Little Bits of History

April 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 30, 2017

1956: Alben William Barkley dies. Born in 1877, the politician had served in both houses of Congress and was the Vice President under Harry S Truman. He, like another American politician, was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. He was the oldest of eight children born to his tenant farmer parents. They grew tobacco on the farm but the family was quite religious and opposed card playing and alcohol. Although his birth name was Willie Alben, as soon as he could, he changed it to Alben (his grandfather’s name) William. Barkley’s education was often interrupted by having to work the farm, first with tobacco and then when the family moved, to farming wheat. He managed to secure an adequate education despite having to miss school for farm work. He even acquired a college education.

He worked as a law clerk for an attorney and state congressman even though their political leanings were polar opposites. In 1904, Barkley first threw his hat into the ring, running for county attorney and managed to win his first election. He was on his way to a life in politics. He next ran for the vacated seat of Ollie James who was leaving the US House of Representatives to seek a Senate seat. The lifelong Democrat served in the House from 1913 through 1927.  He ran for governor of Kentucky in 1923 unsuccessfully. He was elected to the US Senate in 1927 and held that post until 1949. Between 1937 and 1947 he served as Senate Majority Leader and during the last two years of his tenure he was the Senate Minority Leader.

As a liberal Democrat, Barkley supported President Woodrow Wilson’s New Freedom policies. The stated agenda was to reform tariffs (which in 1913 allowed for tariffs to be lowered for the first time since 1857), business (and the Federal Trade Commission was established as well an anti-trust laws enacted), and banking (creation of the Federal Reserve System and the passage of the Federal Farm Loan Act). Barkley was a supporter of Prohibition, a natural outgrowth of his upbringing and denounced parimutuel betting, a system of betting on horse races, greyhound racing, jai alai, and other sporting events. He helped see through the New Deal approach to the Great Depression.

He resigned his Senate seat in order to become Truman’s Vice President and held that position for four years. Truman’s loss to Dwight D. Eisenhower meant Barkley, too was out of a job. Barkley had cataract surgery after leaving Washington, D.C. and contracted with NBC to create 26 fifteen-minute shows but low rating kept the series from being continued. He once again ran for a Senate seat from Kentucky and campaigned in his old Iron Man way, up to sixteen hours a day. He countered his “too old” reputation which cost him the presidential nomination. He won and again took his seat in 1955. On this day, he was giving a speech and as he took the stage and began his speech, he had a heart attack and collapsed dead on the stage.

I’m glad to sit on the back row, for I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty. (an allusion to Psalm 84:10 and Alben W. Barkley’s last words

The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk. – Alben W. Barkley

A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen. – Winston Churchill

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are. – Cal Thomas

April 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 29, 2017

2015: The Baltimore Orioles play the Chicago White Sox. On April 12, 2015 the Baltimore Police arrested Freddie Gray, a 25 year old African-American from Baltimore. Gray suffered neck and spine injuries while in transport. When he went into a coma on April 18, protests were held outside the police station and continued and escalated after Gray died the following day. Police have never been able to adequately explain how Gray was injured and this also fueled the protests and Civil Rights concerns. On April 25 the NAACP, CASA de Maryland, and Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle requested that Governor Larry Hogan look into the charges of police brutality. The next day, protesters marched from City Hall to Inner Harbor and at the end of the march, some became violent.

The Baltimore Orioles were playing the Boston Red Sox and the game was close. Near Oriole Park at Camden Yards, violence was on the upsweep and it was considered unsafe for the fans to leave the stadium. In the middle of the ninth inning, an announcement was made asking all to remain inside due to “ongoing public safety issues” in the streets. The 36,757 fans remained even after the tenth inning win by the Orioles while outside at least 34 people were arrested and six police officers were injured.

A funeral was held for Gray on April 27 and there were many to see him off to his final resting place in Woodlawn Cemetery. Flyers as well as messages on social media were calling for people to come together to “purge” – a reference to a violent, dystopian action series of films by that name – a wide swath of Baltimore from Mondawmin to Downtown. The police proactively showed up in riot gear and shut down public transportation. This did not stop the violence and other police forces came to aid in the containment of the violence. The Orioles were to play a three game series against the White Sox and the first of the two games were cancelled due to safety concerns. On this day, the game was played behind closed doors, the first time in Major League Baseball history. It broke the record for attendance since zero fans were permitted to enter. The previous record was six and set in 1882.

