Monday, September 27, 2010

August 22nd in History

St. Columba, with Nessie
in the center panel,
and the center right panel

  565   St. Columba reports seeing a monster in Loch Ness, Scotland.

Richard III

1485   The Battle of Bosworth Field, the death of Richard III and the end of the House of Plantagenet, ending the Civil War known as the War of the Roses between Lancaster and York.  The ascent of the Welsh House of Tudor to the throne of England lasted until 1603, when Elizabeth I died as the 'virgin queen', without leaving offspring to succeed her, and was succeeded in turn by the house of Stuart.  For those who know their Shakespeare, this is the battle in which Richard III has his horse killed out from under him, and utters the famous line, "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" in order to continue his fight.  The play is considered by some to be Tudor spin in support of the legitimacy of the dynasty by portraying Richard III of York as a villain.

1559    Bartolomé Carranza, Spanish archbishop, is arrested for heresy, which was kind of interesting, given he worked for the Inquisition in a variety of roles, including censoring the Bible. It turns out it is not only the Conservatives who rewrite holy writ to their specifications, like the Conservative version of the Bible. Despite working for and with the Inquisition, Carranza had several conflicts with it, and spent more than a decade under arrest in the Castle St. Angelo where he died.

1639    Madras (now Chennai), India, is founded by the British East India Company on a sliver of land bought from local Nayak rulers.

1642   Charles I called the English Parliament traitors. The English Civil War begins.  Not to be confused with the other English civil war, the War of Roses. Charles I ended up executed, by decapitation.  His head was sewn back onto his body after execution.  His alleged executioner was convicted of Regicide after the Restoration placed Charles II on the throne of England.
1654   Jacob Barsimson arrives in New Amsterdam. He is the first known Jewish immigrant to America.

1780   James Cook's ship HMS Resolution returns to England; Cook was killed on Hawaii during the voyage.

contemporary image of the revolution

former slaves fighting against
Polish mercenaries fighting
for France in the Haiti Revolution
1791  Beginning of the Haitian Slave Revolution in Saint-Domingue. This is the same slave rebellion that Pat Robertson blamed for the destructive earthquake that hit Haiti, citing a supposed pact with the devil.  Pat Robertson's claims made an international laughingstock of his Christian world-view, his conservative adherents, and American ignorance of history.  In fact, post-revolutionary  France had taken the unprecedented step of giving citizenship to free people of color. The 'grand blanc' white landowners had refused to comply, leading to the slave rebellion, led by free mulatto's who were the descendants of white slave owners and their slaves, and free people of color. It is true that an alleged voodoo priest, who may actually have been Muslim, Boukman Dutty, is claimed to have given the signal that was a catalyst for the revolt to start, back on August 14th, but it took ten days for any action to begin. The accusation that the ritual led by Dutty was a slave pact with the devil is an urban legend.  The ritual did involve animal sacrifice, of the kind typical in a variety of religions, including in the old testament of the Bible.  Boukman Dutty was killed by the French a few months later, and his head was cut off and displayed, in an attempt to convince the uprising he had lost his alleged power. (Unlike Charles I, above, it was not sewn back on afterwards.) Another voodoo priest, Francois Mackandal, had organized rebellion in the mid 1700s, which facilitated the later rebellion (he was tortured and burned at the stake).

Engraving of
Toussaint L'Overture,
first leader of Haiti as
an independent nation;
after negotiating
independence from France
he was captured and died
in exile in a French prison
in 1803

Of all the slave rebellions in the new world, especially around the Caribbean, this was the only one to be successful. Napoleon Bonaparte subsequently tried to re-enslave the black population in 1802. It is worth mentioning as context that his first wife, the Empress Josephine, was born on Martinique, another French Island colony, and that her family were sugar plantation owners. In part this attempt by Bonaparte was in response to the wealth that sugar cane contributed to France; Haiti was the single most profitable colony. But it was also a response to the death and destruction of the rebellion where 100,000 slaves eventually over a period of months killed 4,000 whites, and destroyed 180 sugar plantations, and hundreds of other coffee and indigo plantations, in a two month long campaign of rape, torture and mutilation, pillaging, and killing. The final carnage on both sides at the end of the Revolution in 1804 was an estimated 100,000 blacks, and 24,000 whites died during the rebellion and counter militant response.  The other reason for the rebellion was that in response to France declaring citizenship for free people of color, the white population had plans to sever their political ties to France as a colony and to instead join the British Empire.  The black population anticipated even greater harsh measures under the English than they had endured under the control of France, and the sugar cane agriculture had an exceptionally high mortality rate among slaves, leading to fears of an increase in slave trade traffic under the British.  Pat Robertson and those who share his Christian world view of past history and current events, would prefer to blame it on the superstition passing as religion, and ignore the real evil in his statements, ignorance of history.  This event was important to the U.S., because had France not been at war with England over Haiti, the American Revolution could very well have had a sadly different outcome for the United States. An interesting list of slave rebellions, with factual details (no mention of demonic interventions):   French troops land in Kilcummin harbour, County Mayo, Ireland to aid Wolfe Tone's United Irishmen's Irish Rebellion.

