The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



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Today in History: Charles I Tries to Go It Alone

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 10, 2018 at 5:35 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 10) in 1629, Charles I of England dissolved Parliament and began his period of Personal Rule, trying to find ways to govern without having to work with the representatives of his people. His effort to rule as an absolute monarch greatly irritated many of his subjects, but it was his efforts to force religious conformity on his three kingdoms that eventually drove them into rebellion starting with the Scots in the north.

Today in History: Mattel Introduces Barbie

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 9, 2018 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 9) in 1959, Mattel introduced the Barbie doll. Since that time, more than 1 billion Barbies have been sold, but the real impact of Barbie on the toy market was the accessories: clothes, dream houses, cars and friends.

Today in History: A Man Enslaved

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 8, 2018 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March Eight) in 1655, a Virginia court ruled that African John Casor was not an indentured servant but a slave for life. This was the first time the courts had made such a declaration. Casor had been owned by a free black man, Anthony Johnson, who initiated his suit when Casor left his service to go and work for another man. Casor claimed that he had worked off his indenture. Johnson claimed there had never been an indenture. In deciding the case for Johnson, the court also affirmed for the first time the right of free blacks to own slaves in Virginia.

Today in History: Abduction

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 7, 2018 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 7) in 1827, thirty-year-old Edward Gibbon Wakefield abducted 15-year-old Ellen Turner and married her in a bid to obtain a fortune from her wealthy parents. This was not the first time Wakefield had employed such a scheme. Ten years earlier he had eloped with 17-year-old Scottish heiress, Eliza Pattle, and convinced her mother to give the young couple 70,000 pounds to avoid a scandal. When Eliza died giving birth to her third child four years later, he began looking for another opportunity to enrich himself.

He found it in young Ellen Turner, who was released to him from her bordering school on the basis of a forged note. He then convinced her that her father had gone bankrupt and had fled England to avoid his creditors. He further convinced her that her father could still be saved if she would marry him because the bankers had agreed to transfer some of her father’s estate to Ellen’s husband. The poor girl was convinced to slip across the border to Scotland with him and marry him. The new couple then made their way to France, always “about to meet up” with her father.

In the meantime, Wakefield contacted Ellen’s parents and told them that their daughter was now married, but the girl’s father chose not to try and avoid a scandal. Instead he went to the Foreign Secretary for help and pursued Wakefield with the police to France. Wakefield claimed that as the girl was married to him, her father could not take her away from him, but the French authorities disagreed. Wakefield, his brother and his stepmother were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to three years in prison.

Wakefield went on to become a politician in New Zealand with an interest in prison reform. After Ellen’s marriage to Wakefield was annulled by Act of Parliament, she was married to a wealthy neighbor at the age of seventeen. She died two years later giving birth to her daughter.

Today in History: Dred Scott

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 6, 2018 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 6) in 1857 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in the landmark Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott and his wife, Eliza, sued for their freedom in Federal Court on the grounds that they had been taken into free territories by their owners and resided there, becoming free. They further argued that because Eliza Scott had been born on a steamboat between a free state and a free territory, she had been born free and thus was never a slave. The Supreme Court ruled against them stating that African-Americans whose parents were imported as slaves, whether enslaved or free, could not become American citizens and therefore did not have standing to sue in Federal Court. It also ruled that the Federal Government had no authority to outlaw slavery in the Federal territories. This decision was a terrible blow to abolitionist hopes of restricting and eventually ending slavery. It was only the second time that the Supreme Court had ruled an Act of Congress to be unconstitutional. The Court believed that their decision would decisively put an end to the slavery debate but it had the opposite effect, inflaming abolitionist sentiment in the north and helping pave the way to the Civil War.

Today in History: The Boston Massacre

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 5, 2018 at 4:50 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 5) in 1770, 5 Americans were killed by British soldiers in an incident that came to be known as the Boston Massacre. The incident began when Americans surrounded and verbally harassed a lone British soldier. As the crowd grew, eight other soldiers came to the assistance of the first soldier. They too were subject to harassment, but the crowd also began to throw snowballs and stones and to hit the soldiers with clubs. Without orders, the soldiers opened fire immediately killing three people. Two others died later from their wounds .The incident was played up by Americans such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams to encourage rebellion against Britain.

Today in History: A Christian Murdered for His Faith

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 4, 2018 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 4) in 306 St. Adrian of Nicomedia was tortured to death for becoming a Christian. Adrian was an officer in the imperial court of Emperor Galerius Maximian whose job involved overseeing the torture of Christians as part of a purge begun under Diocletian. Adrian reportedly asked the Christians what reward God could possibly give them that was worth their suffering. He was told: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Adrian was so moved that he declared himself a Christian, was arrested and tortured to death.

Today in History: Russia Leaves World War I

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 3, 2018 at 5:35 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 3) in 1918, Bolshevik-controlled-Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, withdrawing from World War I and giving to Germany control of the Ukraine, the Baltic States and Belarus. Turkey got Ardahan, Kars and Batumi. The Treaty was considered to be shockingly harsh at the time and would later be used to justify the less harsh Treaty of Versailles. German acquisition of this territory put a serious strain on its military manpower as it moved one million troops in to occupy the territory. Some believe it fatally weakened their 1918 Spring Offensive on the Western Front.

Today in History: Rutherfraud B. Hayes

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 2, 2018 at 5:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 2) in 1877 an Electoral Commission established by Congress declared Republican Rutherford B. Hayes president in an election marked by substantial fraud and voter intimidation. (For example, 101% of eligible voters in South Carolina had their votes counted.) Hayes’ opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote, but the Commission of eight Republicans and seven Democrats awarded all disputed electoral votes to Hayes in 8-7 votes. As inauguration day approached, Democrats on the Commission reluctantly agreed to support Hayes in exchange for Republican promises to withdraw all remaining Federal troops from the south (they still occupied South Carolina and Louisiana) and payoffs like railroad subsidies. The taint of the election gave the new president the nickname Rutherfraud B. Hayes.

It’s impossible to determine for certain, but most scholars believe that without the massive suppression of African-American voters, Hayes would have won the presidential election without the need of an Electoral Commission.

Today in History: Ethiopia vs Italy

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 1, 2018 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 1) in 1896, Ethiopia defeated an Italian army at the Battle of Adwa to maintain its independence. Ethiopia is the only African nation to successfully resist European imperialism.

The recently unified Italians were trying to catch up with their European neighbors in building an imperial empire. They had already conquered Italian Somalia and Eritrea and sought to improve their position in the Horn of Africa by conquering Ethiopia. The Italian force was a mix of elite Italian troops, new Italian conscripts and local Eritrean soldiers. They were poorly armed and badly outnumbered by the Ethiopian defenders, but apparently this did not concern the Italian generals who could not imagine Africans successfully resisting a European power. (Apparently they had not heard of the Zulu.)

King Menelik II had an army five times the size of the Italian invasion force, an intimate knowledge of the terrain (as contrasted with the inaccurate maps of the Italians), and had the foresight to play the European powers off of each other so that he could acquire modern weapons for his troops.

Three Italian brigades became separated during a night march on February 29 and so were not in contact when they met Ethiopian forces the morning of March 1. Ethiopian artillery broke the Eritrean brigade. For three hours, the Ethiopians repeatedly charged the second brigade and finally overwhelmed them. The third brigade was slaughtered as it tried to retreat and the final Italian forces were taken apart piecemeal. By the time the Italians had escaped back to Eritrea, they had 7000 dead, 1500 wounded and an additional 3000 taken prisoner.