January 4, 1896 – Utah Joins the Union as the 45th State

Utah is the 13th-largest by area, 31st-most-populous, and 10th-least-densely populated of the 50 United States.

Approximately 62% of Utahns are reported to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS (Mormons), which greatly influences Utahn culture and daily life. The LDS Church’s world headquarters is located in Salt Lake City. Utah is the only state with a majority population belonging to a single church.

Brigham Young, who became the head of the church upon Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, arrived with the first band of Mormon pioneers in 1847. Mental Floss reports that in that year, seagulls helped save the lives of pioneers by consuming swarms of crickets that threatened to wipe out their crops. The event was called the “Miracle of the Gulls” and in 1913 a monument depicting two bronze seagulls perched atop a granite column was erected in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square to commemorate the event. The California Gull has since been adopted as Utah’s official state bird.

Seagull Monument

Utah was Mexican territory when the first pioneers arrived in 1847. It was ceded to the U.S. as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War in 1948. Upon learning that California and New Mexico were applying for statehood, the settlers of the Utah area (originally having planned to petition for territorial status) applied for statehood as the State of Deseret.

It was as the Territory of Utah, however, that the area became part of the United States in September 9, 1850. The territory was organized by an Organic Act of Congress in 1850, on the same day that the State of California was admitted to the Union and the New Mexico Territory was added for the southern portion of the former Mexican land. The creation of the territory was part of the Compromise of 1850 that sought to preserve the balance of power between slave and free states.

Following the organization of the territory, Brigham Young was inaugurated as the first governor on February 3, 1851. In the first session of the territorial legislature in September, the legislature adopted all the laws and ordinances previously enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret.

Mormon governance in the territory was regarded as controversial because of the Mormon practice of polygamy. Also, the western area of the territory began to attract many non-Mormon settlers, especially after the discovery of silver at the Comstock Lode in 1858. In 1861, partly as a result of this, the Nevada Territory was created out of the western part of the territory.

Meanwhile, non-Mormons also entered the easternmost part of the territory during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush that led to the discovery of gold at Breckenridge in Utah Territory in 1859. In 1861 a large portion of the eastern area of the territory was reorganized as part of the newly created Colorado Territory.

Disputes between the Mormon inhabitants and the U.S. government intensified over the issue of polygamy. During the 1870s and 1880s federal laws were passed to punish polygamy, specifically in response to the situation in Utah.

The Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (37th United States Congress, Sess. 2., ch. 126, 12 Stat. 501) was a federal statute signed into law on July 8, 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln. The act banned bigamy in federal territories such as Utah and limited church and non-profit ownership in any territory of the United States to $50,000.

The Edmunds Act, also known as the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, was a federal statute signed into law on March 23, 1882 by president Chester A. Arthur, declaring polygamy a felony. The Edmunds Act also prohibited “bigamous” or “unlawful cohabitation” (a misdemeanor), thus removing the need to prove that actual marriages had occurred. The act also made it illegal for polygamists or cohabitants to vote, hold public office, or serve on juries.

The Latter-day Saints maintained that plural marriage was a religious principle protected under the U.S. Constitution, and mounted a legal challenge to the laws. However, in Reynolds v. United States (98 U.S. 145,1878), the Supreme Court ruled against the Latter-day Saints. As Oyez notes:

The Court held that while Congress could not outlaw a belief in the correctness of polygamy, it could outlaw the practice thereof. The majority reasoned that while marriage is a ‘sacred obligation,’ it is nevertheless ‘usually regulated by law’ in ‘most civilized nations.’ Finally, the Court held that people cannot avoid a law due to their religion.”


In the 1890 Manifesto, the LDS Church banned polygamy. When Utah applied for statehood again, it was accepted, with the proviso that a ban on polygamy be written into the state constitution. This was a condition required of other western states that were admitted into the Union later. Statehood was officially granted to Utah on January 4, 1896.

