western farmers, viewed the repayment of debts as guarantying property rights.

On January 25th, the rebel army of almost 2,000 men advanced on the armory through deep winter snow drifts, urged on by Shays and the other leaders. Most had guns, but some just pitchforks or clubs.  They planned to divide up and institute a three-pronged assault on the Springfield arsenal. 

The defending artillery under the direction of General Lincoln, fired first over their heads to frighten them to lay down their arms and surrender.  The western men kept coming, so he ordered a second warning shot over their heads.  Still the angry mob advanced. The militia then fired grapeshot at the insurgents.  Four were killed and dozens more wounded.

Shays Rebellion attacks the Springfield Massachusetts Armory
Shays Rebellion attacks the Springfield Massachusetts Armory

Shocked by the death and bloodshed, the farmers retreated.  The battle for the arsenal and Shays Rebellion was over in an hour. Lincoln sent troops up the Connecticut River to prevent further advances. Most of the insurgents dispersed and returned to their farms. Shays, his wife, and other leaders fled to Vermont to escape arrest.

The Boston legislature then passed the Disqualification Act, banning rebels from serving on juries, holding public office, or voting for three years. While the rebellion disintegrated quickly, the underlying anger that propelled such action remained. The debtors’ discontent was still widespread across the state.  Similar protests and actions started popping up on a smaller scale in Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania!

Shays Rebellion alarmed Founding Fathers like George Washington, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton.  A government not strong enough to maintain order amongst it own people was too weak to maintain liberty. Washington remarked that it threatened the Union. “If any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making, I should have thought him fit for a mad house,”

While Governor Bowdoin succeeded in crushing the Shays Rebellion, he was voted out of office in the next election. Thirteen Shaysites were rounded up, tried for treason, and sentenced to death. Some rebels were publicly paraded past the gallows – before their ultimate release. The new governor, John Hancock, pardoned them all. The new legislature placed a moratorium on debts and cut taxes, easing the burden the rebels were struggling to overcome.

Daniel Shays was never captured, but eventually received a pardon as well the following year. He moved to Sparta, New York, where his legend made him a local celebrity. He died decades later in 1825.  Shays is memorialized by the Daniel Shays Highway in western Massachusetts, a section of Route 202, built in 1935, that runs through his home town of Pelham.

This high level of popular resistance in other states worried many in Founding Fathers. Shays Rebellion shined a light on the discontent lurking just beneath the surface of the new U.S. It showed that their new government, under the Articles of Confederation, could barely put down an internal insurrection. The central government didn’t have the means to act fast enough to protect the union.

National leaders felt compelled to act to put an end to such populist actions that broke the rule of law. Shays Rebellion provided fuel to Alexander Hamilton and other Federalists who advocated for a stronger federal government. Nationalists used the rebellion to heighten fear of internal rebellions amongst the people.   George Washington was convinced enough to come out of retirement and take part in the process. 

If Shays Rebellion somehow sounds familiar, we need only look back on the 2020 Election. A mob of angry election deniers, urged on by their leaders, defied their own government, and police authority. They violently stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup to change results of a national election.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS

The Pacific Clipper WWII Around-the-World Flight

Pam Am Clipper taking off from port
Pam Am Clipper taking off from port

In late 1941, the crew of the Pan American “Pacific Clipper” (Boeing 314 flying boat) made a historic, emergency flight around the world just to get home. Never heard of it?  That’s not surprising.  Its record setting flight was both due to, and overshadowed by, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that same month.  The entire world was now at war and not paying much attention to a single flight, no matter how incredible. 

The B-314 was a luxurious, four prop, flying boat capable of long flights across oceans.  Its passengers were all First Class elite entrepreneurs, notable politicians, and wealthy travelers.  The flying boats even had a separate dining area and lounge.  The galleys were staffed with four-star chefs. White-coated stewards served six-course meals on china, crystal and silver. Like overnight trains, the seats were converted to bunk beds.

There were only 12 Boeing Clippers in existence. The seaplane was one of the largest ever to fly, 106 ft. long, with a wingspan of 152 ft.  It carried up to 36 passengers and 11 crew. The aircraft had enough fuel to island hop from San Francisco to Australia. The Pacific Clipper’s captain was Robert Ford, a Pam Am pilot based in San Francisco, along with the crew.

Ford was a veteran pilot, one of the company’s best aviators.  He had flown this trip many times.  The Clipper’s trans-Pacific flight west to Auckland, New Zealand started out uneventful.  Pan Am flight 18602 left San Francisco on December 1st, with stops at Los Angeles, then Pearl Harbor, Hawaii three days later.  Those passengers going on across the Pacific Ocean boarded the plane for New Zealand.

Three days after leaving Hawaii, the Pacific Clipper was preparing to land in Auckland harbor, New Zealand.  The flying boat was carrying just 12 passengers on this leg and a crew of ten. The plane had stopped off for fuel at Canton Island, Fiji, then Noumea, New Caledonia.  They were on the final leg of their journey.  It was now December 7, 1941.

Radio Operator John Poindexter was listening for local signals coming out of Auckland when he’d picked up shocking news. “Holy smokes! The Japs have attacked Pearl Harbor!” He read the message out – Pearl Harbor has been attacked by Japanese war planes and suffered heavy losses.

Captain Ford ordered him to try and get confirmation.  Poindexter managed to lock onto the long-range signal from the Pan Am ground station at New Caledonia, where they had just departed. The station was broadcasting Morse code on a constant loop.  PEARL HARBOR ATTACKED. IMPLEMENT PLAN A.

Plan A?  What the heck was Plan A? the crew wondered. Then Ford reached into his jacket pocket and pulling out a sealed brown envelope. He was the only member of the crew who knew what Plan A meant. He broke open the envelopes that he, and every Clipper Captain, had been secretly issued that month.

To: Captain, PAA Flight 6039/6040. From: Division Manager, Pacific Division. Subject: Pan American Airways, in cooperation with the US Army, Pacific Fleet Operations, has agreed to place its flying boats at the disposal of the military for whatever tactical purpose they deem necessary, at such time as hostilities break out between the U.S. and Imperial Japan. You may assume that hostilities have occurred.  The aircraft under your command represents a strategic military resource which must be protected and secured from falling into enemy hands.   

Ford, a former Navy pilot, immediately sensed the danger they were in and the need to avoid the Japanese at all costs.  He briefed his stunned crew and the implication sunk in. The Japanese now controlled the Pacific so their return route back to San Francisco was now cut off. Ford ordered radio silence and the extinguishing of all lights. 

After landing in Auckland, the crew and passengers learned the grim details of the Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.  Worse still, all across the Pacific, Pan Am facilities came under assault by the Japanese: Wake Island, Manila, and Hong Kong.  Captain Ford and his crew were faced with a dilemma. How in the hell were they going to get home?

Word finally came on December 15 from Pan Am headquarters in New York.  In order to avoid the enemy, they were to make it back to the U.S. westbound, the long way, around the world. It was a daunting order. The trip would be a 30,000 mile journey, over oceans and countries that none of them had ever flown through.  They’d have to do their own servicing, scrounging for fuel, supplies and equipment.  All without flight plans, navigational charts or weather forecasts.  

The Pacific Clipper took off on December 16th and headed west for Australia. Ford had ordered Fourth Officer John Steers to remove the American flag painted on the nose of the flying boat.  Besides their crew of 10, three Pan Am employees were on board: a meteorologist, an airport manager, and a radio operator. 

Pam Am Clipper loading passengers at dock
Pam Am Clipper loading passengers at dock

Hours later, they put down in Gladstone, north of Brisbane on the Coral Sea. Their first leg of many was complete.  Captain Ford had no idea how they were going to pay for everything they’d need. A young banker heard of their plight and approached Ford out of the blue. He’d gone to his bank and withdrew $500 cash, which he handed over to a stunned Ford. That $500 would finance the entire trip back.

The very next day, they flew northwest to Darwin, flying over the Queensland desert. During the entire flight, the crew didn’t see a river big enough to set down their big B-314 should anything go wrong. Flying over land in a flying boat was unnerving for the crew. Any emergency would force them to belly land the airplane onto the desert. After they had landed in Darwin harbor, the garrison commander offered Ford’s crew a surprising place to shower … in an Australian Army brothel!

Then the crew set about refueling their big airplane. The gas was unfortunately stored in 5 gallon cans, so each one had to be hauled up over the wing and emptied.  It was past midnight when they were finished. They managed to grab a few hours of fitful sleep before takeoff in the morning.  Ford was anxious to be under way.

Their next landing was Surabaya, Java in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).  The flight continued under radio silence. They had no way of knowing if the Japanese advancement had reached that far.  The crew flew 2,253 km (1,400 miles) over the Timor Sea and reached sight of the city on December 18.  If all went well, Ford intended to stop only for fuel, as they were now nearer the war zone.

