January 29, 1963: Death of Robert Frost

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.robert-frost
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

January 28, 1986: Ronald Reagan grieves for America

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is challengertruly a national loss.

Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, ‘Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.’ They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space.

Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, ‘He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.’ Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

January 27, 1967: Lyndon Johnson signs the Treaty on Outer Space.

This is an inspiring moment in the history of the human race. We are taking the first firm step toward keeping outer space free forever from the implements of war.

It was more than 400 years ago when Martin Luther said:space treaty
“Cannons and firearms are cruel and damnable machines. I believe them to have been the direct suggestion of the devil. If Adam had seen in a vision the horrible instruments that his children were to invent, he would have died of grief.”

Well, I wonder what he would have thought of the far more terrible weapons that we have today.

We have never succeeded in freeing our planet from the implements of war. But if we cannot yet achieve this goal here on earth, we can at least keep the virus from spreading.

We can keep the ugly and wasteful weapons of mass destruction from contaminating space. And that is exactly what this treaty does.

This treaty means that the moon and our sister planets will serve only the purposes of peace and not of war.

It means that orbiting man-made satellites will remain free of nuclear weapons.

It means that astronaut and cosmonaut will meet someday on the surface of the moon as brothers and not as warriors for competing nationalities or ideologies.

It holds promise that the same wisdom and good will which gave us this space treaty will continue to guide us as we seek solutions to the many problems that we have here on this earth.

It is a hopeful and a very promising sign.

January 26, 1826: Birth of Julia Dent Grant

I was married to Ulysses S. Grant on the 22nd of August, 1848. The place of the wedding was on the corner of 4th and Cerre Streets, St. Louis and I had a beautiful wedding. Our family was a very old family. My father settled there years Grant_Ulysses_JuliaBbefore and our friends were among the elite of the city, as it then was; and they were all present. My family thought the world of Ulysses at that time and everybody came to the wedding who had an invitation. I say this to let you know that the wedding was not the wedding of a poor family. It was modest, but everything was nice.

The General never talked war matters with me at all. He wrote very little about the war, even after the taking of Vicksburg. I don’t remember that he wrote me any letter of exultation of joy. He was so sorry for the poor fellows who were opposed to him that he never could exult over any victory. He always felt relieved, of course, and glad that it seemed to promise to shorten the war, but he never exulted over them. After Vicksburg, he placed his headquarters at Nashville in order that I might be with him. The first day that I arrived there he was out and did not return until quite late in the evening, and then he told me with a great deal of sorrow that he would be obliged to go to the front, and he was afraid he might be away for some length of time.

Accordingly he was gone five days and during this time the Rebel women began to talk about me and the General and said the General had fled as soon as he could. When he came back I told him this, just to bother him, and he said, “Why, you can tell those ladies that I put my headquarters here just on purpose to have you with me.” During these five days I had been going out with the ladies of Nashville to the hospitals and doing what I could to aid the poor fellows there and the General came back. I began to tell him about it and present petitions and messages from these men which they had asked me to do. The General stopped me at once.

He said, “Now, my dear, I don’t want to hear anything at all about that. I don’t want you to come to me with any of these tales of the hospitals or any of these petitions or messages. I have all I can bear up under outside my home and when I come to you I want to see you and the the children and talk about other matters. I want to get all the sunshine I can.” When he sent for me, I was boarding at Louisville because I did not care to live in a hotel and it was not particularly pleasant for me at father Grant’s house.

My brother Fred Dent thought the world of Ulysses and when he returned from West Point he kept writing and telling us about Ulysses Grant. He told me Ulysses was the finest boy he had ever known. He said, ‘I want you to know him, he is pure gold. I want you to meet him.”

I don’t think his letters from the Mexican War would be particularly valuable, nor the letters which he wrote me during the Civil War. They were mainly relating to things personal or domestic. I cannot bear to read them now, they bring it all back to me. I was with him a good deal of the time during the Civil War. I was with him at Corinth and after Vicksburg I joined him at Nashville for awhile. After moving his camp from Nashville to City Point I went East and remained with him until the close of the war.

January 25, 1787: Shay’s Rebellion comes to Springfield

On Thursday the Twenty fifth day of January, One thousand Seven hundred & Eighty Seven, having the command of a Company of Light-Horse, and being under the command of Maj. Gen William Shepard, (who commanded the Forces Shays arsenal_militiastationed at Springfield for the defense of the Arsenal and Public Buildings) I was ordered to reconnoiter with a Party of horses, the Main Road from Springfield to Wilbraham, to watch the motions of the Insurgents under Daniel Shays who was approaching.

