Little Bits of History

July 31

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2017

1715: The Spanish Treasure Fleet runs into a hurricane. The Spanish ran a convoy system of ships bringing treasures from the New World home to Spain frm 1566 to 1790. The convoys were essentially cargo ships filled with agricultural goods, lumber, and various luxury goods such as silver, gold, gems, pearls, spices, sugar, tobacco, silk, and other exotic goods found in the Spanish Empire holdings. As the trips returned to the New World, they often brought passengers, textiles, books, and tools. The West Indies fleet was the first permanent transatlantic trade route in history. They were also known as the Flota de Indias (Fleet of the Indies) or silver fleet or plate fleet (from the Spanish plata which meant silver).

The fleet of eleven ships left Havana, Cuba a week earlier. They were near present day Vero Beach, Florida when the storm hit.  This lies close to half way up the coast of Florida. The fleet was carrying mostly silver and is known today as the 1715 Treasure Fleet or the 1715 Plate Fleet because of this. Ten of the eleven ships sunk in the storm. Around a thousand sailors died. A small number of men survived by riding out the storm in small lifeboats. News of the cargo and the sinking brought in a number of ships, some to help, the rest to scoop up any available assets. Henry Jennings was one of those who came on the scene.

Jennings was a British privateer, that is, a private person (or ship) which engaged in maritime warfare under a commission of war. Carrying a letter of marque, the person was entitled to carry on any form of hostility against enemy ships while at sea. Capturing a ship allowed the privateer proceeds from the sale under a ruling called a prize law. In 1716 Jennings was in charge of three ships and between 150 and 300 men when they ambushed the Spanish salvage fleet attempting to recover some of the treasure from this wreck. Since he had to travel to Jamaica, there had been time for others to scavenge most of the wreckage, so he captured their ships. They were able to steal about £87,500 in gold and silver.

Even today, there are silver relics washing ashore on the Florida beaches. Kip Wagner was able to put together an exhibit of artifacts from the 1715 fleet’s misfortune. This was featured in the January 1965 edition of National Geographic. This brought the wrecked ships to the attention of the world and Wagner published more works on the recovery efforts available to divers today. In 1987, the Urca de Lima was found in the Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserves, a ship from this fleet. In 2015, 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC discovered $4.5 million in gold coins off the coast of Florida, all of which came from the disaster befallen to the Spanish fleet on this day.

Gold and silver, like other commodities, have an intrinsic value, which is not arbitrary, but is dependent on their scarcity, the quantity of labour bestowed in procuring them, and the value of the capital employed in the mines which produce them. – David Ricardo

The most pitiful among men is he who turns his dreams into silver and gold. – Khalil Gibran

Every cloud has its silver lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint. – Don Marquis

Humanity appreciates truth about as much as a squirrel appreciates silver. – Vernon Howard

July 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2017

762: The ceremonial first brick is laid. The Umayyad Caliphate was defeated by the Abbasid, the third of the Islamic caliphates to succeed the prophet Muhammad. They descended from Muhammad’s youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib. Their capital was first located in Kufa, but Al-Mansur wished to move it. He had royal astrologers seek for the best and most auspicious day to undertake the creation of the new capital city. On this day, Baghdad’s construction began. The name predates Islam and the region had been populated for millennia but by this time, the people were living in scattered small villages. Baghdad was one of the small villages for the Persian residents.

Mansur originally called his new capital Madinat al-Salaam or City of Peace. While this official name was inscribed on official documents and coinage, the locals called their city Baghdad and by the 11th century, the original name had disappeared. Mansur planned the city before construction began and erected massive brick walls with a circumference of four miles and rising up from the Tigris River. Mansur’s Round City walls had 162,000 bricks on each round for the first one-third of the 80 foot high wall and 150,000 bricks per round on the middle third with 140,000 bricks on the top third. They were bonded together with bundles of reeds and crowned with battlements and included a deep moat ringing the outer wall.

Thousands of workers, skilled and unskilled, came together to build the new city. This was the largest construction project in the Islamic world and it is though over 100,000 people worked – planning, designing, engineering, making the bricks, digging the trenches, and actually building the innovative design. Four straight roads led from the center of city to outer gates and these were the main shopping districts. Smaller roads led off these major roadways and people were able to build houses there. The center of the city was maintained as a royal preserve. The city was completed in 766 and it was considered at the time and for centuries afterward as a work of art and engineering genius.

Today, Baghdad is the capital of the Republic of Iraq. There are almost 9 million living there making it the largest city in Iraq and second largest in the Arab world (Cairo, Egypt is larger). The city has spread beyond the original walled area and today covers 78.8 square miles. The city has been in the crosshairs of warring factions many times throughout its long history. The Seljuk Turks overran the city in 1055 and later the city often was involved in Ottoman Empire conflicts. The Ottomans lost rule to the British in 1917 and became independent in 1932. The city’s growth has exploded in the last century as it has modernized with funding available from the petroleum industries. The last major conflict in the region was the Gulf War and in 2003, the city came under attack and suffered great damage.