Port Darwin was to have telegrammed Surabaya of their coming, but never did.  The city was guarded by a British garrison with a squadron of fighters. As the Clipper approached the harbor, a patrolling British RAF fighter got on its tail. Then four more fighters were scrambled. The crew tensed as the fighters drew in closer, checking them out. At last, the British controller granted permission to land, with a caveat, “If they do anything suspicious, shoot them out of the sky!”

Pam Am Captain Bob Ford , Pacific Clipper pilot
Pam Am Captain Bob Ford , Pacific Clipper pilot

As they neared the harbor, Captain Ford could see it was filled with British warships, so he set the Clipper down in the smooth water just outside the harbor entrance. The suspicious pilots followed them the entire way. A speedboat came out to their position, but stopped short.  They were instructed by bullhorn to follow them closely behind to a mooring as the harbor had already been mined!

They were detained while the Dutch authorities contacted their headquarters for orders.  While the crew waited, they received an unwelcome surprise.  They’d not be able to refuel with 100 octane aviation gas.  With a war now on, it was reserved for the military. There was plenty of automobile gas on site however.  Ford was welcome to buy however much he needed. The captain had little choice.

The Pacific Clipper took off early on December 21 as soon as their release was approved. Their next target was Trincomalee, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The 4 powerful engines spit and popped while running on low octane fuel, but they managed to reach their cruising altitude. They flew northwest, paralleling the coast of Sumatra. They had no aviation charts for this part of the world; only the coordinates of their destination.  

With remarkable precision, navigator Roderick Brown found the island and the city.  As they neared the port, suddenly, floating on the sea right in front of them was a Japanese submarine! They could see the crew running about for the deck gun.  Ford jammed the throttles forward and the engines complained. Their speed soon had them well out of range, and the crew heaved a sigh of relief.

The B-314 finally touched water in the harbor at Trincomalee. The British Forces stationed there were anxious to hear what Ford and his crew had to report from the war zone to the east, so the crew was immediately summoned to a meeting with the garrison commander.

Boeing B-314 Clipper at port in harbor
Boeing B-314 Clipper at port in harbor

The Pacific Clipper stayed there until Christmas Eve, December 24 while they checked over the engines.  Once refueled, they departed for Karachi, India (now Pakistan). An hour after takeoff, they heard a shocking bang as the number 3 engine sputtered. As they peered through the windows, the crew could see black oil gushing back over the wing. Ford had no choice but to turn the plane around and head back to Trincomalee. 

The engine repairs took the rest of Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day.   It was not how they were hoping to spend their Christmas. Repairs were made by ‘Swede’ Rothe and ‘Jocko’ Parish, the Clipper’s flight engineers.   Finally, early in the morning of December 26th, they took off from Ceylon a second time. All day they flew across the lush Indian subcontinent, then cut across the Arabian Sea to land in Karachi.

After refueling and a night’s rest, the Pacific Clipper left for Bahrain, in the Persian Gulf, on the eastern shore of Arabia. Once again, the Brits would only sell them their automobile fuel, and Captain Ford had no choice but to take it. They took off and flew west across the Gulf of Oman toward Arabia. After just a bit over eight hours of flying, they landed in Bahrain.

They had intended to fly straight west across the Arabian peninsula and the Red Sea into Africa.  But they were warned by the British authorities not to fly across Arabia as their loyalty in the new war was unclear.  They had little choice however.  They headed west straight across Saudi Arabia.

They flew for several hours before there was a break in the clouds, and realized they weren’t smack over Mecca! Looking below, they could see Arabs pouring out of mosques at the sound of their four loud engines. One of the officers likened it to kicking an angry ant hill. Thankfully, the Arabs didn’t possess any anti-aircraft guns.

The Pacific Clipper crossed the Red Sea and hit the coast of Africa in the early afternoon. The land below was yellow-brown, with nothing but rocky outcrops and rolling sand dunes. The only sign of habitation was small clusters of men herding livestock, who stared up at the strange loud bird overhead. The crew prayed for the continued good health of their four engines. Should they have to make an emergency desert landing, they’d be in dire straits indeed.

Late in the afternoon, they approached the Nile River, and Ford turned the ship to follow it downriver to Khartoum. They landed safely in the river, and after they moored, the crew went ashore to be greeted by more RAF officers. Their navigator’s plan was to continue southwest to Leopoldville (Kinshasa), in the Belgian Congo, then begin their South Atlantic crossing there. They had no desire to set out due west across the dangerous and waterless Sahara.

Ford wanted to refuel quickly, but he received a vital military affairs message from the Brits.  He was to wait for 3 VIP passengers to be taken to the U.S.  They sat there for two frustrating days.  The VIPs were the publisher of a Chicago newspaper, his wife and her sister. However, the aircraft flying them from Cairo had to make a forced landing. When the passengers didn’t show, Capt. Ford was allowed to leave without them.

One of the Pacific Clipper’s engines then blew off an exhaust stack, which made it not only noisy, but a potential fire hazard. Over the engineer recommendation, they did not turn back. This was to be a particularly long overland flight, and they wanted to leave plenty of daylight for the arrival. They would be landing on the Congo River at Leopoldville. 

Flight deck of the Boeing Clipper
Flight deck of the Boeing Clipper

The endless desert of the Sudan gave way to lush green hills. They flew over native villages, and great herds of wildebeest, who stampeded in panic as the Pacific Clipper roared overhead. The grassland soon turned to dense jungle. Finally, they saw a large river ahead, much wider than anything they had crossed. It had to be the mighty Congo. They turned and followed the river downstream.

Late in the afternoon, they raised the Congolese capital of Leopoldville and obtained permission to land.  Ford set the huge Boeing down gently onto the river, and immediately felt the strength of the current. He powered the ship engines into the mooring. When the crew finally stepped ashore, it was like stepping into a sauna. The heat was more oppressive than anything they had encountered so far.

A pleasant surprise awaited them however, when a Pan American Airport Manager met them at the dock with cold beers. With no exhaust parts available, Captain Ford decided to take the risk and continue. He ordered a full load of more than 5,100 gallons of aviation fuel to make the long crossing of the South Atlantic to Natal, Brazil. After a night ashore, the takeoff would be risky in the humid heat.

Just beyond the town, they were told the Congo changed from a flat river into a cataract of rushing rapids and rocks. Ford held the engines at full takeoff power on their four, 14-cylinder engines.  The crew held their breath while the airplane gathered speed. The heat, humidity, and weight of their fuel all worked against them. Just before they would have entered the rapids, the hull lifted free.

Just beyond the cataracts they entered a steep gorge. The Pacific Clipper slowly clawed for every inch of altitude. At last, they were clear of the walls, and Captain Ford pulled the throttles back. The crew sighed in unison. He then turned the giant seaplane west toward the South Atlantic. In spite of their fatigue, the crew were excitedly optimistic.

The Pacific Clipper flew 5,766 kilometers (3,583 miles) westward to Natal, Brazil.  The flight was completed in 23.5 hours, the longest nonstop flight by any Pan Am aircraft. The interior of the airplane that had been their home for so many days was beginning to wear thin. They were sick of the endless hours of apprehension  and frustration. They just wanted to get home.

After being airborne nearly a day, they landed without incident in the harbor at Natal just before noon. While they were waiting for the immigration formalities, the Brazilian authorities insisted that the entire crew disembark.  They had to wait while the interior of their airplane was fumigated for yellow fever by two men in rubber suits and masks.

Pam Am Clipper on approach to landing
Pam Am Clipper on approach to landing

Regardless, they were finally in their own hemisphere and anxious to get home.  They only stayed at Natal four hours, gassing up and finally replacing the exhaust stack that had blown off at Khartoum. They left Natal on January 3 and headed north for Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The new exhaust stack blew off again during the take-off, so their one engine roared again, all the way to Trinidad.

They followed the Brazilian coast and the sun set as they crossed the mouth of the Amazon, nearly a hundred miles wide.  It was then the crew made an unpleasant discovery inside. Most of their personal papers and money were missing, obviously stolen by the Brazilian fumigators.  There was little they could do. Finally at 6 AM the following morning, they landed at Trinidad. There was a Pan Am station at Port of Spain, and they happily shook some friendly hands.

The Pacific Clipper made the final leg from the balmy Caribbean to freezing New York City in 13 hours.  It was a few minutes before 6 a.m. and still very dark on January 6, 1942.  The control tower at New York’s LaGuardia Airport received an unusual radio message: “Pan Am Pacific Clipper, inbound from Auckland, New Zealand. Capt. Ford reporting. Due to arrive Marine Air Terminal LaGuardia in 7 minutes.”

There was no flight plan for a flying boat to arrive at that time—certainly not one from New Zealand. Was this a joke? Could it be a German crew flying an American plane?  Since it was still dark, no one could spot the plane from the tower. Pan Am officials rushed in.  Night landings were forbidden in the bay, so the Clipper had to circle for an hour, waiting for sunrise.

The giant Boeing B-314 and its exhausted crew finally landed at 7:12 a.m., in the shadow of Manhattan skyscrapers. It had completing the longest continuous—and most unusual— flight of a commercial aircraft, all during the early days of WWII. 

