Today in 1778 representatives from the United States and France signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. The Continental Congress ratified them in May 1778. These were the first treaties entered into by the U.S. government
The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as an independent nation and encouraged trade between France and the America. The Treaty of Alliance provided for a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating that the absolute independence of the United States be recognized as a condition for peace and that France would be permitted to conquer the British West Indies.
Covert French aid began filtering into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, but it was not until the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that the Americans were worth backing with a formal treaty. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which culminated in the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.
Today in 1985 in his State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan defined some key concepts of his foreign policy, establishing what became the “Reagan Doctrine.” The doctrine served as the foundation for the Reagan administration’s support of “freedom fighters” around the globe.
Reagan began his foreign policy comments with the pronouncement that, “Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few; it is the universal right of all God’s children.” America’s “mission” was to “nourish and defend freedom and democracy.” Specifically, Reagan declared that, “We must stand by our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.” He concluded, “Support for freedom fighters is self-defense.”
This policy translated into covertly supporting the Contras in Nicaragua; the Afghan rebels; and Angolan forces in that nation’s civil war. Reagan continued to defend his actions throughout his two terms in office. Domestic critics decried his actions, claiming that the support of so-called “freedom fighters” resulted only in prolonging and escalating bloody conflicts and U.S. support of repressive and undemocratic elements in each of the respective nations.
Today in 1820 the first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States departed New York harbor on a journey to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa. The immigration was largely the work of the American Colonization Society, a U.S. organization founded in 1816 by Robert Finley to return freed slaves to Africa. The expedition was partially funded by the U.S. Congress, which in 1819 appropriated $100,000 for returning displaced Africans, illegally brought to the United States after the abolishment of the slave trade in 1808.
In 1787, the British government settled 300 former slaves and 70 white prostitutes on the Sierra Leone peninsula in West Africa. Within two years, most members of this settlement had died from disease or warfare with the local Temne people. In 1792, a second attempt was made when 1,100 freed slaves, mostly individuals who had supported Britain during the American Revolution and were unhappy with their resettlement in Canada, established Freetown under the leadership of British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.
During the next few decades, thousands of freed slaves came from Canada, the West Indies, and other parts of West Africa to the Sierra Leone Colony, and in 1820 the first freed slaves from the United States arrived at Sierra Leone. In 1821, the American Colonization Society founded the colony of Liberia south of Sierra Leone as a homeland for freed U.S. slaves.
Most Americans of African descent were not enthusiastic to abandon their homes in the United States for the West African coast. Between 1822 and the Civil War, some 15,000 African Americans settled in Liberia, which was granted independence by the United States in 1847. Liberia was granted official U.S. diplomatic recognition in 1862. It was the first independent democratic republic in African history.
Today in 1937 John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men was published. He adapted the book into a three-act play, which was produced the same year. The story brought national attention to Steinbeck’s work, which started with the publication of his first successful novel, Tortilla Flat (1935). In Dubious Battle (1935) was also a social commentary on injustices of various types. His first two novels Cup of Gold (1929) and The Pastures of Heaven (1932) were not commercial successes.
Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Cannery Row (1945) and The Pearl (1947) continued social criticism but became more sentimental. Steinbeck wrote movie scripts for successful films Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata (1952). He also published nonfiction, The Sea of Cortez (1951) and Travels with Charlie (1962).
In 1962, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception.” The selection was criticized, as “one of the Academy’s biggest mistakes” and “limited talent is, in his best books, watered down by tenth-rate philosophizing.”
Steinbeck authored twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories.
After Steinbeck’s death in 1968, his incomplete novel The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights was finally published in 1976.
Today in 1891the Dalton Gang’s first attempt at train robbery was a fiasco. Bob, Grat, and Bill tried to rob a Southern Pacific train near Alila, California. While Bill kept any passengers from interfering by shooting over their heads, Bob and Grat forced the engineer to show them the location of the cash-carrying express car. When the engineer tried to slip away, one of the brothers shot him in the stomach. Finding the express car on their own, Bob and Grat demanded that the guard inside open the heavy door. The guard refused and began firing down on them from a small spy hole. Thwarted, the brothers finally gave up and rode away.
