September 27, 1906 – US Naturalization Process Transferred to Federal Courts

The Naturalization Act of 1906, revising the Naturalization Act of 1870, was signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt. The bill was passed on June 29, 1906, and took effect September 27, 1906. [It was repealed and replaced by the Nationality Act of 1940. This act was modified in turn by the Immigration Act of 1990.]

President Theodore Roosevelt

Most importantly, the legislation established the federal government as the arbiter of naturalization policy. It created the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, which provided for the first uniform naturalization laws in the country. Prior to 1906, any “court of record” (municipal, county, state, or Federal) could grant United States citizenship. Often petitioners went to the court most geographically convenient for them.

State-level naturalization courts managed proceedings and had varying standards across the country. After September 26, 1906, naturalization could only be done in Federal courts. Other qualifications for naturalized citizenship were also specified, including the requirement that immigrants learn English and “renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly, by name, to the prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of which the alien may be at the time a citizen or subject…..”

The text of the act is here. The National Archives has a database of some naturalization records you can search here.

September 25, 2020 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Becomes 1st Woman and 1st Jew to Lie in State at U.S. Capitol

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18, 2020 at age 87 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.

She became the first woman in American history to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol. She was also the first Jewish-American to lie in state and just the second Supreme Court justice. The first, Chief Justice William Howard Taft, also had been president.

Ginsburg joined the court in 1993. David Ebershoff wrote movingly after her death:

On the page her voice is the same as the one Americans came to know and revere, and that we now mourn: precise, concise, unyielding; fearless, factual, and so often focused on the marginalized. Justice Ginsburg used her voice to create opportunities for millions—this is one reason her death is painful for many of us. We reflect on those opportunities and are fearful some might close up as a result of her absence.”

You can read more about her life and tenure on the Supreme Court here.

She was known as “Notorious RBG”

September 23, 1667 – Colony of Virginia Passes Law Declaring Baptized Slaves Not Exempt from Bondage

On this day in history, the colony of Virginia passed an act declaring that “baptisme of slaves doth not exempt them from bondage.”

As the Equal Justice Institute explains, traditional British policy forbade the enslavement of fellow Christians:

When some colonial missionaries began to teach Africans about the Christian faith, enslaving colonists in the Americas grew concerned that they would not be able to continue to enslave Africans who converted. As a result, many enslavers did not permit enslaved people to learn about Christianity or be baptized.”

Because, heaven forfend they shouldn’t get to have slaves, so to speak….

landowners purchased slaves imported from Africa primarily in the 1600’s
Source: Schomburg Center, New York Public Library, Negroes just landed from a Slave Ship

September 14, 1814 – Francis Scott Key Writes The Star Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key, born in 1779, is best remembered for having written the lyrics for the American national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Key observed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814 during the War of 1812. The British had begun the bombing on September 13.

According to Smithsonian Magazine,

For much of the onslaught, shells and rockets fell on the fort at the rate of almost one a minute. American major George Armistead, commander of FortMcHenry, estimated that ‘from fifteen to eighteen hundred shells’ were fired during the attack.”

At the time, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old Washington lawyer and writer of occasional verse, found himself detained on a British ship from which he could see the fort.

He was inspired upon seeing the American flag still flying over the fort at dawn and wrote the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Key’s brother-in-law Joseph Nicholson, a commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, had the poem printed for distribution to the public. It was published within a week with the suggested tune of the popular song “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The song with Key’s lyrics became known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and slowly gained in popularity as an unofficial anthem, finally achieving official status on March 3, 1931.

A different article in the Smithsonian Magazine by Christopher Wilson observes that because Key owned slaves, abolitionists ridiculed Key’s words during his lifetime, sneering that America was more like the “Land of the Free and Home of the Oppressed.”

Francis Scott Key circa 1825

September 11, 2001 – Tributes to Victims of the 9/11 Attack on the Twin Towers

Tributes to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy are varied and moving. Perhaps the most well-known in the “Tribute in Light” – the commemorative public art installation first presented six months after 9/11 and then every year thereafter, from dusk to dawn, on the night of September 11.

New York also has a 9/11 Memorial Museum that tells the story of 9/11 through artifacts, imagery, personal stories, and interactive technology. It includes core exhibitions, special exhibitions, and rotating displays in the Museum’s 110,000 square feet of space.

FDNY Ladder 3 firetruck recovered from the World Trade Center site after September 11, 2001. Collection 9/11 Memorial Museum, Courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Photo by Dan Winters

There are murals all around New York paying tribute to the lost, and a short list here of books, film, and art that address the tragedy.

