September 16, 1818 – Connecticut Finally Approves a State Constitution

The first formal government of Connecticut was set forth by The Fundamental Orders, adopted on January 14, 1639 OS (January 24 NS). (You can read the text here.) It has the features of a written constitution, and is considered by some as the first written Constitution in the Western tradition, thus earning Connecticut its nickname of The Constitution State.

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In 1660, King Charles II reassumed the monarchy in England, effectively ending the period of the English Revolution. (The English Civil War led to the trial and execution of Charles I, the exile of his son, Charles II, and replacement of English monarchy with, first, the Commonwealth of England (1649–53), and then with a Protectorate (1653–59) under Oliver Cromwell’s personal rule.) Since Connecticut had never been officially recognized as a colony by the crown, the General Court determined that the independence of Connecticut must be legitimized. Connecticut’s governor, John Winthrop, Jr., was sent as an emissary to negotiate with the English government, and set sail for England on July 23, 1661. He proved successful in his mission, and the English attorney general approved a bill for incorporation of the Connecticut Charter. After being officially sealed and registered, the document was returned to Connecticut and adopted by the General Court on October 9, 1662. (You can read the text here.)

A copy of the original charter granted to the colony of Connecticut by Charles II in 1684 attached to a copy of the Acts and Laws of the Colony in 1750

A copy of the original charter granted to the colony of Connecticut by Charles II in 1684 attached to a copy of the Acts and Laws of the Colony in 1750

The Connecticut Charter displaced the Fundamental Orders to become the governing authority for the colony. Its practical effect on the government however, was minimal and Connecticut continued to operate much as it had under the Fundamental Orders.

The General Assembly formally approved the Declaration of Independence with the other colonies. However, in its resolution the legislature it declared that Connecticut’s government, “shall continue to be as established by Charter received from Charles the second, King of England, so far as an adherence to the same will be consistent with an absolute independence of this State on the Crown of Great Britain…” While eleven of the thirteen colonies had drafted state constitutions by 1786, Connecticut elected to continue operation under the Charter. Connecticut retained this scheme of government until 1818, when the first true constitution was adopted.

As a result of the 1818 constitution, the Congregational Church was finally disestablished. (You can read the text of that constitution here.)

(In 1801, Danbury, Connecticut Baptists sent a letter to President Thomas Jefferson complaining that, in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature — as “favors granted.” Jefferson responded, in part:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

[His reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion — only of establishment on the national level.] The letter is however most famous for its use of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state,” which led to the Establishment Clause that we use today. You can read Jefferson’s entire letter here.

In other matters, the 1818 Constitution solidified new voting rights, and separation of powers was finally brought to Connecticut government. An independent judiciary was approved.

The constitution did not significantly change the role of the executive, and the branch remained relatively weak. The executive did however, became a constitutional and independent part of the government.

The legislative branch also experienced a few changes. The Council was renamed the Senate. By constitutional mandate, half the legislative sessions were to take place in Hartford with the other half convening in New Haven.

Preamble of the 1818 Constitution

Preamble of the 1818 Constitution

Although many amendments were added over the years, the Constitution of 1818 remained in operation until 1965. There was also a Constitution of 1955, but it merely incorporated prior amendments into the main body of the constitution.

Connecticut currently operates under the constitution passed in 1965, the text of which is here. The primary purpose of the 1965 constitutional convention was reapportionment of the representatives in the lower legislative house. Apart from this major change, a majority of the language from the 1818 Constitution was reaffirmed verbatim or almost verbatim in 1965. The Constitution of 1965 remains the supreme authority in Connecticut today, although it has been amended quite a few times. You can access a legislative history of amendments here.

Party Like It’s 1787

On September 14, 1787, the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry hosted a dinner for George Washington at the City Tavern in Philadelphia. City Tavern, built in 1773, also called the Merchants’ Coffee House, was the political and business center of Philadelphia. All the leading persons who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution met here. George Washington’s diary indicates that he would dine and talk politics with other delegates here at least once a week.

George Washington

Alcoholic beverages played an important role in Colonial America since drinking wine and beer at that time was safer than water – which was generally used to dispose of sewage and garbage. Thus, at Washington’s party on September 14, we find that the colonists celebrated in only the most healthy way. According to the bill submitted the next day, the fifty-five gentlemen in attendance consumed 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 22 bottles of porter, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 bottles of beer, 8 bottles of ale (“barley wine”), and 7 large bowls of spiked punch. It can only be presumed a good time was had by all….

The City Tavern in Philadelphia

September 13, 1862 – Union Discovery of Confederate Plans for Antietam

On this day in history, two members of the Union 27th Indiana Corps discovered a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars. The paper was addressed to Confederate General D.H. Hill and contained Lee’s very detailed Special Order No. 191 for upcoming operations at Antietam.

The Division Adjutant General, Samuel Pittman, recognized the handwriting and knew the paper came from Lee’s Adjutant General. He took the order to General McClellan who gloated over it. But alas, McClellan had second thoughts, as was his habit, and he failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

Four days later, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat at The Battle of Antietam. Although considered a Northern victory, it was also the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. In addition, Lee’s army was able to retreat to Virginia when it possibly could have been destroyed.

