John’s Believe It Or Not… August 24th

In 1949 – North Atlantic Treaty goes into effect. In 1791 – Constitutional Act creates Upper and Lower Canada. In 79 Eruption of Mount Vesuvius begins. In 1572 Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. In  1974 Paul Anka has a #1 hit with “(You’re) Having My Baby”.

John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

It’s Therapeutic Thursday! Did you know…

* 1949 – North Atlantic Treaty goes into effect.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between several North American and European states based on the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on 4 April 1949.

NATO constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. Three NATO members (the United States, France, and the United Kingdom) are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and are officially nuclear-weapon states. NATO Headquarters are located in Haren, Brussels, Belgium, while the headquarters of Allied Command Operations is near Mons, Belgium.

NATO is an alliance that consists of 29 independent member countries across North America and Europe. An additional 21 countries participate in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, with 15 other countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programs. The combined military spending of all NATO members constitutes over 70% of the global total. Members’ defense spending is supposed to amount to at least 2% of GDP.

NATO was little more than a political association until the Korean War galvanized the organization’s member states, and an integrated military structure was built up under the direction of two US Supreme Commanders. The course of the Cold War led to a rivalry with nations of the Warsaw Pact, that formed in 1955. Doubts over the strength of the relationship between the European states and the United States ebbed and flowed, along with doubts over the credibility of the NATO defense against a prospective Soviet invasion—doubts that led to the development of the independent French nuclear deterrent and the withdrawal of France from NATO’s military structure in 1966 for 30 years. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany in 1989, the organization became involved in the breakup of Yugoslavia, and conducted its first military interventions in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995 and later Yugoslavia in 1999. Politically, the organization sought better relations with former Warsaw Pact countries, several of which joined the alliance in 1999 and 2004.

Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, requiring member states to come to the aid of any member state subject to an armed attack, was invoked for the first and only time after the September 11 attacks, after which troops were deployed to Afghanistan under the NATO-led ISAF. The organization has operated a range of additional roles since then, including sending trainers to Iraq, assisting in counter-piracy operations and in 2011 enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. The less potent Article 4, which merely invokes consultation among NATO members, has been invoked five times: by Turkey in 2003 over the Iraq War; twice in 2012 by Turkey over the Syrian Civil War, after the downing of an unarmed Turkish F-4 reconnaissance jet, and after a mortar was fired at Turkey from Syria; in 2014 by Poland, following the Russian intervention in Crimea; and again by Turkey in 2015 after threats by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to its territorial integrity.

Since its founding, the admission of new member states has brought the alliance from the original 12 countries to 29. The most recent member state to be added to NATO is Montenegro on 5 June 2017. NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia as aspiring members.

Cartoon by Low on the Soviet Union's reaction to the establishment of NATO
Cartoon by Low on the Soviet Union’s reaction to the establishment of NATO (

* 1791 – Constitutional Act creates Upper and Lower Canada.

The Constitutional Act of 1791 was an Act of the British Parliament creating Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec) from the Province of Quebec snatched from France in 1763. Although it was a first step towards Canadian Confederation, its rigid colonial structures also set the stage for rebellion (1837) in the two Canadas. The Act was also notable for a voting franchise that was inclusive by the standards of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly as it included women in Lower Canada who owned property.

The Act enshrined constitutional changes that were part of the reorganization of British North America that took place under the pressure of thousands of Loyalists seeking refuge after the American Revolution. They abhorred living in a British colony that was French-speaking.

This constitutional bill was prepared by William Wyndham Grenville to ensure the development of British parliamentary institutions in the territory then governed by the Quebec Act of 1774. Under the terms of the Quebec Act, the preservation of the French language and culture was guaranteed – and this feature was likely included to buy French Canadian loyalty as a revolution was brewing in the Thirteen Colonies. 

