John’s Believe It Or Not… August 1st

In 1834 – Emancipation Act goes into effect – outlaws slavery in British Empire. In 1086 Results of the Domesday inquiry presented to William the Conqueror in Salisbury. In 1961 Texans head for the thrills at Six Flags. In 1914 First World War erupts. In 1943 PT-109 sinks – Lieutenant Kennedy is instrumental in saving the crew.

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John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

It’s Tuesday… We Made It! Did you know…

* 1834 – Emancipation Act goes into effect – outlaws slavery in British Empire. (An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Service of such Slaves (also known as the Slavery Abolition Act) received Royal Assent on 28 August 1833 and took effect 1 August 1834. The Act abolished enslavement in most British colonies, freeing over 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada.

Several factors led to the Act’s passage. Britain’s economy was in flux at the time, and as a new system of international commerce emerged, its slaveholding Caribbean colonies — which were largely focused on sugar production — could no longer compete with larger plantation economies such as Cuba and Brazil. Merchants began to demand an end to the monopolies on the British market held by the Caribbean colonies and pushed instead for free trade. The persistent struggles of enslaved Africans and a growing fear of slave uprisings among plantation owners was another major factor.

Following from the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery, Upper Canada was already moving toward abolition. The Slavery Abolition Act, 1833, did not reference British North America. Rather, its aim was to dismantle large-scale plantation slavery that existed in Britain’s tropical colonies, where the enslaved population was usually larger than that of the white colonists. Enslaved Africans in British North America were far smaller in number and lived, according to Frank Mackey, “scattered and isolated from one another.”

As an imperial statute, the Slavery Abolition Act liberated less than 50 enslaved Africans in British North America. For most enslaved people in British North America, however, the Act resulted only in partial liberation, as it only emancipated children under the age of six, while others were to be retained for four to six years as apprentices. Twenty million English pounds (£20,000,000) were made available by the British government to pay for damages suffered by owners of registered slaves, but none was sent to slaveholders in British North America. Those formerly enslaved did not receive any compensation either.

This legislation also made Canada free land for enslaved American Blacks. The image of Canada as a safe haven for enslaved African Americans was born, and thousands of fugitives and free Blacks would arrive on Canadian soil between 1834 and the early 1860s.)

illustration from the book: The Black Man's Lament, or, how to make sugar by Amelia Opie. (London, 1826)
illustration from the book: The Black Man’s Lament, or, how to make sugar by Amelia Opie. (London, 1826) (Wikipedia)

* 1086 Results of the Domesday inquiry presented to William the Conqueror in Salisbury. (Domesday Book is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror.

The survey’s main purpose was to determine what taxes had been owed during the reign of King Edward the Confessor, which allowed William to reassert the rights of the Crown and assess where power lay after a wholesale redistribution of land following the Norman conquest.

The assessors’ reckoning of a man’s holdings and their values, as recorded in Domesday Book, was dispositive and without appeal. The name “Domesday Book” (Middle English for “Doomsday Book”) came into use in the 12th century.

The book is an invaluable primary source for modern historians and historical economists. No survey approaching the scope and extent of Domesday Book was attempted again in Britain until the 1873 Return of Owners of Land (sometimes termed the “Modern Domesday”)[9] which presented the first complete, post-Domesday picture of the distribution of landed property in the British Isles.)

Domesday Book, William's great “instrument of control”, on display at the Nation
Domesday Book, William’s great “instrument of control”, on display at the Nation (History Extra)

* 1961 Texans head for the thrills at Six Flags. (On this day in 1961, amusement park lovers “head for the thrills” as Six Flags Over Texas, the first park in the Six Flags chain, opens. Located on 212 acres in Arlington, Texas, the park was the first to feature log flume and mine train rides and later, the first 360-degree looping roller coaster, modern parachute drop and man-made river rapids ride. The park also pioneered the concept of all-inclusive admission price; until then, separate entrance fees and individual ride tickets were the standards. During its opening year, a day at Six Flags cost $2.75 for an adult and $2.25 for a child. A hamburger sold for 50 cents and a soda set the buyer back a dime.

The park, which took a year and $10 million to build, was the brainchild of Texas real estate developer and oilman Angus Wynne Jr., who viewed it as a short-term way to make a buck from some vacant land before turning it into an industrial complex. Wynne reportedly recouped his personal investment of $3.5 million within 18 months and changed his mind about the park’s temporary status. With 17.5 million visitors in its first 10 years, the park became the Lone Star State’s top for-profit tourist attraction. Today, average annual attendance at the park is over 3 million.

One of Six Flags’ unique aspects was that it wasn’t just a random collection of rides; it was developed around a theme: the history of Texas. The park’s name was a nod to the six flags that had flown over the state at various times–France, Spain, Mexico, the Confederacy, Texas and the United States. The park’s rides and attractions were grouped into six themed sections that represented the cultures of these governments and enabled visitors to experience everything from cowboy culture to Southern belles and pirates. Originally, the park was to be called Texas Under Six Flags, before it was decided that Texas should never be under anything.

Angus Wynne sold Six Flags in 1969 and in the coming years, the company expanded and was resold. Today, Six Flags, Inc. is the world’s largest regional theme park company and owns and operates 30 theme, water and zoological parks in North America. In 2005, almost 34 million people spent a combined 250 million hours at Six Flags parks.)

