October 27, 1682 – William Penn Performs a Livery of Seisin

On this day in history, William Penn, according to a historical marker, “first stepped on American soil. He proceeded to the fort and performed Livery of Seisin. ‘He took the key, thereof,…we did deliver unto him 1 turf with a twig upon it, a porringer with river water and soyle, in part of all.’”

Landing Place of William Penn Marker

Landing Place of William Penn Marker

This ritual was performed upon his arrival in what is now New Castle, Delaware, but became part of Penn’s Woodlands (also known as Pennsylvania).

As explained by Wikipedia, livery of seisin is an archaic legal conveyancing ceremony, formerly practiced in feudal England and in other countries following English common law, used to convey holdings in property. The term “livery” is related to, if not synonymous with, the word “delivery” as used in modern contract law. The common law in those jurisdictions once provided that a valid conveyance of a feudal tenure in land required the physical transfer by the transferor to the transferee, in the presence of witnesses, of a piece of the ground itself, in the literal sense of a hand-to-hand passing of an amount of soil, a twig, key, or other symbol.

9-foot-1 statue in New Castle Honoring the Livery of  Seisin

9-foot-1 statue in New Castle Honoring the Livery of Seisin

October 11, 1906 – San Francisco School Board Orders Segregation of Japanese American Students

After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted the entry of Chinese immigrant laborers, the American agricultural industry turned to Japanese contract workers to replace Chinese laborers. Unlike the Chinese, Japanese laborers were more likely to travel to America with their families. Also differently than the Chinese, the Japanese families did not live in isolated enclaves but dispersed throughout California cities.

Immigrant family in strawberry field with orchard, Pajaro Valley, California

Immigrant family in strawberry field with orchard, Pajaro Valley, California

As the Library of Congress reports, at the turn of the century, more than 100,000 Japanese nationals arrived in the U.S., finding employment in migratory labor, working the farms, mines, canneries, and railroads of the American West. Eventually, some launched their own businesses, such as Japanese restaurants, boarding houses, and shops. Many Japanese farmers, using the labor-intensive growing methods of their homeland, were able to buy their own land and launch successful agricultural businesses, from farms to produce shops. By 1920, Japanese immigrant farmers controlled more than 450,000 acres of land in California, brought to market more than 10 percent of its crop revenue, and had produced at least one American-made millionaire.

Sadly, with the success of the immigrants, anti-Chinese prejudice soon morphed into anti-Oriental bias, especially as the Japanese provided a scapegoat for concerns over jobs and wages. Ironically, the Japanese were seen as an even larger threat than the Chinese because of the tendency of the Japanese to assimilate into Western culture and do well.

In February, 1905, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper officially launched an editorial anti-Japanese campaign which fueled existing animosity in the Caucasian community. In May, 1905, The Japanese and Korean Exclusion League, a group composed almost entirely of labor unions, was established to push for the segregation of Japanese and Koreans and the legal exclusion additional Asian immigrants.


In 1906, on this day in history, the San Francisco Board of Education ordered the segregation of 93 Japanese American students from 23 elementary schools.

At the time, Japanese immigrants made up approximately 1% of the population of California. The Japanese students were assigned to the city’s Chinese Primary School, renamed “The Oriental Public School for Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans.” Japanese-Americans soon contacted the media in Japan to make the government aware of the segregation. Tokyo newspapers denounced the segregation as an “insult to their national pride and honor.”

Alarmed at the uproar, President Theodore Roosevelt promised Japan that he would use his influence to get the order of the San Francisco school board changed. Then, in order to meet the objections of the Californians, Roosevelt obtained a “gentlemen’s agreement,” or informal understanding, with the Japanese government. Through this “gentlemen’s agreement,” Japanese promised to keep its laborers from migrating to the United States. Roosevelt, in turn, promised not to seek formal legislation prohibiting the Japanese from moving to the United States.

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt

On February 8, 1907, Roosevelt and his Secretary of State Elihu Root met with San Francisco school officials and California legislative leaders to work out a negotiation. The California officials agreed to reinstate Japanese students, while the federal government withdrew its lawsuits and promised to limit Japanese labor immigration. The Japanese agreed to stop issuing passports to laborers bound for the continental United States. However, passports might be issued to returning laborers and the “parents, wives and children of laborers already resident there.” As this was an executive agreement, it required no congressional ratification.