The crew and passengers, were unprepared for the cold January weather. The water splashed up on the sea wings and froze into a solid, icy glaze.  No matter — the Pacific Clipper had made it home.  Once the flying boat was moored, the crew and passengers emerged.  Dressed in summer clothing, they clutched wool blankets to ward off the frigid air.  They could care less as they were finally back in the U.S.   

Everyone was questioned by shocked military intelligence officers.  Afterwards, they learned from Pan Am officials that their trusty Pacific Clipper was being transferred to the Atlantic division and serve the U.S. Navy there, and would not return to San Francisco. The crew would have to board a train home.

Pan Am decided to give the flight as much publicity as possible. The New York World newspaper described the flight as the “greatest achievement in the history of aviation since the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk.” Pan Am boasted, It was a test of ingenuity, self-reliance, and resourcefulness.

Capt. Bob Ford’s post-flight report praised his fellow crew members. He pointed out that The credit for success of the whole operation should be given to the crew, handling practically every demand that can arise in the course of long flights. When it came to pilots, navigators, meteorologists, communications, mechanics, we had experts.

The flight of the Pacific Clipper took one month and four days in all. It was the first round-the-world flight by a commercial airliner, the longest continuous flight (3,583 miles from Africa to Brazil), and the first equatorial circumnavigation (they crossed the Equator 4 times.) The Pacific Clipper touched five of world’s seven continents, three oceans and made 18 stops under 12 different nations.

And it had flown more than 6,000 of its miles over desert and jungle. They had proceeded under a radio blackout through the war zones. The crew never knew with any certainty whether they’d be able to get fuel and supplies at any of the stops. The flight was made without adequate navigation charts over unfamiliar territory and without weather reports or knowledge of its water landing sites.

After this historic flight, the Pacific Clipper was assigned to the U.S. Navy for the rest of World War II as a troop carrier. When the war ended, the aircraft was sold to Universal Airlines who sadly salvaged it after the plane was severely damaged flying in a storm in 1946.  Soon after, commercial jet planes would replace these luxurious, prop-engine flying boats and the golden age of passenger air travel would never be the same.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS

Napoleon’s Failed Invasion of Russia

Napoleon's French Troops freezing in the Russian Winter on 1812
Napoleon’s French Troops freezing in the Russian Winter on 1812

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was without a doubt one of the most brilliant leaders in history.  Nevertheless, his Invasion of Russia in 1812 was one of the worst military disasters ever undertaken.  Much like Adolf Hitler’s failed attempt over a century later, it would be a turning point in his ultimate downfall and the defeat of his country in war. So how did things go so terribly wrong for Napoleon and the French Army?

Following the French Revolution, Napoleon took power over the new French Republic in 1799 as First Consul.  In 1804, he was elected Emperor by referendum and crowned himself and his wife, Josephine, in Notre Dame Cathedral.  He then won a string of brilliant military victories in the subsequent Wars of Coalition against Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Spain.  France annexed Belgium and Holland, along with large swathes of Italy and Prussia.  He set up satellite dependencies in Spain and Poland. After 5 coalition wars, Austria, Prussia and Russia had been browbeaten by Napoleon into becoming his allies.

In 1806, Napoleon attacked Britain economically by instituting a strict trade embargo by nearly all of Europe known as “The Continental System.” But by the beginning of 1811, Russian Czar Alexander I had stopped complying and was instead trading with France’s sworn enemy, Britain!  The embargo was having a harmful effect on Russian trade and its own economy. Czar Alexander had also imposed a heavy tax on French products in order to raise revenue.  Finally, he rebuffed Napoleon’s desire that he marry one of his sisters.  Tensions escalated and every attempt to negotiate failed.

Napoleon had created the Duchy of Warsaw from Prussian lands. Czar Alexander worried it would incite Polish nationalism against his empire.  The Russian army started to concentrate its military forces on the border. Napoleon went to the Russian ambassador in Paris, and harshly rebuked him: You know it’s easy to start a war, but it’s very difficult to finish one.Napoleon had never considered Russia a  threat.  But now, he decided to teach Czar Alexander a lesson. He would invade Russia first.

Preparations began in January 1811. Napoleon gathered together his Grande Armée, consisting of roughly 650,000 soldiers including Frenchmen and conscripted Austrians, Poles and Prussians. Then he moved them all into Poland, along Russia’s border.  The French forces were far greater than anything that Europe had ever seen. It was truly a European army, comprising mixed languages and cultures, the most diverse since the Crusades. ALL decisions were made by Napoleon himself, with implementation delegated to his officers.

Emperor Napoleon presented the invasion to the French people in grand terms. Its noble goal was to the destroy the Russian threat to Europe. They must be punished for leaving the French continental blockade and daring to side with their enemy Britain. He’d simply flood enough men east to quickly force the Russians to engage in battle, overwhelming and defeating them. Napoleon fully expected the Czar to surrender in 20 days after the first major battle.

French Emperor Napoleon and Russian Czar Alexander
French Emperor Napoleon and Russian Czar Alexander

Ignoring the advice of his closest advisors, in June the army crossed the Niemen River into Russian territory. They would fight approximately 200,000 soldiers on the Russian side. Napoleon’s goal was to win a quick victory that forced Czar Alexander to the negotiating table.

Instead, the Russian army pulled back! They let the Grande Armée capture the city of Vilna in a week with barely a fight. Napoleon remained confident. I have come once and for all to finish off these barbarians of the North.  They must be pushed back into their ice, so that they no longer come to busy themselves with the affairs of civilized Europe.”

In July, the Russian army similarly withdrew and abandoned Vitebsk. They set fire to military storehouses and bridges as they left. In August, they retreated as well from Smolensk, and torched the city to the ground. Peasant farmers were ordered to burn their crops to prevent them from falling into the hands of French troops. This “SCORCHED EARTH” tactic was incredibly effective in denying the French army a food source. The summer had also become oppressively hot.  The Grande Armée soldiers were coming down with deadly diseases like typhus and cholera.

Napoleon’s troops trudged along regardless, deeper into Russia’s vast territory. Tje Emperor had hoped to defeat his enemy quickly, but the Russians would not give battle.  He had an army twice the size of the Russia, but it did not matter.  The Russians continued to retreat, drawing him deeper and deeper into Russia. Companies of Cossacks would ride in to hack at Napoleon’s rear and flanks, then gallop away into the hills. 

The Grande Armée soldiers fell out from sickness, exhaustion, and finally mass desertion — more than 5,000 a day. After two months, 150,000 soldiers were out of action without a single battle fought. A lot of the foreign troops just abandoned their lines. They weren’t Frenchmen, after all, and weren’t loyal to Napoleon. They were fighting simply because their kings had ordered them too.

In September, the Russians finally made a stand at the Battle of Borodino, just 75 miles from Moscow. Moscow, the holy city of Russia, was now at stake. The soldiers of the Czar finally stood their ground and prepared for battle. They chanted, “‘Tis the will of God! Tis the will of God!” They were prepared to die for Russia.

Napoleon threw his entire army at the Russians lines in a massive frontal assault. It was a wild attack for the usually strategic leader, and it was horrific. The Grande Armée and Russians pounded each other with artillery. Then they launched charges and countercharges.  The battle began at 6:30 in the morning and lasted until 3 in the afternoon. The Russians managed to fight the French army to a standstill. The losses on both sides were enormous, with at least 70,000 combined casualties.

Rather than fighting a second day, the Russians withdrew again and left Moscow to the French. Napoleon could finally declare a victory! He found Moscow mostly abandoned, emptied by the Russian army, and burning.  He said of it, “Mountains of red, rolling flames, like immense waves of the sea. Oh, it was the most grand, the most sublime, and the most terrifying sight the world ever beheld.” Napoleon gained a strategic city, but at a very high cost.   Then he waited … but still the Czar refused to negotiate a treaty. 

Now finally Napoleon finally realized the error of his ways.  The increasing cold ultimately forced the French to retreat from Moscow, less than a month after occupying it. They could NOT survive the winter there.  The Russian winter began to further decimate his Grande Armée. By October, Napoleon was down to some 150,000 troops, the rest having died in battle, wounded and left behind in Moscow, or simply deserted.

They could not take a planned southerly retreat to quicker warmth. His troops were forced further north by the Russian army at Maloyaroslavets.  When the Grande Armée arrived at back at Smolensk, they found that stragglers had eaten the food supplies they had left there. Their horses were freezing to death and dying in droves, only to be eaten by the desperate starving troops.  There was near constant desertion and attrition. Napoleon finally realized his invasion was an unmistakable disaster.  He ordered a full, humiliating retreat back to Poland.

By November, the Russian winter had set in with sub-zero temperatures, high winds, and waves of deep snow. On the worst nights, thousands of soldiers would succumb to exposure. Desperate men split open dead animals and crawled inside for warmth.  Or they stacked the dead bodies of their comrades in windows for insulation.  In December, Napoleon was told rumors of a coup attempt back in Paris. He left the army under the command of Joachim Murat and sped for France.

French Emperor Napoleon and Russian Czar Alexander
Napoleon and his Grande Armee retreating from the Invasion of Russia in 1812.

