This Day in History
1619 — First meeting of the House of Burgesses. Meeting in a church in Jamestown, it was the first gathering in America with the goal being self-rule. It became the legislative body of Virginia from 1619 to 1776. Six representatives were appointed by the Governor and another fifteen were elected.
It was also the first recorded incident of voter restriction in North America in that only men were allowed to vote.
1825 — Malden Island discovered. The HMS Blonde happened across the uninhabited island in the South Pacific. The island, however, had at one time been occupied. By whom remains a mystery, other than it being some megalithic culture. There was a paved volcanic rock highway system and the ruins of some temples in addition to a number of small, 20–60 feet in height, pyramids. Speculation was that some Polynesian culture existed there centuries ago. When or why they left is unknown. In 1957 Britain tested its first H-bomb at the site.
One culture built temples to their gods, another tested ways to destroy the world. I’d have liked to witness one of them. A fantasy of mine has always been to enter a time tunnel and travel back to observe history. A paved highway, some of it leading into the ocean. What inspired those islanders, how did they do it, and for what purpose? A guy can only wonder and dream. As far as the H-bomb, I’ll pass on that.
1866 — Massacre in New Orleans. Hundreds died in race riot. The dead included approximately 200 black veterans of the Civil War and 40 delegates to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. The mayor, a Democrat and former supporter of the Confederacy, was upset because the Republican convention was going to be integrated with both black and white delegates. He led the city police force and a mob of white supremacists to confront the delegates who were marching to the convention hall behind the American flag. Many of the unarmed delegates were shot and those who tried to flee were beaten and killed as the rioting spread beyond the area of the convention.
Repercussions of the riot included the mayor being removed from office and the Republican Party, supported by outraged Northerners, gaining control of the U.S. House and Senate. Congress then passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that allowed U.S. Army occupation of many cities throughout the South and other harsh restrictions of the Reconstruction Era.
Republicans were the party of inclusion and Democrats resistant to change. My, how things have evolved.
Because of the significance of the man I’m going to focus on only one person today.
1881 — Major General Smedley Butler. Recipient of many military awards including the Medal of Honor twice. Although he did try return the first one, received for action at Vera Cruz, Mexico, believing he did not deserve it. Butler served in the Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, Boxer Rebellion (see the July 13th column, Battle of Tientsin) Banana Wars, Vera Cruz, Mexico, Haiti where he received his 2nd Medal of Honor and WWI.
Butler eventually became disillusioned by his military service and wrote a book entitled “War is a Racket”. He believed the military was being used for corporate interests and imperialism. The Banana Wars, for example, were conducted to solidify United Fruit’s holding in Central America. After he retired from the military he conducted lecture tours in which he railed against war profiteering. He unsuccessfully ran for the Senate and he supported the War Bonus March on Washington, DC by WWI vets.
In 1933 a group of American businessmen supposedly came to Butler to get him to lead a coup to overthrow newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt. Butler instead exposed the plot. He was subsequently ridiculed in the media and dismissed as a crackpot. However a Congressional committee did confirm some of his allegations although no prosecutions were ever brought forth.
Butler’s views on the military were best expressed in the November 1935 issue of the socialist magazine Common Sense. “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903.”
The most decorated man in Marine Corps history at the time making statements like that? In the sacred interest of patriotism, and more importantly, money (with one promoting the other) of course he has to be branded a crackpot. I think about America’s war on terror, which for the most part, especially the invasion of Iraq, was a war for oil. For those who think otherwise, read Butler’s “War is a Racket.”