The Thirteen Hundred Eighty Nine Year War

During an interview regarding the recent suicide attack on Kabul airport, a former Navy SEAL quipped that no one making military decisions for the United States seems to have read a history book. Lack of knowledge, he implied, is partly why America is suffering a humiliating and unconscionable defeat in Afghanistan.

Here, then, is a short skeletal history of Muslim-Christian relations beginning with Islam’s founding in 622 AD by Muhammad, an Arab military leader intent on unifying the Arab world and conquering the rest. The lessons learned might put us on the right path forward.

Muhammad died in 632 and, soon thereafter, his followers began Muslim military advances into the Christian Levant. In your mind’s eye, if you can picture the Mediterranean Sea on your left, the landmass to its right – Syria, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and part of Turkey—is known as the Levant, which means the place where the sun rises. A great trading center in ancient and medieval times, conquering the Levant was the Muslims’ first great conquest over the Christian Greeks at the Battle of Yarmuk, in 636, only four years after Muhammad’s death. Jerusalem surrendered in 638.

Islam pushed on vigorously after this battle, sweeping over North Africa, uniting Arab countries, and setting its sights on conquering Constantinople, the Greek capital. Today, Constantinople is known as Istanbul and is part of Turkey. In 717, however, at what is known as the Siege of Constantinople, 80,000 Muslim troops and 1,880 galleys laid siege to the city. Possessing the equivalent of napalm, a fire that is very difficult to put out, the Greeks set fire to the galleys and after a year of siege and attack without success, Muslim forces retreated.

This Christian victory is thought to have slowed Muslim conquest of Europe but Islam penetrated Europe by crossing the Gibraltar Strait into Spain. Not content, in 732, Muslim forces moved north into what is now France. At this time France, western Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands were part of the Frankish Empire, led by Charles Martel, or Charles the Hammer, and his victory over the Muslim attack at the Battle of Tours, in France, is credited with reversing Islam’s spread in Europe. Christianity, not fully established in Western Europe at this time, began to unify Western Civilization around the Roman Catholic Church.

here is one of the great moments of history. Were it not for Charles Martel, Europe would have been swept up in the advance of Islam instead of the advance of Christianity. One of the differences is Christianity’s mental openness to science and intellectual inquiry – hence the rise of the great universities of Europe and Europe’s eventual influence on America.

The story does not end here. The struggle continued back and forth for another 1,289 years. Muslim Turks defeated the Christian Greeks at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Greeks had re-conquered the Levant in the 1100s but lost again at the Battle of Hattin in 1187. Back and forth it went. Muslim victories – then Christian victories – finally ending at the Siege of Acre in 1291 when the last of the Crusader influence was dispelled from the Holy Lands and the Hospitallers moved to Cyprus and Rhodes, where they held out until 1523.

Islam had conquered Spain. Islam had conquered the Holy Lands. Islam had conquered the Levant.

Islam laid siege to the Greek capital, Constantinople, which surrendered in 1453. That surrender marks the end of the Roman Empire and a victory for the Muslim Ottomans.

Painstakingly, Western Civilization began to fight back. Spain was re-conquered at the Battle of Navas de Tolosa in 1212. A fleet of the Holy League, mostly from Spain and Venice, fought the last rowing naval battle at Lepanto, in 1571, routing the Muslims. Finally, in 1683, the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Holy Roman Empire fought it out literally at the gates of Vienna. The Ottoman defeat there meant that Islam ceased to be a menace to the West, especially with the Ottoman Empire’s and caliphate’s final dissolution on March 23, 1924, after World War I.

America was colonized by Christian Europe, specifically Protestant Christian Europe, beginning in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. Americans take for granted the intense battle for humanity’s mind that this history represents. The notion of natural individual rights through a Creator; the notion of the development of the person (male or female); the notion of personal Liberty; the notion of people as a reflection of the divine—the undergirding of our way of life is the result of being on the Western side of this war.

We are now at the Battle of Afghanistan, 2021. Because our military and political leaders have not read a history book, they deem it a 20-year war, but they are wrong. It is a thirteen-hundred-and-eighty-nine-year war that we will lose because we do not know we are in it.

The Navy SEAL was right. Our political and military leaders make decisions without a clue. We had a stable and neutralized position in Afghanistan, with very few troops, that served as a check on Islamic Jihad and the rise of an Islamic caliphate and harsh Sharia Law.

We do not need to be there to nation-build—something that anyone who knows history knows cannot be successful. We are there because Islam decided to attack the West once again in 2001. We are there to save Western Civilization. We cannot allow a humiliating defeat.

