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The Dominican Republic Once Agreed to Join the U.S.

October 15, 2014

Few in the English-speaking world realize that the Dominican Republic once agreed to join the United States. In 1869, D.R. President Buenaventura Báez signed an annexation treaty with U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The Caribbean nation, which shares an island with Haiti, would have become a U.S. territory, with the right eventually to apply for statehood.

Buenaventura Báez, five times President of the Domincan Republic

Buenaventura Báez, five times President of the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic wanted access to broader markets, cash to pay some heavy debts, and stability. The U.S. actually wasn’t its first choice to fill these needs, or even its second. In 1821, it had tried to join Gran Colombia, the South American super-nation, only to be foiled by the Haitians, who invaded and took over in 1822. And during 1840’s, after the D.R. broke free from Haiti, President Báez (not yet in office) tried to give his country to France, which declined. Báez had more success with the Spanish, who accepted the D.R. back into their empire in 1861 (having lost it decades before). But the Spanish pulled out in 1865, fed up with a civil war against local opponents of annexation.

President Báez ran a referendum in 1870 to prove his people wanted to join the U.S. Sixteen thousand voted “yes” and eleven voted “no.” Those numbers would have made this the greatest landslide in referendum history, if the vote hadn’t been bogus.

In an 1870 vote, the U.S. Senate split 28-28 on annexation, falling far short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. So it all came to nothing. Among other issues, the senators feared the D.R. was a bad buy, since it had a history of revolution and unstable governments. (President Báez himself had twice been deposed.)

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© 2014 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

Homo ghostus

September 27, 2014

I reported in an earlier post that Homo sapiens once shared the world with at least four other hominins: four other species of upright, tool-making, fire-burning people. The four are Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Flores hobbits (Homo floresiensis), and the Denisova hominins. We know of the Denisovans only from a single fossilized finger bone, or possibly two fossils. Scientists identified them as a separate species through extracted DNA. Well, now we’ve got evidence of a fifth species in the Lord of the Rings world of prehistory, and it’s more mysterious even than the Denisovans. That’s because we have no fossils for the fifth species. Read more…

The English Are Celtic (or Something)

September 22, 2014
It looks like the Celtic hero, King Arthur, couldn't keep his people from going English (assuming he even existed).

It looks like the Celtic hero, King Arthur, couldn’t keep his people from going English (assuming he even existed).

Traditional histories say that when the English migrated to Britain during the 400’s A.D., they almost completely replaced the native Celtic population. In other words, the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes — the Germanic peoples who became the English — wiped out the Celts or herded them all into Wales and Cornwall. The result: England’s people are almost completely Germanic, and so is the English language.

But a recent linguistic analysis tells a different story. Read more…

How Scotland and England Merged in the First Place

September 18, 2014

Now that the Scots have rejected independence from the U.K., it’s worth asking how Scotland and England got hooked up in the first place.

For centuries, Scotland was England’s enemy — always reliable for a northern invasion when England’s number-one enemy, France, called for a diversion. That and fear of a French invasion through Scotland led England to interfere in Scottish affairs over and over, often via invasion. Read more…

How Queen Elizabeth I Held Back the Toilet

September 17, 2014
Sir John Harrington, toilet inventor and potty humorist

Sir John Harrington, toilet inventor and potty humorist

The forerunner of the modern toilet appeared in 1596. An English nobleman named Sir John Harrington invented it and gave one to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth. Royal examples tend to shape culture. Witness the gentleman’s wig: a totally unnecessary hairpiece worn by well-bred Europeans during the 1600’s and 1700’s (and by some judges today) — triggered by a couple French kings who just wanted to cover thinning hair. So if the Virgin Queen had used the Sir John’s contraption, toilet tech probably would’ve spread long before the 1800’s, when toilets finally came into their own. But Elizabeth found Sir John’s machine too loud. (With a single toilet in the palace, news of royal bowel movements must have been distressingly public.) Read more…

Maps That Explain the Roman Empire

September 16, 2014

I’ve stumbled across a fun resource: 40 maps that explain the Roman Empire. It’s good reading and great use of visuals.

Downton’s Mr. Bates Must Be an Assassin

September 15, 2014

I know: this isn’t exactly history. But we’ve covered Downton Abbey before (twice), on more historical topics. And I can no longer keep silent.

The cold eyes of a calculating killer?

The cold eyes of a calculating killer?

[SPOILER ALERT: This post reveals details from Downton Abbey Seasons 1 - 4.] Read more…

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