December 17, 1862: Ulysses S Grant Expels the Jews from Tennessee

On this date General Ulysses S Grant issued General Order No. 11:

1.  The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department [of the Tennessee] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.
2.  Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters.
3.  No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

GrantGeneral Grant wrote to Christopher Wolcott, the assistant United States Secretary of War, that day to explain his reasoning:

“I have long since believed that in spite of all the vigilance that can be infused into Post Commanders, that the Specie regulations of the Treasury Dept. have been violated, and that mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders. So well satisfied of this have I been at this that I instructed the Commanding Officer at Columbus [Kentucky] to refuse all permits to Jews to come south, and frequently have had them expelled from the Dept. [of the Tennessee]. But they come in with their Carpet sacks in spite of all that can be done to prevent it. The Jews seem to be a privileged class that can travel anywhere. They will land at any wood yard or landing on the river and make their way through the country. If not permitted to buy Cotton themselves they will act as agents for someone else who will be at a Military post, with a Treasury permit to receive Cotton and pay for it in Treasury notes which the Jew will buy up at an agreed rate, paying gold.”

Less than 72 hours after the order was issued, Grant’s headquarters at Holly Springs, Mississippi was raided, knocking out rail and telegraph lines and disrupting communication for weeks. As a result, news of General Orders No. 11 spread slowly, and did not reach company commanders or army headquarters in a timely fashion.

A copy of the expulsion orders finally reached Paducah, Kentucky 11 days after it was issued. All of the Jews in the city were handed papers ordering them “to leave the city of Paducah, Kentucky, within twenty-four hours.”

As they prepared for their exodus from their homes, one of the Jews, Cesar Kaskel, who was a staunch union supporter, dashed off a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln describing their plight. Lincoln, in all likelihood, never saw the telegram as he was busy preparing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Kaskel decided to appeal in person. He sped to Washington and with help from a friendly congressman obtained an interview with the president, who turned out to have no knowledge whatsoever of the order.

Lincoln, it was reported, saw the situation in biblical terms.

“And so,” Lincoln is said to have drawled, “the children of Israel were driven from the happy land of Canaan?”

“Yes,” Kaskel responded, “and that is why we have come unto Father Abraham’s bosom, asking protection.”

“And this protection,” Lincoln declared “they shall have at once.”

Lincoln ordered General-in-Chief of the Army Henry Halleck to countermand the order. Halleck chose his words carefully when he telegrammed General Grant:  “A paper purporting to be General Orders, No. 11, issued by you December 17, has been presented here. By its terms, it expells all Jews from your department. If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.”

In a follow-up meeting with Jewish leaders, Lincoln reaffirmed that he knew “of no distinction between Jew and Gentile. To condemn a class,” he declared, “is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad.”

General Orders No. 11 came back to haunt Ulysses S Grant when he ran for president in 1868. Following his victory Grant released a letter addressing the issue:  “I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit. Order No. 11 does not sustain this statement, I admit, but then I do not sustain that order.”

Grant went on to speak out for Jewish rights on multiple occasions, and as President appointed more Jews to public office than all previous presidents combined.

December 16, 1773: George Hewes Joins The Boston Tea Party

It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin’s wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.

Boston Tea Party

When we arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the division to which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew.

We were immediately ordered by the respective commanders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging.

We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water.

In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the same time. We were surrounded bv British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us. …

During the time we were throwing the tea overboard, there were several attempts made by some of the citizens of Boston and its vicinity to carry off small quantities of it for their family use. To effect that object, they would watch their opportunity to snatch up a handful from the deck, where it became plentifully scattered, and put it into their pockets.

One Captain O’Connor, whom I well knew, came on board for that purpose, and when he supposed he was not noticed, filled his pockets, and also the lining of his coat. But I had detected him and gave information to the captain of what he was doing. We were ordered to take him into custody, and just as he was stepping from the vessel, I seized him by the skirt of his coat, and in attempting to pull him back, I tore it off; but, springing forward, by a rapid effort he made his escape. He had, however, to run a gauntlet through the crowd upon the wharf nine each one, as he passed, giving him a kick or a stroke.