This an anonymous poem memorializing what happened is particular affecting:

If I Knew

If I knew it would be the last time
That I’d see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
And pray the Lord, your soul to keep.

If I knew it would be the last time
That I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss
And call you back for one more.

If I knew it would be the last time
I’d hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word,
So I could play them back day after day.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute
To stop and say “I love you,”
Instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.

If I knew it would be the last time
I would be there to share your day,
Well I’m sure you’ll have so many more,
So I can let just this one slip away.

For surely there’s always tomorrow
To make up for an oversight,
And we always get a second chance
To make everything just right.

There will always be another day
To say “I love you,”
And certainly there’s another chance
To say our “Anything I can do?”

But just in case I might be wrong,
And today is all I get,
I’d like to say how much I love you
And I hope we never forget.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
Young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance
You get to hold your loved one tight.

So if you’re waiting for tomorrow,
Why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
You’ll surely regret the day,

That you didn’t take that extra time
For a smile, a hug, or a kiss
And you were too busy to grant someone,
What turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today,
And whisper in their ear,
Tell them how much you love them
And that you’ll always hold them dear

Take time to say “I’m sorry,”
“Please forgive me,” “Thank you,” or “It’s okay.”
And if tomorrow never comes,
You’ll have no regrets about today.”

Author Unknown

Review of “Lincoln in Private: What His Most Personal Reflections Tell Us About Our Greatest President” by Ronald C. White

Lincoln made many notes for his own reference during his lifetime, setting down his reflections on issues he was thinking about, and that he might consult later on for speeches. Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White analyzes twelve of what he considers to be Lincoln’s most important private notes, putting them in the context of the time during which Lincoln wrote them.

We learn how Lincoln struggled to put into words his understanding of slavery, democracy, the necessity of morality, immigration, and about the future of the country. Because the notes are presented in chronological order, we can also get a sense of the evolution of Lincoln’s thinking.

Lincoln always wanted to know both sides of an issue, in order to understand fully the position of the side he did not hold. For example, he read the very popular book, Slavery As Ordained of God (1857) by Presbyterian clergyman Frederick Ross and was profoundly offended by it. But it enabled him to counter the arguments for slavery it presented. In one fragment, he mused:

“Suppose it is true, that the negro is inferior to the white, in the gifts of nature; is it not the exact reverse justice that the white should, for that reason, take from the negro, any part of the little which has been given him? “Give to him that is needy” is the christian rule of charity; but “Take from him that is needy” is the rule of slavery.”

It should be added that Lincoln had already argued to himself in a note that Blacks had been deprived of education, and therefore it was not at all clear they were inherently intellectually inferior, as whites charged. Moreover, even if they were and that was the premise for slavery, “Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own.”

My own favorite of Lincoln’s remarks about slavery comes from a fragment in which he mocks the idea, as presented by Christian theologists, that slavery was “good” for some people. He wrote, “As a good thing, slavery is strikingly peculiar, in this, that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself.. Nonsense! Wolves devouring lambs, not because it is good for their own greedy maws, but because it [is] good for the lambs!!!

It is a joy to follow along with Lincoln’s intellectual evolution, and a clever way to tell the history of Lincoln and his era from a new perspective.

Evaluation: Listening to (or reading) this book is an excellent way to spend time, and I highly recommend it. White, who narrates the audio book that he authored, speaks clearly and with emotion, and held my interest throughout. The book is a bit repetitive however, but that didn’t bother me – Lincoln’s thoughts are worth repeating.

White’s love of and respect for Lincoln is evident, and as always, when reading about Lincoln’s integrity and intelligence, it’s hard not to be filled with admiration for him. It’s also hard not to feel renewed sorrow over the tragic early loss of someone so important to American ideals and destiny.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Random House, 2021. Audio by Penguin Random House Audio, 2021

September 6, 1789 – Thomas Jefferson Writes to James Madison that Every Constitution Should Expire Naturally After 19 Years

Jefferson, writing from Paris to Madison, averred that “no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation.” He therefore argued (based on the lifespans of the time) that

Every constitution then, & every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, & not of right.”

Thomas Jefferson as a young man

What about if subsequent generations had the power of repeal? Jefferson contended this was not workable because of the following factors:

The people cannot assemble themselves. Their representation is unequal & vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils. Bribery corrupts them. Personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents: and other impediments arise so as to prove to every practical man that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.”

Therefore, he concluded, the earth should belong to the living, and not to the dead.

You can read his entire letter here.

