It’s Tuesday! Did you know…
* 1849 – Over 325 prominent Montréal citizens sign The Annexation Manifesto.
The Montreal Annexation Manifesto was a political document dated September 14, 1849, and signed in Montreal, Quebec, calling for Canada’s annexation by the United States.
The Manifesto was published in two versions (October 11, 1849, and December 1849) by the Annexation Association, an alliance of 325 Montreal businessmen (mostly English-speaking Tories), who were opposed to Britain’s abolition of the Corn Laws, thus ending preferential colonial trade, and by its consent to the Rebellion Losses Bill, and French Canadian nationalists (including Louis-Joseph Papineau) who supported the republican system of government in the United States. These businessmen believed that so long as the Provinces of Canada were under British rule, it would be subjected to the interests of elements of Britain’s aristocracy and businessmen. Papineau too had believed a similar subjection occurred, perpetrated by France and, given the tiny population in Canada compared to that of the United States, these people believed that the abolition of customs duties at such an early point in Canada’s economic development would be disastrous for Canadian business and the job losses would be massive.
The Manifesto was strongly opposed by members of the British American League and by leading politicians such as Robert Baldwin plus the followers of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine. After the signing of the Canadian–American Reciprocity (Free Trade) Treaty in 1854, the Annexation movement died out.
In an editorial, the New York Herald newspaper responded to the Annexation Movement with the following advice: “The first thing for the people of Canada to do, however, is to obtain England’s consent to dispose of themselves as they think proper.”
Future Prime Minister of Canada John Abbott was a signatory to the Manifesto, though he later described that action as a youthful error.
* 1970 October Crisis in Canada.
During the October Crisis, the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ), a militant separatist group, kidnaps Quebec labor minister Pierre Laporte in Montreal. Five days earlier, FLQ terrorists had seized British trade commissioner James Richard Cross. In exchange for the lives of the men, the FLQ demanded the release of two dozen FLQ members convicted of various charges, including kidnappings, bombings, and arms theft.
Believing the situation to be out of control, the Quebec government asked the Canadian federal government to send troops to the French-Canadian province to help maintain order. Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau responded by proclaiming the War Powers Act, under which the FLQ was banned, some civil liberties were suspended, and thousands of troops were sent to Montreal. In a series of police raids, more than 400 Quebec separatists were taken into custody and held without charges. On October 18, the body of Pierre Laporte was found in the trunk of a car near Saint-Hubert Airport. The apartment building holding Cross and his kidnappers was discovered in late November. After a tense standoff, the kidnappers agreed to release Cross in return for safe passage to Cuba for themselves and their families. Cross was freed on December 4 after the group arrived in Cuba. Laporte’s kidnappers were later arrested and convicted of kidnapping and murder.
The October Crisis was a rare period of violence during Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, an otherwise peaceful effort by Quebecois politicians to gain greater autonomy within the English-dominated federation of Canada.
* 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking ends.
The hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro reaches a dramatic climax when U.S. Navy F-14 fighters intercept an Egyptian airliner attempting to fly the Palestinian hijackers to freedom and force the jet to land at a NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily. American and Italian troops surrounded the plane, and the terrorists were taken into Italian custody.
On October 7, four heavily armed Palestinian terrorists hijacked the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Some 320 crewmembers and 80 passengers, were taken hostage. Hundreds of other passengers had disembarked the cruise ship earlier that day to visit Cairo and tour the Egyptian pyramids. Identifying themselves as members of the Palestine Liberation Front–a Palestinian splinter group–the gunmen demanded the release of 50 Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel. If their demands were not met, they threatened to blow up the ship and kill the 11 Americans on board. The next morning, they also threatened to kill the British passengers.
The Achille Lauro traveled to the Syrian port of Tartus, where the terrorists demanded negotiations on October 8. Syria refused to permit the ship to anchor in its waters, which prompted more threats from the hijackers. That afternoon, they shot and killed Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old Jewish-American who was confined to a wheelchair as the result of a stroke. His body was then pushed overboard in the wheelchair.
Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) condemned the hijacking, and PLO officials joined with Egyptian authorities in attempting to resolve the crisis. On the recommendation of the negotiators, the cruise ship traveled to Port Said. On October 9, the hijackers surrendered to Egyptian authorities and freed the hostages in exchange for a pledge of safe passage to an undisclosed destination.
