Notes of American History

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July 5, 1775 The Continental Congress adopts the Olive Branch Petition, written by John Dickinson, which appeals directly to King George III & expresses hope for reconciliation between the colonies & Great Britain. Dickinson, who hoped desperately to avoid a final break with Britain, phrased colonial opposition to British policy as follows: “Your Majesty’s Ministers, persevering in their measures, & proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defense, & have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, & if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress.” By phrasing their discontent this way, Congress attempted to notify the king that American colonists were unhappy with ministerial policy, not his own. They concluded their plea with a final statement of fidelity to the crown: “That your Majesty may enjoy long and prosperous reign, & that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves & happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.”

By July 1776, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed something very different: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries & usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.” Congress’ language is critical to understanding the seismic shift that had occurred in American thought in just 12 months. Indeed, Congress insisted that Thomas Jefferson remove any language from the declaration that implicated the people of Great Britain or their elected representatives in Parliament. The fundamental grounds upon which Americans were taking up arms had shifted. The militia that had fired upon Redcoats at Lexington & Concord had been angry with Parliament, not the king, who they still trusted to desire only good for all of his subjects around the globe. This belief changed after King George refused to so much as receive the Olive Branch Petition. Patriots had hoped that Parliament had curtailed colonial rights without the kings full knowledge, & that the petition would cause him to come to his subjects’ defense. When George III refused to read the petition, Patriots realized that Parliament was acting with royal knowledge and support. Americans’ patriotic rage was intensified by the January 1776 publication by English-born radical Thomas Paine of Common Sense, an influential pamphlet that attacked the monarchy, which Paine claimed had allowed crowned ruffians to impoverish the nation and set it together by the ears.
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July 5, 1950 Near Sojong, South Korea, Pvt. Kenneth Shadrick, a 19-year-old infantryman from Skin Fork, West Virginia, becomes the 1st American reported killed in the Korean War. Shadrick, a member of a bazooka squad, had just fired the weapon at a Soviet-made tank when he looked up to check his aim & was cut down by enemy machine-gun fire.

Near the end of World War II, the “Big Three” Allied powers–the US, the Soviet Union & Great Britain–agreed to divide Korea into 2 separate occupation zones & temporarily govern the nation. The country was split along the 38th parallel, with Soviet forces occupying the northern zone & Americans stationed in the south. By 1949, separate Korean governments had been established & both the US & the USSR withdrew the majority of their troops from the Korean Peninsula. The 38th parallel was heavily fortified on both sides, but the South Koreans were unprepared for the hordes of North Korean troops & Soviet-made tanks that suddenly rolled across the border on June 25, 1950. 2 days later, President Harry Truman announced that the US would intervene in the Korean conflict to stem the spread of communism & on June 28 the United Nations approved the use of force against communist North Korea. In the opening months of the war, the US-led UN forces rapidly advanced against the North Koreans, but in October, Chinese communist troops entered the fray, throwing the Allies into a hasty retreat. By May 1951, the communists were pushed back to the 38th parallel, where the battle line remained for the rest of the war. In 1953, an armistice was signed, ending the war and reestablishing the 1945 division of Korea that still exists today. Approximately 150,000 troops from South Korea, the US, & participating UN nations were killed in the Korean War, & as many as 1 million South Korean civilians perished. An estimated 800,000 communist soldiers were killed & more than 200,000 North Korean civilians died. The original figure of American troops lost–54,246 killed–became controversial when the Pentagon acknowledged in 2000 that all US troops killed around the world during the period of the Korean War were incorporated into that number. For example, any American soldier killed in a car accident anywhere in the world from June 1950 to July 1953 was considered a casualty of the Korean War. If these deaths are subtracted from the 54,246 total, leaving just the Americans who died (from whatever cause) in the Korean theater of operations, the total US. dead in the Korean War numbers 36,516.
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July 6, 1699 Capt. William Kidd, the infamous pirate, is captured in Boston. He was sent to England & Hanged.


