Important Highlights From “Alistair Cooke’s America”

Pgs. 1-140

Good afternoon everyone.  😃

I just started reading a new book, and it’s a massive hardcover with about 400 pages and some amazing pictures.  The title is “America,” and it was written by Alistair Cooke.  The author was a child during World War I, which gives us an idea of how old he is or would be today, and he was from Blackpool England.

I love the internet and researching information on the internet, but nothing can take the place of books.  For one, we know Alistair Cooke wrote this book, and he gives us a little background of who he is and where he’s from.

There’s a lot of plagiarism on the internet, and information changes fast.

I’m about a third of the way through this book, and it covers roughly the time between the Columbus Voyage in 1492 to the seventies.  That’s a lot of information.  A lot.  Obviously, there’s a lot of information shaved out as well, so this book in my opinion, is an excellent source of the most important information regarding our side of the globe, written by someone from the other side.

As I’ve read, I also highlighted.  So, I’m going to take out of it what’s most important to me, and share it with all of you.

  • “San Francisco was exclusively founded by Australian convicts.”
  • “The determined adventurer has to make a special effort, if he wishes to imitate the pioneer, and penetrate the Great Basin in Nevada or the vastness of the Bitterroot Mountains or the High Sierras.”- In this quote, the author is giving his opinion about a person today making his or her way across the country from New York to California, because as he says, all of it may be driven across comfortably on cement highways.  The ability to drive and fly has pretty much taken from the spirit of the pioneer.
  • The second region embraces what is now the United States.  It is Tocqueville succinctly observes, “more varied on its surface and better suited for the habitation of man.”  So, indeed it is.  Which is why the almost four million square miles of Canada house only twenty-one million people, and the three million square miles of the continuous land area of the United States (excluding the outposts of Alaska and Hawaii) support a population of over two hundred million.  At one time, the land masses were split into regions.  Canada was the first, North America was the second, and South America, I guess, was the third.  Interesting indeed.  The author’s also talking about habitable land here, and it’s amazing.  Twenty-one million people live in Canada on four million square miles, while in the United States, two hundred million people live on three million square miles.  WOW.  
  • “Father of Waters”-also known as the Mississippi River.
  • “Who was the first white man to discover America?  We do not know.  It was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine business man.”- Well, there it is.  There were tribes of people already here in North America we’ve always called Indians, or Native Americans.  Where did they come from?  That’s an interesting question. 
  • “Geographers and Mathematicians were beginning to agree that the earth was round, but there were not too many sailors who cared to believe it.  There was however, a superb one, who had spent so much of his time with astronomers and mathematicians and had been a master mariner with the Portuguese.  Christopher Columbus.”- In terms of discovering America, we know it wasn’t Christopher Columbus, but there records concerning the Spanish’s rampage through Central America and Mexico.  
  • “To the Portuguese goes the melancholy privilege of having started the European enslavement of African Negros, in 1444, fifty years before Columbus.”
  • “They would build a New England, and a better one.”- LOL, Yes, it was literally supposed to be a better newer England.
  • Virgina…There developed inevitably a recognizable class system: at the top a small and hard-working class of landowners; a main body of yeomen who, once black slavery relieved them of hard labor, became a middle class; and at the bottom the indentured servants. – An indentured servant is an employee working within a system of unfree labor who is bound by a signed or forced contract.  The employee or servant must work for a particular employer for a fixed time.  I read somewhere once, whenever there’s a class system in place there’s also slavery.
  • John Winthrop believed that hunting with a gun was wrong only if you couldn’t make a profit from the kill.  He thought it would be wrong to move to New England unless the colony could guarantee a financial success.  It was a man’s duty to GOD to use his talents to the full.  His material success would be the visible sign of God’s blessings.- For anyone who thinks God doesn’t want you to work, or money is evil, it’s not true, according to God of course.  In fact God’s does want you to work.  
  • “He advised all young sons to take old women for mistresses because they’re more discreet, and so thankful.  – Benjamin Franklin
  • “He did not like to be touched,and when he became the first President he laid down a rule that all people coming to see him should remain standing in his presence.”  “Yet there are several things about him that made him an unquestionable leader of the new nation.  A pervasive sense of responsibility, an unflagging impression of shrewd judgement, and total integrity.”-George Washington
  • “One thing must be clear by now: a revolutionary chain does not forge itself.  It has to be secured by conspiracy.”  
  • “So there came into being a string of Middle Colonies-New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware-whose only original links were the English language, the English common law, and an itch to start afresh, for various reasons, in the New World.
  • Pennsylvania was founded because Charles II owed £16,000 to a dead admiral who, alive, had been grieved by his son’s embrace of the Quakers and by his frequent wrangles with the Establishment.  The King was happy to get rid of his son, William Penn, by settling the debt with a grant of land in America, very fertile bursting with minerals, no less than three hundred miles long and one hundred and sixty miles wide!”
  • “By 1733 there were thirteen Colonies settled along the Atlantic seaboard-in order of founding Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Georgia.  Each had its own currency, its own government, its own trade laws and religious ways.”I put this quote in bold because it really is amazing when you look at where we started, or how we started as a Nation.  There’s a reason why it was like this.  When you consolidate, or unite the States to make a country, you lose or sacrifice the closeness between the people and government.  When every state had its own government, laws etc. there was a more personable relationship, therefore, the people were always heard.  There input was always taken into consideration.  There was no hierarchy or chain to go through if you were having issues with something.  We had it right.
  • “But the colonies had been on a very loose rein to the old country and took something for granted that London had long overlooked: the rising power and effectiveness of the separate colonial governments.”
  • So it proclaimed that everything beyond the crest of the Appalachians was untouchable Crown property, strictly off limits.  The young colonist had seen a paradise through a door they had prised open and it was slammed in their faces.  They felt cheated of their wartime inheritance.” 
  • The British then reminded them that, inheritance or not, it was a new frontier that would have to be defended.  London gave the colonist a year to suggest ways in which this might be done.  At the end of that time, London offered them a choice: either to raise their own patrol or to pay through taxation for the maintenance of ten thousand British soldiers.  The colonist didn’t want to do either, so Parliament, in 1765, ina routine session with little debate or indignation, passed a tax bill, the Stamp Act.”- LOL, oh boy.  This did not go over well with the colonist.
  • “It was the first internal tax that Britain had ever imposed, and its effect was to unite the colonist in a fury.  The revenue agents appointed to sell the stamps were about as popular as lepers.  If they had any sense they quit their jobs or were soon persuaded to do so by mobs that tarred and feathered them, sacked their homes, and rioted-in Massachusetts, Virginia, New York, and North Carolina-outside the houses of the Royal Governors.  Within the year, a Parliament dazed by the viciousness of this response listened to an eloquent appeal by William Pitt the elder and repealed the Stamp Act.  The rejoicing in America was evidently as widespread as the original defiance.  Toasting the Royal Family was again a safe thing to do at public dinners.”-You see that defiance and rebellion enabled the Americans to live on happy, loose, and talking shit over dinner.  Moral was up.  


Okay, this concludes my selection of important highlights from the book,  ” Alistair Cooke’s America.”  I selected the text that was important or stood out to me from the first 140 pages.  When I finish reading I’ll post highlights from the last 260 pages.  Thanks for reading.




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