Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, February 2009
Lessons from History to the American People
By Ivan Simic
ccun.org, February 28, 2009
Every day we have the opportunity to read the articles, opinions and news analysis from one group of the American people, in which they more or less express their will in sometimes, very confusing way. Many of them do not know historical facts about their own country, not to mention history of other countries.
Sometimes, they behave like the world did not existed before formation of the US; like Americans felt out from the sky in 18th the century; and everything good that happened in the world, happened because of the United States. Many of these Americans publicly criticize other countries and nations, accusing them of injustice, genocide, the devaluation of human rights, racism, war crimes, among others. However, they seam to forget their own history, therefore, it pertinent to remind them about few very interesting things concerning US history.
The American Revolutionary War - the American War of Independence (1775 – 1783)
The American Revolutionary War was a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen united former British colonies – British America, and not war between Americans and British as many present in public. In 1776, during the American War of Independence, British Revolutionaries gained control of the thirteen united colonies and declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, claiming sovereignty and rejecting any allegiance to the British Monarchy. This act resulted as a way for the United States to be officially recognized as the sovereign state by the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Therefore, we can say the American Revolutionary War was a civil war fought on colonized soil, as a war between British Crown and British rebels with help of other immigrants from Africa, Asia and Europe, not war between Americans and British, at least not, until international recognition of the US.
Pertaining to the US independence from the Great Britain, the US proclaimed independence first and as a new nation; the United States of America. Other countries did it much later. However, when it comes to independence, there are similarities between the US and Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Gambia, India, among others, they all gained independence from the Great Britain. Except, these countries were fully functioning countries before colonization, the US was not. Therefore the question that arises is: does Her Majesty British Queen still have the document which makes her the owner of the United States land?
There is a strong believe in the United States that the American Revolutionary War was a good war which brought freedom to the people and gave birth to the US. Yes, it was, but only for the new American nation. Many of these Americans forgot the other side of this war, like the fact that the war started as the war between Kingdom of Great Britain and British rebels in the North America and extended out to the Europe and the European colonies, ending as a global war between Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands (Dutch Republic).
The American Revolutionary War also left African Americans and Native Americans humiliated. African Americans saw the revolution as a fight for liberty, own liberty and freedom from slavery, however they were wrong. Both Patriots and Loyalist used African Americans for their own cause.
More than 20,000 African Americans such as Agrippa Hull and Prince Hall sided with the Patriot cause. Around 5,000 black men served in the Continental Army during the war, however, when George Washington took command of the Continental Army in July 1775, he issued an order to recruiters, ordering them not to enroll "any deserter from the Ministerial army, nor any stroller, negro or vagabond", despite the fact that they had fought side by side with their white counterparts at the battles of Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill.
In November 1775, the Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation that he would free blacks who came to fight with the British. By December 1775 the British army had 300 slaves wearing a military uniform.
In response to Lord Dunmore proclamation, in 1776 George Washington issued orders to the recruiters to re-enlist liberated blacks who had already served in the army, and worried that these soldiers might cross over to the British side. The British also feared that blacks with weapons in their hands would start slave rebellions.
After the war, British loyalist left America with their African slaves. There were about 2,500 African Americans who belonged to the White loyalists and they generally remained slaves until slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1834. Blacks who sided with the British were registered to the Book of Negros and were promised freedom. As the book came to close, they sailed to London and Nova Scotia as a free people as others left for Jamaica. Life for those who left for London and Nova Scotia was not easy; therefore, in 1792 around 1,193 blacks left for West Africa.
The African American Patriots who gave loyal service to the Continental Army receive no reward. In 1792, the United States Congress formally excluded the African Americans from military service, allowing only "free able-bodied white male citizens" to serve military. An estimated 100,000 African Americans escaped, died or were killed during the American Revolution.
One fifth of the total American population in 1776 was enslaved, about 500,000 black men, women and children. By 1860, there were 3.5 million enslaved African Americans in the United States due to the Atlantic slave trade; another 500,000 African Americans lived free across the country. After 200 years of depression, the African Americans saw freedom with the Civil Rights Movement, Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Black Power movement.