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How the College Board Mangles the Teaching of History

The College Board is a not-for-profit company that has a great deal of influence over American education. Its Scholastic Aptitude Test (the SAT) is the most widely used test for assessing the college readiness of students, and its many Advanced Placement exams allow students to show that they have learned subjects well enough not to have to take introductory college courses.

Predictably, the Board has succumbed to the general trend toward “political correctness,” or to use the word currently in fashion, “wokeness.” That is to say, the Board has revised its materials to fit in with leftist beliefs.

That is particularly true with regard to its three history exams: AP European History, AP U.S. History, and AP World History.

Those exams have been revised recently and in a new report on them entitled “Disfigured History: How the College Board Demolishes the Past,” David Randall puts them under a microscope. Randall, the director of research for the National Association of Scholars, concludes that each of the exams is deeply flawed in that their teaching of history is “grossly politicized to the left.”

Why does that matter? Because, Randall explains, most high school history teachers will teach to the AP tests, hoping to maximize the chances that their students will score well on them. For that reason, material that isn’t on the tests won’t be taught, and the material that is covered will be taught just as presented. So even if a teacher disagreed with the purported facts presented in the Board’s materials or thought that important people or events had been omitted, he probably would not change or add anything, even if his students would gain better historical comprehension.

Therefore, the College Board has a powerful impact. It molds the way history is taught and the way students understand history as they enter college. That would be good if history were taught well, but Randall shows that it isn’t.

The AP exams include numerous trivial facts that support leftist ideas about the supposed need for government to rectify social ills, while they leave out much that is crucial to understand how and why history unfolded as it did.

In particular, Randall notes, the exams “can scarcely bear to mention liberty.” That differences in the degree to which people were free of government control matters in respect to prosperity, progress, and science is not an idea that students would draw from the AP materials.

What students get instead are repeated doses of Marxist-based analysis about group power relations.

The European History exam is very weak on the intellectual history of liberalism (in the original sense of the word) that sparked the economic growth in the Dutch Republic, England, and France, and which is key to understanding the roots of the American Revolution against monarchial control. Nor do students get any sense of the role Europeans played in scientific breakthroughs that made life better for everyone. As Randall observes, the Board was at pains to avoid the appearance of that leftist hobgoblin, “Eurocentrism.”

The way the Board shades the material is also evident in the way it covers fascism and communism. Students learn that fascism was a bad development that “rejected democracy.” But the key point, Randall writes, ought to have been that fascism rejected liberty.

Moreover, the Board repeatedly finds euphemisms for the horrific violence that communist regimes inflicted on people. It uses the phrase “liquidation of the kulaks,” which won’t make much impact on most students, rather than explaining that Stalin’s government chose to starve millions to death and arrest others and send them to slave labor camps just because they owned farmland the government wanted for collective agriculture.

One more thing—the name Christopher Columbus never appears. Important as his discoveries were, the Board treats him as an unperson to appease leftist sensibilities.

The AP U.S. History exam suffers from the same flaws as the European history exam does. It avoids the important roles of liberty and religious faith but presents lots of tendentious Marxist economic and social theorizing. The importance of liberty and religion are omitted in the coverage of such crucial events as the Constitutional Convention, abolitionism, the women’s rights movement, and the civil rights movement.

Randall notes that with regard to the Constitutional Convention, students learn that the Founders insisted on a division of power within the government, but not why. The fact that the Founders feared that government power would become a threat to the liberty and property of American citizens unless it was kept limited by the Constitution never appears. Nor do students ever hear about liberty-based opposition to American expansionism, Prohibition, the New Deal, or other instances of growing governmental power.

The way the Board treats slavery is revealing. Here I’ll quote Randall at some length:

Particularly telling is APUSH’s odd description of the Gettysburg Address as articulating “the struggle against slavery as the fulfillment of America’s founding democratic ideals” – which peculiarly truncates a document whose most notable phrases include “a new nation, conceived in liberty” and “a new birth of freedom.” APUSH gives the distinct impression that the problem with slavery was that it rendered men unequal, not that it rendered men unfree.

But bad as are the European History and U.S. History exams, the World History one is worse.

The great flaw in that exam is its fevered efforts at “balance,” which is to say, avoiding any hint that Europeans, with their distinctive attachment to freedom, have had an outsized impact on the whole of the world.

