January 16, 1786: Virginia enacts the Statute for Religious Freedom

An Act for establishing religious Freedom (authored by Thomas Jefferson)

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;Jefferson statue 1
That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;
That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;

That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,
That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,

That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;
That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

January 15, 1919: The Great Molasses Flood hits Boston

On the water side of Commercial Street, opposite Copp’s Hill, the Purity Distilling Company had built a giant storage tank in 1915. Massively constructed, with great curved steel sides and strong bottom plates set into a concrete base and pinned together with a stitching of rivets, it was built to hold molasses. Boston still made rum as well as baked beans, and molasses was needed for both.

MolassesAs January hit its mid-point that year the weather in Boston turned mild—close to 40 F—and the streets were bare of snow, and a ship from Puerto Rico had just added 2,300,000 gallons to the big molasses tank.

At noon work around the tank routinely slowed as laborers took time out for their sandwiches and coffee. Men paused to eat and chat in a shack owned by the city Paving Department, which shared the area where the tank stood. Others were doing the same at the quarters of a Boston Fire Department fireboat on the waterfront side of the tank.
At about 12:30, with a sound described as a sort of muffled roar, the giant molasses tank seemed to rise and then split, the rivets popping in a way that reminded many ex-soldiers of machine-gun fire. Then a wet, brown hell broke loose, flooding downtown Boston.

An estimated 14,000 tons of thick, sticky molasses ran from the ruptured tank in a choking brown wave, 15 feet high. One section of the steel tank was hurled across Commercial Street, knocking out the uprights supporting the elevated railroad. An approaching train screeched to a stop as the track sagged into the onrushing molasses.

A policeman was at his corner signal box, making a call to his precinct, when he glanced down the street and saw the brown tide racing towards him. “Holy Mother of God! Sind everythin’ you can—somethin’ tirrible has happened!”

Houses “seemed to cringe up as though they were made of pasteboard.” The Clougherty home at the foot of Copp’s Hill collapsed around poor Bridget Clougherty. A jagged chunk of the tank smashed the freight house next door, and then the great brown wave caught and killed most of the lunching laborers. The fireboat company quarters was splintered. A lorry was blasted right through a fence, and a wagon driver was found later, dead and frozen in his last attitude like a figure from the ashes of Pompeii.

Anthony di Stasio, walking homeward with his sisters from the Michelangelo School, was picked up by the wave and carried, tumbling on its crest, almost as though he were surfing. Then he grounded and the molasses rolled him like a pebble as the wave diminished. He heard his mother call his name and couldn’t answer, his throat was so clogged with the smothering goo. He opened his eyes to find three of his sisters staring at him. They had found little Anthony stretched under a sheet on the “dead” side of a body-littered floor alongside his sister who did not survive.

Red Cross volunteers, Boston debutantes in smart gray uniforms with spotless white shirtwaists and shiny black puttees, stepped determinedly into the deep brown muck. In a second they were gooey and bedraggled, plunging through the flood. The rescue workers, clean-up crews and sight-seers managed to distribute molasses all over Boston. Boots and clothing carried it into the suburbs. Everything a Bostonian touched was sticky, streetcar seats and public telephones were coated. The harbor turned brown as the hoses washed the goo into the bay.

The death toll rose as rescue operations continued. Two bodies showed up four days after, so glazed over that identification was difficult. The final count was 21 dead, 150 injured.

The molasses covered several blocks of downtown Boston to a depth of two or three feet. As the rescue workers and clean-up crews tackled the incredible mess the night of January 16, they paused as church bells rang out all over downtown Boston.

Nebraska had voted on the 18th Amendment and ratified it. Prohibition was now law, and churches which had campaigned for it in their pulpits now celebrated. Men up to their ankles in the makings of rum listened for a moment and went back to work.

Credit: Edwards Park – The Smithsonian – November 1983

January 14, 1784: Congress Finally Ratifies the Treaty of Paris

There was great hope when Congress convened in Annapolis, Md. on December 13, 1783 to approve the peace accord which John Jay, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin had negotiated in Paris.

Great Britain had finally acknowledged the United States to be “free, sovereign and independent”, to withdraw its troops from all occupied territory, and agreed to boundaries that doubled the size of the republic. The Americans also regained access to the valuable cod and haddock fisheries in the British-controlled North Atlantic.Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris stipulated that both nations were to exchange ratifications in Paris by March 3, 1784, and the Articles of Confederation required that at least nine of the thirteen states in the union vote to ratify a treaty, with at least two delegates representing each state.