July 6, 1775 1 day after restating their fidelity to King George III and wishing him “a long & prosperous reign” in the Olive Branch Petition (see yesterday's post), Congress sets “forth the causes & necessity of their taking up arms” against British authority in the American colonies. The declaration also proclaimed their preference “to die free men rather than live as slaves.” As in the Olive Branch Petition, Congress never impugned the motives of the British king. Instead, they protested, “The large strides of late taken by the legislature of Great Britain toward establishing over these colonies their absolute rule…” Congress provided a history of colonial relations in which the king served as the sole governmental connection between the mother country & colonies, until, in their eyes, the victory against France in the Seven Years’ War caused Britain’s “new ministry finding all the foes of Britain subdued” to fall upon “the unfortunate idea of subduing her friends also.” According to the declaration, the king’s role remained constant, but “parliament then for the 1st time assumed a power of unbounded legislation over the colonies of America,” which resulted in the bloodletting at Lexington & Concord in April 1775. At this point, Congress assumed that if the king could merely be made to understand what Parliament & his ministers had done, he would rectify the situation & return the colonists to their rightful place as fully equal members of the British empire. When the king sided with Parliament, however, Congress moved beyond a Declaration of Arms to a Declaration of Independence.
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July 6, 1944 In Hartford, Connecticut, a fire breaks out under the big top of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus, killing 167 people & injuring 682. Two-thirds of those who perished were children. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it spread at incredible speed, racing up the canvas of the circus tent. Scarcely before the 8,000 spectators inside the big top could react, patches of burning canvas began falling on them from above & a stampede for the exits began. Many were trapped under fallen canvas, but most were able to rip through it and escape. However, after the tent’s ropes burned & its poles gave way, the whole burning big top came crashing down, consuming those who remained inside. Within 10 minutes it was over & some 100 children and 60 of their adult escorts were dead or dying.

An investigation revealed that the tent had undergone a treatment with flammable paraffin thinned with 3 parts of gasoline to make it waterproof. o_O Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus eventually agreed to pay $5 million in compensation & several of the organizers were convicted on manslaughter charges. In 1950, in a late development in the case, Robert D. Segee of Circleville, Ohio, confessed to starting the Hartford circus fire. Segee claimed that he had been an arsonist since the age of 6 & that an apparition of an Indian on a flaming horse often visited him & urged him to set fires. In November 1950, Segee was sentenced to 2 consecutive terms of 22 years in prison on unrelated arson charges. Hartford investigators raised doubts over his confession, as he had a history of mental illness, & it could not be proven he was anywhere within the state of Connecticut when the fire occurred. Connecticut officials were also not allowed to question Segee, even though his alleged crime had occurred in their state. Segee, who died in 1997, denied setting the fire as late as 1994 during an interview. Because of this, many investigators, historians & victims believe the true arsonist—if it had indeed been arson—was never found.
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July 7, 1865 Mary Surratt, along with 3 others, is executed by the US government for her role as a conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Surratt, who owned a tavern in Surrattsville (now Clinton), Maryland, had to convert her row house in Washington, D.C., into a boardinghouse as a result of financial difficulties. Located a few blocks from Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was murdered, this house served as the place where a group, including John Wilkes Booth, conspired to assassinate the president. It was Surratt’s association with Booth that ultimately led to her conviction, though debate continues as to the extent of her involvement & whether it really warranted so harsh a sentence. On the day of the assassination, Booth asked Surratt to deliver a package, which was later discovered to contain firearms, to her old tavern in Maryland. On her way home, Surratt ran into John Lloyd, a former Washington police officer who currently leased the tavern. When authorities first questioned Lloyd about their encounter, he did not mention anything significant & denied that Booth & David Herold had visited his tavern. Yet when questioned later, he claimed that Surratt had told him to have whiskey & weapons ready for Booth & Herold, who would be stopping by that night. Louis Weichmann, one of the alleged conspirators who delivered the package with Surratt, was released after he testified against her. He later claimed that the government had forced him to testify & that it plagued his conscience for the rest of his life. Furthermore, Lewis Powell, a conspirator who was hanged with Surratt, proclaimed her innocence to his executioner minutes before his death. Many difficulties plagued the investigation into Lincoln's assassination. Firstly, there was no established "investigative procedure" at the time & neither the theatre nor the box the president was in were sealed. The Army, local police officers & the War Dept. were all interviewing different people at different times. Many without keeping written records of the interviews. It was chaos for several days.