Another attempt was made to save a little tea from the ruins of the cargo by a tall, aged man who wore a large cocked hat and white wig, which was fashionable at that time. He had sleightly slipped a little into his pocket, but being detected, they seized him and, taking his hat and wig from his head, threw them, together with the tea, of which they had emptied his pockets, into the water. In consideration of his advanced age, he was permitted to escape, with now and then a slight kick.

The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very considerable quantities of it were floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible, and by beating it with oars and paddles so thoroughly drenched it as to render its entire destruction inevitable.

— George Hewes

December 15, 1939: Gone With the Wind Premieres in Atlanta

The Great Depression had swept through Georgia for a decade and a lot of the old hurt from General Sherman’s March to the Sea was still aching in Atlanta’s bones, but for three days in 1939 Stars “fell” on Atlanta and overshadowed, at least for a while, the looming troubles of the world.

GWTWThis is how TIME magazine reported the event:

Last week the cinema event for which the U. S. has palpitated for three years took place in Atlanta, Ga.—the premiere of Gone With the Wind.

Governor Eurith D. Rivers proclaimed a Statewide holiday, prepared to call out the National Guard. Atlanta’s Mayor William B. Hartsfield proclaimed a three-day festival. To Georgia it was like winning the battle of Atlanta 75 years late, with Yankee good will thrown in and the direct assistance of Selznick International (which made the picture).

Mayor Hartsfield urged every Atlanta woman and maid to put on hoop skirts and pantalets, appealed to every Atlanta male to don tight trousers and a beaver, sprout a goatee, sideburns and Kentucky colonel whiskers. He also requested citizens not to tear off the clothes of visiting movie stars, as happened in Kansas at the premiere of Dodge City.

While the Stars and Bars flapped from every building, some 300,000 Atlantans and visitors lined up for seven miles to watch the procession of limousines bring British Vivien Leigh (in tears as thousands welcomed her “back home”), Clark Gable, his wife Carole Lombard, Producer David O. Selznick, Laurence Olivier and others from the airport. Crowds larger than the combined armies that fought at Atlanta in July 1864 waved Confederate flags, tossed confetti till it seemed to be snowing, gave three different versions of the Rebel yell, whistled, cheered, goggled.

Highest point in the high jinks was a Gone With the Wind costume ball night before the premiere, attended by 6,000 celebrants, movie stars and executives galore, Governors of five former Confederate States.

Belle of the ball was Vivien Leigh, who nearly everybody agreed looked right like Scarlett O’Hara. Darkly grinning Clark Gable’s head was in a whirl. Hundreds of the prettiest little girls he had ever seen had surrounded him earlier. One looked at him a little too long, gasped: “Lord, I can’t stand this any longer,” fainted. An eleven-year-old girl, given a choice of getting a Christmas present or meeting Clark Gable, chose Gable. When Gable kissed her, she asked, “Now am I a woman?” …

Next night through the false front of tall white columns erected to make Atlanta’s Grand Theatre look like Tara (the O’Hara plantation in Gone With the Wind) streamed a privileged 2,031 who were going to see the picture whose title Hollywood had been abbreviating for three years as G With the W. They were conscious of participating in a national event, of seeing a picture it had taken three years to make from a novel it had taken seven years to write. They knew it had taken two years and something akin to genius to find a girl to play Scarlett O’Hara. They knew it had cost more ($3,850,000) to produce the picture than any other in cinema history except Ben Hur ($4,500,000) and Hell’s Angels ($4,000,000). They knew it was one of the longest pictures ever filmed (three hours and three quarters of Technicolored action). Above all, most of them knew by heart the love story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, and they were there to protest if it had undergone a single serious film change….

Though delighted Georgians clapped, cheered, whistled and wept at the historical sequences, Northerners might not. There had been protests from daughters of G.A R. veterans. But David Selznick was not worried. The advantage of filming two great legends in one picture was that he had two great pictures — a sure fire Rebel-rouser for the South, a sure fire love story for the rest of the country.

After the Hollywood press preview, Producer Selznick stood in the lobby, scanning the faces of the “toughest audience in the world” with as much eagerness as any tyro at his own first play.

Most of them were dabbing their eyes, and for those who were not the impact of the picture was too powerful to talk about.

