Exploring America from historical perspectives: Muhammad Qasim Lal
Human history is as old as the earth itself. From decades, men went through thousands of researches to find a clearer picture of the history, specially of some lost contents.
The humans, undoubtedly, suffered from deleterious days for their existence. They witnessed Stone Age, Bronze Age, Ice Age, encompassing uncountable wars but remained fitted to the world. However, to turn the dark pages of history and exploring ‘The United States of America’, we have to go to back in Ice Age.
The Ice Age is basically a long period of freezing of the earth’s surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental, polar, and alpine ice sheets and glaciers. In this Age, humans used to hide themselves in the caves to be safe. Whenever they headed for hunting, they went in groups.
Similarly, one day a group headed turned out in search for food. They, when reached at the end of an Island, saw the freezed ocean which consequently connected the island with another Island. They walked to the New Island and kept going.
The distance between the two Islands was about 85 kilometers, which is called Bering Straight [Presently, this strait of the Pacific separates Russia and the United States]. It was the shifting point of two worlds, new and old.
Thereafter, the group found newly discovered place more suitable and favourable than the old one. So, they settled here, as it was oceanic vast blue land with minerals, foods, trees and more.
From here on, the people scattered around and made surrounding areas populated. A Chinese poetry also sheds light on it calling this new place ‘Fusang’ which means ‘out of this world’. It further says, “East of the Eastern Ocean lies the Shores of the land of Fusang.” If, after landing there, someone travels towards East for around 5000 kilometers, he will come to another ocean – blue, vast, huge and boundless.
Not only Chinese, but Hwui Shen, an Afghan Budhist, also reported that when he was accompanied with his four priests on a mission, journey to discover new lands, he left to China where they sailed northwest of Japan to the Land of Ta-Han (The Kamanchatka Peninsula in Siberia) and from there travelled 6600 kilometers east to the land of Fusang – America.
Besides this, the report, too, indicates the presence of Vikings here. Secondly, Muslims aslo claim that in the mid-tenth century, during the rule of the Ummayyed Caliph, Abdul Rahman -III ( 929-961 CE) Muslims of African origin sailed westward from the Spanish port of DELBA – the ocean of darkness and fog.
Things like building of holy places as mosques, and preaching Islam were also done, added Muslims.
It may be true as present ruins of mosques and minarets with inscriptions of Quranic Verses have been discovered in Cuba, Mexico, Texax and Nevada. It was, when European empires were ending.Their kingdoms halted to spread anymore. Though, European empires, especially Romans, enjoyed a complete dominance over the world before 15th century. But at this time, the only lasted empire, so far, was Byzantine Empire when its capital city was Constantinople.
But soon in 1453, the Turkish Sultan Muhammad Fatah conquered Constantinople and took control over it. He changed its name into Istanbul – the present capital of Turkey.
The capital city of Byzantine Empire was the centre of trade and business from where people across the world, mainly from Asia, came and did exchanges of goods. The city was holy place of the Christians too, where the citizens worshipped. But as the Turks took the control, they halted the trade and hence the city was heading into dark and harsh times. People were becoming poorer, their economic statuses were degrading with time. Nobody had enough food to eat. Thousands upon thousands of children, who could not be cared for, were simply left to die on dung heaps or in roadside ditches.
Across the whole France, 90pc of the population did not have land sufficient for their support forcing them to migrate out, falling into permanent debt or die.
Consequently, crimes generated and robbing on the streets became a common practice.
The situations of Europe were worsening day by day. They needed another trade route to Asia, so that they would stabilise their economy and become rich as they were before.
At that time, Marco Polo’s stories had inspired the Europe in which he praised Asia, particularly Japan and China as rich countries having golds and related monetary materials. Actually, Polo was a Venetian merchant, explorer, and a writer who traveled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. Therefore, the last hope of Europe was to travel to Asia at any cost.
Amongst the influencers of Marco Polo, one was Christopher Columbus. He was born in 1451 in Geneo, Italy, and was an explorer and a navigator. He had a plan which would open the trade hub of Europe with Asia. He presented his plan to officials in Portugal and England to get financial assistance but nobody helped him out. The reasons for rejecting his plan were mainly two; the financial crisis of the kingdoms and they did not believe on his plan.
In 1485, Columbus went to Spain and tried to meet the Queen, Isabella I of Castile. He tried 7 years but Queen, due to many reasons, could not meet him. When in 1491, the Queen and her spouse, King Ferdinand II, were about to defeat Muslims’ last territory namely Emirate of Granada, Spain, she called Columbus on her Palace.
Columbus shared his plan to the Queen.
The Queen got satisfied with his plan and assisted him two ships namely Nina and Pinta, and 89 men to help him for carrying out his plan. The Queen and King both sponsored Columbus. But two ships were not enough. So Columbus, on his own, took a third ship namely, Santa Maria from the city. The Santa Maria was the largest ship among the three. The Queen and Columbus, before his sailing, made some deals too.
On August 03, 1492, Christopher Colombus started his voyage across the Atlantic Oceans with his crew of 89 men and three ships for Asia. The beginning days were good, as Colombus along with his men had great hopes and admiration with their journey. But as days passed, circumstances got changing. They sailed and sailed but did not see anything. The men on ships started doubting on Columbus and conflicts started between them. Even his men tried to kill him so they would sail back to Spain.
On October 7, after 36 days onward their journey, they saw birds flying east. The birds sparked energy to Colombus and his men. Once again they got ambitious and determined towards their journey.
It is believed that on October 12, 1492, Colombus landed at San Salvador Island of Bahamas (present day West Indies), and discovered a ‘new world’. Christopher thought that he might had landed to Asia and this piece of land should be of Japan or China.