September 5, National Cheese Pizza Day and History of Pizza

Alexander Lee, writing “A History of Pizza” for “History Today” tells a great story:

“People have been eating pizza, in one form or another, for centuries. As far back as antiquity, pieces of flatbread, topped with savouries, served as a simple and tasty meal for those who could not afford plates, or who were on the go. These early pizzas appear in Virgil’s Aeneid. Shortly after arriving in Latium, Aeneas and his crew sat down beneath a tree and laid out ‘thin wheaten cakes as platters for their meal’. They then scattered them with mushrooms and herbs they had found in the woods and guzzled them down, crust and all, prompting Aeneas’ son Ascanius to exclaim: ‘Look! We’ve even eaten our plates!’”

We are still eating our plates all these years later.

Another website discussing the history of pizza, “Today I Found Out,” offers the fact that in the ruins of Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August, 79 A.D., archeologists discovered shops containing equipment and tools consistent with those used in pizzerias.

That site also informs us that in the early 1500s, citizens of Naples started topping their flatbreads with not only cheese but tomatoes. Eating “pizza” when in Naples became a “must-do” activity for tourists. [And still is!] In 1889, when Italian royalty King Umberto I and Queen Margherita were vacationing in Naples, they tried pizza and loved it, with the queen especially enjoying the pizza with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. The pizza maker thereafter dedicated it to her, calling it “Pizza Margherita.”

King Umberto I of Italy and Queen Margherita of Italy

When Italian immigrants came to America at the beginning of the 20th Century, they brought pizza with them. The first known pizzeria in the U.S. (or one of the first) was opened in New York City. Time Magazine reports:

Lombardi’s is widely accepted as the first pizzeria in the U.S., when Gennaro Lombardi began selling coal-oven pizza out of his grocery store in Manhattan’s Little Italy in 1905. Before then, pizza was available in many Italian neighborhoods, but mainly it was homemade in kitchens or sold through unlicensed vendors. The word pizza (or “pizze” as it was then spelled) appears in Boston newspapers as early as 1903. Lombardi’s proved to be enormously influential pizza force, serving as the training grounds for cooks who went on to open celebrated pizzerias such as John’s and Totonno’s.”

Outside Lombardi’s Pizzeria in New York City

[It should be noted however that pizza researcher Peter Regas has found evidence from 19th-Century Italian-American newspapers in New York that there were actually other pizzerias on the scene before Lombardi’s came along. They were started by Filippo Milone, who sold off one of them to Gennaro Lombardi.]

In 1943, Chicago began over a half-century of rivalry with “New York style” pizzas when Ike Sewell opened Pizzeria Uno’s which served the “deep-dish” pie.

Still, pizza didn’t really “take off” until the 1950’s, when celebrities such as Joe DiMaggio, Jimmy Durante and Frank Sinatra, who all had Italian roots, were publicly seen enjoying pizza, according to “Today I Found Out.”

They add that the 1952 song “That’s Amore” sung by Dean Martin, which included the line “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie – that’s amore,” “did more for the popularity of pizza than a thousand ad campaigns could have done.”

Pizza Magazine (yes, there is a Pizza Magazine) reported that as of December, 2017, the world pizza market topped $134 billion, with the U.S. pizza market at over $45 billion.

On average, every person in the U.S. consumes around 23 pounds of pizza each year. That adds up to over 3 BILLION pizzas, not counting frozen pizzas. The top 5 pizza sales days are Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve, Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.

Pepperoni is the most popular pizza, making up 36% of all pizzas ordered, but these days, you can get almost any topping conceivable. Sometimes we spring for “artisanal” pizza. But we have never gone so far as to order any pizza like the ones on this list of “The Most Expensive Pizza Slices in the World.” With toppings like “caviar that is pre-soaked in Dom Perignon,” “sprinkling of gold flakes,” or even “sprinkles of diamonds,” it doesn’t even appeal to us, to be honest. Seriously, what would you rather eat: cheese, or gold flakes?

Still, even “normal” pizzas vary around the country. As OpenCulture reports, for example:

In Buffalo, New York, pizzas are sauced right up to their circumference, leaving very little crusty handle for eating on the fly. . . .

Sauce can also swing pretty wildly – sweet, spicy, prepared in advance, or left to the last minute – but cheese is a much hotter topic.

Detroit’s pizza is distinguished by the inclusion of Wisconsin brick cheese.

St. Louis is loyal to Provel cheese, a homegrown processed mix of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone and liquid smoke.

Miami pizzas cater to the palates of its Cuban population by mixing mozzarella with gouda, a cheese that was both widely available and popular before 1962’s rationing system was put in place.