Napoleon’s aura of invincibility was finally shattered and his vulnerability exposed to all of Europe. His reluctant allies, Prussia and Austria, quickly abandoned him. In Paris, a conspiracy led by the General Malet threatened to overthrow him, as he had spread news of Napoleon’s death in Russia.

In early 1813, Prussia broke from its alliance with Napoleon and joined Russia against him. Northern Germany rose against him as well. Austria then broke with the French alliance. France was forced to evacuate Madrid. Emboldened by the defeat, Austria, Prussia and Sweden joined Russia and Great Britain in the fight against Napoleon Bonaparte. The time of a year, all Europe was now united against Napoleon.

Although he still had his old expertise and daring, Napoleon’s cause was lost. The ‘Battle of the Nations’ at Leipzig in October 1813 was the end. Napoleon lost and retreated from the Germany states. Britain’s Duke of Wellington was advancing north through Spain, so France was now forced to fight on two fronts. The Allies crossed the Rhine in January 1814 and Italy abandoned him as well. Napoleon stubbornly refused all offers of treaties.

French generals surrendered Paris to Wellington and the Allies in March. Emperor Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally in April 1814. His wife and family was placed in the custody of Emperor Francis I in Vienna, Austria. Louis XVIII became king of a France, with its border restored to pre-Napoleonic frontiers.

The Treaty of Paris, which restored France to its 1792 borders, was surprisingly mild. Instead of carving up France amongst themselves, the monarchs of Europe wanted a stable, royal France to return. The clear winner was Britain.  With its dominance of the seas, global colonial empire, and industrial economy, the British Empire emerged on top of Europe and the world for the next 100 years.

Napoleon’s 1812 Invasion of Russia has become a synonymous with autocratic overreaching power, or if you prefer a cliché, biting off more than you can chew. Like Charles XII of Sweden before him in 1707, and Adolf Hitler in the 1940’s, Napoleon Bonaparte faced deadly failure in the vast frozen expanse of the Russian Empire.

In 1815, Napoleon managed to escape exile and seized control of a still loyal French Army.  He made one more attempt to take power, but it would last only 100 days.  He was overcome by British, Dutch and Prussian troops, led by the Duke of Wellington, at the famous Battle of Waterloo in Belgium.  He abdicated again and this time was exiled by the British to the island of Saint Helene off the southwestern coast of Africa.  He died there alone and frustrated six years later in 1821 of a stomach ulcer … at the age of only 51.

As with the Nazi’s attempt a century later, Napoleon was doomed from the start. He was logistically incapable of succeeding before his troops took one step into Russia. Napoleon believed, like Hitler later, that defeated Russian generals would surrender, seeking an immediate truce. Czar Alexander, like Josef Stalin later, denied them any surrender. They instead withdrew into Russia’s vast territory. In a desperate attempt to win, both the French and Nazis marched deeper and deeper into enemy territory.  Until the brutal Russian winter arrived.

Napoleon’s, and later Hitler’s, invasion of Russia symbolizes what happens when one autocratic leader avoids the advice of his own generals and launches a war outside its abilities to succeed. If we could only LEARN from the lessons of the past. Then perhaps we could have avoided subsequent wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. History is nothing if not an excellent teacher. The wars waged against today’s threats will not be short incursions into weak enemies. They will rather be sustained and costly conflicts incurring thousands civilian casualties. 

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS.

The Birth Pains of Israel – 75 Years Ago

The Israeli Defense Force raises the new flag of Israel in 1949
The Israeli Defense Force raises the new flag of Israel in 1949

Israel as a nation has only existed since 1948, less than a hundred years.  It was created by the United Nations in the aftermath of World War II. The Jewish kingdom of Israel has been around since Biblical Old Testament times.  But it vanished from history for centuries under Roman, Persian and Ottoman rule.  So how did the current Israeli nation finally come about?  And why, following it birth pains, has it barely had a day of peace since?

The roots go back to World War I Between 1517 and 1917, Palestine was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which stretched from Africa, through the Middle East, to Turkey. Jews gradually migrated into Europe and eventually around the world.  During the Empire’s decline, Palestine was a sparsely populated, barren region with Jerusalem the only major city. The “Zionist” movement began to emerge in early twentieth century Europe. It was caused by growing European nationalism, rampant antisemitism and even violence against Jews. The Zionists desire was to return the Jewish people to a sovereign state in Palestine.  This fostered Jews immigrating back to Israel.

In 1917, at the height of World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour submitted The Balfour Declaration, to the British Jewish community.  It supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. At the end of World War I, the 400-year-old Ottoman Empire was defeated. Its vast lands in the Middle East were split up and given to the victorious Allies (Britain and France).  They carved the empire up into new nations for the Arabs: Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, drawing straight lines on a map

Under the World War I 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, the League of Nations gave Palestine to the British government. Britain’s Mandate was to implement the Balfour Declaration, to establish a national homeland in Palestine for the Jews. Even before the declaration, European Jews had begun to purchase land and resettle in Palestine. Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour Declaration, fearing that a Jewish homeland would subjugate the Arab Palestinians.

In July 1922, the British divided Palestine into two administrative districts with Jews in the west side of the Jordan River and Arabs in the east side.  The Jewish population grew over the next 20 years to around 600,000 by World War II. Of course, Palestinian Arabs had already been living there for generations. While Jewish immigration continued, the nationalism of Palestinian Arabs also emerged. They aspire to their own Independence in the same land. Violent clashes were inevitable. As just one example, both Jews and Muslims consider the city of Jerusalem sacred to their religions.

The British authorities were constantly challenged by Zionist demands for Jewish self-government, and the Arab nationalists rejecting the Jewish presence. Jewish-Arab violence began, including attacks on British personnel. The 1939 British “White Paper” stated that Palestine would be neither a Jewish or Arab state. It would rather be a combined independent state. It also limited Jewish immigration to just 75,000 for the next five years. Restrictions were also placed on how much land Jews could buy. It remained in effect for the next 10 years.

As World War II brewed, many Jews living in Europe feared persecution under Hitler’s Nazi regime. They left and sought refuge in Palestine, and even embraced Zionism. Those that did not leave in time, tragically faced Nazi Concentration Camps and the gas chambers. After the Jewish Holocaust and World War II ended, members of the Zionist movement focused on creating an independent Jewish state once and for all.

In 1946, Britain partitioned the region and created an independent Palestine-Arab state in the eastern half – Jordan. Then in 1947, Britain announced its intention to terminate its governance of Palestine.  The UN General Assembly stepped in and appointed a special committee to come up with a solution. The committee recommended two states, Jewish and Arab, to be joined economically, with Jerusalem under international rule. In November 1947, the UN General Assembly instead voted on a partition plan, adopted by a two-thirds majority of nations.

The day the British Mandate over Palestine ended, Israel as an independent state was officially declared in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948.  The new nation received its old Biblical name of Israel rather than the old Roman name of Palestine. The leader of the World Zionist Organization, David Ben-Gurion, became the first Prime Minister. He read the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel at the Tel Aviv Museum. 

David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister

The neighboring Arab countries all refused to accept that Israel was an independent state. Only a few hours after the Declaration, five Arab countries from the the new Arab League, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq, attacked Israel in an attempt to eliminate the new Jewish state. In addition, Palestinians within Israel rose up against the Jews.

The newly formed Israeli Defense Force (IDF) managed to prevail after fifteen months of war. In 1949, the conflict came to an end. During the Arab-Israeli War, about 650,000 Palestinian Arabs fled the land. Israel signed a suspension of arms with Egypt (not a peace treaty). A cease-fire also followed with Lebanon, as well as with Jordan. Syria was the last country to lay down its arms. They continued to refuse to acknowledge the Jewish State. The UN, US and USSR on the contrary, did.  The new Israeli parliament, the Knesset, met for the first time in 1949.

Violent clashes between Israelis and Arabs, often escalating to war, have continued ever since. Much of the conflict has centered around who is occupying the Gaza Strip, between Israel and Egypt, the Golan Heights, between Israel and Syria, and the West Bank, between Israel and Jordan. A half dozen more full scale wars have ensued since then, including the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), the Lebanon War (1982), and the Gaza War (2006).

Key territories are claimed by both group Jews and Palestinians, and both cite Jerusalem as their capital.  While Israel doesn’t recognize Palestine as a state, more than 135 UN member nations do. Meanwhile, Israel has encouraged the growth of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.  The Palestinians remain divided between the semi-autonomous Gaza Strip and West Bank regions.  Arab militant groups have emerged over time, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas.  

Since 1948, Israel’s population has grown tenfold. Today there are about 8.5 million Israelis; 75% of them Jews. Several countries including the U.S. and U.N. have attempted to negotiate peace agreements over the decades since 1949, with limited success. Many have suggested a two-state solution, but acknowledge that Israelis and Palestinians are unlikely to agree on one any time soon.  Most Arab and Muslim states continue to deny Israel’s right to exist.