A state of emergency was called and the Maryland National Guard was called in. Over the course of the weeks of rioting, more than twenty police officers were injured, 250 people were arrested, between 285 and 350 businesses were damaged, there were 150 vehicle fires, there were 60 structural fires, and 27 drugstores were looted. The state of emergency was lifted on May 6. Gray’s death was ruled a homicide and six officers were charged with offenses including second-degree murder. Three officers were acquitted and the other three had their charges dropped.

A riot is the language of the unheard. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I can see in your eyes, I can see in your faces, I can see you cry. But what I want to say, there’s no reason to cry. Do not, in the name of peace, go in the streets and riot. – George Weah

Rioting is a childish way of trying to be a man, but it takes time to rise out of the hell of hatred and frustration and accept that to be a man you don’t have to riot. – Abraham Maslow

You can’t just lecture the poor that they shouldn’t riot or go to extremes. You have to make the means of legal redress available. – Harold H. Greene

April 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 28, 2017

1887: Guillaume Schnaebelé is released. He was born in Alsace, an area that is today in northeastern France but has been an area of contention. When Schnaebelé was born in 1831, Alsace was part of the Kingdom of France and had been for over 150 years. However, by the time of this incident, it was part of the German Empire and had been since 1871 as part of the fallout from the Franco-Prussian War. Schnaebelé emigrated to France after the war, having served on the French side and having been awarded the Knight of the Legion of Honor. He was employed as a mid-level and rather obscure French police inspector when he was invited to Ars-sur-Moselle to meet with a German police inspector.

Near Pagny-sur-Moselle, he was arrested on April 21. There was an immediate dispute as to whether Schnaebelé was still in France or was in German territory at the time of his arrest. The French claimed, no matter where he was, since he had been invited by Germany to attend a conference by German officials, he should be given immunity. The Germans maintained he was arrested for treason against the state because during the war, he was involved in sending vital information regarding German fortresses to Paris. He also aided and abetted Alsatians in the pay of the French Government and an order had been issued for his arrest should he ever step on German ground again.

Schnaebelé was released on this date by order of German Emperor William I. Also on this day, the French ambassador in Berlin received a message from Otto van Bismarck, the German Chancellor, stating the Germans felt fully justified in the arrest as the guilt of Schnaebelé was incontrovertible. However, he was being released because business meetings along the borders and between officials “must always be regarded as protected by a mutually-assured safe conduct.” This seemed to diffuse the tensions between the two nations which were on the brink of war – again. The language flowing between the two nations had been provocative and inflammatory.

In the time since, there has been speculation as to what was really happening in this week long incident. It is possible Bismarck was behind the entire affair and used it as a way to gauge French response. He may have been baiting France into starting a war or perhaps seeing if they were still in unified support of General Boulanger who had already been involved in a number of embarrassing situations. He was serving as Minster of War, a position he lost in May 1887 and he was transferred to a provincial post to be hopefully forgotten. There is also a possibility that Schnaebelé was actually a spy and working for the soon to be disgraced General. Whatever the reason for his arrest, his release was enough to forestall war, at least for a time.

It may seem unfashionable to say so, but historians should seize the imagination as well as the intellect. History is, in a sense, a story, a narrative of adventure and of vision, of character and of incident. It is also a portrait of the great general drama of the human spirit. – Peter Ackroyd

I ain’t no historian but I happen to savvy this incident. – Charles Marion Russell

It’s a thrilling world, and people really like stories about secrets, which is the essence of a spy drama. – Andrew Scott

We have learned in recent years to translate almost all of political life in terms of conspiracy. –  John le Carre

April 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2017

1578: The Duel of the Mignons takes place. During the French Wars of Religion, a group of men living in Paris and favorites of Henry III of France were derided by the press and the citizenry. Les Mignons is French for “the darlings” or “the dainty ones” and the men referred to were frivolous, fashionable young men who may or may not have been homosexual but were decidedly not  considered to be manly enough. According to writers at the time, they made themselves “exceedingly odious, as much by their foolish and haughty demeanor, as by their effeminate and immodest dress, but above all by the immense gifts the king made to them.”