Many expected President Andrew Johnson to pardon Surratt because the US government had never hanged a woman. The execution was delayed until the afternoon & soldiers were stationed on every block between the White House & Fort McNair, the execution site, to relay the expected pardon. But the order never came. Ever since her death, numerous sightings of Mary Surratt’s ghost & other strange occurrences have been reported around Fort McNair. A hooded figure in black, bound at the hands and feet as Surratt had been at the time of her execution, has allegedly been seen moving about. Several children of soldiers have reported a “lady in black” who plays with them.
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July 7, 1919 The 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy was a "Truck Train" of the US Army Motor Transport Corps that drove over 3,000 mi from Washington, D.C. (departing July 7), to Oakland, California, & ferried to San Francisco, In addition to 230 road incidents (stops for adjustments, extrications, breakdowns, & accidents) resulting in 9 vehicles retiring, the convoy of "24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers (including Bvt Lt Col Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Tank Corps, who would cite the experience of this journey when signing the bill to begin construction of the US Interstate Highway System), & 258 enlisted men" had 21 injured en route who did not complete the trip. Although some "were really competent drivers" by the end, the majority of soldiers were "raw recruits with little or no military training"; & except for the Motor Supply Company E commander (1st Lt Daniel H. Martin), troop officers had "meager knowledge" of "handling men in the field". The convoy broke and repaired 88 wooden bridges (14 in Wyoming), & "practically" all roadways were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada. The convoy logged 3,250 miles in 573.5 hours (5.67 mph avg.) & 6 rest days without convoy travel were used. Convoy delays required extra encampments &, at Oakland, the convoy was 7 days behind schedule (ferrying the next morning on the last travel day).

In the summer of 2009, on the 90th anniversary of the original trek, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association sponsored a re-enactment of the 1919 convoy. Beginning June 10, following the original route as much as possible & duplicating the original schedule, the convoy set out from Washington, D.C. Over the length of the convoy, more than 150 historic military vehicles, including 50 military jeeps, 19 ¾ ton trucks, 7 1½ ton trucks, 6 2½ ton trucks, 3 cargo trucks, 9 motorcycles, & 4 sedans took part. The oldest vehicle to take part was a 1917 4-wheel drive 3 ton ammunition truck.


1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy car at a service station in a western desert town.


July 7, 1930 Construction of the Hoover Dam begins. Over the next 5 years, a total of 21,000 men would work ceaselessly to produce what would be the largest dam of its time, as well as one of the largest manmade structures in the world. Although the dam would take only 5 years to build, its construction was nearly 30 years in the making. Arthur Powell Davis, an engineer from the Bureau of Reclamation, originally had his vision for the Hoover Dam back in 1902 & his engineering report on the topic became the guiding document when plans were finally made to begin the dam in 1922. Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the US & a committed conservationist, played a crucial role in making Davis’ vision a reality. As Secretary of Commerce in 1921, Hoover devoted himself to the erection of a high dam in Boulder Canyon, Colorado. The dam would provide essential flood control, which would prevent damage to downstream farming communities that suffered each year when snow from the Rocky Mountains melted & joined the Colorado River. Further, the dam would allow the expansion of irrigated farming in the desert & would provide a dependable supply of water for Los Angeles & other southern California communities. Even with Hoover’s exuberant backing & a regional consensus around the need to build the dam, Congressional approval & individual state cooperation were slow in coming. For many years, water rights had been a source of contention among the western states that had claims on the Colorado River. To address this issue, Hoover negotiated the Colorado River Compact, which broke the river basin into 2 regions with the water divided between them. Hoover then had to introduce & re-introduce the bill to build the dam several times over the next few years before the House & Senate finally approved the bill in 1928. In 1929, Hoover, now president, signed the Colorado River Compact into law, claiming it was “the most extensive action ever taken by a group of states under the provisions of the Constitution permitting compacts between states.” Once preparations were made, the Hoover Dam’s construction sprinted forward: The contractors finished their work 2 years ahead of schedule & millions of dollars under budget. Today, the Hoover Dam is the 2nd highest dam in the country & the 18th highest in the world. It generates enough energy each year to serve over a million people, & stands, in Hoover Dam artist Oskar Hansen’s words, as “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in community efforts around a common need or ideal.”
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July 8, 1776 A 2,000 lb. copper-&-tin bell now known as the “Liberty Bell” rings out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the 1st public reading of the Declaration of Independence. 4 days earlier, the historic document had been adopted by delegates to the Continental Congress, but the bell did not ring to announce the issuing of the document until the Declaration of Independence returned from the printer on July 8.