Selznick got few comments. Perhaps he was unduly worried about the $5,000,000 the picture has to make before it begins to earn any profits at all. Perhaps he was worrying about something else. Night before, Producer Selznick made a confession that had the ring of truth. Said he of Gone With the Wind: “At noon I think it’s divine, at midnight I think it’s lousy.

Sometimes I think it’s the greatest picture ever made. But if it’s only a great picture, I’ll still be satisfied.”

TIME neglected to mention that, owing the “Jim Crow” laws in force at the time, Hattie McDaniel (Mammy) and Butterfly McQueen (Prissy) were not welcome at the premiere.

December 12, 1745: Birth of John Jay

It would be a stretch to describe John Jay as a radical, unless one considers a keen intellect, an unwavering commitment to the rule of law, a tireless faith in the efficacy of diplomacy, a belief in the dignity of all people regardless of the color of their skin, and a life-long faith in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, to be the traits of the sort of “radical” who would play an crucial role restructuring our society at the time of our Revolution.

John JayJohn Jay showed great promise at a very young age. He was born in New York City to a family of wealthy French Huguenots which soon moved to Rye, New York and established a 400 acre farm which Jay eventually inherited.

He entered King’s College (now Columbia University) at the age of fourteen and graduated with highest honors in 1764. He was admitted to the New York bar at the age of 23. As tensions with the British increased Jay joined the New York Committee of Correspondence and was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774.

Jay’s temperament was more moderate than some of the other Founders  As a delegate to the First Continental Congress Jay worked towards reconciliation with Great Britain and declined to sign the Declaration of Independence. He disdained mob violence, but found that the British tax acts violated the rights of the colonists.Returning to New York he helped draft the state’s constitution, and was elected New York’s first Chief Justice.

After the Declaration was signed he became an ardent supporter of independence, and in 1778 was elected president of the Second Continental Congress. Jay was soon sent as Minister to Spain seeking diplomatic recognition and financial support for the new United States. He then moved on to Paris, where he negotiated the Treaty of Paris in 1783 which concluded America’s War of Independence with Britain.

Returning to America in 1784, he discovered he had been appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He spent five frustrating years as Secretary. Convinced that the U.S. needed a much stronger central government than that laid out by the Articles of Confederation, he wrote five of the first Federalist Papers and argued forcibly for ratification of the new U.S. Constitution.

Shortly after the establishment of the new U.S. government, George Washington appointed John Jay the first Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court. Based on his experience at the Treaty of Paris, Washington then called on Jay to negotiate again with Great Britain to resolve several outstanding issues. The resulting “Jay Treaty” proved extremely controversial and the Congressional fight over its passage led to the creation of national parties, and moved Jay to resign from the Court.

Jay decided to run for governor of New York. He won the office in 1795, serving as the second governor of the state. In 1785, Jay had organized the New York Manumission Society. The group boycotted newspapers which advertised slave sales and merchants who engaged in the trade, and assisted free blacks who were accused of being runaway slaves. Governor Jay signed a law passed in 1799 which lead to the gradual freeing of slaves, with total abolition of slavery in the state occurring on July 4, 1827. This was the largest emancipation of slaves prior to the Civil War.

After serving as governor for six years, Jay retired from public life. He declined another appointment to the Supreme Court and took up the life of a country farmer in Westchester County. Sadly, soon after their move to Westchester, his wife Sarah died. Jay lived as a widower for another 28 years.

 “As to the position that ‘the people always mean well,’ that they always mean to say and do what they believe to be right and just – it may be popular, but it can not be true. The word people applies to all the individual inhabitants of a country. . . . That portion of them who individually mean well never was, nor until the millennium will be, considerable. Pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication and with it a thousand pranks and fooleries. I do not expect mankind will, before the millennium, be what they ought to be and therefore, in my opinion, every political theory which does not regard them as being what they are, will prove abortive. Yet I wish to see all unjust and unnecessary discriminations everywhere abolished, and that the time may come when all our inhabitants of every color and discrimination shall be free and equal partakers of our political liberties.”
                                 ~ Letter to Judge Peters (March 14, 1815)

December 11, 1919: Enterprise Alabama Honors the Boll Weevil

The Boll Weevil moved into the South via Mexico in the 1890s and reached the Alabama Cotton Fields around 1915. It was just a little bug, about a half an inch long, but it had a voracious appetite for the boll of the cotton plant.