However, by mid-December just seven states — Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina — had sent full delegations to Annapolis. New Hampshire and South Carolina each had only one representative — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Georgia had none.

Thomas Mifflin, president of Congress, appealed to the governors of the absent states that “the safety, honor, and good faith of the United States” required their immediate representation, but not one responded. An unusually bitter winter, with frigid cold, ice storms, and blizzards was threatening the Peace.

Ice closed down Philadelphia and Baltimore’s harbors; the temperature plunged to -20F in Connecticut; over 80 inches of snow fell in New Jersey — the Maryland capital was cut off from the snowbound nation. Factoring in the month long voyage to cross the Atlantic, the March 3 deadline to present the treaty in Paris was rapidly approaching.

Nerves were starting to fray after all the hard fought gains that had brought the country so near to the prospect of Peace.

In late December a move was made to approve the treaty with just seven votes. Thomas Jefferson argued against a short-handed (and unconstitutional) vote, as it could give grounds for Britain to challenge the ratification.

On January 3, after another heavy snow, Jefferson changed his mind. However, in agreeing to a short-handed vote, Jefferson called for Benjamin Franklin, the Ambassador to France, to ask the British for a deadline extension before presenting the treaty.

If the British agreed, Congress would have time to secure the additional two votes and to send an unquestionably valid ratification to Paris. If the British refused, Franklin was to present the seven-state ratification; noting that the treaty had arrived when Congress was not in session, only seven states had assembled but all had approved the treaty; and offer the ratification in exchange for theirs.

A vote was set for January 14. President Mifflin, meanwhile, made a last attempt to secure a full nine-vote quorum. He sent Col. Josiah Harmar to New Jersey to plea for delegates and to Philadelphia to urge Richard Beresford, a delegate from South Carolina, to leave his sick bed for the vote.

On January 13 James Wadsworth and Roger Sherman arrived unexpectedly from Connecticut and presented their credentials. The next morning Richard Beresford arrived from his sick bed to complete South Carolina’s delegation.

On January 14, 1784, with nine votes from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia, the Congress unanimously ratified the treaty. New Hampshire and New Jersey, each represented by only one delegate, also supported the resolution (No delegates were present from New York or Georgia).

Diplomatic pouches transmitting the Ratification were dispatched for New York City. Josiah Harmar boarded the packet ship “Le Courier de L’Amerique” which the French ambassador had ordered to wait for his arrival, but fierce snow and solid ice in the Narrows further delayed the ship’s departure until February 21, too late to meet the deadline. On the evening of March 29, 73 days after he left Annapolis, Josiah Harmar delivered the ratification to Benjamin Franklin at his residence in Passy, outside Paris.

Fortunately, Europe, like America, was experiencing a winter unlike any even the oldest men could remember (Franklin blamed it on the volcanic activity in Iceland) and Great Britain readily accepted the explanation that inclement weather had delayed the treaty.

The United States and Great Britain exchanged ratifications in Paris on May 12, 1784. Franklin forwarded the British ratification, signed by George III, to Congress noting that “The great and hazardous enterprise we have engaged in, is, God Be praised, happily completed.”

January 13, 1777: Slave Petition for Freedom to the Massachusetts Legislature

To The Honorable Counsel & House of Representatives for the State of Massachusitte Bay in General Court assembled, Jan. 13, 1777.free

The petition of A Great Number of Blackes detained in a State of slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country Humbly shuwith that your Petitioners apprehend that thay have in Common with all other men a Natural and Unaliable Right to that freedom which the Grat Parent of the Unavers hath Bestowed equalley on all menkind and which they have Never forfuted by any Compact or agreement whatever—but thay wher Unjustly Dragged by the hand of cruel Power from their Derest friends and sum of them Even torn from the Embraces of their tender Parents—from A popolous Pleasant and plentiful contry and in violation of Laws of Nature and off Nations and in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity Brough hear Either to Be sold Like Beast of Burthen & Like them Condemnd to Slavery for Life—Among A People Profesing the mild Religion of Jesus A people Not Insensible of the Secrets of Rational Being Nor without spirit to Resent the unjust endeavours of others to Reduce them to a state of Bondage and Subjection your honouer Need not to be informed that A Life of Slavery Like that of your petioners Deprived of Every social privilege of Every thing Requisit to Render Life Tolable is far worse then Nonexistence.