Utah has many national parks of outstanding beauty, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Monument Valley. Bryce Canyon is known for its sprawling forests of Hoodoos, or thin pillars of rock shaped by years of erosion. Arches National Park is known for containing more than 2000 natural sandstone arches.

The Alta Ski Area, located just outside of Salt Lake City, is annually covered by 500+ inches of snow. It was established in 1939 and the subsequent development of several ski resorts in the state’s mountains followed. The dry, powdery snow of the Wasatch Range is considered some of the best skiing in the world. Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and this served as a great boost to the economy.

Alta Ski Resort

Utah is known not only for snow but for salt. The Bonneville Salt Flats is made up of 30,000 acres of densely packed salt pan. The spot’s terrain makes it a popular destination for speed-seeking land racers. And most people are familiar with the Great Salt Lake, which contains between 4.5 and 4.9 billion tons of dissolved salt. The parts of the lake with the highest salt content are nearly nine times saltier than the ocean.

You may wonder: which is saltier, the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the Dead Sea in Israel? According to Quora, the Great Salt Lake varies anywhere from 5% to 27% salinity, depending on where you measure; the Dead Sea, on the other hand, is roughly 33% salt.

Mental Floss points out that Utah is the home of one of the heaviest organisms on earth: The Trembling Giant, or Pando, in the Fishlake National Forest. It is made up of 47,000 genetically identical trees that share a single root system. It is also among the oldest organisms on earth—it has been dated back to more than 80,000 years.

Pando, The Trembling Giant

Mormons advise against the consumption of alcohol for its members, and therefore the alcohol laws of Utah are some of the strictest in the United States. Newer restaurants in Utah used to be required to erect an opaque barrier or “Zion Curtain” around their bars to keep children from seeing alcoholic drinks as they’re being prepared. But in 2017, alcohol reform legislation passed the Utah State Legislature, and the “Zion Curtain” fell at last.

The Salt Lake Tribune file photo – A frosted glass curtain hides a portion of the bar at Brio Tuscan

Nevertheless, restaurants must first be inspected and approved before the barriers can come down, or risk fines or loss of a liquor license. Moreover, minors must be kept at least ten feet from anywhere alcohol is poured.

The location of the first-ever KFC was not in Kentucky but in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Deseret News reports that on Aug. 3, 1952, Colonel Harland Sanders of Corbin, Kentucky, arrived in Utah to visit Pete Harman and his wife, Arline. Sanders convinced Harman to put the chicken on his menu at the Harman cafe. When Sanders returned to Utah a few weeks later he saw customers lined up down the street waiting to get his special fried chicken. His success at the Utah location inspired him to continue licensing his chicken recipe to restaurants across the country.

Statues of Colonel Sanders and Pete Harman outside the “World’s First KFC” in Salt Lake City. Lee Benson, Deseret News


January 2, 1882 – John D. Rockefeller Forms Standard Oil Trust, First Sanctioned Monopoly in America

John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was born in 1839 in New York State although the family moved to Ohio when he was a boy. His entrepreneurial nature showed up early; he went into a business partnership with Maurice Clark at age 20. They made good money, with the partners switching from the produce business to oil, building their first oil refinery in 1863. The new company was composed of Clark & Rockefeller, chemist Samuel Andrews, and Clark’s two brothers.

John D. Rockefeller in 1885

While other refineries would keep the 60% of oil product that became kerosene, but dump the other 40%, Rockefeller used the gasoline to fuel the refinery, and sold the rest as lubricating oil, petroleum jelly, and other by-products. Tar was used for paving, and naphtha was shipped to gas plants. Rockefeller also got into other aspects of the business, such as laying pipe and making barrels, thereby cutting costs and increasing profits even more.

In February 1865, Rockefeller bought out the Clark brothers for $72,500 (equivalent to $1 million in 2017 dollars) and established the firm of Rockefeller & Andrews. To take advantage of the post-Civil War boom, Rockefeller borrowed heavily, reinvested profits, and adapted rapidly to changing markets, which he followed by hiring observers to track them.

