William Gladstone

William Gladstone
William Gladstone
William Ewart Gladstone, one of the dominant prime ministers in British history, was born in Liverpool, England, on December 29, 1809. Although his legacy is as a great Liberal reformer, he began his career as a Tory member of Parliament for Newark in December 1832.

The year 1832 was important because it witnessed the passage of the Great Reform Bill of 1832, a first and historic step to enfranchise a larger segment of the British population. Before this, members of Parliament were often chosen by corrupt lords or magnates, which guaranteed the election of members handpicked by the influential local political power.

The passage of successive Reform Bills in the 19th century is considered to have been the main reason that Britain missed the tides of revolution that swept through Europe during the same period.

For a man who would be a Liberal standard-bearer, Gladstone’s first speeches, which marked him as a great orator, were in favor of slavery, at a time when William Wilberforce was attempting to have the institution banned.


While author Philip Magnus says Gladstone was opposed to the actual institution of slavery, he was against the sudden abolishment of slavery without due planning. Otherwise, in Gladstone’s words, emancipation from slavery would be “more fleeting than a shadow and more empty than a name.” In spite of Gladstone’s perorations, Wilberforce’s dream was realized.

Gladstone’s evident parliamentary skills brought him to the attention of the Tory Party’s prime minister Robert Peel. Two years after his maiden appearance in Parliament, Gladstone joined Peel’s government as a junior lord of the treasury and then as an undersecretary at the Colonial Office in 1835, at a time when British relations were becoming tangled over the importation of opium from British India (then governed by the quasi-governmental British East India Company) to the Chinese Qing (Ching) dynasty.

Peel’s overall reputation as a reformer may have played a role in the gradual evolution of Gladstone’s political view. When Peel resigned as prime minister in 1835, Gladstone loyally followed him.

In 1841, when Melbourne fell from power, Queen Victoria asked Peel to form another Tory government. In 1843 Peel rewarded Gladstone’s loyalty by appointing him to the prestigious position of president of the board of trade.

Gladstone’s evolving liberal agenda ultimately cost him the support of his long-time patron, the duke of Newcastle. Still, Gladstone retained his position in Peel’s cabinet until Lord John Russell formed a Whig government in July 1847.

Serving under Peel, Gladstone became aware of the problems in Ireland and embarked on the political cause of home rule for Ireland that would dominate the later years of his political life. By the fall of Peel’s administration, Gladstone had already become a rising force in the Tory Party.

In 1847 he became the member of Parliament for Oxford University, a unique indication of the value of Oxford to the nation. When the Tory George Gordon, Lord Aberdeen, formed a coalition government in 1852, Gladstone became chancellor of the exchequer.

Once the Crimean War began in 1854, the Aberdeen government was blamed for all the mismanagement that dogged the British army in the long and bloody struggle with Russia, which Britain fought as an ally of the Ottoman Empire.

Aberdeen’s government fell in 1857, perhaps the last casualty of the Crimean War. Aberdeen himself would die in 1860. By this time, Gladstone had earned such a name as a competent public servant that Henry Temple, Lord Palmerston, the Whig who had formed the coalition ministry with Aberdeen, offered Gladstone his old position as chancellor of the exchequer in June 1859.

Taking office necessitated Gladstone giving up the conservative Tory Party and joining Palmerston’s Liberals, as the Whigs were now being called. Oxford University, as Tory as it had been when it supported King Charles I in the English Civil War, abandoned Gladstone, and he was forced to take a seat as the Liberal member of Parliament for South Lancashire.

When Palmerston died in 1865, Lord John Russell became prime minister and requested that Gladstone stay on at the exchequer. Moreover, Gladstone became leader of the Liberals in the House of Commons.

Voice of Progressivism

On March 12, 1866, Gladstone emerged as the voice of progressivism in the British parliament when he proposed the Second Reform Bill. Although the lack of Conservative support doomed the bill and Russell’s ministry, it was clear that the time had come to extend the voting franchise once again. The workers in the factories were demanding more of a say in their government. Meanwhile, Gladstone’s premonitions about Ireland were coming true.

When Edward Stanley became prime minister in 1866, Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative leader in the House of Commons, also realized that another reform bill had become a political necessity. Together, in a rare display of partisan unity, the two future political rivals joined forces and mustered enough votes to pass the Second Reform Bill in 1867.

In the same year the Conservatives were defeated in the general elections and Gladstone became prime minister. While the Reform Bill opened the franchise far wider, it nevertheless still left open the voting system for abuse. In 1872 Gladstone passed the Ballot Act to ensure secret, safe, voting.

In 1874 Disraeli became the new prime minister, inaugurating the fascinating political situation where the two most powerful and astute politicians of their day took turns holding the office of prime minister.

It was also a time of epochal change for Britain, for from this time on the events of its growing empire took perhaps even greater involvement of its government than the affairs at home which had previously commanded all the talents of Gladstone and Disraeli.

In 1875 the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire rebelled against Turkish rule. Sultan Abdul Aziz began a reign of terror, killing thousands of men, women, and children. The rebellion ultimately led to Russian intervention on the side of the Christian Slavs.

Gladstone, motivated by reports of the slaughter, wrote his Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East in 1876. As Russian troops swept down the Balkans, Disraeli, as prime minister, deployed the British Mediterranean Fleet off Constantinople.