At the same time, the Board’s treatment of world history downplays violence and policy blunders by non-European governments. It speaks of “Mongol expansion” rather than describing the brutality of Mongol conquests. And you’d be hard-pressed to find another euphemism to exceed the way the Board treats the mass starvation that followed Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”—“negative repercussions for the population.”

Annoyingly, throughout the World History materials, students read that non-European civilizations “demonstrated continuity, innovation, and diversity.” That phrase recurs numerous times. It exemplifies the way the exam is, Randall writes, “stuffed with pablum as a sop to radical world history teachers.”

The College Board has been under fire for years for the way it has been slanting its history exams. (Given the heavy politicization of its history exams, other AP exams almost certainly are also biased in favor of leftist beliefs; a detailed study of, say Environmental Science seems very much in order.) It has made corrections of egregious mistakes but does nothing about the general bias in them. For that reason, Randall is not optimistic about improvements.

“The Course and Exam Descriptions need to be redone from the ground up,” Randall concludes. “The work must be done by a new set of historians who are not subject to the biases that have made the current Course and Exam Descriptions so lamentably poor.”

I believe he’s right. The College Board has a near-monopoly on standardized academic assessments. It would be a good development if a competitor entered the scene.

George Leef is director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

What is the Meaning of New Year’s ?

The meaning of most holidays is clear: Valentine’s Day celebrates romance; July Fourth, independence; Thanksgiving, productivity; Christmas, good will toward men. The meaning of New Year’s Day–the world’s most celebrated holiday–is not so clear. On this day, many people remember last year’s achievements and failures and look forward to the promise of a new year, of a new beginning. But this celebration and reflection is the result of more than an accident of the calendar. New Year’s has a deeper significance. What is it?

On New Year’s Day, when the singing, fireworks and champagne toasts are over, many of us become more serious about life. We take stock and plan new courses of action to better our lives. This is best seen in one of the most popular customs and the key to the meaning of New Year’s: making resolutions.

On average each American makes 1.8 New Year’s resolutions. When the rest of the world is taken into account, the number of people making resolutions skyrockets to hundreds of millions. From New York to Paris to Sydney, interesting similarities arise as shown in two very common resolutions: people wanting to be more attractive by losing weight, and to be healthier by exercising more and smoking less. They want to do things better, become better people.

New Year’s Day is the most active-minded holiday, because it is the one where people evaluate their lives and plan and resolve to take action. One dramatic example of taking resolutions seriously is the old European custom of: “What one does on this day one will do for the rest of the year.” What unites this custom and the more common type of resolutions is that on the first day of the year people take their values more seriously.

Values are not only physical and external. They also can be psychological. Many New Year’s resolutions reveal that people want to better themselves by improving psychologically. For example, look at your own resolutions over the years. Haven’t they included such vows as: be more patient with your children, improve your self-esteem, be more emotionally open with your wife? Such resolutions express the moral ambitiousness of a person wanting to improve his self and life.

What then is the philosophic meaning of New Year’s resolutions? Every resolution you make on this day implies that you are in control of your self, that you are not a victim fated by circumstance, controlled by stars, owned by luck, but that you are an individual who can make choices to change your life. You can learn statistics, ask for that promotion, fight your shyness, search for that marriage partner. Your life is in your own hands.

But what is the purpose of making such goals and resolutions? Why bother? Making New Year’s resolutions (and doing so even after failing last year’s) stresses that people want to be happy. On New Year’s Day many people accept, often more implicitly than explicitly, that happiness comes from the achievement of values. That is why you resolve to be healthier, more ambitious, more confident. You want to enjoy that sense of purpose, accomplishment and pleasure that one feels when achieving values. It is happiness that is the motor and purpose of one’s life. It is New Year’s, more than any other day, that makes the attainment of happiness more real and possible. This is the meaning of New Year’s Day and why it is so psychologically important and significant to people throughout the world.

If people were to apply the value-achievement meaning of New Year’s Day explicitly and consistently 365 days each year, they would be happier.

So every day, fill your champagne glass of life to the brim with values–and drink deep to your life and the joy that it can and should be.

Happy New Year. Happy life.

Scott McConnell, Capitalism Magazine

The Many Uses of Frankincense and Myrrh

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.’ About 15 years ago, a colleague at Cambridge was returning from a visit to Yemen. The British customs officers asked him what he had bought, and he declared that his luggage contained frankincense and myrrh. ‘And gold as well, I suppose!’ came the ironic reply, and he was let through without further ado. Later, he gave me a brown paper bag filled with nuggets of myrrh, which I used to hand round at my lectures when talking about the history of the trade in perfumes and spices, inviting my audience to chew a piece of myrrh.