“De cotton come up and started to growin’, and, suh, befo’ de middle of May I looks down one day and sees de boll weevil settin’ up dere in de top of dem little cotton stalks waitin’ for de squares to fo’m. So all dat gewano us hauled and put down… made nuttin’ but a crop of boll weevils.”

Boll weevilCoffee County Alabama got his particularly hard – 60% of the cotton harvest was eaten up by the pest in 1915, and as local farmers went bankrupt, one after another, they looked around for another crop to plant that could resist the blight.

Following the disastrous 1915 harvest, local business leaders travelled to Virginia and North Carolina to look at alternative crops that might be planted in the county. They needn’t have travelled so far. Dr. George Washington Carver from the nearby Tuskegee Institute had been researching for some time into an alternative crop, the peanut, which when properly cultivated not only returned vital nutrients to soils depleted by cotton cultivation, but also promised a successful cash crop for local farmers.

Peanuts became the crop of the future for Coffee County. A local farmer agreed to plant his entire 125-acre farm to peanuts in 1916. This venture proved to be a huge success, and after another devastating weevil year in 1916, growers all over the county wanted peanut seed.

In 1917, Coffee County produced more than one million bushels of peanuts that sold for more than $5 million. By 1919, Coffee County was the largest peanut producing county in the United States.
This fortuitous turn of events inspired a prominent Enterprise merchant, Roscoe “Bon” Fleming, to propose a monument in honor of what the weevil had done for the diversification and rescue of the economy of Coffee County. Fleming personally paid $1,795, more than one half the cost of the monument, and it was ordered from Italy.

On December 11, 1919, with bands playing and flags flying and more than 3,000 people in attendance, the “Boll Weevil Monument” was unveiled –  a lady statue and a fountain bearing a bronze plaque which reads, “In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity, this monument is erected by the citizens of Enterprise — December 11, 1919.

The bug held aloft by Enterprise’s heroic lady was added some years later.

December 10, 1884: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is Published

You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied, one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly Tom’s Aunt Polly, she is and Mary, and the Widow Douglas, is all told about in that book which is mostly a true book; with some stretchers, as I said before.

HuckNow the way that the book winds up, is this: Tom and me found the money that the robbers hid in the cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars apiece all gold. It was an awful sight of money when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher, he took it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar a day apiece, all the year round more than a body could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways ; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer, I lit out. I got into my old rags, and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer, he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back.

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn’t do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. . Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn’t go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn’t really anything the matter with them. That is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bullrushers ; and I was in a sweat but by-and-by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time ; so then I didn’t care no more about him ; because I don’t take no stock in dead people.

Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow to let me. But she wouldn’t. She said it was a mean practice and wasn’t clean, and I must try to not do it any more. That is just the way with some people. They get down on a thing when they don’t know nothing about it. Here she was a bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it. And she took snuff too; of course that was all right, because she done it herself.

Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid, with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and took a set at me now, with a spelling-book. She worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then the widow made her ease up. I couldn’t stood it much longer.

Then for an hour it was deadly dull, and I was fidgety. Miss Watson would say, “Dont put your feet up there, Huckleberry;” and “dont scrunch up like that, Huckleberry set up straight; ” and pretty soon she would say, “Don’t gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry why don’t you try to behave?” Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad, then, but I didn’t mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world ; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn’t do no good.

Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and, she said, not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.

December 9, 1793: Noah Webster launches The American Minerva

On December 9, 1793, a Connecticut Federalist by the name of Noah Webster founded New York City’s first daily newspaper. The American Minerva ran, in a variety of incarnations for over 150 years and eventually became the New York Sun which finally ceased publication in 1950.

Newspaper ReadersWebster launched his publication with this address to his readers:

It is the singular felicity of the Americans, and a circumstance that distinguishes this Country from all others, that the means of information are accessible to all descriptions of people. Most of the Citizens of America are not only acquainted with letters and able to read their native language; but they have a strong inclination to acquire, and property to purchase, the means of knowlege.