The company gradually gained dominance of oil refining and sales through horizontal integration, ending up with about 90% of the US market. It also continued the practice of vertical integration, by taking over other parts of the supply chain.


Another young successful entrepreneur, Henry Flagler, who had, by his mid-20s, made a fortune distilling whisky, was tapped as a partner by Rockefeller to run the transportation side of the business.

Rockefeller and Flagler wanted to bring in more capital without jeopardizing control. To do this, on January 10, 1870, they turned their partnership into a joint stock company, Standard Oil Company, along with three other men. Eventually, they developed it into one of the world’s first and biggest multinational corporations.

In response to the judicial and political attacks on Standard Oil in the 1870s and 1880s, the legal concept of the “trust” was refined by SO and formalized in the Standard Oil Trust Agreement on this date in history, January 2, 1882. As a site on trusts at Penn State explains:

At that time, corporations themselves could not own stock in other corporations. The shares were therefore held in ‘trust’, not for the Standard Oil of Ohio, but for the shareholders of that corporation. The shares issued in trust were 700,000 with 191,700 to Rockefeller, and 60,000 to Flagler. The trustees held the shares in the individual companies on behalf of the 41 shareholders of the Standard Oil Trust and had ‘general supervision’ of the 14 wholly owned and 26 partly owned companies. . . . . The senior management included Rockefeller, his bother William, Henry Flagler, and two others who together controlled four-seventh of the stocks.”

Standard Oil’s business practices created intense controversy. Much of what people believed about the role of competition in general and the Standard Oil Trust in particular was epitomized in the expose by the famous “muckraker” (investigative journalist), Ida M. Tarbell. Her father and brother both had small oil companies that had not successfully competed with Standard Oil. In her 1904 book The History of the Standard Oil Company, Tarbell fueled negative sentiment toward John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and his company. Tarbell dug into public documents across the country that described instances of Standard Oil’s strong-arm tactics against rivals, railroad companies, and others that got in its way. She reviewed testimony in court and before Congressional committees, as well as copies of pleadings in lawsuits. She talked to people inside the company and those who had competed against Standard Oil. And she succeeded in gaining their trust – a step where others had failed. She excoriated Rockefeller’s “ruthless tactics” and “destructive effect” on smaller oil businesses.

Ida M. Tarbell

Ida M. Tarbell

In actual fact, a study by John S. McGee, “Predatory Price Cutting: The Standard Oil (N.J.) Case,” 1 J. Law & Econ. 137 (1958) showed that the Standard Oil group seldom if ever charged prices below its own costs. McGee found that the record did not indicate that predatory price-cutting forced any refiner to sell out, nor that it was used to depress asset value of any of the more than one hundred and twenty refineries it purchased.

Research showed that Standard’s most effective method of growth was simply by merger with and acquisition of competitors. Rockefeller demonstrated to the small competitors that they could make more money by selling to him than by competing with him, so he gradually took over much of the competition. Further, Standard’s usual practice was to employ the managers and owners of the firms they absorbed.

Nevertheless, in November 1906 the government brought a bill of complaint under the Sherman Act against the Standard Oil Trust. The bill itemized an assortment of alleged grievances containing some enlightened and some misguided economic policy. The Complaint contained many allegations of ruthless tactics, rebates, and vertical integration. One of the key “ruthless tactics” consisted of charging low (but as McGee demonstrated, not predatory) prices.

The case reached the Supreme Court in 1910 and was decided in 1911.
In Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, 221 U.S. 1 (1911) the Supreme Court of the United States found Standard Oil guilty of entering into contracts in restraint of trade and monopolizing the petroleum industry through a long convoluted series of anticompetitive actions. The court’s remedy was to affirm a lower court decree effectively dividing Standard Oil into several competing firms.


The real thrust of the opinion is that what we now call horizontal mergers and acquisitions are illegal if they entail substantially all the existing competition. Methods employed in the process were not considered relevant. Dirty pool tactics were later dealt with in 1914 when Congress passed the Federal Trade Commission Act, which proscribed “unfair methods of competition” and authorized the FTC to interpret and enforce the statute.

