March in American History: Part II

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March 16, 1751
James Madison is born in Port Conway, Virginia. During the American Revolution, he joined the Orange County Militia in his home state, and later was elected to the Second Continental Congress. A member and co-founder of the Democratic-Republican Party, Madison opposed Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist policies, but alongside Hamilton and many other founding fathers, he led the charge in favor of a stronger national constitution and authored the Bill of Rights, as well as 29 of the Federalist Papers. He served as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State from 1801-1809 and then as president from 1809-1817. During his time as Commander in Chief, Madison guided the young nation through its second conflict with Great Britain and also re-declared war on Tripoli’s Barbary pirates. Often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” he passed away on June 28, 1836.

March 16, 1968
The My Lai Massacre occurs in South Vietnam. Soldiers from US Army Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division killed between 300-500 Vietnamese civilians. Many of the casualties were women and children, some of whom were raped or mutilated. Twenty six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only William Calley Jr. was found guilty. Calley ended up serving three and a half years under house arrest. According to the History Channel, this was one of the most brutal acts of violence against civilians during the Vietnam War and military officers participated in a cover-up of the event for more than a year. When the tragedy was finally brought to light, it ignited international outrage.

March 18, 1837
Grover Cleveland is born in Caldwell, New Jersey. At a young age, his family relocated to upstate New York, where he spent many of his younger years. During the Civil War, he chose to pay a substitute – George Benninsky – to take his place, as the Conscription Act required if one was not to serve. In 1871, Cleveland was elected to be Sheriff of Erie County, New York, and held the position until 1873. He then served as Mayor of Buffalo, New York from January 2 – November 20, 1882, and then as Governor of New York from 1883-1885. A member of the Democratic Party, Cleveland remains, thus far, the only president to have served two non-consecutive terms. The first was from 1885-1889 and the second was from 1893-1897. While in office, he became renowned for his stand against corrupt political bosses, and became admired by Democrats and Republicans alike. His presidency oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty and he passed away on June 24, 1908.

March 19, 2003
The Coalition Invasion of Iraq begins. With US forces being led by President George W. Bush and UK forces commanded by Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Coalition’s goal was to put an end to the reign of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. Weapons of mass destruction were believed by intelligence forces to be harbored by Iraq, following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The invasion phase lasted until May 1, 2003. Following this began the war against militant insurgents of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. With war also raging in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was another primary target, having been suspected of orchestrating the September 11 attacks. The Iraq War ended on December 18, 2011, resulting in the withdrawal of US forces until June 15, 2014.

March 20, 1852
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” is published. An abolitionist and teacher from Connecticut, Stowe wrote this novel with the intention of increasing awareness of slavery’s inhumane conditions. The book became the best-selling novel of the 1800s and assisted the growth of the abolitionist movement. Many in the North were inspired by it, while many in the South were outraged. Stowe’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher, was also a well-known abolitionist and evangelist. It is rumored that when President Lincoln met Stowe, he addressed her by saying, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.”

March 21, 1965
Martin Luther King Jr. leads the third Selma to Montgomery March. Covering 54 miles, this march consisted of nonviolent protesters demonstrating their desire for African-Americans to exercise their constitutional right and civic duty to vote. The marches occurred largely as a result of the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot and killed by an Alabama state trooper while peacefully protesting. Earlier during the marches, “Bloody Sunday” occurred, which consisted of peaceful protesters clashing with local police forces. The demonstrations resulted in the passing of the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965.

March 22, 1765
British Parliament passes the Stamp Act on the American Colonies. This tax was placed on all forms of printed paper, including playing cards and magazines, and forced the placement of a revenue stamp on paper goods. It was ultimately established to help pay for Britain’s debt following the French and Indian War, known outside of the American Colonies as the Seven Years’ War. With the Stamp Act followed other taxes, which were met by incidents such as the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and more. The American Revolution officially began on April 19, 1775, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

March 23, 1775
Patrick Henry delivers his Liberty or Death speech. Orated at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, this speech sparked a fire in the hearts and minds of the delegates present. Among them were George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In response to Henry’s fiery oration, Lord Dunmore of Virginia seized Williamsburg’s gunpowder supply. This is believed by many to be the speech that prompted the colonists to seek rebellion. The most memorable excerpt reads: “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!”