The provision for the admission of wives led to the rise of “picture brides” – women whose marriages had been arranged through photographs prior to their arrival in the United States. As a result of this loophole, the community was spared the extreme gender imbalance that had deterred the growth of the Chinese community. In 1910, the ratio of Japanese men to women was 7 to 1; by 1920, it was less than 2 to 1.

Congressional committee members examine passports of Japanese picture brides at the immigration station of Angel Island, Calif., July 25, 1920

Congressional committee members examine passports of Japanese picture brides at the immigration station of Angel Island, Calif., July 25, 1920

But less than five years later, the Immigration Act of 1924 legally banned all Asians from migrating to the United States.

The Laws Relating to Scotch Whiskey

Technically, by law, whiskey can only be called “Scotch” if it is distilled in Scotland according to a specific set of rules. However, this doesn’t mean that single malt whiskey can’t be made anywhere else, nor that it can’t “compete” against Scottish Scotch in international tasting tastes. Indeed, to the consternation of Scots, in 2014 a leading whiskey critic ranked a Japanese single malt as No. 1. The Washington Post reported that Jim Murray awarded “World Whiskey of the Year” to the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013, giving it a score of 97.5 out of 100. According to the Post, Murray “described it as a drink of ‘near incredible genius’ with a taste ‘thick, dry, as rounded as a snooker ball.’”


Yamazaki, the maker of the winning whiskey, is Japan’s oldest distillery, founded in 1923 and now owned by Suntory, the world’s third-largest distiller that also bought Jim Beam. Making matters worse, the Post cites Ron Taylor, a Scottish spirit judge who claims to be a “nonpartisan” drinker, as saying that it’s no surprise a Japanese whiskey won. Comparing the whiskeys of the two countries to cars, he says Japanese single malts are like a Lexus: “beautifully crafted, no vibration, smooth, consistent and always pleasant.” Think of Scottish whiskeys, on the other hand, like Maseratis: “They’ll knock you around and slap you around the face a little bit.”

So if these Japanese malts keep winning, why can’t they be called “scotches”?

As the New York Times reports:

“Single malt is simply whisky made from only water and malted barley at a single distillery. In Scotland, single malts are distinguished from blended Scotch, the province of familiar names like Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s and Chivas Regal, which are a blend of one or more single malts with whiskies distilled from other grains. Another category, blended malt Scotch, which used to be called vatted malts, is a blend of two or more single malts.”

Whereas other countries have traditional whiskies, “distillers with integrity will stick to the traditional definition, which includes aging the whisky in oak barrels for at least three years.”

This definition is not only traditional, it is enshrined by law. Laws regulating scotch whisky have been on the books in the U.K. since 1909 and recognized in the European Union since 1989. The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 expanded the scope of previous legislation from not only governing the way in which Scotch Whisky must be produced, but how Scotch Whiskies must be labelled, packaged and advertised, as well as requiring Single Malt Scotch Whisky to be wholly matured and bottled in Scotland.

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Furthermore, the law goes the other way as well, providing that “The only type of whisky which may be produced in Scotland is Scotch Whisky.” (There are a number of other complex requirements; you can read them here.)

Note that “whiskey” is actually “whisky” in Scotland. According to the website “Whisky for Everyone,” the difference in the spelling comes from differences in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms:

“The Scots spell it whisky and the Irish spell it whiskey, with an extra ‘e’. This difference in the spelling comes from the translations of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. Whiskey with the extra ‘e’ is also used when referring to American whiskies. This ‘e’ was taken to the United States by the Irish immigrants in the 1700s and has been used ever since.”


This website also points out other differences between whiskeys make in Scotland and elsewhere, including the size and shape of distilleries, the use of peat in Scotland to dry the malted barley, the use of barley itself and the “terroir” itself in which the barley grows. (“Terroir” is the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s qualities, and that lend it its character, from type of soil to water conditions, etc. Even water alone can affect taste, which is why New York claims its bagels are different from all other bagels.)

If you read a lot of detective books, you will no doubt be familiar with one of the most famous of Scotch whiskys, Laphroaig (pronounced ‘La-froyg’, from a Gaelic word meaning “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay.”) Laphroaig is made on the remote island of Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland, where the distinctive peat is said to give Laphroaig its rich flavor.

