Good Morning, America!
The Ethics Alarms countdown to the Fourth—you know, that racist holiday celebrating white supremacy?—begins today, one of the truly epic dates in our history. Of course, those who find history upsetting because it makes them feel”unsafe” don’t know any of this stuff, making them pretty much useless citizens with their ability to understand current events stuck at an infantile level.
- On July 2, 1776, The Second Continental Congress, assembled in Philadelphia, formally adopted Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence from Great Britain. The vote was unanimous, with only New York abstaining. Of course, Richard Henry Lee was Robert E. Lee’uncle and a slave-holder, so we really shouldn’t remember him or his significance to our nation’s independence.
- On July 2, 1839, enslaved Africans on the Cuban schooner Amistad mutinied, killing two crew members and seizing control of the ship, which had been transporting them to be slaves on a sugar plantation. This set in motion a series of events that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, with only one dissent, that the Africans had been illegally enslaved and had exercised a natural right to fight for their freedom. Massachusetts Congressman John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829 who, like his father, was a passionate foe of slavery, served on the Africans’ defense team. With financial assistance of abolitionists , the Amistad Africans were returned to their homes in West Africa.
They never teach this story in schools, but your kids can read about it here.
- On July 2, 1863, during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, with the fate of the Union and the United States hanging in the balance, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia tried to break through the line of General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac at both Culp’s Hill and Little Round Top. There were so many strange twists and turns that day that it is fair to say that only luck prevented July 2 from marking the end of the nation as we know it, and from preserving slavery at least a little longer. The Union was lucky, for example, that the officer in charge of the The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment defending the far end of the Union line at Little Round Top was not a regular military man, but a Bowdoin history professor, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. When it appeared that all was lost, and his troops were about to be overwhelmed by Alabama soldiers because the 20th was out of ammunition, Chamberlain improvised, and duplicated a tactic from ancient Roman armies. He ordered a downhill bayonet charge, the only such maneuver in the Civil War. It saved the day, as the startled Alabama troops surrendered.
Meanwhile, the First Minnesota Regiment was sacrificing itself, as I described here, in one of the great moments of heroism in U.S. military history.
- On July 2, 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House. Johnson famously used all of his vaunted political skills to threaten, cajole, and horse-trade his way to the law’s passage through Congress.If you haven’t yet listened to the preserved phone conversations he had with various Southern Democrats, you should.
Only eight months after the assassination of President Kennedy, the crude-talking President from Texas was able to accomplish what the Northern liberal Kennedy may never have been able to pull off.
Not all of the momentous events in our history occurring on July 2 have been positive.
- On July 2, 1881, Republican President James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau in a railway station in Washington, D.C. only four months into his promising administration. Guiteau was a disbarred lawyer and thoroughly insane.
Garfield was one of the most brilliant men ever elected President, and he would have survived the attack if he hadn’t been killed by his doctors.
- On July 2, 1937, American aviator Amelia Earhart and navigator Frederick Noonan disappeared in their Lockheed aircraft as Earhart attempted to become the first woman to fly around the world. Their bodies were never recovered, and what happened to Earhart, who was already a celebrity, has never been conclusively proven.