War between the Russians and Great Britain was finally averted when Chancellor Otto von Bismarck chaired the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to effect a diplomatic solution to the Balkan crisis.

In 1880 Parliament was dissolved by Disraeli in March. Disraeli, thinking he could score an impressive political triumph, lost the general election, and Gladstone was returned to office as prime minister.

While reversing Disraeli’s stern policy toward the Turks, Gladstone found himself increasingly embroiled in colonial affairs, especially in southern Africa. A British victory over the Zulus in July 1879 had made England the dominant power in South Africa.

When British troops under General George Colley were slaughtered in the Battle of Majuba Hill, instead of taking revenge, Gladstone granted political self-government to the Boers in their Transvaal Republic.

Either through advancing age or a godlike determination that he alone knew what was best, Gladstone almost always found himself at odds with the British people on imperial matters.

In 1875 Disraeli bought the controlling interests in the Suez Canal from the bankrupt Khedive Ismail of Egypt and Gladstone was later forced to send a British expeditionary force to Egypt. Gladstone now was confronted with a virtual British colony in Egypt.

His imperial involvement did not end there. Years of Egyptian misrule had led to a rebellion in the Sudan led by Muhammad Ahmad Abdullah, who called himself the Mahdi, the Rightly Guided One. One Egyptian expedition under General William Hicks to crush the Mahdi ended in total defeat, and the Mahdi created a separate Sudanese state.

In 1884 Gladstone sent British hero General Charles “Chinese” Gordon to the Sudan to evacuate Egyptians from the capital of Khartoum. When it became clear that Gordon was determined to remain in Khartoum, Gladstone authorized a British relief expedition to be sent up the Nile to Khartoum, all the while hoping Gordon would change his mind at the last moment.

When the first elements of the relief force finally reached Khartoum in January 1885, it was clear that the city had fallen to the Mahdi and Gordon had been killed. As a result of this, Gladstone was blamed for the murder of Gordon, a national hero.

Gladstone continued to pursue the policy of political reform that had been dearest to his heart. In 1886, riding on his new popularity among the working class, Gladstone was elected yet again to serve as prime minister.

The other issue that mattered to him was home rule for Ireland, an attempt to make amends for generations of misguided and sometimes brutal British rule against the Irish people.

On this issue, both the Tory Party and the conservatives of the Liberal Party joined forces against him, determined to preserve primacy for the British—and avoid any political autonomy for the Irish at all costs.

In the general election of 1886, Gladstone’s government was defeated, with his advocacy of home rule for Ireland the deciding factor. Robert Cecil, the marquess of Salisbury, was given permission by Queen Victoria to form a government, drawn entirely from the Tory Party.

In 1892 Gladstone was elected yet a third time to serve as prime minister. In 1893, his Irish home rule bill was finally passed in the House of Commons, by a vote of 307 to 267. Victory seemed near.

Yet the bill still had to pass the House of Lords, where the alliance between the Tory Party and the industrial and land-owning magnates of Ireland opposed to home rule was firm. Opposition was led by Lord Salisbury, who referred to Irish home rule as “this treacherous revolution.” The House of Lords defeated the bill by a vote of 419 to 41.

On March 1, 1894, Gladstone addressed the House of Commons for the last time and resigned as prime minister. He died on May 19, 1898.

G. K. Gokhale

Gopal Krishna Gokhale
Gopal Krishna Gokhale

Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the founder of the Servants of India Society, was one of the outstanding leaders of the Indian freedom movement in its earlier phase. He was born in Kotluk in the Ratnagiri district of the Bombay Presidency on May 9, 1866, to Chitpavan Brahmin, Krishnarao and Satyabhama. His father, who had risen from a clerk to police personnel, sent him to an English school in Kolhapur.

He had a prodigious memory and received a bachelor of arts degree from Elphinston College in Bombay (now Mumbai) at the young age of 18. He taught first at the New English School at Pune and then at Ferguson College of the Deccan Educational Society from 1866 to 1904.

At the same time, Gokhale came under the influence of a social reformer and judge, Mahadev Govind Ranade, who encouraged him to write articles in the English weekly, the Mahratta, and later to publish a daily newspaper titled Jnanaprakash, where he put forth his moderate views on politics. He was the Secretary of Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, founded by Ranade from 1890 to 1895, and edited its journal.


There was a disagreement with Bal Gangadhar (B. G.) Tilak, another notable leader, over the question of lifetime membership in the Deccan Educational Society. After Tilak’s resignation, Gokhale and Ranade established the Deccan Sabha in 1896, which aimed at promoting liberalism and moderation in Indian politics.

Gokhale joined the Indian National Congress (INC) and was its joint secretary in 1895. He met Mohandas Gandhi in 1896 and the two developed a lifelong friendship. Gandhi later wrote a book titled Gokhale, My Political Guru.

Gokhale went to London in 1898 to give evidence before the Welby Commission, which had been convened by the British parliament to look into the complicated question of Indian expenditure. He protested the draining of wealth from India and the exploitation of the country and severely criticized the use of Indian revenue to finance military operations outside India.

In 1899 he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council and worked on famine relief, land alienation, and municipal government. He was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1902, where he argued for granting responsible government to India and fundamental rights to its citizens.