This single malt is a favorite of Peter Robinson’s Yorkshire Inspector Alan Banks, Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh detective John Rebus, and even Barry Eisler’s free-lance hit-man John Rain. Other whiskeys also soak the pages of fiction, from Loch Lomond, the Scotch whisky consumed by Captain Haddock in Hergé’s famous comic book series The Adventures of Tintin, to the many brands of scotch (mostly American) consumed by James Bond, to even a fictional scotch you will see in the movie “Pulp Fiction,” in which the character played by John Travolta drinks a creation by the director, McCleary Blended Scotch Whisky.


September 8, 1974 – President Ford Grants an Unconditional Pardon to Ex-President Nixon

On this day in history, President Gerald Ford granted former President Richard M. Nixon an unconditional pardon “for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.”

The pardon exempted Nixon from indictment for, among other things, his role in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary. He issued a statement saying that he could now see he was “wrong in not acting more decisively and more forthrightly in dealing with Watergate.”

President Ford said that he based his decision to pardon Nixon on the consideration in part on he thought Nixon and his family had suffered enough.

You can read the full text of President Ford’s pardon here.


September 3, 1901 – Alabama Constitutional Convention Adopts Its Constitution

On this day in history, Alabama adopted its current constitution, set to come into effect on November 28 of 1901. It is the longest still-operative constitution anywhere in the world. With more than 800 amendments, it is 12 times longer than the average state constitution, and 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution.

It is also notable for its provisions allowing for racial discrimination, some of which have still not been eliminated, although many of them have been made moot by amendments to the federal constitution, passage of federal laws, or United States Supreme Court decisions.


At the 1901 Constitutional Convention, the President of the Constitutional Convention, John B. Knox, a Calhoun County attorney, stated in his inaugural address that the intention of the convention was “to establish white supremacy in this State,” “within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution.” This was an undoubtedly important consideration since the 1900 population included 1,001,152 whites and 827,307 African-Americans.

John B. Knox

John B. Knox

Knox maintained that the people of Alabama had confronted no more important issue than disfranchisement since the 1860 secession vote:

So long as the Negro remains in significant minority, and votes the Republican ticket, our friends in the North tolerate him. . . . But if we would have white supremacy we must establish it by law — not by force or fraud.”

As Wayne Flynt, Distinguished Professor of History, Auburn University wrote, Knox justified discrimination not on “race” per se, but on the Negro’s inferior intellectual and moral condition:

[There was] in the white man an inherited capacity for government, which is wholly wanting in the Negro. Before the art of reading and writing was known, the ancestors of the Anglo-Saxon had established an orderly system of government . . . the Negro on the other hand, is descended from a race lowest in intelligence and moral perceptions of all the races of men.” (See “Alabama’s Shame: Historical Origins of the 1901 Constitution” by Wayne Flynt, online here.)

Thus, Knox successfully guided the convention to enact constitutional provisions requiring voters to pass literacy tests in order to register, establishing a poll tax, outlawing interracial marriage, and requiring public education to be racially segregated.

In 1956, subsequent to the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education (347 U.S. 483, 1954), in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional, the Alabama legislature passed a constitutional amendment supporting the formation of private, tuition-based schools to evade desegregation.

Members of the Alabama National Guard mark time outside an armory in Birmingham, Ala. as they prepare to go on duty at three schools which have been ordered integrated, Sept. 10, 1963. Gov. George Wallace, who barred black students from the schools, called the guard to duty. (AP Photo)

Members of the Alabama National Guard mark time outside an armory in Birmingham, Ala. as they prepare to go on duty at three schools which have been ordered integrated, Sept. 10, 1963. Gov. George Wallace, who barred black students from the schools, called the guard to duty. (AP Photo)

Today, Alabama’s schools remain highly segregated to this day. As “Atlantic Magazine” reported in a story about Tuscaloosa, Alabama:

Schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, had by the 1970s become the most integrated, typically as a result of federal court orders. But since 2000, judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa’s — back toward segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades. Nationally, the achievement gap between black and white students, which greatly narrowed during the era in which schools grew more integrated, widened as they became less so.”