I accordingly met them at five Miles distance from Springfield on the main Road at which time they were halted – several of their Officers, on seeing me, advanced to me – I asked them if they were Shays’ Party—they said yes.—I then asked if Shays was with them—they said yes; and then observed, they had a fine Body of Troops; I readily assented, and asked the Officer, who by his conversation seemed chief, to exchange Names, which he declined; another Officer coming up, and calling my Name several of them said I should not return.—

One of them then said, if the matter was not settled before Sunset, New England would see such a day as She had never yet seen –I answered probably enough she might, and left them. On their nearer Approach to the Arsenal I again met them and spoke with their Officers and asked if Capt Shays was yet with them; they Answered General Shays was, on which he advanced and with his sword in his left hand drawn, his Pistol in his Right hand, and familiarly asked, how are you Buffinton –

I replied, you See, I am here in defense of that Country you are endeavoring to destroy—he rejoined, if you are in defense of the Country, we are both defending the same Cause—I added, I expected we should take very different Posts before night He said the Post he should take, would be the hill on which the Arsenal and Public Buildings stood; I told him if he attempted it, he would meet a very warm Reception –

He asked, will they fire I replied, they undoubtedly would he answered , that was all he wanted: –I then observed to him, if he advanced, he must  meet those Men we both had once been accustomed to obey.

When the Insurgents had advanced within about One hundred Rods of our Lines I was again Sent, in company with Mr Lyman, General Shepard’s Aid, to tell Shays, that General Shepard was posted not only by the Authority of this State, but by Congress, and that the Post would be defended at all Regards. On warning to the front of their Column was called for the Commanding Officer they asked if Gen Shepard was here; we answered yes, they said he was not—they did not see him, on either of the Horses, and replied, if Gen Shepard will come here, Gen Shays will come forward.

We asked will he not without they said no—we told them they might go about their Business then they said they meant to we told them as soon as they pleased I then told them, Gen Shepard bid me tell Shays he was posted not only by the Authority of this State but by Congress, and that he should defend this post at all hazard.

I was sent to observe their motions again and to tell them if they advanced forward they would be fired on, which I accordingly did, in Company with Mr Lyman, the General’s aid ~ they said it was all they wanted, and immediately gave orders, march on—march on.~

Sam Buffinton

January 22, 1795: Elizabeth Monroe rescues Madame de Lafayette from the Guillotine

Life was pretty dicey during the French Revolution for anyone with an aristocratic background, even for the wife of that lover of democracy and liberty, the Marquis de Lafayette.Elizabeth_Monroe

When James Monroe was named U.S. Minister to France and arrived in Paris, his elegant wife Elizabeth plunged into the social and diplomatic life of the city, but she was shocked to find that Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, Marquise de Lafayette, the wife of the Marquis de Lafayette was being held in prison and could soon face death on the guillotine, the fate which had befell her mother, her sister, and her grandmother.

A diplomatic resolution to the situation seemed unlikely, so one day, leaving her husband behind, Elizabeth Monroe commanded the American Embassy’s carriage to drive her, accompanied only by her servants, to the prison where she asked to see Madame Lafayette. Those who clung to power during these last days of the French Revolution understood that Madame de Lafayette was the wife of a great personal friend of George Washington and many other revolutionary era patriots, and France’s most prominent supporter of American independence, but still….

Elizabeth Monroe’s visit sent as clear a message as could be made unofficially by the U.S. government.  Not wishing to offend their ally, the French government acknowledged Elizabeth Monroe’s “unofficial” interest in Adrienne de Lafayette, and released her on January 22, 1795. Without any official provocation, the situation was diffused and France maintained its alliance with the United States.

The French took notice of Elizabeth Monroe. She was bold, a striking beauty, and she possessed a great air of self-confidence. Soon “toute de Paris” was referring to her with affectionate name of “la belle Americaine”.

About this time, the Boston merchant Tom Perkins showed up in Paris. He had sailed to Bordeaux with a cargo of beef and pork hoping to profit from the disruption of agriculture and the danger of famine brought about by the Reign of Terror. He soon fell in with the local American community and dined every Saturday with James and Elizabeth (“one of the finest women I ever knew”) Monroe.

The Monroes introduced Tom to the newly free Adrienne Lafayette (the Marquis was still in prison in Austria). gw lafayette sharplesMadame Lafayette wanted desperately to get her thirteen-year-old son George Washington Lafayette out of the country and to the United States where she hoped that the boy’s godfather, President George Washington, would take care of the boy, and Elizabeth Monroe desperately wanted to help her new friend.

Tom Perkins had a ship waiting; he secured the necessary travel documents and conveyed the boy, under the family name of Motier, to Le Havre, where he took passage on board the firm’s boat bound for Boston. When the boy arrived in Boston, Tom’s brother James took the young Lafayette under his wing as part of his family, understanding that he would soon travel south to Mount Vernon to live with his Godfather.

President Washington hesitated at first – evidently nervous that it might affect diplomacy with France. Finally “his heart overcame his doubts” and he sent for the boy in the spring of 1796 and George Washington Lafayette joined his godfather’s familty at Mount Vernon.

January 21, 1861: Jefferson Davis Bids Adieu to the Senate

I find in myself, perhaps, a type of the general feeling of my constituents towards yours. I am sure I feel no hostility to you, Senators from the North. I am sure there is not one of you, whatever sharp discussion there may have been Jeff davis adieubetween us, to whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well; and such, I am sure, is the feeling of the people whom I represent towards those whom you represent.

