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Milestones: April 1, 2024

April 1, 2024 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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FIRST TREATY WITH THE FIRST NATIONS — THE FIRST ALLIANCE AND PEACE TREATY between Plymouth colony settlers and the indigenous Wampanoag Nation was signed on April 1, 1621. The colonists had made their first direct contact with a Native American person that March and the chief followed up with a visit to the settlement. They exchanged greetings and gifts, and soon after signed the treaty that would endure for 50 years. It provided that if a Wampanoag person broke the peace, he would be sent to Plymouth for punishment; likewise, if a colonist broke the law, he would be put in the custody of the Wampanoag.

The Plymouth colonists, also known as the pilgrims, were escaping not only religious persecution from the state church but also what they believed to be heresy from that authority. They believed that the Church of England violated the precepts and teachings of true Christianity. They set anchor in modern-day Provincetown but their leader, Captain Myles Standish did some exploring and found abundant running water and good fields at Plymouth.


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ORDAINED MINISTER ELECTED FIRST HOUSE SPEAKER — CHRISTIANS FROM OTHER RELIGIOUS BACKGROUNDS had settled in the colonies by the Revolutionary War, and on April 1, 1789, one of them, a Lutheran minister named Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, was elected as the new nation’s first Speaker of the House of Representatives. The son of Henry Augustus Muhlenberg and grandson of Johann Conrad Weiser, colonial Pennsylvania’s two leading Germans, Muhlenberg had studied theology at the University of Halle before returning to his native Pennsylvania, where in 1770 he was ordained. He pastored congregations in New Hanover, Oley and New Goshenhoppen before embarking on a political career and served in the Continental Congress from 1779-80, and then as speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, before becoming president of the Pennsylvania convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

Muhlenberg’s experience as a speaker at the state level served him well, and he was elected speaker during the first and third sessions of the U.S. Congress.


TREASON CONVICTION MADE HIM POPULAR — OBSERVERS OF U.S. POLITICS TODAY MIGHT LEARN from the April 1, 1924 sentencing of German leader Adolf Hitler for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch of Nov. 8, 1923, the coup that he, along with the Nazi party and right-wing military members attempted to stage before the government foiled it. Hitler was charged and convicted with high treason, but that wound up boosting his popularity. In fact, his supposedly failed coup and imprisonment were actually a victory that brought him widespread attention, fame and popularity.

Germany’s being in crisis after the punitive peace treaty terms following World  War I gave Hitler and the Nazis a welcome opportunity to find scapegoats, attract a following, and eventually, seize power.


BANNED CIGARETTE ADS — LEGISLATION OFFICIALLY BANNING CIGARETTE ADS on TV and radio was signed into law on April 1, 1970, with the stroke of President Richard Nixon’s pen. An occasional cigar smoker, Nixon nonetheless supported the bill after public health advocates increased the pressure on him. It took until the late 1950s before all states banned cigarette sales to minors. The Federal Trade and Federation Communications Commissions both agreed that advertisers were responsible for warning the public that smoking caused health hazards. However, the tobacco industry fought these developments fiercely. However, the public health sector prevailed and in 1969, the surgeon general’s 1969 report linking smoking to low birth weight, along with continued pressure from health advocates, convinced Congress to pass the Cigarette Smoking Act that required cigarette manufacturers to place warning labels on their products that stated, “Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.”

Although health studies linking cigarette smoking to illness had already gained publicity three decades earlier, in 1939, the awareness campaign was gradual. An even lengthier debate has run over the effect of second-hand smoke on non-smokers, despite growing evidence and incidences of lung cancers among those who had never smoked.


ALL THE FOOLS — PLAYING JOKES ON OTHER PEOPLE was a longstanding pastime around the world for centuries, but a group of English pranksters on April 1, 1700, turned this into a tradition with a date all its own. The original revelry had been called All Fools Day, and according to some historians, dates back to France’s late 16th-century switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendars. The Council of Trent some two decades earlier had established the calendar change making January 1 the start of a new year, but parts of Europe remained ignorant when it took effect.

People who were unaware of the calendar change and celebrated New Year’s in late March became the butt of jokes and pranks.

See previous milestones, here.

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