Thursday, April 5, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 5

Learn Our History Today:  Here’s what happened on April 5th in American History...

In 1774, Ben Franklin published an open letter to British Prime Minister Lord North in the British newspaper, The Public Advertiser.  A tongue-in-cheek, comical letter in which Franklin suggested that the British impose martial law upon the colonies, Franklin implied that the British view these “Yankee Doodles” as inferior, stating that “one born in Britain is equal to 20 Americans.”  Ironically, the letter proved to be prophetic...the following Month, Lord North did in fact impose martial law on Massachusetts with the passage of the Massachusetts Government Act!

In 1792, President George Washington exercised the very first presidential veto, a veto of a bill that introduced a plan to divide the seats in the House of Representatives and increasing the number of seats for northern states.  He claimed that the plan was unconstitutional because it would have introduced a number of reps that was greater than that dictated by the Constitution.  Instead of overriding Washington’s veto with a two-thirds vote, Congress threw out the original bill and instituted a new one that distributed representatives at the ration of one for every 33,000 people in the respective states.

And in 1862, Union forces established siege lines against the Confederacy in what was known as the Siege of Yorktown.  General George McClelland sailed his massive Union Army down the Chesapeake toward the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. His strategy was to cause the Confederates angst as they would be forced to gather scattered forces from around the James Peninsula.  He was met with resistance at Yorktown, with about 11,000 troops under General John B. Magruder.  Magruder, who was outnumbered by McClelland’s vast army, came up with a clever scheme to paint logs black, giving them the appearance of numerous artillery pieces, and ordered his troops to march back and forth around the logs to further enhance the illusion.  Magruder’s performance worked, convincing McClelland that it would be too dangerous to make a frontal assault.  Instead, McClelland opted to lay siege, surrounding Yorktown.

And in 1951, at the height of the “red scare,” Julius and Ethel Rosenberge were sentenced to death one week after the couple was found guilty of conspiring to provide atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.  The couple was accused of convincing Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, to provide Philadelphia chemist, Harry Gold with atomic secrets.  Harry Gold was an accomplice of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born U.S. scientist who earlier confessed to passing classified information about America’s atomic program to the Soviets.  During the trial in which Greenglass testified against the couple, the Rosenbergs maintained their innocence.  Despite appeals and pleas for executive clemency, the Rosenbergs became the first U.S. civilians to be given the death penalty in an espionage trial.  The couple was executed by electrocution on June 19, 1953.

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