Beginner’s American History

date Jun 8, 2007
authors D. H. Montgomery
reading time 12 mins
  • Book Title: The Beginner’s American History
  • Author: D. H. Montgomery
  • Year written/published: 1893
  • My Comments: Been reading extracts about Franklin, Jefferson, Albany treaty, Civil war, Slavery… and i needed a book to connect all these events to give me a picture of what events have led to shape up America to what it is today. Couldn’t have found a better book. Do download the html version from gutenberg and have a nice read for yourself I learnt a few things here and there… like the Disney’s Pocahontas is actually a real story about the time when the English were first trying to settle in the America and she helped save captain smith’s life. i didn’t know that!!!!!!!! hahhaha! And also another thing that astonished me was the about how and why some of the names of places came about… eg. New York, Maryland, Providence, Virginia, Pennsylvania and even America itself! … all of them had a part in the foundation of America. It was a great read in simple English - right from Columbus to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.

Some extracts:

on Columbus… he discovered the West Indies

As Columbus sailed on, he saw many islands in every direction. He thought that they must be a part of the Indies which he was seeking. Since he had reached them by coming west from Spain, he called them the West Indies, and to the red men who lived on them he gave the name of Indians.

on John Cabot… he discovered the North American Continent…

Early one bright morning toward the last of June, 1497, they saw land in the west. It was probably Cape Breton Island, a part of Nova Scotia. John Cabot named it “The Land First Seen.” Up to this time Columbus had discovered nothing but the West India Islands, but John Cabot now saw the continent of North America; no civilized man had ever seen it before.

On the name AMERICA

But not many years after this the New World received the name by which we now call it. An Italian navigator whose first name was Amerigo made a voyage to it after it had been discovered by Columbus and the Cabots. He wrote an account of what he saw, and as this was the first printed description of the continent, it was named from him, AMERICA.

Ponce de Leon discovers Florida, Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean from the North American continent and   De Soto discovers the Mississippi.

And the first settlement in North American continent… >

When the two captains returned to England, Queen Elizabeth—the “Virgin Queen,” as she was called—was delighted with what she heard of the “Good Land.” She named it Virginia in honor of herself. She also gave Raleigh a title of honor. From that time he was no longer called plain Walter Raleigh or Mr. Raleigh, but Sir Walter Raleigh.

The start of first English town…

In the spring of 1607 the emigrants reached Chesapeake Bay, and sailed up a river which they named the James in honor of King James of England; when they landed they named the settlement Jamestown for the same reason. Here they built a log fort, and placed three or four small cannon on its walls. Most of the men who settled Jamestown came hoping to find mines of gold in Virginia, or else a way through to the Pacific Ocean and to the Indies, which they thought could not be very far away. But Captain Smith wanted to help his countrymen to make homes here for themselves and their children.

on Pocanhontas and the first Indian-English marriage…

This chief was named Powhatan. He was a tall, grim-looking old man, and he hated the settlers at Jamestown, because he believed that they had come to steal the land from the Indians… … … Smith was dragged into the chief’s wigwam; his head was laid on a large, flat stone, and a tall savage with a big club stood ready to dash out his brains. Just as Powhatan was about to cry “strike!” his daughter Pocahontas, a girl of twelve or thirteen, ran up, and, putting her arms round the prisoner’s head, she laid her own head on his—now let the Indian with his uplifted club strike if he dare… … … Some years after this the Indian maiden married John Rolfe, an Englishman who had come to Virginia. They went to London, and Pocahontas died not far from that city.

Revolution… and George Washington

The king of England continued to rule America until, in 1776, the people of Virginia demanded that independence should be declared. The great war of the Revolution overthrew the king’s power and made us free. The military leader of that war was a Virginia planter named George Washington. After we had gained the victory and peace was made, we chose presidents to govern the country. Four out of six of our first presidents, beginning with Washington, came from Virginia. For this reason that state has sometimes been called the “Mother of Presidents.”

the birth of New York…

As soon as the Dutch in Holland heard that Captain Hudson had found a country where the Indians had plenty of rich furs to sell, they sent out people to trade with them. Holland is sometimes called the Netherlands; that is, the Low Lands. When the Dutch took possession of the country on the Hudson (1614), they gave it the name of New Netherland,[3] for the same reason that the English called one part of their possessions in America New England… … …After the Dutch had held the country of New Netherland about fifty years, the English (1664) seized it. They changed its name to New York, in honor of the Duke of York, who was brother to the king. The English also changed the name of New Amsterdam to that of New York City.

