799: King of the Franks (King of the Lombards from 774, and Emperor of the Romans from 800), 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!).
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). A prolific writer, his best known work’s characters remain staples of contemporary political criticism. You remember the title, of course: “Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships!”
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: Fresh from his consolidation of dictatorial power as First Consul of the Directory, and fresher still 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. It boils down to two parts:
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: Four men ran for President of the United States: 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. When the vote finally came on February 9th, Adams won on the first ballot.
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. The mountain was named after him, much to his objection.
1874: Birth of Winston S. Churchill (d.1965).
1877: Inventor Thomas Edison demonstrates his gramophone for the first time.
1885: The U.S. Patent Offices recognizes Dr Pepper as a commercial drink. Coca-Cola came a year later.
1898: Birth of British author C.S. “Jack” Lewis (d.1963), best known over here for his deeply felt Christian conversion (“I went kicking and screaming”), that helped guide his writing of the Chronicles of Narnia series.
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 (DLH 11/15). 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: With H/T to Robbie D., who telegraphed this in this item from the wilds of western Pennsylvania, 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 bloody civil war, and gave the Germans in particular a boost of forces back into the Western Front.
1927: Birth of Vin Scully, the voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who just retired at the close of the 2016 season.
1927: After 19 continuous years of Model T production, Ford Motor Company begins sales of its next design, the Model A.
1929: Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd becomes the first to fly over the South Pole. After learning to fly during the World War, the Virginia native pursued solutions to increasingly difficult flying problems, most notably long-range navigation. He developed a number of navigation instruments, including the bubble sextant, with which he proved that planes could be safely flown across great distances with reasonable accuracy. Byrd played a key role in developing the routing of the Navy’s first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919. In May, 1926, he planned- and took credit for- a flight from Spitsbergen Norway to the North Pole and back, a feat for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In 1928 he led a two-year Antarctic expedition of two ships and three airplanes which surveyed and photographed vast areas of that frozen continent. The South Polar flight today was well-documented and earned Byrd a gold medal from the American Geographical society.
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.
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.
1935: Birth of film-maker and clarinet player, Woody Allen.
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. 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. But that’s a subject for another time.
1961: Two years into his Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro admits what everyone could plainly see: that he was a Marxist-Leninist, and that Cuba under his rule would be built into a communist state.
1970: Under Republican President Richard M. Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is founded.
2001: Death of George Harrison (b.1943), youngest of The Beatles, of whom I’m sure you agree with me were the Greatest Rock Band of All Time. He is widely regarded as the best actual musician among the Fab Four, but always played The Shy One.
Leave a Reply