In June 1905 Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society to promote Indian national interests by peaceful means. Gokhale, as a moderate politician, had professed loyalty to the British Empire, but at the same time advocated for India the type of self-government enjoyed in Canada and Australia.

In 1905 there was a tremendous upsurge against British rule as a result of the partition of Bengal by Viceroy Lord Curzon. It was a time of frenetic activities for Gokhale, who was elected president of the INC.

He traveled to England in October to meet British parliamentarians and liberals and championed the cause of India with eloquence and clarity. His presidential address to the congress in December 1905 was a scathing attack on the British government and its repressive policy toward antipartition Indians.

Gokhale next worked to avert a split in the INC between congress old guards and extremists led by Tilak. Moderates like Gokhale favored constitutional reforms, which were helped when the British government announced the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909, which introduced the system of limited elections that pleased the Indian moderates.

Gokhale was also concerned with the problems of Indians living in South Africa. On Gandhi’s invitation, he went there in October 1912. He also served as a member of the Royal Commission on the Public Services in 1912, where he advocated greater Indian representation in the upper ranks of government services, but his proposals were not carried out because of opposition by British members.

The years of hard work weakened Gokhale’s health, and he died on February 19, 1915. Gokhale had started his life in a humble way and became one of the greatest leaders in the country’s history, thanks to his spirit of dedication, capability, public spirit, and selfless service. Leading an austere life, he was popular with his countrymen. It was not without reason that Gandhi regarded him as his preceptor.

Prince Gong (Kung)

Prince Gong (Kung)
Prince Gong (Kung)

Prince Gong was the title given to Ixin (I-hsin), sixth son of Emperor Daoguang (Tao-kuang) of the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty and half brother of his successor, Emperor Xianfeng (Hsien-feng), a depraved and inept ruler.

In 1853 Prince Gong was appointed Grand Councilor and took responsibility for the defense of the capital area as the Taiping rebels threatened. His mettle was put to the test in 1860 when British and French forces marched on Beijing (Peking) in retaliation for China’s reneging on the Treaty of Tianjin (Tientsin) of 1858.

Xianfeng and his court fled the capital to Rehe (Jehol), where the Qing emperors had a resort palace, leaving Prince Gong to deal with the invaders without soldiers under his command and few officials to assist him. The British and French forces looted and then burned the emperor’s Summer Palace and forced Prince Gong to sign the Treaty of Beijing.


This treaty confirmed the Treaty of Tianjin and in addition granted Britain and France the right to station permanent envoys in Beijing, the lease of Kowloon (adjacent to Hong Kong) to Great Britain, the opening of Tianjin as a treaty port, and increased the indemnity to both victor nations.

Xianfeng abandoned himself to dissipation and died in Rehe in 1861, leaving the throne to his five-year-old son under a council of five regents that did not include Prince Gong.

In the ensuing power struggle, Gong allied with the two dowager empresses (widows of Xianfeng) and executed a coup that toppled the regents. Thereupon the dowager empresses Ci’an (Tz’u-an), wife of Xianfeng, and Cixi (Tz’u-hsi), mother of the boy emperor, assumed the powers of state with Gong as prince regent.

Events of 1860 changed Prince Gong’s attitude toward Westerners from one of hostility to respect. He found allies in two prominent Manchu noblemen, including his father-in-law Gueiliang (Kuei-liang) and Wenxiang (Wen-hsiang), and Han Chinese officials Zeng Guofan (Tseng Kuo-fan), Li Hongzhang (Li Hung-Chang), and Zho Zongtang (Tso Tsung-t’ang) because all favored reforms.

Prince Gong modernized the conduct of foreign affairs, establishing a new office called the Zongli Yamen (Tsungli Yamen) that took charge of foreign relations with Western powers for the next 40 years.

He also set up two offices to supervise foreign trade in treaty ports in northern and southern China and the Imperial Maritime Customs Service to collect duties and fees mandated by treaties made with Western nations and appointed two Englishmen, Robert Lay and Robert Hart, to head this office.

In order to train young men as interpreters, he established a language school called the Tongwen Guan (T’ung-wen kuan), which soon expanded to include modern subjects such as geography, mathematics, and astronomy; later this school became National Beijing University.

It remains China’s most prestigious university. He also had works of international law translated into Chinese, which he used to China’s advantage in dealings with Western nations.

In time, the ambitious dowager empress Cixi began to resent Prince Gong’s powers. When Tongzhi died in 1874, Cixi seized the occasion to appoint her threeyear-old nephew the new emperor in a power play that enabled her to become regent.

With her position firmly established and with the death of his allies Wenxiang in 1876 and Ci’an in 1881, Prince Gong became sidelined and increasingly discouraged. To show her power and control, Cixi chastised Prince Gong for concocted misdeeds, ignored his advice, and led China toward collision with France and Japan with catastrophic results.

Prince Gong was a pragmatic statesman who steered China toward stability and a quarter century of peace after the disaster of 1860. He also left numerous compilations on the conduct of state during his decades in power and two collections of verse.

Charles Gordon

Charles George Gordon
Charles George Gordon

Charles George Gordon was a British army officer. His famous early exploits in China between 1862 and 1864 earned him the name “Chinese Gordon,” while his later actions and death in Khartoum, the Sudan, gained him the epithet “Gordon of Khartoum.”

