“You know, putting aside for a moment the atrocities of battle, you have to admit we live in a pretty hilarious time!” – Lieutenant William Gilliam, as he led his troops against the Walla-Walla, at the Battle of Seattle.
There are few things in history cooler than a sloop-of-war, and in the mid-nineteenth century, when it came to sloops, few were as “of war” as the Decatur, which on this particular day in 1856 was anchored in Elliott Bay. However, what could have been simply a “cool” battle turned into one of history’s most absurd stories. (Note: I’m not making any of these names up. Seriously.)
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“Wait, are you telling me you actually sent that? For God’s sake, woman—it was a joke!” – a hysterical Arthur Zimmermann to his secretary Gretchen, after learning that she had just sent a real telegram on its way to Mexico proposing an allied attack on the United States at the height of World War I.
Gretchen Ziegler certainly was a sweetheart. Whatever else may have been uttered about her in the years that would follow that historic morning, she really was an absolute peach. In an attempt to contribute to the war effort, the shapely university student worked part-time for Foreign Secretary of the German Empire Arthur Zimmermann, who was a friend of her father. It was widely agreed that her charming demeanor, calm blue eyes, and silky voice made her especially suited to sit at the desk of so busy and esteemed a man as Zimmermann. And indeed, naïve though she was, Gretchen was not without intelligence, having earned excellent marks in school. Thus it came almost as a complete surprise when, on the morning of January 19, she committed a grave error that would severely alter the course of modern history.
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“You know she’s in her fifties though, right?” – Sen. Arthur Vandenberg to an overly optimistic Sen. Edwin Broussard, as the two discussed the arrival of the newly elected Hattie Caraway, the country’s first female senator.
Edwin S. Broussard had been involved in politics since he was a boy, where he participated enthusiastically in school government for the same reason anyone does: to meet and impress girls. In his day, as in ours, the so-called student leaders were simply powerless overachievers looking to pass off weak social lives as a passion for “extracurricular activities.” And true to form, Broussard met his female counterpart, a pretty but rather prudish young woman named Marie Patout, and married her at the age of 29. However, being the overachiever that he was, the handsome Broussard continued to engage in widespread “gerrymandering” with a variety of young ladies about the spirited town of New Orleans. So it was for several years until his philandering came to a brief halt when, in 1930, the charismatic son of Louisiana was elected in a special vote to finish the term of his departed brother Robert. After being sworn in, the surprisingly naïve Broussard discovered, much to his chagrin, that there were no women in the Senate. “They’ve had the vote for ten years…what the hell are they doing with it?” he wrote in his journal, which has remained largely unpublished by his heirs due to the lascivious accounts of the Senator’s extensive “pork barreling.” Continue reading »
“Wow, talk about déjà vu! Although I still don’t know why you’re not armed, or how you guys talked me into doing this.” – Bernhard “Bernie” Goetz, after rapidly shooting four unarmed black men in a game of paintball several hours after escaping the scene of his subway shootings.
Bernie, Jamal, Deion, Marcus, and Raymond—or the “Jive Five”, as they were known in college—were virtually inseparable. In fact, Bernie’s famous (or perhaps infamous) adventure on the no. 57 subway earlier that day (read it–this whole thing will make a lot more sense if you do) marked the first time in a week that the crew had been separated for more than a few minutes during the day. They all worked together at a bread bakery they had opened just after graduating, a popular local joint by the name of “Baggoetz”, and when a bank statement detailing an unsettled loan repayment was discovered in the back office, they were left with no choice but to send one person out in the middle of the day. Bernie volunteered, telling his best friends only half-jokingly “You know they’ll go easy on a white guy!” He hurriedly finished handing out orders to the long line of customers, apologizing for the delays. He even offered an extra loaf of sourdough to a black man seated in the corner, saying “You look like you could use some bread…here’s another.” Continue reading »
“Yeah, well, it applies to the Immaculate Conception and this, so end of conversation.” – Pope Pius IX, speaking on the doctrine of infallibility to the College of Cardinals, as they debated what to order for lunch and Pius found himself the lone advocate of fish sticks.
The Immaculate Conception holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born without original sin and blessed instead with the sanctifying grace of God. It was formally defined and declared by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, under the doctrine of infallibility, meaning that the Immaculate Conception became a part of the Catholic dogma.
The doctrine of infallibility has often been misunderstood as meaning that the Pope can do or say no wrong, which it certainly does not mean. In an effort to prevent the further propagation of that falsehood, Pope Pius IX had always been very insistent that, as a man and not God, his infallibility was not constant, and often deferred to other leaders in the Church as a demonstration of his humanity. Continue reading »
This is a Wednesday column, so why is it running on Thursday? Well, while on assignment in the Middle East, Jake was captured by Afghanis. They have since released him after he quickly volunteered a few national secrets (don’t worry–not our national secrets…stupid terrorists.) But enough already. Let’s leave the revising of events to the column itself:
“Oh, come on…is that an actual rule?”
–Delaware Congressman Louis McLane, after learning that because none of the candidates had won a majority of electoral votes, the 1824 presidential election would be decided by the House of Representatives.
The 12th amendment has never been very popular, and its only saving grace has been the persistence of the two-party system in the United States. But know that on this day in 1824, due to the dissolution of a unified Federalist party, there was only one party, which had distributed its electoral support among four candidates. Although Andrew Jackson received the highest number of votes, he did not receive a majority, which required what today we would call a run-off, in which the top three candidates would vie for votes in a House of Representatives election. Continue reading »