The Malcontents were a group of men in the Fifth French War of Religion who opposed Henry of Valois, duc d’Anjou’s assumption to the throne as Henry III and allied with the Huguenots. They instead backed the old King’s brother, Francis, Duke of Anjou. They were unhappy (malcontent) with the way the King treated the old French nobility. Francis was the presumed heir to the throne as long as Henry III remained childless and it was he who seems to have stirred up a lot of the discontent within Paris over the Mignons and their misbehavior. There were fourteen young men who were singled out for popular disdain with special attention to Anne de Joyeuse who the young King had travelled with and now made Duke and Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, another traveler who was also made a Duke.

Henry III and Henry, Duke of Guise decided to reenact the battle of the Horatii and the Curiatii, an ancient Roman legend where instead of two armies fighting, neighboring kingdoms would decide a winner based on a fight between the Horatii and the Curiatii – two sets of triplet fighters. The fight was to the death. On this day, Jacques de Caylus, Louis de Maugiron and Jean d’Arcès (representing the party of the King) engaged in a mock battle with Charles de Balzac, Ribérac, and Georges de Schomberg (representing the party of the Guises). Like the Roman battle, only one survived the day. Maugiron and Schomberg were killed in the mock battle. Ribérac died the following day. Caylus had as many as 19 wounds and took 33 agonizing days to die. D’Arcès received a head wound and was hospitalized for six weeks. Balzac suffered only a small scratch on his arm.

The meaningless loss of life enraged the public. The press of the day impugned the fighters, their leaders, and the entire idea behind the farce. The outcry continued and was seen as part and parcel of the abhorrent state of the Court and the spread of what the French considered to be the deplorable Italian and Gascon manners of Henry’s effeminate court. It also made the estrangement between the two noble Henrys much worse.

“Culture” is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of the world process, a segment on which human beings confer meaning and significance. – Max Weber

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. – Morrie Schwartz

I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life. – Corazon Aquino

Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it. – Ray Kurzweil

April 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2017

1478: Giuliana de’ Medici is murdered in church. Cosimo de’ Medici was the first member of the family to combine the Medici Bank with politics and leadership of the Republic of Florence. Cosimo was one of the wealthiest men in Europe and spent large sums of his money on government and philanthropy, supporting the burgeoning Renaissance arts. His son, Piero, was also into Florentine politics and philanthropy and when he died, his son, Lorenzo, took over the leadership of the Republic. Lorenzo was groomed for leadership, was the smartest of Piero’s five children, and trained in statesmanship and warring. He ruled mostly by proxy but was considered a tyrant. Rival families in Florence were hoping to gain control and the most notable of these was the Pazzi family.

On this day, Francesco Pazzi, Girolamo Riario, and Francesco Salviate (the Archbishop of Pisa) with the blessing of Pope Sixtus IV, attack Lorenzo and Giuliano (who assisted his brother in rule) at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Giuliano died of a sword wound to his head, but was stabbed a total of 19 times. Lorenzo escaped with a minor wound to his shoulder, having been defended by Poliziano, a poet and benefactor of the Medici family. News of the attack spread quickly throughout Florence and revenge was swift and brutal. They lynched the Archbishop and all Pazzi family members who participated were killed. The Pope had sided with the Pazzis and seized all Medici assets he could find and excommunicated Lorenzo and the entire government of Florence.

Eventually, all of Florence was put under interdict, a way for the Catholic Church to censure individuals or groups. This had little effect. Sixtus allied with King Ferdinand I of Naples and Alfonso, Duke of Calabria and the King’s son, led an attack on Florence which was still being ruled by Lorenzo. Florence’s allies in Bologna and Milan were having their own problems and did not come to aid Florence. Lorenzo went to Naples, offered himself as prisoner, and ultimately resolved the crises through diplomatic means, something he had been trained for since just a teen. He was able to bring the siege to an end and remained in power in Florence which passed constitutional changes which enhanced Lorenzo’s power and position.