Gordon was trained as an army engineer and saw action in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. He was sent to China in 1860 and took part in the capture of Beijing (Peking) in the second Anglo-Chinese War. In 1862 he was sent to Shanghai, China’s premier port of international trade. Southern

China was then in the throes of the serious Taiping Rebellion (1850–64), centered in Nanjing (Nanking), the rebel capital. In 1860 the army of the Taiping Loyal King threatened Shanghai. To defend themselves the rich merchants of the city commissioned Frederick Ward, an American adventurer, to organize a mercenary army.


With soldiers recruited from among Western deserters, Ward’s rifle squadron captured Sunjiang (Sunkiang), a town near Shanghai, and turned back the rebels. In 1861 Ward recruited 100 European officers and expanded his force with 4,000–5,000 Chinese and 200 Filipino soldiers, whom he armed and drilled in the Western fashion.

This force won many battles and repulsed another attack on Shanghai in 1862, for which the Chinese government named it the Ever-Victorious Army. After Ward died of wounds in 1862, another American, Henry A. Burgevine, was named commander, but he was soon relieved from command due to the many problems he caused.

Gordon was next appointed to lead this army with British government permission. He served under the overall command of Li Hongzhang (Li Hung-chang), governor of Jiangsu (Kiangsu) Province, in which both Nanjing and Shanghai were located. Between 1862 and 1864 the Ever Victorious Army fought in 33 actions against the Taipings.

Gordon’s most famous victory was taking Suzhou (Soochow), an important city between Nanjing and Shanghai, from the rebels. The Taiping Rebellion ended in 1864 with the capture of Nanjing and the suicide of the rebel leader.

The Qing (Ch’ing) government rewarded Gordon with the rank of general, which entitled him to wear the Yellow Jacket (equivalent of a high military decoration). With the end of the rebellion, the Ever Victorious Army was disbanded, and Gordon returned to England for reassignment by the British army.

The Ever Victorious Army was important, because it was the first Chinese fighting force to use Western firearms and training; its effectiveness showed the superiority of Western military techniques and technology.

Gordon was stationed in Britain until 1871 and then undertook tours of duty overseas, mainly in Egypt and the Sudan. In 1884 the British government sent him to the Sudan to extricate the Egyptian garrison (Egypt claimed overlordship over the Sudan) from the forces of the Mahdi, a Sudanese religious leader in revolt against the Egyptians.

Gordon’s small force was besieged in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, by the forces of the Mahdi and was killed two days before a British relief force arrived on January 22, 1885. In death, this colorful British officer who had earlier earned the name “Chinese Gordon” became known as “Gordon of Khartoum.”

Government of India Act (1858)

Government of India Act (1858)
Government of India Act (1858)

The Government of India Act of 1858 was an act of the British parliament that ended the existence and long tenure of the British East India Company in India and transferred its power and assets directly to the

British Crown. Thus ended the role that the remaining 1,700 shareholders in the company had, directly or indirectly, over the lives of 250 million Indian people. This revocation of the company happened in spite of the fact that the charter of the East India Company had been renewed in 1853.

The impetus for the Government of India Act was the Indian Mutiny (or the War of Independence, as the Indians later called it) that took place in 1857 and shook the power of the British in India. The British East India Company was founded in 1600.


Initially lucrative, it incurred large losses beginning in the 1700s and had to be bailed out by the British government, in William Pitt’s India Act of 1784. The East India Company’s deep financial trouble continued after the Indian Mutiny, leading to an overhaul in 1858.

The main provision of the bill that was passed by Parliament transferred the territories of the East India Company to the British Crown. This meant that all treaties and contracts made by the company would be honored by the British government, including a debt of £98 million, one-ninth of the entire British government’s national debt.

The rule of India was placed in the hands of the secretary of state for India who was able to deal directly on Indian matters under the prime minister’s administration. The British government would also appoint a governor-general who was under the secretary of state for India.

The bill was introduced by Prime Minister Lord Palmerston and was passed on February 18, 1858. It finally became law on August 2, 1858, and started the period of direct rule of India that lasted until independence for India and Pakistan in August 1947.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant commanded the Union armies during the American Civil War and was the 18th president of the United States. Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio.

When his paperwork for admission to the Military Academy at West Point was submitted, the congressman submitting the paperwork made the mistake of listing his name as Ulysses Simpson Grant, which he never changed. Grant graduated 21st in his class of 39, was commissioned a second lieutenant on July 1, 1843, and was assigned to an infantry regiment.

During the Mexican-American War his regiment was initially attached to Zachary Taylor’s army, then to Winfield Scott’s army to capture Mexico City. Grant fought in all the major battles during the campaign and was breveted to captain. But his official rank was only raised to first lieutenant after the war.


He married Julia Dent in August 1848 and served in several posts after the war, rising to the rank of captain in August 1853. Grant resigned his commission in July 1854 to return to his family. Grant tried several different business ventures and ended in business with his father and brothers in Galena, Illinois.

At the start of the Civil War he volunteered with the Illinois militia and was eventually given command of a regiment in July 1861. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in August.

