John’s Believe It Or Not… February 12th

* 1835 – First meeting of the Council of Assiniboia held in Fort Garry. * 2002 Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes * 1793 Congress enacts first fugitive slave law * 1924 Rhapsody In Blue – by George Gershwin – performed for first time * 1915 Lorne Greene is born

Lorne Greene on Bonanza set as Ben Cartright

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1835 – First meeting of the Council of Assiniboia held in Fort Garry.

In 1670 Charles II of England granted a royal charter to the Company of Associates trading into Hudson’s Bay. Instead of the British Monarch governing the territory conferred, the charter gave the Company the rights of governance. There were some restrictions: any laws the Company might devise had to accord with the laws of England (as laid out at the time of the charter); after 1763, capital cases were to be tried in courts in the Canadas (afterward United Canada/ the Province of Canada).

Although there was a governor installed at the Red River Colony [later became the province of Manitoba] beginning 1812, who appointed an advisory council of a few men, and a sheriff (including John Spencer, who married into a Métis family), the wider region of Assiniboia operated virtually devoid of organized, formal government until the 1830s. Decisions were made and problems settled on an ad hoc basis, by whoever seemed to be in charge. Often settlers resolved disputes among themselves (this state of affairs was characterized by settler Alexander Ross as a “smoothing system”).

From 1830 to 1834, the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in North America, George Simpson, who was resident at Lower Fort Garry, was the superior officer at Red River and ‘highest court’ of appeal. On departing the settlement to relocate his office to Lachine, Lower Canada, Simpson left a more organized Governor and Council of Assiniboia in place — at least to the extent that records were kept and duties were more clearly defined. “Safety” was given as the principal justification for restructuring the Council. The HBC Council of Assiniboia’s area of authority was set at a radius of 50 miles from Fort Garry. It was to make laws, to appoint magistrates and justices of the peace in a local court system (in which the Council figured as the ‘supreme court’), and to organize constables for the maintenance of order. It could set taxes/ duties and fund public projects (principally roads and bridges). There would be no elections, all positions were appointed — not by the Crown, but by the Hudson’s Bay Company’s London Committee, on the recommendation of Simpson.

The first meeting of this newly structured Council of Assiniboia took place on 12 February 1835. It resolved to levy an import tax of 7.5% and build a courthouse and a gaol/ jail next to Upper Fort Garry. It would meet quarterly as the high court with a Recorder (also appointed by Simpson) on hand to advise on interpreting the law. By 1839, provisions were in place for a jury (selected from among landowners) to hear evidence and recommend sentencing. Community functioning still relied principally on the goodwill and good sense of the people.

The fact that the Council of Assiniboia, operating as a civil government, was responsible to (meaning ‘hired and fired’ by) the Council of Rupert’s Land (created by Simpson with himself at the head), which was a corporate government, did not sit well with the inhabitants of Red River.

Upper Fort Garry
Upper Fort Garry (

* 2002 Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes

On this day in 2002, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo. Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when the so-called “Butcher of the Balkans” was found dead at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.

Yugoslavia, consisting of Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia, became a federal republic, headed by Communist leader Marshal Tito, on January 31, 1946. Tito died in May 1980 and Yugoslavia, along with communism, crumbled over the next decade.

Milosevic, born August 20, 1941, joined the Communist Party at age 18; he became president of Serbia in 1989. On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia and Milosevic sent tanks to the Slovenian border, sparking a brief war that ended in Slovenia’s secession. In Croatia, fighting broke out between Croats and ethnic Serbs and Serbia sent weapons and medical supplies to the Serbian rebels in Croatia. Croatian forces clashed with the Serb-led Yugoslav army troops and their Serb supporters. An estimated 10,000 people were killed and hundreds of Croatian towns were destroyed before a U.N. cease-fire was established in January 1992. In March, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence, and Milosevic funded the subsequent Bosnian Serb rebellion, starting a war that killed an estimated 200,000 people, before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.

In Kosovo, a formerly autonomous province of Serbia, liberation forces clashed with Serbs and the Yugoslav army was sent in. Amidst reports that Milosevic had launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanians, NATO forces launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Ineligible to run for a third term as Serbian president, Milosevic had made himself president of Yugoslavia in 1997. After losing the presidential election in September 2000, he refused to accept defeat until mass protests forced him to resign the following month. He was charged with corruption and abuse of power and finally surrendered to Serbian authorities on April 1, 2001, after a 26-hour standoff. That June, he was extradited to the Netherlands and indicted by a United Nations war crimes tribunal. Milosevic died in his cell of a heart attack before his trial could be completed.

