Today in History
History's Happenings for September 22
Following on the heels of the semi-successful Battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln issued his famous Emancipation Proclamation on this day in 1862. It took effect on January 1, 1863, freeing all the slaves in territory subsequently conquered by advancing Union armies.
The slaves in loyal or neutral territory, and those in previously occupied rebel areas, had to wait for the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.
Nathan Hale, while not a colonial hero on the scale of a Washington or Jefferson, in one short moment epitomized the foundational understanding that there is a cost to freedom … and he proudly paid it.
Born in 1755 in Connecticut, Hale was educated at Yale College, in New Haven, from which he graduated in 1773. He taught until 1775, when he joined the Continental Army to help fight the American Revolution.
In September of 1776, Captain Hale agreed to secretly enter New York City, then occupied by British General Howe's army, and note the British troop dispositions. Although disguised as a Dutch schoolteacher, he was recognized and arrested. The penalty for espionage was well known.
On September 22, 1776, Hale was hanged by the British for his efforts on behalf of the new nation. His last words … "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country!"
Prior to the establishment of the United States, the mail in America was carried by the British General Post Office. But local control over the handling of mail was an early concern of the Continental Congress.
As such, the U. S. Post Office was one of the first functions to be established by the new constitutional government in 1789, along with the Departments of State, Treasury and War, and the office of the Attorney General. The original department carried out its work through 75 local post offices and over about two thousand miles of postal roads -- obviously on horseback, where the motto "Neither rain nor sleet …" really hit home!
It was another 60 years before the convenience of adhesive stamps arrived in 1847, and yet another ten before the first letterbox appeared on the street. By the late 1860's, the Post Office was also delivering mail to homes and businesses in major cities, a practice which grew to include universal free delivery by the end of the century.
Parcel Post arrived in 1913, and air mail service began five years later.
The U.S. Post Office Department existed until replaced by the supposedly self-sustaining U.S. Postal Service by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. Prior to the Act's effective date in 1971, the Postmaster General of the United States was a member of the President's cabinet.
Traditionally the day on which Latter Day Saints founder Joseph Smith had his first revelation and was given the golden plates upon which the Book of Mormon was inscribed.
Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon, along with the Bible, the Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, make up the scriptural basis of the Mormon Church.
In an event that could only be considered inevitable, the Soviet Union detonated their own atomic bomb on this day in 1949, thus beginning the nuclear weapons contest that has existed ever since.
At that moment, the Soviets became only the second power to have "the bomb". Since that time, Britain, France, Red China, India and Pakistan have admitted to joining the club, and others including Israel and South Africa are suspected of having the capability.
The United States remains the only nuclear power to have actually used the bomb in battle -- in August of 1945, against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- a fact which, paradoxically, is believed to have saved the hundreds of thousands of Allied and Japanese lives that would have been lost in a full-scale invasion.
Most folks realize that the next use of this terrible weapon will not save any lives.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.