Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Day In History - 16 June: Lincoln's House Divided, Spain Covets Gibralter & The Horror Of The Victoria Hall Theatre

Art: Biblis, William Bouguereau

1487 – Battle of Stoke Field, the last dying breath of the Wars of the Roses. It was the last battle in which King Henry VII faced an army of Yorkist supporters and Irish mercanaries under the pretender Lambert Simnel.

1779 – Spain declared war on the UK and began a siege of Gibraltar. The seige lasted until 1783 when the UK broke the seige and a peace treaty was thereafter signed. Spain has sought to extend its sovereignty over the island ever since, but the UK politely declined to acquiese - as did the people of Gibralter when asked by referendum in 1967 and 2002.

1836 – The formation of the London Working Men's Association gives rise to the Chartist Movement.

1846 – Pope Pius IX is elected pope, beginning the longest reign in the history of the papacy other than that of St. Peter.

1858 – Abraham Lincoln delivers his House Divided speech in Springfield, Illinois.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

1858 – Battle of Morar takes place during the Indian Mutiny. The mutiny itself led to the dissolution of the East India Company and to direct governance of India by the UK. It also was a particularly bloody mutiny. The Indians involved took to the slaughter of British civilians - men, women and children - all of which led to severe and brutal repression by British forces in response.

1883 – The Victoria Hall theatre panic in Sunderland, England kills 183 children from crush asphyxia due to a rush to get treats and an improperly bolted door. The resulting inquiry recommended that public venues be fitted with a minimum number of outward opening emergency exits, which led to the invention of the 'push bar' emergency doors that are with us to this day.

1940 – After the fall of Paris to the Nazis, the as of yet unconquered portions of France organized under Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain who became the Premier of Vichy France, allies of the Nazis.

1948 – The first skyjacking of a commercial plane occurs when four armed Chinese men storm the cockpit of the Miss Macao passenger seaplane and attempt to take over control of the plane. Instead, they caused the plane to crash, killing all aboard except one of the hijackers.

1958 – The newly installed puppet government of Hungary executed Imre Nagy, Pál Maléter and other leaders of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. The uprising had begun in October 1956 with a protest by college students that soon engulfed the whole country in rebellion against the Stalinist government. The Soviet Union crushed the revolt, sending in its military in November 1956, and then established a new puppet government.

1961 – The ballet star Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West at Le Bourget airport in Paris. Krushchev subsequently signed an order to the KGB for his assassination. It was never carried out, and Nureyev had a long career in the West until his death from AIDS in 1993.

1963 – Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space as part of the Soviet's Vostok 6 Mission.

2000 – Israel complied with UN Security Council Resolution 425 and withdrew from Lebanon except the disputed Sheba Farms. Hezbollah, Lebanon's Shia militia controlled by Iran and whose entire legitimacy was predicated on driving Israel out of Lebanon, refuses to disarm despite Israel's withdraw.


1723– Adam Smith, Scottish philosopher and economist (d. 1790). Smith's most famous work is the seminal capitalist treatise, The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776.

1912 – Enoch Powell, British politician (d. 1998). Powell is famous for his "Rivers of Blood Speech" given in 1968. In it, he decried allowing large scale immigration for the social strife it would cause in the UK. The left labeled it racist and used it as a cudgel to, in essence, put the issue of immigration beyond the bounds of acceptable debate. To merely invoke the speech was enough last year to have a Tory candidate for office shown the door.

1941 – Aldrich Ames, American Soviet spy


1216 – Pope Innocent III. He had been elected Pope in 1198 and ruled the Church at the height of its power and influence. He was considered to be the most powerful person in Europe at the time.

1977 – Wernher von Braun, German-born rocket scientist (b. 1912). After working for the Nazis during WWII, he was spirited to America where he became the face of Americas space program.

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