Rhode Island’s aptly named Red Strips have no cheese at all…which might be preferable to the Altoona, Pennsylvania favorite that arrives topped with American cheese slices or – the horror – Velveeta.

And where do they eat the most pizza? Pizza Magazine reports that Pakistan is the world’s fastest-growing retail market. In terms of the number of pizza delivery and takeaway outlets, the U.S. leads the global market, followed by Italy and Brazil, according to Euromonitor International. And within the U.S., the state with the most pizzerias per capita is New Hampshire – who would have guessed!

We also consume a great deal of pizza, and the more cheese on it, the better. The fact is, pizza tastes great. The American Chemical Society explains the “profound beauty” of the “chemical symphony” of pizza in this entertaining and informative video. The key to great pizza, you will learn, is the “Maillard Reaction.”

Before you watch this short video, I suggest ordering a pizza so you can conduct your own research on the appeal of pizza as it is explained….

September 3, 1916 – President Woodrow Wilson Signs Adamson Act, Providing 8-Hour Day on Interstate Railroads

As the National Employment Law Project website recounts, in August 1916,
nearly 400,000 railway workers voted to authorize a strike if an eight-hour day was not implemented. The railroads refused, and fearing a nationwide rail strike, President Woodrow Wilson requested Congress to pass the Adamson Act. (The language of the Adamson Act is now recodified, with only minor changes, at 49 U.S.C. §§ 28301, 28302.) Signed by Wilson the following day, the law implemented a standard work day of eight hours for railway workers across the Unites States.

The terms of the act were negotiated by a committee of the four railroad labor brotherhoods of engineers, firemen, brakemen and conductors.

The act, named for Georgia representative William C. Adamson, was the first federal law that regulated the hours of workers in private companies. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Act in 1917 in Wilson v. New (243 U.S. 332).

The Library of Congress has a timeline highlighting important dates related to this legislation as well as links to a collection of primary documents from the time.

Eight Hour Day or We Strike. Meeting of Railroad Union Leaders.” August 19, 1916. The Goldfield News and Weekly Tribune (Goldfield, NV), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. via Library of Congress

September 1, 1939 – Beginning of War in Europe and Review of “No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945” by Norman Davies

Although Japan was already at war with China, the “world war” is said to have started on this date in history, with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany.

No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945 is a book about which my husband and I have fairly strong disagreement. While I thought the author was repetitive and annoying after his initial valid points, my husband liked it so much he read it twice! I will give my summary first, followed by his dissent.

Review by Jill:

Davies’ extensive history of WWII is divided into five subject areas: military, politics, soldiers, civilians, and media. Each area is explored chronologically, so that we go back and forth, five times, sometimes over the same material. Throughout, several themes predominate:

1. Western powers aggrandize their roles in WWII. To the contrary, the most important battles were in the East, and the 1945 victory in Europe was “above all” Stalin’s. These facts are obscured by “relentless Western publicity pursued to the greater glory of Western interests….” [And in fact, Americans are by and large unaware that the Soviets suffered 95% of all military casualties inflicted on the three major Allied powers (the U.S., the U.K., and the U.S.S.R.) and that 90% of Germans killed in combat in the war died fighting them, not the West.]
2. Most histories of WWII, looking through Western conceptual lenses, see Hitler’s Germany as the “most” evil. America’s “war-time love affair with the USSR” put Soviet atrocities out of focus, and romanticized the role of “the Russians.”
3. The USSR was multinational, not just Russian; Ukrainians and Byelorussians suffered more than any other group;
4. Stalin was way more evil than westerners give him “credit” for; and
5. Poland got screwed by all parties (including the allies) big time.

These points are important and well-taken, but Davies tends to beat them to death in this extremely detailed overview.

image

Some of his observations are nicely crafted. For example, in describing Britain’s situation after March 1941 when Lend-Lease started, he suggests that Britain became an “island aircraft carrier, to which U.S. military assets could be transferred as the need arose.”

On the other hand, some of his observations are questionable. Hitler was “only human” if, albeit, “obnoxious”?!!! David Irving (an English Holocaust denier) displayed “the wrong shade of opinion”?!!! Ariel Sharon “alleged” there were Jews who fought with the Allies?!!! Some 150,000 “Jews” fought with the Wehrmacht?!!! (N.B. This number actually represents the number of “mischlinge” or those who were designated as Jews only because of Hitler’s insistence in going back to the fourth generation past for racial purity. Most of these men were born and raised Christians and were ardent German patriots.)

