799: King of the Franks, Charlemagne, grandson of the great Charles Martel holds an audience in the north-central German city of Paderborn with the embattled Pope Leo III, who fled Rome under persecution by the nobility of that city. Leo requested the protection of the powerful French king, and Charlemagne reciprocated with a vow of fealty to the papacy, which included a promise to forcibly re-install Leo in Rome. The meeting today began a chain of events that culminated in Leo’s re-installation as Pope, and him, in turn, proclaiming Charlemagne as the Protector of the Roman Empire. He thus became the first Holy Roman Emperor, a title that remained essentially intact through multiple dynasties over the course of 1,120 years, finally ending with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, which stripped the Austrian Royal family of any lingering claim to the throne
1095: At the final convocation of the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II gives an impassioned speech to the assembled nobles and knights, outlining the plea for help from Byzantine Emperor Alexius I. After reviewing the depredations of Moslem armies as they spread into Christian territories, Urban declares a Crusade to turn back the Moslems from Anatolia and eventually to re-take the holy city of Jerusalem. He calls on the assembled knights to “take up the cross” and spend the upcoming winter months collecting the forces they will need for the unprecedented armed march. The crowd enthusiastically responds with cries of “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!).
1778: On his third Pacific voyage of exploration, Captain James Cook becomes the first European to land on Maui, in the Sandwich Islands chain.
1095: Following upon the call for Crusade, Pope Urban II formally appoints Count Raymond IV of Toulouse and Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy to lead the First Crusade, providing the papal imprimatur on the operation.
1466: Birth of Genovese Admiral Andrea Doria (d.1560), remembered not only for his exploits at sea against the Ottomans and Barbary pirates, but as the leading politician of the independent Genovese Republic.
1667: Birth of Irish novelist, satirist, political gadfly and eventual clergyman, Jonathan Swift (d.1745). His best known characters remain staples of contemporary political criticism: “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships!”
1729: On the western fringes of colonial settlement, in this case the French territories along the Mississippi River basin, Natchez Indians massacre 138 Frenchmen, 35 French women and 56 children at Fort Rosalie. The fort was the seat of French authority and trade along the river. Relations between the French and the Indians were never entirely peaceful, and the 1720s saw periodic uprisings of increasing violence, culminating in the massacre today. Present-day Natchez, Mississippi, developed from the trade routes that converged on the fort.
1763: Dedication of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest such assembly in the United States.
1775: Lieutenant John Paul Jones hoists the Grand Union Flag aboard USS Alfred, a Philadelphia-built merchantman, converted to a 10-gun warship under the command of John Barry. Jones, recently commissioned as First Lieutenant aboard Alfred, had the honor of ordering the new national flag raised on the new national warship.
1803: France and Spain execute a secret clause of the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, transferring title of the Louisiana territory from Spain back to France.
1804: Just after his consolidation of dictatorial power as First Consul of the Directory, and from his recent gutting of a major Jacobin-inspired coup d’etat plot, Napoleon Bonaparte crowns himself Emperor of the French, the first since the demise of the Charlemagne’s dynasty a thousand years earlier. Napoleon assumed the title and crown as a specific means to re-establish a hereditary monarchy without the complications of getting the Bourbons back in the mix. There remains widespread belief that Napoleon grabbed the crown from the hands of Pope Pius IV to negate the idea that the French monarch was subservient to the authority of the Church, but evidence to support the supposition remains apocryphal at best, although it is consistent with his character. Be that as it may, after crowing himself, the new Emperor then crowned as Empress, his wife Josephine.
1823: During his annual State of the Union address to Congress, President James Monroe outlines a new doctrine that asserts a fundamental change in the relationship between the United States and the nations of Europe:
1) European colonization of the Western Hemisphere is over, and the United States will actively resist any further European military intrusion on this side of the Atlantic, and;
2) The United States will remain studiously neutral across the full range of real and potential European conflicts. The Monroe Doctrine was essentially the bedrock foreign policy of the U.S. through the Great War and well into the 1930s.
1824: The 1824 presidential election is sent to the House of Representatives for decision under the terms of the 12th Amendment. Four men ran for the office: General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee; former Senator John Quincy Adams, son of President John Adams and long-serving envoy of the United States; former Senator William H. Crawford of Georgia; and Kentucky Representative Henry Clay, “The Great Compromiser” and Speaker of the House of Representatives. None of the men achieved a majority of Electoral votes, although Jackson received a plurality, with Adams a close second. You would be correct if you thought that between today and the time of the House vote, a great deal of politicking went on; when the vote finally came on February 9th, Adams won on the first ballot.
1833: Birth of gunman, lawman, and newspaperman, Bat Masterson (d. 1921). He achieved particular notoriety in 1881-83 as one of the good guys during the height of the lawlessness in Dodge City, and after cementing a reputation as a no-nonsense enforcer in the decreasingly Wild West, he began a career as a newspaper writer in Kansas, Denver, and eventually New York City, where President Theodore Roosevelt recruited him to be Deputy US Marshall for federal grand jury sessions.
1859: Death of American author Washington Irving (b.1783), best known for his depictions of colonial New York in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle.
1859: Abolitionist John Brown is hanged by the neck until dead for his role in fomenting the bloody raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia back in October.