In 1751, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly ordered the bell to be constructed. After being cracked during a test, & then recast twice, the bell was hung from the State House steeple in June 1753. Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together & to summon people for special announcements & events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as King George III’s 1761 ascension to the British throne &, in 1765, to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington & Concord. Its most famous tolling, however, was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. As the British advanced toward Philadelphia in the fall of 1777, the bell was removed from the city & hidden in Allentown to save it from being melted down by the British & used to make cannons.

After the British defeat in 1781, the bell was returned to Philadelphia, which served as the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800. In addition to marking important events, the bell tolled annually to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22 & the 4th of July. The name “Liberty Bell” was first coined in an 1839 poem in an abolitionist pamphlet. The question of when the Liberty Bell acquired its famous fracture has been the subject of a good deal of historical debate. In the most commonly accepted account, the bell suffered a major break while tolling for the funeral of the chief justice of the United States, John Marshall, in 1835, & in 1846 the crack expanded to its present size while in use to mark Washington’s birthday. After that date, it was regarded as unsuitable for ringing, but it was still ceremoniously tapped on occasion to commemorate important events. On June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded France, the sound of the bell’s dulled ring was broadcast by radio across the US.
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July 8, 1853 Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, representing the US government, sails into Tokyo Bay, Japan, with a squadron of 4 vessels. Perry was under orders to attack Tokyo if they refused to accept the establishment of diplomatic relations with America. For a time, Japanese officials refused to speak with Perry, but under threat of attack by the superior American ships they accepted letters from President Millard Fillmore, making the US the 1st Western nation to establish relations with Japan since it had been declared closed to foreigners 2 centuries before. Japan had closed itself to the world because it feared that outsiders planned to destabilize or even conquer the country. The influence of Christianity was especially a concern for the Shogun, the de-facto military ruler of Japan & was one of the reasons he closed the country to foreigners. Only the Dutch & the Chinese were allowed to continue trade with Japan after 1639, but this trade was restricted & confined to the island of Dejima at Nagasaki. After giving Japan time to consider the establishment of external relations, Commodore Perry returned to Tokyo with 9 ships in March 1854. On March 31, he signed the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening the ports of Shimoda & Hakodate to American trade & permitting the establishment of a US consulate in Japan. In April 1860, the 1st Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power in over 200 years reached Washington, D.C., & remained in the US capital for several weeks, discussing expansion of trade with the US. Treaties with other Western powers followed soon after, contributing to the collapse of the shogunate & ultimately the modernization of Japan.
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Commodore Matthew C. Perry's Black Ship Arriving in Japan, Print, 1853.

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Japanese depiction of Perry's Black Ship
 

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July 9, 1846 An American naval captain occupies the small settlement of Yerba Buena, a site that will later be renamed San Francisco. Europeans did not discover the spectacular San Francisco Bay until 1769, although several explorers had sailed by it in earlier centuries. When Spanish explorers finally found the bay in that year, they immediately recognized its strategic value. In 1776, the Spanish built a military post on the tip of the San Francisco peninsula & founded the mission of San Francisco de Asis (the Spanish name for Saint Francis of Assisi) nearby. The most northern outpost of the Spanish, & later Mexican, empire in America, the tiny settlement remained relatively insignificant for several decades. However, the potential of the magnificent harbor did not escape the attention of other nations. In 1835, the British Captain William Richardson established a private settlement on the shore of Yerba Buena Cove, several miles to the east of the Mexican mission. That same year the US government offered to purchase the bay, but the Mexicans declined to sell. In retrospect, the Mexicans should have sold while they still had the chance. A little more than a decade later, a dispute between the US & Mexico over western Texas led to war. Shortly after the Mexican War began, US Captain John Montgomery sailed his warship into San Francisco Bay, anchoring just off the settlement of Yerba Buena. On this day in 1846, Montgomery led a party of marines & sailors ashore. They met no resistance & claimed the settlement for the US, raising the American flag in the central plaza. The following year, the Americans renamed the village San Francisco. When the Mexicans formally ceded California to the United States in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe, San Francisco was still a small town with perhaps 900 occupants. That same year, however, gold was discovered at the nearby Sutter’s Fort. San Francisco became the gateway for a massive gold rush, & by 1852, the town was home to more than 36,000.
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RAISING THE AMERICAN FLAG & TAKING POSSESSION OF YERBA BUENA


