Friday, September 24, 2010

July 11th in History

1767  Today is the birthdate of John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States (1825-1829), son of U.S. Founding Father and 2nd President of the United States and 1st Vice President of the United States, John Adams and his wife Abigail.  Adams was also one of the great diplomats of our country's history.  John Quincy Adams is the only President of the United States to return to a career in Congress, as representative from Massachusetts, after having served as President.

To the right is a copy of an 1818 daguerrotype of Adams, which predates the photo below of President Wilson in 1919 by 101 years.

1776 Captain James Cook begins his 3rd world voyage, which resulted in his death in the Hawaiian Islands in a conflict with native Islanders.

1798 the U.S. Marine Corps - and Marching Band. Semper Fi!

 from the 19th century -
1804 - Aaron Burr had tied President Jefferson for electoral votes in the election for the term beginning in 1801; the election was decided by the House of Representatives.  At that time, the person earning the most votes became President, and the person with the second most votes became Vice President.  On this date, taking seriously his 2nd Amendment remedies, Vice President Burr fatally shot  federalist and early architect of the U.S. econimic policy, first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken New Jersey.  Hamilton, a key federalist, was the architect of protective tarrifs and a national bank, which were traditionally supported by Whigs, and subsequently, Republicans.  Hamilton's image is at left.

This was not Hamilton's first 'affair of honor', he had been involved in 10 previous duels as the principal, and in a couple more as second.  Hamilton's son had died in a duel as well, predeceasing his famous father.  Despite public outrage, Burr finished out his term of office, immune from prosecution as Vice President, although he was indicted in both New York and New Jersey. Dueling at the time was surprisingly common, in both personal and political conflicts, but not usually fatal.  The photo to the right is of the actual pistols used in the Burr Hamilton duel.

A year after the duel, in disgrace, demonstrating a measure of his ambition for power and possibly an indication of his frustration with the access to power through a democratic political system, or petrhaps unhappy with being an also-ran for the highest office,  Burrr (pictured at left, notice the glasses on top of his head!) conspired with General James Wilkinson, head of the entire U.S. Army, in plotting to take over part of the Louisiana Purchase in an attempt to create a separate nation, which he intended to rule as king -- an interesting intention for a major figure in the American Revolution.  He sought help from the British, but they declined.  Burr also sought to take over a section of territory held by Spain.  It was discovered after he died that Wilkinson had been a paid agent - a spy - for Spain. In 1806 Burr led armed would-be colonists on New Orleans; Wilkinson bailed on the plan, accusing Burr of treason, in an effort to save himself from U.S. punishment.  Burr was arrested, tried, and acquitted on a technicality, after which he exiled himself to Europe for many years.  The technical term for the type of unauthorized military expedition to take over another country, or some part of the territory of another country, such as the Burr conspiracy to take over portions of the Louisiana Purchase, and subsequently portions of Spanish-held Mexico during a border dispute, is Filibuster, from the spanish word 'filibustero', used for pirates in the Caribbean in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries before falling out of use with the decline in piracy.  It was applied later in the 19th century primarily to numerous other U.S. citizens trying to take over Latin American countries briefly.  The term was used in the U.S. after 1850 to the legislative maneuver, as 'hijacking' or 'pirating' debate of legislation, although the legislative maneuver was known all the way back to ancient Rome.  Burr and Hamilton's duel on this date puts a number of aspects of contemporary politics, scandals and conflicts, into interesting perspective.  Anyone who has ever found learning American History dull must have simply missed the juicy bits.  While it is important to respect the founding fathers of this country, it would be unreasonable to believe they were equally all angels.  We have had our share of less than angelic contributors to our history.

1859 Charles Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities" was published, opening with one of the most famous sentences in literature, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

1895 The appropriately named Lumiere brothers demonstrate early film technology to scientists.  Auguste is on the left, Louis is on the right.  They pioneered still photographic technology which in turn led to moving picture technical development. Just as the first mundane words over a telephone are recorded in history, the first images recorded by the Lumiere brothers was of workers leaving their factory.

1899 Birthday of author E.B. White, writer of classic children's books, "Charlottes Web", and "Stuart Little"; co-author of Strunk and White's guide to good writing, "The Elements of Style".  White - yes "that" White - received an honorary Pulitzer in 1978.  I have a special fondness for "Charlotte's Web", it was one of my siblings favorite books, read over and over and over; a truly timeless children's classic.
from the 20th century 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act, the first major legislative effort on a national scale to improve U.S. infrastructure, which was in consistently wide ill repair.  Previously this had been an exclusively state and local concern.  Wilson and the early 20th century progressives recognized the significance of transportation to commerce and national security, as well as anticipating the development of the new automotive industry with the model-T Ford in 1908.  Wilson was  a leading progressive thinker, an early car 'enthusiast'.  In 1907, the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Wilson v. Shaw officially gave Congress the power to construct interstate highways under the constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce, following the 1902 bill to set up a federal Bureau of Public Roads.  The 1916 Act gave greater priority to providing and improving roads to rural areas for the better transportation of agricultural products, over priorities for urban paved roadways.  This was the precursor for the Federal Highway Act of 1921, and the major project of Eisenhower's Federal Highway Act of 1956 which was responsible for the majority of the interstate highway system.  If you go anywhere today on an interstate highway, or use or consume anything transported on an interstate highway, you should appreciate this important act on this date in history, and the ongoing importance of our national infrastructure in roads and bridges.  That, and it's fun to focus on him, because so many conservatives seem to despise him - I think unfairly.

1920 - Birth of actor Yul Brynner

1921 Former President Taft is sworn in as the 10th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the only President to have that distinction.

1955 Air Force Academy dedicated in  Colorado.  The Cadet Chapel is a particularly striking part of the Academy, viewed both from the inside and the outside.

1960 Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published.

1974 Farmers trying to drill a well for water find a 3 acre burial site with over 8,000 terra cotta soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses, 150 additional cavalry horses, and miscellaneous officials, musicians, acrobats and strongmen, dating back to 210 BC.  Some of the human figures are as tall as 6'5", with the generals being the tallest, with height being determined by importance.  The figures were all originally painted. The army belongs to the burial of the First Emperor Qin, who declared himself emperor of China in 221 BC.  No two figures are alike. (Apparently, if you are an emperor, you can 'take it with you'.)
1979 Sky Lab was the first  U.S. space station, the second low earth orbit space station, following shortly after the Soviet Salyut program, and in advance of Mir and the current international space station.  On this date, Sky Lab fell out of the sky, several years earlier than planned. 

1995 U.S. and Viet Nam normalize relations, twenty years after the conflict which had begun in 1955 and which ended in 1975.  (This puts an interesting context to the length of our current involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan.) The flag of Vietnam, at left.   
1995 In Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Ratko Mladic leads Serbian troops in beginning the genocide of approximately 8,000 muslim Bosniak men and boys.

1996 One year later to the day, the International Court at the Hague issued indictments for war crimes in the Bosnian genocide, led by Radovan Karadzic.

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