Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 30, 1955 – James Dean Narrowly Survives Crash

Born February 8, 1931, James Dean grew to become America's favorite Bad Boy of the 1950s and '60s. A popular, though mediocre, high school student, he left his aunt's farm in Indiana where he had been sent to live after his mother's death of cancer and moved to California. He first enrolled at Santa Monica College in pre-law, then transferred to UCLA to study drama. Acting would hold him the rest of his life.

He beat out hundreds of other actors to play Malcolm in Macbeth, which spurred him to drop of out college and act full time. After a few commercials and walk-on roles in Hollywood, he moved to New York where he came into method acting at the Actors Studio. He worked in television and theater, which led to his return to Hollywood for the role of Cal Trask in East of Eden. The film would be a tremendous success, which was only to be overshadowed by Rebel Without a Cause. 1956 would give Dean another break-out role in Giant, which would win him an Academy Award with his willingness to portray Jett the oil tycoon as older with gray, receding hair.

During the filming of Giant, Dean would experience what he called “one of the spookiest things” in his life. In addition to acting, he had become a great racing enthusiast. He traded for a 550 Porsche Spyder, one of only ninety made, which was nicknamed “Little Bastard.” Customized by George Barris of Batmobile fame, the car had tartan seating, striped wheelwells, and its name painted on its sleek silver. He was so proud of the car that he showed it off to Alec Guinness immediately upon meeting the great actor. Guinness said that a “strange thing” came over him with an “almost different voice” telling Dean, “'If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.”

Dean had never been one for taking advice from his elders (such as the rift in his relationship with his father when he had given up the idea of law school), but Guinness's words seemed to sink in. The next week he was headed to Salinas, CA, for a sports car race. At the last moment, he decided that he ought to drive the brand-new car to familiarize himself with it rather that put it in a trailer. Just before getting into the car, he thought of Guinness and decided against it. Near Cholame, a Ford Tudor took a fork at speed and buzzed directly in front of the truck pulling the trailer, nearly throwing them off the road. Dean imagined that if he had been driving, he would have been in the Ford's path, and Guinness's words would have come true.

While at the race, Dean sold the Spyder, saying he didn't believe in curses but that he'd “rather not risk it.” Later in his life, Dean would become an enthusiast for racing as well as car safety. While against Nixon's lowering of speed limits on interstate highways, Dean was a great component for safety belt laws and innovations in airbags and retardant foams. He is famous for his public service announcement repeating his ad-libbed line, “The life you might save might be mine.”

Dean would act in 44 movies over his illustrious career. He would be known for his roles in The Magnificent Seven, Cool Hand Luke, Hang 'em High, and, perhaps most famously, Easy Rider. Other films would pit him against Marlon Brando, another famous bad boy, with him gaining the role of militaristic Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, but losing out for Jor-El, Superman's father, though Dean would return as General Zod for the sequel. His final role would be as the aged Ed Bloom in Tim Burton's Big Fish, which critics said gave an extra layer of distrust to the father's tales, further darkening the film.

In 2006, at age 75, Dean repurchased his Porsche 550 and took it for a drive. It was found by a patrolman on an early morning at a scenic overpass with Dean inside. The actor had died of a stroke but reportedly had a smile on his face.

In reality, Dean did drive “Little Bastard” to his death, one week after Alec Guinness had warned him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September 29, 522 BC – Bardiya Executes Treasonous Lords

In the wake of the fall of Babylon, the Persians and Medes rose up in a great empire under Cyrus. His mighty rule stretched from the Indus to the mountainous reaches of central Asia through Babylonia and Arabia to Judea, where it met with the border of the Egyptian kingdom. Cyrus's son Cambyses II decided to add Egypt to the menagerie of the empire.

His brother Bardiya had been named satrap of provinces in the far east, but Cambyses knew better than to leave a popular heir to the throne while he, the proper emperor, was gone to war. He had Bardiya secretly killed and then set toward Egypt with a powerful army. Even after his brother's death, Cambyses was haunted by dreams of Bardiya on the royal throne and being able to pull back the bow of the Ethiopians while Cambyses could not.

Despite his dreams, Cambyses conquered Egypt thoroughly in 525 BC. He made efforts to invade Kush to the south, but harsh deserts forced his armies to retreat. Later, he launched a failed expedition to punish the Oracle of Amin at the Siwa Oasis in which 50,000 men were buried in a freak sandstorm. His next military advance was planned against Carthage, but his Phoenician allies refused to fight against their brothers.

In 522 BC, word came to Cambyses that Bardiya had returned to Susa. The emperor formed up his army to destroy the usurper, but, according to his spear-carrier Darius, Cambyses was afraid. Victory seemed impossible against a man he had already killed, a crime he finally publicly confessed, though no one seemed to believe him. Cambyses stabbed himself in the thigh with his own sword, making to look like an accident, and died over a week later from gangrene. Darius gathered the army and returned to Susa himself.

Upon arrival in the capital, Darius met with the years-dead Bardiya. It seemed to be him, so much so that even his own wives in his harem said that it was he. The people loved him thanks to the negligent absence of Cambyses in Egypt and Bardiya's three-year celebration of tax remissions. However, as Bardiya had transferred the capital Media, the story began to unravel: Bardiya was actually Gaumata, a Medean magician from the east who had made himself to look like the dead prince. The Persian lord Otanes discovered the truth and gathered a group of his fellows, including Darius, to carry out an assassination.

They planned to catch the impostor by surprise in his castle, but Bardiya was tipped off by his network of spies. His guards caught the assassins, and they were hanged within hours. Bardiya went on to rule for decades more, turning eastward to expand the empire of the Medes deeper into the rich lands of India. In coming decades, there would be squabbles with the Greeks inhabiting Asia Minor, but the Bardiyan line would pacify the locals with shows of military strength, construction projects, and wealth through trade. Many suspected a Persian invasion across the Dardanelles, but the imperial attention went continually east.

In the fourth century BC, the Macedonians would descend upon Achean and conquer their fellow Greeks under Philip II. His son Alexander continued the unification of Greece by turning against the Persians. His invasion would cross like lightning through Asia Minor and into Judea, but the imperial counter-attack at the Siege of Babylon would kill the young conqueror with an army hardened by years of warfare conquering Indian kingdoms. With attention turned westward again, the Persians would reconquer Egypt and bring back their old allies in Phoenicia for a successful invasion of Greece. After putting the Greeks under control, they pressed westward in the Mediterranean, taking the defeated Carthage as a protectorate and conquering the upstart Latins in their village called Rome.

Eventually the Persian Empire would spread from what the Greeks called the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) to the nestled southeastern edge of the Himalayas. Over the centuries, the empire would grow ungainly and weak, falling in the west to German barbarians and disintegrating into nation-states in a vast revolution. While the empire is a shadow of itself as Persia today, its foundations can be seen as Zoroastrianism stands as the principle philosophy of the world. That which is good works for the good in Ahura Mazda, and evil is evil, and to ask “What is good?” or “What is evil?” is a silly game attributed to Greeks.

In reality, Darius and his company successfully assassinated Bardiya. Darius would be named king of kings and the head of a new line of rulers. As one of his most famous actions, he attacked Greece to punish them for aiding Greek cities in uprising as he put down the rebellions among Bardiya-supporters. Persia yearly celebrates the death of Bardiya with the feast Magiophani (“The Killing of the Magician”) even twenty-five centuries later.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

September 28, 1928 – Alexander Fleming Washes His Petri Dish

Having just returned from a holiday, Scottish Professor of Bacteriology Alexander Fleming came back to his lab in St. Mary's Hospital, London, where he had been studying Staphylococcus. One of his stacked petri dishes had been left open, and blue-green mold had begun to grow inside. Around the mold, the bacteria had been diminished, as if growth had not only been inhibited, but the bacteria destroyed.

“That's funny,” Fleming said, but went about his business washing the contaminant and turning back to the research at hand.

Life in the world would go on, and Fleming would become somewhat famous for his work against antisceptics in deep-tissue surgery. Surgeries and doctor's offices continued to be places of potential hazard. Lessons learned from the Second World War taught that sterilization and natural immunity were the best methods for defense, but infection was nearly a death certificate itself. Pneumonia, scarlet fever, and diptheria ran through populations periodically, minor plagues that even advanced societies had to suffer through.

In 2000, as something of a miraculous discovery, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San Jose ,Costa Rica, published the papers of Dr. Clodomiro Picado Twight. Dr. Picado was internationally known for his research with snake venom and cures, but it seemed that he had discovered a practical antibiotic as early as 1927. He had observed the fungus Penicillium inhibiting the growth of streptococci and staphylococci (which Fleming had seen, but not noticed). He had submitted a paper to the Paris Academy of Sciences, but it had not made an impression.

