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The American Patriot's ALMANACDaily Readings on America
By WILLIAM J. BENNETT JOHN T. E. CRIBB
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
All right reserved.
JANUARY 1 Lincoln Signs the Emancipation Proclamation
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in Confederate territory to be free. The proclamation stated that, as of that day, "all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State ... in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free."
Those words changed the Civil War from a fight to save the Union into a battle for human freedom. They meant that the United States was finally facing the fact that it could not tolerate the evil of slavery if it really believed that all people had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With the Emancipation Proclamation, the U.S. started down the path of becoming a truly great nation, one that could try to live up to the soaring ideals on which it was founded.
Lincoln signed the proclamation in his office on New Year's Day afternoon. A handful of advisors joined him for the historic occasion. The president dipped a pen in ink but then put it down because his hand was trembling. He'd been shaking hands for hours at a reception, he explained, and his arm felt "almost paralyzed." He worried that a shaky signature might prompt critics to claim that he hesitated. "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper," he told those looking on.
Flexing his arm and taking up the pen again, he carefully wrote his name. Lincoln signed most government documents as A. Lincoln. For the Emancipation Proclamation, he wrote his name in full. "That will do," he said, looking up and smiling.
With the passing of time, the text of the original Emancipation Proclamation has faded, and its paper has yellowed. But the signature of Abraham Lincoln stands forth bold, bright, and clear.
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1752 Betsy Ross, said to have sewed the first American flag, is born in Philadelphia. 1863 Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation. 1892 Ellis Island begins processing immigrants in New York Harbor. 1902 The first Rose Bowl is played in Pasadena, California (Michigan defeats Stanford 49-0). 1928 The first air-conditioned office building opens in San Antonio, Texas.
JANUARY 2 Haym Salomon: A Financial Hero of the Revolution
On this day in 1777, George Washington's army was busy fighting the British in the Second Battle of Trenton, New Jersey. While Washington fought, another great patriot was hard at work behind the scenes, aiding the American cause. You may never have heard of Haym Salomon, but he was one of the heroes of the American Revolution. In fact, if not for Patriots like Salomon, there would never have been a United States.
Born in Poland, Salomon immigrated to New York City in 1772 and soon became a successful merchant and banker. He joined the Sons of Liberty, a Patriot group, and when war broke out, he helped supply American troops. The British arrested him in 1776 and flung him into prison. After a while they released him, and he went straight back to aiding the Patriots.
The British arrested Salomon again in 1778. This time they decided to be rid of him. They sentenced him to be hanged as a rebel, but he escaped and fled to Philadelphia.
Once again Salomon went into business as a banker, and he continued to devote his talents and wealth to the Patriot cause. American leaders frequently turned to him for help in raising funds to support the war. Salomon risked his assets by loaning the government money for little or no commission. He helped pay the salaries of army officers, tapped his own funds to supply ragged troops, and worked tirelessly to secure French aid for the Revolution.
After the war the young nation struggled to get on its feet. When the republic needed money, Salomon helped save the United States from financial collapse.
The years following the Revolution took a toll on Haym Salomon's business. At the end of his life, his wealth was gone. In fact, he died impoverished. He had poured much of his fortune into the service of his country.
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1777 George Washington's army fights the Second Battle of Trenton, New Jersey. 1788 Georgia becomes the fourth state to ratify the U. S. Constitution. 1882 John D. Rockefeller forms the Standard Oil Trust, a giant oil monopoly. 1942 During World War II, Japanese forces capture Manila, the capital of the Philippines. 1974 President Richard Nixon signs legislation limiting highway speeds to 55 miles per hour to conserve gas.
JANUARY 3 A Few State Stats
On this day in 1959, Alaska became the first new state to enter the Union since Arizona, forty-seven years before. It's by far the largest state-more than twice as large as Texas and almost a fifth as large as all the rest of the states put together. Nearly a third of Alaska lies north of the Arctic Circle, and its mainland stretches almost to Asia, coming within 51 miles of Russia. One of Alaska's islands, Little Diomede Island, lies only two and a half miles from Russia's Big Diomede Island, with the International Date Line running between them.
Here are a few more state statistics:
Largest Alaska (663,267 sq. mi.) Largest in Lower 48 Texas (268,581 sq. mi.) Largest east of the Mississippi Michigan (96,716 sq. mi.) Smallest Rhode Island (1,545 sq. mi.) Smallest west of the Mississippi Hawaii (10,931 sq. mi.) Longest coastline Alaska (6,640 mi.) Shortest coastline New Hampshire (13 mi.) Most populated California (approx. 37,000,000 people) Least populated Wyoming (approx. 544,000 people) Most densely populated New Jersey (1,174 people per sq. mi.) Least densely populated Alaska (1.2 people per sq. mi.) First to enter union Delaware (Dec. 7, 1787) Latest to enter union Hawaii (Aug. 21, 1959)
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1777 A Patriot army under General George Washington defeats the British in the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey. 1870 Construction on the Brooklyn Bridge begins. 1947 Congressional proceedings are televised for the first time as part of the 80th Congress's opening ceremonies and are broadcast in a few cities. 1959 Alaska becomes the forty-ninth state.
