Category An Illustrated History Of The USA

Twentieth Century


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A War and a Peace



A British propaganda poster.

In August 1914, з war started on the continent of Europe. It was the beginning ofa struggle that lasted for more than four years, brought death to millions of people and changed the history of the world. At the time people called the conflict the Great War. Later it was called the First World War.

The main countries fighting the war were, on one side, France, Great Britain and Russia. They were known as the Allies. On the other side the main

countries were Germany and Austria, who were called the Central Powers.

Most Americans wanted to keep out of the war.

They saw it as a purely European affair that was not their concern. When President Wilson said that they should be “impartial in thought as well as in action,” most people were ready to agree with him.

But Americans found it difficult to stay impartial for long. In the first days of the war the German government sent its armies marching into neutral Belgium. T his shocked many Americans. They were even more shocked when newspapers printed reports-often false or exaggerated —of German cruelty towards Belgian civilians.

From the very beginning of the war the strong British navy prevented German ships from trading with the United States. But trade between the United States and the Allies grew quickly. By 1915 American factories were making vast quantities of weapons and munitions and selling them to Britain and France.

German leaders were determined to stop this flow of armaments to their enemies. They announced in February 1915, that they would sink all Allied merchant ships in the seas around the British Isles.

On a hazy afternoon in May, a big British passenger ship called the Lusitania was nearing the end of its voyage from the United States to Britain. Suddenly, without any warning, it was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine. Within minutes the Lusitania was sinking. More than 1,000 passengers went with it to the bottom of the ocean. One hundred and twenty-eight of those passengers were Americans.

The sinking of the Lusitania made Americans very angry. Some began to think that Germany would do anything to win the war. But most still wanted peace. President Wilson made strong protests to the German government. For a time the Germans stopped the submarine attacks.

In the autumn of 1916 American voters re-elected Wilson as President, mainly because he had kept them out of the war. in January 1917, Wilson made a speech to Congress. In it he appealed to the warring nations of Europe to settle their differences and make “a peace without victory.” This, he said, was the only kind of peace that could last.

But by now American bankers had lent a lot of money to the Allies. And American military supplies were still pouring across the Atlantic. Germany’s war leaders feared that, unless the flow of supplies was stopped, their country would be defeated. Only nine days after Wilson’s speech they again ordered their submarines to begin sinking ships sailing towards Allied ports. This time the order included neutral vessels.



A poster recruiting soldiers ro fight for " Unde Sum. ”

In the next few weeks German submarines sank five American ships. With German torpedoes sending American sailors to their deaths in the grey waters of the Atlantic, Wilson felt that lie had no choice. On April 2, 1917, he asked Congress to declare war on

America’s Back Yard

“Mucra Nixon, Mucra Nixon!”-Death to Nixon!

A barricade blocked the road. The car rocked wildly as the chanting mob tried to overturn it. Rocks and iron bars thudded against its roof and shattered its windows. Inside the car Richard Nixon, Vice President of the United States, was in great danger.

It was May 13, 1958, in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Nixon was visiting the city as part of a goodwill tour of Latin America. But he found only hatred on the streets of Caracas. Nixon’s life was saved when a truck forced a way through the barricade and his car was able to accelerate away. When news of the attack reached the United States the American people were shocked and angry. But it made them realize how much some Latin Americans hated and resented their country.


Latin America is the name given to the mainly Spanish-speaking countries which lie to the south of the United States. Ever since the early nineteenth century the United States has taken a special interest in what happens in these countries. They arc its closest neighbors and so it is important to the safety of the United States to make sure that no foreign enemies gain influence in them.

In the past this has often meant that the rulers of these Latin American countries have been little more than American puppets. Their agriculture and industry have frequently been American-controlled, too. A classic example was Cuba. Up to the 1950s its railroads, banks, electricity industry and many of its biggest farms were all American-owned.

In 1933 President Franklin Roosevelt promised that the United States would respect the right of Latin American countries to control their own affairs. He called this the “good neighbor” policy. “I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor,” he said, “the neighbor who respects the rights of others.”

Roosevelt ordered home the American soldiers and officials who had been running the affairs of Latin American countries at one time or another for much of the past thirty years. Nicaragua, for example, had been occupied by American troops from 1912 to 1933. He also gave up the United States’ claim to interfere in Panama and Cuba whenever it wanted.