Two Middle Eastern states have signed peace agreements with Israel—Egypt (in 1979) negotiated by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and Jordan (in 1994) negotiated by Bill Clinton. They demonstrate that peace is possible … with dogged persistence, and strict nonviolence.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS

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Podcast: Benito Mussolini and the Rise of Fascism

We hear a great deal from politicians these days about the growing dangers of Fascism, or even just Socialism.  Political leaders throw the terms about as if the two were the same. Democratic Socialism is practiced successfully today by nearly every European Union country.  But what about Fascism It got its start a decade BEFORE Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, under Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. 

Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, Il Duce
Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, “Il Duce
For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS

The 1791 Haitian Revolution by Black Slaves

Haitian Revolution
Haitian Black Slaves revolt against French control in 1791

The Haitian Revolution was the largest, most successful slave rebellion in the Western World. Black slaves initiated a rebellion in 1791 and by 1803, they’d ended not just slavery, but achieved independence over French colonial rule. Ironically, it was influenced by the French Revolution of 1789. This had brought forth new concepts of human rights, citizenship, and representation. In 1791, an organized slave rebellion broke out, marking the start of a 12-year revolution for freedom, lead by a former slave, Toussaint l’Overture. The Haitian Revolution is the only successful slave revolt in history. It established Haiti as the first, independent black state in the New World.  How did an island of enslaved people accomplish such a remarkable feat?

In the 1700’s, Haiti was still Saint-Domingue, France’s wealthiest colony.  It generated more revenue for France than ALL the British American colonies did for England.  Saint-Domingue furnished two-thirds of France’s overseas trade, employing 1,000 ships. The colony was France’s richest, the envy of every other European nation.  All this wealth came from the island’s sugar, coffee, and cotton plantations, all grown by slaves. France transported 773,000 African slave to Saint-Domingue. French slave owners worked African slaves as brutally as in the Americas. So Saint-Domingue was fertile ground for an angry slave rebellion.

Several hundred freed slaves had joined French soldiers in the American Revolutionary War.  They returned to Saint-Domingue disillusioned by their treatment from white French officers. The French Revolution was also crucially important. The Declaration of the Rights of Man, was passed by the National Assembly in France in 1789. It stated, “In the eyes of the law, all citizens are equal.” When news of the Declaration reached the colonies, it brought new hope to the black slaves. Meanwhile, plantation owners ignored it, and continued to exploit the slaves for profit.  They did so at their own risk.

There were four ‘players’ in the Haitian Revolution. 1) The white French planters— the grand blancs, who owned the plantations and the slaves.  2) The petit blancs, who were the shop keepers, craftspeople and teachers. The whites numbered just 40,000 and they began to support independence from France.  Like the Americans, they did not have representation in France. Despite their calls for independence, they remained committed to slavery.  3) The freed slaves, numbering around 30,000, were half mulattos (mixed black-white race).  4) Finally, there were the half a million African slaves, outnumbering the whites 10 to 1.

The new General Assembly in Paris had enacted legislation which gave their colonies some autonomy. The legislation was radical compared to life under King Louis XVI. Saint-Domingue’s wealthy planter class felt the autonomy applied only to them. The legislation, meant to appease Saint-Domingue, instead generated a three-sided dispute between the planters, the petit blancs, and the free blacks.  All three would be challenged, however, by the black slave majority, which was also inspired by events in Paris. 

Toussaint l'Ouverture, Father of Haiti
Toussaint l’Ouverture, Father of Haiti

They found him in a former slave Toussaint l’Ouverture.  Toussaint was born a slave, baptized Catholic and grew up on a plantation, working in the stables as a coachman.  When the owner died, his son granted l’Ouverture his freedom.  As a free black, he now worked as an employee, learned to read and write, and eventually bought a small farm and prospered.  By 1791, he was in his forties and also inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. l’Ouverture secretly joined other black rebel leaders in the north.  He became secretary and lieutenant to the rebellion’s leader, Georges Biassou.

Under their leadership, the slaves acted first, rising up by the thousands and rebelling against the white planters in August 1791. The northern settlements were hit first on the Plaine du Nord.  The flood of rebel slaves that overwhelmed them revealed both their organization and their military strength. Plantation houses were burnt to the ground and white owners murdered and mutilated. Over 900 plantations were overrun by their numbers, increasing with each raid towards 100,000 motivated slaves.

By 1792, they controlled a third of the island, but the conflict would last another 11 years. L’Ouverture now led a line of posts between rebel and colonial territory. Despite reinforcements from France, the rebel territory grew, as did the bloodshed. But the creole unity against slavery bound the blacks together and sustained the rebellion. After the rebels initial success, the port of Le Cap (Cap-Haitien) fell into the hands of French republican forces. l’Ouverture and thousands of blacks responded by preventing their advance inland.  Battles would continue for another year, with the rebels slowly beating back the French forces. 

l’Ouverture was a charismatic leader who both motivated and inspired. He made his famous declaration at Camp Turel in the mountains, to all the black population of Saint-Domingue: Brothers and friends, I am Toussaint Louverture. I have undertaken Vengeance. I want Liberty and Equality to reign in St. Domingue. I am working to make that happen. Unite yourselves to us, Brothers and fight with us for the same cause.”  On the same day, the beleaguered French governor, Léger-Félicité Sonthonax, emancipated all Haitian slaves and abolished slavery in Saint-Domingue!

The former slaves managed to stave off not only the French forces, but also the British and Spanish.  The British arrived in the fall of 1793, hoping to conquer a French colony in turmoil and claim the rich island for themselves.  They particularly wanted to reinstate slavery to set an example to their own slave colonies in the Caribbean.  Spain controlled the eastern portion of Hispaniola island and was at war with France.  The British and Spanish supplied the rebels with food, ammunition, arms, medicine, and even military advisors.  l’Ouverture was happy to accept their assistance.

In June of 1794, a larger British force landed with allied Spanish ships to attack the French. But the British forces soon fell victim to yellow fever, the dreaded ‘black vomit’ with 5,000 soldiers perishing. Realizing the Spanish intended to reinstate slavery, Toussaint turned on his allies and pledged his support to the French republicans. Together they drove the Spanish forces out of Saint-Domingue. 

In June 1796, the British attempted another “Great Push” to take Saint-Domingue once and for all. They took control of Port-au-Prince, but once again, the black vomit decimated their ranks.  l’Ouverture’s forces repelled any attempt to invade the northern or southern provinces, shocking the disciplined British military with his slave army.  Britain withdrew for good in 1798.   With the British gone, l’Ouverture had to briefly deal with a civil war of his freed slaves against the Haitian mulattos, until he could regain total control and reunite the people.

Haitian slave army fights British invaders in 1796
Haitian slave army fights British invaders in 1796

By 1801, l’Ouverture took his revolution beyond Haiti, conquering the neighboring Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (present-day Dominican Republic).  He freed the slaves and abolished slavery there as well, then declared himself Governor-General over the entire island of Hispaniola. Toussaint now was the head of a semi-independent San Domingo.  [Haitian control of Santo Domingo would last until 1844.]

He sent his brother-in-law, General Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc with 43,000 French troops to restore French rule, capture Toussaint, AND re-establish slavery. The French forces arrived in February 1802.  By that year, the Haitian Revolution had outlasted the French Revolution. l’Ouverture met with his general, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to plan their defense.  All the French assaults failed and the rainy season brought back yellow fever, decimating the French ranks much like the British.

Then wind was suddenly knocked out of the proud Haitian sails.  Under the pretense of negotiations, Leclerc tricked L’Ouverture into meeting.  He was instead arrested as a revolutionary. Without trial, Leclerc shipped him away to a prison across the Atlantic Ocean in France.  Leclerc caught yellow fever, like most of his men, and died later that year. 

The struggle for independence managed to continue. By late 1803, Jean-Jacques Dessalines united the north and south provinces and attacked the French army. Now led by Leclerc’s replacement, the Vicomte de Rochambeau, the French were finally defeated at the Battle of Vertieres. On January 1804, Dessalines declared the nation independent and renamed it Hayti, after the indigenous name for the island. France grudgingly recognized its independence.

Hayti became the first black republic in the world, and the second nation in the west (after the U.S.) to win its independence from a colonial master. But not without a great cost. Before the fighting was all ended, 100,000 of the 500,000 black population and 24,000 of the 40,000 whites were dead.

Dessalines, L’Ouverture’s general and a former slave himself, proclaimed himself Emperor of Hayti to mock Napoleon.  He was assassinated two years later in 1806 and a civil war ensued on the island.  Nevertheless, the rebel slaves had shattered the enslaved French colony and forged the free nation of Hayti. What became of Toussaint l’Ouverture? After writing his memoir in jail, he died in the French prison from pneumonia in April 1803, 7 months before the Battle of Vertieres. He was only 59. 

During both the rebellion and revolution from 1791 to 1803, wealthy white planters fled to the French colony of Louisiana in North America. They took their slaves with them and spread horror stories of the Haitian Revolution. Their vivid tales emboldened American plantation slaveowners that they could not make any concessions to enslaved people.  Given the chance, they feared their slaves would revolt against them as well.  It was one of the reasons America slavery would last until 1863.

