Web Extra: Read an Excerpt of Ben Carson's 'America the Beautiful'

The dangers that face our nation today are every bit as great as those we have faced in the past. The question is whether we have lost our capacity to endure hardship and sacrifice for future generations. We face a national budgetary crisis that threatens to rip our country apart and destroy our way of life, yet many concern themselves only with the governmental benefits they might lose. I write with the hope that we can reawaken the spirit of greatness that created the wealthiest, most compassionate, freest nation the world has ever seen. In this book we will embark upon a brief review of pertinent parts of our history that have everything to do with finding our way forward to a prosperous future.

Whether the first people to arrive on the North American continent were migratory tribes that traveled across a land bridge between what is currently Russia and Alaska, or whether they were ancient sailors who navigated the ocean—America has always had a rich and diverse ethnic background. Our nation began that way and we continue to expand that way. All kinds of people are responsible for our nation's rapid development and great accomplishments, and by the same token, we share blame for many of the atrocities that have occurred on American soil.

The impetus for Europeans to quickly settle the Americas came from the discovery of vast mineral deposits and other natural resources that could create enormous wealth. It was Amerigo Vespucci, an acquaintance of Columbus, who is credited with America's discovery in 1497, five years after Columbus landed in the Caribbean Islands while searching for a new route to the spice-rich Far East. Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho, who visited the Americas in 1421, could lay claim as well—and there is also evidence that Scandinavian explorer Leif Erikson reached the Americas hundreds of years before any of these other explorers. Regardless of who "discovered" America, Columbus's expeditions certainly raised awareness back in the Old World as to the New World's vast potential for increasing the wealth of those nations that were able to exploit it. And once this became known in the Old World countries, explorers began to arrive.

The Spaniards had significant colonies and exploited the mineral wealth here, and America could easily have been a Spanish-speaking nation, but an intense rivalry between Spain and England, particularly during the latter part of the sixteenth century, put America up for grabs. Spain's domination of the oceans was challenged by England and the Dutch, who were building an extremely large merchant marine fleet in Europe. The final nail in the coffin of Spanish domination of the oceans took place in 1588, when the Spanish Armada was sunk in a battle with the English and, more importantly, by a ferocious storm, which decimated their mighty fleet. Because the English dominated the seas in the early 1600s, they decided it was their right to begin colonizing America, and the first of the permanent English colonies, Jamestown, was established in 1607.

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