Milestones: Friday, October 20, 2023
THE NOTORIOUS RED SCARE EXPANDED INTO FULL FORCE IN WASHINGTON, D.C. ON OCT. 20, 1947, when a Congressional committee began a large-scale investigation of what it alleged was Communist influence in glamorous – and liberal – Hollywood. The committee interrogated many prominent witnesses: “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” The committee was reacting to increased tension in the Cold War between the world’s two superpowers—the United States and the Soviet Union – a Communist nation. Congress pressured Hollywood to begin a blacklist policy that banned the work of more than 300 screenwriters, actors and directors whom the House Un-American Activities Committee had not cleared as safe. Among these were Brooklyn composer Aaron Copland, Brooklyn playwright Arthur Miller and writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman and Dorothy Parker, as well as actor and filmmaker Orson Welles.
As a U.S. Senator, hardliner Republican Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin was not a member of the House Committee. But starting in 1950, he is considered to have been the most vocal fearmonger alleging widespread Communist infiltration. Although President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not publicly confront McCarthy, he worked behind the scenes to get McCarthy discredited. The Senate in December 1954 formally censured Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67–22.
THE SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE — A DRAMATIC TURNING POINT IN THE WATERGATE SCANDAL BROKE OUT ON Saturday, Oct. 20, 1973 when then-President Richard M. Nixon discharged special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox after he demanded tapes of Oval Office conversations related to Watergate. Nixon ordered then-Solicitor General Robert Bork to fire Cox, which led Deputy Attorney General William B. Ruckelshaus and Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson to resign. The incident, which became known as “The Saturday Night Massacre,” prompted immediate reprisal for Nixon, including widespread demand that Congress impeach him. The following August, Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment.
Solicitor General Robert Bork was the same person whom the Senate 14 years later rejected for a U.S. Supreme Court seat after a series of contentious hearings.. The Solicitor General, who reports to the Attorney General, often argues cases before the Supreme Court.
NOBEL PRIZE FOR DISCOVERING THE NEUTRON — JAMES CHADWICK, born Oct. 20, 1891 in Cheshire, England, was a physicist who studied beta radiation and later joined the Manhattan Project team in New York. Although his focused study of beta radiation was interrupted during World War I when he was interned at the Ruhleben camp near Berlin, he managed to maintain a laboratory, where he improvised with experiments involving radioactive toothpaste and other materials. After his release, he continued his research in England and published his findings. The fruit of Chadwick’s work was titled “Possible Existence of a Neutron.” His continued research in that field earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1935, as his proof led to the fission of uranium isotope 235 and toward the creation of the atomic bomb before the Nazis could develop it. He joined the Manhattan Project in 1940, incorporating his work on tube alloys.
Chadwick was knighted and received many honors, including a crater on the moon being named for him.
BALANCE BETWEEN STUDENT AND SUBJECT — EDUCATION REFORMER, SCHOLAR AND PSYCHOLOGIST JOHN DEWEY, born on October 20, 1859 in Vermont, was known for his pragmatism and experimentalism. He believed steadfastly that democracy was at the center of civic life, and he wrote frequently about social reform. Dewey emphasized that education’s purpose extended beyond gaining knowledge and proficiency in a discipline, but also in learning how to live with others. He believed that education was vital in creating social change. Dewey believed strongly that there must exist a balance between teaching a subject and the student’s experiences and interests.
In his 1897 book, “My Pedagogic Creed,” Dewey noted that “to prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities.”
FOUGHT TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN — JAMES ROBERT MANN, BORN Oct. 20, 1856, was an early fighter against sex trafficking. An American lawyer and legislator, he served as a Republican Congressmember from 1896 (the year he turned 40) to his death in 1922. He wrote and sponsored the “White Slave Traffic Act,” also known as the “Mann Act” that prohibited, under heavy penalties, the interstate transportation of women for immoral purposes. The act was aimed at prostitution, immorality, and human trafficking, particularly the luring of immigrant women into prostitution.
However, the law’s broad strokes on the concept of immoral purposes extended to some kinds of consensual relationships, including what would later be called miscegenation: the mixing of bloodlines or interracial relationships.
A SHREWD ADVANTAGE — THE U.S. Senate on Oct. 20, 1803, approved a treaty with France that led to the purchase of the territory of Louisiana, which would double the size of the United States. At the time, Spain was the technical owner of Louisiana, which encompassed a large region west of the Mississippi River. But Spain, finding it was ill prepared to control the region, ceded Louisiana back to France. President Thomas Jefferson sent James Monroe as envoy to join the French foreign minister, Robert Livingston, in France in the hopes of persuading Napoleon Bonaparte to sell New Orleans and West Florida to the U.S. Napoleon, whose military fortunes were in jeopardy, had his own reasons to agree to the sale, and offered it to the United States for what was then a bargain: $15 million.
In a shrewd move, Monroe and Livingston overstepped their authority to agree to the sale, and the Louisiana Purchase became one of the triumphs of the Jeffersonian Presidency.
See previous milestones, here.
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