As the papers were published anew, commentary was written on the use of the fungus in folk medicine since the Middle Ages. Several European researchers had noticed its effects, even Tyndall in 1875 and Lister in 1871, but neither embraced the potential. Modern advancements in biochemistry had looked into the possibilities of antibiotics, finding a few such as the sulfomides and the quinolones that each severe side effects, but this natural product seemed like a place for renewed research. As early tests began to show great promise, pharmaceutical companies raced to patent a Wonder Drug.

The drug Penicillin would be branded in 2010 after isolation, synthesis, and FDA approval. While immunity among bacteria has been detected from under-use, the chemical structure for Penicillin enables easy modification for renewed effectiveness. Mass production began quickly, opening up huge markets for antibiotics in every hospital, office, and home in the world. First and third world death rates are expected to plummet alike.

Conversely, of course, if birth rates do not decrease like death rates, it can be expected that world population may reach as much as three and a half billion by 2025. With the Earth supporting such a surge of new life, pollution and social ills are expected to grow exponentially.

In reality, Dr. Fleming took great interest in the petri dish that had caused him to utter the famous words, “That's funny!” He tested the mold for a decade before contacting chemists Ernst Chain and Howard Florey into isolating and concentrating the chemical he had dubbed “penicillin” after calling it “mould juice” for some months. The war effort of World War 2 pushed for maximized production of penicillin, enough to treat every soldier during the D-Day invasion. For their efforts, Fleming and Florey would receive knighthoods in 1944, and Fleming, Florey, and Chain would share the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27, 1331 – Prince Casimir Felled at Battle of Płowce

The Teutonic Order stood at a threshold of a new golden age as Europe changed around them from the High Middle Ages. The monastic knights had been formed in 1190 to protect pilgrims and fought valiantly through the Crusades. Upon the request of Duke Konrad I of Masovia in northeastern Poland, the knights went to war with the pagan Old Prussians in 1226. Rather than simply killing enough of the pagans to end the threat, the knights set forth conquest and Christianization of the land. Novgorod and Lithuania followed, establishing something of a monastic empire on the Baltic controlled by the knights. In 1306, they acted again, working to solve the disputed succession of the Duchy of Pomerelia, which led to war with Poland. Tying with the Holy Roman Empire through Teutonic Pomerania, the supply lines led to a powerful flow of crusaders at ready.

Poland, however, made for strong defense. While the knights were able to fight their way to the conquest of Danzig in 1308, the Polish grew up a generation of defenders. Diplomatic ministers also began to work against the Teutons, leading to legal disruptions and an investigation by the Pope of war crimes. Lithuania began uprisings, spreading the knights thinly through their lands. Even with so many proverbial fires, the knights were able to reorganize themselves, moving their headquarters from secular influence in Venice to Marienburg where they would be free to rule and fight with only God to judge them.

On a renewed campaign in 1331, the knights invaded Poland and were counterattacked at Płowce by an army commanded by Prince Casimir III. The prince led a frontal charge, reinforced by attacks from the flank by Poles hiding in the forest. Shortly after beginning the battle, a messenger was sent to recall the prince, but the fierce fighting killed him before the order could go through. Minutes later, the prince was slain on a lance. Though the battle was heading toward a Polish tactical victory, the morale of the Poles collapsed as news of the prince's death spread. German reinforcements broke the Poles, and the rout would continue to the gates of Brześć Kujawski. The rest of the campaign would be impressive victories for the knights as Poland descended into civil war over succession. Finally, in 1343, the Treaty of Kalisz would end the war with Poland as a protectorate of growing Teutonic power.

In 1337, Holy Roman Emperor granted the Order the privilege of conquest of Lithuania and Russia. Campaigns throughout the next century would push the knights ever eastward in addition to military contributions to friendly nations, such as the conquest of the pirate haven Gotland at the request of King Albert of Sweden. As Mongol influence fell from the Rus, the Teutons took its place, creating a massive new land swearing loyalty to the Pope. Russian peasantry was slow to change their ways from orthodoxy, and the Teutonic Inquisition spent decades persuading the populous to the unquestionable right. The Russian-born Teuton Ivan the Beholden led further expeditions to the central Asian steppes in the mid-sixteenth century.

By 1618, the Teutons had slowed expansion in the business of ruling their empire and maintaining uprisings among the Poles, Lithuanians, and Rus. When the Bavarian Revolt began against the wishes of the chosen successor of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Teutons were quick to give aid to their long ally. Swedish armies joined the growing Protestant influence, which the Teutons abhorred, and war between the two great powers broke out. France, Denmark, and much of southeastern Europe joined against the Knights and their allies, who soon gained Spain, though much of Italy remained neutral and divided. The war, which was to become known as the Fifty Years' War, spread throughout Europe until it finally ended with Catholic victory.

Because of their great effort, the Knights were granted the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, solving the issue that had begun the war. Their influence expanded geometrically across Europe, establishing a fierce, disciplined, Christian union of nations. Inquisitions routinely cleared illegal beliefs like those of Calvin or Locke while expeditions of conquest began in North America as well as against Christendom's eternal enemy, the Ottomans.

Eventually, the Teutonic Empire would find itself ungainly. Revolutions began at the fringes with demands of freedom of religion from conquered Turks, Scandinavians, French, and, especially, settlers across the Atlantic. These demands would expand to independence, and the end of the eighteenth century would see the shattering of the empire into dozens of new republics and kingdoms. The Second Renaissance would cause a new age of learning, bringing up old ideas of heliocentric solar systems and rights of the individual that had long been suppressed.

In reality, Casimir received the order to retreat from battle so that Poland did not risk the death of the heir. He would later be known as Casimir the Great as he led the Poles to great victories, essentially ending the fighting of the war in 1332, though the treaty establishing borders would not come until a decade later. A half century of conquest would make the Teutons one of the most powerful forces in eastern Europe, but defeat at Tannenburg in 1410 by a combined Polish-Lithuanian army would sound the downfall of the knights. They continued as weaker and weaker administrators until 1809 when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered their dissolution as a secular power. Today the Order continues as one of many under the Catholic Church.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 26, 1983 – Petrov Pushes The Button

The Cold War stood as the United States and Soviet Union armed each with far more missiles than needed to wipe out all life on the surface of the Earth. There would be no winner in World War 3. Both sides knew that the best they could hope was to destroy the other as brutally as they themselves were destroyed. Key to this idea of “mutual assured destruction” was finding out as quickly as possible that the other side had launched, thus enabling missiles to fire back before being destroyed in their silos.

While the US had its own systems, the Soviet Union developed the Oko satellite system to give early warning about missile launches. In 1982, the project was unveiled and declared ready. Detection happened within thirty seconds, leaving ample time for counterstrike, provided crews and leaders were ready at any time for launch.

In the fall of 1983, political intelligence was on edge. The Soviets had shot down a South Korean airliner that had violated their airspace, killing 269 civilians, many of them American, including U.S. Congressman Larry McDonald. Although the diplomatic fires had been nearly put out, both sides were anxious, especially the Soviet Union with the seemingly gun-happy American President Reagan. Soon after, NATO began exercises in Able Archer 83, which simulated escalating conflict and a first-strike nuclear release. The matter was not strictly related, but the KGB did not want to risk the exercise being a cover for preparation to attack the Soviet Union.

Just after midnight on September 26, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was on duty when the Oko system's computers reported a launch from the United States headed toward the Soviet Union. It was a single missile, and a nuclear attack would certainly be all-out, so Petrov noted the alarm but decided to declare it false. When more launches began to be detected, Petrov became nervous. Five missiles were now headed at the Soviet Union, and it was his duty to report. In a hurried decision, he called his superiors with the news.

Moscow immediately surged into activity. Panicked, sleepless people began to question the fallibility of the new system as well as their own lives, which very well could be at their ends. Land-based radar would not pick up incoming missiles until minutes before they arrived, leaving scant time to launch the counterstrike. With only slight information, the order to attack was given.

In reality, the missiles were glitches within the Oko system. This would not be determined until the next morning, long after the strike on the United States. In what had been the evening hours, the Americans were hit in major cities and military bases. Millions were vaporized as they sat down to dinner. The American systems had detected the launches, and so their own counter-assault began, slaughtering millions more in Russia. Electromagnetic interference destroyed most communications, leaving the rest of the world in frozen wonder at what had happened. As news came to light over the day, it was obvious that the worst had come.

Trade winds picked up the fallout, spreading it through the northern hemisphere. Europeans tried to flee en masse, which turned the entire continent into a war zone. For months, survivors would suffer radiation poisoning and widespread destruction simply trying to escape. Nothing remained of the vast continents of North America, Europe, and north Asia except deadly wastelands filled with wreckage that could not be harvested for years or centuries.

The southern hemisphere fared better, but fear, material shortages, and famines during the long Nuclear Winters would cause the deaths of billions more. Australia and South Africa led the nations of the British Commonwealth in restoring something of world order around the Indian Ocean. Much of their resources would be spent harboring refugees and helping to end the trauma of the millions poisoned in India. Meanwhile, Argentina stepped up as leader of South America, uniting the countries around it in fascist extremism. Enemies of the state were banished to northern Brazil, where the edge of livability was a horrid fringe of disease, famine, and death.

