Today in 1784, the Continental Congress ratified the Second Treaty of Paris, ending the War for Independence.
The document was known as the Second Treaty of Paris because the Treaty of Paris was also the name of the agreement that had ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763. Britain officially agreed to recognize the independence of its 13 former colonies as the new United States of America.
Today in 1639 at Hartford, Connecticut, the first constitution in the American colonies, the “Fundamental Orders,” was adopted by representatives from the three major Puritan settlements of Wethersfield, Windsor, and Hartford.
The Fundamental Orders was the first written constitution in the world to declare the modern idea that “the foundation of authority is in the free consent of the people.” In 1662, the Charter of Connecticut superseded the Fundamental Orders; though the majority of the original document’s laws and statutes remained in force until 1818.
Today in1963, George Wallace was inaugurated as the governor of Alabama, promising, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” His inauguration speech was written by Ku Klux Klan leader Asa Carter.
During the 1980s, Wallace’s politics shifted dramatically, especially in regard to race. He contacted civil rights leaders he had forcibly opposed in the past and asked their forgiveness. In time, he gained the political support of Alabama’s growing African-American electorate and in 1983 was elected Alabama governor for the last time with their overwhelming support. During the next four years, the man who had promised segregation forever made more African-American political appointments than any other figure in Alabama history. (Likewise, KKK member Asa Carter publicly renounced his racist views and politics.)
Wallace announced his retirement in 1986. He died September 13, 1998 at age 79.
Today in 1891 General Nelson Miles, commander of the U.S. Army troops in South Dakota, reported that the rebellious Sioux were finally returning to their reservation following the bloody massacre at Wounded Knee.
Since the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, Miles fought to force resistant Indians all across the nation to give up their traditional ways and accept life on government-controlled reservations. His winter campaign in 1876-77 used force and diplomacy to win the surrender of many of the remnants of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian party, including Crazy Horse and his followers.
In 1877, Miles intercepted Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce people as they attempted to flee to Canada and forced them to surrender. A decade later, he played a key role in convincing the last rebellious Apache warrior, Geronimo, to accept confinement on a Florida reservation.
Nearly a quarter century after the Battle of Little Bighorn, the general had crushed the last significant Indian uprising in American history, when the 7th Cavalry under Colonel James Forsyth attempted to disarm one band of Sioux near Wounded Knee on December 19, 1890. A brutal massacre erupted, which left nearly 150 Indians dead, many of them women and children. Had Miles been present at Wounded Knee that day (Miles commanded events from his headquarters in Rapid City), the general might well have been able to resolve the confrontation peacefully. Miles viewed Wounded Knee as a foolish and avoidable blunder.
Today in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring aliens from World War II-enemy countries–Italy, Germany and Japan–to register with the United States Department of Justice. Registered persons were then issued a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality. A follow-up to the Alien Registration Act of 1940, Proclamation No. 2537 facilitated the beginning of full-scale internment of Japanese Americans the following month. . A large population of Japanese Americans inhabited the western states and American military analysts feared some would conduct acts of sabotage on west-coast defense and agricultural industries.
A large population of Japanese Americans inhabited the western states and American military analysts feared some would conduct acts of sabotage on west-coast defense and agricultural industries.
Ostensibly issued in the interest of national security, Proclamation No. 2537 permitted the arrest, detention and internment of enemy aliens who violated restricted areas, such as ports, water treatment plants or even areas prone to brush fires, for the duration of the war. A month later, a reluctant but resigned Roosevelt signed the War Department’s blanket Executive Order 9066, which authorized the physical removal of all Japanese Americans into internment camps.
Today in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt became the first president to travel on official business by airplane. Crossing the Atlantic by air, Roosevelt flew in a Boeing 314 Flying Boat dubbed the Dixie Clipper to a World War II strategy meeting with Winston Churchill at Casablanca in North Africa. With German U-boats taking a heavy toll on American marine traffic in the Atlantic, Roosevelt’s advisors reluctantly agreed to the arduous 17,000-mile round trip.
The secret and circuitous journey began on January 11, with the plane stopping several times over four days to refuel and for its passengers to rest. They reached Casablanca on January 14. After a successful meeting with Churchill, as well as some sightseeing and visits to the troops, Roosevelt retraced the route back to the United States, celebrating his 61st birthday somewhere over Haiti.
The meeting was kept secret–even by newspapers that knew about it–until the participants left Morocco on January 27.
Happy birthday Benedict Arnold, the American general during the Revolutionary War who betrayed his country and became synonymous with the word “traitor,” who was born today in 1741 (January 3, 1740, Old Style calendar) at Norwich, Connecticut.
The former American hero and patriot died in London, in relative obscurity, on June 14, 1801 at age 60.
Happy birthday Harold Eugene “Hal” Roach, Sr., film pioneer, director, actor, and film and TV producer, who was born today in 1892 at Elmira, New York.
Roach arrived in Hollywood, California in 1912 and began working as an extra in silent films. Upon coming into an inheritance, he began producing short comedies in 1915 with his friend Harold Lloyd. Roach’s output included nearly 1,000 movies of all lengths, including the classic Laurel and Hardy comedies.
Hal Roach died November 2, 1992, two months short of his 101st birthday, at his home in Bel Air, California. He is buried at Elmira, New York. Roach outlived many of the Our Gang children who starred in his pictures.