Haiti has since suffered through a series of autocratic rulers, corruption, gang riots, earthquakes, poverty and even a 19-year U.S. occupation from 1915-1934.  None of that however can take away from the hard-fought Haitian Revolution, and Haiti’s historical place in the world as the first, black independent republic.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS.

The Secret World War II Bretton Woods Conference

Mount Washington Hotel, Breton Woods, New Hampshire
Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Not all the major battles in World War II were in Europe or the Pacific.  Some involved intense negotiations between the Allied nations – negotiations on what the post-war world would look like economically. The most significant was the secret Bretton Woods Conference of 1944.  It was a gathering of delegates from 44 nations from around the world.  They met in July in remote Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in the U.S.  Just a month earlier D-Day, the Allied Invasion of Normandy had taken place.  The Nazis were finally starting to retreat from France after 4 years of brutal occupation. In the Pacific, the Allies were slowly island-hopping towards Imperial Japan.

It was time to make plans for what the world would look like once Hitler and Hirohito were defeated. At Bretton Woods, representatives would agree upon desperately-needed international financial rules for the post-war era. Their two chief accomplishments would change the world’s finances for decades.  They created both the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank.  No small feat for 44 nations at one secret, 3-week long conference. Think about such a global compromise ever being reached today. So how did it come about?

There were some serious lessons learned by world leaders from the years between World War I and WWII, in particular, the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed that free trade would promote both international prosperity AND peace. The policies adopted by governments to combat the Great Depression of the 1930’s – high tariffs, competitive currencies, restrictive trading policies – created an unstable international atmosphere that only worsened the situation.

This bad experience led the leaders of the 1940’s to realize that economic cooperation, not competition, was the way to achieve both prosperity AND peace. The US and UK saw the opportunity for a new international system that would draw on those lessons and provide for postwar reconstruction. They wanted a new system that would avoid the rigid global economy, but also address the lack of cooperation between countries. It would be an unprecedented cooperative effort.

The Atlantic Charter, issued by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Atlantic Conference in 1941, was the spark for the Bretton Conference.  They expressed a commitment to economic collaboration between ALL nations. Washington and London agreed to begin talks aimed at achieving these international economic goals.  From 1942 to 1944, international financial experts held dozens of multilateral meetings in order to agree upon a common approach.

Three long years of planning and meetings preceded Bretton Woods and laid the foundation for the conference’s success.  The initial proposals were greatly influenced by the early plans of the US and UK.  But other countries also presented proposals containing their own vision for an international economy. A preliminary meeting was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey in June 1944.

It convened on July 1, 1944.  730 Delegates descended upon the secluded Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, including dozens of translators. The massive Mount Washington Hotel was a luxury retreat for the wealthy from the city heat of summer. As the meeting was secret, the entire hotel was booked.  The owners were paid $300,000 for the loss of business and promised a daily room rate of $18 per person. 

The Bretton Woods delegates envisioned an international monetary system that would ensure stable exchange rates, prevent competitive devaluations, and promote economic growth. Although everyone agreed on those lofty goals, plans to implement them differed greatly. To reach a joint agreement would have been an impossible task were it not for those 3 years of painstaking preparation.

Their purpose was simple but daunting – to agree on a system of economic order and international cooperation.  One that would both help European and Pacific countries recover from the war’s devastation AND foster long-term global financial growth. The success or failure of Bretton Woods was largely dependent on the British-American negotiators.

US Harry White (left) and UK John Keynes (right) at Bretton Woods
US Harry White (left) and UK John Keynes (right) at Bretton Woods

The British representative was the prominent economist and advisor to the British Treasury John Maynard Keynes. The U.S. representative was Harry Dexter White, the chief international economist at the Treasury Department.  They would become the primary designers of the new system. Given U.S. military dominance during the war, White was able to exercise a powerful influence.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau served as conference president. The conference was divided into 3 commissions. Harry White chaired Commission I to to deal with the monetary fund. John Keynes chaired Commission II to deal with the world bank. Commission III dealt with international financial cooperation and was chaired by Eduardo Suárez, Mexico’s Minister of Finance.  Each commission had a number of committees and subcommittees.

He was acutely concerned about the global postwar economy. Keynes called for the creation of a large institution with the resources and authority to step in when global imbalances occur. He proposed a global central bank called the Clearing Union. This bank would issue a new international currency, the “bancor,” which would be used to settle international imbalances.

White’s plan was one of more limited powers and resources. He proposed a new monetary institution called the Stabilization Fund. Rather than issue a new currency, it would be funded with a finite pool of currencies and gold that would effectively limit the supply of reserve credit. Keynes wanted unlimited access to the fund. White wanted the rights to draw on the fund to be linked to contributions.           

The Bretton Woods Conference attempted to resolve these dueling conflicts. The disadvantages of either floating or fixed exchange rates were avoided by ‘pegging‘ each currency against gold. Dollars were fixed in value against gold and were the only currency directly convertible into gold. (So not long after WWII, the dollar became the dominant world currency.)

The Bretton Conference delegation of 44 nations, 1944
The Bretton Conference delegation of 44 nations, 1944

After three weeks of intense discussion, negotiation and compromise, the conference ended on July 22, 1944.  The delegates signed the Final Act of the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference.  The final plan mostly resembled the White plan, with concessions made to the Keynes plan.  The 730 delegates agreed to establish two new institutions. It included a charter outlining both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Articles of Agreement for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).

The IMF would monitor a system of exchange rates centered on the U.S. dollar and gold, lend reserve currencies to nations with deficits and contribute to the expansion of world trade. The IBRD was to be responsible for providing financial assistance for the reconstruction of war-ravaged nations and the economic development of less developed countries.

A year later, in July 1945, the U.S. Congress passed the Bretton Woods Agreements Act, authorizing U.S. entry into the IMF and IBRD. World War II ended that same summer. The IMF and IBRD Articles of Agreement were ratified six month later in December 1945, when representatives from 21 countries met in Washington, D.C. to become the IMF’s and World Bank’s first members.

In 1958, the Bretton Woods System became fully functional as global currencies became convertible. Countries settled international balances in dollars, and U.S. dollars were convertible to gold. The United States had the responsibility of keeping the price of gold fixed and had to adjust the supply of dollars to maintain confidence in gold.

The Soviet Union had signed the Bretton Woods Final Act. But after WWII, as the Cold War began to bubble, Premier Josef Stalin decided not to ratify it, stating that the Intl. Monetary Fund and World Bank were simply “branches of American Wall Street. The USSR never joined the IMF and IBRD, though interestingly its successor, the Russian Federation, did in 1992.

So there you have it, the foundations of our current globally-dependent economy were laid by 44 nations at a secret conference in New Hampshire at the close of World War II.

For more by historical author Paul Andrews, click BOOKS.

The Exotic and Unreachable Timbuktu

Depiction of Timbuktu during the Golden Age
Depiction of Timbuktu during the Golden Age

The name “Timbuktu” in popular culture usually refers to some remote, far-away place.  “Crikey, you live way out in Timbuktu!”  For others, it may conjure up exotic images of a desert oasis full of camels, palm trees, and turbans.  Timbuktu is actually a city in west Africa, located in the center of the nation of Mali.  It lies within the southern edge of the vast Sahara Desert about 20 km north of the Niger River. It even looks like a desert outpost, with most mosques and structures built of sand-brown adobe.

For centuries, Timbuktu, was a bustling center of trade, wealth, culture and learning during the “Golden Age of Islam.”  It was larger than London in the 14th century.  Today, it is a sad shadow of its former self.  With few modern buildings, a non-existent tourist trade, and no major industry, it is slowly crumbling away, becoming a part of the Saharan sands itself.    

Due to its strategic location at the southern edge of the Saharan Desert, and the northern edge of the Niger River delta, Timbuktu used to be a key desert trading city.  When Islam came to the local Tuareg people, the desert tribes expanded the religion via trading posts like Timbuktu.  The Tuaregs built the first mosque, the Sankoré Mosque, in 1100 AD.  All the West African and Saharan kingdoms traded heavily there. It also became a key link between Arab Muslims and West African Muslims.

The Mali Empire came to power in the 13th century on the Niger River, then grew in prestige and influence.  The empire became a hub of trade, learning, culture, and mosques. Malian King Mansu Mousa annexed the city of Timbuktu in 1324.  Almost overnight, Timbuktu transformed from a trading post into a center of commerce and scholarship.  Caravans exchanged salt, gold, ivory and slaves.  Powerful West African and Islamic tribes traveled from across Africa to trade, learn, and foster alliances. 

While Europe struggled through the Dark Ages and the Black Plague, the Mali Empire thrived. Mansa Mousa invited Islamic scholars to Timbuktu and together built the Djinguereber Mosque. In the 15th century, when Tuareg king Akil Akamalwa came to power, he then built the great Sidi Yahya mosque, all rivalling those in Cairo. 

