March 31, 1917: Birth of the US Virgin Islands

 

Today a century ago the US took possession of the Danish West Indies:  St. Thomas, St. Croix, Saint John and some 50 mostly uninhabited small islands, all of which were now known collectively as the US Virgin Islands.  The US and Denmark had been dickering over the islands since the Civil War, with almost complete deals falling through twice.  The Danes realized that for the good of the inhabitants of the island, the islands needed to become part of the American economy, and the Americans viewed the islands as a strengthening of American power in the West Indies as essential to the continental defense of the American mainland.  A Danish referendum approved the transfer.  No referendum was held of the inhabitants but Danish officials reported that the islanders seemed eager for it.  (more…)

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Published in: on March 31, 2017 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on March 31, 1917: Birth of the US Virgin Islands  
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March 30, 1842: First Use of Ether in Surgery

 

Surgery took a giant leap forward one hundred and seventy-five years ago thanks to Doctor Crawford W. Long.  On that date in Jefferson, Georgia he used ether on James M. Venable before removing a tumor from his neck.  The procedure was a success and Long used ether for surgeries and in his obstetrics practice.  He published the results of his use of ether in 1849 in The Southern Medical and Surgery Journal.  Dentist William T. G. Morton had demonstrated the use of ether before an audience of physicians on October 16, 1846 in the operating theater of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  His publication of this event in December 1846 alerted Long to the claim of Morton to be the discoverer of the use of ether in surgery.  Long wrote of the controversy in his 1849 article:

 

A controversy soon ensued between Messrs. Jackson, Morton and Wells, in regard to who was entitled to the honor of being the discoverer of the anaesthetic powers of ether, and a considerable time elapsed before I was able to ascertain the exact period when their first operations were performed. Ascertaining this fact, through negligence I have now permitted a much longer time to elapse than I designed, or than my professional friends with whom I consulted advised; but as no account has been published, (so far as I have been able to ascertain), of the inhalation of ether being used to prevent pain in surgical operations as early as March, 1842. My friends think I would be doing myself injustice, not to notify my brethren of the medical profession of my priority of the use of ether by inhalation in surgical practice. (more…)

Published in: on March 30, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 30, 1842: First Use of Ether in Surgery  

Theodore Roosevelt and His Four Divisions

 

In 1917 a century ago Theodore Roosevelt was 58 years old.  He was not in the best of health and he had put on a fair amount of weight since his “crowded hour” leading the charge up Kettle Hill in the Spanish American War.  Nonetheless, he was eager once again to fight for the Stars and Stripes.  An advocate of preparedness, he had assembled a staff and plans to recreate his Rough Riders on a corps level to fight in France, and over a 100,000 men had indicated their willingness to join this force.  Congress in March of 1917 authorized him to raise such a force of volunteers of up to four divisions.  In May of 1917 President Wilson indicated that no such force of volunteers would be accepted by the Army, Wilson not wanting to be held responsible if the beloved ex-President died fighting.  Roosevelt was crushed and never forgave Wilson, who he despised in any case.  He kept busy making speeches in support of the War and selling war bonds, but it was not the same as fighting himself.  On April 1 we will explore the “what if” had Wilson allowed Roosevelt to take his new Rough Riders into battle.

 

Published in: on March 29, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt and His Four Divisions  
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Star Trek for Libertarians

Published in: on March 28, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Star Trek for Libertarians  
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A Century of Vera Lynn

 

 

The singing voice of Great Britain during World War II, Dame Vera Lynn is one hundred years old.  The Sweetheart of the Forces, she was tireless in her performances for the troops during World War II, and the veterans of that conflict have always held her in high esteem.  Contrary to the usual dismal history of the entertainment industry, she enjoyed a life long love affair with her one and only husband until he died in 1998.  Throughout her long life she has  championed disabled servicemen and disabled kids.   She is a living refutation of the falsehood that the good die young.

 

Quotes Suitable for Framing: Daniel Webster

 

If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble to dust; but if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we impress on them with high principles, the just fear of God and love for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.

Daniel Webster, May 22, 1852

 

Published in: on March 26, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Daniel Webster  
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Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  A pro-Union song written in 1861 by that tireless writer of Civil War tunes George F. Root.  Sadly its patriotism may seem over the top to modern audiences.  Not so to most of the fighting men on both sides during the Civil War who liked their songs about the War to be lively and very patriotic.

Published in: on March 25, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys  
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Requiescat in Pace: Loyce Edward Deen

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today.
Inscription on the Memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima

Hattip to Ace of Spades.  As we go about our daily lives it is good to remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants.  One of those giants is a 23 year old sailor who died 73 years ago:

Loyce Edward Deen, an Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class, USNR, was a gunner on a TBM Avenger. On November 5, 1944, Deen’s squadron participated in a raid on Manila, where his plane was hit multiple times by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a Japanese cruiser. Deen was killed.The Avenger’s pilot, Lt. Robert Cosgrove, managed to return to his carrier, the USS Essex. Both Deen and the plane had been shot up so badly that it was decided to leave him in the plane.