In reality, Petrov second-guessed the system. It was apparent within minutes that Oko, which he had not fully trusted in his opinion, was flawed. He later said, “I had a funny feeling in my gut,” and reflected that launching only five missile was ludicrous. Later, the glitched launches would be determined as fluke angles of sunlight in the atmosphere, and Soviet commanders were embarrassed of breaks in the system. While initially praised but brushed aside in a cover-up, Petrov would be honored at the United Nations in 2006. Even though layers of agreement among Soviet leadership were required for nuclear launch, he was, arguably, the man who single-handedly saved the Earth. No First Use and defensive-only policies have since come into effect for most of the nuclear-wielding nations.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

September 25, 1690 – Publick Occurrences begins its Eternal Publication

The oldest multi-page newspaper in North America, Publick Occurrences both Forreign and Domestick, began its life as a humble four pages of six inch by ten inch paper (one page blank for readers to write their own news and hand around). Printed by Richard Pierce, the newspaper was published by Benjamin Harris, a well known publisher who had also done a paper in London but England in 1686 with the uprising of the Catholics under James II. Shortly after settling in America, Harris opened a coffeehouse and published the New England Primer, the Colonies' first textbook.

Single-sided newspapers had been printed for some time in Massachusetts, and Harris decided a new business venture in newspapers would be profitable. He would publish monthly, commenting on the significant happenings i.e., the news, though the early journalism was nearly gossip. One news article told of atrocities performed by Indians who were political allies of Britain, which became treated as seditious libel despite its truth. Shortly after its first edition, the government stepped in with a proclamation:

“Whereas some have lately presumed to Print and Disperse a Pamphlet, Entitled, Publick Occurrences, both Forreign and Domestick: Boston, Thursday, Septemb. 25th, 1690. Without the least Privity and Countenace of Authority. The Governour and Council having had the perusal of said Pamphlet, and finding that therein contained Reflections of a very high nature: As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports, do hereby manifest and declare their high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet, and Order that the same be Suppressed and called in; strickly forbidden any person or persons for the future to Set forth any thing in Print without License first obtained from those that are or shall be appointed by the Government to grant the same.”

Harris was shut down and briefly jailed. Everyone that knew him assumed he would turn back to the safer business of textbooks, but something had pushed Harris too far. He had fled England fearing government, and yet government had found him in Boston as well. If he backed down his whole life, he may be outwardly successful, but he could not call it a life well lived. Overtly, he continued his publication of the Primer and maintained a good life. Covertly, he prepared the second edition of Publick Occurrences.

Printed in late October and handed out on the street, the paper contained editorials as well as selections from John Locke's Two Treatises of Government, emphasizing the social contract and stating that men gave rights to the government and not the government to men. Further pages quoted John Milton's Aeropagitica, a tract against censorship written in 1644, with lines like “as good almost kill a man as kill a good book. Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were in the eye.” The newspaper ended with another blank page excepting a line at the top from Milton, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

Though Harris had printed secretly and at a loss, the paper spread quickly through Boston and spilled into the rest of Massachusetts Colony. Furor arose from the liberty-minded colonists, especially as Publick Occurrences became known in Rhode Island where religious suppression had hurt many. The government hurried to destroy what copies they could find and jailed Harris again, though they had no proof that it was his paper.

Harris was acquitted when a third edition of Publick Occurrences was printed in November, quoting John 8:32, “The truth will set you free.” The press had gone underground, as Harris had planned knowing that he would be arrested again, where it funded by donations from colonists who picked up the free copies. Unable to stop the paper, the government cracked down upon those who hated it, which caused uproar from even those who did not approve of printing without a license. After years of investigations and fruitless arrests, the colony finally removed its requirement for license in 1694.

Having won freedom of the press, Massachusetts went through a newspaper boom and bust. Harris made and lost a great fortune, returning to comfortable income with his coffee shop, textbooks, almanacs, and Publick Occurrences. He decided to stay in Boston, where he died in 1716. While most of his estate went to his son, he purchased a farm that he bequeathed to what would become the Publick Occurrences Foundation to maintain printing the newspaper for “aeternal publickation” with its harvests.

Publick Occurrences continued to report on all of the news of the day, helping to spark the American Revolution in 1775. It remained something of a “subversive” newspaper, speaking out against the War of 1812 as well as the Mexican War as outright imperialism. A new golden age broke out for the paper during and after the Civil War, but then it became largely drowned out by papers during the turn-of-the-century wars between Pulitzer and Hearst. The paper nearly folded during the 1930s, printing only a handful of copies per month. However, as American mood changed to oppose the Nazis, the strong words of Publick Occurrences began the war cry. Its popularity would fade again as the radicalism of the Sixties subsided.

In 1990, to celebrate the beginning of its fourth century, Publick Occurrences launched online the developing Information Superhighway. The re-branded PO quickly added electronic forums to its digital publication, allowing for the voice of all. Other newspapers and websites emulated the system, soon beginning a craze for individuals “pubbing” short articles with observations, opinions, and links to sites, photos, and video.

In reality, Harris did not publish a second edition. He returned to London in 1695 where he published several newspapers before having the successful London Post 1699 to 1706, which sold freely out of his own shop.

Friday, September 24, 2010

September 24, 1780 – Benedict Arnold Meets Washington for Breakfast

Major General Benedict Arnold had served his country well, even taking a wound to his leg, but he felt the young America had not returned the kindness. Arnold had been repeatedly passed over for promotion and robbed of commands that were given to men of much lesser quality. In 1778, he had been accused of profiteering in Philadelphia, but the later court martial proved him innocent of all but a few minor charges. Despite his innocence, his name was blackened, and he wrote Washington, “Having become a cripple in the service of my country, I little expected to meet ungrateful returns.” The final straw came after his Quebec campaign, a military disaster, in which his retreat had run up severe costs. The Continental Congress was to reimburse him, but due to lack of proper documentation, Arnold was told he owed over £1,000.

Arnold was newly married to Peggy, the daughter of Philadelphia Loyalist Judge Edward Shippen. His Loyalist ideals were piqued, and, over the course of the next year, Arnold would begin a plan to change sides in the war. Communications exchanged between himself and various British officials until he made his demands of £20,000, coverage for his losses, and the rank of a brigadier general. In exchange, he gave troop positions, army strengths, and supply information to Clinton in his Hudson Valley campaign. In a final offer, Arnold promised to turn over the Continental fort at West Point, New York.

On September 21, Arnold met with British spy Major John André, but the forces under American Colonel John Jameson had attacked the HMS Vulture, chasing away André's escape. The major would have to return overland through enemy lines, and Arnold supplied him with the appropriate papers for safe passage. André did not go far before he was caught by Patriots, who took him to Jameson after finding suspicious notes in his socks. These papers were sent to Washington, and André asked Jameson to send him back to Arnold. Major Benjamin Tallmadge, a member of Washington's intelligence service, convinced the colonel to hold onto the spy, and, though Jameson was highly suspicious of the divergence from the chain of command, not to mention the capture to the suspect Arnold.

That Sunday morning, Benedict Arnold, blissfully ignorant of André's capture, met with Washington for breakfast. The commander-in-chief had read the indicting papers, but he remained calm. Fellow military leaders said that the breakfast was pleasant and full of conversation about plans for winter. As he stood, Washington said to the soldiers, “Men, do the Major General the honor of arrest on suspicion of treason.” Arnold reportedly tried to fight his way from the room, but the Patriots, including Washington, subdued him. Just before he was dragged away, Arnold made a last request to Washington to allow his wife Peggy safe passage back to her family in Philadelphia. Washington would fulfill the request.

The investigation would take up the next week. Being found completely guilty, Benedict Arnold would be hanged alongside André on October 2. Just after his death, a letter from Arnold entitled “To the Inhabitants of America” would be published in Loyalist newspapers throughout the former colonies. In it, Arnold redressed his grievances: the independence of the Articles of Confederation despite offers to meet pre-war demands and return to the British Empire, a rejection of treaty with the French (whom he described as “the enemy of the Protestant faith”), and the lack of rebels to follow simple “common sense”, as had been recommended by Thomas Payne's pamphlet.

With a popular martyr, the Loyalist movement in the Colonies would begin anew. Washington would spend years settling uprisings and defeating British troops as they moved. The Crown, meanwhile, began a scheme of amphibious attacks that were intended to wear down the rebels but only dragged on an expensive war, inciting riots of war-weary cities. Internationally, the Dutch, Spanish, and French preyed heavily on the British shipping and conquered other colonies. Finally, in 1785 after the bloody defeat of British General Cornwallis at the Battle of Williamsburg, the Revolutionary War would end. International fighting would continue until the humiliating Treaty of Paris of 1788 was signed.