In Imitation of the Lawdable Example of the Good People of these States your petitiononers have Long and Patiently waited the Evnt of petition after petition By them presented to the Legislative Body of this state and cannot but with Grief Reflect that their Success hath ben but too similar they Cannot but express their Astonishment that It has Never Bin Consirdered that Every Principle form which Amarica has Acted in the Cours of their unhappy Dificultes with Great Briton Pleads Stronger than A thousand arguments in favowrs of your petioners they therfor humble Beseech your honours to give this petion [petition] its due weight & consideration & cause an act of the Legislatur to be past Wherby they may be Restored to the Enjoyments of that which is the Naturel Right of all men—and their Children who wher Born in this Land of Liberty may not be heald as Slaves after they arrive at the age of twenty one years so may the Inhabitance of this Stats No longer chargeable with the inconsistancey of acting themselves the part which they condem and oppose in others Be prospered in their present Glorious struggle for Liberty and have those Blessing to them, &c.

Prince Hall
Lancaster Hill
Peter Bess
Brister Slenser
Jack Pierpont
Nero Funelo
Newport Sumner
Job Look

January 12, 1863: Jefferson Davis responds to the Emancipation Proclamation

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States

The public journals of the North have been received containing a proclamation dated on the first day of the present jeff davismonth signed by the President of the United States in which he orders and declares all slaves within ten States of the Confederacy to be free, except such as are found in certain districts now occupied in part by the armed forces of the enemy.

We may well leave it to the instincts of that common humanity which a beneficent Creator has implanted in the breasts of our fellowmen of all countries to pass judgment on a measure by which several millions of human beings of an inferior race, peaceful and contented laborers in their sphere, are doomed to extermination, while at the same time they are encouraged to a general assassination of their masters by the insidious recommendation “to abstain from violence unless in necessary self-defense.” Our own detestation of those who have attempted the most execrable measure recorded in the history of guilty man is tempered by profound contempt for the impotent rage which it discloses.

So far as regards the action of this Government on such criminals as may attempt its execution I confine myself to informing you that I shall unless in your wisdom you deem some other course more expedient deliver to the several State authorities all commissioned officers of the United States that may hereafter be captured by our forces in any of the States embraced in the proclamation that they may be dealt with in accordance with the laws of those States providing for the punishment of criminals engaged in exciting servile insurrection. The enlisted soldiers I shall continue to treat as unwilling instruments in the commission of these crimes and shall direct their discharge and return to their homes on the proper and usual parole.


January 9. 1797: John Adams writes to Abigail Adams from Philadelphia

My dearest Friend

I received today, together, your Favours of the 31st. December 1796  and 1. Jan. 1797 .adams john & ab

Our H(ouse) of R(epresentatives) boasts that We are the most enlightened People in the World: but We behave like the most ignorant Babies, in a thousand Instances. We have been destroying all Terror of Crimes and are becoming the Victims of them. We have been destroying all Attachment and Obligation to Country and are Sold in Consequence by Traitors. We have been opening our Arms wide to all Foreigners and placing them on a footing with Natives: and Now foreigners are dictating to Us if not betraying Us.

Hamilton I know to be a proud Spirited, conceited, aspiring Mortal always pretending to Morality, with as debauched Morals as old Franklin who is more his Model than anyone I know. As great an Hypocrite as any in the U.S. His Intrigues in the Election I despise. That he has Talents I admit but I dread none of them. I shall take no notice of his Puppy head but retain the same Opinion of him I always had and maintain the same Conduct towards him I always did, that is keep him at a distance.

The Constancy and Fidelity of Mr. Gerry contrasted with the Weathercockison of McKean and the Rutledges and the Hypocrisy of others touches the inmost feelings of my Heart. I will not explain all I know till I see you.

Your black Balls and flashing Guns are proofs of an Anxiety that is very needless. I never felt easier in my Life. My Path is very plain, and if I am not supported I will resign.

The Defence has been read by many others as well as the Deacon. In an 100 Years it would not have been so much read, as it has been during the late Election. A new Edition of it is coming out here with an immense subscription and I expect it will be got by Heart by all Americans who can read.

The Extract from T’s Letter is very clever. I went on Saturday to see the Globe Mill of Mr. Davenport. Carding, Spinning and weaving are all performed at the same time by Water. It is in Some respects like the silk Machine which you saw with me at Utrecht.

Alass poor Billings — Madness and Sotting I fear will be the End. Reclaim him however if you can.

My Duty to my Mother and Love to Brothers and to all.

