Monthly Archives: January 2019

King Charles I executed for treason

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-charles-i-executed-for-treason

In London, King Charles I is beheaded for treason on January 30, 1649.

Charles ascended to the English throne in 1625 following the death of his father, King James I. In the first year of his reign, Charles offended his Protestant subjects by marrying Henrietta Maria, a Catholic French princess. He later responded to political opposition to his rule by dissolving Parliament on several occasions and in 1629 decided to rule entirely without Parliament. In 1642, the bitter struggle between king and Parliament for supremacy led to the outbreak of the first English civil war.

The Parliamentarians were led by Oliver Cromwell, whose formidable Ironsides force won an important victory against the king’s Royalist forces at Marston Moor in 1644 and at Naseby in 1645. As a leader of the New Model Army in the second English civil war, Cromwell helped repel the Royalist invasion of Scotland, and in 1646 Charles surrendered to a Scottish army. In 1648, Charles was forced to appear before a high court controlled by his enemies, where he was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Early in the next year, he was beheaded.

The monarchy was abolished, and Cromwell assumed control of the new English Commonwealth. In 1658, Cromwell died and was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard, who was forced to flee to France in the next year with the restoration of the monarchy and the crowning of Charles II, the son of Charles I. Oliver Cromwell was posthumously convicted of treason, and his body was disinterred from its tomb in Westminster Abbey and hanged from the gallows at Tyburn.

U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects first members

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-baseball-hall-of-fame-elects-first-members

On January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects its first members in Cooperstown, New York: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson.

The Hall of Fame actually had its beginnings in 1935, when plans were made to build a museum devoted to baseball and its 100-year history. A private organization based in Cooperstown called the Clark Foundation thought that establishing the Baseball Hall of Fame in their city would help to reinvigorate the area’s Depression-ravaged economy by attracting tourists. To help sell the idea, the foundation advanced the idea that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown. The story proved to be phony, but baseball officials, eager to capitalize on the marketing and publicity potential of a museum to honor the game’s greats, gave their support to the project anyway.

In preparation for the dedication of the Hall of Fame in 1939–thought by many to be the centennial of baseball–the Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose the five greatest superstars of the game as the first class to be inducted: Ty Cobb was the most productive hitter in history; Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter to play the game; Honus Wagner was a versatile star shortstop and batting champion; Christy Matthewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history; and Walter Johnson was considered one of the most powerful pitchers to ever have taken the mound.

Today, with approximately 350,000 visitors per year, the Hall of Fame continues to be the hub of all things baseball. It has elected 278 individuals, in all, including 225 players, 17 managers, 8 umpires and 28 executives and pioneers.

William McKinley, first U.S. president to ride in a car, is born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/william-mckinley-first-u-s-president-to-ride-in-a-car-is-born

On this day in 1843, William McKinley, who will become the 25th American president and the first to ride in an automobile, is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley served in the White House from 1897 to 1901, a time when the American automotive industry was in its infancy. During his presidency, McKinley (who died from an assassin’s bullet in September 1901) took a drive in a Stanley Steamer, a steam-engine-powered auto built in the late 1890s by brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company produced a number of steam-powered vehicles before going out of business in the early 1920s, after being unable to compete with the rise of less expensive gas-powered cars.

Theodore Roosevelt succeeded McKinley as president and during his administration the government owned a Stanley Steamer, although Roosevelt allegedly preferred horses to automobiles. William Taft, the 27th president, replaced the horses in the White House stables with a fleet of cars, including two gas-powered Pierce-Arrows and a White Model M Stanley Steamer. (In 1951, Congress officially eliminated horses and stables from the White House budget.) Warren Harding, the 29th commander-in-chief, was the first to ride to his inauguration in a car, a Packard, in 1921.