The author added:

… the overwhelming body of research shows that once black children were given access to advanced courses, well-trained teachers, and all the other resources that tend to follow white, middle-income children, they began to catch up.”

Then there is the issue of interracial marriage.

The state constitution outlawed interracial marriage (Section 102). This provision was rendered inoperative by Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1, 1967), but was not removed until November, 2000 by Amendment 667.

Mildred and Richard Loving in 1967

Mildred and Richard Loving in 1967

As originally enacted, Section 102 held:

The legislature shall never pass any law to authorise or legalise any marriage between any white person and a Negro or descendant of a Negro.”

As recently as 1998, Alabama House leaders successfully killed attempts to remove Section 102. By the time of the 2000 ballot referendum, interracial marriage had been legal in every state for more than three decades. After the 2000 vote of 59% supporting removing the language, versus 41% opposed, Alabama became the last state officially legalizing interracial marriage.

Interestingly, a poll before the referendum found that about 63 percent of those who responded favored lifting the ban on interracial marriage while 26 percent were opposed. Ten percent said they were not sure or had no reply. Apparently their true sentiments came out in the privacy of the ballot box.

The Power of Images to Affect Cultural and Political Discourse

In an article from almost 25 years ago, J. Francis Davis, a media education specialist, listed six myths consistently invoked and reinforced by the media. The amazing and sad truth is that these myths are as prevalent today as they were at the time this article was written. They include:

MYTH #1. The world is a dangerous place and we need guns, police and military to protect us.


MYTH #2. Leave it to the experts (who are usually white men).


MYTH #3. The good life consists of buying possessions that cost lots of money.


MYTH #4. Happiness, satisfaction and sex appeal, just to name a few, are imminent – and available with the next consumer purchase.



MYTH #5. Your body is not good enough.


MYTH #6. Businesses and corporations are concerned for the public welfare.


You can read a full delineation of the nature of these memes as well as examples of images found in advertisements, movies, television, newspapers and books supporting these myths in Davis’s article, here.

As Collins and Skover wrote in David Skover and Ronald Collins, Commerce & Communication, 71 TEX. L. REV. 697, 716 (1993):

Ours has become a commercial culture in a[an] … intrinsic and pervasive sense. The beliefs, ideas, and behaviors that mold or reflect our national character are now re-created in a product’s image. Once this occurs, the old norms take on a new meaning inseparable from the commercial ethic.”


Recognition of the importance of images to affect both conscious and subconscious effects of messages are well understood in litigation too, as attested to by just a sampling of articles, here, here, and here.

August 4, 1790 – Beginning of The U.S. Coast Guard

On this day in history, President George Washington signed the Tariff Act authorizing the construction of 10 vessels, or “cutters” to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. This service was originally proposed by Alexander Hamilton as part of The Federalist Papers. In Federalist No. 12, Hamilton wrote:

A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws.”

The service expanded in size as the nation grew, serving in almost every war since the Constitution became the law of the land in 1789. It gained other responsibilities over the years as well, including protection of the country’s strategic natural resources pursuant to the Timber Act of 1822, cruising coastlines for those in distress. In 1848, Congress passed an appropriation for $10,000 to allow for “the better preservation of life and property from shipwrecks.” With the purchase of Alaska in 1867, patrols were assigned to help curtail the illegal seal trade. After the Titanic sank in 1912, the service began conducting international ice patrols.

In 1915, an act of Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the U. S. Life-Saving Service, creating the U.S. Coast Guard. Additional agencies were later merged into the Coast Guard, including those administering lighthouses, merchant marine licensing, and more.


In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the Coast Guard transferred from the Department of Treasury to the newly created Department of Transportation. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Coast Guard was again transferred by President George W. Bush, this time to the newly established Department of Homeland Security.

As of 2012, the Coast Guard had over 43,000 active duty members, over 8,000 reservists, over 8,800 civilian employees, and over 30,000 volunteer Auxiliarists. Of the workforce, 85.7% are men.

Alexander Hamilton is honored by the service as “The Father of the Coast Guard.” To this date, five ships named after Alexander Hamilton have served in the US Coast Guard.

National security cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) is seen on builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2014.

National security cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) is seen on builder’s sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2014.