799: 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.
1755: Birth of American portrait artist Gilbert Stuart (d.1828), best known for his unfinished portrait of George Washington, an image that is the central focus of the dollar bill, and one he copied for sale over a hundred times. His portraiture list reads like a Who’s Who of the Founding generation.
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.
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. After crowing himself, the new Emperor 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; 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: As proof that U.S. presidential election drama did not begin with 2020, the 1824 presidential election this day 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.
1857: Birth of Josef Teodor Konrad Natecz Koreniowski (d.1924), the Polish mariner better known by his English pen name, Joseph Conrad. Even with English as his second language, Conrad’s finely crafted prose is widely acknowledged among the best of the late 19th and early 20th Century. His novels plumb the depths of the human spirit, casting his characters within the venue of a sea voyage or river exploration that leads to ultimate truth. His long professional association with the sea, including duties as a captain, gave him an unparalleled eye for detail, and his own restless spirit, torn between his native Poland and his adopted Great Britain, sought meaning and truth from much of the ugly realities of life at sea. You probably read Lord Jim in high school, and perhaps Heart of Darkness; the latter provided the basic story line for the film, Apocalypse Now.
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.
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.
1877: Inventor Thomas Edison demonstrates his gramophone for the first time.
1885: The U.S. Patent Offices recognizes Dr Pepper as a commercial drink. It beat Coca-Cola by a year.
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 great Chronicles of Narnia series.
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 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. He played a key role in developing the routing of the Navy’s first trans-Atlantic flight in 1919 (DLH 5/27 Addendum). 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.
1935: Birth of film-maker 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.
1961: Two years into his Cuban Revolution, strongman Fidel Castro admits that he was a Marxist-Leninist, and that Cuba under his rule would be built into a communist state.
1964: 800 protesters from the Berkeley Free Speech Movement are arrested on Sproul Plaza and the Administration Building at UC Berkeley, where they occupied the building and staged a “sit-in” to protest the UC Chancellors’ decision to limit protests on campus. The OWS and other leftist goombahs over the past couple years are attempting to re-duplicate this movement, but without the internal fire and, probably more importantly, the fear of being drafted to go to Vietnam.
1970: Under Republican President Richard M. Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opens its doors.
1975: Death of Formula One World Champion, the great British race car driver Graham Hill (b.1927), in a crash of a small plane whilst attempting to land in foggy conditions near London.
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).
2001: Death of George Harrison (b.1943), youngest of The Beatles.