Learning from our history

Posted Oct. 19, 2010, at 7:59 p.m.

Today we’re having a history test. History is the backdrop onto which all of our current events are placed and without that framework there’s absolutely no perspective with which to judge our current times.

Question 1: What major event happened on this day in history that completely changed the complexion and complexity of the United States?

Hint: It infused the country with millions of people of various cultural backgrounds who were at times related to the existing U.S. population, but were also very different from the people who were already U.S. citizens.

Another hint: Of the newly acquired populations under U.S. control, very few would be treated as equals.

One last hint: It happened on this date in 1803.

Right! The newly formed United States of America purchased the territory of Louisiana from our allies the French. Remember how the French had turned the tide of the Revolutionary War for us by fighting the Brits on what was basically a global stage, creating essentially the first real world war?

Question 2: How much did we pay? Too easy; you knew it was $15 million, the equivalent to 4 cents per acre; impressive because 4 cents goes into $15 million many times.

Which leads to Question 3: What states would eventually join the country because they were all or in part contained within the parcel of land known as the Louisiana Purchase?

Right, 15 million bucks scored all or part of Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Minnesota.

Question 4: Why did the French sell off a giant resource-rich chunk of “undeveloped” land with the Mississippi River running through it like a highway straight to the new world’s timberland, prairies, mineral ores and wildlife?

Because of their ill-conceived war practices. See, even though they thought it to their advantage to fight Great Britain every chance they got — after all, old grudges die hard — they also decided it was to their advantage to fight battles that weren’t theirs. They helped any enemy of Britain — that includes us — to fight the Brits, too.

But grudge wars and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” wars are just as expensive as wars of self-preservation. And after these colonial and combative incursions into the global scene France was at the financial breaking point.

Question 5: What did the French need most by 1803? Cash!

Question 6: Knowing what you know now about waging wars of aggression or engaging in costly grudge matches, was France’s economic interest better served by keeping out of these wars and holding on to the Louisiana Territory or were they better served by engaging in multifront war and losing all their wealth to young upstarts such as the early United States? Silly Question, I know.

Question 7: Do you see any nation in play in the world today benefiting enormously from some other nation’s foolhardy penchant for war compounded by its complete unwillingness to pay cash for it?

Here, let me give you one chance to use the computer for help. Hop onto this www.michaud.house.gov where you can find your answer and search for unfair monetary policies.

See, the same game is being played today as was played 207 years ago today. Only the part of France is being played by today’s U.S. and the part of early 19th century U.S. is being played by China.

Like France, we’ve allowed our war debt to kill our economy. But today, we don’t have to worry about the Chinese buying the equivalent of 10 or more states because they own our debt and therefore a substantial part of the whole country.

Question 8: Do you wonder why Rep. Mike Michaud’s re-election bid isn’t even in question this year? Because he’s one of about 10 people who actually belong in Congress. He has always voted against these wars that have broken our economic backs, and now he is one of the few voices in the wilderness warning us about our monetary relations with the Chinese. Michaud should give history lessons.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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