In February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro became a commonwealth and officially dropped the name Yugoslavia. In June 2006, the two countries declared their independence from each other.

13 February 2002: Former President Slobodan Milosevic sits defiantly in the courtroom
13 February 2002: Former President Slobodan Milosevic sits defiantly in the courtroom (

* 1793 Congress enacts first fugitive slave law

On this day, Congress passes the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that forbid slavery, to forcibly return slaves who have escaped from other states to their original owners. The laws stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such labor or service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

As Northern states abolished slavery, most relaxed enforcement of the 1793 law, and many passed laws ensuring fugitive slaves a jury trial. Several Northern states even enacted measures prohibiting state officials from aiding in the capture of runaway slaves or from jailing the fugitives. This disregard of the first fugitive slave law enraged Southern states and led to the passage of a second fugitive slave law as part of the Compromise of 1850 between the North and South.

The second fugitive slave law called for the return of slaves “on pain of heavy penalty” but permitted a jury trial under the condition that fugitives be prohibited from testifying in their own defense. Notable fugitive slave trials, such as the Dred Scott case of 1857, stirred up public opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Meanwhile, fugitive slaves circumvented the law through the “Underground Railroad,” which was a network of persons, primarily free African Americans, who helped fugitives escape to freedom in the Northern states or Canada.

Fugitive Slave Law slide with three points of information.

* 1924 Rhapsody In Blue – by George Gershwin – performed for first time

“The audience packed a house that could have been sold out at twice the size,” wrote New York Times critic Olin Downes on February 13, 1924, of a concert staged the previous afternoon at the Aeolian Hall in New York City. Billed as an educational event, the “Experiment In Modern Music” concert was organized by Paul Whiteman, the immensely popular leader of the Palais Royal Orchestra, to demonstrate that the relatively new form of music called jazz deserved to be regarded as a serious and sophisticated art form. The program featured didactic segments intended to make this case—segments with titles like “Contrast: Legitimate Scoring vs. Jazzing.” After 24 such stem-winders, the house was growing restless. Then a young man named George Gershwin, then known only as a composer of Broadway songs, seated himself at the piano to accompany the orchestra in the performance of a brand new piece of his own composition, called Rhapsody In Blue.

“It starts with an outrageous cadenza of the clarinet,” wrote Downes of the now-famous two-and-a-half-octave glissando that makes Rhapsody in Blue as instantly recognizable as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. “It has subsidiary phrases, logically growing out of it…often metamorphosed by devices of rhythm and instrumentation.” The music critic of the New York Times was in agreement with Whiteman’s basic premise: “This is no mere dance-tune set for piano and other instruments,” he judged. “This composition shows extraordinary talent, just as it also shows a young composer with aims that go far beyond those of his ilk.”

It may be true that George Gershwin had always hoped to transcend the category of popular music, but the piece he used to accomplish that feat was put together very hastily. Just five weeks prior to the “Experiment in Modern Music” concert, Gershwin had not committed to writing a piece for it, when his brother Ira read a report in the New York Tribune stating that George was “at work on a jazz concerto” for the program. Thus painted into a corner, George Gershwin pieced Rhapsody In Blue together as best he could in the time available, leaving his own piano part to be improvised during the world premiere. Rhapsody would, of course, come to be regarded as one of the most important American musical works of the 20th century. It would also open the door for a whole generation of “serious” composers—from Copland to Brecht—to draw on jazz elements in their own important works.

Rhapsody in Blue (Original 1927 Recording) by George Gershwin, Paul Whiteman, Ferde Grofé & Nathaniel Shilkret on Apple Music
Rhapsody in Blue (Original 1927 Recording) by George Gershwin, Paul Whiteman, Ferde Grofé & Nathaniel Shilkret on Apple Music

* 1915 Lorne Greene is born

Lorne Greene, the actor who played Ben Cartwright on the immensely popular television Western Bonanza, is born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. An only child, Greene later said he based his portrayal of Ben Cartwright on his own father, Daniel Greene.

Greene’s rise to national stardom in Bonanza did not come until relatively late in his career. He first began acting as a student at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, where he abandoned his major in chemical engineering to follow the more exciting lure of the stage. For several years he worked in the theater in New York City, but he won his first major position in 1939 as an announcer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. His deep, warm voice soon earned Greene the title, “The Voice of Canada.” During World War II, he served as a flying officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force. When he returned to Canada, Greene began to win more acting roles in the fledgling Canadian television industry. In 1954, he made his big-screen debut as the Apostle Peter in The Silver Chalice.