When in 1492, Columbus arrived to America and made his first contact with the indigenous people, he marked the beginning of the persecution and genocide of Native Americans. European colonization of Americas and rise of the new US Government brought nothing but problems to Native Americans.
European explorers and settlers killed many Native Americans, they used force to expel them from their lands and brought infectious diseases (chicken pox, smallpox and measles) to North America against which the Native Americans had no natural immunity and medicine. Later, American Revolutionary War tucks additional Native American lives. Most Native American joined the struggle by siding with the British, hoping to use the American Revolutionary War to stop the progress of further colonial expansion onto Native American land, with some, however joining the revolutionaries.
In 1783, the British made peace with the Americans by the Treaty of Paris, through which they ceded vast areas of Native American territories to the United States without informing the Native Americans, immediately leading to the Northwest Indian War. American policy toward Native Americans had continued to evolve after the American Revolution. Native Americans who fought with British against rebels were treated as a conquered people who had lost their lands by the United States Government. The Native Americans lost 5,000,000 acres (20,000 km2) of land with just one rule by the State of New York.
The newly formed United States Government was eager to expand, to develop farming and settlements in new areas. During American expansion into the western frontier, one primary effort to destroy the Native American way of life was the attempts of the US government to make farmers of the Native Americans, to force them adopt the practice of private property, to built homes, to educate their children, and embrace Christianity. In addition, one of the most extensive methods to destroy their way of life was the deliberate destruction of flora and fauna which the Native American used for food, including slaughtering of buffalos.
In addition, President Andrew Jackson and United States Congress passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to conduct treaties to exchange Native American land east of the Mississippi River for lands west of the river. In one word; it was a policy of the US government to ethnically cleanse Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi River to lands west of the river. The Removal Act of 1830 set into motion a series of events which led to the "Trail of Tears" in 1838; a forced march of the Cherokees, resulting in the destruction of most of the Cherokee population. The age of “Manifest Destiny” had serious consequences for Native Americans. Policy was put into action to clear the land for white settlers. Methods for the removal included slaughter of villages by the military and also biological warfare. These methods caused increased death of Native American, diseases, starvation, and destruction of their way of life.
By conservative estimates, the population of the Native Americans prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Today there are around 2.8 million Native Americans living on the territory of the United States, or around 0.8% of total population. In addition, in 2000, eight of ten Americans with Native American ancestry were of mixed blood.
However, maybe the biggest historical question is:
Who are Americans, really?
The majority of 306 million people currently living in the United States consist of White Americans, who trace their ancestry to the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Most White Americans are European American, descendants of immigrants who arrived since the establishment of the first colonies.
According to the United States Census Bureau’s report from 2008; 68% of the US population are White Americans, 15% Hispanic, 12% African Americans and 5% Asian Americans. This numbers are likely to change by the year 2050 when White Americans will no longer be majority; 46% White Americans, 30% Hispanic, 15% African American and 9% Asian American.
In 2000 census, Americans were able to state their ancestries; 7.2% of the US population was unaware about or could not trace ancestry, so they were counted as “Americans”. The most interesting part was the fact that German ancestry counted 15.2% or 42,885,162 million of the total population, second was African American with 12.9% or 36,419,434. Also, very interesting was the fact that in 1980 US Census 61.3 million Americans reported British ancestry (English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, Welsh); just two decades later, that number is 36.4 million.
If we look back to political history, the ancestry of 42 US presidents is limited to the following seven heritages, or some combination thereof: Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Swiss, or German. These include; John F. Kennedy (Irish), Franklin D. Roosevelt (French and Dutch), Abraham Lincoln (English), Martin Van Buren (Dutch), among others.
Eight Presidents were born British subjects: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and William Henry Harrison.
Therefore, our good friends and neighbors who like to condemn others should remember these facts next time they decide to criticize and lecture. They should address other countries and nations with respect, because Americans and the United States are the creation of older and astute countries and nations. The US Americans are in fact Europeans, Africans and Asians, and everything good or bad that they do to others; they in fact do to themselves, or better to say to their ancestors.
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