July 9, 1868 The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is adopted as one of the Reconstruction Amendments. Arguably one of the most consequential amendments to this day, the amendment addresses citizenship rights & equal protection of the laws & was proposed in response to issues related to former slaves following the American Civil War. The amendment was bitterly contested, particularly by the states of the defeated Confederacy, which were forced to ratify it in order to regain representation in Congress. The amendment, particularly its 1st section, is one of the most litigated parts of the Constitution, forming the basis for landmark decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) regarding racial segregation, Roe v. Wade (1973) regarding abortion, Bush v. Gore (2000) regarding the 2000 presidential election & Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) regarding same-sex marriage. The amendment limits the actions of all state and local officials, including those acting on behalf of such an official.

The amendment's 1st section includes several clauses: the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause & Equal Protection Clause. The Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship, nullifying the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which had held that Americans descended from African slaves could not be citizens of the United States. Since the Slaughter-House Cases (1873), the Privileges or Immunities Clause has been interpreted to do very little. The Due Process Clause prohibits state & local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without a fair procedure. The Supreme Court has ruled this clause makes most of the Bill of Rights as applicable to the states as it is to the federal government, as well as to recognize substantive & procedural requirements that state laws must satisfy. (So neither the federal nor state government should be able to take bump stocks without a fair procedure, IMO.) The Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people, including all non-citizens, within its jurisdiction. This clause has been the basis for many decisions rejecting irrational or unnecessary discrimination against people belonging to various groups.

The 2nd, 3rd, & 4th sections of the amendment are seldom litigated. However, the second section's reference to "rebellion, or other crime" has been invoked as a constitutional ground for felony disenfranchisement. The 4th section was held, in Perry v. United States (1935), to prohibit a current Congress from abrogating a contract of debt incurred by a prior Congress. The 5th section gives Congress the power to enforce the amendment's provisions by "appropriate legislation"; however, under City of Boerne v. Flores (1997), this power may not be used to contradict a Supreme Court decision interpreting the amendment.
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July 10, 1925 In Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial begins with John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law. The law, which had been passed in March, made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, & to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.” With local businessman George Rappleyea, Scopes had conspired to get charged with this violation, & after his arrest the pair enlisted the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to organize a defense. Hearing of this coordinated attack on Christian fundamentalism, William Jennings Bryan, the 3 time Democratic presidential candidate & a fundamentalist hero, volunteered to assist the prosecution. Soon after, the great attorney Clarence Darrow agreed to join the ACLU in the defense & the stage was set for one of the most famous trials in US history. On July 10, the Monkey Trial got underway & within a few days hordes of spectators & reporters had descended on Dayton as preachers set up revival tents along the city’s main street to keep the faithful stirred up. Inside the Rhea County Courthouse, the defense suffered early setbacks when Judge John Raulston ruled against their attempt to prove the law unconstitutional & then refused to end his practice of opening each day’s proceeding with prayer. Outside, Dayton took on a carnival-like atmosphere as an exhibit featuring 2 chimpanzees & a supposed “missing link” opened in town & vendors sold Bibles, toy monkeys, hot dogs, & lemonade. The missing link was in fact Jo Viens of Burlington, Vermont, a 51-year-old man who was of short stature & possessed a receding forehead & a protruding jaw. One of the chimpanzees–named Joe Mendi–wore a plaid