John D. Rockefeller, whose net worth would have been over $318.3 billion in current dollars according to Forbes Magazine, spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement. His fortune was mainly used for targeted philanthropy to foundations that had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.

Henry Flagler became a key figure in the development of the Atlantic coast of Florida and founder of what became the Florida East Coast Railway. He is known as the Father of Miami and Palm Beach, Florida.

Henry Morrison Flagler

Review of “The Somme” by Peter Hart

The combined British and French offensive in the Somme River Valley of 1916 was one of the deadliest battles in the history of warfare. It lasted from July 1 until the middle of November when winter weather compelled a relaxation of hostilities. The British suffered 419,654 casualties, with 131,000 dead; the French had 204,000 casualties; the Germans 450,000 – 600,000.

The original goal of the British was to break through the German trenches on the western front, their first objective being the village of Bapaume, which lay about 5 miles behind the first German trenches. When the breakthrough proved impossible, the offensive continued in order to relieve pressure on the French, who were engaged in a battle of similar magnitude at Verdun. In the end, the British had moved the front line forward a few hundred yards, and the German trenches remained substantially intact. The village of Bapaume remained in German hands.

Bapaume, France, during World War I, May 1917

Hart’s narrative takes us from the first day of the battle, when the British incurred 57,470 casualties and 19,240 dead, to its sanguinary climax. He covers in significant detail virtually every significant attack, and there were many. His technique is to give a general overview, and then fill in the details with extensive quotes from letters written by the participants. Looking back nearly 100 years, one has to marvel at the literacy of the British army.

The book is a treasure trove for the serious student of World War I. However, it, like the battle itself, takes its toll on the reader. There were a great many individual attacks, all with agonizingly similar results: a heavy artillery barrage was followed by a “charge” of infantry men weighed down by their battle impedimenta, and a virtual slaughter in no man’s land. Sometimes the attackers actually made it to the German trenches, but even when they succeeded in taking the trench, they were seldom able to hold it because a prompt counterattack drove them back to the original starting line.

Cheshire Regiment, British Army, in a typical trench in the Somme, 1916

During the course of several months, the British adapted their tactics slightly, but only slightly. They learned that the intensity of the artillery barrage was crucial to any success. They became more adept at the “creeping” barrage that landed just ahead of the advancing infantry. The men learned to use shell holes for cover, but usually found them already occupied, often by corpses. The first tanks were introduced by the British in this battle, but though they at first terrified the Germans, they were very slow and prone to frequent mechanical breakdown.

Hart’s criticism of the British generals, Douglas Haig in particular, is less harsh than that of most other analysts I have read. Haig believed that the Germans might have prevailed in 1914 if they had only persevered in their attacks a little longer, and he did not want to make the same mistake. Thus, the British Army dug in for the long haul, and suffered heavy casualties that it could ill afford, for insignificant tactical gain.

Field Marshal Douglas Haig

Moreover, to win the war, Haig reasoned that it would not be sufficient merely to take back the French territory lost. The German army had to be defeated. To Haig, it was a waste of manpower to engage in battles in other theaters, as the “Easterners” like David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill advocated. Hart opines that Haig and (his second in command) Robertson “may have been unimaginative, they were definitely ruthless when required, but above all they were hard, practical men and they were entirely right” in assessing how to beat the Germans in the situation they faced.

There were political as well as strategic considerations in play as well:

“Even if Haig had fully realized the depth and breadth of the losses suffered by his assaulting divisions on 1 July he could not have aborted the offensive without seriously jeopardizing the Entente Cordiale with France and Russia … They were unlikely to look on with any great sympathy if Britain tried to evade her share of the ‘butcher’s bill.’”