Giuliano died at the age of 25. The handsome, “golden boy” had fathered one child via his mistress who would later become Pope Clement VII. Lorenzo, like his grandfather Cosimo, used diplomacy to maintain peace and balance of power among the northern Italian states. He was able to maintain an uneasy peace with other European states (mostly France and the Holy Roman Empire) and even with the Ottoman Empire as the Florentines carried on a healthy trade with the Ottomans, a source of wealth for the Medici family. He was also a great patron of the arts and supported such noted artists as Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship. – George Bernard Shaw

Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities. – Pope Francis

The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination. – Voltaire

Assassination has never changed the history of the world. – Benjamin Disraeli

April 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 25, 2017

1944: The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is founded. Frederick D Patterson, president of the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) worked with Mary McLeod Bethune and others to help raise money for disadvantaged students to reach their potential. Opportunities for Negros were curtailed and leaders in the community found a way to help finance college educations for those deserving poor. The UNCF united college presidents from traditionally Black Colleges to raise funds through an “appeal to the national conscience.” William Trent served as the first executive director and the long-time activist was able to raise $78 million dollars in the twenty years he was at the helm.

Mary McLeod Bethune was the child of former slaves and born in Mayesville, South Carolina. Even though she began her life working in the fields of her parents’ farm, she longed for a greater education and achieved her dream with the help of benefactors. She hoped to be a missionary in Africa. Instead, she brought her drive and commitment to bettering the educational hopes of black girls, first by opening a school in Daytona Beach, Florida and later by helping found this organization to bring the chance of higher education to all those willing to work to achieve their dreams.

UNCF is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and helps to finance higher education for all ethnicities, although the greatest number of recipients are African-Americans. There are 37 member Colleges and Universities but worthy students can receive money even if attending other institutions. Some of the most prominent recipients of UNCF’s help have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Alexis Herman (former Secretary of Labor), General Chappie James (the US Air Force’s first black four star general), and Dr. David Satcher (former US Surgeon General and director of the CDC).

Fundraising has always been part of the UNCF’s mission. John F Kennedy donated the prize money from his Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage to the Fund. The largest donation ever made came from Walter Annenberg (publisher and philanthropist) in 1990 when he donated $50 million. Lou Rawls began a telethon in 1980 first called “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars” and now known as “An Evening of Stars” with the goal of raising monies for the UNCF. Usually present are some of the successful African-Americans who have received aid from UNCF or graduated from one of the participating Colleges or Universities. The event has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Over 10,000 scholarships totaling over $100 million are awarded each year. Dr. Michael Lomax is the current CEO.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. – UNCF slogan

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm X



 April 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 24, 2017

1895: Joshua Slocum sets sail from Boston, Massachusetts. Slocum was born in Nova Scotia in 1844 near the Bay of Fundy. His grandfather was the keeper at the lighthouse and he spent time around and on the water. His father made boots for the seamen of the area but the son was far more interested in being in the boots than making them. He was one of eleven children of a strict father and made several attempts to run away from home before succeeding at the age of 14. He did so by hiring himself out as a cook and cabin boy on a fishing schooner. He returned home shortly before leaving for good, signing on as a seaman aboard a transatlantic ship.

He sailed with several different concerns before settling in San Francisco at the age of 21. He became an American citizen, fished and hunted locally, and then became the pilot of a schooner travelling between San Francisco and Seattle. He moved from ship to ship, became master of several, sailed between Asia, Australia, and the US, and married. His wife joined him aboard ship and over the course of the next 13 years, they had seven children, all born at sea or in foreign ports. One of the ships he captained was wrecked during a gale, but Slocum saved his family and crew and most of the cargo. This led to greater ships and more sailing. Not all smooth sailing, twice the family was stranded and eventually returned to the sea by luck and determination.

Back in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Slocum rebuilt a 16’9” gaff rigged sloop oyster boat christened Spray. On this day, he sailed forth from Boston on a solo trip around the world. He first sailed up to Nova Scotia and spent time there before leaving North America on July 3. He did not have a chronometer, but used traditional dead reckoning for longitude and noon sun sights for latitude. This meant he needed only a cheap tin clock for approximate times. While sailing across the Pacific, he was one of the last to use a lunar distance observation to check longitude – decades after these were commonly used.