suit, a brown fedora & white spats while entertaining Dayton’s citizens on the courthouse lawn. In the courtroom, Judge Raulston destroyed the defense’s strategy by ruling that expert scientific testimony on evolution was inadmissible–on the grounds that it was Scopes who was on trial, not the law he had violated. The next day, Raulston ordered the trial moved to the courthouse lawn, fearing that the weight of the crowd inside was in danger of collapsing the floor. In front of several thousand spectators in the open air, Darrow changed his tactics & as his sole witness called Bryan in an attempt to discredit his literal interpretation of the Bible. In a searching examination, Bryan was subjected to severe ridicule & forced to make ignorant & contradictory statements to the amusement of the crowd. On July 21, in his closing speech, Darrow asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed. Under Tennessee law, Bryan was thereby denied the opportunity to deliver the closing speech he had been preparing for weeks. After 8 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a guilty verdict & Raulston ordered Scopes to pay a fine of $100, the minimum the law allowed. Although Bryan had won the case, he had been publicly humiliated and his fundamentalist beliefs had been disgraced. 5 days later, on July 26, he lay down for a Sunday afternoon nap & never woke up. In 1927, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the Monkey Trial verdict on a technicality but left the constitutional issues unresolved until 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar Arkansas law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.
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July 10, 1962 Telstar I, the 1st commercial communications satellite, is launched on top of a Thor-Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral. It successfully relayed through space the 1st television pictures, telephone calls & telegraph images & provided the 1st live transatlantic television feed. Telstar 2 launched May 7, 1963. Telstar 1 & 2—though no longer functional—still orbit the Earth.
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July 10, 1992 The Alaska court of appeals overturns the conviction of Joseph Hazelwood, the former captain of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. Hazelwood, who was found guilty of negligence for his role in the massive oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989, successfully argued that he was entitled to immunity from prosecution because he had reported the oil spill to authorities 20 minutes after the ship ran aground. The Exxon Valdez accident on the Alaskan coast was one of the largest environmental disasters in American history & resulted in the deaths of 250,000 sea birds, thousands of sea otters & seals, hundreds of bald eagles & countless salmon & herring eggs. The ship, 1,000 feet long & carrying 1.3 million barrels of oil, ran aground on Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989, after failing to return to the shipping lanes, which it had maneuvered out of to avoid icebergs. It later came to light that several officers, including Captain Hazelwood, had been drinking at a bar the night the Exxon Valdez left port. However, there wasn’t enough evidence to support the notion that alcohol impairment had been responsible for the oil spill. Rather, poor weather conditions & preparation, combined with several incompetent maneuvers by the men steering the tanker, were deemed responsible for the disaster. Captain Hazelwood, who had prior drunk driving arrests, had a spotless record as a tanker captain before the Valdez accident. Exxon compounded the environmental problems caused by the spill by not beginning the cleanup effort right away. The company spent $2 billion on cleanup operations & another $1.8 billion on habitat restoration & personal damages. The federal government & the state of Alaska reached a $900 million with Exxon in 1991. But it took decades to get the company to pay punitive damages. An Alaskan court ordered Exxon to pay $5 billion in 1994, but after 14 years of lawsuits & appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court settled on about $500 million. The Exxon Valdez was repaired & had a series of different owners before being bought by a Hong Kong-based company, which renamed it the Dong Fang Ocean. It once again made headlines in November 2010 when it collided with another cargo ship off of China.
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A clean-up worker rakes through crude oil, contained by floating booms off the waters of Prince William Sound.