It may have done them some good. The label of an upmarket toothpaste will often reveal that it contains myrrh. Its medical benefits are said to extend to leprosy (suiting its biblical background), and it may kill off all sorts of bacteria and viruses, though whether it is widely used in the White House has not been revealed. But it has always been used mainly for its smell. Myrrh retains its perfume longer than any other aromatic. Both frankincense and myrrh are gum-resins that contain volatile oils. Three thousand years ago, their cultivation spread over large tracts of Eritrea and south Arabia, which were then wetter and more fertile than nowadays. One can wait for the trees to exude a sticky liquid, and collect that; or (if in a hurry) one can make incisions in the bark out of which oil will seep.

Frankincense and myrrh were the prestige products of the earliest trade routes to navigate down the Red Sea. The Pharaohs burned masses of myrrh before the Egyptian gods when they returned in triumph from war. Plenty of myrrh was used for embalming the dead, which might explain the acute interest of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut in sending a fleet of magnificent ships to acquire it along with lions, giraffes, ivory and other exotica a few years before she died in 1458 BC.

In the time of Jesus, the incense used in the Jewish Temple was very carefully mixed from a great variety of ingredients, beaten fine: 11 spices, including frankincense, myrrh, saffron, cinnamon and Cyprus wine. This was the time when Petra flourished; South Arabian incense traveled overland via Petra in the camel caravans of Nabatean myrrh traders. During the Middle Ages, massive cargoes of frankincense and myrrh were loaded on ships and taken all the way across the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea to the imperial court in China.

Modern myrrh may not be appreciated quite so much in Heaven. I bought a packet of incense cones made out of the two resins in England this summer — 15 cones for one pound. The packet promises me ‘spiritual enlightenment’ when I burn a cone, which I am doing as I write. Has that ever worked? An ancient Israelite altar, recently discovered in the Negev Desert, shows that its priests burned frankincense on one altar and cannabis on another. Maybe that altar kept them happy, but I don’t think frankincense or myrrh induced any trances.

David Abulafia

The Wisdom of Richard Henry Lee

THE recent explosion in the reach of federal government has made limits on federal power once again the central political issue. Unfortunately, ignorance of our founding severely impoverishes that discussion. A good example is Richard Henry Lee. Lee made the motion calling for the colonies’ independence. He was a leader in the Continental Congresses, including as president. He was elected senator from Virginia, despite opposing the Constitution’s ratification for lacking “a better bill of rights.”

Particularly important were Lee’s Letters from the Federal Farmer, an important impetus to the Bill of Rights. Today, when what the federal government is permitted to do is again central, his arguments merit reconsideration. I can consent to no government, which … is not calculated equally to preserve the rights of all orders of men.

A free and enlightened people … will not resign all their rights to those who govern, and they will fix limits to their legislators and rulers…[who] will know they cannot be passed. [Hope] cannot justify the impropriety of giving powers, the exercise of which prudent men will not attempt, and imprudent men will … exercise only in a manner destructive of free government. Why … unnecessarily leave a door open to improper regulations? We cannot form a general government in which all power can be safely lodged. Should the general government…[employ] a system of influence, the government will take every occasion to multiply laws … props for its own support.

Vast powers of laying and collecting internal taxes in a government … would be … abused by imprudent and designing men. We ought not … commit the many to the mercy, prudence, and moderation of the few. National laws ought to yield to inalienable or fundamental rights—and … should extend only to a few national objects.

Men who govern will … construe laws and constitutions most favorably for increasing their own powers; all wise and prudent people … have drawn the line, and carefully described the powers parted with and the powers reserved … what rights are established as fundamental, and must not be infringed upon.

Our countrymen are entitled … to a government of laws and not of men … if the constitution … be vague and unguarded, then we depend wholly on the prudence, wisdom and moderation of those who manage the affairs of government… uncertain and precarious.

Liberty, in its genuine sense, is security to enjoy the effects of our honest industry and labors, in a free and mild government. The people have a right to hold and enjoy their property according to known standing laws, and which cannot be taken from them without their consent.

In free governments, the people … follow their own private pursuits, and enjoy the fruits of their labor with very small deductions for the public use. Our true object is … to render force as little necessary as possible.

The powers delegated to the government must be precisely defined… that, by no reasonable construction, they can be made to invade the rights and prerogatives intended to be left in the people.