JANUARY 4 Elizabeth Ann Seton
January 4 is the feast day of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint.
Elizabeth was born in New York City on August 28, 1774. She grew up in a well-to-do family and married William Seton, a wealthy young New York shipping merchant. Elizabeth had five children, enjoyed a privileged social position, and devoted herself to several charitable activities.
In 1803, her world came crashing down around her. William's shipping business went bankrupt, and he developed tuberculosis. They sailed to Italy in search of a healthier climate, but William soon died. While waiting for passage back to the United States, Elizabeth stayed with an Italian family and was deeply impressed with their devout Catholic faith.
Elizabeth returned to New York with little money. She soon made a decision that made her life even harder-she decided to become a Catholic. It was a time in American history when Catholics often suffered great prejudice. Rejected by family and friends, she struggled to support her children.
A rector in Baltimore heard of her plight and invited her to establish a school for girls there. In 1808, Elizabeth embarked on a remarkable new life. Settling in Baltimore, she started the Paca Street School, the country's first Catholic elementary school. A year later she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph's, a religious community of women devoted to teaching and serving the poor. As the community grew, it opened schools and orphanages in New York and Philadelphia.
Elizabeth Seton died on January 4, 1821. By then the Sisters of Charity were spreading across the country. Today Seton's legacy includes thousands of sisters who work in hundreds of schools, hospitals, and social service centers throughout the world. In 1975, the Roman Catholic Church declared Elizabeth Ann Seton a saint.
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1821 Elizabeth Ann Seton dies in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 1885 Dr. William W. Grant of Davenport, Iowa, performs what is thought to be the first successful appendectomy in the United States. 1896 Utah becomes the forty-fifth state. 2004 Spirit, a robotic rover, lands on Mars to explore the planet. 2007 Nancy Pelosi of California becomes the first female Speaker of the House.
JANUARY 5 Ellis Island
The first week of January 1892 saw the opening of a new U.S. immigration station on Ellis Island in New York Harbor. A 15-year-old lass from Ireland named Annie Moore entered the United States and history when she passed through its doors, becoming the first immigrant to be processed there. Over the next 62 years, 12 million more would follow, making Ellis Island the most famous entry point in America.
Ferryboats full of eager immigrants who had just crossed the Atlantic on sailing vessels or steamships docked at Ellis Island. There passengers disembarked to be screened by doctors and immigration officers. If they were in good health and their papers in order, they were allowed into the United States. Over the years, 98 percent of all those examined at Ellis Island were admitted into the country. More than 40 percent of all U.S. citizens can trace their ancestry through those immigrants.
Ellis Island closed as an immigration station in 1954. In 1990 it reopened as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Ferries that take visitors to the Statue of Liberty make stops at the museum.
Ellis Island was named for Samuel Ellis, a colonist who owned the island in the late eighteenth century. Today the name reminds us that America has been a beacon of hope for the world-as Abraham Lincoln called it, "the last best hope of earth"-and that the United States has taken in more people seeking new lives than any other nation in history.
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1781 A British force led by Benedict Arnold burns Richmond, Virginia.
1914 Henry Ford, head of the Ford Motor Company, introduces a wage of five dollars a day in his automotive factories.
1925 Nellie T. Ross becomes the first woman governor when she succeeds her late husband as governor of Wyoming.
1933 Construction begins on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
JANUARY 6 Samuel Morse Starts a Communications Revolution
As a young man, Samuel Morse set out to become a famous painter. His ambition was "to rival the genius of a Raphael, a Michelangelo, or a Titian." He studied at the Royal Academy in London and won acclaim by painting portraits of men such as President James Monroe and the Marquis de Lafayette.
In 1832, onboard a ship crossing the ocean, Morse heard another passenger describe how electricity could pass instantly over any length of wire. He began to wonder: Could messages be sent over wires with electricity? He rushed back to his cabin, took out his drawing book, and began to sketch out his idea for a telegraph.
He knew little about electricity, but he learned as he went. He used a homemade battery and parts from an old clock to build his first models. He developed a code of long and short electrical impulses-"dots" and "dashes"-to represent letters. His invention raised the interest of Alfred Vail, a machinist who became his partner.
On January 6, 1838, the inventors were ready to test their device over two miles of wire at the Vail family ironworks in New Jersey. Vail's father scribbled "A patient waiter is no loser" on a piece of paper and handed it to his son. "If you can send this and Mr. Morse can read it at the other end, I shall be convinced," he said. A short time later, his words came out on the receiving end.