But many Latin Americans were not convinced by Roosevelt’s talk about being a good neighbor. True, the American troops had gone home. But the rulers who took over when the soldiers left – the Somoza family, who held power in Nicaragua from 1937 to 1979, for example-usually did what the Americans expected of them.

і he Second World War brought better times for Latin America. All the raw materials that it could produce-copper, tin, oil and countless others-were used by the wartime factories of the United States. The result was more money and more jobs-but also even more American control.

The Mayflower Compact

When the Pilgrims arrived off the coast of America they faced many dangers and difficulties. They did not want to put themselves in further danger by quarreling with one another. Before landing at Plymouth, therefore, they wrote out an agreement. In this document they agreed to work together for the good of all. The agreement was signed by all forty-one men on board the May­flower. It became known as the Mayflower Com­pact. in the Compact the Plymouth settlers agreed to set up a government —a “civil body politic —to make “just and equal laws” for their new settle­ment. All of them. Pilgrims and Strangers alike, promised that they would obey these laws. In the difficult years which followed, the Mayflower Compact served the colonists well. It is remem­bered today as one of the first important docu­ments in the history of democratic government in America.

Подпись: The Pilgrim Father* hdi'Jtiie in America.

port of Plymouth and headed for America. They were accompanied by a number of other emigrants they called “Strangers.”

The Pilgrims’ ship was an old trading vessel, the May flower. For years the May flower had carried wine across the narrow seas between France and England. Now it faced a much more dangerous voyage. For sixty-five days the May flower battled through the rolling waves of the north Atlantic Ocean. At last, on November 9, 1620, it reached Cape Cod, a sandy hook of land in what is now the state of Massachusetts.

Cape Cod is far to the north of the land granted to the Pilgrims by the Virginia Company. But the Pilgrims did not have enough food and water, and many were sick. They decided to land at the best place they could find. On December 21, 1620, they rowed ashore and set up camp at a place they named Plymouth.

“The season it was winter,” wrote one of their leaders, “and those who know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent with cruel and fierce storms.” The Pilgrims’ chances of surviving were not high. The frozen ground and the deep snow made it difficult for them to build houses. They had very little food. Before spring came, half of the little group of a hundred settlers were dead.

But the Pilgrims were determined to succeed. The fifty survivors built better houses. They learned how to fish and hunt. Friendly Amerindians gave them seed corn and showed them how to plant it. It was not the end of their hardships, but when a ship arrived in Plymouth in 1622 and offered to take passengers back to England, not one of the Pilgrims accepted.

Other English Puritans followed the Pilgrims to America. Ten years later a much larger group of almost a thousand colonists settled nearby in what became the Boston area. These people left England to escape the rule of a new king, Charles 1. Charles was even less tolerant than his father James had been of people who disagreed with his policies in religion and government.

The Boston settlement prospered from the start. Its population grew quickly as more and more Puritans left England to escape persecution. Many years later, in 1691, it combined with the Plymouth colony under the name of Massachusetts.

The ideas of the Massachusetts Puritans had a lasting influence on American society. One of their first leaders, John Winthrop, said that they should build an ideal community for the rest of mankind to learn from. “We shall be like a city on a hill,” said

A New World

Winthrop. “The eyes of all people arc upon us.” To this day many Americans continue to sec their country in this way, as a model for other nations to copy.

The Puritans of Massachusetts believed that governments had a duty to make people obey Cod’s will. They passed laws to force people to attend church and laws to punish drunks and adulterers. Even men who let their hair grow long could be in trouble.

Roger Williams, a Puritan minister in a settlement called Salem, believed that it was wrong to run the affairs of Massachusetts in this way. He objected particularly to the fact that the same men controlled both the church and the government. Williams believed that church and state should be separate and that neither should interfere with the other.

Williams’ repeated criticisms made the Massachusetts leaders angry. In 1535 they sent men to arrest him. But Williams escaped and went south, where he was joined by ocher discontented people trom Massachusetts. On the shores of Narragansctt Bay Williams and his followers set up a new colony called Rhode island. Rhode island promised its citizens complete religious freedom and separation of church and state. To this day these ideas are still very important to Americans.