We must consider this constitution, when adopted, as the supreme act of the people … we and our posterity must strictly adhere to the letter and spirit of it, and in no instance depart from them.

The first maxim of a man who loves liberty [is] never to grant to rulers an atom of power that is not most clearly and indispensably necessary for the safety and well-being of society. It must never be forgotten … that the liberties of the people are not so safe under the gracious manner of government as by the limitation of power.

According to Forrest McDonald, Lee was “imbued with an abiding love of liberty and a concomitant wholesome distrust of government.” In an era when the founding generation’s determination of the proper, narrow limits to impose on federal power has eroded to whether it is subject to virtually any limits, his insights are important. He knew that “The first maxim of a man who loves liberty” was “never to grant to rulers an atom of power that is not most clearly and indispensably necessary for the safety and well-being of society,” and that “It must never be forgotten … that the liberties of the people are not so safe under the gracious manner of government as by the limitation of power.” Americans today need to relearn those same lessons.

Celebrating Joseph Stalin’s 142nd Birthday

Dec. 18, 2020, marks the 142nd birthday of Joseph Stalin, the communist dictator who ruled the Soviet Union for almost three decades. For many people, Stalin is synonymous with mass murder and totalitarianism; his misdeeds are so voluminous and epic in scale that they are incomprehensible.

Historians continually debate just how many deaths Stalin was responsible for. Even a prominent former Soviet and Russian official estimates that Stalin’s victims, whether through famine, purge, or deportation, number around 20 million. Figures such as these are almost impossible for anyone to grasp in full.

The accounts of the Stalin era reveal a man as cruel and ruthless as the numbers suggest. During the Great Terror of the 1930s, Stalin routinely signed off on execution lists with hundreds or thousands of names. In one particularly bloodthirsty day during the Terror, he approved 3,167 executions.

Moments such as these were so commonplace in the Stalin era that the tyrant enjoyed a movie screening immediately afterward, his conscience apparently untroubled by the lives he was ruining.

Stalin’s regime targeted those suspected of being insufficiently dedicated to the communist cause, as well as their innocent family and friends. Millions of Armenians, Bulgarians, Chechens, Germans, Greeks, Jews, Muslims, Poles, and Turks were persecuted for being more loyal to their racial or religious affiliations than to the glorious truths of Karl Marx.

Stalin’s own words reveal his sadistic nature. He once remarked, “The greatest delight is to mark one’s enemy, prepare everything, avenge oneself thoroughly, and then go to sleep.”

Not even Stalin’s closest family and friends were safe — they were often the inevitable targets of his wrath. Stalin’s relatives by marriage, such as Alyosha Svanidze and Pavel Alliluyev, found themselves imprisoned because minor incidents aroused the dictator’s suspicions.

Stalin’s longtime aide Alexander Poskrebyshev begged his boss to release his wife from prison (she had annoyed Stalin by asking him to free her brother). Characteristically, Stalin replied, “Don’t worry, we’ll find you another wife.”

Beyond the unnecessary human cost, one of the most troubling aspects of Stalin’s reign was how convinced his followers were that, despite all of this misery, they were creating a new, better world. Spurred on by the vision of a classless society with perfect equality, they were able to justify atrocities as necessary stumbling blocks on the road to utopia.

Stalin’s interpreter Valentin Berezhkov would later recall, “I believed in Stalin. … We felt we were creating the model for a better society that would be emulated by the rest of the world.” Even Soviet military official Dmitry Volkogonov, whose parents were purged, remembered: “I believed in Stalin. … Everybody thought that Stalin was the foundation of power and happiness and prosperity of the country.”

Historians continue to debate whether or not Stalin was a truly committed communist or simply using Marxist ideology to perpetuate his own power over the Soviet people. Stalin himself used communist terminology throughout his entire career to explain how the world worked. In 1946, he gave a major speech attacking capitalist nations for causing the two world wars. In his last public appearance, in 1952, Stalin continued on this theme, labeling the capitalist bourgeoisie the “arch-enemy” of freedom.

Stalin grew up in a broken home in Georgia mired in the depths of poverty. As a youth living in an authoritarian czarist empire, Stalin saw much in the way of injustice. While in seminary, he turned to communist revolution as the best solution to right the wrongs of his world. Whether or not he continued believing this for the rest of his life is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that many of his followers were sincere Marxists. Unfortunately for their victims, the communist faithful stopped at nothing to attain the promised utopia.