By the 15th century, Timbuktu was in its own “Golden Age” as one of the world’s great centers of learning, much like the former Alexandria in Egypt. In Timbuktu, vast collections of books symbolized wealth, power, and blessings from Allah. Hundreds of scholars studied at the nearly 200 maktabs (Quranic schools).  The 3 great mosques were centers of learning, not just Islamic law but also geography, mathematics, and astronomy.   

Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuctoo.”

Malian proverb

The Mali Empire was replaced in the 15th century by the Songhai Empire. Askia Muhammad, reigned from 1492 to 1528 and continued the Islamic learning tradition in Timbuktu.   All that glory and prestige changed when Morocco’s Saadian dynasty invaded the empire. They seized control of Timbuktu in 1591. Much of the city’s centers of learning were destroyed in the raid and many important manuscripts were lost. Under Moroccan control, the city began its long, slow decline.

It had built up a reputation as a kind of African El Dorado, a city of gold, hidden somewhere deep in the sun-baked Sahara.  European explorers began making the dangerous trek into Africa, searching for this legendary city. Those who came inland from the western coast often died of malaria and other tropical diseases on the muddy Niger River.  Those who dared to cross the scorching sands of the Sahara faced death by dehydration, starvation, and marauding Tuareg warriors.

English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson even composed a lyric poem Timbuctoo, which only fueled the romantic image of the city. He wrote: “Wide Africa … is the rumour of thy Timbuctoo, a dream as frail as that of ancient Time?

Scottish explorer Gordon Laing was the first European to make it to Timbuktu in 1826.  But he did not live to tell the tale back in Edinburgh.  Desert marauders attacked his caravan and murdered him.  Frenchman René -Auguste Caillié was the first explorer to reach Timbuktu two years later in 1828 and survive the trek. After crossing the Sahara, he brought tales of his adventure back to Europe, but by then Timbuktu was already in its decline.

“I have been to Timbuktu!” he excitedly told the French consul in Tangier.  But after all the tales of gilded minarets and palaces bursting with gold, Caillie was deeply disappointed.

The city presented, at first view, nothing but a mass of buildings built of earth. I found it to be neither as large nor as dense as I expected; it is considerably less grand than its reputation.  One doesn’t see a great rush of foreigners coming and going. I was surprised by the inertia that reigned in the city. In a word, everything exuded the greatest sadness.”

Rene-Auguste Caillie

Timbuktu took a further step downward when French colonial troops invaded West Africa later that century.  Timbuktu became a formal part of the colony of French Sudan in 1891.  Much of Timbuktu’s culture was sadly looted and taken back to France.  Some European tourists did come to Mali, to get a sepia photo of themselves riding camels at Timbuktu’s gates or visiting the famous mosques. 

Meanwhile Timbuktu’s Tuaregs, the blue-robed desert marauders, inspired Hollywood films like Beau Geste about the French Foreign Legion.  After World War II, the French government, under Charles de Gaulle, granted the colony autonomy, then its freedom, creating the democratic Republic of Mali in 1960.

And what about contemporary times in Timbuktu? Regrettably, climate change has caused severe droughts for Mali in the 1980s and 1990s, nearly depleting Timbuktu’s water supplies. The Saharan sands began encroaching upon the ancient city, nature slowly reclaiming its property. 

Compared to their ancestors, these modern raiders swapped camels for 4 x 4s, and swords for AK-47s. They threatened the cultural heritage of Mali by burning thousands of ancient manuscripts. They destroyed anything perceived as forbidden to their extreme brand of Islam, including its century-old manuscripts.  Prior to the Tuareg coup, the country was viewed as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies.

Timbuktu's Djinguereber Mosque
Timbuktu’s Djinguereber Mosque

A small team of Islamic scholars was able to rescue over 350,000 brittle manuscripts from 45 different libraries in and around Timbuktu and get them to the Mali capital.  Some were hidden for generations in desert caves by Malians to keep them from Moroccan invaders, and then French colonialists, and and now Tuareg rebels. They managed to save a written history as old as the European Renaissance, an anthology from science and medicine, to history and politics.

With the Islamic rebels, some preaching strict Sharia, now in control of Timbuktu, tourists may not be returning any time soon. Most Western embassies have advisories against any travel to Timbuktu.  Most hotels are empty or closed. France sent in troops to help the Mali government, but withdrew them after a recent military-led coup in 2021.

Today, Timbuktu sadly struggles with poverty and the consequences of the Tuareg rebellion. At this point, it is uncertain whether climate and/or military unrest will lead to Timbuktu’s ultimate doom. All that would be left behind is its mythical image as the famed crossroads of the Sahara. In an ironic way, it has again become a legendary, remote, unreachable city.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click on BOOKS 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a Living Saint to the Poor

Mother Teresa and the poor children of Calcutta
Mother Teresa and the poor children of Calcutta

Most people remember Mother Teresa as a tiny, frail, Catholic nun in a white habit; her weathered face lined with deep creases.  She was always seen tending to the poor, sick and dying in India, or other Third World countries, usually with an impossibly warm smile on her face.  But there was so much more to this determined, faith-driven woman than just that singular image. 

Did you know she started the Missionaries of Charity order in Calcutta/Kolkata in 1948?  By the time she died in 1997, there were nearly 4,000 sisters in 610 missions in 123 countries around the world – not to mention the orphanages, schools and hospitals she started. This is quite the accomplishment for a soft-spoken, 5 foot tall nun. So who exactly was she?

Mother Teresa was born Gonxha (Agnes) Bojaxhiu in 1910 in Skopje (Uskub), Albania, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. She was the youngest of three surviving children born to Nikola and Drane Bojaxhiu.  For a time, the family lived comfortably, her father owning a thriving construction business. But life changed drastically when her father died suddenly when Agnes was just eight. 

From a young age, Agnes was intrigued with the stories of foreign missionaries who served abroad.  By the time she was 12, she told her mother she’d decided to commit herself to a life of religion. At the age of 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Dublin Ireland, with the intention of becoming a foreign missionary.

In 1928, Agnes said goodbye to her family and started an amazing missionary journey that would last the rest of her life.  Later that year, she left for India as a novitiate for her first assignment, arriving in Calcutta in 1929. She was assigned to the Loreto Entally community. Two years later, Agnes made her first vows and took the name Sister Teresa after St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.  She taught history and geography at St. Mary’s secondary school for girls.  She learned Bengali and other Hindi dialects in order to communicate with her students. In 1937, Sister Teresa made her Final Vows and was thereafter called Mother Teresa.

She continued teaching at St. Mary’s and in 1944, after 15 years in India, became the school’s headmistress. She loved all her students and her time in Loreto was happy. But she could not ignore or escape the realities all around her—the Calcutta slums, poverty, suffering, sick, hungry and destitute.

She was on a train to Darjeeling for a retreat in the Himalayan foothills.  In her compartment, Mother Teresa received her inspiration, what she referred to as “a call within a call.”  For her, the message from God was clear.  He was sorrowful at the neglect of the poor. “Come be My light.” She was to leave the school and convent, leave her students and sisters.  Instead, Mother Teresa was to help the poor, while living amongst them.  She would serve Christ by following Him into the slums.  She would succeed by radiating His love.  She was just 36, and it would become the driving force for the rest of her life.

Mother Teresa returned and asked the archbishop to establish a new religious community of charitable missionaries, dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor.  To prepare herself, Mother Teresa took a nursing course while she waited for an answer.

After nearly two years of discernment by the Vatican, Mother Teresa finally received permission to begin her mission. She gave away all of her personal possessions in order to live like the poor she would serve. In 1948, she dressed for the first time, not in a nun’s black habit, but rather a white, blue-bordered cotton sari and sandals. She left the gates of her beloved Loreto convent to enter the slums.

Mother Teresa found temporary lodging in Calcutta with The Little Sisters of the Poor. She started each day with rosary in hand and went out into the slums, to find Jesus in “the unwanted, the unloved, and the uncared for.” She visited poor families, washed the sores of children, cared for old men lying sick on the street and nursed those dying of disease.

Dressed like an ordinary, poor Indian woman, she began to get to know her neighbors—the poor and sick—and getting to know their needs. Driven by compassion and a strong sense of duty, Mother Teresa began to teach those she encountered how to care for themselves and others with illness. In 1950, the new Missionaries of Charity was officially established in the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

After some months, volunteers came to join her, some of them former students, some fellow sisters.  They became the core of the Missionaries of Charity.  She convinced the well-off to donate food, clothing, supplies, and the use of buildings. Mother Teresa’s work was not easy. The streets were deplorable and the poor had no way out of their situations.  So the sisters taught them skills like tailoring, soap-making, basket-weaving, and candle-making, so they could earn money themselves.

As the order expanded, services were offered to orphans, abandoned children, addicts, and the aged. In 1952, the city gave Mother Teresa a former hostel, which she converted to a home for the dying and the destitute. The hospice cared for people suffering from cholera, leprosy and tuberculosis who were too poor to afford medical treatment. She cared for many with her own hands. After only a few years, they opened an orphanage and a number of schools throughout Calcutta, all run by sisters and volunteers working under her guidance.