The next day–October 10–the four hijackers boarded an EgyptAir Boeing 737 airliner, along with Mohammed Abbas, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front who had participated in the negotiations; a PLO official; and several Egyptians. The 737 took off from Cairo at 4:15 p.m. EST and headed for Tunisia. President Ronald Reagan gave his final order approving the plan to intercept the aircraft, and at 5:30 p.m. EST, F-14 Tomcat fighters located the airliner 80 miles south of Crete. Without announcing themselves, the F-14s trailed the airliner as it sought and was denied permission to land at Tunis. After a request to land at the Athens airport was likewise refused, the F-14s turned on their lights and flew wing-to-wing with the airliner. The aircraft was ordered to land at a NATO air base in Sicily, and the pilot complied, touching down at 6:45 p.m. The hijackers were arrested soon after. Abbas and the other Palestinian were released, prompting criticism from the United States, which wanted to investigate their possible involvement in the hijacking.
On July 10, 1986, an Italian court later convicted three of the terrorists and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 15 to 30 years. Three others, including Mohammed Abbas, were convicted in absentia for masterminding the hijacking and sentenced to life in prison. They received harsher penalties because, unlike the hijackers, who the court found were acting for “patriotic motives,” Abbas and the others conceived the hijacking as a “selfish political act” designed “to weaken the leadership of Yasir Arafat.” The fourth hijacker was a minor who was tried and convicted separately.
* 2004 Superman Christopher Reeve dies at age 52.
On this day in 2004, the actor Christopher Reeve, who became famous for his starring role in four Superman films, dies from heart failure at the age of 52 at a hospital near his home in Westchester County, New York. Reeve, who was paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident, was a leading advocate for spinal cord research.
Christopher Reeve was born on September 25, 1952, in New York City, and graduated from Cornell University and the Juilliard School. He made his Broadway debut in 1976 in A Matter of Gravity, starring Katharine Hepburn. The 6’4” actor shot to fame in 1978 when he was selected over some 200 other actors for the lead in Superman. Although he would play the action hero in three more films, Reeve was determined to “escape the cape” and avoid being typecast. As a result, he took on a variety of stage and screen roles. His film credits included Somewhere in Time (1980), Deathtrap (1983), The Remains of the Day (1993) and Village of the Damned (1995).
On May 27, 1995, Reeve, a strong athlete and avid horseman, was left paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown from his horse and breaking his neck during an equestrian competition in Virginia. The actor then became a crusader for people with spinal cord injuries and also lobbied for government funding of embryonic stem-cell research. During a speech at the 1996 Academy Awards, Reeve urged the Hollywood community to make more movies about social issues. In addition to his fundraising and advocacy work, Reeve wrote two books about his life experiences and continued his acting career. In 1997, he made his directorial debut with HBO’s In the Gloaming, which was nominated for five Emmy Awards, and in 1999, he starred in a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window. In 2004, Reeve directed A&E’s The Brooke Ellison Story, a movie based on a true story about the first quadriplegic to graduate from Harvard University.
In 2000, Reeve, who maintained an intensive physical therapy regime since the time of his accident, was able to move his index finger. He stated publicly that he was determined to walk again. In Reeve’s New York Times obituary, one of the doctors who treated him said: “Before [Reeve] there was really no hope. If you had a spinal cord injury like his there was not much that could be done, but he’s changed all that, he’s demonstrated that there is hope and that there are things that can be done.”
* 1944 Eight hundred children are gassed to death at Auschwitz.
On this day in 1944, 800 Gypsy children, including more than a hundred boys between 9 and 14 years old are systematically murdered.
Auschwitz was really a group of camps, designated I, II, and III. There were also 40 smaller “satellite” camps. It was at Auschwitz II, at Birkenau, established in October 1941, that the SS created a complex, monstrously orchestrated killing ground: 300 prison barracks; four “bathhouses,” in which prisoners were gassed; corpse cellars; and cremating ovens. Thousands of prisoners were also used as fodder for medical experiments, overseen and performed by the camp doctor, Josef Mengele (“the Angel of Death”).
A mini-revolt took place on October 7, 1944. As several hundred Jewish prisoners were being forced to carry corpses from the gas chambers to the furnace to dispose of the bodies, they blew up one of the gas chambers and set fire to another, using explosives smuggled to them from Jewish women who worked in a nearby armaments factory. Of the roughly 450 prisoners involved in the sabotage, about 250 managed to escape the camp during the ensuing chaos. They were all found and shot. Those co-conspirators who never made it out of the camp were also executed, as were five women from the armaments factory-but not before being tortured for detailed information on the smuggling operation. None of the women talked.
Gypsies, too, had been singled out for brutal treatment by Hitler’s regime early on. Deemed “carriers of disease” and “unreliable elements who cannot be put to useful work,” they were marked for extermination along with the Jews of Europe from the earliest years of the war. Approximately 1.5 million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis. In 1950, as Gypsies attempted to gain compensation for their suffering, as were other victims of the Holocaust, the German government denied them anything, saying, “Gypsies have been persecuted under the Nazis not for any racial reason but because of an asocial and criminal record.” They were stigmatized even in light of the atrocities committed against them.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/