He managed to sail most of the way without touching the helm due to the design and proportions of the ship and sails. The self-steering ship was helped by Slocum’s adjusting the sails and lashing the helm. In fact, he sailed 2,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean without once touching the helm. Finally, on June 27, 1898 he returned to Newport, Rhode Island, travelling more than 46,000 miles. He wrote about his journey and published Sailing Alone Around the World, a classic in travel literature today. He was the first person to make a solo trip sailing around the world. He made enough money from his book and lectures to support himself and future sailing projects. On November 14, 1909, he once again went to sea, heading for the West Indies and never arrived. He was lost at sea and presumed dead at the age of 65.

I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter.

The twelve o’clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail. A short board was made up the harbor on the port tack, then coming about she stood to seaward, with her boom well off to port, and swung past the ferries with lively heels.

A photographer on the outer pier of East Boston got a picture of her as she swept by, her flag at the peak throwing her folds clear. A thrilling pulse beat high in me.

My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood. – Joshua Slocum in Sailing Alone Around the World

April 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2017

1879: A fire starts at the University of Notre Dame. The Catholic research university was established on November 26, 1842 near South Bend, Indiana. Father Edward Sorin, CSC (Congregation of the Holy Cross) was the founder and first president of the then all-male institution. It was built on land donated by the Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana. Sorin arrived at the site with eight Holy Cross brothers from France and Ireland on November 26 and opened school in Father Stephen Badin’s log chapel. They began building with the Old College building, the first church, and the first main building. They began with just two students as a primary and secondary school, but by 1844 were given a charter by the Indiana General Assembly granting them full college status.

The first main building, or administrative center, came under construction on August 28, 1843 shortly after architect Mr. Marsile arrived on the scene. It was completed by fall 1844. It was a 4 ½ story brick building without a dome and built in the French style. The second Main Building replaced the first and was built between 1864 and 1865. It was larger and six stories high with a dome on top. Mr. Thomas of Chicago was the architect and it was built by brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Classes were held on the third floor and the upper two floors were dormitories.

On this day, at about 11 AM, smoke and flames could be seen rising from the roof. Men had been working on repairs on the roof until an hour earlier. Students and faculty began a bucket brigade and attempted to put the fire out. Steam engines sprayed water onto the roof, but the fire continued to spread and before the all-volunteer South Bend fire department could arrive, the building was engulfed. Attempts to put out the fire were abandoned and instead, they began to try and save valuables from the lower floors, tossing items out of windows to people below – many of which crashed to the ground and broke anyway. In three hours, the building was entirely consumed. The fire spread to other nearby buildings as well. The $200,000 loss was covered by only $45,000 insurance.

Father Sorin and university president Rev. William Corby immediately began plans to rebuild. The new design was by Willoughby J Edbrooke who had plans ready by May 10th. Groundbreaking for the new Main Building was held on May 17. Funded by donations and bringing in skilled stonemasons from far and wide. Workers and volunteers moved quickly and the building grew almost overnight. The building was completed before the fall semester of 1879. The not yet Golden Dome was finished in September of 1882. It was gilded in 1886 and topped with a 19 foot statue of “Our Mother”. The Golden Dome is the most recognized landmark of the University and stands brightly at 187 feet high.

An atheist is a man who watches a Notre Dame – Southern Methodist University game and doesn’t care who wins. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

You don’t go to Notre Dame to learn something; you go to Notre Dame to be somebody. – Lou Holtz

You have to be equal at both – great at football and great at dedicating yourself to the academics at Notre Dame. It’s hard. There are no rooty-toot classes for athletes in South Bend. – Justin Tuck

In 1953 there were two ways for an Irish Catholic boy to impress his parents: become a priest or attend Notre Dame. – Phil Donahue

April 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 22, 2017

1864: The Coinage Act of 1864 is passed. Due to this law, the United States Mint changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of a two-cent coin. The Director of the United States Mint designed the new coins and sent them to the Secretary of the Treasury for approval. Also included in the design for the two-cent piece was the phrase “In God We Trust” on the coin. It was the first time the phrase appeared. By March of 1865, the phrase was to be placed on all gold and silver coins that held an inscription. Finally, in 1956 In God We Trust replaced E Pluribus Unum as the national motto and it was printed on all money made by the US Mint.