In the wake of the successful, though hard-fought, revolution in America, emulated revolutions would break out in France and over the Continent. What papers called “democratic chaos” caused uproars and wars against the French Republic until finally the kings of Europe agreed that they had gone too far in giving the Americans republican rule. The American Invasion would begin in 1815 and force upon them as king Prince Edward, George III's fourth son. In the coming years, his daughter Victoria would become queen of both America and England, finally reuniting the wayward colonies, though with separate parliaments.

In reality, Arnold received word about the capture of Major André, and he would quickly flee to the British fleet. There he would be granted his rank and serve in violent attacks in Connecticut and Virginia. After the war, Arnold would go to London, where he would try his hand at mercantilism before retiring to his death in 1801.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 23, 1641 – Merchant Royal Puts in for Repairs

After having spent three years trading with Spanish colonies, the Merchant Royal and her sister ship, the Dover Merchant, returned to Europe laden with cargo. The long voyage had made her weathered and leaky, but she safely made port in Cadiz in Spain. England and Spain were at peace, and the English were welcome to trade their goods.

By happenstance, a Spanish ship in Cadiz intended for payroll caught fire. Captain Limbrey of the Merchant Royal volunteered to carry the pay, which was in various ingots of gold and silver as well as coinage. It was some fifty tons of gold, but Limbrey felt certain that he would be able to deliver the pay to Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands (Flanders) on his return to England.

After setting out, rough weather began to show. Limbrey initially planned to risk a storm, but the concerns of his men finally convinced him to put ashore in France. Hasty repairs were made, just enough to sail again, and the Merchant Royal set off for Flanders. The pay was delivered, and Limbrey and his crew were sent off again with a handsome reward.

Officials in Flanders quickly used the money to pay their soldiers, who were eager to spend the cash, flooding the market and causing skyrocketing prices. To the north were the Dutch, who had been at war with Spain for decades in what would become known as the Eighty Years' War or Dutch War of Independence. They understood this market bubble from their own experiences with land speculation, housing, cargo futures, and, most infamously, tulips. Trade, both legal and illegal, soared between the two countries. When the soldiers' money ran out, debts were called and property bought cheaply, winning a vast stake in the Flanders economy for the Dutch.

Spain, meanwhile, became increasingly disinterested in the Spanish Netherlands. France had declared war in 1635, Portugal had declared its independence in December of 1640, Catalonia was rebellious, and the massive army sent in 1639 to finish off the Dutch had been utterly destroyed, leaving the Netherlands as having the most powerful navy in the world. Peace negotiations began, but were slow to move forward. With the great stake in Flanders economically as well as colonial successes in the East Indies and Brazil, the Dutch gained a significant upper hand.

Finally, in 1648, the Peace of Münster was signed. The Spanish evacuated the Netherlands and freed the territory to be picked up by the Dutch United Provinces or returned to German princes. France made a bid for their share, but the Dutch assured them diplomatically that war would be fought. Fearing a bitter multi-front war, France conceded and returned to fight Spain in the Pyrenees. Secure and growing, the Dutch turned their interests back to colonialism (fighting, specifically, the Portuguese) and strengthened their banking system.

Over the course of European history, the Dutch state would continue to play a significant role. After defeating the English navy in the First Anglo-Dutch War, they would continue to battle the English until the conquest by William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution. Dutch colonies would continue in North America as well as the Caribbean and every discovered continent. While they did not have the population alone to man their colonies, they developed an intricate system of citizenship for foreigners and inclusion of cooperative natives. Much of the eighteenth century was spent solidifying its position in Europe and keeping the French at bay to maintain their independence.

With the success of the American Revolution (much aided by the colony of New Amsterdam, where George Washington had secretly stored goods and hidden spies), Europe began a fever of revolution that also affected the Netherlands. Massive devastation had come from the Fifth Anglo-Dutch War in the 1780s, but the navies from the colonies had kept the defeat from becoming a rout. The spirit of republicanism spread, and the Dutch joined the French in securing the rights of man. Wars against the monarchs of Europe would bring forth the great general Napoleon, with whom the Dutch allied to preserve their republic. The gamble would prove faulty, though, as Europe's coalitions eventually destroyed Napoleon and forced the Netherlands into a monarchy of its own. Belgium, much of what had been Flanders, would break away, and the Dutch glory had come to an end.

By this time, however, so much Dutch influence over the world had been set that the old adage went, “There are two languages in the world: money and Dutch, and the latter only talks of the former.” A commonwealth would build up over the course of the nineteenth century, sending great aid to Europe in the German invasion during Second World War with Operation Torch led by Dutch battalions liberating the homeland in 1942.

In reality, the Merchant Royal sank off the coast of Land's End after its pumps broke under the strain of stormy seas. Eighteen men were lost, but Captain Limbrey and forty of his crew survived. Some believe that the ship was purposefully sunk with the gold safely transported to the Dover Merchant and made to be presumed lost. Whatever the fate of the treasure, the soldiers and merchants in Flanders went without their pay for a while longer, keeping the Spanish Netherlands low key in the coming decades.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 22, 1776 – Tallmadge Rescues Hale

As with any war, victory in the American Revolution could only be won with as much success in espionage as on the battlefield. Nathan Hale, young Yale graduate and school teacher, had joined the Revolution in the Connecticut militia. He rose fast through the ranks from his spirit and dedication to the movement. On September 8, 1776, Hale volunteered to go into British-controlled New York City and gather intelligence.

While Hale was in the city, the Great Fire broke out on September 21. Rumors flew about it being Patriot activity, while others suspected uncontrollable British soldiers, and, either way, the occupying army set upon a course of rounding up potential rebels. Hale was discovered in a tavern by counter-intelligence and eventually captured in Queens where he had fled. He would hang at dawn.

By what very well may have been luck, a contemporary of Hale's at Yale, Benjamin Tallmadge, was in New York. He had been recently commissioned in the Continental Army's light dragoons, but he had become ill and took a short leave. Just as he was coming back to the world, the fire had broken out, and he returned to his Revolutionary efforts hiding Patriots from the British crackdown. When word came that Hale had been captured, Tallmadge planned a desperate rescue.

In the morning, Hale was marched to the gallows. An African boy, Bill Richmond (who would later become a famous American boxer), had been hired by the British to secure the rope to the tree. Tallmadge had gotten to the boy and bribed him an enormous amount of money to have the rope slip. As the drummer ended, Hale was given his final words, and the twenty-one-year-old gave a short oration summed up, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”

The trap was pulled, and Hale fell. Carefully filed by Richmond, the rope snapped. Before the British guard could react, a group of Patriots let off a rifle barrage, gathering the crowd's attention. Tallmadge dove through the chaos and whisked away the stunned Hale, who would come out of the affair with a scar from the rope burn around his throat.

New York City would continue in an uproar for several days while Hale was hidden and finally sneaked out in the disguise of a milkmaid. Stories spread like lightning of the man who did indeed have more than one life to give for his country, causing a surge of patriotism across the colonies. Tallmadge was soon made Washington's chief intelligence officer, and he took Hale on as a spy. The two would form the Culper Spy Ring, which would discover Benedict Arnold's betrayal, and Hale himself would apprehend the traitorous general.

After the war, Tallmadge turned to business while Hale went back to teaching. Hale would later be elected a representative from Connecticut to the Constitutional Convention, and he would quickly give his support for Federalism under James Madison's plan. Tallmadge later served in the House of Representatives, being supportive of Hale's higher aspirations. Most famously, Hale would attend the Hartford Convention, giving another speech that stirred the war-weary New Englanders toward support and away from the idea of secession. “After all, are we not Federalists? Are we not Americans? We may not choose ourselves where the will of our country leads, but we may choose to follow the course, rough as it may be.” Here, he bared his scar amid patriotic cheers.

Uniting the Federalists, Hale would win a narrow victory over Secretary of State James Monroe in the presidential election of 1816. In his term, Hale would clarify the role of state's rights, work toward internal improvements, and further bolster international trade. While his economic policies seemed good, they proved perhaps too good for their dependence of European payment, and the Panic of 1820 would usher Hale out of office with James Monroe taking over and the Democratic-Republicans returning to power. Hale returned to the Senate, and the two would prove effective friends, working to balance with the Missouri Compromise and the Monroe Doctrine of defending the freedom of other nations while maintaining ideals of isolationism.

In his later years, Hale would routinely denounce Senator, then President, Andrew Jackson as a political opportunist, bloodthirsty killer, retarder of economics, and “bad fellow.” Jackson replied that Hale was a suppressor of the common man, wild gambler of others' money, and “old man.” The two war heroes bit into each other until Hale's death in 1834. Jackson attended Hale's funeral even though believing that Hale had cost him the 1828 election. Despite their differences, Jackson said of Hale, “He gave every life he had for his country.”