The Daltons returned to Oklahoma, reunited with young Emmett, and began robbing in earnest. On October 5, 1892 the gang botched another robbery, boldly attempting to hit two Coffeyville, Kansas, banks at the same time. Townspeople caught them in the act and killed Bob, Grat, and two of their gang members. Emmett was seriously wounded and served 14 years in prison.
Of all the criminal Dalton brothers, only Emmett lived into old age. Freed from prison in 1907, he married and settled in Los Angeles, where he built a successful career in real estate and contracting.
Today in 1917 the SS California some 38 miles off the coast of Fastnet Island, Ireland, a submarine fired two torpedoes at the ship. One of the torpedoes missed, but the second torpedo exploded into the port side of the steamer, killing five people instantly. The explosion of the torpedo was so devastating that the 470-foot, 9,000-ton steamer sank just nine minutes after the attack. Despite desperate S.O.S. calls sent by the crew to ensure the arrival of rescue ships, 38 people drowned after the initial explosion, for a total of 43 dead.
This type of blatant German defiance of Wilson’s warning about the consequences of unrestricted submarine warfare, combined with the subsequent discovery and release of the Zimmermann telegram drove Wilson and the United States to take the final steps towards war. On April 2, Wilson went before Congress to deliver his war message; the formal declaration of U.S. entrance into the First World War came four days later.
Today in 1788 Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the new U.S. Constitution, by a vote of 187 to 168.
Today in 1933 the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted. It set the date for the Presidential Inauguration as January 20th, instead of the old date of March 4th. It also sets January 3rd as the official opening date of Congress.
Happy birthday Ronald Wilson Reagan, radio, film, television actor, California governor (1967-75), and 40th president (1981-89), born today in 1911 at Tampico, Illinois.
As president, the “Great Communicator” got through to ordinary Americans and gave them hope and optimism for their own future and that of their country. Despite his lifelong opposition to “big” government, he was credited with restoring faith in the U.S. government and the presidency after a long era of disillusionment in the wake of Nixon, Vietnam and economic hardship under Carter.
At 69, Reagan was the oldest man in history to take office as U.S. president. His career in Hollywood, thought to be a weakness at the beginning of his life in politics, turned out to be arguably one of his biggest assets. He projected a comforting optimism and weathered setbacks with such success that he became known as the “Teflon president.” His foreign policy legacy, tarnished after the Iran-Contra affair, was redeemed in the eyes of many by the end of the Cold War and the opening of relations with the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. The long-term success of his sweeping tax cuts and “Reaganomics” may have been debatable, but he managed to maintain his popularity. Six years later, Reagan made the sobering announcement that he had Alzheimer’s disease, which would end his public career.
Ronald Reagan died June 5, 2004, at Los Angeles, California. He was age of 93. He is entombed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California. Inscribed on his tomb are his words: “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”
Happy birthday Aaron Burr, New York State Attorney General (1789–1791), US Senator (1791–1797) and Vice President of the United States (1801–1805), born today in 1756 at Newark, New Jersey.
In 1804, Vice President Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel over Hamilton’s negative remarks and mortally wounded him. Burr was later tried for treason over allegations he was planning to invade Mexico as part of a scheme to establish his own empire in the Southwest, but was acquitted.
By this point Burr’s hopes for a political comeback had been dashed and he fled America and his creditors for Europe. Burr was able to return to New York and his law practice. On September 14, 1836, he died at Staten Island in the village of Port Richmond. He is buried near his father in Princeton, New Jersey.
Rest in peace Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., professional tennis player ranked number 1, three-time winner of grand slam titles, US Davis Cup team member, and only black man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open, who died today in 1993 at New York City. He was age 49.
Ashe was the first black player ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. He retired in 1980.
It is believed he contracted the HIV virus from a tainted blood transfusion following a 1983 heart operation. Ashe kept his medical condition private until April 1992. It was believed he contracted the HIV virus from a tainted blood transfusion following a 1983 heart operation. Ashe kept his medical condition private until April 1992. Off the court, Ashe was known for his commitment to charitable causes and humanitarian work. He also spent the last years of his life writing his memoir Days of Grace, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death.
Arthur Ashe was born July 10, 1943, at Richmond, Virginia. He is buried alongside his mother at Richmond, Virginia.
On June 20, 1993, Ashe was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.