John’s Believe It Or Not… November 13th

* 1869 – Anti-confederates defeat Premier Carter in Newfoundland Confederation election. * 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated. * 1775 Patriots take Montreal. * 1953 Indiana Textbook Commission member charges that Robin Hood is communistic. * 1955 Whoopi Goldberg born.

Whoopi as Guinan on Star Trek Next Generation

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1869 – Anti-confederates defeat Premier Carter in Newfoundland Confederation election.

Confederation, from its very beginning, was conceived as the union of all the British colonies in North America — Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The initiative came from the colony called Canada (today’s Ontario and Quebec), which sent delegates to a meeting of the three Maritime colonies (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island), held in Charlottetown in September 1864.

Newfoundland was not represented at that meeting, but Prime Minister Hugh Hoyles agreed to send delegates to a second conference held in Quebec City a month later, in October. Frederick Carter, the Speaker of the House, and Ambrose Shea, the Leader of the Opposition, went there, under instructions to listen and to report to their colleagues at home, but not to make any commitment.

Nonetheless, they signed on to the resolutions that embodied the terms of a proposed union of all the British North American colonies. The British Parliament, in 1867, transformed these resolutions, with some modifications, into the British North America Act — the Dominion of Canada’s Constitution.

The original BNA Act united Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as the Dominion of Canada. But the British Parliament, acting on the advice of the Canadian delegates to the 1867 London Conference, made specific provision for the admission of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia into the union, along with the lands that now form Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Eighty years passed before Newfoundland became part of Canada. And it took three tries before they did so.

Heated debate

Carter and Shea came back to Newfoundland to face a firestorm of opposition. Carter, a committed Confederate, became prime minister in 1865. But he was unable to persuade the legislature to send delegates to the conference to develop the final terms of union, in London in 1866.

Three years later, in March 1869, both houses of the legislature voted to accept the terms of a union with Canada. By June, Newfoundland delegates had negotiated final terms in Ottawa. A heated debate broke out throughout the island. The issue was then put to the people, in a general election. Popular feeling was inflamed by rhetoric such as the famous taunt to Canada:

“[Our] face turns to Britain, [our] back to the Gulf,

Come near at your peril, Canadian wolf.”

The anti-Confederates, led by Charles Fox Bennett, won an overwhelming majority.

There was no more talk of Confederation for nearly 40 years. But the financial crisis brought about by the failure of the two Newfoundland-owned banks in December 1894, combined with the political confusion in the aftermath of the 1893 general election, forced Newfoundland’s leaders to revive the idea of uniting with Canada.

Anti-Confederate propaganda poster
Anti-Confederate propaganda (Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage)

* 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedicated.

Near the end of a weeklong national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated in Washington after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial was a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials.

The designer of the memorial was Maya Lin, a Yale University architecture student who entered a nationwide competition to create a design for the monument. Lin, born in Ohio in 1959, was the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Many veterans’ groups were opposed to Lin’s winning design, which lacked a standard memorial’s heroic statues and stirring words. However, a remarkable shift in public opinion occurred in the months after the memorial’s dedication. Veterans and families of the dead walked the black reflective wall, seeking the names of their loved ones killed in the conflict. Once the name was located, visitors often made an etching or left a private offering, from notes and flowers to dog tags and cans of beer.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial soon became one of the most visited memorials in the nation’s capital. A Smithsonian Institution director called it “a community of feelings, almost a sacred precinct,” and a veteran declared that “it’s the parade we never got.” “The Wall” drew together both those who fought and those who marched against the war and served to promote national healing a decade after the divisive conflict’s end.

Remembrance - let us not forget those who served in Viet Nam: A grieving man with bowed head leans against the Memorial Wall with one hand.
Remembrance – let us not forget those who served in Viet Nam. (

* 1775 Patriots take Montreal.

On this day in 1775, Continental Army Brigadier General Richard Montgomery takes Montreal, Canada, without opposition.

Montgomery’s victory owed its success in part to Ethan Allen’s disorganized defeat at the hand of British General and Canadian Royal Governor Guy Carleton at Montreal on September 24, 1775. Allen’s misguided and undermanned attack on Montreal led to his capture by the British and imprisonment in Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, England. Although a failure in the short term, Allen’s attack had long-term benefits for the Patriots. Carleton had focused his attention on suppressing Allen’s attack, while refusing reinforcements to Fort St. Jean, to which Montgomery’s expedition laid siege from August 21 to November 3, 1775. Fort St. Jean’s commander, Major Charles Preston, surrendered on November 3, fearful of the hardship the town’s civilians would face during a winter under siege. With the final fortification between Montgomery and Montreal in Patriot hands and Carleton’s defenses depleted by the conflict with Allen, Montgomery’s forces entered Montreal with ease on November 13.