1864: A few miles south of Nashville, Confederate General John Bell Hood orders his troops into a Burnside-like frontal assault against entrenched Union positions on the high ground just outside the town of Franklin. Both sides begin the fighting with 27,000 troops. The Battle of Franklin becomes an unmitigated disaster for Hood, with over 6,200 casualties, 1750 of whom are killed. Union losses number 189 dead of their 2,300 total casualties. As night fell, the Union forces made an orderly withdrawal into the next layer of Nashville’s defensive works, completely foiling Hood’s strategy of breaking the Union lines. You can today visit the center of the Union line in Franklin. Several of the original farm buildings remain riddled with holes from the furious gunfire of the battle.
1866: Death of Colonel Sir George Everest (b.1790), Surveyor-General of India 1830-43. Yes, the mountain was named after him, much to his objection.
1874: Birth of the one of the Britain’s Prime Minister (WWII), Winston S. Churchill (d.1965).
1883: Death of abolitionist Sojouner Truth (b.1797), who achieved nation-wide fame for her outspoken advocacy of abolition and women’s rights, particularly her 1851 speech at a woman’s rights convention, where she peppered her extemporaneous review of basic human rights with the phrase, “Ain’t I a woman??” She was a major force in the recruitment of black soldiers for the Union Army, and met President Lincoln while working at the Freedman’s Hospital in Washington.
1885: The U.S. Patent Offices recognizes Dr Pepper as a commercial drink. It beat Coca-Cola by a year.
1895: Completion of the first American automobile race, 54 miles between Jackson Park in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois at an average speed of just over 7 mph. The victor, Charles Duryea, won in a motorized wagon of his own design. Second place went to a German car built by Karl Benz, who used it to win the Paris-Rouen race the year prior. Duryea, ever the entrepreneur, recognized the potential of automobile racing on future sales of his machine, immediately began marketing it on the basis of its proven speed and endurance. The old auto aphorism “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” began at the very dawn of the automobile age.
1901: Establishment of the U.S. Army War College in the garrison town of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
1912: As part of Treaty of Fez, signed back in March, Spain assumes a Protectorate role over the northern shoreline of Morocco, sharing the role with France, who has overall responsibility for Morocco’s security. The treaty was of a piece with the great colonial African land grab of the late 19th Century. Morocco, in particular, became an early (1904-06) venue for Germany’s increasing assertiveness in European affairs, particularly regarding France’s claims over the North African kingdom.
1913: The nation’s first drive-in gasoline station- designed, owned and operated by the Gulf Refining Company- opens in Pittsburgh. Prior to its opening, gasoline was usually purchased at pharmacies or hardware stores. But now, dear motorist, you drive right up to the hose at a dedicated oil business, hand-crank a pump from the main tank, and drain the gasoline right into your automobile. Price at the time was $0.27/gal, or about $6.25/gal in current prices.
1917: The new communist government of Russia signs an armistice with the Central Powers. The cease-fire leads immediately to negotiations for a separate peace, ratified in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918. The cessation of hostilities allowed the Bolsheviks to concentrate their energies on their own increasingly civil war, and gave the Germans in particular a boost of forces back into the Western Front.
1922: Birth of cartoonist Charles Schultz (d.2000).
1934: A British steam locomotive nicknamed The Flying Scotsman becomes the first steam locomotive to officially be clocked at a speed over 100 mph. Although the train made a cameo appearance on the Island of Sodor (Thomas the Tank Engine), it only showed up on television in the person of its double tender configuration. The machine is maintained in operational condition at Britain’s National Railway Museum in Yorkshire.
1939: Birth of Anna Mae Bullock, better known as the singer Tina Turner.
1942: The French Navy in Toulon, largely intact, but idled by its status under the terms of the Vichy agreement with Nazi Germany, is scuttled by the French themselves when they learn of Germany’s attempt to seize the ships in response to the Allied invasion of French North Africa three weeks earlier. The scuttling included three battleships, four heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, thirty destroyers and torpedo boats, fifteen submarines, and a number of support vessels. For Germany, the loss merely confirmed the fecklessness of the Vichy government, and removed the usefulness of the French Navy as a fleet-in-being that had to be guarded against. For the Allies, the loss was also against the potential of transforming that fleet-in-being into an actual fighting force in support of the Free French under Charles De Gaulle.
1955: Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus, and is subsequently arrested. Her run-in with white authorities was not the first of its kind, but it was carefully designed to force a confrontation and to present the problem of segregation to a national stage. Parks was Secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and was deeply engaged in helping design actions that would bring attention to the plight of Blacks in the segregated South. Her bus ride this day was part of that larger design. It succeeded, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the months that followed.
1959: The Antarctic Treaty is signed by the 12 nations participating in the International Geophysical Year (IGY), opening it for ratification by member states and others who will abide by its provisions. Antarctica remains the only land mass on the planet that is considered non-sovereign, and thus is part and parcel of the Global Commons– the regions of earth and space that, by belonging to no-one, are free to be used and exploited by everyone. The other Commons are the high seas (including the airspace over the high seas), exo-atmospheric space, and increasingly, the realm of cyber-space. The latter presents some complications, as it does not exist with the physical realm, but is dependent on engineering protocols and physical equipment** to function. One of the interesting questions in this regard is whether the State in which a server operates bears liability for the data that passes through the server.
1961: Two years into his Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro notes that he was a Marxist-Leninist, and that Cuba under his rule would be built into a communist state.
1990: Napoleon Bonaparte’s cross-Channel dream comes true as “Chunnel” drilling machines from France and England meet 120 feet under the seabed of the English Channel (ou La Manche, si vous preferez).