In reality, Tallmadge was elsewhere in the war. Hale hanged, but it was his famous words that excited a fire of patriotism in an America where many were uncertain of independence.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

September 21, 1898 – Hundred Days' Reform Leads to Political Crackdown in China

After the embarrassing loss of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 in which China was soundly defeated by the “inferior” Japanese in less than a year, the nation was obviously in need of change. Idealist philosopher Kang Youwei approached the Emperor Guangxu with a series of suggestions to improve his state. Beginning June 11, 1898, institutional reforms such as modernization of education and the military, support of capitalism, and industrialization were put into place. These progressive aspects came too quickly for the like of many conservative Chinese, particularly leaders in the Grand Council and the Empress Dowager Cixi. Plans were put into place for a coup against the Guangxu.

Just before of it action could take place, the Emperor became aware. He placed General Yuan Shikai, who had remained silent so far, upon the task of arresting his mother and various named supporters. The general's political senses latched onto the opportunity to become a favorite of the Emperor. The conspirators were taken to Ocean Terrace on the edge of the Forbidden City and kept under house arrest. Shikai would be instrumental in Chinese involvement in the Russo-Japanese War.

Noting the spirit of his country, the Emperor slowed his radical advances and impressed upon his people the importance of taking from the outside world what they could get. Education was modified after the Japanese model while the military was bolstered with a great deal of German Imperial influence. Throughout the country, spirited “Boxers” called for violent reform, but the Emperor was able to focus their energy into positive effort constructing railroads and setting up factories near mines and forests. “Support the Qing, overcome the Foreign!” became a rallying cry.

By 1904, China was a changed land and ever-growing in political influence. The Russo-Japanese War broke out with the Japanese as quick victors, but the sudden inclusion of China due to border disputes (arguably Shikai's meddling) tipped the balance. American President Theodore Roosevelt managed to mediate a peace that set Japan back, protecting Korea as a neutral position between Russia, China, and Japan. This peace would be fragile, and in 1927, militaristic Japan would launch invasions of Korea as well as raids from their long-held colony of Taiwan. The Second Sino-Japanese War would rage until 1937, when China finally beat back the Japanese invaders. The German Hitler reportedly watched the war with great interest, and, when China became the seeming victors, he offered them an alliance.

When the West began their Second World War, China and Japan launched into one another again. China had joined the Axis, helping to bring about the downfall of Russia with attacks through Manchuria and Mongolia opposite Hitler's Operation Barbarossa, while Japan kept to their old defense agreements with the British. Superior Japanese aircraft kept Chinese armies from exploiting their full advantages, but it would be the defense in the Invasion of the Home Islands that proved their merit. With Americans joining on the side of the Japanese after the bombing of the USS Oklahoma, Operation Coyote would begin the amphibious counter-invasion.

By the end of the war, China was a spent and broken land, much like their German allies. British and American forces tried to keep Japan from imperialistic occupation behind what Churchill referred to as a “Silken Curtain”, but the East had suddenly been given a power vacuum into which Japan spread. A revolution against Japanese control of the Emperor broke out in 1947, led in a large part by the communist Mao Zedong. The West would leave the war to itself, resulting in the overthrow of the Japanese-backed puppet government and a new communist power in 1951, seemingly to replace the shattered Soviet Union.

After violent purges and years of gradual reform, China remains communist but with great experimentation of Western values of capitalism, just as it had taken up one hundred years before. Japan, meanwhile, rests as an aged kingdom taking up many social services to emulate its neighbor. Korea, which had been spared much of the carnage of the wars and served as bases for American troops, remains the dominant economic power in the region.


In reality, the Empress Dowager's coup succeeded. Guangxu would be put into seclusion while Cixi ruled. The invasion in reaction to the Boxer Rebellion would bring massive international influence into China, further weakening it in preparation for the Chinese Revolution of 1911, where Yuan Shikai would play politically, eventually attempting to set himself up as emperor. Guangxu had died in 1908, just one day before Cixi, with two thousand times the common amount of arsenic in his system.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20, 1963 – Kennedy Proposes His Joint Moon Mission

In an address to the United Nations, US President John F. Kennedy presented the idea of a joint mission between the United States and the Soviet Union saying,

“Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity - in the field of space - there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply. Why, therefore, should man's first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?”

After the speech, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko said that the notion was a “good sign” and presented it to USSR Premier Krushchev. He had backed the Russian space program in its early days, beating out the United States by launching the first satellite, putting the first man in space, and being the first to orbit Earth. Krushchev saw no need for a joint mission; it was merely the American capitalists seeing the expense of going to the moon and looking to place the burden upon the working class.

The political climate soon changed dramatically. Kennedy was killed only months later in Dallas, Texas, while Krushchev was muscled out of office and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev. Brezhnev worked to increase Soviet influence, especially by expanding the Soviet military, and the new US president Lyndon Johnson redoubled his predecessor's efforts on the space race. The worst days of the Vietnam War came in 1968 just as an aide, while looking for documents pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement, came across Kennedy's outline for a political dealing with Russia for a joint mission. LBJ set upon it as a solution to the war.

Presented in a combination of backroom and public deals, the Soviet Union would act as mediator between the North Vietnamese / Chinese and South Vietnamese / American forces, separating Vietnam as they had Korea. By February, peace talks had begun as well as cooperative training programs between NASA and the Soviet space program. The war was proclaimed ended by September of 1968, giving plenty of time for LBJ to shift praise toward his vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, who would ride the success to beat Republican Richard Nixon in the November election.

The next year, Apollo 11 carried astronaut Neil Armstrong and cosmonaut Alexei Leonov to the moon. Reportedly, the two flipped had a coin to see who would be the first to set foot on the extraterrestrial surface, and Armstrong won. The two planted their respective nations' flags beside one another along with a flag for the United Nations. Eight lunar missions would follow.

Through the 1970s, increasing international cooperation would improve the effectiveness of study in space as the International Space Station (also known as Alpha, Eden, and Mir) grew in orbit. The Space Shuttle program revolutionized launch in the 1980s, but, by the late 1990s, space programs had become stagnant. The Russian Federation remained an important part of space, but domestic and economic issues weakened its position. In 2001, the decommissioned Alpha, pockmarked with micrometeors and burdened with ancient technology, would be de-orbited and burn up over the Pacific.

The new space station, Beta (with nicknames such as Eagle and Freedom), began construction with increasing Chinese influence as the world's most populous nation came into the forefront of international politics. By 2010, suggestions that humanity returns to the moon have been embraced, perhaps using it as a stepping-stone for a mission to Mars. Projections place a potential landing in 2027, though each year they are modified to match budgetary issues.

In reality, Kennedy's proposal for a cooperative moon-landing was met with, at best, skepticism. The Space Race was the champion of American progressive ideals, finally beating the Soviet Union to the moon in 1969. International cooperation would gradually blossom with the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, connecting spacecraft hatches in orbit. The International Space Station would begin construction in 1998.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 19, 1676 – Bacon Refuses to Torch Jamestown

The past two years in the Colony of Virginia had been troubling. Indians were attacking settlements on the western frontier after seizing property promised as payment from a farmer. The English retaliated with violence, and the raiding parties on both sides escalated. Governor William Berkeley had proposed a system of forts to placate the Indians under gradual removal, but farmers felt the plan would be as costly as it was ineffectual. Berkeley, who had long favored his own inner circle in government affairs, decided finally to recall the House of Burgesses to deal with the matter.

While the Burgesses gave great reforms, they did not directly address the issue, so wealthy planter Nathaniel Bacon marched to Jamestown with 500 followers and demanded to be commissioned as leader of a militia to destroy the Indian menace. He challenged Berkeley to give him a commission at gunpoint from his men, but the governor merely bared his breast and challenged Bacon to fire himself. Bacon repeated the action with the Burgesses, and they quickly gave him the commission.

After publishing the "Declaration of the People of Virginia" criticizing Berkeley's faulty government, Bacon and his men, some of whom were rebelling slaves and indentured servants, spent months fighting Indians, many of whom were peaceful and, in fact, allies of the English. Upon their return to Jamestown, many called for a revolution to remove Berkeley (who had fled across the river), but Bacon stopped them. His thirst for blood had been quenched, and he decided that his place was to ensure that the wrongs in the Declaration were made right. Working with the Burgesses, Bacon put forth the bill that the governor would now be elected by the colony as well as an ambassador to communicate with Parliament and the Company in London. Though Bacon would die of dysentery in October, his ideas would follow after him. Berkeley returned, intending on putting down a rebellion, but instead only finding landowners and freedmen looking for political change.

Berkeley was returned to London along with John Ingram, who would serve as representative from the colony. While Parliament disagreed with self-representation of the colony, the Virginia Company saw great potential in men striving for success (fighting Indians themselves, for example, instead of using English dividends to pay soldiers), and, after much debate and back-room deals, the agreement was made.

