630: Arab warlord and putative prophet Mohammad, leading an army of some 10,000 soldiers from his hometown of Medina, conquers nearby Mecca in a nearly bloodless assault that puts the city at the heart of Mohammad’s burgeoning new religion
1297: The Genovese warlord and leader of the Guelph faction, Francesco Grimaldi, disguises himself as a monk and ingratiates his way into the fortress at the Rock of Monaco, capturing it along with his cousin Rainier I and a small group of armed men. He held the citadel for four years, and on his death in 1309 deeded it back to his cousin Rainier I, from whom the current Grimaldi ruling family is descended.
1349: A pogrom sweeps through the Jewish sector of Basil, Switzerland, triggered by a panic over the onset of Black Death in the city. Virtually the entire Jewish population of Basil is rounded up and taken to an island in the middle of the Rhine River, where the children are separated from their parents and forcibly baptized. The remaining Jews, more than 600 of them, are crammed into a specially built wooden barn, into which they are subsequently locked, and burned alive. The Basil pogrom is the first of a series of pogroms that swept through the Rhine valley in subsequent months, with massacres occurring even in towns where there was no Black Death.
1729: Birth of Edmund Burke, Member of the British Parliament, who also supported the cause of the American Revolution, based on his admiration of its dependence on the principles of classical liberalism and the Scottish Enlightenment. His writing defined the “Old Whigs” of the 18th Century. He was a critic of the excesses of the French Revolution, best known in this regard for his Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he noted that a government unconstrained by external morality would descend into tyranny. Wikipedia notes that Burke is widely considered the father of modern Conservatism. Wikipedia quotes, “The writers against religion, whilst they oppose every system, are wisely careful never to set up any of their own.” –from his book, A Vindication of Natural Society (1756).
1755: Birth of Alexander Hamilton , on Nevis Island in the St. Vincent and Grenadines chain in the Caribbean, British Crown territory.
1735: Birth of John Jervis, 1st Earl St. Vincent, one of the Royal Navy’s greatest commanders, and primary mentor of Horatio Nelson.
1815: Led by General Andrew Jackson, American forces decisively defeat an invading British force at the Battle of New Orleans, the largest and final land battle of the war of 1812, fought a month after the formal conclusion of peace at the Treaty of Ghent on December 24th. The lopsided victory helped propel Jackson into a political career that eventually led to the Presidency. The U.S. suffered 333 casualties (55 dead) against the British 2459 (386 dead).
1863: The Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama, under the command of Captain Raphael Semmes, attacks and sinks the USS Hatteras off the coast of Galveston, Texas.
1866: Establishment of the Royal Aeronautical Society, in London, predating the Wright Brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk which was in 1903. The physics of manned flight had been under study for decades before finally achieving success at Kitty Hawk.
1880: Death of San Francisco’s Joshua Norton , self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. It may have been his losses in real estate and rice speculation that sent him over the edge, but he was a beloved public figure in San Francisco. Twain based his character of The King from Huckleberry Finn on Joshua Norton. Norton printed up imperial banknotes in his name, and they became an accepted local currency at the bars and restaurants around town. He persistently called for a suspension bridge to link San Francisco with Oakland via Goat Island. The eventual Oakland Bay Bridge does just that, and Norton is honored with a bronze plaque at the SF terminus of that structure.
1905: Russian workers, infuriated by the slow pace of reform and brought to a fever pitch of discontent by communist agitators, storm the Czar’s Winter Palace in a short, sharp action now known as the Revolution of 1905. Order is restored by Czarist soldiers, but at the cost of scores of civilian lives. The revolution resulted in the establishment of both a constitutional monarchy and of a Duma (representative assembly), and reforms to conscription and workers rights. These changes forced on the Russian government ignited other agitation, particularly from the communist movements.
1918: In southern Arizona, a detachment of U.S. Army troops exchanges fire with Yaqui Indians in the Battle of Bear Valley, the last battle of the U.S. Indian Wars.
1918: In his State of the Union message, President Woodrow Wilson introduces his 14 Points to guide postwar international relations, ten months before the actual armistice which halted the fighting. The Points will form the basis for the Versailles peace negotiations in the aftermath of The World War. I won’t go over all of them, but will highlight here several of the points that tend to come up from time to time: 1) “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at…” laying down the ideal of complete openness in international negotiations; 2) Absolute freedom of navigation on the high seas, with a caveat about closures in support of international covenants. Great Britain objected to the exception clause, and as the U.S. maritime power increased, we adopted the British position; 3) Free trade between nations as a foundation of peaceful relations. The majority of the other points concerned disposition of territories displaced by the war, with final lines drawn under the principle of national self-determination, a term which came into prominence during the Conference. The 14th point opened the discussion of an international organization to enforce the peace.
1964: In his first State of the Union message, President Lyndon Johnson declares a “War on Poverty” that will eventually become the Great Society program he introduced the following year.