The bill had four main objectives: to guarantee the same rights and privileges as were enjoyed by loyal British subjects elsewhere in North America; to ease the burden on the imperial treasury by granting colonial assemblies the right to levy taxes with which to pay for local civil and legal administration; to justify the territorial division of the Province of Quebec and the creation of separate provincial legislatures; and to maintain and strengthen the bonds of political dependency by remedying the constitutional weaknesses of previous colonial governments. This involved bolstering the authority and prestige of the governor by making him a true representative of the imperial power and limiting the powers of the elected colonial assemblies by creating independent legislative councils whose appointed members comprised an aristocratic body modeled on the House of Lords and devoted to the interests of the Crown. 

By giving Upper Canada a provincial constitution and a separate existence, and by favoring British colonization there, Britain took the first steps on the path that led, ultimately, to the creation of the Canadian Confederation. Nevertheless, many historians have considered that the Act’s failure to establish responsible government (answerable to the voters) and its distribution of financial powers, in favor of the appointed councils, as factors contributing to the political conflict of the early 19th century (Rebellions of 1837).

Under the Act, voters were simply described as “persons” who were at least 21 years old and “natural” citizens or subjects of the monarch who had not been convicted of a serious criminal offense or treason. Importantly, voters must also own land or property of a certain value (in urban areas, tenants could also vote if they paid a minimum amount in rent). As this value was set quite low in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the result was a relatively broad franchise. Moreover, as women were not specifically excluded by the Act, this enabled women of property to vote in Lower Canada.

In Lower Canada, women’s property and inheritance rights were determined by the Custom of Paris (the Coutume de Paris). Under French law — unlike English Common Law, which prevailed in most other British colonies — property was shared between husbands and wives, although it was administered by the husband. If the husband died, his widow received half of their shared property. Women in Lower Canada, therefore, had greater access to property than elsewhere in the British colonies. As the Custom of Paris continued to apply to civil matters after 1791, women of property in Lower Canada could vote under the Act (although this was not always applied in practice). Overall, women voted in around 15 districts in Lower Canada between 1791 and 1849, when the Legislature passed a bill to remove women’s right to vote. However, in Upper Canada women were subject to English Common Law and were therefore excluded from voting under the Constitutional Act of 1791.

1791 Map of Eastern North America
(Virtual Canada 2.0)

* 79 Eruption of Mount Vesuvius begins.

Mount Vesuvius near Pompeii, Italy, begins to erupt on this day in the year 79; within the next 25 hours, it wipes out the entire town. Hundreds of years later, archaeologists excavated Pompeii and found everything and everyone that had been there that day perfectly preserved by the volcano’s ash.

Pompeii, about 90 miles south of Rome, was established in 600 B.C.E. in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which stood approximately 6,500 feet high. Apparently, no one was aware that Vesuvius was an active volcano, even after an earthquake in February of the year 63.

The preserved remains of Pompeii are not the only evidence of the disaster. Two authors who witnessed the eruption also recorded their observations. Pliny the Elder was across the bay from Vesuvius on the morning of August 24 when a large cloud was noticed emanating from the volcano. He dispatched several ships to the coastal town of Resina to investigate, but the ships could not land because they were pelted by flaming rocks from the volcano. Pliny the Elder headed toward the town of Stabiae, where ash continued to fall through the night. By the following morning, the ash even obscured the sun from view. On August 25, Pliny the Elder died, apparently overtaken by sulfur gases released from the volcano.

Pliny the Younger, just 18 years old at the time, was also a witness to the eruption. He reported people climbing through waves of ash to escape. His account of the tons of pumice, rock, and ash that Vesuvius pumped out over a 25-hour period, combined with the evidence left in Pompeii, indicates that about 2,000 residents of Pompeii survived the initial eruption of Vesuvius on August 24. It was the following morning when another, more powerful eruption killed everyone in an instant. When rain mixed with the ash, it formed a sort of concrete, preserving the city. The town of Herculaneum was also buried on August 25, but by a mudslide set off by the eruption and accompanying tremors. It is estimated that 13,000 people in total died from the eruption.

It was not until 1595, during the construction of an aqueduct, that Pompeii was rediscovered. Unfortunately, what can be viewed today is only a small fraction of what was found then, as looting and pillaging over the years have greatly reduced the archaeological value of the site. Some scientists believe that there may still be other villages buried by Vesuvius that have yet to be discovered.

The AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius, as envisioned in the movie Pompeii.
Mt. Vesuvius explodes in TriStar Pictures’ POMPEII.

* 1572 Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

King Charles IX of France, under the sway of his mother, Catherine de Medici, orders the assassination of Huguenot Protestant leaders in Paris, setting off an orgy of killing that results in the massacre of tens of thousands of Huguenots all across France.

Two days earlier, Catherine had ordered the murder of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, a Huguenot leader whom she felt was leading her son into war with Spain. However, Coligny was only wounded, and Charles promised to investigate the assassination in order to placate the angry Huguenots. Catherine then convinced the young king that the Huguenots were on the brink of rebellion, and he authorized the murder of their leaders by the Catholic authorities. Most of these Huguenots were in Paris at the time, celebrating the marriage of their leader, Henry of Navarre, to the king’s sister, Margaret.

A list of those to be killed was drawn up, headed by Coligny, who was brutally beaten and thrown out of his bedroom window just before dawn on August 24. Once the killing started, mobs of Catholic Parisians, apparently overcome with bloodlust, began a general massacre of Huguenots. Charles issued a royal order on August 25 to halt the killing, but his pleas went unheeded as the massacres spread. Mass slaughters continued into October, reaching the provinces of Rouen, Lyon, Bourges, Bourdeaux, and Orleans. An estimated 3,000 French Protestants were killed in Paris, and as many as 70,000 in all of France. The massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day marked the resumption of religious civil war in France.

St Bartholomew's Day Massacre by François Dubois
St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre by François Dubois (The Elizabeth Files)

* 1974 Paul Anka has a #1 hit with “(You’re) Having My Baby”.

On August 24, 1967, 17 years after his first trip to the top of the pop charts, Paul Anka earns a #1 hit with “(You’re) Having My Baby,” a duet with singer Odia Cotes.

Regrets? Perhaps Paul Anka’s had a few, but writing the lyrics to “My Way” would certainly not be among them. Nor would writing a new theme song for Jack Paar’s replacement on The Tonight Show and negotiating a deal that would pay him royalties every time Johnny Carson took the stage over the next 32 years. Nor his astute decision (at the age of only 19) to buy back from his record label the master recordings of hits like “Diana,” “Lonely Boy,” “Puppy Love” and “Put Your Head On My Shoulders,” thereby giving himself permanent control over lucrative reissues of his early catalog. In business, he was nearly infallible, from his early days as a self-made teen idol to his later money-making years as a medallion-wearing Vegas headliner. So when he someday turns to face life’s final curtain, Paul Anka will have earned not only a pile of cash, but also the right to say he did things his way, even when it meant sparking an outcry of protest against his chart-topping hit “(You’re) Having My Baby,” which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1974.

It’s difficult to say what the biggest problem with “(You’re) Having My Baby” was since it seemed to depend very much on one’s perspective. On the one hand, there were the feminists who took issue not only with the sexist title of the song itself but with lyrics like “Do ya feel my seed inside ya, growin’?” To these people, Anka would later extend an olive branch by performing the song with the altered lyric “You’re having our baby.” Harder to mollify were the right-to-life activists who protested the song on the basis of lyrics they regarded as pro-abortion: “Didn’t have to keep it/ Wouldn’t put you through it/ You could have swept it from your life/ But you wouldn’t do it.”

Anka, for his part, intended “(You’re) Having My Baby” as a straightforward, apolitical tribute to the wife who had given him four healthy children. And political backlash aside, it struck enough of a chord in American record-buyers to give him one of the biggest hits of his extraordinary career.

Paul Anka in 1958
Paul Anka in 1958.

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* Wikipedia                                              

The Canadian Encyclopedia                  

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

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 (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

4 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… August 24th”

  1. Vesuvius had a minor eruption when my father was there during the war. He went up it while lava was streaming down and had an ashtray made out of the molten lava. I visited it ten years ago and was able to look at the same lava flow, now rock, which my father had witnessed flowing. Pompei and Herculanium were both superb.
    I somehow can’t imagine Paul Anka being controversial.

    Liked by 2 people

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