It is the only time in U.S. Navy history (and probably U.S. military history) that an aviator was buried in his aircraft after being killed in action.

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Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Requiescat in Pace: Loyce Edward Deen  
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Trump and Teddy?

Matter! Matter! Why, everybody’s gone crazy! What is the matter with all of you? Here’s this convention going headlong for Roosevelt for Vice President. Don’t any of you realize that there’s only one life between that madman and the Presidency? Platt and Quay are no better than idiots! What harm can he do as Governor of New York compared to the damage he will do as President if McKinley should die?

Ohio Senator Mark Hanna at the Republican Convention of 1900

 

 

I have been rolling around in my brain the thought that as President Donald Trump reminds me of Theodore Roosevelt.  At first glance the two New Yorkers seem entirely dissimilar with Roosevelt the scholar turned politician who led the charge up San Juan Hill having little in common with the blue collar billionaire.  However, in their shared endless energy, their desire to attack intractable problems, their appeal to restoring America greatness, their willingness to make enemies of the powers that be, etc. they do strike me as quite similar and unlike most other Presidents. Stephen Beale at The American Conservative makes the case for Trump being in the same mold as The Colonel:

Roosevelt—a career politician who sought military service, an avid outdoorsman who hunted elephants and explored the Amazon, and an intellectually curious historian who dabbled in anthropology and zoology—might seem an unlikely model for Trump.

But in terms of policy, the parallels are legion.  

On trade, Roosevelt was—like most Republicans then and Trump now—a proud protectionist. “Thank God I am not a free-trader. In this country pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce a fatty degeneration of the moral fibre,” Roosevelt wrote in an 1895 letter to his friend Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.

Roosevelt was also a committed immigration restrictionist. In 1903, after radical socialists had bombed Haymarket Square in Chicago and assassinated his predecessor, Roosevelt signed into law a ban on anarchists—including those who professed radical political views, even if they didn’t have any actual terrorist affiliation. Four years later, another law excluded “idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons,” prostitutes, those with certain medical conditions, such as epileptics, and polygamists, or even those who believed in polygamy. Notably this last provision was wielded against Muslim immigrants.  

Roosevelt famously railed against “hyphenated Americanism” and declared that America was not a “mosaic of nationalities.” In language that rings as distinctly Trumpian today, Roosevelt demanded total allegiance and nothing else from American citizens, native and naturalized alike: “A square deal for all Americans means relentless attack on all men in this country who are not straight-out Americans and nothing else.”

Roosevelt built up the military, specifically the Navy, which he showed off to the world as the “Great White Fleet.” Both presidents have a defining public works project. For Trump, it’s the border wall. For Roosevelt, it was the Panama Canal. As with Trump, Roosevelt ruffled international feathers with his proposal, even sparking the secession of Panama from Columbia.

As an undergraduate student at Harvard, Roosevelt had fallen under the influence of Hegelian philosophy, which holds to an evolutionary view of history. He came to believe that the old view of a limited government entrusted with the protection of natural rights was outmoded. Instead, Roosevelt championed an exalted view of executive power that was limited only by what the Constitution explicitly said it could not do. As he put it in his autobiography:

I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it. My belief was that it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws. Under this interpretation of executive power I did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President and the heads of departments.

More than anyone since Lincoln, Roosevelt expanded executive power, laying the foundations for the modern presidency. He sought to govern by executive order as much as possible, issuing a whopping 1,081 orders—nearly six times as many as his predecessor and still the fourth highest overall in the history of the U.S. presidency. (His cousin FDR holds the record at 3,721. Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge rank second and third at 1,803, and 1,203, respectively.)

 

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Published in: on March 23, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Trump and Teddy?  
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Cross Examination the Lincoln Way

 

I have always loved this scene from Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).  Few things are more enjoyable for a trial attorney than a cross examination that is tearing up the opposition case!  Of course in real life in the video above the prosecutor would be on his feet constantly objecting:  Argumentative!  Assumes facts not in evidence!  Mr. Lincoln is using a document that has not been admitted into evidence!  If Mr. Lincoln is going to testify let him be sworn in! Etc.  Of course this was done at a time when most judges tended to give a great deal of lee-way to counsel in their questioning of witnesses, especially in a frontier court and the jury might assume with frequent objections that the prosecutor was attempting to keep the truth from them and vote not guilty as a result.  In any case it is a great scene.

Adlai Stevenson, who would go on to be Vice-President of the United States, when he was young saw Lincoln in action in cross-examination: (more…)

Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Cross Examination the Lincoln Way  
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