As scholar Erik van Ree once observed, “The greatest crimes in history have been committed by the sincere — those who believe in their hearts that they are justified in committing their acts.” In doing so, these committed Marxists enabled one of the worst killers in human history.

On the 142nd anniversary of Stalin’s birth, let us remember the key lesson from his life: that those who promise to bring about heaven on earth through revolution and government control, no matter how sincere, often bring about a hell far worse than the one they are trying to escape.

Richard Lim is the co-founder and host of the This American President podcast

Seven Events that Enraged the Colonists and Led to the American Revolution

The American colonists’ breakup with the British Empire in 1776 wasn’t a sudden, impetuous act. Instead, the banding together of the 13 colonies to fight and win a war of independence against the Crown was the culmination of a series of events, which had begun more than a decade earlier. Escalations began shortly after the end of the French and Indian War—known elsewhere as the Seven Years War in 1763. Here are a few of the pivotal moments that led to the American Revolution.

1. The Stamp Act (March 1765)

HISTORY: The Stamp Act

To recoup some of the massive debt left over from the war with France, Parliament passed laws such as the Stamp Act, which for the first time taxed a wide range of transactions in the colonies.

“Up until then, each colony had its own government which decided which taxes they would have, and collected them,” explains Willard Sterne Randall, a professor emeritus of history at Champlain College and author of numerous works on early American history, including Unshackling America: How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution.“They felt that they’d spent a lot of blood and treasure to protect the colonists from the Indians, and so they should pay their share.”

The colonists didn’t see it that way. They resented not only having to buy goods from the British but pay tax on them as well. “The tax never got collected, because there were riots all over the pace,” Randall says. Ultimately, Benjamin Franklin convinced the British to rescind it, but that only made things worse. “That made the Americans think they could push back against anything the British wanted,” Randall says.

2. The Townshend Acts (June-July 1767)

The Townshend Acts

An American colonist reads with concern the royal proclamation of a tax on tea in the colonies as a British soldier stands nearby with rifle and bayonet, Boston, 1767. The tax on tea was one of the clauses of the Townshend Acts.

Parliament again tried to assert its authority by passing legislation to tax goods that the Americans imported from Great Britain. The Crown established a board of customs commissioners to stop smuggling and corruption among local officials in the colonies, who were often in on the illicit trade.

Americans struck back by organizing a boycott of the British goods that were subject to taxation, and began harassing the British customs commissioners. In an effort to quell the resistance, the British sent troops to occupy Boston, which only deepened the ill feeling.

3. The Boston Massacre (March 1770)

The Boston Massacre

Simmering tensions between the British occupiers and Boston residents boiled over one late afternoon, when a disagreement between an apprentice wigmaker and a British soldier led to a crowd of 200 colonists surrounding seven British troops. When the Americans began taunting the British and throwing things at them, the soldiers apparently lost their cool and began firing into the crowd.

As the smoke cleared, three men—including an African American sailor named Crispus Attucks—were dead, and two others were mortally wounded. The massacre became a useful propaganda tool for the colonists, especially after Paul Revere distributed an engraving that misleadingly depicted the British as the aggressors.

READ MORE: Did a Snowball Fight Start the American Revolution?

4. The Boston Tea Party (December 1773)

HISTORY: The Boston Tea Party

The Boston Tea Party destroying tea in Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773.

The British eventually withdrew their forces from Boston and repealed much of the onerous Townshend legislation. But they left in place the tax on tea, and in 1773 enacted a new law, theTea Act, to prop up the financially struggling British East India Company. The act gave the company extended favorable treatment under tax regulations, so that it could sell tea at a price that undercut the American merchants who imported from Dutch traders.

That didn’t sit well with Americans. “They didn’t want the British telling them that they had to buy their tea, but it wasn’t just about that,” Randall explains. “The Americans wanted to be able to trade with any country they wanted.”

The Sons of Liberty, a radical group, decided to confront the British head-on. Thinly disguised as Mohawks, they boarded three ships in Boston harbor and destroyed more than 92,000 pounds of British tea by dumping it into the harbor. To make the point that they were rebels rather than vandals, they avoided harming any of the crew or damaging the ships themselves, and the next day even replaced a padlock that had been broken.

Nevertheless, the act of defiance “really ticked off the British government,” Randall explains. “Many of the East India Company’s shareholders were members of Parliament. They each had paid 1,000 pounds sterling—that would probably be about a million dollars now—for a share of the company, to get a piece of the action from all this tea that they were going to force down the colonists’ throats. So when these bottom-of-the-rung people in Boston destroyed their tea, that was a serious thing to them.”

