Today in History
History's Happenings for September 13
By 1635, given additional oppression in England by the Crown and Anglican Church, the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony had grown to several thousand citizens. Although having fled religious persecution in Europe, the government they formed in America was not much more liberal, requiring all citizens to support the established Puritan church and its rules over private affairs.
Resistance arose among those whose views of worship and Christian living differed in small degrees from the strict Puritan line. Such persons were not invited to share in the government, which had evolved with the growth of population into a representative form, but whose representations were restricted to avowed Puritans.
One of the disenchanted was the pastor of a church in Salem, one Roger Williams. Among his espoused beliefs were that the land belonged to the Indian, and the King could not give charter to it; that the government could not control a man's conscience; and that to force an oath of citizenship was to inspire lying and hypocrisy. These then-revolutionary beliefs caused Williams to be banished from the Colony -- a fate which was perhaps more fortunate than that which befell accused witches and other undesirables.
He wandered from Indian tribe to Indian tribe, eventually reaching Narragansett Bay, purchasing a tract from the Indians, and in 1636 founded a settlement he named Providence in honor of God's deliverance of him. Such was the foundation of what is now the state of Rhode Island.
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On this day in 1788 the Congress of the Confederation set March 4, 1789 as the effective date for the new United States Constitution. On that day, the Articles of Confederation would cease to be the law of the land, and the Constitution as we know it would take over.
Congress simultaneously authorized our first national election, which would produce a newly elected First United States Congress, President George Washington, and Vice President John Adams, and designated New York City as the temporary capital of the new nation.
In Linn County, Missouri, 1860. Pershing graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1886 and served in the various Indian Wars in the west, as well as the Spanish-American War, where he charged San Juan Hill along with the Rough Riders.
Pershing's stern, abruptly military nature earned the respect, but never the love, of his men, and also contributed to his nickname. After a short stint with the Tenth Cavalry, a unit comprised of black "Buffalo Soldiers", Pershing was assigned as a Tac -- tactical officer -- at West Point. Tacs were responsible for the drilling and discipline of a company of cadets, and tended to attract the ire of the men in the best of situations. Given Pershing's manner -- and his tenure with the Tenth -- he quickly gained nicknames from the cadets, of which Black Jack is the only one printable in polite company. In truth, Pershing was proud of his service with the Tenth -- he served with them again in Cuba -- and gained a great respect for the unit.
Irritated by the excruciatingly slow promotion process of the times (he was still only a brevet-captain after the War), Pershing asked for reassignment to the field and served in the Philippines during the Moro insurrection, and as an observer during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. Finally promotions began to accumulate as his acumen for both the fight and for negotiated victories began to be recognized.
In 1916, Pershing took charge of the punitive expedition against Mexican bandit and revolutionary Pancho Villa, who had attacked a town in New Mexico and killed civilians. (Brand new Lieutenants Dwight Eisenhower and George S. Patton served with him on this mission.)
When America entered the war in Europe in April, 1917, then Major General Pershing was put in charge of the Expeditionary Force (AEF). It was his insistence that prevented the break-up and distribution among the Allied forces of the AEF -- they would fight as a unified American army or not at all. He then used the fast-moving tactics instilled into our forces to break the stalemate of trench warfare, earning him a major share of the laurels for the Allied victory in November, 1918.
When he returned from the War, Pershing was awarded a rank only ever shared by George Washington -- General of the Armies of the United States.
He became Army Chief of Staff until his retirement in 1924, and died in 1948.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.