On May 24, 1844, an amazed crowd in the Supreme Court chambers in Washington, D.C., watched Samuel Morse demonstrate his telegraph by sending a message over a wire to Baltimore, 35 miles away. In Morse code, he tapped out a quote from the Bible: What hath God wrought!
Soon telegraph lines linked countries and continents, and the world entered the age of modern communication.
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1759 George Washington and Martha Dandridge Custis are married. 1838 Samuel Morse conducts a successful demonstration of his telegraph near Morristown, New Jersey. 1912 New Mexico becomes the forty-seventh state. 1942 The Pan American Airways Pacific Clipper arrives in New York City to complete the first round-the-world trip by a commercial airplane.
JANUARY 7 Israel Putnam
Connecticut Patriot Israel Putnam, born January 7, 1718, was a successful farmer and tavern keeper at the outset of the Revolutionary War. He had already seen more than his share of fighting. During the French and Indian War, he had been captured by Indians and would have been burned alive if a French officer had not intervened at the last minute. He took part in campaigns against Fort Ticonderoga and Montreal, and in 1762 survived a shipwreck off Cuba during a mission against Havana.
On April 20, 1775, Putnam and his son Daniel were plowing in a field in Brooklyn, Connecticut, when a messenger galloped into the village with news that the British had fired on the American militia at Lexington, Massachusetts. At once Putnam mounted a horse to spread the alarm in neighboring towns and consult with local leaders. Then came news of fighting at Concord, and a call for "every man who is fit and willing" to come to their countrymen's aid.
Without stopping to rest or even change the checkered farmer's frock he'd been wearing when he left his plow, Putnam rode through the night to Cambridge, Massachusetts, near Boston, to join colonial soldiers there. By the time he reached his destination, he'd ridden 100 miles in 18 hours.
Two months later, Putnam commanded troops at Bunker's Hill (Breed's Hill), where he reportedly told his men, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" Like the ancient Roman Cincinnatus, who also left his plow standing in a field when called to duty, Putnam never hesitated when his country needed him.
A monument to Israel Putnam at Brooklyn, Connecticut, reads: "Patriot, remember the heritages received from your forefathers and predecessors. Protect and perpetuate them for future generations of your countrymen."
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1718 Israel Putnam, American patriot, is born in Salem Village, Massachusetts. 1782 The Bank of North America, the first U.S. commercial bank, opens in Philadelphia. 1789 The first presidential election is held as Americans vote for electors who, a month later, choose George Washington as the nation's first president. 1800 Millard Fillmore, the thirteenth U.S. president, is born in Locke, New York. 1927 Commercial transatlantic telephone service between New York and London is inaugurated. 1999 President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial begins in the Senate on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice (he is later acquitted).
JANUARY 8 The Battle of New Orleans
On January 8, 1815, Andrew Jackson and his band of "half-horse, half-alligator" men whipped the British in the Battle of New Orleans, the last major battle of the War of 1812.
General Jackson, known to his troops as "Old Hickory" because of his toughness, had been placed in charge of defending the port city. As the British approached, he frantically threw up earthworks and assembled an extraordinary army of some 5,000 men. He had volunteers from New Orleans, including Creole aristocrats, tradesmen, and laborers. His forces also counted Tennessee and Kentucky militia, as well as Free Negroes, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italians, and Indians.
Jackson even had help from Jean Lafitte, the infamous, French-born gentleman pirate. The British had offered Lafitte money and a command in the Royal Navy if he would help them attack New Orleans. Lafitte turned them down and offered his pirates to the American side. Jackson, needing every man he could get, said yes.
The British, who ridiculed the American defenders as "dirty shirts," came at Old Hickory at daybreak with more than 8,000 troops. As the main attack began, they fired a rocket. Old Hickory remained calm. "Don't mind those rockets," he said. "They are mere toys to amuse children."
As the redcoats advanced, the Americans took aim with rifles and artillery. "Boys, elevate them guns a little lower!" Jackson ordered as he directed cannon fire.
The battle turned into a rout. About 2,000 British soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. The American toll was just 13 dead and 58 wounded or missing.
Several weeks later, news arrived that American and British negotiators had signed a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium, two weeks before the battle. Still, the victory electrified Americans, filled them with confidence, and gave them a hero who would go on to become the nation's seventh president.
AMERICAN HISTORY PARADE
1790 President George Washington delivers the first State of the Union address in New York City. 1815 U.S. forces led by General Andrew Jackson defeat the British in the Battle of New Orleans. 1918 President Woodrow Wilson outlines his fourteen points for peace after World War I. 1935 Rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley is born in Tupelo, Mississippi. 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson declares war on poverty. 1987 The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 2,000 for the first time.
Excerpted from The American Patriot's ALMANAC by WILLIAM J. BENNETT JOHN T. E. CRIBB Copyright © 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb. Excerpted by permission.
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