Evaluation: Hart’s favorable analysis of Haig is pointed and controversial. (Some of the epithets that have been applied to Haig include “The Butcher of the Somme” and “The Worst General of World War I.”) It is also very terse, taking up no more than 15 pages of a 550 page book. The remaining 530 pages support Hart’s characterization of the military leadership as “unimaginative.” I would not recommend this book to anyone who did not want to read a blow-by-blow account of a five and one-half month battle.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by Pegasus, 2009

December 28, 1945 – Congress Officially Recognizes the Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance, thought to have been written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, was officially recognized by Congress only in 1945. “The Pledge” was published anonymously by a magazine for young people, The Youth’s Companion, on September 8, 1892, and was written in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. The published Pledge read:

“I Pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

The Pledge was accompanied by instructions for a salute to be performed as part of the Columbus Day celebrations: “At the words, ‘To the Flag,’ the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.”

Francis Bellamy

The first flag salute statute [requiring children in public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance] was passed in New York in 1898, the day after the United States declared war on Spain. New York’s state superintendent, in his Manual of Patriotism, included five possible ‘patriotic pledges’ that teachers might use in their classes. One of these was Bellamy’s, but it was placed fifth.

In 1940, the US Supreme Court ruled in Minersville School District v. Gobitis (310 U.S. 586) that a local school board could expel students who refuse to recite the Pledge. Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote:

So far as the Federal Constitution is concerned, it is within the province of the legislatures and school authorities of the several States to adopt appropriate means to evoke and foster a sentiment of national unity among the children in the public schools.”

In 1942, legislation was adopted by Congress “to codify and emphasize existing customs pertaining to the display and use of the flag of the United States of America.” The text of the pledge, as originally written and modified a bit by the National Flag Conference in 1923 and 1924, was inserted into this legislation (Public Law 829, Chapter 806, 77th Congress, 2nd session), but without designating it as the official pledge.

The small changes made to the text resulted in this version:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Congress also amended the Flag Code this year, substituting the original straight arm salute, associated with Nazi Germany, with the current salute of the right hand over the heart.

Schoolchildren in Southington, Conn., recite the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942, around the time the custom of placing a hand over the heart replaced the original hand position.

In 1943 the Supreme Court overturned the Gobitis decision in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (319 U.S. 624). Justice Robert Jackson wrote that the compulsory state action violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and that “Under the Federal Constitution, compulsion as here employed is not a permissible means of achieving ‘national unity.'” He famously added:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Then in 1945, additional legislation was introduced into Congress by Representative Herman P. Eberharter of Pennsylvania, which amended the 1942 act to give official congressional sanction to the pledge.

The words “under God” were added by Congress on June 14, 1954, in response to the anti-Communist (and thus anti-atheist) opinion sweeping the country during the Cold War. This addition to the law, sanctioned by President Eisenhower, is still controversial. President Eisenhower said in signing the law:

From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty. To anyone who truly loves America, nothing could be more inspiring than to contemplate this rededication of our youth, on each school morning, to our country’s true meaning.”

Eisenhower was reportedly influenced by a sermon given by the Reverend George Docherty, who gave a sermon Eisenhower attended at his church in honor of Lincoln’s birthday.

The Washington Post reported:

To omit the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is to omit the definitive factor in the American way of life,” Docherty said from the pulpit. He felt that ‘under God’was broad enough to include Jews and Muslims, although he discounted atheists: ‘An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms,’ Docherty said in his sermon. ‘If you deny the Christian ethic, you fall short of the American ideal of life.’”

George Docherty (left) and President Eisenhower (second from left) on the morning of February 7, 1954, at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church; the morning that Eisenhower was persuaded by Docherty that the Pledge of Allegiance must be amended to include the words, “under God.”

The legislation for The Pledge is found in Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 4 of the U.S. Code.

The Federal legislation does not refer to schools; it is state and local law that mandates recitation of The Pledge in schoolrooms. Students may decline to participate, although as even the Supreme Court has recognized, the consequences could be deleterious. Schoolchildren of minority faiths, by so declining, would isolate themselves from classmates and open themselves up to ridicule and rejection.

The use of the phrase “under God” is still being contested and litigated. You can read more about it in this Smithsonian article.

