Today in 1952 the McCarren-Walter Act took effect and revised America’s immigration laws.
The act, named after Senator Pat McCarren (D-Nevada) and Representative Francis Walter (D-Pennsylvania), specifically removed previously established racial barriers that had acted to exclude immigrants from nations such as Japan and China. These countries were now assigned very small quotas.
The changes banned admission to anyone declared a subversive by the attorney general and indicated that members of communist and “communist-front” organizations were subject to deportation. In defending the act, Senator McCarren declared, “If this oasis of the world should be overrun, perverted, contaminated, or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished.”
President Harry S. Truman called the legislation “un-American” and inhumane. When the bill was passed in June 1952, Truman vetoed the bill. Congress overrode his veto. The McCarren-Walter Act set America’s immigration standards until new legislation was passed in 1965.
Today in 1814 the Treaty of Peace and Amity between His Britannic Majesty and the United States was signed by British and American representatives at Ghent, Belgium, ending the War of 1812. By terms of the treaty, all conquered territory was to be returned, and commissions were planned to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada.
Although the treaty said nothing about two of the key issues that started the war–the rights of neutral U.S. vessels and the impressment of U.S. sailors–it did open up the Great Lakes region to American expansion and was hailed as a diplomatic victory in the United States.
News of the treaty took almost two months to cross the Atlantic, and British forces were not informed of the end of hostilities in time to end their drive against the mouth of the Mississippi River. On January 8, 1815, a large British army attacked New Orleans and was defeated by an inferior American force under General Andrew Jackson.
Today in 1851 the largest fire in the history of the Library of Congress destroyed 35,000 books, about two–thirds of the Library’s 55,000 book collection, including two–thirds of Jefferson’s original transfer. which helped replaced volumes burned by the British during the War of 1812. Congress in 1852 quickly appropriated $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for the acquisition of new materials.
Today it is located in four buildings in Washington, D.C., as well as the Packard Campus in Culpeper, Virginia, and the largest library in the world by shelf space and number of books.
Today in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge touched a button and lit the first national Christmas tree to grace the White House grounds.
Not only was this the first White House “community” Christmas tree, but it was the first to be decorated with electric lights–a strand of 2,500 red, white and green bulbs.
According to the White House Historical Association, President Benjamin Harrison was the first president to erect an indoor Christmas tree for his family and visitors to in 1889. It was decorated with ornaments and candles. In 1929, first lady Lou Henry Hoover oversaw decorating the indoor White House tree. Since then, each first lady’s duties have included the trimming of the official White House tree.
Coolidge’s “inauguration” of the first outdoor national Christmas tree initiated a tradition that has been repeated with every administration. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan began another custom by authorizing the first official White House ornament, copies of which were made available for purchase.
Today in 1865 at Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convened to form the “Ku Klux Klan.” The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of local Black Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence.
In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan. In 1871, the Ku Klux Act passed Congress, authorizing President Ulysses Grant to use military force to suppress the KKK. The Ku Klux Act resulted in nine South Carolina counties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended and the KKK had faded away.
There were two revivals of the KKK in the 20th century. One in response to immigration in the 1910s and ’20s, and another in response to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s.
Today in 1992 Caspar Weinberger and five other Reagan aides involved in the Iran-Contra scandal were pardoned by President George Bush.
Today in 1943 General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force preparing for D-Day.
Happy birthday Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, mountain man, trapper, Indian fighter, soldier, and army scout, who was born today in 1809 at rural Madison County, Kentucky.
Although Carson led a life of numerous frontier exploits, he became a legend during his life thanks to fabricated stories of dime novels.
He did live among the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes and fought Apaches, Utes, and Navahos among other Indian tribes.
Kit Carson died May 23, 1868, at age 58. He is buried at Taos, New Mexico.
Happy birthday Benjamin Rush, physician, writer, educator, humanitarian, Founding Father, Surgeon General of the Continental Army, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, born today in 1745 at Byberry, Philadelphia County.
[His birthday is also recorded as January 4, 1746, to conform to the New Style Gregorian calendar
instituted in 1750, rather than the Old Style Julian calendar.]
Despite having influence on the development of American government, he is overshadowed by many of his American contemporaries. Rush was also an early opponent of slavery and capital punishment. Rush is probably best known for helping to reconcile Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1812, which encouraged them to write to each other. The surviving letters are an invaluable insight of these two figures today.
Benjamin Rush died April 19, 1813, at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was age 67.
Happy birthday Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., business magnate, investor, aviator, aerospace engineer, film maker, and philanthropist, and one of the wealthiest people in the world, born today in 1903 at Humble, Texas. (Another source says Houston, Texas.)
Hughes is the founder of the Hughes Tool Company, Hughes Aircraft, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and other corporations and companies. He is also remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused in part by a worsening obsessive–compulsive disorder and chronic pain.
Hughes died April 5, 1976, unmarried and without children, at Houston, Texas, at age 70. He is buried at Houston.
There are numerous stories about Howard Hughes’ achievements and eccentric behavior. In 1978 the Nevada court rejected a handwritten will as a forgery and declared Hughes died intestate. He left an estate of $2.5 billion, which was split among 22 cousins in 1983.
The US Supreme Court declared Hughes Aircraft belonged to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which sold the company in 1985 for $5.2 billion.