Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C.

Davis Summary & Connections The establishment of a nation is not just a one year task, especially for the establishment of a strong nation. Every country in the world has undergone a time of rebellion or revolution to eventual arrival at their present state. It does not only take time, but also lives, and people who dare to be different and start a revolution. Certainly, the establishment of the United States of America cannot get away with this. The first two and a half chapters of the book Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis provides much information about the origin of America and how freedom and fundamental rights slowly evolved into a privilege not only for white males but for everybody in America as well. The first chapter explains the origin of America. As Portuguese develops and expands seaward, it puts more and more pressure on the neighboring Spanish to explore for new markets to sell their good as well as to import raw materials they lack. All of a sudden, Spain, Portugal, and France all sent their explorers out in a race to find a sea path to Asia, and thus sparked the colonization fever, when every country tried to acquire as much colonies as they could. Therefore Europeans started settling in America, the hunting grounds which the American Indians had thrived on for generations—forming the first of thirteen American colonies—Jamestown, Virginia. Some other famous colonies includes the trading village New Amsterdam containing the island of Manhattan, which was renamed New York after the Dutch colony is taken over by the English; the diverse colony of New England from the Great Puritan immigration; the province Louisiana named after King Louis XIV by La Salle; the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where Roger Williams was threatened into fleeing from to the Providence; Rhode Island, its capital Providence was first to establish religious freedom base of consent of its settlers led by Williams;

William Penn’s “holy experiment” of Philadelphia; not going into details for Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, and Georgia. Consequently, Indians often came into conflict with the settlers, and years of conflict exploded into war inevitably, thus war meant more expenses. Eventually the American colonies, originally formed to benefit their Great Britain in a system of mercantilism, became a burden to the government as troops were sent oversea to defend the colonist, leading to the problems that arose in Chapter 2 Say You Want a Revolution. The Great Britain, to maintain their constant income from the colonists and to pay off their debt from war, had levied tax on the colonists in daily goods in a series of acts passed by the Parliament. In response, the colonists boycott British goods and the troops were sent from Britain to the American colonists, competing for the already scarce jobs, taking away jobs and angry encounters between soldiers and citizens occurred, which eventually exploded into what was known as the Boston Massacre, in which the British soldiers open fire into an angry mob, and five bodies fell. The Townshend Acts repealed coincidentally on the same day, a period of relative calm followed until a party of patriots in Rhode Island burned the Gaspee, the boat of British antismuggling patrols. In response, Parliament had granted a legal monopoly on tea shipment to American to the nearly bankrupt East India Company in 1773, which undercut American merchants. Later, the Sons of Liberty later dumped cargos of tea off into the Boston Harbor, and quickly became known as the Boston Tea Party, leading similar parties in other colonies. King George became angry and was determined to rage war unless the colonists give in right away. To back up his point, he passed a series of acts—Coercive Acts, Administration of Justice Act, the Massachusetts Regulating Act, the Quebec Act and the Quartering Act—collectively

known as the Intolerable Acts. “Gathering in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26 1774, the First Continental Congress was made up of fifty-six delegates from every colony but Georgia,” stated Davis in Chapter two, in which one of the delegates from Virginia is Jared Starr, one of the key characters in the novel Legacy by James Michener. Together, they formed the Declaration of Independence, opposing “taxation without representation,” formally adopted by Congress on July 4th of 1776. Soon, the American Revolution was fought and ended with the surrender at Yorktown by Cornwallis and his 8000 troops on October 17 1779, and the Treaty of Paris was negotiated and signed in the January of 1784, which recognized the independence of the United States of America thus marked the boundaries of the new nation under the Articles of Confederation. Before the Declaration of Independence, the colonists did not live a very

peacefully in New England. First, there was the war with the Indians called the King Philip’s War in 1676. Later, there was Nat Bacon’s Rebellion, a demonstration of a new anti-authority sentiment in America, a foreshadowing of the Revolutionary spirit. Following this rebellion, there were the Paxton uprising in Pennsylvania, Leisler’s Rebellion in New York, and the Regulator Rebellion in South Carolina. In 1692, there was the Salem witch trial, convicting twenty-eight suspected witches. In 1740s, the Great Awakening causes the split among various factions but encouraged the founding of new colleges: Princeton, Brown, Rutgers, and Dartmouth. Politically, the divisions the Awakening had created contributed to a new spirit of toleration and secularism. In 1756, the French and Indian War started. The war took seven years and finally in 1763, the Treaty of Paris brought peace between France and Britain and gave the English control over American colonies and Canada. This soon led to the next chapter, Chapter Three Growth of a Nation from the creation of the Constitution to Manifest Destiny.

Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress had no power to tax in order to pay off its tremendous debt from the Revolution, and after the war, the unstable economy underwent inflation and depression as the government seized many farms in order to pay off debts. Eventually, these problems evolved into class conflicts, ending with rebellions such as farmer Shays’, which caught immediate public attention in the need to revise and improve the Articles of Confederation. Also, these violent breakouts caused killing among Americans. “…During a skirmish at the Springfield depot [Jared Starr] took two musket balls through his left hip,” and later died from it. (Michener 25) After much delay, on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was held at Philadelphia with delegates from every state except Rhode Island, in the course of four months, the new Constitution was debated over with every state arguing for their benefits. “There were conflicts everywhere: between small states and large states, North and South, slave states and abolitionist states.” (Davis 113) Most delegates like Jared Starr’s son— Simon Starr of Virginia—did not say a word in the Convention but instead listened and followed the ideas of one of the more experienced delegates like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson or profound intellectuals such as James Madison and James Wilson. During the Constitutional Convention, there were two major factions led separately by Jefferson and Hamilton, with opposing views on almost everything from paying off the national debts to foreign affairs. Quarrel between the Democratic Republicans, Jefferson and Madison’s

followers, and the Federalist Party—who favors strong central government—or Hamilton’s followers, eventually it resulted in duels when two men turn and shoot each other on the count of ten, causing Hamilton and Simon Starr’s death, as Edmund Starr described in a quotation from the book Legacy. His father had referred to Aaron Burr as “…that traitor, the disrupter of nations,” (Michener 72) but as Edmund later wrote in his memorandum, “the difference between

the two protagonists” (73) showing that there is no absolute correctness in what a man considered best for the government but both men were “ready to surrender their lives in defense of things they believed in.” (74) Likewise, Don’t Know Much About History did not comment on the absolute correctness of any belief but instead allow readers to judge on the righteousness of each leader’s actions by observing our modern day government. Also, as influential as the seven generations of the Starr seemed to be portrayed in the novel Legacy, they were not once mentioned in book Don’t Know Much About History, which shows readers that many people, although their names were not especially highlighted in American history, had contributed a great deal to develop America into one of the world’s most advanced countries today. From reading the inspiring novel Legacy and informational text Don’t Know Much History, we can connect the difference in the personal experience as Michener described his feelings as Norman Starr for the generations of Starr’s before him and in a third-person view like Davis, who specifically wrote about the most contributive people in American History, leaving those who were also hardworking and willing to sacrifice in the background diminished. From connecting the time written of the two stories, we are able to infer how Jared Starr was serving alongside with Hamilton as he bravely led his men in the fighting of the American Revolution and how the nation had glided along until problems arose, when it was Jared Starr who put down the rebellions and saved the nation, but losing his life. We learned that it takes more than just a group of thinkers to build a successful and prosperous government, as in America, all the people —the Patriots—are needed as the fundamental step to success. In the novel, Legacy by James Michener, it highlights the most important events that had taken place in the American history that post a major change in American life. These included the Declaration of Independence, which freed us from the British monarchy; the Constitution, which

let us live in a country with a strong government without losing our rights and freedom; the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dartmouth v. Woodward in which the Supreme Court limited the power of the states with private institutions’ charters, and McCulloch v. Maryland, which the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has implied power that needs to be related to the text of the Constitution, but not all powers need to be within the text. Although not included in the first three chapter of Don’t Know Much About History, the Civil War, which the North won and Lincoln emancipated all slaves; universal suffrage in which women are allowed to vote; and the Great Depression where Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced Social Security; these are the events that have changed and improved the life of the Americans. The improvement of a nation always requires some lost, whether it is economic lost or life lost.

Citation Michener, James. Legacy. 1st. New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1988. Davis, Kenneth C.. Don't Know Much About History. 1st. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.