Today in History, February 8, 1887:
President Grover Cleveland signs the Dawes Severalty Act into law. Massachusetts Senator Henry Laurens Dawes authored the bill with the intent of facilitating the integration of native Americans into the white society.
Dawes and others felt this was the only way to “protect” the Indians, by forcing them to cease their communal way of living.
The law broke up the tribal holdings, giving individuals the land. Married men were given 160 acres of land, single men 80 acres, boys 40 acres and women no land.
The thought was that by forcing the native American families into individual units, as whites lived, they would be assimilated.
As seems to have happened with all acts to benefit the Indians, hidden within the law was a land grab. The law provided that after the lands had been apportioned, any land that was left could be sold to non-Indians. The result was that by the 1930’s, when Congress reversed the act and gave the tribes back their rights as nations, the tribes had lost fully 3/4 of their previous land holdings on the reservations.
Initially the 5 Civilized Tribes in Indian and Oklahoma Territories were exempt, but eventually policies were initiated that effected them also. Much of the land that wasn’t sold outright to non-Indians was eventually sold by the Indian owners when they were down on their luck, reducing tribal holdings even more.
The act also had other negative effects on the Native American community, as it forced changes in the community dynamic; the traditional roles for men and women in the tribal leadership were changed.
The Wheeler-Howard Act of 1934 repealed the Dawes Act, but much of the damage was irreparable.
Today in History, January 24, 1972:
28 years after the end of WWII, Shoichi Yokoi, Japanese Army Sergeant, was discovered hiding on Guam, living as a survivalist, still awaiting the return of the Imperial Japanese Army…completely unaware that the war had ended in 1945. He was considered a hero in Japan after his repatriation.
Today in History, January 23, 1957:
Walter Frederick Morrison sells the rights for an invention to the Wham-O Toy Company.
He and his wife had begun on the invention by selling “Flying Cake Pans” in 1937.
Nearly a decade later, after having learned more about aerodynamics while flying combat missions over Italy in a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter (shot down, spent time as a POW), Morrison began working on the invention again after WWII.
He and an investor began working with plastics, and he eventually came up with what he called the “Pluto Platter”, which is what he sold to Wham-O. Once college students began referring to it as a “Frisbee”, Wham-O changed the name.
Today in History , January 11, 1794:
Robert Forsythe, veteran of the Revolutionary War, had been appointed by George Washington as the first US Marshal for the state of Georgia.
On this date in 1794, Forsythe was serving civil papers when he became the first US Marshal to be killed in the line of duty.
The person he was attempting to serve, a former Methodist minister, fired on him through a door when Forsythe knocked, killing him instantly.
Former Major Forsythe, now Marshal Forsythe, was the third law enforcement officer killed in the fledgeling United States.
His son would go on to be Governor of Georgia and then US Minister to Spain, where he would negotiate the ceding of Florida to the US.
Today in History, January 9, 1776:
The first copies of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” are published in Philadelphia. Pamplets were the editorials, or blogs, if we must, of the day in the 18th century.
Paine had only recently immigrated to America from his homeland of England, yet he quickly took up the cause of independence.
Most of the people in America prior to the Revolution saw themselves not as Americans, but as British subjects, and proudly so. Many wanted to remain such, most were uncertain whether independence was a good idea. Most of the colonists were commoners, and it was assumed that only the elite were worthy of governance. Paine turned this theory on it’s head. He wrote to the commoners in plain language the difference between society and government; that gov’t was necessary, but must be limited; that AMERICA should govern herself. He started a firestorm….his pamphlet sold 120,000 copies the first month, 500,000 the first year. Percentages taken into account, Common Sense still counts as the best seller of all time. Paine refused to take any of the profits, donating all of them to Gen. Washington’s Continental Army.
Today in History, January 7, 1789:
The states first elected their Electoral College electors, who would elect George Washington as the first President.
The Electoral College was established so that less populated states would not be left without a say in the choice of the Chief Executive.
If the President was elected by popular vote, the states with the highest population would always made the decision. This was of great concern to the more rural, less populated states. The same holds true today. During Presidential campaigns, the segments of the country not on a coast truly would be “flyover” country. No candidate would have a need to campaign there, disenfranchising vast segments of our citizens.
The system has been tested several times throughout our history, and surely will be again.
Today in History, January 7, 1945:
The Battle of the Bulge.
After the American 101st Airborne held out against overwhelming German forces for days, refusing to surrender (Gen. Anthony McAuliffe replied Nuts! to a surrender command, confusing the hell out of the Germans); after American Gen. George S. Patton turned his entire 3rd Army 90 degrees and ran full tilt through winter conditions to reach his comrades; after American air power helped save the day when the weather cleared,
British Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery held a press conference during which he took credit for the hard won victory.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to address Parliament to assert the truth that The Battle of the Bulge was solely an American victory after the political fall-out of Montgomery’s typically arrogant statements.