Lord Baltimore and Maryland…

King Charles the First of England was a good friend to Lord Baltimore; and when the settlement in Newfoundland was given up, he made him a present of an immense three-cornered piece of land in America. This piece was cut out of Virginia, north of the Potomac River. The king’s wife, who was called Queen Mary, was a French Catholic. In her honor, Charles named the country he had given Lord Baltimore, Mary Land, or Maryland. He could not have chosen a better name, because Maryland was to be a shelter for many English people who believed in the same religion that the queen did.

Roger Williams and Providence…

He went there, and liked the spot so much that he decided to stop. His friend Canonicus owned the land, and he gladly let him have what he needed. Roger Williams believed that a kind Providence had guided him to this pleasant place, and for this reason he named it PROVIDENCE. Providence was the first settlement made in America which set its doors wide open to every one who wished to come and live there. Not only all Christians, but Jews, and even men who went to no church whatever, could go there and be at peace. This great and good work was done by Roger Williams. Providence grew in time to be the chief city in the state of Rhode Island.

William Penn and Pennsylvania

King Charles the Second of England owed a large sum of money to a young Englishman named William Penn. … …he told His Majesty that if he would give him a piece of wild land in America, he would ask nothing more. Charles was very glad to settle the account so easily. He therefore gave Penn a great territory north of Maryland and west of the Delaware River. This territory was nearly as large as England. The king named it Pennsylvania, a word which means Penn’s Woods. At that time the land was not thought to be worth much. No one then had discovered the fact that beneath Penn’s Woods there were immense mines of coal and iron, which would one day be of greater value than all the riches of the king of England.

12 English Colonies in America…

… …the first real colony or settlement made in America by the English was in Virginia in 1607. By the beginning of 1733, or in about a hundred and twenty-five years, eleven more had been made, or twelve in all. They stretched along the seacoast, from the farthest coast of Maine to the northern boundary of Florida, which was then owned by the Spaniards.

Benjamin Franklin and world’s first lightning rod…

He said, If I can draw down electricity from the sky with a kite-string, I can draw it still better with a tall, sharp-pointed iron rod. He put up such a rod on his house in Philadelphia; it was the first lightning-rod in the world. Soon other people began to put them up: so this was another gift of his to the city which he loved. Every good lightning-rod which has since been erected to protect buildings has been a copy of that invented by Franklin.

On George Washington and his fight for Independence

Congress now made Colonel Washington general, and sent him to Cambridge, a town just outside of Boston, to take command of the American army. It was called the Continental Army because it was raised, not to fight for the people of Massachusetts, but for all the Americans on the continent, north and south. Washington took command of the army under a great elm, which is still standing. There, six months later, he raised the first American flag.

Washington got to New York first. While he was there, Congress, on the 4th of July, 1776, declared the United States independent—that is, entirely free from the rule of the king of England. There was a gilded lead statue of King George the Third on horseback in New York. When the news of what Congress had done reached that city, there was a great cry of “Down with the king!” That night some of our men pulled down the statue, melted it up, and cast it into bullets.

Eli Whitney and the Cotton making machine…

He made such a wheel; it was turned by a crank; it did the work perfectly; so, in the year 1793, he had invented the machine the planters wanted. Before that time it used to take one negro all day to clean a single pound of cotton of its seeds by picking them off one by one; now, Eli Whitney’s cotton-gin,as he called his machine, would clean a thousand pounds in a day.

what Thomas Jefferson did…

Mr. Robert R. Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was in France at that time, and Jefferson sent over to him to see if he could buy New Orleans for the United States. Napoleon Bonaparte then ruled France. He said, I want money to purchase war-ships with, so that I can fight England; I will sell not only New Orleans, but all Louisiana besides, for fifteen millions of dollars. That was cheap enough, and so in 1803 President Jefferson bought it.

the west of America…

If a traveller in those days went across the Alleghany Mountains to the west, he found some small settlements in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, but hardly any outside of those. What are now the great states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin were then a wilderness; and this was also true of what are now the states of Alabama and Mississippi. If the same traveller, pushing forward, on foot or on horseback,—for there were no steam cars,—crossed the Mississippi River, he could hardly find a white man outside what was then the little town of St. Louis.

Abraham Lincoln and the start of the Civil War…

In less than six weeks after Lincoln actually became President, in the spring of 1861 a terrible war broke out between the North and the South. The people of South Carolina fired the first gun in that war. They, together with a great part of the people of ten other southern states, resolved to leave the Union. They set up an independent government called the Confederate States of America, and made Jefferson Davis its president.

The main reason why so many of the people of the South wished to withdraw from the United States was that little by little the North and the South had become like two different countries. At the time of the Revolution, when we broke away from the rule of England, every one of the states held negro slaves; but in the course of eighty years a great change had taken place. The negroes at the North had become free, but those of the South still remained slaves. Now this difference in the way of doing work made it impossible for the North and the South to agree about many things.