I miss aspects of being in the Arab world – the language – and there is a tranquility in these cities with great rivers. Whether it’s Cairo or Baghdad, you sit there and you think, ‘This river has flown here for thousands of years.’ There are magical moments in these places. – Zaha Hadid

Today’s message to Baghdad is very clear: the UN Security Council resolution expresses the unity and determination of the entire international community to assume its collective responsibility. – Javier Solana

I stayed in Baghdad every summer until I was 14. My dad’s sister is still there, but many of my relatives have managed to get out. People forget that there are still people there who are not radicalized in any particular direction, trying to live normal lives in a very difficult situation. – Andy Serkis

Only the long melancholy call to prayer, or the wail of women over the dead, or the barking of dogs, breaks the silence which at sunset falls as a pall over Baghdad. – Isabella Bird

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July 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2017

1976: Donna Lauria, 18, is killed. She and her friend Jody Valenti, 19, were in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx discussing their evening at a local discotheque. At around 1.10 AM, Lauria got out of the car and a man suddenly appeared. She was startled and angered by the man who drew a gun from a brown paper bag and while crouching, shot her once, killing her instantly. He fired another shot which hit Valenti and a third shot that missed both women. He then fled. Valenti survived and was able to give an adequate description of the assailant to police. A second similar shooting took place on October 23, another shooting incident took place on January 30, 1977, and again on March 8, April 17, and June 26.

During this time, police were investigating the series of shooting which left six dead and eight wounded. The shooter moved around New York City as police attempted to bring in the man responsible who used a.44 caliber Bulldog revolver. On March 10, 1977, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame held a press conference linking several of the city’s unsolved murders to the same assailant. When the killer struck again in April, he left a handwritten letter near the bodies of his two latest victims. He called himself “Son of Sam” and the name quickly replaced the press’s moniker of “the .44 Caliber Killer”. The killer promised to continue his spree and taunted police and their inability to catch him.

On May 30, Jimmy Breslin of the Daily News, received a handwritten letter from someone claiming to be the .44 caliber shooter. The letter contained more taunts to the police as well as symbols. It also mentioned the upcoming one year anniversary of the first killing. Even as the police were on the alert, on July 31, Son of Sam struck again. Witnesses at the scene were able to describe the getaway car and finally on August 9, NYPD detective James Justice called Yonkers police to schedule an interview with David Berkowitz. He was arrested on August 10.

The next day, he was questioned for about thirty minutes and quickly confessed to the shootings and inquired how to plead guilty. He claimed he was told to kill people by the neighbor’s dog. After three separate mental health examinations, it was determined Berkowitz was competent to stand trial. He appeared in court on May 8, 1978 and pled guilty to all the shootings. He was sentenced to 25 yars in prison for each killings, served consecutively. Because he pled guilty, he was eligible for parole in 25 years. His first parole hearing was scheduled in 2002 but he informed the current governor he should remain in prison. He is to have a hearing every two years and has consistently refused to ask for release. He remains in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the state of New York.

I am deeply hurt by your calling me a women hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little “brat”. – David Berkowitz, first letter

Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed in the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks. – David Berkowitz, second letter

Well, you got me. How come it took you such a long time? – David Berkowitz, at arrest

I’d kill her again. I’d kill them all again. – David Berkowitz, at his sentencing

July 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2017

1866:  Lavinia (Vinnie) Ream receives a commission. She was born on September 25, 1847. She was the youngest daughter of a surveyor in the Wisconsin Territory. Her father also operated a stage coach stop, one of Madison, Wisconsin’s first hotels. It was rustic; guests slept on the floor. Vinnie’s brother served in the Confederate army. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1861 and her father’s health failed. Vinnie had attended Christian College in Missouri and was ready to help support her family. She got a job in the dead letter office of the USPS, the first woman to be employed by the US federal government. She sang at church and was artistic in other areas, as well.

In 1863, Vinnie was introduced to Clark Mills, a sculptor, and she became apprenticed to him the next year when she was 17. In 1864, President Lincoln agreed to model for the young woman, posing in the morning for her over the course of five months. She created a bust of the President. She also began an intense public relations campaign on her own behalf, selling photographs of herself, getting press notice, and generally marketing her artistic endeavors. After Lincoln was assassinated, the government looked for someone to create a statue of the late President.

On this day, at the age of 18, Vinnie was the first woman to receive an artistic commission from the United States government. She used the bust of Lincoln as her entry into the selection process. Congress awarded her efforts and she was to make a life-sized statue out of Carrara marble. There was debate over her abilities, because of her age and also because of her own marketing plans and self-advertisement. She was able to secure the commission and worked in a studio in Room A of the basement of the Capitol Building.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached. Senator Edmund Ross boarded with the Ream’s family and cast the deciding vote against his removal. Ream was accused of influencing his vote and she and her unfinished statue were almost evicted from Washington. Powerful New York artists intervened on her behalf. Her plaster cast of the statue was approved and Vinnie then traveled to Europe to study and learn techniques to finish the work. She completed the sculpture in Rome and returned with it to Washington, D.C. it was unveiled on January 25, 1871 in the United States Capitol rotunda. Ream was 23. She went on to create many more beautiful pieces during her life. She died on November 20, 1914 at the age of 67.