December 25, 1642 – Birth of Isaac Newton

In debates about “who was the greatest scientist who ever lived,” the outcome does not always favor Albert Einstein; rather, opinion is generally split between him and Isaac Newton.

The year Galileo died, Isaac Newton was born. According to the Julian calendar in use in England at the time, Newton was born on Christmas Day 1642. But by the 1640s, much of the rest of Europe was using the Gregorian calendar (the one in general use today); according to this calendar, Newton was born on Jan. 4, 1643.

Nevertheless, Newton’s legacy is such a gift it seems appropriate to go with the Christmas date. It is difficult to explain all the ways in which the intellectual products of this brilliant scientist were critical to the scientific development of mankind. Newton singlehandedly contributed more to the development of science than any other individual in history. Some of his achievements are delineated below.


* In Principia Mathematica (1687), Newton laid out the three laws of motion now known as Newton’s laws (laws of inertia, action and reaction, and acceleration proportional to force). It also outlined his theories of calculus and of universal gravitation.

* Newton invented, designed, and constructed a reflecting telescope. He ground the mirror, built the tube, and even made his own tools for the job.

* He formulated mathematical explanations for tides and lunar motion and correctly predicted the return of Halley’s Comet.

* Newton correctly solved the first ever problem in the calculus of variations and in fact invented calculus years before Leibniz. (However, he did not publish his work on calculus until afterward Leibniz had published his.)

* Newton invented a revolutionary scientific method of concise and universal rules for investigation.

* Newton formulated the classical theories of mechanics and optics.

* Newton was the first to observe that white light could be separated by a prism into a spectrum of different colors.

* Newton formulated a system of chemistry that included “elements” consisting of different arrangements of atoms, and atoms consisting of small, hard, billiard ball-like particles. He explained chemical reactions in terms of the chemical affinities of the participating substances.

Elucidation of the motion of projectiles

Elucidation of the motion of projectiles

Alexander Pope’s couplet about Newton says it all: “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.”

December 23, 1901 – Immigration Restriction Act Helps Ensure Australia Stays White and British

On January 1, 1901, the six separate British colonies in Australia united to form the Commonwealth of Australia in a federalist government. As the Parliament of Australia reports on its website, immediately thereafter, the new federation passed polices designed to keep Australia white and British.

The Immigration Restriction Act 1901 passed on this day in history became the cornerstone of an effort – now called the “White Australia policy” – aimed at keeping Australia white. This focus shaped immigration policy in Australia for seven decades, until the final dismantling of the White Australia policy in the 1970s.

Like Jim Crow laws in the American South, while these acts did not specifically bar people by race, they took steps to ensure that result, such as, in the Immigration Restriction Act, by prohibiting the entry of any person who failed to write out a passage of 50 words in any European language as determined and dictated by a Customs officer.

The 1910 song, ‘March of the Great White Policy’ by W.E Naunton. (National Library of Australia)

The Australian Parliament site admits:

It is clear from members’ speeches that the Immigration Restriction Bill was about racial exclusion. William McMillan spoke about the desire ‘to prevent any alien or servile races from so occupying large territories in Australia, as to mix and interfuse, not merely among themselves, but with our own people’. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party, John Christian Watson, also expressed his concerns about ‘racial contamination’, declaring:

‘The objection I have to the mixing of these coloured people with the white people of Australia … lies in the main in the possibility and probability of racial contamination … The racial aspect of the question [to restrict migration to Australia], in my opinion, is the larger and more important one.’”

Prime Minister Edmund Barton, who introduced the bill, averred that democratic principles of equality did not extend to race:

I do not think either that the doctrine of the equality of man was really ever intended to include racial equality. There is no racial equality. There is that basic inequality. These races are, in comparison with white races — I think no one wants convincing of this fact — unequal and inferior. The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman. There is a deep-set difference, and we see no prospect and no promise of its ever being effaced. Nothing in this world can put these two races upon an equality [sic]. Nothing we can do by cultivation, by refinement, or by anything else will make some races equal to others.”[emphasis added]

Other acts followed in pursuit of the goal “to achieve and maintain a white, British national character.”