After Montgomery’s success at winning Montreal for the Patriots, Carleton escaped and fled to Quebec City, where he and Montgomery would, in December, again face one another in a climactic battle that would determine the fate of the Patriot invasion of Canada.

Facing the year-end expiration of their troops’ enlistment, Patriot forces advanced on Quebec under the cover of a blizzard at approximately 4 a.m. on December 31, 1775. The British defenders under Carleton were ready, however, and when Montgomery’s forces came within 50 yards of the city’s fortifications, the British opened fire with a barrage of artillery and musket fire. Montgomery was killed in the first assault, and after several more attempts at penetrating Quebec’s defenses, his men were forced to retreat.

Meanwhile, Colonel Benedict Arnold’s division suffered a similar fate during their attack on the northern wall of the city. A two-gun battery opened fire on the advancing Americans, killing a number of troops and wounding Benedict Arnold in the leg. Patriot Daniel Morgan assumed command and made progress against the defenders, but halted at the second wall of fortifications to wait for reinforcements. By the time the rest of Arnold’s army finally arrived, the British had reorganized, forcing the Patriots to call off their attack. Of the 900 Americans who participated in the siege, 60 were killed or wounded and more than 400 were captured.

The remaining Patriot forces then retreated from Canada. Benedict Arnold remained in Canadian territory until the last of his soldiers had crossed the St. Lawrence River to safety. With the pursuing British forces almost in firing range, Arnold checked one last time to make sure all his men had escaped, then shot his horse and fled down the St. Lawrence in a canoe.

Carleton had successfully snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and secured Canada for the British empire.

Painting: American patriot Ethan Allen imprisoned after his capture in Montreal, 1775 -1778.
American patriot Ethan Allen imprisoned after his capture in Montreal, 1775 -1778. (Alamy)

* 1953 Indiana Textbook Commission member charges that Robin Hood is communistic.

In an example of the absurd lengths to which the “Red Scare” in America is going, Mrs. Thomas J. White of the Indiana Textbook Commission, calls for the removal of references to the book Robin Hood from textbooks used by the state’s schools. Mrs. Young claimed that there was “a Communist directive in education now to stress the story of Robin Hood because he robbed the rich and gave it to the poor. That’s the Communist line. It’s just a smearing of law and order and anything that disrupts law and order is their meat.” She went on to attack Quakers because they “don’t believe in fighting wars.” This philosophy, she argued, played into communist hands. Though she later stated that she never argued for the removal of texts mentioning the story from school textbooks, she continued to claim that the “take from the rich and give to the poor” theme was the “Communist’s favorite policy.” Reacting to criticisms of her stance, she countered that, “Because I’m trying to get Communist writers out of textbooks, my name is mud. Evidently, I’m drawing blood or they wouldn’t make such an issue out of it.” The response to Mrs. White’s charges was mixed.

Indiana Governor George Craig came to the defense of Quakers but backed away from getting involved in the textbook issue. The state superintendent of education went so far as to reread the book before deciding that it should not be banned. However, he did feel that “Communists have gone to work twisting the meaning of the Robin Hood legend.” The Indianapolis superintendent of schools also did not want the book banned, claiming that he could not find anything particularly subversive about the story. In the Soviet Union, commentators had a field day with the story. One joked that the “enrollment of Robin Hood in the Communist Party can only make sensible people laugh.” The current sheriff of Nottingham was appalled, crying, “Robin Hood was no communist.”

As silly as the episode seems in retrospect, the attacks on freedom of expression during the Red Scare in the United States resulted in a number of books being banned from public libraries and schools during the 1950s and 1960s because of their supposedly subversive content. Such well-known books as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, were just some of the books often pulled from shelves. Hollywood films also felt the pressure to conform to more suitably “all-American” themes and stories, and rock and roll music was decried by some as communist-inspired.

Political Cartoon: Robin Hood wanted poster + Mrs. White pictured screaming, "SHARING thy WEALTH!? That way lies COMMUNISM!
Mrs. White bans Communist Robin Hood. November 13 Peace Love Activism (Terrorism Archives – The Woodstock Whisperer)

* 1955 Whoopi Goldberg born.