Of all the means of knowlege, Newspapers are the most eagerly sought after, and the most generally diffused. In no Country on earth, not even Great Britain, are Newspapers so generally circulated among the body of the people, as in America. To this facility of spreading knowlege over our Country, may, in a great degree, be attributed, that civility of manners, that love of peace and good order, and that propriety of public conduct, which characterize the substantial body of Citizens in the United States.

Newspapers, from their cheapness, and the frequency and rapidity of their circulation, may, in America, assume an eminent rank in the catalogue of useful publications. They, in a great degree, supersede the use of Magazines and Pamphlets. The public mind in America, roused by the magnitude of political events, and impatient of delay, cannot wait for monthly intelligence. Daily or at farthest weekly communications are found necessary to gratify public curiosity. But Newspapers are not only the vehicles of what is called news; they are the common instruments of social intercourse, by which the Citizens of this vast Republic constantly discourse and debate with each other on subjects or public concern. It is by means of these, that in times of danger, either from the hostility of insidious intrigue, an alarm is instantly conveyed, and a unanimity of opinion is formed, from Maine to Georgia…

The foundation of all free governments, seems to be, a general diffusion of knowlege. People must know they have rights, before they will claim them; and they must have just ideas of their own rights and learn to distinguish them from the rights of others, before they can form any rational system of government, or be capable of maintaining it. To know that we have rights, is very easy; to know how to preserve those rights, to adjust contending claims, as to prescribe the limits of each, here lies the difficulty. To form and to give duration to a system of government that shall ensure to every man his civil and political rights, and restrain every man from violating the rights of others, is a task of infinite magnitude. Indeed it is probably beyond the powers of man to devise a system for this purpose that can be perpetual; a system that will not in time crumble to pieces by its own imperfections, or be overthrown by the corruption and vices of men. The only anchor of hope left us by history and experience is that “free governments may be rendered durable, perhaps perpetual, by the knowlege, the wisdom and the good sense of the mass of people who are to be governed.” …

But Newspapers may be rendered useful in other respects. In America, agriculture and the arts are yet in their infancy. Other nations have gone before us in a great variety of improvements. They have, by observations and experiments, discovered many useful truths of which the people of this country are yet ignorant; or which are not generally known and applied to practice. The compiler of a paper, who will take the trouble to select from authors, those facts and principles in the arts which are found in other countries to abridge labor and render industry more productive, will perform a most essential service to his country. A useful fact, a truth, which cost some ingenious enquirer the labor ten year’s experiment, may be contained in a single column of a Gazette, and diffused among millions of people. Some exertions to collect such useful truths for this paper will be made by the Editor, and he hopes, with success.

December 8, 1941: FDR calls on Congress to Declare a State of War

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Peral Harbor

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

December 5, 1848: President Polk reports Gold in California

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

Upper California, irrespective of the vast mineral wealth recently developed there, holds at this day, in point of value and importance, to the rest of the Union the same relation that Louisiana did when that fine territory was acquired from France forty-five years ago. Extending nearly ten degrees of latitude along the Pacific, and embracing the only safe and commodious harbors on that coast for many hundred miles, with a Californiatemperate climate and an extensive interior of fertile lands, it is scarcely possible to estimate its wealth until it shall be brought under the government of our laws and its resources fully developed. From its position it must command the rich commerce of China, of Asia, of the islands of the Pacific, of western Mexico, of Central America, the South American States, and of the Russian possessions bordering on that ocean. A great emporium will doubtless speedily arise on the Californian coast which may be destined to rival in importance New Orleans itself. The depot of the vast commerce which must exist on the Pacific will probably be at some point on the Bay of San Francisco, and will occupy the same relation to the whole western coast of that ocean as New Orleans does to the valley of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. . .

It was known that mines of the precious metals existed to a considerable extent in California at the time of its acquisition. Recent discoveries render it probable that these mines are more extensive and valuable than was anticipated. The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service who have visited the mineral district and derived the facts which they detail from personal observation. Reluctant to credit the reports in general circulation as to the quantity of gold, the officer commanding our forces in California visited the mineral district in July last for the purpose of obtaining accurate information on the subject. His report to the War Department of the result of his examination and the facts obtained on the spot is herewith laid before Congress. When he visited the country there were about 4,000 persons engaged in collecting gold.