March 24, 1989
The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill occurs. In Prince William Sound, Alaska, an oil tanker struck Bligh Reef, spilling over 10-million gallons of oil into the sea. This caused devastating effects on various wildlife populations, including those of fish, birds, whales, sea otters, and others. In 1990, US Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act, which prohibits any vessel that has caused an oil spill of over one million gallons from operating in Prince William Sound. Today, over 30 years later, the effects of this environmental tragedy are still being witnessed. Exxon-Valdez is considered to be the second-worst oil spill in US waters, second only to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

March 26, 1979
The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is signed in Washington DC. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Egypt demilitarized the Sinai Peninsula and allowed Israeli ships to pass through the Suez Canal. In 1978, the Camp David Accords were signed by the leaders of the two nations. The signing became one of President Jimmy Carter’s greatest accomplishments, and Carter was also present at the signing of the peace treaty in 1979. Since the treaty, Israel and Egypt have experienced controversy, but have overall maintained a relatively peaceful relationship.

March 27, 1814
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend is fought. Part of the War of 1812, this battle – fought near present-day Dadeville, Alabama – consisted of US forces defeating Creek warriors. Allied with the British, the Creek opposed American expansion into the west. During the War of 1812, British soldiers used various Native tribes to stir havoc among American settlers in the Midwest. US forces partnered with the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Lower Creek tribes to win a significant victory. The battle also ended the Creek War and William Weatherford surrendered to General Andrew Jackson in August 1814.

March 29, 1790
John Tyler is born in Charles City County, Virginia. At a young age, Tyler was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and not long after, he raised a local militia to defend the city of Richmond from British forces during the War of 1812. Though he was originally a member of the Democratic Party, he opposed Andrew Jackson’s stance during the Nullification Crisis, and became a Whig from 1834-1841. He later became an Independent from 1844-1862. Tyler’s presidency lasted from 1841-1845, during which he rejoined the Whig Party until his last year, and then became a New Democratic-Republican for a short time. Tyler was the first to enter office following the death of a sitting president. Just days before leaving office, he signed the bill that allowed for the annexation of Texas. When the Civil War broke out, Tyler took the side of the Confederacy, and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. Before his first term began, he passed away on January 18, 1862.

March 29, 1973
The last US combat troops evacuate South Vietnam. The Vietnam War officially ended on April 30, 1975. The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 ended US involvement, but the fight between the communist North and capitalist South ensued for another two years. The Vietnam War was the longest conflict of the Cold War and led to the deaths of over a million people. In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as the Vietnam Wall, was dedicated in Washington DC. In 2017, President Donald Trump declared March 29 as National Vietnam Veterans Day.

March 30, 1855
Border Ruffians from Missouri attempt to enforce the election of a pro-slavery legislature in Kansas. The struggle over whether the newly-acquired territory of Kansas should be free or slave soil played a large role in igniting the Civil War. The Sacking of Lawrence, as well as the engagements of Black Jack and Osawatomie, occurred and further divided the nation between those who supported slavery and those who sought abolition. The Bleeding Kansas conflict is where John Brown – a militant abolitionist – gained recognition, following the Pottawatomie Massacre. Brown later attempted a slave uprising at Harpers Ferry in the mountains of what is now West Virginia.

March 31, 1774
The Boston Port Act goes into effect in British Parliament. This was one of the five measures passed by Britain known as the Intolerable Acts, which were enacted in response to the Boston Tea Party. It was described as follows: “An act to discontinue, in such manner, and for or such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbor, of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in North America.” Originally passed on March 25 of that year, this law was intended by Parliament to discourage trade with Boston from the other American colonies. In actuality, however, it fueled the rebel cause and persuaded the other colonies to be more sympathetic towards Boston.

Garrett Smith
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