Side 1 of Special Order No. 191

Side 1 of Special Order No. 191

September 11, 1941 – Charles Lindbergh Excoriates Jews, along with FDR and the British, For Trying to Get the U.S. into WWII

In 1941, Charles Lindbergh was still considered to be a great American hero, having been the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Charles A. Lindbergh

Charles A. Lindbergh

Lindbergh’s flying skills may have been first rate, but his views on race and politics were a bit dicey.

Charles and his wife Anne had visited Germany several times in the 1930’s, and were impressed with what they saw. They were impressed with the Germans, and even thought about moving to Berlin.

On October 18, 1938, Lindbergh accepted a medal from Hermann Göring, the head of Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe, in honor of his transatlantic flight.

Hermann Göring presenting a medal to Lindbergh in October, 1938

Hermann Göring presenting a medal to Lindbergh in October, 1938

Several weeks later, the Nazis launched Kristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass”), a vicious pogrom against Jews in Germany, Austria, and Sudetenland and a rehearsal for what was in store for the European Jews. Lindbergh dismissed calls that he return his medal in protest, saying, according to biographer A. Scott Berg:

It seems to me that the returning of decorations, which were given in times of peace and as a gesture of friendship, can have no constructive effect.”

By 1939, Lindbergh was traveling around the U.S. advocating that the country stay out of World War II, as well as maintain vigilance, as he wrote for “Reader’s Digest” in 1939, in avoiding “the infiltration of inferior blood.”

Col. Charles A. Lindbergh tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee that a German air invasion of the United States and the landing of troops is "absolutely impossible," January 23, 1941. (AP)

Col. Charles A. Lindbergh tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee that a German air invasion of the United States and the landing of troops is “absolutely impossible,” January 23, 1941. (AP)

Lindbergh’s reputation was already beginning to suffer, and his speech in Des Moines, Iowa on September 11, 1941 sealed his fate as someone not really deserving of the epithet of “hero.” Speaking to The America First Committee, the most powerful isolationist group in the country, Lindbergh decided to “name names,” contending:

The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”

Lindbergh in Des Moines, September 11, 1941

Lindbergh in Des Moines, September 11, 1941

Of the Jews, he went on to say:

Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. . . . Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.”

After noting, disapprovingly, that the British also wanted the U.S. to enter the war, he added a disclaimer:

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.”

He couldn’t believe the uproar over his comments. Later he wrote in his diary:

My Des Moines address has caused so much controversy. . . .  I felt I had worded my Des Moines address carefully and moderately. It seems that almost anything can be discussed today in America except the Jewish problem. The very mention of the word “Jew” is cause for a storm. Personally, I feel that the only hope for a moderate solution lies in an open and frank discussion.”

You can read the full text of his speech here.

September 9, 1850 – California Joins the Union as the 31st State

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In January 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 40 miles east of Sacramento – beginning the California Gold Rush. The word spread slowly though, and it wasn’t until the beginning of 1849 that large numbers of gold seekers (known as “Forty-Niners”) began to arrive from across the U.S. and from other continents. Some 250,000 people arrived in five years – mostly male, and half younger than thirty. As late as 1880 males still outnumbered females two to one. But there were places to find women, such as in the brothels of San Francisco’s “Barbary coast.” San Francisco, a hastily built wooden town, burned to the ground five times between 1849 and 1851. (It should be noted that printed versions of the story The Three Little Pigs, which might have given Californians a hint about how to build a durable city, only date back to the 1840’s and wasn’t widely distributed until the publication of English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs in 1890.)

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Some of these Forty-Niners met in Monterey and petitioned for statehood, but Congress was deadlocked over how to apportion the territories acquired during the Mexican-American War between slave and free states. A year after their petition, Californians were finally given official statehood as part of the Compromise of 1850. (This was a package of five bills drafted by Whig Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky and promoted by young Democratic Senatory Stephen Douglas, that included admission of California as a free state. It also strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act, the enforcement of which further inflamed the tension between North and South. You can see a list of all the provisions of the Compromise here.)

One of the earliest settlers in California was Agoston Haraszthy, a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. He imported some 200,000 cuttings of varietal grapes by mail, destined for Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Clara counties. (Years earlier he had tried planting grapes in Wisconsin.)

Agoston Haraszthy

Agoston Haraszthy

He first tried to raise grapes in San Francisco but found the climate too foggy. Next he tried San Mateo County, again unsuccessfully. In the meanwhile, he began a business to refine gold. In 1857 he was indicted for embezzlement but was eventually exonerated. While the investigation was pending, he moved to Sonoma, bought a vineyard northeast of town, and renamed it Buena Vista. Today, still in operation, it is the oldest commercial winery in California.

Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California

Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California

Gradually Californians added other institutions besides prostitution and drinking. Jesuit universities in Santa Clara and San Francisco opened in the 1850’s. Governor Frederick Low (in office from 1863 to 1867) favored the establishment of a state university based upon the University of Michigan plan, and in 1867, he suggested a merger of the existing private College of California in Berkeley (chartered in 1855) with the proposed state university. The Organic Act, establishing the University of California, was signed into law by Governor Henry H. Haight (Low’s successor) on March 23, 1868. The university opened in September 1869 with ten faculty members and nearly forty students using the former College of California’s buildings in Oakland as a temporary home while the new campus underwent construction. In 1871, the Board of Regents ruled that women should be admitted on an equal basis with men. When the Berkeley location was ready for occupancy, 167 male and 222 female students attended.