There is every reason to believe that the number of persons so employed has since been augmented. The explorations already made warrant the belief that the supply is very large and that gold is found at various places in an extensive district of country. . .
The effects produced by the discovery of these rich mineral deposits and the success which has attended the labors of those who have resorted to them have produced a surprising change in the state of affairs in California. Labor commands a most exorbitant price, and all other pursuits but that of searching for the precious metals are abandoned. Nearly the whole of the male population of the country have gone to the gold districts. Ships arriving on the coast are deserted by their crews and their voyages suspended for want of sailors. Our commanding officer there entertains apprehensions that soldiers can not be kept in the public service without a large increase of pay. Desertions in his command have become frequent, and he recommends that those who shall withstand the strong temptation and remain faithful should be rewarded.

December 4, 1800: Worship begins in the U S Capitol

Life in the District of Columbia was still pretty rough in 1800. The federal government (all 125 employees) had transferred from Philadelphia over the summer, and President Adams had just moved into the unfinished executive mansion in November. Settling in to life in the new capital was a challenge for all. Abigail Adams wrote to a friend that she had to line-dry their clothes in the East Room of the White House.

Capitol_Prayer_Room_stained_glass_windowOnly one rough house of worship had yet been built in the District, so nobody was particularly surprised when the Speaker informed the assembled representatives on December 4th that the Chaplains proposed to hold services in the Chamber. Apparently, it was agreeable to the House of Representatives since there is no recorded objection or vote on the matter.

The services in the Capitol quickly became quite a social happening: As Wilhelmus Bogart Bryan recorded in his book, A History of the National Capitol:

“The speaker’s desk in the hall of the house of representatives Sunday after Sunday was a forum from which was presented a wide range of religious belief. The chaplains of congress officiated there, as did also ministers representing various denominations. Frequently the religious atmosphere was lacking, sometimes due to the audience turning the occasion into a social function and then again to the eccentric character and views of the preachers. Rev. Manasseh Cutler was not pleased with the discourse of Rev. John Leland, who arrived in the city January, 1802, with the mammoth cheese which was presented to President Jefferson.

Margaret Bayard Smith recorded the scene in her memoir The First Forty Years of Washington Society;

Mr. Jefferson during his whole administration, was a most regular attendant. The seat he chose the first sabbath, and the adjoining one, which his private secretary occupied, were ever afterwards by the courtesy of the congregation, left for him and his secretary. I have called these Sunday assemblies in the capitol, a congregation, but the almost exclusive appropriation of that word to religious assemblies, prevents its being a descriptive term as applied in the present case, since the gay company who thronged the H. R. looked very little like a religious assembly. The occasion presented for display was not only a novel, but a favourable one for the youth, beauty and fashion of the city, Georgetown and environs. The members of Congress, gladly gave up their seats for such fair auditors, and either lounged in the lobbies, or round the fire places, or stood beside the ladies of their acquaintance. This sabbath day-resort became so fashionable, that the floor of the house offered insufficient space, the platform behind the Speaker’s chair, and every spot where a chair could be wedged in was crowded with ladies in their gayest costume and their attendant beaux and who led them to their seats with the same gallantry as is exhibited in a ball room. Smiles, nods, whispers, nay sometimes tittering marked their recognition of each other, and beguiled the tedium of the service. Often, when cold, a lady would leave her seat and led by her attending beau would make her way through the crowd to one of the fire-places where she could laugh and talk at her ease. One of the officers of the house, followed by his attendant with a great bag over his shoulder, precisely at 12 o’clock, would make his way through the hall to the depository of letters to put them in the mail-bag, which sometimes had a most ludicrous effect, and always diverted attention from the preacher. The musick was as little in union with devotional feelings, as the place. The marine-band, were the performers. Their scarlet uniform, their various instruments, made quite a dazzling appearance in the gallery. The marches they played were good and inspiring, but in their attempts to accompany the psalm-singing of the congregation, they completely failed and after a while, the practice was discontinued,—it was too ridiculous.

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