Aerial photo of Six Flags theme park in Texas
(History Channel)

* 1914 First World War erupts. (Four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Germany, and Russia declare war against each other, France orders a general mobilization and the first German army units cross into Luxembourg in preparation for the German invasion of France. During the next three days, Russia, France, Belgium, and Great Britain all lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and the German army invaded Belgium. The “Great War” that ensued was one of unprecedented destruction and loss of life, resulting in the deaths of some 20 million soldiers and civilians.

On June 28, 1914, in an event that is widely regarded as sparking the outbreak of World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Ferdinand had been inspecting his uncle’s imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the threat of Serbian nationalists who wanted these Austro-Hungarian possessions to join newly independent Serbia. Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the problem of Slavic nationalism once and for all. However, as Russia supported Serbia, an Austria-Hungary declaration of war was delayed until its leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention.

On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. On July 29, Austro-Hungarian forces began to shell the Serbian capital of Belgrade, and Russia, Serbia’s ally, ordered a troop mobilization against Austria-Hungary. France, allied with Russia, began to mobilize on August 1. France and Germany declared war against each other on August 3. After crossing through neutral Luxembourg, the German army invaded Belgium on the night of August 3-4, prompting Great Britain, Belgium’s ally, to declare war against Germany.

For the most part, the people of Europe greeted the outbreak of war with jubilation. Most patriotically assumed that their country would be victorious within months. Of the initial belligerents, Germany was most prepared for the outbreak of hostilities, and its military leaders had formatted a sophisticated military strategy known as the “Schlieffen Plan,” which envisioned the conquest of France through a great arcing offensive through Belgium and into northern France. Russia, slow to mobilize, was to be kept occupied by Austro-Hungarian forces while Germany attacked France.

The Schlieffen Plan was nearly successful, but in early September the French rallied and halted the German advance at the bloody Battle of the Marne near Paris. By the end of 1914, well over a million soldiers of various nationalities had been killed on the battlefields of Europe, and neither for the Allies nor the Central Powers was a final victory in sight. On the western front–the battle line that stretched across northern France and Belgium–the combatants settled down in the trenches for a terrible war of attrition.

In 1915, the Allies attempted to break the stalemate with an amphibious invasion of Turkey, which had joined the Central Powers in October 1914, but after heavy bloodshed, the Allies were forced to retreat in early 1916. The year 1916 saw great offensives by Germany and Britain along the western front, but neither side accomplished a decisive victory. In the east, Germany was more successful, and the disorganized Russian army suffered terrible losses, spurring the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917. By the end of 1917, the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia and immediately set about negotiating peace with Germany. In 1918, the infusion of American troops and resources into the western front finally tipped the scale in the Allies’ favor. Bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with an imminent invasion, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in November 1918.

World War I was known as the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused. Unfortunately, the peace treaty that officially ended the conflict–the Treaty of Versailles of 1919–forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War II.)

Map: The European Alliances in WW1
The European Alliances in WW1

* 1943 PT-109 sinks – Lieutenant Kennedy is instrumental in saving the crew. (On this day in 1943, a Japanese destroyer rams an American PT (patrol torpedo) boat, No. 109, slicing it in two. The destruction is so massive other American PT boats in the area assume the crew is dead. Two crewmen were, in fact, killed, but 11 survived, including Lt. John F. Kennedy.

Japanese aircraft had been on a PT boat hunt in the Solomon Islands, bombing the PT base at Rendova Island. It was essential to the Japanese that several of their destroyers make it to the southern tip of Kolombangara Island to get war supplies to forces there. But the torpedo capacity of the American PTs was a potential threat. Despite the base bombing at Rendova, PTs set out to intercept those Japanese destroyers. In the midst of battle, Japan’s Amaqiri hit PT-109, leaving 11 crewmen floundering in the Pacific.

After five hours of clinging to debris from the decimated PT boat, the crew made it to a coral island. Kennedy decided to swim out to sea again, hoping to flag down a passing American boat. None came. Kennedy began to swim back to shore, but strong currents and his chronic back condition made his return difficult. Upon reaching the island again, he fell ill. After he recovered, the PT-109 crew swam to a larger island, what they believed was Nauru Island, but was, in fact, Cross Island. They met up with two natives from the island, who agreed to take a message south. Kennedy carved the distress message into a coconut shell: “Nauru Is. Native knows posit. He can pilot. 11 alive need small boat.”

The message reached Lieutenant Arthur Evans, who was watching the coast of Gomu Island, located next to an island occupied by the Japanese. Kennedy and his crew were paddled to Gomu. A PT boat then took them back to Rendova. Kennedy was ultimately awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, for gallantry in action.

The coconut shell used to deliver his message found a place in history—and in the Oval Office.

PT-109, a film dramatizing this story, starring Clift Robertson as Kennedy, opened in 1963.)

A replica of Kennedy's PT boat from World War II passes the reviewing stand during Kennedy's inaugural parade.
A replica of Kennedy’s PT boat from World War II passes the reviewing stand during Kennedy’s inaugural parade. (gettyimages.ie)

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                       http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/slavery-abolition-act-1833/

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport            http://www.onthisday.com/

* Wikipedia                                                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domesday_Book

* This Day In History – What Happened Today    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

 

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

17 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… August 1st”

  1. Excellent, John. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” You may have the most important blog on the internet….seriously. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Looking back a hundred years to the monstrous suffering of the First World War is very sobering. The abolition of slavery is also quite an event. We only had the Domesday book because the King wanted to raise taxes!!
    How time flies. Are we getting better?

    Liked by 1 person

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