The Coinage Act of 1792 was the first in the series of these acts and passed the US Congress on April 2, 1792. It created the US dollar as the country’s standard unit of money, established the United States Mint, and regulated coinage throughout the new country. The silver dollar was the basic unit rather than a paper version. A decimal system was enacted for partitioning the dollar into smaller units. It also pegged the value of the American dollar to the Spanish milled dollar which caused some issues with those holding silver at the time. By 1794 and 1795 the US dollar used a 0.900 fine standard while the Spanish dollar used 0.8924+ fine standard which meant that people bringing silver to the mint ended up with less money than they thought they had.

The last major Coinage Act of the US was passed in 1965. This eliminated silver from the dime and quarter or ten- and twenty-five-cent pieces respectively. It reduced the silver in the half dollar (and silver was eliminated entirely in 1970). There had been coin shortages due to silver’s increased demand in other industries as well as for coinage. This increased the price of silver dramatically and made the silver used in the coinage worth more than the coins themselves. It worked and the elimination of silver in the coins permitted enough of them to be minted to eliminate the shortage. The law also banned the minting of silver dollars but these were once again on the market in 1970.

E pluribus unam is Latin for “Out of many, one” and the 13-letter phrase was the traditional motto of the United States and appears on the Great Seal of the United States. It was adopted by the US Congress in 1782 and remained the motto for the country until 1956 when Congress passed H.J. Resolution 396 making In God We Trust the new motto. E pluribus unam was an understanding that from many states or colonies came one new nation. It can also mean a diverse pool of peoples from a wide variety of places came together to create a new country and is a nod to the melting pot theory of the United States. In God We Trust as a motto has been challenged in many lawsuits, unsuccessfully, as it does not endorse any specific religion.

The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. – Smedley Butler

As you know, low demand and high supply means a drop in value of anything, including the dollar. – Robert Kiyosaki

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. – Nelson Mandela

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail. – Kinky Friedman

April 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 21, 2017

900:  Lady Angkatan is forgiven all debts by Commander in Chief of Tundun. In 1989 a man was at the mouth of the Lumbang River in Barnagay Wawa, Lumban, Laguna, the Philippines. Laguna province is located on Luzon, the largest and most populous island of the archipelago. While dredging for sand to turn into concrete, the worker found a small copper plate. It measure about 8 x 12 inches and had words directly embossed onto it which was different from Javanese scrolls of the period where markings were inscribed onto a heated and softened scroll of metal. The laborer sold it to an antique dealer who held if for some time without finding a private buyer. Eventually the National Museum of the Philippines purchased it and Alfredo E Evangelista, head of the Anthropology Department was in charge of it.

It was a year later when Antoon Postma was examining it and noted the inscription was similar to Kawi, an ancient Indonesian script. He was able to translate the writing on what is known as the Laguna Copperplate Inscription. It was self dated to the Saka year 822 during the month of Waisakha on the fourth day of the waning moon, or as we know it, April 21, 900. This predates, by centuries, the first visit of Europeans when Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521. It does correspond with the official Chinese Song dynasty History of Song where the Philippines are mentioned in the year 972.

The debt is cleared for Lady Angkatan and her relative named Bukah and they and all their descendants were cleared from repaying the debt of 1 Kati and 8 Suwarna. The debt was gold weighing 865 grams or 30.5 ounces or about $36,600 today. The writing on the copperplate is Kawi Script but the language is a variety of Old Malay. There are many words from Sanskrit and some words are possibly from Old Javanese. Some historians feel the language is between Old Tagalog and Old Javanese. The places mentioned in the message are in some instances known to us today and some are only surmised. It is also possible the term “Namwaran” is an elder who had died, as names of the dead were not uttered because it was considered disrespectful.

This find, along with some other recently found artifacts including the Golden Tara of Butuan, 14th century pottery, and gold jewelry in Cebu have led historians to create a different pre-European history for the islands. It was once thought the Philippines were isolated from the rest of Asia, but recent discoveries are changing our knowledge of what happened prior to Magellan’s “discovery” of rich cultured peoples living within a community of interwoven Asiatic diversity. Today, the Laguna Copperplate Inscription is considered a national treasure and remains housed in the National Museum of the Philippines in Manila.

First our pleasures die – and then our hopes, and then our fears – and when these are dead, the debt is due dust claims dust – and we die too. – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Debt is one person’s liability, but another person’s asset. – Paul Krugman

You can’t be in debt and win. It doesn’t work. – Dave Ramsey

Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt. – Benjamin Franklin