J. A

January 8, 1964: Lyndon Johnson Declares War on Poverty

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the House and Senate, my fellow Americans:

We have in 1964 a unique opportunity and obligation — to prove the success of our system; to disprove those cynics and critics at home and abroad who question our purpose and our competence.LBJ Poverty

If we fail, if we fritter and fumble away our opportunity in needless, senseless quarrels between Democrats and Republicans, or between the House and the Senate, or between the South and North, or between the Congress and the administration, then history will rightfully judge us harshly. But if we succeed, if we can achieve these goals by forging in this country a greater sense of union, then, and only then, can we take full satisfaction in the State of the Union.. .

This budget, and this year’s legislative program, are designed to help each and every American citizen fulfill his basic hopes — his hopes for a fair chance to make good; his hopes for fair play from the law; his hopes for a full-time job on full-time pay; his hopes for a decent home for his family in a decent community; his hopes for a good school for his children with good teachers; and his hopes for security when faced with sickness or unemployment or old age.

Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. . .

– We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed areas of Appalachia.
– We must expand our small but our successful area redevelopment program.
– We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects.
– We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program.
– We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad.
– We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity.
– We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power.
– We must . .. improve the quality of teaching, training, and counseling in our hardest hit areas.
– We must build more libraries in every area and more hospitals and nursing homes . .  and train more nurses to staff them.
– We must provide hospital insurance for our older citizens financed by every worker and his employer under Social Security, . .to protect him in his old age in a dignified manner without cost to the Treasury, against the devastating hardship of prolonged or repeated illness.
– We must … provide more housing for our poor and our elderly, and seek as our ultimate goal in our free enterprise system a decent home for every American family.
– We must help obtain more modern mass transit within our communities as well as low-cost transportation between them.
– Above all, we must release $11 billion of tax reduction into the private spending stream to create new jobs and new markets in every area of this land.

These programs are obviously not for the poor or the underprivileged alone. Every American will benefit by the extension of social security to cover the hospital costs of their aged parents. Every American community will benefit from the construction or modernization of schools, libraries, hospitals, and nursing homes, from the training of more nurses and from the improvement of urban renewal in public transit. And every individual American taxpayer and every corporate taxpayer will benefit from the earliest possible passage of the pending tax bill from both the new investment it will bring and the new jobs that it will create.. .

Let me make one principle of this administration abundantly clear: All of these increased opportunities — in employment, in education, in housing, and in every field-must be open to Americans of every color.. . . Today, Americans of all races stand side by side in Berlin and in Viet Nam. They died side by side in Korea. Surely they can work and eat and travel side by side in their own country.

We must also lift by legislation the bars of discrimination against those who seek entry into our country, particularly those who have much needed skills and those joining their families.
In establishing preferences, a nation that was built by the immigrants of all lands can ask those who now seek admission: “What can you do for our country?” But we should not be asking: “In what country were you born?”

For our ultimate goal is a world without war, a world made safe for diversity, in which all men, goods, and ideas can freely move across every border and every boundary.

January 7, 1822: First African American Colonists arrive in Liberia

On this date in 1822 the ship Elizabeth landed on “Providence Island,” in what is now the African nation of Liberia carrying a cargo of freed slaves who had crossed the Atlantic to colonize a new country in the homeland of their ancestors.

Fifty years later, in 1872, Edward W. Blyden, the noted Pan-Africanist leader, reviewed the issues that surrounded the voyage:Liberia

“The close of the Administration of James Madison witnessed the inauguration of the Colonization scheme. The country had just begun to recover from the depression occasioned by the war with England. A political campaign was just over, and a spirit of hopefulness for the future had begun to be felt by the American people . . .

For more than one hundred and fifty years the transatlantic African slave trade was carried on with the approbation or consent of the whole Christian world, and Africa poured forth her sons by scores of thousands to do the labor and drudgery of the Western world. The time was now drawing near for the deliverance of this suffering race.
Men of prudent foresight, contemplating the justice of God, began to tremble for a country in which an innocent people were subjected to labor so constant, and to mental and physical influences so degrading. They felt the premonitory currents of a coming storm, and contended that measures should be adopted for the amelioration of the condition of the negroes, and the removal from the land of an institution which was exercising a blighting influence upon its moral and industrial energies.

But among these sympathizers with the negro there were conflicting views as to the manner in which, compatibly with the welfare of all concerned, the desired object could be secured. Two parties arose, one contending for a gradual abolition of slavery, with a simultaneous removal of the free blacks from the United States; the other demanding immediate and unconditional emancipation.