On this day in 1955, the actress, comedian and talk-show host Whoopi Goldberg is born in New York City. Goldberg earned an Oscar nomination for her Hollywood feature debut in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple (1985) and went on become the first-ever solo female host of the Academy Awards.

Born Caryn Johnson, Goldberg dropped out of high school, battled drug addiction, married at the age of 18, and had a daughter. In the mid-1970s, she moved to California and became involved in theater and stand-up comedy. She eventually developed a one-woman show of character monologues called The Spook Show and began touring the country. Renamed Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Mike Nichols, the show played to sold-out audiences on Broadway from 1984 to 1985. The director Steven Spielberg then cast Goldberg as Celie in The Color Purple, his big-screen adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel about an African-American woman growing up in the South during the early- to mid-1900s. The film received 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actress nod for Goldberg. She went on to star in films such as Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986) and Clara’s Heart (1988). She also continued to perform stand-up comedy, including a series of Comic Relief television benefits with her friends and fellow comics Billy Crystal and Robin Williams to raise money for organizations that help the homeless.

Goldberg won her first Oscar, in the Best Supporting Actress category, for her role as psychic Oda Mae Brown in the 1990 blockbuster Ghost, co-starring Patrick Swayze, and Demi Moore. (Goldberg was just the second African-American to collect the Best Supporting Actress award. The first, Hattie McDaniel, won for her performance in 1939’s Gone With the Wind.) In 1992, Goldberg scored another box-office hit with Sister Act, in which she played a nightclub singer hiding out in a convent from the mob. During the 1990s, Goldberg also appeared in such films as Robert Altman’s movie-business parody The Player (1992); Made in America (1993), with her one-time paramour Ted Danson; Corrina, Corrina (1994), with Ray Liotta; Boys on the Side (1995), with Drew Barrymore and Mary-Louise Parker; and Ghosts of Mississippi (1996), about the trial of the assassinated civil-rights leader Medgar Evers. The dreadlocked entertainment dynamo had a recurring role on Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1988 to 1993 and hosted her own talk show from 1992 to 1993.

In 1994, Goldberg became the first-ever solo female host of the Academy Awards, a job she repeated to largely positive reviews in 1996, 1999 and 2002. In September 2007, she signed on as a moderator of the daytime chatfest The View, taking over for the frequently controversial Rosie O’Donnell, who left the show. In addition to her TV and film work, Goldberg has continued to act and produce on Broadway.

Happy birthday Whoopi Goldberg (Born as Caryn Elaine Johnson - November 13, 1955
Happy birthday Whoopi Goldberg (Born as Caryn Elaine Johnson – November 13, 1955 (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Compass                                                                  

* 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.

20 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… November 13th”

  1. The mythological Robin Hood was communistic… now, I’ve heard everything! I suppose he carried pre-published copies of Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital around with him in Sherwood Forest, and painted red & gold hammer & sickles on his arrows too! Sheesh, what lunacy!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The Wall does that for sure, John. The young tour guide we had told a story about one day he saw a black man standing before the soldiers’ sculptures there and realized that he was the model for the black soldier in the sculpture. Yet there was no pride or joy in his face when the tour guide asked him about it. He acknowledged that he was one of the models, then walked away sadly. Thanks, good sir.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial a couple of years after it was dedicated. Like so many, I broke down in tears as I stood before it. So many young men and women lost their lives trying to do their best for their country; now we remember through a stark image that marks our hearts as it creates hallowed ground.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve seen it twice, Jennie. Back then, I was jaundiced about that war so I carried that bad attitude with me to that tour. As we walked by, I stopped to read many of the notes left in front of the wall. By the time I got to the end I was heartbroken and tears were rolling down my cheeks. My students noticed but said nothing – they were moved too. The next time I was in Washington I noticed that the Smithsonian had set up a display of pictures. letters, and notes left at the Vietnam Wall earlier – to make way for new offerings at the Wall itself. Again, the tears started. I hope you get to see it soon, Jennie.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’ve been to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial only once. They were putting finishing touches on the landscaping. There had been that controversy over the design. Of course I was drawn to see it, knew it would be sad, but didn’t expect to have a strong emotional reaction. It was one of my earliest experiences of the power of a merely symbolic object — to crack you wide open.

        Liked by 2 people

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