Today in 1980, at a Manhattan apartment building, former Beatle band member John Lennon was shot four times with a .38 cal. pistol by Mark David Chapman outside Lennon’s residence. The murder stunned millions of fans worldwide.
Psychiatrists concluded Chapman was borderline psychotic. He ignored legal advice to plea insanity and entered a guilty plea for murder. Chapman resides in Attica Prison in New York today, serving a sentence 20 years to life.
Today in 1941 FDR delivered a short speech to a joint session of Congress asking for a declaration of war against Japan. He got it in about an hour with only one dissenting vote.
The dissenting vote was from avowed pacifist Rep. Jeanette Rankin of Montana. She ran to an ante room in tears after the vote and secluded herself in a telephone booth. Police insisted on escorting her to her office across the street for her safety. Telegrams expressing outrage and “staining the honor of Montana” poured into her office. Rankin’s vote ended her career in Congress.
Japanese envoys and embassy staff were boarded variously at the Washington Hotel and the Homestead Hotel in Virginia until they could board transportation to Japan. They were extended all reasonable amenities but were restricted with a 24-hour guard.
Today in 1993 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. NAFTA is a trade pact between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, eliminating virtually all tariffs and trade restrictions between the three nations. The passage of NAFTA was one of Clinton’s first major victories as the first Democratic president in 12 years–though the movement for free trade in North America had begun as a Republican initiative.
NAFTA was heavily criticized by Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot, who argued that if NAFTA was passed, Americans would hear a “giant sucking sound” of American companies fleeing the United States for Mexico, where employees would work for less pay and without benefits. The pact, which took effect on January 1, 1994, created the world’s largest free-trade zone.
Today in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which were plans for postwar reconstruction. The Union armies had captured large sections of the South, and some states were ready to have their governments rebuilt.
The proclamation addressed three main areas of concern. First, it allowed for a full pardon for and restoration of property to all engaged in the rebellion with the exception of the highest Confederate officials and military leaders. Second, it allowed for a new state government to be formed when 10 percent of the eligible voters had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States. Third, the Southern states admitted were encouraged to enact plans to deal with the freed slaves so long as their freedom was not compromised.
The plan was easy for most Southerners to accept. Lincoln was seizing the initiative for reconstruction from Congress. Some Republicans thought the plan was far too easy on the South, but most accepted it because of the president’s prestige and leadership. Following Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, the disagreements over the postwar reconstruction policy led to a battle between President Andrew Johnson and Congress.
Happy birthday Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton engine or “gin,” who was born in 1765 at Westboro, Massachusetts.
His invention had a tremendous impact on the economy of the South. By 1800, cotton production increased from about 3,000 bales a year to 73,000. Whitney died of prostate cancer January 8, 1825, at New Haven, Connecticut. He was age 59.
The Eli Whitney Students Program, Yale University’s admissions program for non-traditional students, is named after Whitney.
Happy birthday James Thurber, reporter, cartoonist and humorist, born today in 1894 at Columbus, Ohio.
Thurber’s work was published mainly in “The New Yorker” magazine and later published as collected works from 1930 to the 1950′s. His most notable works are “My Life and Hard Times” (1933), My World and Welcome to It” (1942), which includes “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1939).
Thurber died November 2, 1961 at New York City. He was age 66.
The Thurber House is preserved in Columbus.