Milestones: Thursday, October 26, 2023
A CENTURY IN BETWEEN— PRESIDENT WARREN G. HARDING, ON OCT. 26, 1921, CONDEMNed THE PRACTICE OF LYNCHINGS, during a speech he made in Birmingham, Alabama. Lynchings were murders — usually hangings —that white supremacists committed against Black Americans. Harding delivered his speech in the Deep South, which was a hotbed for lynchings. Though scandal tarnished his administration, President Harding was actually a progressive Republican who championed both suffrage for women and full civil rights for Black Americans. But Harding delt with fierce opposition on civil rights for Blacks. He had supported the Dyer Anti-Lynching Act that a Missouri Congressman named Leonidas Dyer had introduced, after being disgusted by the mob violence. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate as Southern Democrats filibustered against it.
It took a century for an anti-lynching bill to pass the House and Senate; the current President, Joe Biden, signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, named for a 14-year-old boy, just last year, on March 29, 2022.
COWBOYS AND POLICEMEN— THE FAMOUS GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL TOOK PLACE ON OCT. 26, 1881. This shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, which lasted less than a minute, pitted the “law and order” sheriff against the Clanton-McLaury cowboy and cattle rustler gang. Virgil Earp, both the town marshal and a U.S. Marshal, was said to have shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest, and Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury’s chest. Also part of the gunfight were Earp siblings and Special Policemen Morgan and Wyatt Earp. After the shooting ended and the smoke cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded, as was Doc Holliday. Two survivors, Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne, had fled.
Many films have immortalized the shootout; and the Star Trek Original Series third-season episode “The Spectre of the Gun,” places Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy and Ensign Chekov (the latter as Billy Claiborne) directly into the situation as “punishment” for trespassing into the space of the Melkotians, a telepathic species.
A ‘COMMON SENSE’ REBELLION— THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS MAY HAVE CALLED HIM ‘FAT GEORGE,” but the English monarch, King George III, also gave his views on what he called the colonists’ rebellion. Speaking on Oct. 26, 1775 before both houses of the British Parliament, King George read aloud a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to end the revolt and restore order to the colonies, with the belief that “many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty…” King George III then authorized Parliament to dispatch troops against the colonists, who were still his own subjects. Of course, part of the colonists’ grievance was that they were being taxed without benefit of representation in Parliament.
But Thomas Paine’s 47-page tract, “Common Sense,” which was a treatise against monarch rule, and which proposed that Americans had a unique chance to create a new kind of autonomous government went viral — and applied pressure for the cause of independence. Paine’s ideas were also incorporated into the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
ALLIANCE WITH FRANCE— EXACTLY A YEAR AFTER KING GEORGE’S SPEECH BEFORE PARLIAMENT, FOUNDING FATHER BENJAMIN FRANKLIN on Oct. 26, 1776, set sail for France to secure an alliance. Franklin had been serving in the Second Continental Congress, which exactly a month earlier had named him as an agent of a diplomatic commission. Already an accomplished scientist and inventor, Franklin found himself celebrated in high society; but his diplomatic mission did not see immediate fruit. France had secretly been aiding the Patriots with war supplies, but now needed assurance that they could secure a victory over the British before committing to an open declaration of allegiance.
Franklin kept the door open through his friendship with influential French. But it was the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 which turned the tide to the American patriots, and convinced France to solidify the alliance.
‘CLINTON’S FOLLY’— THE ERIE CANAL, WHICH CONNECTED THE GREAT LAKES WITH THE ATLANTIC OCEAN via New York’s Hudson River, officially opened on Oct. 27, 1825. The 363-mile canal stretched westward across New York State from Waterford (near Albany) on the Hudson River to Lake Erie. Governor DeWitt Clinton of New York, who was the driving force behind the project, led the opening ceremonies and rode the canal boat Seneca Chief from Buffalo to New York City. Work on the canal had begun in 1817, with most of the job given to Irish immigrants, whose progress was incentivized through the strategic placement of whiskey barrels along the route to supplement their wages of $10 per month.
Although Governor Clinton’s detractors had maligned the project as “Clinton’s Folly,” and “Clinton’s Ditch,” at its opening Erie Canal almost immediately paid for itself, as an economical way of transporting goods across the Appalachian for 10% of the previous cost and in better time. And the Canal also led to the nation’s expansion westward, as settlers from New York poured into the Great Lakes states.
BRAZIL DECLARES WAR— BRAZIL, on Oct. 26, 1917, PUBLICLY DECLARED THAT IT WAS JOINING THE FIRST WORLD WAR ON THE SIDE OF THE ALLIES. Brazil, whose sheer size comprises almost half of South America, was a key player in the Atlantic trade market and was under threat from Germany’s submarine warfare. Earlier that year, President Woodrow Wilson had severed diplomatic ties with Germany over that nation’s unrestrained submarine attacks and the United States entered the war as an Allied nation. Following the sinking of a Brazilian merchant ship, Brazil’s government worked into its constitution the authority to declare war.
Brazil sent a letter to the Vatican, with the goal of having it read worldwide, stating that it was entering the war to protect international trade and with a higher purpose of halting the Axis’ aggression.
See previous milestones, here.
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