Though slavery in America has long since been illegal in the United States, the ramifications of the African slave trade that almost broke the new nation are still felt throughout American society, politics, and culture today. While the rest of the world had long engaged in the forced servitude of people throughout history, America was introduced to the first African slaves by Dutch merchants in 1619, which spiraled into more than two hundred years of an economic reliability on slaves. However, the enslavement of Africans in the New World was just one faction of slavery in America, with the forced servitude of Native Americans throughout the American Southwest and California also being present, and resulting in the genocide of many Native Americans throughout the territories.
With the ink of the Revolutionary War Treaty of Paris documents barely dried, the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 took the fledgling American nation from being 13 colonies that stretched to the Mississippi, to a country that encompassed everything from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Not only did the land acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase doubled the small nation’s property, but it proved Thomas Jefferson’s hopes of a farming, agriculturally-led country with a thriving middle class and the dreams of a grand, progressive and democratic society would become a reality.
The very word “West” in American history has all sorts of different connotations; from cowboys and Indians to dust bowls and Davy Crockett, the American West is as diverse as it is expansive. The drive that led the Founding Fathers, and particular Thomas Jefferson, to seek agreements that would allow American soil to stretch from sea to sea, is one that shaped, and shook the very foundations of the republic. American progress has been defined by the Manifest Destiny, a 19th century belief that the growth of the American nation to encompass the entirety of the Americas was inevitable—but it also presented many strifes.
In 1904, at an estate auction, the National Museum of Scotland purchased a harp said to be given to Beatrix Gardyne of Banchory by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1563. While no one can ascertain the truth of this tale, the instrument is thought to have been decorated at one time with a portrait of the queen. The museum’s collection of items associated with Mary also includes a set of jewelry, a cabinet, and coinage minted during the tumultuous reign of this tragic queen. The items, like the events of Mary’s life, are indeed the stuff of legends, and the museum’s web site devotes several pages to this most famous of all Scots.
In a world popularly obsessed with the occult (the phenoms of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings come to mind), it seems hardly plausible that the past murders of American “witches” were not only accepted but encouraged in history. For those unfamiliar with the Salem Witch Trials—the killing of 14 women and six men between the years of 1692 and 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts—however, the events are no ghost story.