Virginia continued to expand and profit over the next century. Though Parliament enacted several laws over trade issues, political matters were largely reviewed by the colonists, who were given a requested amount of taxes by their representative and left to themselves to produce it. Other North American colonies followed in self-representation such as Maryland, Massachusetts, Bermuda, and Pennsylvania. The experiment was considered proven in the 1770s when the colonies were asked to aid in Britain's tremendous national debt from the Seven Years' War, which they did (though some colonists, such as the fiery Samuel Adams were arrested on suspicions of treason). Ideals of self-representation also came to Europe in several waves of revolt. They did not translate well in the bloody and ultimately pointless French Revolution, though many tyrants became controlled by constitutions.

While the colonies and Britain would often disagree with the violent treatment of natives, it would be another matter that would eventually drive them apart: slavery. Parliament ended slavery in the British Empire in 1833, and many American colonies saw it as a stomping of colonies' rights. Many of the Upper Canadian and New England colonies remained loyal, but the South and West rose up under General Andrew Jackson who had established himself as an Indian Fighter. Other rebellions went up in the Caribbean, and were quickly put down by the Navy before beginning the blockade that would choke out the rebel colonies. After six bloody years and the death of Jackson at New Orleans, the rebellion would come to an end in 1840.

America would continue to be an important part of the British Empire, serving with distinction in its wars against Mexico and Spain. Independence would creep up routinely in the collective mind of the Americans, which gained Dominion status in 1868 after being broken into New England, Dixieland, and the Western United Provinces of America. After the Second World War, these lands would gain independence but remain in the powerful bloc of the British Commonwealth.

In reality, Bacon burned Jamestown as a display of dissatisfaction with Berkeley. The action would prove too much, and, after Bacon's death, his rebellion would disintegrate as Berkeley returned with Naval firepower. After retaking his post, Berkeley seized property, executed twenty men, and created strict lines between the races that would haunt the South to this day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September 18, 1893 – Churchill has his Vision of Mathematics

Young Winston Churchill had done poorly in school. He narrowly graduated Harrow, where teachers had forever scarred him against the notion of learning Latin. Applying to Sandhurst Military Academy, Churchill needed to pass three of five required exams. He knew his abilities in English and Chemistry, hated Latin, and doubted French, leaving only Mathematics. In his singular autobiography, Churchill wrote, “All my life from time to time I have had to get up disagreeable subjects at short notice, but I consider my triumph, moral and technical, was in learning Mathematics in six months.”

With a foundation built by Harrow master, Mr. C. H. P. Mayo, Churchill made way in solving the “hieroglyphs” to be able to meet the requirements set by the Civil Service Commissioners. As he worked, he bemoaned perplexing devices such as sine, cosine, tangent, the quadratic formula, and the Binomial Theorem. One night, Churchill writes, “I had a feeling once about Mathematics, that I saw it all—Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and the Abyss. I saw, as one might see the transit of Venus—or even the Lord Mayor's Show, a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly how it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable: and how the one step involved all the others. It was like politics.”

Politics, which he had studied after his father, made sense to him, and Churchill began to embrace the tenants of maths. While at Sandhurst, he set aside formulae for a time, but he took them up again upon placement into the 4th Queen's Own Hussars. His income was £300 per year plus a £400 allowance from his mother, and he calculated that he needed at least another £100 to remain at his accustomed lifestyle. Looking into many sources of additional income such as journalism, Churchill finally settled on answering every possible mathematical quiz available in so many colleges and newspapers around the empire for cash prizes. He also set into a hobby of mathematical proofs, what he called “little riddles”, which occupied more and more of his time. Churchill was transferred between Africa and India before returning to England, also playing polo, studying thought-problems, and progressing ever further into calculus in his own time.

In 1906, Churchill read several of Albert Einstein's papers of his Annus Mirabilis in a translation of Annalen der Physik, for which the Jewish German would be given a Nobel Prize. Churchill wrote, “For the first time to me, mathematical play was shown as credible, and my life took new direction.” He exchanged correspondence with Einstein and eventually used his growing political influence to offer Einstein a lucrative position as full professor at Cambridge. The two worked together on many projects, later sorting out Einstein's General Relativity, while both also worked their “day jobs” as professor and Minister of Parliament. Churchill grew slowly through the ranks of government before being beaten out in 1931, taking up what he called his “wilderness years.” He published his own mathematical papers written from home, studying topology and complex interactions. As war with Germany approached, Churchill returned to the government in patriotic spirit, eventually being named Prime Minister for his calls for defense. Over one of their many teas, Einstein mentioned to Churchill the idea among the physics community of an “atomic” weapon using the explosive power of fission by separating a nucleus.

Churchill, who had previously been a proponent of tanks and aircraft, leaped upon the idea. Using uranium from Scottish peat bogs, Project Tube Alloys (later renamed Wonder) successfully tested the first atomic bomb in 1943. Churchill endorsed its use with thirteen targets, and Germany quickly surrendered, soon followed by Japan. As word spread of the radioactive fallout with the city of Dresden as the prime example, Churchill was given much blame and removed from office with the elections of 1945. He returned briefly in 1951 to the prime ministership, during which he tried to sort out the problems of the Atomic Age he felt he created, only to succumb to a series of strokes. He died in 1965, when his work on the Unified Field Theory merited him, as well as Einstein and several others, a shared Nobel Prize.

In reality, Churchill's vision of mathematics ended, “But it was after dinner and I let it go!” As for mathematics, Churchill wrote, “I quitted for ever in the year 1894...” He turned instead to writing, where he would serve as war correspondent and gain popular leverage to ascend quickly through government despite numerous setbacks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 17, 1859 – Norton Proclaims Himself Emperor of these United States

Joshua Abraham Norton began his reign as Emperor out of necessity to cure problems that had plagued the young nation during its republic. Norton himself was English, born in London and spending most of his life in South Africa before coming to San Francisco as a businessman. In a deal gone wrong where a dealer had misled him on the quality of his rice and the justice system denied his rights during his lawsuit to void his contract, leaving Norton financially destroyed in 1858 at age 39. He left the city in self-imposed exile, returning with his political dream in 1859.

The United States surely had its troubles if a hard working man such as Norton could be destroyed, and the system had to be fixed. He delivered a notice to the newspapers stating, “At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton... declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.” On February 1, representatives of each state were to meet him at the Music Hall in San Francisco “and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist.”

Several editors published the notice as humorous, and a few newspapers back East picked it up as well. On October 12, he released another notice, dissolving the United States Congress in stating that the “universal suffrage, as now existing through the Union, is abused; that fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice; that open violation of the laws are constantly occurring, caused by mobs, parties, factions and undue influence of political sects; that the citizen has not that protection of person and property which he is entitled to by paying his pro rata of the expense of Government.” While Congress did not immediately disband, the notion of reform was picked up by several Midwesterners who had also been overtaxed and under-supported by the government. Though voted as a lark, the state legislature of Indiana decided to send James Herriman, a businessman who was going to San Francisco anyway, as representative. Upon word that Norton had been taken semi-seriously, South Carolina sent a delegation of representatives, hoping that their political maneuver would show the Union that they could do as they pleased under states' rights.

More states for various reasons began plans to send representatives to San Francisco. Proposals of every kind were put on the ballot for elections, and, by November, eighteen states planned to attend. The idea spread that it would be a kind of convention, perhaps even ground to discuss an end to the slavery question as well as trade and tariff disputes. In January, Norton released an edict to “hereby Order and Direct Major-General Scott, the Command-in-Chief of our Armies, immediately upon receipt of this, our Decree, to proceed with a suitable force and clear the Halls of Congress.” Winfield Scott did not move the Army, nor did he make action to arrest the Emperor on grounds of treason.

At the 1860 February San Francisco Convention, Mayor Henry F. Teschemacher gave Norton permission to use the Music Hall, impressed with the publicity and income San Francisco was having with the arrival of politics and journalists. Presiding over the convention, Norton addressed each issue tirelessly, repeatedly overturning calls for recess. Economic, judicial, domestic, and international policies were closely examined, appropriated into committee, and then voted upon under the emperor's direction. By the end of the month, newspapers began to address Norton as “emperor” not out of humor but genuine honor from his efforts to support the common man. The convention ended with the writing of a Constitution, which, like the previous US Constitution, required ratification by two-thirds of the states.

The Constitution was largely ignored by the political powers that were, holding their own elections in later 1860 with Abraham Lincoln winning the office of presidency. The South went up in arms over the North's perceived aggression, and talk of secession began. Norton sent another edict, saying that there was no need for a War Between the States over matters of a derelict Congress. States simply needed to appoint representatives to his National Parliament as described in his Constitution. He ended with a reminder General Scott that he was overdue in his elimination of Congress. This time, Scott gave the notice more thought, finally approaching Lincoln, who refused to give up Republicanism to a tyrant.