He led a force against the Confederate forts of Henry and Donelson in February 1862. When he demanded the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson, the northern newspapers dubbed him “Unconditional Surrender” (U.S.) Grant.

Grant spent much of 1863 attempting to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was not until May 1863 that he was able to drive the Confederate army back into Vicksburg and lay siege to it. After almost two months, Vicksburg surrendered to him on July 4, 1863. With the fall of Vicksburg, Grant was promoted to major general.

attempting to capture Vicksburg
attempting to capture Vicksburg

In October he led a Union army that lifted the Confederate siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. President Abraham Lincoln gave him command of all the Union armies and the job of bringing the war to an end. Grant joined the Army of the Potomac that was facing General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Grant spent most of 1864 trying to destroy Lee’s army and finally settled into a siege at Petersburg, Virginia. Grant was able to trap Lee’s army during a breakout attempt, and he forced Lee to surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

After the surrender of Lee’s army, the remaining Confederate armies also surrendered and brought the war to an end. Grant was rewarded by Congress with the revived rank of full general in July 1866.

Grant ran for president in 1868 as a Republican and served two terms, from 1868 to 1876. Unfortunately, he was not much of a politician, and corruption was a problem during his administration, although Grant was not personally involved.

However, he also did not take a firm stance against corruption in his administration, favoring colleagues and friends despite mounting evidence of their corruption.

During his administration, Grant proposed the annexation of Santo Domingo both as a way to improve civil rights issues in the South and to attempt to force Cuba to abandon slavery. The measure was voted down in Congress, mainly due to the influence of Senator Charles Sumner. He also signed America’s first national park (Yellowstone) into existence.

Grant’s inability to handle financial matters caused him problems after his terms as president, eventually causing him to go bankrupt. In order to try to pay off his debts and provide for his family, he wrote his memoirs, which turned out to be a great success. Suffering from throat cancer, Grant finished his memoirs days before he died on July 23, 1885.

First and Second Great Awakening

Great awakening
Great awakening

The First and Second Great Awakening are names given to two periods of religious revival that occurred over wide geographic areas in the 18th and 19th centuries. Revivals occur in many religions throughout the world, but they are often identified with American evangelicalism.

The awakenings exerted immense influence on American culture, as later generations of Christians emulated these revivals, hoping to recreate their benefits, including unusually high numbers of conversions and an intensified piety and commitment. The idea of a nationwide revival inspires a deep longing among evangelicals to see the nation morally renewed.

The causes of religious revivals are impossible to specify, though contributing factors can be identified. The effects usually consist of greater preoccupation with spiritual things among the awakened: prayer, spiritual concern, communal harmony, and moral reform.

The First Great Awakening


The First Great Awakening began in the 1730s, touching most English-speaking populations around the North Atlantic. In New England, descendants of the Puritans were conscious of having fallen away from the severe moralism and intense religious devotion of their forefathers, seizing instead the new economic opportunities offered by the expanding Atlantic market.

Christians of the middle colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey struggled to maintain identity and cohesion in a highly diverse religious environment utterly unlike the Europe their churches had been formed in. Churches in the southern colonies, largely Anglican, served a plantation elite, leaving the poor, and especially slaves, unevangelized.

The awakening’s first interpreter was one of its major leaders, Jonathan Edwards. In 1734 and 1735 Edwards’s church experienced some “surprising conversions” which he believed were the beginnings of a revival.

His Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, written in 1737, advertised these events and what Edwards thought they portended across the Atlantic world. Churches prayed for revival, preachers emphasized the need to experience the “new birth.”

Edwards speculated that the revival was part of God’s plan to evangelize the world and usher in the millenial reign of Christ. While many preachers accepted Edwards’s speculations, their overriding concerns matched those of ordinary people: assuring their personal salvation rather than the salvation of the masses.

Conversion and George Whitefield

Conversion had always been a church and community affair. Most Protestant traditions taught that experiences of God had to be confirmed, through one means or another, by the local community of believers. Only then could the individual trust that the experience was real.

The revivalists of the First Great Awakening, while far from antiec-clesiastical, made the church secondary to the transaction that took place between an individual and God, and most taught that if a person truly believed, they could be assured they were converted.

Thus, for people coping with more diverse communities, geographical mobility, and the declining authority of communal hierarchies, the revivals offered new paths to spiritual life.

Itinerant preacher George Whitefield (1714–70) emphasized the simplicity of conversion: “Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved.” In a society increasingly characterized by the dislocations of urban and frontier existence, this streamlined model of conversion was particularly effective.

Where earlier forms of conversion required one to agree with nuances of church doctrine, as well as find a place in a local community, in Whitefield’s preaching these fell to the background.

What was central was the transaction between an individual and God. Whitefield’s popularity was in large part due to the nature of his message: He told ordinary people there was another way to salvation, and it did not require placating other human beings.

Other factors surely contributed to his celebrity: youth, good looks, voice (which was both loud and pleasant, he had originally aspired to be an actor), and the controversy he generated by itinerating with no fixed pulpit. All appealed to the mass audiences he attracted, estimated by his friend and supporter Benjamin Franklin at up to 20,000 on some occasions.

Whitefield’s evangelistic tours, which began in 1739, revolutionized American expectations and left an altered religious landscape. Churches debated his call for a more evangelical theology and preaching. Many split, allowing for religious choice in towns where none existed before.