Opening day at Stanford, 1891

Opening day at Stanford, 1891

Stanford opened in 1891, founded by a former governor and U.S. senator Leland Stanford and his wife in memory of their son, Leland Stanford, Jr., who died of typhoid two months before his 16th birthday. By 1899, women were enrolling in growing numbers. Concerned that the institution named for her son would become largely a girls’ school, Jane Stanford amended the Founding Grant to limit enrollment to 500 females, or 40 percent of the student body. The ratio was not eliminated until 1973.

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September 7, 1977 – The U.S. Agrees to Cede Control of the Panama Canal

On this day in history, President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian Chief of Government Omar Torrijos signed two treaties: The Permanent Neutrality Treaty and The Panama Canal Treaty.

The first, the Permanent Neutrality Treaty, declared the canal neutral and open to vessels of all nations. The second, the Panama Canal Treaty, provided for joint U.S.-Panama control of the canal until December 31, 1999, when Panama would take full control.

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The Senate’s debate over the Panama Canal in the spring of 1978 was the first to be broadcast live on radio from the Senate chamber. Supporters of the treaties argued that American control of the canal was a legacy of colonialism. Opponents feared that relinquishing the canal represented a decline in U.S. strength.

On March 16, 1978 the Senate passed the Neutrality Treaty and on April 18, 1978, it approved a resolution of ratification of the Canal Treaty. Sixteen Republicans joined 52 Democrats to approve the treaty with 68 votes, just one vote more than the required two-thirds majority. Many years later, recalling the political tightrope of the debate, Senator Robert Byrd summed it up the politically unpopular fight for the treaties this way: “Courage? That’s [Minority Leader] Howard Baker and the Panama Canal.”

You can read the text of the two treaties shown with the Senate modifications here.

The canal today:  freighters pass through the Miraflores Locks. Kip Ross/National Geographic/Getty Images

The canal today: freighters pass through the Miraflores Locks.
Kip Ross/National Geographic/Getty Images

September 5, 1877 – Crazy Horse is Killed by A Prison Guard

On this day in history, the famous Oglala Sioux chief Crazy Horse was fatally wounded by a bayonet-wielding guard, allegedly while resisting imprisonment at Camp Robinson in present day Nebraska.

In June, 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined group of approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne in a surprise attack against George Crook’s U.S. Army force of cavalry and infantry (aided by its Crow and Shoshoni allies) in the Montana Territory. The battle delayed Crook’s joining with the 7th Cavalry under George A. Custer and therefore was thought to have contributed to Custer’s subsequent defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

General George Crook

General George Crook

Crazy Horse and other northern Oglala leaders arrived at the Red Cloud Agency, located near Fort Robinson, Nebraska, on May 5, 1877 to make a formal surrender to First Lieutenant William P. Clark. The Red Cloud Agency was an Indian agency (forerunner to the modern Indian reservation) for the Oglala Lakota as well as the Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho. It was established in 1873 to issue rations and annuities to approximately 13,000 Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Indians camped around the agency. It also served as a focal point for Indian grievances about the encroaching white men. It was named after Chief Red Cloud, one of the most important chiefs of both the Sioux and Cheyenne.

Red Cloud, Red Hawk, Standing Bear, William S. Hart, Crow Absorkee Apsaalooka, Crow Agency, Montana

Red Cloud, Red Hawk, Standing Bear, William S. Hart, Crow Absorkee Apsaalooka, Crow Agency, Montana

For the next four months, Crazy Horse resided in his village near the Red Cloud Agency.

In August, he was asked to help Lieutenant Clark defeat the Nez Perce, and there is controversy to this day over his reply, because of differing interpretations by translators. Some said he agreed, and some said he asserted he would fight all the white men instead.

General George Crook called for a council of the Oglala leadership, and Crook was was incorrectly informed that Crazy Horse had said he intended to kill the general during the proceedings. Crook ordered Crazy Horse’s arrest and then departed.

On the morning of September 4, 1877, two columns moved against Crazy Horse’s village, but it had dispersed. Crazy Horse had fled to the nearby Spotted Tail Agency. After a meeting, he agreed to return to Fort Robinson with the Indian agent at Spotted Tail. Arriving the next evening, once again there was confusion about what was to be done with him, and miscommunications among the military.

Crazy Horse was then fatally wounded in the back by a guard, who claimed Crazy Horse was resisting imprisonment. But like all other aspects of his last days, there are varying accounts of the death and what caused it.

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse Monument

Today, Crazy Horse is commemorated by the ongoing construction of a Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The sculpture was begun by Korczak Ziolkowski in 1948. Ziokowski arrived in the Black Hills on May 3, 1947. He worked on the project until his death on October 20, 1982, at age 74. The Memorial’s mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.

You can read more about the Memorial here.

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