Art: The Bard, John Martin, 1817
1525 – Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora against the celibacy rule decreed by the Roman Catholic Church for priests and nuns. Luther, a critical figure in the history of Western Civilization, gave birth to the Reformation. One of Luther's deepest criticisms was against the Catholic Church's then practice of selling indulgences as a means of forgiveness of sin. In 1517, Luther nailed his famous criticism of the Catholic Church, 95 Theses, to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg on the 31st of October, 1517. It kicked off a firestorm that resulted in his excommunication by the pope in 1521.
1774 – Rhode Island becomes the first of Britain's North American colonies to ban the importation of slaves.
1777 – Marquis de Lafayette landed near Charleston, South Carolina. He came to the U.S. in order to help the Continental Congress to train its army. He would play a pivotal role in helping the U.S. during our Revolutionary War, leading troops in several major engagements, not the least of which was Yorktown.
1893 – Grover Cleveland undergoes secret, successful surgery to remove a large, cancerous portion of his jaw; operation not revealed to US public until 1917, nine years after the president's death. All that is not too notable. What is notable is that the portion of his jaw that was removed is on display at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Mutter is sort of the night of the living dead of the museum world.
1927 – Aviator Charles Lindbergh receives a ticker-tape parade down 5th Avenue in New York City in celebration of his solo non-stop flight from Long Island to Paris in the single-seat, single-engine monoplane the Spirit of St. Louis.
1934 – Adolf Hitler and Mussolini meet in Venice, Italy; Mussolini later described Hitler as "a silly little monkey".
1942 – The United States established the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to our modern Central Intelligence Agency.
1944 – Germany launched a V1 Rocket attack on England. Only four of the eleven bombs actually hit their targets. Interestingly, many of the German scientists who worked on Hitler's rocket program would be spirited to the U.S. after the war to work on our own space program. I had the unique opportunity to grow up next door to one of these scientists. A fascinating man.
1966 – The United States Supreme Court rules, in Miranda v. Arizona, that the police must inform suspects of their rights before questioning them.
1970 – "The Long and Winding Road" becomes the Beatles' last Number 1 song.
1971 – The New York Times begins publication of the Pentagon Papers. I did my senior thesis at college on the Pentagon Papers and how we went from WWII to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. I still don't understand why Nixon fought the publication of these documents. There was little if anything in there that was of intelligence value by 1971, and the story it told of how we stumbled into Vietnam was mainly a story of missteps by JFK and LBJ.
1978 – Israeli Defense Forces withdraw from Lebanon.
2000 – South Korean President Kim Dae Jung meets North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-il, for the beginning of the first ever inter-Korea summit, in the northern capital of Pyongyang.
2000 – Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. Agca recently convert to Catholicism.
2002 – Bush withdraws the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
2005 – A jury in Santa Maria, California acquits pop singer Michael Jackson of molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo at his Neverland Ranch.
2007 – Al Qaeda - or Iran - does a second bombing of the Al Askari Mosque, one of Shia Islam's holiest sites in Iraq. The first bombing in 2006 brought the country to the brink of civil war. The second bombing, coming in the midst of the surge, had little if any impact.
823 – Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor and King of the West Franks - essentially the area today corresponding to France.
1752 – Fanny Burney, English novelist and diarist. Her novels were satirical peeks into the lives of English aristocrats. My favorite is Camilla published in 1796.
1786 – Winfield Scott was one of the greatest and most successful Generals ever to serve our nation. He served on active duty as a general longer than any other man in American history. Over the course of his fifty-year career, he commanded forces in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and, briefly, the American Civil War, conceiving the Union strategy known as the Anaconda Plan that would be used to defeat the Confederacy.
1865 – William Butler Yeats, Irish writer and my favorite poet. Some of his poetry is of incredible beauty. But his most famous work, The Second Coming, written shortly after the end of WWI, is a poem famous for its disturbing vision.
THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
1892 – Basil Rathbone, English actor who is perhaps most famous for his role as Sherlock Holmes in a series of movies.
1645 – Miyamoto Musashi, Japan's most celebrated Samauri swordsman. He became famous for his numerous duels - over sixty of them without a loss. He was the founder of the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū of swordsmanship and the author of The Book of Five Rings a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy.
1918 – Tsar Mikhail Alexandrovitch Romanov was first of the Romanovs murdered. His execution was ordered by Lenin.
2008 – Tim Russert, host of Meet the Press, died of a sudden heart attack.
Holidays and observances
In ancient Rome, today was the fesival of Quinquatrus Minusculae held in honor of the goddess Minerva, the virgin goddess of warriors, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, and the inventor of music. She is often depicted with an owl and came to symbolize wisdom.
In the Catholic pantheon of saints, today is the feast of Saint Cetteus and Saint Leo III.