The unconditional abolitionists went forth throughout the country and denounced in energetic terms the holding of men in bondage.
The other party, including in its ranks many of the best friends of the negro, felt it their duty also to testify against the gigantic evil. But they chose a different method. They saw that slavery was a Gordian knot which could not be so easily cut as their more sanguine and impetuous opponents supposed; that it must be untied with infinite labor and skill . . .

Are we to suppose that there was no benevolence in the hearts of the scores of slaveholders in the South who not only advocated the cause of the Society but liberated and sent their slaves to Liberia? Are we to suppose that selfishness was the motive, the only motive, that prompted their action? And must we believe that there was a want of honest principle in the course pursued by the Society in admitting to its ranks men of all shades of political opinion? Was there a dereliction of duty?

Let us look at the matter calmly and dispassionately. Their aim was to reach the blacks throughout the whole country and to secure the emigration of a large number, if not the majority of them, to Africa. Was it wrong in them, with this object in view, to secure for their cause the confidence and cooperation of such men as Bushrod Washington, Charles Carroll, James Madison, John Randolph, and Henry Clay as well as of distinguished men of the North? …

As an African we surely cannot withhold the tribute of our unfeigned admiration and gratitude from the men who went forth with drawn swords against the evil of slavery. It is to us unspeakably refreshing to watch them, in the annals of those times, wielding the tomahawk with such heartiness against the “peculiar institution”.

But, as a dispassionate spectator, we must contend that there was sound philosophy and practical wisdom in the course pursued by the Colonization Society. It would have been the reverse of prudent in them to begin their labors by ignoring the rights of slaveholders to their property- rights guaranteed by the laws of the land. This would not only have excited violent antagonism on the part of slaveholders, but would have exhibited so signal a divorce between judgment and benevolence, between discretion and energy, as would have alienated from their cause many earnest well-wishers of the negro among non-slaveholders, North and South, and thus led to a defeat of the object they had in view.

Say what we please of lofty generosity and the power of truth, our dealings with the world convince us that where the interests of men are concerned, abstract arguments of right and justice make very little headway.”

January 6, 1941: FDR Delivers his Four Freedoms Speech

“There is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy.

The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

– Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.4 freedoms
– Jobs for those who can work.
– Security for those who need it.
– The ending of special privilege for the few.
– The preservation of civil liberties for all.
– The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Many subjects connected with our social economy call for immediate improvement. As examples:

– We should bring more citizens under the coverage of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance.
– We should widen the opportunities for adequate medical care.
– We should plan a better system by which persons deserving or needing gainful employment may obtain it.

. . .In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

– The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.
– The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.
– The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.
– The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation…

Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”

January 5, 1834: The Nights the Stars Fell on the Kiowa

“Get up, get up, there is something awful going on!”meteor

On a cold January night on the Southern Plains, the Kiowa were awakened by a burst of light, and running out from their tipis, they found the night lit up as bright as day, with myriads of meteors darting about the sky.

“And they were awakened by the light of falling stars. And they ran out into the false day and were terrified. They thought the world was coming to an end. You can imagine something like that happening directly overhead, this havoc in the night sky. And so it’s very much in their blood memory.” –N. Scott Momaday

The Kiowa were camped that night in the Wichita Mountains, where they had been driven when the Cheyenne and Lakota took over the Black Hills. And now the nomadic Kiowa were unsure where to move next – more people were coming in from the east, also moving onto the southern Plain, and anyone could sense that the universe was changing – these new settlers were building towns, churches, schools, some even owned slaves – but these newcomers were Indians, too. They were Cherokee, Delaware, Ottawa, Shawnee, and Pottawatomi; Sac and Fox, Miami and Kickapoo; Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw; all were being forced from their old lands.

The Choctaw had seen the same omen in the heavens six weeks prior. On November 13, 1833 an extraordinarily intense meteor shower had lit up their night sky as bright as day. The women and children screamed and cried in terror, while others hid. All night long, the stars rained down.

The Choctaw heard the Great Spirit speaking to them. They knew that every human had two souls. The shilup left the body and traveled west to the Land of Death, the direction from which their ancestors fled in ancient times, while the shilombish  remained guarding the body. The Choctaw needed to stay and protect their ancestors.

An elderly Choctaw man still in the east explained all this to the American agents: “In those pines you hear the ghosts of the departed. Their ashes are here, and we have been left to protect them. Our warriors are nearly all gone to the far country west but here are our dead.

Shall we go, too, and give their bones to the wolves?”

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