Numerous preachers took his simple message, his appeals to the emotions, as well as his penchant for controversy, and carried them farther, sometimes to extremes, as Protestants divided into the pro-revival (“New Light”) and anti-revival (“Old Light”) camps.

New Lights sent missionaries to Indians, evangelists to work among slaves, and, most important, supported numerous educational initiatives, such as the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), which called Edwards as its first president.

Pastors and scholars, influenced by the revival and eager to see it replicated, filled pulpits and lecterns throughout the colonies and infused the American culture with New Light ideas.

The Second Great Awakening

The Second Great Awakening (1790–1840) was characterized by emotional preaching, outdoor assemblies, and sophisticated (for their time) publicity efforts. It spanned by some reckonings almost half a century, occurring in various regions and with a motley assemblage of leaders and participants.

The energies it unleashed left an even deeper impression on the United States than the first and is seen by some historians as the beginning of modern revivalism.

If the first was evangelical in the sense that it emphasized individual conversion over confessional loyalty or church membership, the second institutionalized almost all the themes that currently define evangelicalism: revivalism, publishing ventures (especially Bibles and tracts), moral crusades, and the use of political means to reform society according to a specific Protestant vision.

In addition, new religious groups, known as upstart sects of Baptists and Methodists, and distinctively American movements, such as Adventism and Mormonism, grew out of the awakening. Slaves and free blacks converted in significant numbers for the first time, altering southern religious styles in the process.

The 1760s–90s were a low point in religious adherence and belief in the United States, with enlightened deism influential among elites; churches and personal morals disrupted by war; and politics, commerce, and westward migration competing with religion for popular interest. In New England, Yale’s Timothy Dwight warned that the new nation was sliding toward infidelity.

Clergy in that region were generally Federalists, supporting the old, pre-Revolutionary hierarchies: Men of education, wealth, and character needed to control politics and culture. The Revolution had turned those assumptions upside down, and, as power migrated into the hands of non-elites, conservatives feared for social order.

Revival, said Dwight, would instill virtues such as respect for authority in what otherwise might become an unruly rabble. Concerned that the French Enlightenment was in vogue among Yale’s students, Dwight’s chapel sermons eventually sparked a revival.

This phase of the awakening stressed the danger posed to youth by imported or innovative ideas and movements, offering revivals themselves as the antidote to the specter of national degeneration.

Frontier Revival

Similar concerns in the South led to small revivals at several colleges. Graduates impressed by these events joined the swarm of migrants pouring onto the frontiers of Kentucky and Tennessee.

There, widely dispersed populations had run ahead of all institutions, including churches, and were living in moral chaos. Evangelists found people starved both for the comforts of the Gospel as well as entertainment, and preachers determined to provide them with both.

It is here that the frontier camp-meeting had its start. Meetings derived from Scottish Presbyterians, who gathered annually in multi-church outdoor communion services that lasted several days, involved a series of sermons, reflection, repentance, and finally a mass celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

This practice was carried to the frontier and evolved into something uniquely American. Old World sacramental decorum was traded for the boisterous, uninhibited expressions of the frontier.

The result was the “Great Revival” of Cane Ridge, Kentucky, where thousands congregated in 1800–01. Cane Ridge was notorious for its bizarre phenomena: crying out, jerking, uncontrollable laughter, and swooning.

To many, these signified true supernatural work; many preachers encouraged them. The active participation of marginalized segments of society—plain folk, blacks, and women—may have contributed to the uninhibited nature of these revivals.

The open market of religious choice that America now was meant that these groups had the power to affect, if not determine entirely, the style and the content of revival preaching.

Democratic appeal became an essential requirement for frontier religion. Calvinism (predestination) was jettisoned to make room for more emphasis on individual ability. Sermons had to be practical, simple, and entertaining.

The result was a religion that hewed close to the concerns, but also the prejudices, of the local community. Once critics of slavery, evangelicals in the South found themselves accommodating the system to better attune the sermons to the local populace.

Previously marginal churches such as the Methodists and Baptists bested competitors in popular appeal and came to dominate he South. Abolitionism received an influx of zealous evangelicals in the North, while slavery enjoyed the blessings of all the evangelical churches of the South.

The Legacy of the Awakenings

The Methodists’ powerful presence in antebellum America enticed other groups to adopt their style. Perhaps the most important figure in this regard was also one of the century’s most important religious figures, Charles Grandison finney. A lawyer when he converted, he developed a theology and preaching style that would produce revivals.

He adopted Arminian (free-will) views of human ability, arguing that conversion was an individual act that required no special divine grace. He preached in a way that argued his case and demanded an immediate decision. He brought a revivalism forged on the frontier to the urbanized Northeast and eventually the world.

His ideas—and the legacy of the Second Great Awakening—were passed on in his Lectures on Revivals of Religion in 1835. He and many other leaders became important voices for abolition, womens’ rights, health reform, the perfectibility of society, various moral reforms, and missions.

Neither awakening had as much of a numerical effect on the churches as their promoters hoped and claimed. What they did effect was a revolution in how churches operated in a diverse, democratic society. Protestants became open to experiment and were determined to grow in national influence, making evangelicalism the powerful movement it remains today.