Calvin Coolidge, America’s 30th president, was the first in a long line of chief executives to be chauffeured in a Lincoln limousine (Lincoln has been a luxury division of the Ford Motor Company since the 1920s). President Franklin D. Roosevelt traveled in a 1939 black Lincoln convertible nicknamed the “Sunshine Special”; it featured steel armor plating and was the first presidential vehicle to be constructed to the specifications of the Secret Service. (Roosevelt’s fleet at one time also included an armored Cadillac that the U.S. Treasury Department had seized from gangster Al Capone.) John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. president, was assassinated on November 22, 1963, while riding in a navy blue 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible in Dallas, Texas.

Cadillac, a division of General Motors, has also provided a number of presidential limousines, dating back to Woodrow Wilson, America’s 29th commander-in-chief. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama rode to his swearing-in ceremony as the nation’s 44th president in a new Cadillac presidential limo referred to in the media as a “rolling tank with windows” and nicknamed “The Beast.” For security reasons, specific details about the vehicle were kept under wraps by the Secret Service. (In 2001, the Secret Service for security reasons instituted a policy of destroying presidential limos once they were taken out of commission.)

Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter sign accords

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/deng-xiaoping-and-jimmy-carter-sign-accords

On January 29, 1979, Deng Xiaoping, deputy premier of China, meets President Jimmy Carter, and together they sign historic new accords that reverse decades of U.S. opposition to the People’s Republic of China.

Deng Xiaoping lived out a full and complete transformation of China. The son of a landowner, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1920 and participated in Mao Zedong’s Long March in 1934. In 1945, he was appointed to the Party Central Committee and, with the 1949 victory of the communists in the Chinese Civil War, became the regional party leader of southwestern China. Called to Beijing as deputy premier in 1952, he rose rapidly, became general secretary of the CCP in 1954, and a member of the ruling Political Bureau in 1955.

A major policy maker, he advocated individualism and material incentives in China’s attempt to modernize its economy, which often brought him into conflict with Mao and his orthodox communist beliefs. With the launch of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Deng was attacked as a capitalist and removed from high party and government posts. He disappeared from public view and worked in a tractor factory, but in 1973 was reinstated by Premier Zhou Enlai, who again made him deputy premier. When Zhou fell ill in 1975, Deng became the effective leader of China.

In January 1976, Zhou died, and in the subsequent power struggle Deng was purged by the “Gang of Four”–strict Maoists who had come to power in the Cultural Revolution. In September, however, Mao Zedong died, and Deng was rehabilitated after the Gang of Four fell from power. He resumed his post as deputy premier, often overshadowing Premier Hua Guofeng.

Deng sought to open China to foreign investment and create closer ties with the West. In January 1979, he signed accords with President Jimmy Carter, and later that year the United States granted full diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China.

In 1981, Deng strengthened his position by replacing Hua Guofeng with his protege, Hu Yaobang, and together the men instituted widespread economic reforms in China. The reforms were based on capitalist models, such as the decentralization of various industries, material incentives as the reward for economic success, and the creation of a skilled and well-educated financial elite. As chief adviser to a series of successors, he continued to be the main policy maker in China during the 1980s.

Under Deng, China’s economy rapidly grew, and citizens enjoyed expanded personal, economic, and cultural freedoms. Political freedoms were still greatly restricted, however, and China continued as an authoritative one-party state. In 1989, Deng hesitantly supported the government crackdown on the democratic demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. Later that year, he resigned his last party post but continued to be an influential adviser to the Chinese government until his death in 1997.

Divided Kansas enters the Union

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/divided-kansas-enters-the-union

The territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state, or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account. Kansas, deeply divided over the issue of slavery, was granted statehood as a free state in a gesture of support for Kansas’ militant anti-slavery forces, which had been in armed conflict with pro-slavery groups since Kansas became a territory in 1854.

Trouble in territorial Kansas began with the signing of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce. The act stipulated that settlers in the newly created territories of Nebraska and Kansas would decide by popular vote whether their territory would be free or slave. In early 1855, Kansas’ first election proved a violent affair, as more than 5,000 so-called Border Ruffians invaded the territory from western Missouri and forced the election of a pro-slavery legislature. To prevent further bloodshed, Andrew H. Reeder, appointed territorial governor by President Pierce, reluctantly approved the election. A few months later, the Kansas Free State forces were formed, armed by supporters in the North and featuring the leadership of militant abolitionist John Brown.

