Martin Luther King Jr.

Lorraine Motel

. . . was assassinated while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on this date in 1968. He was 39 years old.

The evening before King concluded his speech with:

Lorraine Motel Balcony

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

March 23rd

Handel’s oratorio Messiah premiered in London on this date in 1743.

On this date in 1775, Patrick Henry spoke to the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church, Richmond. The last paragraph:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Lewis and Clark began their return from the Pacific on this date in 1806.

the rained Seased and it became fair about Meridean, at which time we loaded our Canoes & at 1 P. M. left Fort Clatsop on our homeward bound journey. at this place we had wintered and remained from the 7th of Decr. 1805 to this day and have lived as well as we had any right to expect, and we can Say that we were never one day without 3 meals of Some kind a day either pore Elk meat or roots, not withstanding the repeeted fall of rain which has fallen almost Constantly Since we passed the long narrows on the [blank] of Novr. last

Excerpt by Clark from the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Pancho Villa

. . . and his forces attacked Columbus, New Mexico, 99 years ago today (March 9, 1916).

Why Columbus? Why then?

The U.S. had taken sides against Villa — and for Venustiano Carranza — in the continuing Mexican revolutions. Columbus had a garrison of about 600 U.S. soldiers. Villa had been sold blank ammunition by an arms dealer in the town. And a few days earlier 10 Mexicans had been “accidentally” burned to death while in custody in El Paso during a “routine” delousing with gasoline.

The attack at dawn lasted about three hours before American troops chased Villa’s forces into Mexico. The town was burned and 17 Americans, mostly private citizens, were killed. About 100 of Villa’s troops were reportedly killed. The arms dealer was absent from Columbus that morning. He had a dental appointment in El Paso.

The next day President Wilson ordered General Jack Pershing and 5,000 American troops into Mexico to capture Villa. This “Punitive Expedition” was often mis-directed by Mexican citizens and Villa allegedly hid in the dust thrown up by Pershing’s vehicles. (The American Army used aircraft for reconnaissance for the first time. This is considered the beginning of the Army Air Corps.)

Unsuccessful in the hunt, by February 1917 the United States and Pershing turned their attention to the war in Europe. Minor clashes with Mexican irregulars continued to disturb the border from 1917 to 1919. Engagements took place near Buena Vista, Mexico, on December 1, 1917; in San Bernardino Canyon, Mexico, on December 26, 1917; near La Grulla, Texas, on January 8-9, 1918; at Pilares, Mexico, about March 28, 1918; at Nogales, Arizona, on August 27, 1918; and near El Paso, Texas, on June 15-16, 1919.

Villa, born Doroteo Arango, surrendered to the Mexican Government in 1920 and retired on a general’s pay. He was assassinated in 1923.

Impeached

The House of Representatives voted 126-47 to impeach President Andrew Johnson on this date in 1868. The New York Times report on the vote begins:

The first act in the great civil drama of the nineteenth century is concluded. Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, stands impeached of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It is of no use to argue whether his acts were right or wrong, whether the law he violated is constitutional or otherwise, or whether it is good or bad policy to proceed to this extreme. The House of Representatives, with a full realization of all the possible consequences, has solemnly decided that he shall be held to account in the manner prescribed by the Constitution for his alleged misdemeanors, and, be the result what it may, the issue is made. It must be met without delay, and the first step is already complete.

As the War ended in 1865, there were essentially two different approaches to Reconstruction. The first, shared by Lincoln and Johnson, was that the southern states had not left the Union. There had simply been a rebellion by their citizens. The Union’s purpose in the war had been to end the rebellion, replace the southern leaders and restore the state governments, albeit with freedom for all, black and white. The second approach took the view that the south was a conquered nation to be governed by the federal government. This view was held by many Republicans in Congress.

Johnson was a Democrat and slave-owner from Tennessee selected to run with the Republican Lincoln in 1864 in hopes of attracting pro-Union, pro-war Democratic votes. Johnson was far less inclined than Lincoln to support the former slaves or demand much from the new southern governments. He vetoed Freedmen’s Bills (which were passed over his vetoes) and he openly opposed the Fourteenth Amendment (citizenship and equal protection). The Reconstruction Act of 1867 was also passed over Johnson’s veto. It established military governments in the south.

Ultimately, when Johnson attempted to remove Secretary of War Stanton (the official charged by Congress with carrying out the Reconstruction Act) the House voted to impeach.

The trial was held in the Senate in the spring of 1868. The Senate voted 35-19 to remove Johnson from office, but 36 votes were required. He completed his term as President (until March 1869) and was elected U.S. Senator from Tennessee in 1875, but served only five months before he died.

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson has contemporary reports from Harper’s Weekly.