The White Australia Game was registered in 1914 and was popular throughout the 1920s. Migration Heritage Centre

In 1975, the progressive Whitlam government passed The Racial Discrimination Act that made it illegal to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race.

Nevertheless, years of policies promoting and indoctrination reinforcing notions of white supremacy had done lasting damage. The Act was last updated in 1995, Amnesty International reported, after three major national inquiries – the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – the National Inquiry into Racist Violence and the Australian Law Reform Commission Report into Multiculturalism and the Law – found a strong link between racist conduct in public and racially-motivated violence.

As academics have argued, “Australia ideology is still shaping Australian immigration policies in the 21st century, especially in regard to refugees.” For example, similar to the situation in the United States, there are far right groups who contend that Islam poses a threat to Australia’s security.

There is also the matter of the offshore islands on which Australia houses asylum seekers. In 2016, The Guardian published a horrific expose about the trauma and abuse inflicted on these asylum seekers who are refused entry to Australia proper. The so-called “Nauru files” document assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and squalid living conditions, painting a picture of routine dysfunction and cruelty.

Accommodation in the Nauru offshore processing facility shown in 2012.

But the mainland is not without problems for non-whites as well. Yassmin Abdel-Magied, an Australian author, activist, and mechanical engineer, reported:

I grew up believing if I became the ‘model minority’ — a hard-working, high-achieving, law-abiding brown Muslim woman — that I could make lasting positive change for myself and others. I thought if I were good enough, my example would make people see that their assumptions about Muslims and people of color were wrong. Once they got to know me, they would change their behavior and fix their biases, I thought.

History matters, because it informs the attitudes of the present society. As people of color have systematically been treated as second-class citizens, they are considered ‘conditionally Australian.’ The moment they step out of line, the country explodes with outrage.

Those who want you to outperform your identity aren’t interested in seeing you as equal at all. No one should ever have to be the ‘model minority’ in order to be accepted as equal. Equality should be given, not earned for good behavior. If ‘good behavior’ is required, that isn’t really equality.”

Moreover, as recently as August, 2018, a senator from Queensland, Fraser Anning, representing the far-right Katter’s Australian Party, called for a return to the “White Australia” policy. As NPR reported:

In [his first speech to Parliament], Anning lamented the demise of ‘our predominately European identity’ and called for a ‘drastic’ cut to immigration and a return to racially discriminatory preferences.

‘Diversity should be managed to remain compatible with social cohesion and national identity,” he said. ‘We as a nation are entitled to insist that those who are allowed to come here predominantly reflect the historic European-Christian composition of Australian society.'”

Rather frighteningly, he continued:

While all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims, so why would anyone want to bring more of them here?’ he asked.

‘The final solution to the immigration problem, of course, is a popular vote,’ Anning said, invoking the infamous term used by leaders of Nazi Germany to refer to the Holocaust.”

You can read the full text of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act here.

December 18, 1944 – Supreme Court Decides Korematsu v. United States

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was a great deal of anger and fear towards Japanese Americans.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942) authorized the Secretary of War and U.S. armed forces commanders to declare areas of the United States as military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded,” although it did not name any nationality or ethnic group. It was eventually applied to one-third of the land area of the U.S. (mostly in the West) and was used against those with “Foreign Enemy Ancestry” — Japanese, Italians, and Germans. In March of 1942, the War Relocation Authority was created to: “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.”

Even before the Japanese-Americans were relocated, their livelihoods were seriously threatened when all accounts in American branches of Japanese banks were frozen.

On May 19, 1942, western Japanese Americans were forced to move into relocation camps by Civilian Restrictive Order No. 1, 8 Fed. Reg. 982.