1848   The United States annexes New Mexico and California after winning the Mexican American War of 1846-1848, fought in part over annexing Texas.  This fulfilled the goal of President Polk and other expansionists to extend the US territory all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

1849   The first air raid in history. Austria launches pilotless balloons against the Italian city of Venice.

1864   Twelve nations sign the First Geneva Convention. The Red Cross is formed.

1934 Nazi Nuremberg rally, from Triumph of the Will

1902   Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first President of the United States to ride in an automobile.
           Birth of Leni Riefenstahl, German film director (d. 2003)  Riefenstahl was most famous for her
Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, filming the 1934 Nuremberg Congress of the Nazi Party.  She was a close friend of Hitler and Goebbels.

1920   Birth of Ray Bradbury, American writer.

1922    Michael Collins, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State Army is shot dead during an Anti-Treaty ambush at Béal na mBláth, County Cork, during the Irish Civil War.

1932   The BBC first experiments with television broadcasting.

1934   Birth of Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. general, most famous for his role in Desert Storm.

1941   World War II: German troops reach Leningrad, leading to the siege of Leningrad.

1942   World War II: Brazil declares war on Germany and Italy.

1950   Althea Gibson becomes the first black competitor in international tennis.

1952  The brutal penal colony on Devil's Island is permanently closed.

Charles de Gaulle

1962   An attempt to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle fails. Jean Bastien-Thiry, a military air weaponry engineer,  machine gunned the unarmored Citroen in which de Gaulle and his wife were riding, but they escaped, unharmed.  The assassination was part of an attempt by a faction of government officials and heads of corporations trying to prevent the independence of Algeria from France.  The assassination attempt became the basis for the novel and movie "The Day of the Jackal".  Bastien-Thiry was arrested, tried and convicted, and executed by firing squad, the last firing squad execution in France.

1962   The NS Savannah, the world's first nuclear-powered cargo ship, completes its maiden voyage.

1963   Joe Walker in an X-15 test plane reaches an altitude of 106 km (66 mi).

1971   J. Edgar Hoover and John Mitchell announce the arrest of 20 of the Camden 28. The 'Camden 28' were a group of anti-Viet Nam war activists, including four Catholic priests and one Protestant minister.  They staged a raid on the Camden, New Jersey draft board offices to remove the A-1 status draft records in a blow to bureaucracy.  The resulting trial and verdict was regarded as a clear example of jury nullification where a jury acquits the defendant(s) in a military trial despite clear evidence of their guilt, in this case, as an indictment of the Viet Nam War.

1972    Rhodesia is expelled by the IOC for its racist policies.

1989   The first ring of Neptune is discovered.

1992   FBI HRT sniper Lon Horiuchi shoots and accidentally kills Vicki Weaver during an 11-day siege at her home at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

1996    Bill Clinton signs welfare reform into law, representing major shift in US welfare policy

former Judge Roy Moore,
speaking at the Trussville
Tax Day Tea Party Rally,
in front of 350 supporters

2003   Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended after refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a rock inscribed with the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court building. Roy Moore remains a popular far right wing figure at Tea Party rallies and other ultra conservative events as a hero for not respecting the separation of church and state premise that no religion should be given formal government preference.  While I honor the principle that Roy Moore should be able to believe what he likes, and speak about it wherever anyone is willing to listen to him as a private citizen, I find his actions regarding the preferential placement of any religious document in a government building like the courthouse, and supporting it using his judicial position, to be profoundly un-American, and emphatically contrary to our Constitution which should govern our judiciary as well as the legislative and executive branches at all levels. Roy Moore has been running for the office of Governor of Alabama.

the Scream, c. 1893
Madonna, c.1895

2004    A version of The Scream and Madonna, two paintings by Edvard Munch, Symbolist Master of Expressionism, are stolen at gunpoint from a museum in Oslo, Norway.

2007 Debut of, Pulitzer prize winning fact-checking project of the St Petersburg Times.  Happy 3rd birthday Politifact!

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