Christ is in the poor we meet, Christ is in the smile we give, and in the smile that we receive back.”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Some nationalist politicians began to complain that Mother Teresa’s work had an ulterior motive – to convert the Indian people to Christianity in order serve the Roman Catholic Church.  They said she was less interested in helping the poor than in using them to expand Catholic beliefs.  The government complained that her hospitals for the poor were dangerous as they lacked proper medical staffing, drugs and equipment.  An ironic statement considering that without her, the poor would have no medical intervention at all.

Then in 1965, Pope Paul VI encouraged her to open a mission half way around the world in Venezuela. It was soon followed by a mission in Tanzania and, eventually, on every continent. Starting in 1980 and continuing for the next two decades, the Missionaries of Charity opened missions in most Communist countries, including the former Soviet Union and Cuba.  During the Cold War, she was criticized for this by some political leaders in the West. 

She was also disparaged that she did little to end poverty.  To this she replied, “Ending poverty is a task for governments to solve.  Today, we shall feed the hungry.” For the next four decades, Mother Teresa worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor. Her energy knew no bounds as she crisscrossed the globe, pleading for support and inviting others toSee the face of Jesus in the poorest of the poor.”

All this is not to say that Mother Teresa never has a crisis of confidence, like any other human being. Behind her ever present smile, all her work for the poor never seemed to end.  Writing to her contemporaries, she once said, “For me, the dryness and darkness is so great, that I look and do not see God – Listen and do not hear Him – my tongue moves in prayer, but does not speak.”

In order to respond better to the global needs of poverty, Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in 1963 and in 1984, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. She also formed the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, for people of other faiths and nationalities who she shared in her spirit of humble works of love toward the poor.

She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 at the age of 69, honoring her work with the poor. Rather than have the traditional Nobel honor banquet, she asked that the money be donated to the poor of India. She accepted the Nobel “for the glory of God, and in the name of the poor,” and used the opportunity to speak out about protecting the unborn. Increasingly, the media began to following her like a celebrity.

She received numerous other awards for her charity work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Ronald Reagan.  Millions in donations began to pour in and some politicians questioned how much of that went to the poor vs. administration of the now global Missionaries of Charity.  Mother Teresa took the criticism in stride. She said her labor reflected the love of Jesus and bore witness to the dignity of every human person, no matter their circumstance.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

During the last years of her life, despite increasing health problems, Mother Teresa continued to run her Missions and respond to the needs of the global poor. She had a heart attack in Rome in 1983, while she visiting Pope John Paul II. Following a second heart attack in 1989, she received a pacemaker.

By 1997, her health was failing, but her success undeniable. Her sisters numbered nearly 4,000 and had established 610 missions in 123 countries. She blessed her elected successor and then made one more trip abroad to meet with Pope John Paul II for the last time.  She returned to Calcutta and spent her final weeks receiving visitors.

Mother Teresa died of heart failure that year at the age of 87. She was given a state funeral by the Indian Government.  Among those present were hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, the order she founded in 1948. Her body was buried in the Mother House of the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. Her tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage and prayer for people of all faiths.

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes that Mother Teresa performed two miracles during her lifetime when she cured one Indian woman and one Brazilian man of their cancerous tumors. Less than two years after her death, Pope John Paul II permitted her Cause of Canonization, the first step in becoming a Catholic saint. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003, and canonized by Pope Francis in 2016 as Saint Mother Teresa.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa left a legacy of unshakable faith, irrepressible energy and extraordinary charity. At the time of her death, she ran foreign missions including homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens; family counseling programs; clinics, orphanages and schools.  She may be remembered not just for her ministry to the poor, but her ministry to people of the world. Those people who perhaps had experienced some absence of God in their lives, and in seeking an answer, were inspired by her smile and selflessness.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click on BOOKS.

The Lost, Banned Books of the Bible

Example of a Biblical Scroll
Biblical Scroll

Most every Christian throughout the world is familiar with the English King James version of the Holy Bible. Most believe, or have been taught, that it is contains the ONLY books of the Old and New Testament ever written. But in fact, it contains only the church approved books by the Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox faiths. There are in fact other banned books of the Bible, written in the early years of Christianity. They never made the cut for the New Testament by the Catholic Church, or subsequent Orthodox or Protestant religions. Few people today know they even exist.

First, let’s briefly look at the Old Testament differences based on religion. The word Bible, comes from the Greek biblia, which means “scroll.” After the death of Jesus of Nazareth, 46 books of the Hebrew Bible [or Tanakh] became known as the Old Testament; and the writings of Jesus’ disciples, the New Testament [27 books]. The Protestant Bible contains 7 less books in their Old Testament, excluding Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Sirach, Wisdom, and 1 & 2 Maccabees The Orthodox Bible contains 7 more books in their Old Testament compared to the Catholic, including Manaseh, 1 & 2 Esdras, 3 & 4 Maccabees, Odes, and Psalm 151.

The New Testaments books were likely written in Kione Greek in the first century AD. None of the original scrolls exist, so the exact timing of their creation or who exactly authored them, despite the Gospel names, are not known for certain. Any scroll remnants remaining today are written copies of the originals.

Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire when Emperor Constantine converted in 313 AD. The list of books to be included in the canon of the Catholic Bible was started by the Council of Rome in 382 AD. It was a synod of bishops lead by Pope Damascus, under the blessing of then Emperor Theodosius. It was finalized after 15 years of intense discussion in 397 AD. They decided on the four Gospels – Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, written in that order, roughly between 70 and 100 AD. It also included 23 other books, following Peter, Paul, John and other apostles as they spread Christianity across the Mediterranean and the Roman Empire.

  1. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas – believed to be written by Jesus’ brother in the second century in the Syriac language. It relates the childhood of Jesus from age 5 to 12, not included in the other Gospels, including various early miracles he performed. The early church considered it spurious and heretical fiction.
  2. The Infancy Gospel of James – written in Greek in the second century, it covers in greater detail the Immaculate Conception, through the Nativity in Bethlehem and the visitation of the Magi. It states Mary remained a virgin her entire life and depicts Joseph as an elderly widower with prior children.
  3. Gnostic Gospel of Thomas – written in Coptic in the first or second century, and discovered in 1945. Believed to be written by the apostle Thomas, it is not a narrative like the other Gospels, but rather a collection of Jesus’ sayings, parables and dialogues, and does not mention the crucifixion or resurrection.
  4. Gospel of Peter – supposed written by Saint Peter in the second century and discovered in 1886 in Egypt. It describes in greater detail the Passion of Jesus, including Herod sentencing Jesus to crucifixion, not Pilate, and the resurrection. It was rejected by the 4th century church as apocryphal.
  5. Gnostic Gospel of Philip – written in the 3rd century, too late to be by the apostle Philip, and rediscovered in 1945. It relates a closer relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, implying they may even have been married, depending on the translation. Rejected for obvious reasons.
  6. Gospel of Mary – written in Coptic in the second century and rediscovered in 1896. Exactly which Mary wrote it is up for debate, with scholars believing it was Mary Magdalene. It depicts, in greater detail, the events following the resurrection. It was rejected as women were not allowed to be preachers.
  7. Gnostic Gospel of Judas – written in the second century, not by Judas but rather early Christians, about his relationship with Jesus. It states Jesus instructed Judas to betray him in order for him to die for man’s sins; and other gnostic teachings that did not match the canon of the 4 included Gospels.
  8. Gospel of Nicodemus – supposedly written in Hebrew by the disciple of Jesus. It relates Jesus’ trial with Pilate in greater detail as well as the resurrection. It names, for example, the two criminals executed with Jesus, Dismas & Gestas. It was deemed apocryphal by the 4th century church and not included.
Example of a Biblical Scroll
Cover of the King James Bible

The Great Schism of 1054 occurred when the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches officially separated. The Orthodox Church however, continued to use the same 27 books of the New Testament that the Catholic Bible does. In 1455 German Johannes Gutenberg invented a revolutionary new printing press with movable type. This allowed him to print over a hundred of his Latin Gutenberg Bibles to be sold throughout all of Europe. Prior to that, Bibles were slowly and painstakingly hand written.

The Protestant Reformation was initiated by German Martin Luther in the year 1517. The Protestant religions that resulted continued to use the same 27 books of the New Testament that the Catholic Bible does. Though 7 Old Testament books were excluded from the Protestant Bible – Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch.

The King James Bible was an English language version commissioned by English King James I in 1604. It was to use ‘contemporary’ English, rather than Latin, which few could read other than clergy. This is the Bible that most Christians have paper copies of in their home today. The Bible itself has actually been banned in some atheist, Communist or Islamic nations over time. In the 21st century, the Bible was digitized and is now easily available via the internet or Apps on most of the phones in our pockets.

So the “Lost” Banned Books of the Bible were never actually lost. The early Catholic church leaders purposely excluded them from the New Testament for various reasons in the 4th century, a decision that has lasted ever since.

For more by historical writer Paul Andrews, click BOOKS.