During the next four years, raids, skirmishes, and massacres continued in “Bleeding Kansas,” as it became popularly known. The territory’s admittance into the Union in January 1861 only increased tension, but just three and a half months later the irrepressible differences in Kansas were swallowed up by the full-scale outbreak of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.

King George III dies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-george-iii-dies

Ten years after mental illness forced him to retire from public life, King George III, the British king who lost the American colonies, dies at the age of 82.

In 1760, 20-year-old George succeeded his grandfather, George II, as king of Great Britain and Ireland. Although he hoped to govern more directly than his predecessor had, King George III was unable to find a minister he could trust, until 1770, when he appointed Lord North as his chief minister. Lord North proved able to manage Parliament and willing to follow royal leadership, but George’s policy of coercion against the American colonists led to the outbreak of the American War for Independence.

The subsequent loss of England’s most profitable colonies contributed to growing opposition to the king, but in 1784 his appointment as prime minister, William Pitt (the younger), succeeded in winning a majority in Parliament. After Pitt’s ascendance, the king retired from active participation in government, except for occasional interference in major issues such as Catholic Emancipation, which was defeated in 1801.

In 1765, the king suffered a short nervous breakdown and in the winter of 1788-89 a more prolonged mental illness. By 1810, he was permanently insane. It has been suggested that he was a victim of the hereditary disease porphyria, a defect of the blood that can cause mental illness when not treated. He spent the rest of his life in the care of his devoted wife, Charlotte Sophia, whom he had married in 1761. Following his retirement from public life, his son, the Prince of Wales, was named regent and upon his father’s death in 1820 ascended to the throne as King George IV.

Liliuokalani proclaimed queen of Hawaii

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/liliuokalani-proclaimed-queen-of-hawaii

Following the death of her brother, King Kalakaua, Liliuokalani becomes the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii, first settled by Polynesian voyagers sometime in the eighth century, saw a massive influx of American settlers during the 19th century, most coming to exploit Hawaii’s burgeoning sugar industry. In 1887, under pressure from U.S. investors and American sugar planters, King Kalakaua agreed to a new constitution that stripped him of much of his power. However, in 1891, Liliuokalani ascended to the throne and refused to recognize the constitution of 1887, replacing it instead with a constitution that restored the monarchy’s traditional authority.

Two years later, a revolutionary “Committee of Safety,” organized by Sanford B. Dole, a Hawaiian-born American, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the support of U.S. Minister John Stevens and a division of U.S. Marines. Stevens recognized Dole’s new government on his own authority and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate. Dole submitted a treaty of annexation to the U.S. Senate, but most Democrats opposed it, especially after it was revealed that most Hawaiians did not want annexation. President Grover Cleveland sent a new U.S. minister to Hawaii to restore Queen Liliuokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution, but Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the independent Republic of Hawaii, which was organized into a U.S. territory in 1900.

Liliuokalani herself spent much of the remainder of her life in the United States, where she unsuccessfully petitioned the federal government for compensation for seized property and other losses. The territorial legislature of Hawaii finally voted her an annual pension of $4,000 and permitted her to receive the income from a small sugar plantation. In additional to her political fame, Liliuokalani is also known for composing many Hawaiian songs, including the popular “Aloha Oe,” which translates to “Farewell to Thee.”

Ford asks for additional aid

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-asks-for-additional-aid

President Gerald Ford asks Congress for an additional $522 million in military aid for South Vietnam and Cambodia. He revealed that North Vietnam now had 289,000 troops in South Vietnam, and tanks, heavy artillery, and antiaircraft weapons “by the hundreds.” Ford succeeded Richard Nixon when he resigned the presidency in August 1974. Despite his wishes to honor Nixon’s promise to come to the aid of South Vietnam, he was faced with a hostile Congress who refused to appropriate military aid for South Vietnam and Cambodia; both countries fell to the communists later in the year.