The Year Was 1789

French RevolutionThe year was 1789 and in the U.S. a young government was beginning to take shape. In its first nationwide election, the popular Revolutionary War general, George Washington, became the country’s first president and was sworn in at the first capitol of the United States, Federal Hall in New York City.

In France, a rebellion was underway and with the storming of the Bastille prison, the French Revolution began. In its reporting on the subject, The Times of London, England had the following to say of the conflict:

The spirit of liberty which so long lay in a state of death, oppressed by the hand of power, received its first spark of returning animation, by the incautious and impolitic assistance afforded to America. The French soldier on his return from that emancipated continent, told a glorious tale to his countrymen–“That the arms of France had given freedome to thirteen United States, and planted the standard of liberty on the battlements of New York and Philadelphia.” The idea of such a noble deed became a general object of admiration, the [facets?] of a similar state were eagerly longed for by all ranks of people, and the vox populi had this force of argument–“If France gave freedom to America, why should she not unchain the arbitrary fetters which bind her own people.”

Later that year, the Marquis de Lafayette, with the advice of Thomas Jefferson who was at the time the American ambassador to France, drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It was adopted by France’s National Assembly in August and ratified by Louis XVI in October.

There was unrest in other parts of the world as well. Sweden and Russia were at war, and briefly, Norway had joined the conflict, although a peace treaty was signed in July 1789.

In a smaller, but well-known conflict, the mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty was also in the year 1789.  On April 28, part of the crew of the Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian, mutinied and set Captain William Bligh and eighteen crewmembers adrift. Bligh managed to get the boat some 3,600 miles to Timor. Some of the mutineers were captured and prosecuted–three were hanged, while others, including Fletcher Christian ended up on Pitcairn Island, where some of their descendants live to this day.

In 1789, there was an epidemic of influenza in New England, New York, and Nova Scotia, which resulted in many deaths due to secondary cases of pneumonia. The new president was among those who fell ill. He caught a cold while visiting Boston, and later, was affected more seriously with influenza, which was dubbed “Washington Influenza.”

Other disasters that year included floods in Norway in July that affected more than 1,500 farms with loss of livestock, inundation with water, land- and mudslides, and erosion.

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5 thoughts on “The Year Was 1789

  1. I love these ‘The year was …’ bits. Each time one comes out, I look at the major families I’m tracing and figure out what my folks were doing at the time. Its great fun, adds some depth to my stories, and sometimes suggest new directions for exploration.

    The 1789 year was a little more challenging than most, since many of my families have not been traced back that far. But I could look at my two US farm families. Baltis SWACKHAMER, whose father had died seven years earlier, was finally getting married. Soon he and his new family would be leaving New Jersey and moving up to northern New York State. Were they effected by that Flu epidemic? How did they get started on a new farm?

    In another line Aaron TOMPKINS, age 54, had married for the third time. My GGgrandfather would be born the following year. They increased their property holdings in Essex county, New Jersey. 1789 looked like a good year for them. Great fun, no!

  2. I want to thank you for all the good work you do and to say how excited I am to have immigration records of my family – to see the image of the actual ship on which they sailed. I look forward to more passenger lists prior to 1820 if possible. Thank you again.

  3. Abot the articles not being printer friendly — I highlight, copy and paste the article into a file set up in MSWord, so I have it even if it is not printer friendly. I just copied one in this way from the blog summary.

    Thanks for making the whole series available. I had missed copying several of them.

  4. History is so important as to the time line of a family’s history. Being able to refer to a summary has help evaluate different events that could have or did change what my families did in those years. Thank you!

    Why was the 1950’s the odd decade for America?

    Enjoy the new year Bill

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