More than 120,000 American Japanese were taken from their homes and put in ten “relocation centers” and several prisons in California, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming. Three categories of internees were created: Nisei (native U.S. citizens of Japanese immigrant parents), Issei (Japanese immigrants), and Kibei (native U.S. citizens educated largely in Japan).

These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to four years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Families were crammed into 20- by 25-foot rooms and forced to use communal bathrooms. No razors, scissors, or radios were allowed. Children attended War Relocation Authority schools. None of them were ever charged of any crime against the United States.

In desert camps, the evacuees met severe extremes of temperature. In winter it reached 35 degrees below zero, and summer brought temperatures as high as 115 degrees. Rattlesnakes and desert wildlife added danger to discomfort. At Gila, there were 7,700 people crowded into space designed for 5,000. They were housed in messhalls, recreation halls, and even latrines. As many as 25 persons lived in a space intended for four.” (Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.)

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The Supreme Court delayed challenges to the mass incarceration until after the 1944 presidential election. Richard Reeves, in his book Infamy: The Shocking Story of The Japanese American Internment in World War II, quotes Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy declaring in a memo, “We can cover the legal situation . . . in spite of the Constitution. Why the Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”

It was not as if there were a great deal of sympathy for the Japanese in any event. Governor Chase Clark of Idaho declared: “The Japs live like rats, breed like rats and act like rats.” Nels Smith, Governor of Wyoming, told the Director of the War Relocation Authority, “If you bring Japanese into my state, I promise you they will be hanging from every tree.”

Reeves tells the story of the incarceration not only in terms of the officials who perpetrated the injustice or the heroes who fought against it, but also by relating the stories of the families themselves and what they endured. As he notes:

This is an American story of enduring themes: racism and greed, injustice and denial – and then soul-searching, an apology, and the most American of coping mechanisms, moving on.”

But in fact, few of the American Japanese affected by this process were able to return to their prewar lives. They had lost their money and property – losses were estimated by the government as more than $200 million in 1942 – as well as their jobs and their reputations.

A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, May, 1945. AP Photo

A Japanese family returns home to find their garage vandalized with graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, May, 1945. AP Photo

Nevertheless, and importantly, Reeves emphasizes:

Through it all, the desert heat and windstorms and bitter cold, the breakdowns and suicides, the overwhelming majority of the Japanese aliens and Japanese Americans remained loyal to the United States.”

In Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the United States Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision concerning the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, ruled that the exclusion order was constitutional. The opinion, written by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu’s individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.

Justice Frank Murphy dissented, saying that the exclusion of Japanese “falls into the ugly abyss of racism,” and compared the rationale for the Japanese exclusion to that supporting “the abhorrent and despicable treatment of minority groups by the dictatorial tyrannies which this nation is now pledged to destroy.” He also compared the treatment of Japanese Americans, on the one hand, with persons of German and Italian ancestry, on the other, as evidence that race, rather than the emergency alone, led to the exclusion order which Korematsu was convicted of violating.

Justice Frank Murphy

Justice Frank Murphy

His stirring closing paragraph reads:

I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States. All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land. Yet they are primarily and necessarily a part of the new and distinct civilization of the United States. They must, accordingly, be treated at all times as the heirs of the American experiment, and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.”

On December 17, 1944, Public Proclamation No. 21, effective January 2, 1945, allowed evacuees to return home, just ahead of two new Supreme Court decisions finding that citizens should be allowed to go home after proving their loyalty.

In order to rejoin society, each individual received a $25 payment and transportation tickets at the time of release.

In 1982, law professor Peter Irons found that the Justice Department had withheld or destroyed evidence before the Korematsu case reached the Supreme Court. He assembled a team of Japanese american lawyers who successfully petitioned for the dismissal of charges against Korematsu forty years before by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1990, reparations were made to surviving internees and their heirs in the form of a formal apology by the U.S. government and a check for $20,000.

This is an important story about which too many Americans are unaware. In addition, as Reeves quotes one veteran and local historian:

This is a great nation, and we’ve done many wonderful things. … This isn’t one of them, and we always need to be mindful of how we treat and how we interact with each other.”