I therefore feel that I but express their desire when I say I hope, and they hope, for peaceful relations with you, though we must part. They may be mutually beneficial to us in the future, as they have been in the past, if you so will it. The reverse may bring disaster on every portion of the country; and if you will have it thus, we will invoke the God of our fathers, who delivered them from the power of the lion, to protect us from the ravages of the bear; and thus, putting our trust in God and in our own firm hearts and strong arms, we will vindicate the right as best we may.

In the course of my service here, associated at different times with a great variety of Senators, I see now around me some with whom I have served long; there have been points of collision; but whatever of offense there has been to me, I leave here; I carry with me no hostile remembrance. Whatever offense I have given which has not been redressed, or for which satisfaction has not been demanded, I have, Senators, in this hour of our parting, to offer you my apology for any pain which, in heat of discussion, I have inflicted. I go hence unencumbered of the remembrance of any injury received, and having discharged the duty of making the only reparation in my power for any injury offered.

Mr. President, and Senators, having made the announcement which the occasion seemed to me to require, it only remains to me to bid you a final adieu.

January 20, 1961: Inauguration of John F Kennedy

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.Kennedy+Inauguration

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are–but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

January 19, 1809: Birth of Edgar Allen Poe

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were — I have not seen
As others saw — I could not bringEdgar_Allan_Poe_
My passions from a common spring —
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow — I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone —
And all I lov’d — I lov’d alone —
Then — in my childhood — in the dawn
Of a most stormy life — was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still —
From the torrent, or the fountain —
From the red cliff of the mountain —
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold —
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by —
From the thunder, and the storm —
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view —

January 18, 1803: Thomas Jefferson Looks West

The Indian tribes residing within the limits of the United States have for a considerable time been growing more and more uneasy at the constant diminution of the territory they occupy, although effected by their own voluntary sales, and the policy has long been gaining strength with them of refusing absolutely all further sale on any conditions, Jefferson_Portrait_West_Point_by_Thomas_Sullyinsomuch that at this time it hazards their friendship and excites dangerous jealousies and perturbations in their minds to make any overture for the purchase of the smallest portions of their land… In order peaceably to counteract this policy of theirs and to provide an extension of territory which the rapid increase of our numbers will call for, two measures are deemed expedient.

First. To encourage them to abandon hunting, to apply to the raising stock, to agriculture, and domestic manufacture, and thereby prove to themselves that less land and labor will maintain them in this better than in their former mode of living. The extensive forests necessary in the hunting life will then become useless, and they will see advantage in exchanging them for the means of improving their farms and of increasing their domestic comforts.

Secondly. To multiply trading houses among them, and place within their reach those things which will contribute more to their domestic comfort than the possession of extensive but uncultivated wilds. Experience and reflection will develop to them the wisdom of exchanging what they can spare and we want for what we can spare and they want.

In leading them thus to agriculture, to factures, and civilization; in bringing together their and our sentiments, and in preparing them ultimately to participate in the benefits of our Government, I trust and believe we are acting for their greatest good…

The Legislature…must be sensible how desirable it is to possess a respectable breadth of country..  from our southern limit to the Illinois, at least, so that we may present as firm a front on that as on our eastern border… between the Ohio and Yazoo the country all belongs to the Chickasaws, the most friendly tribe within our limits, but the most decided against the alienation of lands. The portion of their country most important for us is exactly that which they do not inhabit…

The river Missouri and the Indians inhabiting it are not as well known as is rendered desirable by their connection with the Mississippi, and consequently with us. It is, however, understood that the country on that river is inhabited by numerous tribes, who furnish great supplies of furs and peltry to the trade of another nation, carried on in a high latitude through an infinite number of portages and lakes shut up by ice through a long season. The commerce on that line could bear no competition with that of the Missouri, traversing a moderate climate, offering, according to the best accounts, a continued navigation from its source, and possibly with a single portage from the Western Ocean, and finding to the Atlantic a choice of channels through the Illinois or Wabash, the Lakes and Hudson, through the Ohio and Susquehanna, or Potomac or James rivers, and through the Tennessee and Savannah rivers.

An intelligent officer, with ten or twelve chosen men, fit for the enterprise and willing to undertake it, taken from our posts where they may be spared without inconvenience, might explore the whole line, even to the Western Ocean, have conferences with the natives on the subject of commercial intercourse, get admission among them for our traders as others are admitted, agree on convenient deposits for an interchange of articles, and return with the information acquired in the course of two summers. Their arms and accouterments, some instruments of observation, and light and cheap presents for the Indians would be all the apparatus they could carry, and with an expectation of a soldier’s portion of land on their return would constitute the whole expense…

The appropriation of $2,500 “for the purpose of extending the external commerce of the United States,” while understood and considered by the Executive as giving the legislative sanction, would cover the undertaking from notice and prevent the obstructions which interested individuals might otherwise previously prepare in its way.


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