Great Plains of North America

Great Plains of North America
Great Plains of North America

The Great Plains of North America extend about 2,400 miles from parts of the Northwest Territories to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. In the United States, they continue southward through sections of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas, into Mexico, and about 1,000 miles from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains eastward to Indiana. The area of the Great Plains is 1.2 million square miles, with 700,000 square miles in Canada and 500,000 square miles in the United States.

The High Plains, a higher region of the Great Plains west of the 100th meridian, are arid and receive only 20 inches or less of rainfall a year, making the land suitable for range animals or marginal farms.

The southern part of the Great Plains lies over the Ogallala aquifer, an immense underground layer of water-bearing rock dating from the last ice age. Drought devastates the plains about every 25 years and dust storms ravage it as well.


As Meriwether Lewis noted in his journal, vast herds of bison ranged on the Great Plains and provided the foundation for the lives and culture of the Native American tribes like the Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and others.

Much of this territory was acquired by the United States from France in the Louisiana Purchase and was then opened to settlement. After European settlers nearly exterminated the buffalo and removed Native Americans to Indian reservations, they opened the Great Plains to ranching and grazing.

The Homestead Act of 1862 and later the Dominion Lands Act of 1871 in Canada opened the Great Plains for settlement and farming. A settler could claim up to 160 acres of land if he and his family lived on it and cultivated it for a period of time. Thousands of Americans and immigrants built homesteads. Many were not skilled dryland farmers and failed, as they were unprepared for the rigors of life on the Great Plains.

In the early 1920s historian Walter Prescott Webb introduced his Great Plains thesis stating, “... for this land, with the unity given it by its three dominant characteristics, has from the beginning worked its inexorable effect upon nature’s children. The historical truth that becomes apparent in the end is that the Great Plains have bent and molded Anglo-American life, have destroyed traditions, and have influenced institutions in a most singular manner.”

He stressed the environmental distinctiveness of the Great Plains and differentiated them from the rest of the North American continent. He cited the comparatively level land surface on the plains, the absence of trees, the semiarid climate, and argued that two important physical characteristics across the plains were missing. These elements were water and abundant timber, and their lack made the Great Plains environmentally unique.

The second part of Webb’s thesis stressed that the Great Plains represented an institutional chasm. He argued that Anglo-American lifestyles and institutions were adapted to wet, well-timbered environments, and Americans had evolved mainly from the wet and timbered regions of northwestern Europe.

When they immigrated to North America, they settled along the Atlantic seaboard, a region of plentiful rainfall and dense forests. They settled the region successfully because their lifestyles, tools, methodologies, and institutions were suited to this physical environment.

When settlers came to the Great Plains, the culture and customs that they brought with them from the East made it difficult for them to cope with the foreign environment for long periods of time. Settlement jumped from the wet forests of the East to the western Pacific slope of California and Oregon, leaving the corridor known as the Great American Desert uninhabited and undeveloped.

They had to adapt their institutions and lifestyles to the plains. On the Great Plains, the horse, the Colt revolver, the Winchester carbine, the open-range cattle industry, barbed wire, sod housing, windmills, dry land farming, and irrigation, as well as new laws, were all part of the process of adaptation.

Greek War of Independence

Greek War of Independence
Greek War of Independence

The Ottoman Empire had ruled all of Greece, with the exception of the Ionian Islands, since its conquest of the Byzantine Empire over the course of the 14th and 15th centuries.

But in the 18th and 19th centuries, as revolutionary nationalism grew across Europe (due, in part, to the influence of the French Revolution) and the power of the Ottoman Empire declined, Greek nationalism began to assert itself and drew support from western European “philhellenes.”

By that time, the desire for independence was common among Greeks of all classes, whose Hellenism, or sense of Greek nationality, had long been supported by the Greek Orthodox Church, by the survival of the Greek language, and by the administrative arrangements of the Ottoman Empire.


In Odessa (a port on the Black Sea now in Ukraine) in 1814, Athanasios Tsakalof, Emmanuel Xanthos, and Nikolaos Skoufas founded a Greek Independence Party, called Philiki Etairia (Friendly Society). The founders recruited merchants and rich expatriates abroad, as well as military leaders, priests, and intellectuals.

The fall of Napoleon I in 1815 released many military adventurers from whom the Greeks could learn the art of contemporary warfare. Vienna, Great Britain, and the United States were havens of refuge and planning for Greek émigrés.

The obvious candidate to lead the Philiki Etairia was Ioannis Kapodistrias. In 1808 he was invited to St. Petersburg and in 1815 he was appointed by Czar Alexander i as foreign minister of Russia. The message of the society spread quickly and branches opened throughout Greece. Members met in secret and came from all spheres of life.

The leaders held the firm belief that armed force was the only effective means of liberation from the Ottoman Empire and made generous monetary contributions to the freedom fighters. With the support of Greek exile communities and covert assistance from Russia, they prepared for a rebellion.

Only a suitable opportunity of revolt was needed, and this was provided by the rebellion of Ali Pasha against Sultan Mahmud II. While the Turks were preoccupied with this threat, the Greeks rose to war.