READ MORE: The Boston Tea Party

5. The Coercive Acts (March-June 1774)

The Coercive Acts

The first Continental Congress, held in Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia, met to define American rights and organize a plan of resistance to the Coercive Acts imposed by the British Parliament as punishment for the Boston Tea Party.

In response to the Boston Tea Party, the British government decided that it had to tame the rebellious colonists in Massachusetts. In the spring of 1774, Parliament passed a series of laws, the Coercive Acts, which closed Boston Harbor until restitution was paid for the destroyed tea, replaced the colony’s elected council with one appointed by the British, gave sweeping powers to the British military governor General Thomas Gage, and forbade town meetings without approval.

Yet another provision protected British colonial officials who were charged with capital offenses from being tried in Massachusetts, instead requiring that they be sent to another colony or back to Great Britain for trial.

But perhaps the most provocative provision was the Quartering Act, which allowed British military officials to demand accommodations for their troops in unoccupied houses and buildings in towns, rather than having to stay out in the countryside. While it didn’t force the colonists to board troops in their own homes, they had to pay for the expense of housing and feeding the soldiers. The quartering of troops eventually became one of the grievances cited in the Declaration of Independence.

6. Lexington and Concord (April 1775)

The Battle of Lexington

The Battle of Lexington broke out on April 19, 1775.

British General Thomas Gage led a force of British soldiers from Boston to Lexington, where he planned to capture colonial radical leaders Sam Adams and John Hancock, and then head to Concord and seize their gunpowder. But American spies got wind of the plan, and with the help of riders such as Paul Revere, word spread to be ready for the British.

On the Lexington Common, the British force was confronted by 77 American militiamen, and they began shooting at each other. Seven Americans died, but other militiamen managed to stop the British at Concord, and continued to harass them on their retreat back to Boston.

The British lost 73 dead, with another 174 wounded and 26 missing in action. The bloody encounter proved to the British that the colonists were fearsome foes who had to be taken seriously. It was the start of America’s war of independence.

READ MORE: The Battles of Lexington and Concord

7. British attacks on coastal towns (October 1775-January 1776)

Though the Revolutionary War’s hostilities started with Lexington and Concord, Randall says that at the start, it was unclear whether the southern colonies, whose interests didn’t necessarily align with the northern colonies, would be all in for a war of independence.

“The southerners were totally dependent upon the English to buy their crops, and they didn’t trust the Yankees,” he explains. “And in New England, the Puritans thought the southerners were lazy.”

But that was before the brutal British naval bombardments and burning of the coastal towns of Falmouth, Massachusetts and Norfolk, Virginia helped to unify the colonies. In Falmouth, where townspeople had to grab their possessions and flee for their lives, northerners had to face up to “the fear that the British would do whatever they wanted to them,” Randall says.

As historian Holger Hoock has written, the burning of Falmouth shocked General George Washington, who denounced it as “exceeding in barbarity & cruelty every hostile act practiced among civilized nations.”

Similarly, in Norfolk, the horror of the town’s wooden buildings going up in flames after a seven-hour naval bombardment shocked the southerners, who also knew that the British were offering African Americans their freedom if they took up arms on the loyalist side. “Norfolk stirred up fears of a slave insurrection in the South,” Randall says.

Leaders of the rebellion seized the burnings of the two ports to make the argument that the colonists needed to band together for survival against a ruthless enemy and embrace the need for independence—a spirit that ultimately would lead to their victory.


The Wisdom of John Milton

JOHN Milton was one of the foremost English poets of history, and, according the Encyclopedia Britannica, “the most significant English author after William Shakespeare.” He is most famous for Paradise Lost, considered the finest epic poem in English. Perhaps Milton’s greatest contribution to the history of liberty, including his influence on the American Revolution, arose because he was a fully convicted and forthright defender of religious rights, civil liberties, and the English Commonwealth during a tumultuous time of religious and political change. His argument for free speech and freedom of the press and against government censorship in Areopagitica was also widely influential.

Milton’s political philosophy, which led him to oppose tyranny, and his theology, which advanced freedom of conscience and religious toleration, were powerful influences on America’s founding, seen most clearly in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Consider some of his words. None can love freedom but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license, which never hath more scope than under tyrants. License they mean when they cry, Liberty! For who loves that, must first be wise and good.

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties. Who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Though all winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple, who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. There is no truth sure enough to justify persecution.

He who thinks we … have attained the utmost prospect of reformation … by this very opinion declares that he is yet far short of truth.

Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind. He who reigns within himself, and rules passions, desires, and fears, is … a king.

No man … can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were born free, being the image and resemblance of God himself. [God] created them free and free they must remain.

The whole freedom of man consists either in spiritual or civil liberty. Here the great art lies, to discern in what the law is to bid restraint and punishment, and in what things persuasion only is to work.

What is strength without a double share of wisdom? When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty obtained that wise men look for.

Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe. Nations grow corrupt, love bondage more than liberty; bondage with ease than strenuous liberty. [Those] with their freedom lost, all virtue lose.

Most men admire virtue who follow not her lore. John Milton’s stands against tyranny and government religion were principled stands taken during a maelstrom of change. Americans, in particular, have been major beneficiaries of his influence on our founders in those areas. Milton deserves celebration for that, as well as for his poetry.

Has America’s Suez Moment Come ?

2020 will surely qualify as an “annus horribilis” in the history of the Republic.

By New Year’s, one in every 1,000 Americans, 330,000, will be dead from the worst pandemic in 100 years. The U.S. economy will have sustained a blow to rival the worst year of the Great Depression.

And by the end of December, much of the nation will be back in lockdown, with Joe Biden repeatedly predicting a “dark winter” ahead.

Only at the apex of World War II has the U.S. deficit and debt been so large a share of our economy.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the summer of 2020 produced riots the extent of which rivaled the week after the murder of Martin Luther King in 1968.

Also revealed by the BLM uprising of 2020 was an unknown depth of hatred many U.S. citizens have for their country’s history, as they pulled down and smashed statues of men once revered as the greatest leaders — Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lee, Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson.

By year’s end, tens of millions were denying the legitimacy of the designated president-elect, who was to take office on Jan. 20. Both parties were charging the other with trying to “steal” the presidency.
Can a nation so distracted, so divided, so at war with itself continue to meet all of the duties, obligations and commitments that are ours as the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world”? Are we still the people and country we used to be?

While we tear ourselves apart, we remain obligated to defend nearly 30 nations of Europe from Russia. We are committed to ostracizing and isolating Iran and going to war if she should seek to build nuclear weapons like those held by her neighbors Israel, Pakistan, India, Russia and China.

Why is this our duty?

We are strategically “pivoting” to Asia to contain a China that is the rising power of the new century and whose economy and armed forces rival our own, while its population is four times larger.

If South Korea is attacked by the North, or Japan or the Philippines find themselves fighting China over rocks in the South and East China seas, we are obligated to treat any Chinese attack as an attack upon us.

Three decades ago, historian Paul Kennedy used the term “imperial overstretch” to describe what happens to great powers when their global commitments become too extensive to sustain.

This happened to the British at the end of World War II when, bled, broken and bankrupted by the six-year war with Germany, she began to shed her colonies. In the fall of 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden, Churchill’s foreign secretary, was ordered by President Eisenhower to get his troops out of Suez under an American threat to sink the British pound.

The British Empire was finished.

The imperial overstretch of the Soviet Empire was exposed from 1989 to 1991, with the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain. The captive nations of Eastern Europe broke free. The USSR then disintegrated along ethnic and tribal lines into 15 nations.

Its diversity tore the Soviet Union apart.

On Dec. 2, at Brookings Institution, joint chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley said: “There’s a considerable amount that the United States expends on overseas deployments, on overseas bases and locations, etc. Is every one of those absolutely, positively necessary for the defense of the United States?” The Defense Department, Milley added, must “take a hard look at what we do, where we do it.”

In a separate talk at the United States Naval Institute, the chairman added that U.S. permanent basing arrangements are “derivative of where World War II ended.”

Indeed, NATO was formed and its war guarantees were issued to Western Europe in 1949, seven decades ago. War guarantees to South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Australia were all issued from 1950 to 1960.

These commitments to go to war for other nations were issued when Stalin was in the Kremlin, a 400,000-man Red Army sat on the Elbe in Germany, and Mao and his madness had just come to power in Peking.

How long must we sustain all these alliances and soldier on in the “forever wars” of the Middle East? Do we Americans still have the national unity, sense of purpose, and disposition to sacrifice for the cause of Western civilization we had in the early days of the Cold War?

Or has our own Suez moment arrived?

President Trump did not extricate us from the “forever wars,” but he did draw down our troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq. And he did raise the question of how many more decades must we defend a rich Europe from a declining Russia that has a fourth of its population and a tenth of its wealth.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”