The leaders of Massachusetts could not forgive the people of Rhode Island for thinking so differently from themselves. They called the breakaway colony “the land of the opposite-minded.”


Plymouth Puritans going toelliirrlt. 18


William Penn signing a treaty with the АнкттЛагн.

By the end of the seventeenth century a string of English colonies stretched along the east coast of North America. More or less in the middle was Pennsylvania. This was founded in 1681 by William Penn. Under a charter from the English king,

Charles П, Penn was the proprietor, or owner, of Pennsylvania.

Penn belonged to a religious group, the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers. Quakers refused to swear oaths or to take part in wars. I’hcsc customs had helped to make them very unpopular with English governments – When Penn promised his fellow Quakers that in Pennsylvania they would be free to follow their own ways, many of them emigrated there.

Penn’s promise of religious freedom, together with his reputation for dealing fairly with people, brought settlers from other European countries to Pennsylvania. From Ireland came settlers who made new farms in the western forests of the colony. Many Germans came also. Most were members of small religious groups who had left Germany to escape persecution. They were known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. This was because English people at this time called most north Europeans “Dutch.”

New York had previously been called New Amsterdam. It had first been settled in 1626. In 1664 the English captured it from the Dutch and rc-nanted it New – York. A few years later, in 1670, the English founded the new colonies of North and South Carolina. The last English colony to be founded in North America was Georgia, settled in 1733.

On the trail

George Duffscld was a cowboy. In 1866 he drove a herd of 1,000 Longhorn cattle north from Texas. The extracts below are from his diary:

May 8

Ram pouring down in torrents. Ran my horse into a ditch and got my knee badly sprained.

May 14

Brazos River. Swam our cattle and horses and built raft and rafted our provisions and blankets and so on over. Swam river with rope and then hauled wagon over. Lost most of our kitchen furniture, such as camp kettles, coffeepot, cups, etc.

June 1

Stampede last night and a general mix up and loss of beeves [cattle]. Hunt cattle again. Men all, tired and want to leave.

June 2

Hard rain and viral storm. Beeves run and I had to be on horseback all night Awful night. Men lost. Quit the beeves and go hunting men. Found our men with Indian guide and 195 beeves 14 miles from camp. Almost starved not hatnng had a bite to eat for 60 hours. Got to camp about 12:00. Tired.

June 19

Arkansas River. 15 Indians came to herd, and tried to take some beeves. Would not let them. One drew his knife and I my revolver. Made them leave, but fear they have gone for others.

The Arsenal of Democracy

In the 1930s every year seemed to bring a new war, or threat of war, somewhere in the world. L eaders like the German dictator Hitler threatened and bullied. Nations built more tanks, warships and military aircraft. President Roosevelt spoke to the American people in 1937 about wars being fought in Spain and China. “Innocent peoples, innocent nations are being cruelly sacrificed to a greed for power and supremacy,” he warned. “If these things come to pass [happen] in other parts of the world, let no one imagine that America will escape. ”

But Spain and China seemed far away. Most Americans ignored Roosevelt’s warning. They believed that the best thing to do was to let foreigners solve their problems themselves. Isolationists felt this particularly strongly. These were people who believed that Americans should try to cut off, or “isolate,” the United States from the problems of the outside world.

Isolationist ideas were very strong in Congress during the 1930s. It passed a number of laws called Neutrality Acts. These said that American citizens would not be allowed to sell military equipment, or lend money, to any nations at war. Even non­military supplies such as foodstuffs would be sold to warring countries only if they paid cash for them and collected them in their own ships.

Then, in 1939, war broke out in Europe. By the summer of 1940 I Iitlcr’s armies had overrun all of western Europe. Only Britain — exhausted and short of weapons —still defied them. With Hitler the master of Europe, and his ally, Japan, becoming ever stronger in Asia, Americans saw at last the dangerous position of the United States, sandwiched between the two.

Roosevelt had already persuaded Congress to approve the first peacetime military conscription in American history and to suspend the Neutrality Acts. Now he sent Britain all the military equipment that the United States could spare —rifles, guns, ships. Early in 1941 the British ran out of money. In March Roosevelt persuaded Congress to accept his Lend Lease Plan.