This Week in History
On March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk made a momentous announcement: He had invented a vaccine that would prevent a child from catching one of the most feared contagions at the time, poliomyelitis.
The first U.S. $20 gold piece was authorized by Congress 159 years ago this week. Exactly one year later, on March 12, 1850, the first of the famous “double eagles” was struck by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. It contained .9676 ounce of gold, which was then valued at $20.67 an ounce.
March 15 is the infamous “Ides of March.” As you’ll remember from reading “Julius Caesar” in high school, Caesar ignored the soothsayer’s warnings to stay in bed that day. He was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate by a gang of 60 conspirators, led by Marcus Brutus (“Et tu, Brute?”) and Caius Cassius.
On March 10, 1748, during a church service in Warwickshire, England, the captain of the slave ship Greyhound converted to Christianity. John Newton, who was just 22 years old at the time, vowed to spend the rest of his life making amends for what he had done.
A quarter of a century later then ordained Rev. Newton delivered a New Year’s Day sermon on the subject of faith. Although the text of that sermon has been lost, a hymn he wrote based on his notes went on to become one of the most popular gospel songs of all time. “Amazing Grace” has been recorded more than 1,800 times by such disparate musicians as Aretha Franklin, Rod Steward, the Dropkick Murphys, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. In the early 1970s, a version by Judy Collins spent 67 weeks on the single chart in the United Kingdom. In 1972 an instrumental version by the Pipes and Drums and Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards was No. 1 in England for five weeks.
It was 19 years ago that something extraordinary in recent U.S. history took place: The United States won a war. On Feb. 27, 1991, then-President George Bush (George W’s father) went on national television to proclaim, “Kuwait is liberated. Iraq’s army is defeated.” He continued, “I am pleased to announce that at midnight tonight, exactly 100 […]
Ninety-four years ago this week the United States Constitution suffered its worst-ever addition when the 16th Amendment, which permits a progressive income tax, was ratified by Congress. In just one sentence, a mere 31 words long, our relationship with those who would rule over us was changed dramatically. A graduated federal income tax became legal […]
This is a very black week in the history of a country that prides itself on protecting the rights of its citizens. On Feb. 19, 1942, more than 120,000 Americans lost theirs, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.
The order directed the United States military to remove every person of Japanese ancestry from within 100 miles of the west coast of the U.S. The military then moved them to 10 “internment camps” and kept them there for the duration of World War II.
Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, who directed the operation, testified before Congress, “I don’t want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty…. We must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.” They even rounded up orphaned infants; Gen. DeWitt said his target was anyone “with one drop of Japanese blood.”
On Feb. 9, 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy (R.-Wisc.) gave a Lincoln’s Birthday speech in Wheeling, W.V., in which he asserted that scores of communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department.
His charges, far from causing a nationwide fervor of anti-communist hysteria, as his critics have alleged, went mostly unnoticed at the time. Just two weeks earlier, Alger Hiss, then and now the darling of the left, was convicted of two counts of perjury for lying about being a spy for the Soviet Union. He was sentenced to life in prison.
We now know for certain, thanks to documents discovered in Moscow after the collapse of communism there, that McCarthy was, if anything, understating the case; and that Hiss was guilty of far more than perjury. He was a conscious and deliberate traitor to his country.
I don’t want to worry you, but historically this is a bad week for freedom. Among the worst events, 97 years ago this week a progressive income tax was made possible in the United States. Prior to this time the Federal Government paid all of its bills (including the salaries of congressmen, presidents, federal judges, […]
On Jan. 26, 1905, the largest diamond known to man was found in Pretoria, South Africa. Called the "Cullinan," the stone weighed an amazing 3,106 carats. Even Elizabeth Taylor couldn’t have worn it around her neck. Joseph Asscher, a legendary diamond cutter in Amsterdam, was chosen to split the giant stone. He studied the diamond […]
On Jan. 23, 1968, Americans were stunned to learn that North Korea had captured a United States Navy vessel, the USS Pueblo. The North Koreans killed one crewman in the assault and shackled, blindfolded and hauled the other 82 off to prison.
President Lyndon Johnson forbade any attempt to rescue our seamen or to retaliate against their captors. The U.S. stood by, seemingly helpless, as the crew suffered torture and starvation for 11 months before being released.