When he met with the people out there, he deemed them Indians due to their red-brownish skin colours. He named them Red Indians. This is still vague and in contradictory manner as to whether Columbus named them Red Indians because of their skin’s colour or he was convinced that he had arrived in “The Indies” (Asia), his intended destination. What Columbus later found and what he did to the people of America is yet another history.
On November 1504, Columbus was a castaway on Jamaica for a year. In November 1504, he returned to Spain. After three weeks of his arrival in Spain, Queen Isabella, his chief patron, had died.
Alonso de Ojeda, an Spanish governor and explorer, sponsored Amerigo Vespucci, who was an Italian-born merchant, explorer, and a navigator from the Republic of Florence, on voyage for the ‘new world’ which was discovered by Christopher Columbus.
Vespucci sailed total four voyages but the precise number of crew of men, which he had, is lost in the history. During his first voyage, when he landed at th northern coast of South America to well beyond the mouth of the Amazon, he concluded that this was neither Japan nor China but “A New World”. He later named it America, meaning the beloved land. However, Vespucci later became a Castillian citizen in 1505.
The Spanish Empire ruled over many territories for over three centuries, across the Caribbean Islands, half of South America, most of Central America and much of North America. The colonization of America by Spain continued until the Spanish–American war broke out in 1898.
While Spain’s colonization was in motion, British had rooted and established a dominant presence on Atlantic coast. It, too, began colonization’s efforts in the 16th in North America, but the first permanent British colony was established in Jamestown in 1607.
After than, British started taking the control. However, most of the settlements had consolidated into 13 British colonies by 1732, which were; Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.
The British policy was not good towards the colonies. The unjust behaviour of British soon led a revolt by the 13 colonies. After 40 years, in 1772 the colonies created a ‘United Front’ which they named “Continental Congress”. The very reason for this step was the crucial rule of British. The British had put several Acts on the colonies demanding money on every service they made. Whatever the people did in the colonies, they had to pay taxes to the British.
Interestingly, tea was very favourite to the people out there, so each year they spent millions of money on tea. So, the British, to rocket-sky her economy, imposed some Acts, such as Tea Act, Stamp Act and more. The only cause to make these Acts was to generate revenue for the government. But, the colonies, at some stage, were tired of paying unjust taxes. Consequently, they raised slogans against British such as “No taxation without Representation”.
Well, the first Continental Congress meeting was held at Massichusetts Bay in 1774 , in which all the colonies’ representatives were present except Georgia because of the war it had.
Besides continental congress, “Sons of Liberty” was too created by the 13 colonies. It was made through secrecy. Moreover, the sons of liberty were influential in orchestrating effective resisting movements against the British rule.
The unfair taxation and Acts brought all the colonies together and United.
East India Company, the English Company, was a trading company which traded across the colonial America’s coasts and did not pay a single tax to the government. This, indeed, lifted the colonies into aggression.
On December 16, 1773, Sons of Liberty, threw 342 chests of tea belonging to the East India Company from ships into Boston. The incident took place in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, that is why the incident was called Boston Tea Party.
However, this resulted in great loss for British. Approximately, British experienced a loss of 10 million dollars. After the Boston Tea Party, the behaviour of British changed. They treated the people with more anger, madness and hatred. British replaced the locals with their men from administrations.
Consequently, wars of Lexington and Concord took place on April 19, 1775. It was the first military engagement of the American Revolutionary War. The battles were fought in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington and Concord.
Furthermore, the second Continental Congress meeting was held on May 10, 1775. And this time all the 13 colonies’ delegates were present. The second congress is proved to be the base of American Revolutionary War. As Richard Henry Lee, the president of Continental Congress, hailing from Virginia Colony, proposed a hand written Act consisting of 22 Pages document declaring the thirteen colonies to be independent from British.
The proposal mainly put forwarded three main points; Declaration of Independence, Call to foreign Alliances and, Plan for Confideration. On June 11, 1776, after four days for the proposal, the delegates made three committees to look after the above mentioned tasks and to carry them out accordingly.
The Congress also founded the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. George Washington was selected commander-in-Chief in the army. They initiated ground battles and physical fights this time.
Whether third Continental Congress met or not, the history is blurred and controversial. Some say it was second going which led independence; contrarily, others call it third. However, it is believed the delegates met again in 1776 and they acted upon Lee’s proposal of independence.
The 12 colonies, on July 2, 1776, casted their votes in favour of Declaration of Independence except New York claiming she had not held her national convention. But she was in favour of the independence. The colonies, on July 4, 1776, declared the colonies independent and hence celebrated the independence day. Later on, July 9, 1776 New York also casted her vote in favour of independence.
Today, Americans celebrate 4th of July as their independence day every year.
Though the colonies celebrated their independence, but British neither accepted their independence nor did she recognize them as free states. The battles on ground fields were not ended. They were going on until British and the 13 colonies comprised by signing a treaty.
The treaty took place on September 3, 1783, in Paris between King George -III of British and the representatives of colonies (United States). The treaty was also known as “Peace Treaty” or “The Treaty of Paris”. The treaty ended the revolution and recognized the 13 colonies as free states.
Further, the treaty acknowledged the colonies as free, sovereign and independent states and that no any King, Queen or legal heir could claim of territories.
At last, demarcating of boundaries between US and North British America along with the fishing rights to Fishermen of US coasts near found Land and Sain Lawarence were also entertained. No matter under what umbrella you sit and suffer, the troubles and battles may last long but the fruitful days always come and you are going to overcome them as well.
The writer is a law student at University Law College, Quetta and hails from Buleda, Turbat.