Oddly, in spite of Davies’ anti-Soviet, anti-Stalin bias, he doesn’t make a strong statement about Roosevelt’s pandering to Stalin. He does opine that Roosevelt was much more wary of Churchill as an “old imperialist” than of Stalin. Yet later in the narrative he avers (speaking of the Tehran summit) “Roosevelt was inclined to humor Stalin.”

Davies’ world of the Gulag, the Katyn Forest, Sobibor and the like seems so alien from our current reality that it is hard to come away with useful lessons for the present. Tony Judt, in the May 1, 2008 New York Review of Books (writing about WW2 historical treatments generally), charges that “teaching the War through vectors of the suffering of particular groups” (as does Davies) only serves to make us feel separate from other groups’ sufferings. Thus we lose a sense of a shared past in favor of au courant atrocities. The underlying message is that these “Historical Horror way stations” are past us, and “we may now advance…into a different and better era.”

The “Big Three”: From left to right: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill on the portico of the Russian Embassy during the Tehran Conference to discuss the European Theatre in 1943.

I’m afraid one of my biggest criticisms of this book is rather fuzzy: that is to say, in my opinion this book lacks “background music.” Davies’ long delineation of particulars is cold and lifeless, even with, and in spite of, the inclusion of many inspiring stories. As Saul Friedlander observes in “Reflections on Nazism,” language can establish emotional distance by “showing that all the chaos and horror is, after all, coherent and explainable.” Thus Davies evokes nothing with his recitation of numbers of war dead – not even understanding, since the numbers are beyond rational comprehension. And of the cultures that were lost, there is not a word. I believe one can learn more about the pain and loss of WW2 from listening to the music of Kreisler than by reading Davies’ neutralized analyses. My husband loved this book; but he would much prefer lists of tanks and planes to evocations of life and love. I would have preferred to see Davies advance his theories in a nice long article in The Atlantic or The New Yorker, rather than a 560-page book. I give this book three stars; he would give it five. His review follows….

Fritz Kreisler

Fritz Kreisler

Review by Jim:

I thought this was a far better book than my wife gives it credit for being. It is as much a book of historiography as a work of history. It points out how both popular and scholarly works in both the West and East (Soviet) have skewed their perceptions to promote the political preconceptions of their audiences. Davies emphasizes how Western historians have poorly expressed the comparative magnitudes of the war in the East with the war in the West. He also shows that both Eastern and Western historians have underestimated the criminality of the Soviet behavior in the war. The Germans were not the only barbarians who fought the war.

In his reassessment of the writing about the war, Davies observes that the Holocaust and the plight of the European Jews has had a large share of the ink spilled on the period. If this were the only book written about WWII, one would say that Davies greatly underestimated the enormity of the Nazi treatment of the Jews. But that is not his point. He is starting from a position in which there does exist a considerable corpus of Holocaust literature, and remarkably little about the plight of the Serbs, Gypsies, Ukrainians, Bylorussians, and the entire Polish people. Moreover, little is written about the fate of millions of Germans, mostly women and children, who were uprooted, raped, and/or killed during the Red Army’s final thrust into the Reich.

Davies’s choice of organization does cause some repetitive treatment of some events, as he analyzes them sequentially from the respective coigns of vantage of military, politics, soldiers, civilians, and media. Nonetheless, I think that is necessary since he makes some fairly controversial assertions, and he must martial his authority on each contentious point.

A sampling of Davies’ observations and conclusions indicates how inaccurate in his view is the general account of the war given by western media:

1. The first campaign of the war was a joint invasion of Poland by both Germany and the Soviet Union.
2. The Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939 was as blatant as Germany’s invasion of the USSR in 1941.
3. The Germans conquered only about 10% of the land mass of the Soviet Union, and most of the occupation covered the USSR’s western republics, Ukraine and Byelorussia. Stalin was much more willing to sacrifice the “politically suspect” ethnic and religious minorities in border states than Russians.
4. The communists “proved to be incompetent at almost everything except espionage, deception and war.”
5. Roosevelt’s entourage was riddled with fellow travelers who proved incapable of grasping the nature of Stalin’s regime.
6. The Soviets maintained larger concentration camps with more inmates than the Germans did.
7. Forcible repatriation to the USSR involved millions who were being sent to their deaths or to long prison terms for the “crime” of not fighting to their deaths against the Germans.
8. The victory of the USA and Britain was at best only partial, leading to 45 years of the cold war, a military standoff with the co-victors and the imposition of a totalitarian tyranny in the Soviet zone of Europe.

The book may not thoroughly original, but it is one of the best comprehensive reevaluations of our perception of the most significant event of the twentieth century that I have encountered.

Published by MacMillan, 2006