The South began to send delegates, as did California, formally turning away from the government in Washington. More states followed, and, in April, South Carolina fired upon Union troops at Fort Sumter. Upon hearing the news, Norton immediately called for the arrest of the men who had tried to begin a war. Forgiveness was begged, and Norton called Lincoln and his increasingly illegal government to meet with him in San Francisco before things grew worse. Lincoln, willing to try anything to avoid a bloody war and the separation of the states, agreed to go. After a month-long conference, Norton persuaded Lincoln to surrender Washington and join the National Parliament.

Although there would be uprisings in various parts of the country, Norton would be swift in controlling issues and meeting with rebel commanders, usually persuading them to join him in the new empire. With a civil war avoided, the problems of slavery were solved by Norton's program of freeing skilled slaves with financial compensation to their former masters and installing mandated education programs to free yet more. Education, as well as simple steadfastness in what was right, cured many of the racial ills of the US. During the anti-Chinese riots of the 1870s, Norton stepped around his bodyguards and placed himself between the rioters and their intended victims, bowing his head and reciting the Lord's Prayer until the embarrassed rioters fled or formally apologized. Rumors stated that he planned to marry Queen Victoria of Britain, but Norton never seemed to find the time with such activities as personal inspections of the city's cable car system.

Much of Norton's reign was spent on improvements, such as the suspension bridge between Oakland and San Francisco as well as the long-term project of a tunnel under the bay. While San Francisco was given special consideration as the new capital, numerous projects were carried out throughout the country, like the transcontinental railroad completed in 1864. Late in his reign, Norton turned to international diplomacy, as he had when he had become Protector of Mexico in using the US Army to fight imperialistic advances on Mexico from France. In 1871, Norton called for an Assembly of Nations to meet and discuss issues in a convention he would preside. By 1877, the Assembly of Nations was a continuous facility that would soon outlaw the use of war in diplomacy.

Emperor Norton died in 1880 on his way to give a charity lecture at the California Academy of Sciences. Norton had not appointed a successor, instead leaving a detailed will for power to return to the hands of the Parliament, but forever banning political parties and an unbalanced budget (except in the case of military emergency). Thirty thousand San Franciscans attended his funeral, and the country remained in mourning for a month, though many can say that we are still in mourning of the lost Emperor. His legacy has even continued internationally, such as the Assembly of Nations' diffusing of the Sarajevo Affair in which the assassination of the Archduke may well have led to war.

In reality, Norton was one of many of San Francisco's eccentrics, perhaps the most loved. He was given a uniform by troops at the Presidio and later the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and he used self-issued notes as repayment for debts that were stable enough that many businesses accepted them as currency. Thirty thousand people really did attend his funeral.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16, 1920 – Bomb Blast in New York Sparks War on Terror

A little after noon, while crowds of businessmen were leaving their offices for lunch all along Wall Street, an unassuming horse and wagon exploded just outside the Morgan Building. Later analysis proved the bomb to be set with a timer and loaded with iron weights as shrapnel. Thirty-eight people were killed and hundreds more injured.

The attack was a tragedy, but the overall desire was to return to “business as usual.” With a bombing so close to the stock exchange, leaders were fearful of a panic, and so the damage was cleaned overnight. The board of governors for the stock exchange opened on the 17th without a problem. Rumors circulated that the explosion had been an accident. Soon, however, the Bureau of Investigation released flyers discovered in a nearby post office box with the cryptic message, “Remember. We will not tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners or it will be death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters!”

As the investigation continued quietly, people assumed it may have been an attack in reaction to the Sacco and Vanzetti, who had been arrested for murder in Massachusetts. People rallied behind the market in face of these “reds”, and the celebration for Constitution Day continued at the same spot. Despite police surveillance, a package bomb exploded from a garbage bin, killing an additional seven. In Boston at the Farmer's Market, Washington, D.C., outside the Capitol, and San Francisco near the Mint, similar explosions followed.

The press seized the news, and the populace began to demand action. Wilson's term in office was nearly over, and the extremely ill president did not seem able to confront the issue of safety. Quoting the Washington Post, presidential hopeful Warren G. Harding said, “This is an 'act of war', and if it's war they want, it's war they'll get!” His words were dangerous in a world so soon after the Great War, but the gamble paid off, and he was elected in the largest majority since Washington. Immediately, Harding and his cabinet set upon establishing Security for Our Homeland. To prevent further plots, security checkpoints were set up at all train stations with passengers and baggage checked as well as bags being searched at important facilities such as museums, libraries, and public offices. Immigration came into heavy suspicion, especially as alcohol was run across the Canadian border, prompting many to call for a wall to be built.

Investigations pointed to Galleanists conducting the plot. All known accomplices were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and spirited to federal penitentiaries. The leader, Luigi Galleani, had been deported to Italy, where he had been further exiled to an island and watched by government officials. Harding demanded that Galleani return for trial on conspiracy to commit murder. When the Italian government did not move quickly enough, he sent Marines to collect the anarchist personally. Foreign reporters described the action as an “invasion”, but Harding refused to acknowledge that he had done anything beyond justice.

As his term progressed, Harding approached the League of Nations with evidence (which many critics said was scant at best) that the Bolsheviks of Russia had been responsible and were preparing more “actions of mass destruction.” He encouraged other nations to redouble their support in the Russian Civil War, but if they refused, America would “do it alone.” The Russian War, as it was called but never officially since Congress did not declare war, simply funded the American Expeditionary Force for Freedom. Many suspected Harding's administration of corruption, but most vocal opinions were drowned out by cries of patriotism.

Through the 1920s, the sense of panic would gradually subside in America while the war in Russia continued in a dogged fight against urban and guerrilla warfare. Many would call for a withdrawal of American soldiers by letting the Russian Republican Army defend the country itself, but neither Harding, Coolidge, nor Hoover fulfilled the promise to establish a timetable. The economy made a swift downturn in 1929, and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 began the steady withdraw. America was ready for a time of isolationism, but the world dragged them back to action as the 1940s began the Second World War. Hitler's Fascists stormed Russia in 1941, citing the same principles of security Harding had and conquering it within a matter of months. Though over a million German troops would be caught up in the bloody occupation of Russia, further Germans would storm the beaches of Britain. Faced with overwhelming odds, the Allies would fight at tremendous losses until the tide of the war changed with the Atomic Bomb.

Beleaguered, economically depressed, and bringing up a generation calling for renewed isolationism, America would spend the rest of the twentieth century as something of an unwilling patron, constantly at guard for another attack by terror in a post-colonial world.

In reality, though suspected, the Galleanists were never proven the source of the Wall Street bombing. Bombings were periodic, but hardly often. Rather than searching for conspiracies, the American populace endured radicals while being suspicious of immigrants in a "Red Scare" that was frightening but never fully terror.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15, 1861 – Air Mail Route from San Francisco Opens

California posed a new problem to the United States. While territories connected it with the East, California gained statehood almost spontaneously in 1850 thanks to the gold rush, becoming the first state separate from the Capital. Communication was difficult, to say the least. The new technology of telegraphs and railroads offered possibilities, but the lines would have to be constructed at immense cost. Wells, Fargo, & Company held a virtual monopoly on the task of express mail with a sea-and-land route across the Isthmus of Panama, cutting months off the journey around South America. An overland route would be even faster, and Congress sought a solution with a pledge of $600,000 in yearly subsidies. In 1858, the solution was found with the Overland Mail Company, a start-up with William Fargo on the board of directors. Over one million dollars would be spent improving its route across the West, which included way stations, horse corrals, and defenses against highwaymen and rogue Indians.

While mail could now be delivered, however expensively, by brave and hardy men, the passenger service was troubling. People were crammed into tiny carriages that bounced and rocked with every step the racing horses took. While some way stations offered places to sleep, coaches were hot-seated by their drivers and horses, and no one knew exactly when the next coach would come through, leaving passengers stuck in the middle of the West for days at a time. Food was expensive and notoriously bad. The option of crossing the Isthmus of Panama took much longer, but the comfort made it seem more practical.

Aeronauts John Wise and John La Mountain approached Fargo with a solution. As a pioneering American balloonist, he had made his first flight in 1835. Over the next years, he continued a serious study of aeronautics as well as making grand performances at county fairs. When the Civil War began, he was in competition with Thaddeus Lowe for the Army Balloon Corps to aid the Union with reconnaissance from the air. Lowe had beaten him to the Battle of Bull Run, but Wise had papers giving him the right of way. As Wise launched his balloon, it became entangled in brush and destroyed, ending his career for the Civil War. Lowe would go on to be Chief Aeronaut for the Union.

Wise planned to return to a normal life for some time, using balloons as perhaps a map-making tool, but the showman La Mountain met with him, inspired about the West. Years earlier, the two had worked on a transatlantic project, but the balloon had crashed and nearly ended their partnership. On his own in 1859, Wise had made the first air mail delivery in the United States, delivering 123 letters from Lafayette to Crawford, Indiana. Why could they not do the same for overland delivery over the Rockies?