The start of the uprising can be set as March 6, 1821, when Alexandros Ypsilanti, the leader of the Etairists, crossed the Prut River into Turkish-held Moldavia with a small force of troops, or on March 23, when rebels took control of Kalamata in the Peloponnese peninsula. Regardless, on March 25, 1821, Bishop Germanos raised the Greek flag as the banner of revolt at the monastery of Aghia Lavra in the Peloponnese.

The ensuing revolution went through three phases: local successes in 1821–25, the crisis caused by the Egyptian intervention on behalf of the Ottoman Empire in 1826–28, and a period of overwhelming European intervention on behalf of the Greeks ending in Turkish recognition of Greek independence in 1832.

From the beginning, the revolution had great momentum. Simultaneous risings took place across the Peloponnese, central Greece, including Macedonia, and the islands of Crete and Cyprus. Fighting broke out throughout the Peloponnese, with freedom fighters laying siege to the most strategic Turkish garrisons and razing the homes of thousands of Turks.

The worst atrocity occurred in Tripolitsa (today Tripolis), where 12,000 Turkish inhabitants were massacred. The Turks retaliated with massacres in Asia Minor, most notoriously on the island of Chios, where more than 25,000 civilians were killed.

The fighting escalated throughout the mainland and many islands. Using the element of surprise, and aided by Ottoman inefficiency, the Greeks succeeded in taking control of vast areas. Within a year the Greeks had captured the Peloponnese, Athens, and Thebes.

In January 1822 the rebels declared the independence of Greece. The Turks attempted three times between 1822 and 1824 to invade the Peloponnese but were unable to take the area back from the victorious Greeks.

The Ottomans, however, soon recovered and retaliated violently. The retribution drew sympathy for the Greek cause in western Europe, although the British and French governments suspected that the uprising was a Russian plot to seize Greece from the Ottomans.

The Greeks were unable to establish a coherent government and soon fell to fighting among themselves. They lacked unity of objectives and strategy, and the objectives of the different classes and regions were too disparate to be reconciled.

In 1822 two Greek governments existed, and by 1824 open civil war prevailed in Greece. In 1823 civil war broke out between the guerrilla leader Theodoros Kolokotronis and Georgios Kountouriotis, who was head of the government that had been formed in January 1822.

After a second civil war in 1824, Kountouriotis was firmly established as leader. These internal rivalries prevented the Greeks from extending their control and from firmly consolidating their position in the Peloponnese.

Egypt’s Response

Fighting between Greeks and Ottomans continued until 1825, when the sultan asked for help from his most powerful vassal, Egypt. Egypt was then ruled by Muhammad Ali Pasha, who had built up a large army and new naval fleet. The Egyptian force, under the command of Ali’s son Ibrahim, quickly gained control of the seas and Aegean Islands.

With the support of Egyptian sea power, the Ottoman forces successfully invaded the Peloponnese. They recaptured the town of Athens in August 1826, and the Acropolis, symbol of Greece’s former greatness, fell to the Turks in June 1827.

The Western powers were reluctant to intervene, fearing the consequences of creating a power vacuum in southeastern Europe, where the Turks still controlled much territory. In Europe, however, the revolt aroused widespread sympathy.

Greece was viewed as the cradle of Western civilization, and it was lauded by romanticism. The sight of a Christian nation attempting to cast off the rule of a Muslim empire also appealed to the European public.

Help did come from the philhellenes— aristocratic young men, recipients of a classical education, who saw themselves as the inheritors of a glorious civilization, willing to fight to liberate its oppressed descendants.

Philhellenes included Percy Bysshe Shelley, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Victor Hugo, and George Gordon, Lord Byron. Byron spent time in Greece but died from fever in 1824. Byron’s death did even more to augment European sympathy for the Greek cause.

European Intervention

The Greek cause was saved by the intervention of the European powers. Favoring the formation of an autonomous Greek state, they offered to mediate between the Turks and the Greeks in 1826 and 1827.

When the Turks refused, a combined Russian, French, and British fleet destroyed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Bay of Navarino in October 1827. This was the decisive moment in the war, although the British admiral Codrington ruined his career because he had not been ordered to achieve such a victory.

Although the Battle of Navarino severely crippled the Ottoman forces and made the independence of Greece practically certain, another two years passed before the fighting ended and nearly five before the new state took shape. In October 1828 the French landed troops in the Peloponnese to stop the Ottomans.

Under French protection, the Greeks were able to form a new government. In April 1827 Kapodistrias was elected as provisional president of Greece by the third National Assembly. The Greeks then advanced to seize as much territory as possible, including the ancient cities of Athens and Thebes.

Again the Western powers intervened, and Ottoman sultan Mahmud II even proclaimed a holy war. Russia sent troops into the Balkans and engaged the Ottoman army in another Russian-Turkish war in 1828–29.

Fighting continued until 1829, when, with Russian troops at the gates of Constantinople, the sultan accepted Greek independence by the Treaty of Adrianople, or Edirne, in 1829.

In 1830 the Greeks still had in mind a future ruler who would remain the sultan’s vassal. The treaty of Adrianople made this impossible, and in February 1830, the throne of Greece was offered to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

In 1832, however, the 17-year-old Bavarian prince Otto from the House of Wittelsbach accepted the Greek throne and became King Otho of the newly independent state. Neither the boundaries nor the constitution of the new Greek state were yet settled, and the state at the time was much smaller than in the present day.