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History's Happenings for August 23

Damn the Torpedoes! Full Sail Ahead!

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
On the other hand, if you'd like to try writing
one  ... send it in! )

Parliament Passes Abolition Act

Britain had long been under more intense pressure to abolish slavery than was evident in the U. S. as a whole in the early nineteenth century. In 1807, Parliament had declared the trading of slaves to be illegal, with increasing penalties until, as late as 1837, slave trading was considered tantamount to piracy and the penalty was death.

On this day in 1833, Parliament passed the Abolition Act, finally making the condition of slavery itself illegal in the Empire. It instituted an apprenticeship program for ex-slaves that lasted until 1837.

The United States finally followed suit in 1865. Ironically, the last vestiges of quasi-legal slavery exist today in the areas -- mainly eastern and sub-Saharan Africa -- from which slaves were originally abducted, and they are still being sold into slavery by their own families.

First Eagle Scout

(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
On the other hand, if you'd like to try writing
one  ... send it in! )

Sacco And Vanzetti Executed

Nicola Sacco, a shoe worker, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, a fishmonger, were accused of an April, 1920 robbery in South Braintree, MA, which resulted in the deaths of two men, and the theft of $15,000.

Convicted on what many felt was circumstantial evidence, their death sentence and subsequent electrocution on this day in 1927 brought outcries from around the world. Because they were avowed Anarchists, most of the protests came from various radicals, Socialists and intellectuals, who charged that Sacco and Vanzetti had been railroaded due either to their immigrant status, or their political beliefs.

From all indications, the evidence against them, which of course was crude by modern standards, could not have convicted them today. This fact would not pronounce them innocent -- but it would free them on the presumption of their innocence.

In 1977, Governor Dukakis issued a proclamation clearing Sacco and Vanzetti's name.

Soviets, Nazis Sign Non-Aggression Pact

Foreshadowing the horrific events to come, the Soviet Union and their Nazi Germany partners formally signed a ten-year non-aggression pact negotiated over the past four days in 1939.

In so doing, the Nazis beat the British to the punch. Although the Brits also recognized the strategic significance of treating with the Soviets, their negotiators were too slow to travel to Moscow and Nazi Foreign Minister Joaquim von Ribbentrop was not.

There was nothing altruistic about the pact. The Nazi aims had become pretty clear by summer, 1939. To make them even clearer, a secret clause in the nonaggression treaty agreed to let the Soviet Union occupy the eastern half of Poland should Germany be "forced" to occupy the west. The deal worked out very sweetly when, a week later, Hitler started World War Two by invading Poland.

This treaty didn't even last as long as Hitler's "thousand-year Reich" ... in June of 1941 he turned on his Bolshevik partner and invaded Russia.

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