They posed the question to Fargo. A smooth, peaceful sail over the mountains with no threat of robbery or attack sounded like a much more reasonable trip to Fargo, though the idea of balloon passenger service was uncanny. La Mountain suggested it could be at the very least a public relations demonstration, which caused Fargo to agree. The two set off on a ship through Panama, arriving in San Francisco and immediately launching their balloon on the third anniversary of the Overland Mail to the shock of newspapers around California. Newspapers in the East did not know the story until the balloon arrived in Kansas City, Missouri, on September 20. They had touched down twice at way stations to replenish fuel and food for their passenger, newspaperman and adventurer Bret Harte. The press latched onto the story from Harte's accounts, and Fargo was impressed enough to send Wise and La Mountain back with supplies for a larger balloon.

By spring of 1862, Wise and La Mountain had created a two-story balloon with privies and a lounge for their passengers. The balloon, dubbed the California, carried as many as fifteen passengers in comfort as well as whatever mail could be used as ballast. For years, the eastbound California would fly, landing in Kansas or sometimes Missouri, depending upon the wind. Wise and La Mountain improved their steering capabilities, but the possibility of floating west was made impossible by the “high winds” (what we now know as the jet stream).

On May 10, 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed. Fargo pulled funding from the expensive, though pleasurable, balloon project despite Wise and La Mountain's pleadings. Progress had changed the world, Fargo explained, even the Overland Mail Company was being shut down. Armed with their savings, they built the Odyssey and began their transatlantic attempt in 1873 from New York. Neither was heard from again. The Atlantic would not be crossed until British aeronauts made a west-heading route to Barbados in 1958-9.

In reality, the crash crossing Lake Ontario did indeed end Wise and La Mountain's partnership. Wise and La Mountain performed additional ascensions, with La Mountain working under Lowe during the Civil War in the Balloon Corps. Wise would make his final ascent in 1879 at age 71, disappearing over Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September 14, 1938 – Hitler's Demands Spark Demographic Study

The day after Sudetenland Germans broke off relations with Czechoslovakia, Germany's Chancellor Adolph Hitler gave yet another rousing speech about the importance of self-determination. Citing American President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, Hitler and others such as Sudeten German leader Konrad Henlein made clear that the borders of Germany were not what they should be. Hitler had set the ultimatum of October 1 as the hand-over of the Sudetenland, which was demographically German, to Germany, and it looked as if the rest of Europe were going to agree. Most newspapers reported lightly on the speech, focusing more on the significant rioting as introduction of Czechoslovak troops into the region.

Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, editor of National Geographic for nearly forty years, happened upon the story, and it put a thought into his head: What would Europe look like if state borders actually followed the bounds of national majority?

Preempting a story about the modernization of Hawaii, Grosvenor leaped into the project with many of his staff. They followed census data and made international calls, simply asking local editors what they thought each town would prefer. In the October 1938 issue, Grosvenor published his map, which gave a similar, yet ghostly, outline of Europe. The often fought-over Alsace-Lorraine between France and Germany was split, with a much larger area given to Luxembourg. Poland shifted slightly southeast. The Balkans followed much of their divides from being broken up in 1918 but with wider boundaries for Bosnians. Other people groups had countries that did not exist, such as the Basque of Spain.

After his takeover of Sudetenland, Hitler came upon the article and used it as propaganda, saying that even the Americans agreed. Much of Europe was unsettled by the thought of lines being shifted, while in the United States, the map was noticed only with anthropological interest and general academic humming. In the following months, Grosvenor would produce a series of such maps for Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the many Native American settlements in western United States and Canada.

World War II swept across Europe, Africa, and the Pacific for the next six years. As it came to an end, diplomats began arguing over the reassigning of borders. When the old National Geographic map was shown to him, Franklin Roosevelt was impressed with his predecessor Wilson's ideas of giving people self-determination, so much so that he was willing to overlook its use by Hitler. He pushed for such restructuring during the Yalta Conference, and Truman pushed harder at Potsdam. As the United Nations took form, these principles became critical to international policy, causing several borders to be reshuffled. The later National Geographic maps helped create the numerous nations of Africa and India during decolonization, following demographic populations rather than old imperialistic treaties.

With minimal reason for civil disputes (excluding internal affairs, such as the Chinese Civil War and the Restructure of Ireland of the 1980s), most wars during the latter part of the twentieth century were blocked by means of UN peacekeepers defending borders and diplomats discussing alternatives. Some instances required further breakup of nations, such as the dissolution of Iraq into Sunnistan, Kurdistan, and Iraq proper in 1963 and North and South Sudan in 1972. Other instances, such as the Korean Police Action, ensured that the people of Korea were properly represented in democratic election of their pseudo-socialist republic in 1950.

In reality, Grosvenor ran the article, “Hawaii, Then and Now.” Most noted is a picture of scantily clad ladies posing with their gigantic Hawaiian surfboards in Waikiki.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13, 1914 – Germany Agrees to Aid Irish Independence

In a secret meeting in Washington, D.C., Sir Roger Casement, an Irishman and former British diplomat, met with Franz von Papen, a German military attaché, to discuss the possibility of aid in an Irish rebellion against British rule. Casement had worked as a clerk and consul among British diplomacy in Africa, witnessing the Boer War and performing investigations on human rights in the Belgian Congo and Peru. The horrors he saw of imperialism changed him forever, causing him to work against the notion of empire. In 1911, he was knighted for his international work, and he subsequently resigned for “health reasons.” Two years later, he helped found Irish National Volunteers, aimed at drumming up support for Irish independence.

Casement sought support for the Germans to free Irish prisoners of war and to form up an Irish Brigade to fight against the British. Papen, however, had been thinking. The initial push of the Germans toward France had ended, and a series of attempts at flanking were beginning. If neither army flanked the other, ultimately running to the sea, battle lines would be drawn up and the Western Front could be nothing more than a stalemate. If Germany were to win this war quickly and with minimal loss, they would have to fight in places other than France.

While sending troops to Ireland directly was questionable, Papen vowed to send armaments and officers to train a growing Irish Revolutionary army. In November, Berlin announced, “Should the fortunes of this great war, that was not of Germany’s seeking, ever bring in its course German troops to the shores of Ireland, they would land there, not as an army of invaders to pillage and destroy, but as the forces of a government that is inspired by good-will towards a country and a people for whom Germany desires only national prosperity and national freedom.” Casement returned to Ireland and worked diligently toward the Irish plan of an uprising during Easter of 1916.

At Papen's suggestion, the German Chief of Staff von Falkenhayn elected to invest armaments and soldiers into campaigns to interrupt British and French empires. In February of 1915, India erupted in rebellion, though many of the early ringleaders were caught and executed. Singapore, Afghanistan, and numerous French colonies followed. On April 24, 1916, Dublin declared independence, and Irish soldiers armed with German rifles and trained by German officers, began the Irish Civil War. London was petrified, extremely short on men to cover all of the revolts and watching its empire crumble. In 1917, Russia collapsed and dropped from the war; many in Parliament suggested Britain do the same before they lost everything.

However, also in 1917, the Germans had pushed too far with diplomatic warfare. The Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico offering aid if it were to go to war with the United States, should the US enter the war, roused the neutral Americans into action. They offered up thousands of fresh troops, and 1918 would prove a miserable year of defeat for Germany on the battlefield. In November, an armistice was called. The subsequent Treaty of Versailles attempted to sort out the convoluted state of the world.

Germany was reduced and punished for its actions, stripped of colonies and made to pay enormous reparations. Austria and the Ottoman Empires were split up by their people groups into “Balkanized” countries. Despite being the winners on paper, both Britain and France found that they could not quell their uprisings. Many cried for the freed-up armies to move to the colonies, but as war-weariness and dogged economies dragged through the 1920s, the last of the European empires called quits. Britain and France formed commonwealths with their few loyal colonies and gave independence to the others. Civil wars erupted and continued for years throughout South America, Africa, and Asia as well as in Ireland, which was diplomatically separated between North and South in 1928.

The United States, seemingly the only “winner” of the World War, returned to neutrality and economic abundance as it gave resources for Europe to rebuild over the 1930s. Fascism, strong government tied to renewed Nationalism, grew in the wake of the shattering of empire. New bids for domination from Japan, Germany, and Russia would launch another World War in 1946 with the invasion of Scandinavia after Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland had already been dominated.

In reality, Papen could not be convinced to aid Ireland more directly than a promise of liberation should the war bring Germany to the Emerald Isle. Roger Casement was captured just days before the Easter Uprising and executed for treason some months later. The battles during the week of Easter 1916 in Ireland would be bloody, and the rebellion would be ultimately crushed as 16,000 British troops arrived in Dublin. Some 20,000 German rifles and 10 machine guns were given to the Irish by the Germans, but they were scant in comparison with Irish needs and no German officers came to offer training for the newly developed weapons.

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