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A worker gets on hands & knees trying to soak up crude oil on the shoreline using towels.
 

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July 11, 1804 In a duel held in Weehawken, New Jersey, Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shoots his long-time political antagonist Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, a leading Federalist & the chief architect of America’s political economy, died the following day. Alexander Hamilton, born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, came to the American colonies in 1773 as a poor immigrant. (There is some controversy as to the year of his birth, but it was either 1755 or 1757.) In 1776, he joined the Continental Army in the American Revolution. His relentless energy & remarkable intelligence brought him to the attention of Gen. George Washington, who took him on as an aide. 10 years later, Hamilton served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention & he led the fight to win ratification of the final document, which created the kind of strong, centralized government that he favored. In 1789, he was appointed the 1st Secretary of the Treasury by President Washington & during the next 6 years he crafted a sophisticated monetary policy that saved the young US government from collapse. With the emergence of political parties, Hamilton was regarded as a leader of the Federalists.

Aaron Burr, born into a prestigious New Jersey family in 1756, was also intellectually gifted & graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) at the age of 17. He joined the Continental Army in 1775 & distinguished himself during the Patriot attack on Quebec. A masterful politician, he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1783 & later served as NY State Attorney. In 1790, he defeated Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law in a race for the US Senate.

Hamilton came to detest Burr, whom he regarded as a dangerous opportunist, & he often spoke ill of him. When Burr ran for the vice presidency in 1796 on Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican ticket (the forerunner of the Democratic Party), Hamilton launched a series of public attacks against Burr, stating, “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.” John Adams won the presidency & in 1797 Burr left the Senate & returned to the New York Assembly. In the 1800 election, Jefferson & Burr became running mates again. Burr aided the Democratic-Republican ticket by publishing a confidential document that Hamilton had written criticizing his fellow Federalist President John Adams. (Strategic leaking of documents is nothing new for politicians.) This caused a rift in the Federalists & helped Jefferson & Burr win the election with 73 electoral votes each. Under the electoral procedure then prevailing, president & vice president were not voted for separately; the candidate who received the most votes was elected president & the 2nd in line, vice president. The vote then went to the House of Representatives. What at 1st seemed but an electoral technicality—handing Jefferson victory over his running mate—developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. After a remarkable 35 tie votes, a small group of Federalists changed sides & voted in Jefferson’s favor. Alexander Hamilton, who had supported Jefferson as the lesser of 2 evils, was instrumental in breaking the deadlock.

Burr became vice president, but Jefferson grew apart from him & did not support Burr’s nomination to a 2nd term in 1804. That year, a faction of New York Federalists, who had found their fortunes drastically diminished after the ascendance of Jefferson, sought to enlist the disgruntled Burr into their party & elect him governor. Hamilton campaigned against Burr with great fervor & Burr lost the Federalist nomination & then, running as an independent for governor, the election. In the campaign, Burr’s character was savagely attacked by Hamilton & others, & after the election he resolved to restore his reputation by challenging Hamilton to a duel, or an “affair of honor,” as they were known.
Affairs of honor were commonplace in America at the time & the complex rules governing them usually led to an honorable resolution before any actual firing of weapons. In fact, the outspoken Hamilton had been involved in several affairs of honor in his life & he had resolved most of them peaceably. No such recourse was found with Burr, however, & on July 11, 1804, the enemies met at 7 am at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey. It was the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. According to Hamilton’s “second”—his assistant and witness in the duel—Hamilton decided the duel was morally wrong & deliberately fired into the air. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr & missed. What happened next is agreed upon: Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach & the bullet lodged next to his spine. Hamilton was taken back to New York, & he died the next afternoon. Few affairs of honor actually resulted in deaths & the nation was outraged by the killing of a man as eminent as Alexander Hamilton. Charged with murder in New York & New Jersey, Burr, still vice president, returned to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term immune from prosecution.

In 1805, Burr, thoroughly discredited, concocted a plot with James Wilkinson, commander of the US Army, to seize the Louisiana Territory & establish an independent empire, which Burr, presumably, would lead. He contacted the British government & unsuccessfully pleaded for assistance in the scheme. Later, when border trouble with Spanish Mexico heated up, Burr & Wilkinson conspired to seize territory in Spanish America for the same purpose. In the fall of 1806, Burr led a group of well-armed colonists toward New Orleans, prompting an immediate US investigation. General Wilkinson, in an effort to save himself, turned against Burr & sent dispatches to Washington accusing Burr of treason. In February 1807, Burr was arrested in Louisiana for treason & sent to Virginia to be tried in a US court. In September, he was acquitted on a technicality. Nevertheless, public opinion condemned him as a traitor & he fled to Europe. He later returned to private life in New York, the murder charges against him forgotten. He died in 1836.
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Jake

All gun laws are an infringement!
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July 11th, 1954 my dad was born.

July 11th, 2004 he was declared cancer free after a year-and-a-half long battle with stage 4 follicular lymphoma. When he was first diagnosed with cancer they told him that he had 6 months, at most, to live and that treatment probably wouldn't get rid of everything since it had spread basically throughout his entire body.

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Grunk

The Way of the Fallen is Hard
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July 11th, 1954 my dad was born.

July 11th, 2004 he was declared cancer free after a year-and-a-half long battle with stage 4 follicular lymphoma. When he was first diagnosed with cancer they told him that he had 6 months, at most, to live and that treatment probably wouldn't get rid of everything since it had spread basically throughout his entire body.

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Congratulations & great picture! He knew he had to stick around for that little girl even before she was born!
 
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Hayata

This Space for Rent
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July 11th, 1954 my dad was born.

July 11th, 2004 he was declared cancer free after a year-and-a-half long battle with stage 4 follicular lymphoma. When he was first diagnosed with cancer they told him that he had 6 months, at most, to live and that treatment probably wouldn't get rid of everything since it had spread basically throughout his entire body.

View attachment 52517

And I bet he can still outshoot you!




Me, too, for that matter...
 
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