Greene’s big break came in 1959. The American TV producer David Dortot spotted Greene playing a small role in the Western Wagon Train. Dortot was in the midst of creating a new TV Western based on the adventures of a rancher father and his three sons. He thought Greene would be perfect for the role of “Pa”-Ben Cartwright. Greene agreed to take the role. His three TV sons (each by a different wife) were the thoughtful and mature Adam (Pernell Roberts), the gentle giant Hoss (Dan Blocker), and the hot-blooded young romantic Little Joe (Michael Landon).

Bonanza debuted on NBC in 1959 and remained on the air until 1973, making it one of the longest-running TV Westerns ever. Somewhat unique among the many other TV Westerns of the time that emphasized solitary cowboys and gunmen, Bonanza focused on the strong familial bonds between Ben Cartwright and his three sons. The silver-haired Greene created a Ben Cartwright who was an ideal father. Strong, compassionate, and understanding, “Pa” shepherded his sons through tough times with a grace and wisdom that won him the affection of millions of viewers. Besides offering appealing characters and interesting storylines, Bonanza was also popular because it was the first network Western to be televised in color.

After Bonanza was canceled in 1973, Greene acted in several other short-lived TV shows, including Battlestar Galactica. He died in 1987 at the age of 72, still best remembered by millions as “Pa” Cartwright.

The Bonanza TV Show cast - Lorne Greene on the far right.
The Bonanza TV Show cast – Lorne Greene on the far right.

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia                             

* 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.

18 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 12th”

  1. Gershwin’s work is incredible and Rhapsody In Blue leaves us speechless. When I hear his work, I always think of my daughter for she danced professionally for awhile (ballet) and more than one performance was to Gershwin. Thank you for the memories. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Boy, you have to be careful about reading the history of the council of Assiniboia out loud. Milosevic was a thug who killed untold thousands of people. I think the heart attack was God’s desire to get his hands on him and didn’t want to wait for a trial. Congress enacts first fugitive slave law laying the precedent for today’s incompetence. Love Rhapsody In Blue and George Gershwin. Lorne Greene and Bonanza became an American institution. Good post, John

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, as a Canadian, I am intensely proud that Lorne Greene was a fellow Canuck along with the likes of William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, Donald Sutherland, and Donald Trump… oops! Just being silly. You guys can keep The Donald! Thanks, John!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post as always, my friend. It’s mind-boggling to think that the “Fugitive Slave Law” was exacted in 1793. It’s such a relatively short time ago. As for Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ it still remains one of my favorite pieces of music. The man was a huge talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Speaking of the first Fugitive Slave Law in the USA, a young Black Canadian was interviewed on the morning news show in Toronto about Black History Month. He maintains that both Canada and the USA were founded as white supremacist countries and that fundamental truth has never changed – as witnessed in both countries’ judicial and penal systems. Despite the advances in civil rights, people of color are discriminated against on both sides of the border. Thanks, Soooz!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sadly it appears to be a worldwide disease, John. I’ve witnessed people here on public transport stand for an entire journey rather than sit alongside a person of color. They seem to forget that Australia was populated for eons before ‘colonization’. It makes my temper boil.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I ADORED Lorne Greene! I am a huge Bonanza fan (entire series on DVD) and can usually name an episode from just a glimpse of a scene or snippet of dialogue, LOL. I discovered the series in reruns after it went off the air but quickly became addicted. I’ve even visited the Ponderosa in Lake Tahoe.

    Did you know that because Lorne Greene was only 13 years older than Pernell Roberts (not really old enough to be his father) they silvered his hair up a bit in the early episodes to make him look older?

    Bonanza remains one of my favorite series of all time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a passion we both share, Mae! I grew up with Bonanza and just adored the Cartright family. One of my favorite episodes had the local schoolmarm away from her teaching duties for a while, so Pa insisted that Hoss fill in for her. The next scene shows Hoss at the door ringing the school bell for the students to come inside and he yells, “C’mon inside, and I’ll learn ya some grammar!” Thanks, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the War Crime Tribunals are the most important thing of all. Nobody can rest easy if they have committed war crimes. Someone will be coming for them. I think all those terrorists should be put on trial and locked up for what they’ve done. Killing them is not good enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While I share your sentiments on war criminals and terrorists, I think the War on Terror begun after 9/11 was a huge mistake. The “righteous” violence we visited upon the terrorists has done nothing but exacerbate the problem by feeding the hatred on both sides. As much as it is an understandable emotional response, it is ineffective and perpetuates all that is evil. Thanks, Opher.


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