All this time the personality of Lincoln was gradually sinking deeper and deeper into my soul. I was modeling the man in clay, but he was being engraven still more deeply upon my heart. – Vinnie Ream

Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture. – Michelangelo

Sculpture is the art of the intelligence. – Pablo Picasso

The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed – it is a process of elimination. – Elbert Hubbard

July 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 27, 2017

1816: The Battle of Negro Fort is fought. During the War of 1812, the British established a fort on Prospect Bluff along the Spanish side of the Apalachicola River. The British Royal Marines were partnered with several hundred African-Americans, many freedmen. They comprised a total of four infantry companies. After the War, the British paid off the Colonial Marines and withdrew from the post. The African-Americans stayed and the fort was known as Negro Fort. By 1816, the Fort was a refuge for escaped slaved from Pensacola and Georgia and there were about 800 freedmen and women living there who werefriendly with the natives of the area.

The US built Fort Scott on the Flint River for use by their Army. Andrew Jackson decided to use the river to move goods through the Apalachicola, Spanish territory. He hoped to avoid involving Spain in his plans. During one of these resupply mission, two gunboats stopped near Negro Fort and sailors disembarked in order to refill canteens. They were attacked and all but one American was killed. In response, Jackson asked for permission to attack the fort. He was given permission to do so. This day’s battle along with Jackson’s eventual takeover of Florida were seen as national “self-defense” by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams.

Jackson with his Creek allies brought two gunboats to Negro Fort. These were manned by 100 infantry and another 150 soldiers came over land. Master Loomis was in charge of the two gunboats and moved them upriver for a siege bombardment. There were at least 200 freedmen armed with ten cannons and many muskets. They were allied with the Seminole and Choctaw warriors under their own chief. General Gainse requested a surrender and Garson, the leader of Negro Fort, refused. Garson claimed the British military had commanded him to hold the fort at any cost. The Americans believed the Fort to be heavily defended.

Between five and nine rounds were fired from the gunboats to check for range. The first hot shot (heated shot used to start a fire at the landing site) cannonball was fired by US Navy Gunboat No. 154. The shot entered the fort’s powder magazine and exploded, destroying the entire post. Almost all the occupants were killed or wounded and it is the single deadliest cannonball shot in US history. The ground troops charged into the fray and captured the surviving defenders. Garson survived and was executed by firing squad for a prior attack. The Choctaw Chief was handed over to the Creeks who killed and scalped him. This was the first major engagement of the Seminole Wars and Jackson’s Conquest of Florida.

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe that people make their own luck by great preparation and good strategy. – Jack Canfield

I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

July 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 26, 2017

1953: The Short Creek Raid takes place. Short Creek, Arizona lies in the northwest part of the state, close to the Utah border in Yuma County. It was founded in 1913 by members of the Council of Friends, a breakaway group from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The members picked a remote location in which to practice polygamy, a practice abandoned by the LDS Church in 1890. On this day, under orders from Governor John Pyle, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Arizona National Guard entered Short Creek to put a stop to what Pyle called “the foulest conspiracy you could possibly imagine”.

At the time of the raid, about 400 people lived in Short Creek. The Mormon fundamentalists, practitioners of polygamy, had been tipped off about the raid. The 102 Arizona officers of public safety and their National Guardsmen entered the town and found the adults singing hymns in the schoolhouse while the children played outside. They arrested them all, except for six people who were found to not be fundamentalist Mormons. There were 263 children brought into custody. It was over two years later before 150 of the children were finally returned to their parents. Some parents never regained custody of their children.

Pyle had invited over 100 reports along to see his raid and efforts to clean up the state’s miscreants. Because of the methods used and the number of children taken into custody, most media  attention was negative. Even though this was the same week as the Korean War Armistice Agreement, both Time and Newsweek had pieces about the raid, decrying the actions as “odious” and “un-American”. It was noted that the raid was the first time in American history where polygamists were seen sympathetically. Their plight was likened to the treatment of Native Americans in the 1800s. Pyle lost his next bid for re-election and noted it was probably backlash from this raid.

One of the few news outlets to applaud the raid was from the Salt Lake City Deseret News, owned by the LDS Church. They were fearful of the harm the polygamists might have on the reputation of the Church as a whole. They did not applaud the children’s removal from their parents, however. There have been parallels drawn between this raid and that of the FBI arrests of Warren Jeffs, who was arrested for sexual abuse of minors in 2008. (Within five days, they had removed 416 children from Jeffs’s compound located in Texas.) Eventually, fundamentalist Mormons began to return to Short Creek, but they changed the name of their town to Colorado City.

So many times in the history of Mormon polygamy, the outside world thought it had the movement on the ropes only to see it flourish anew. – Scott Anderson

Those who imagine polygamy to be handy cover for promiscuity are apparently off the mark. If polygamists share one quality, it is that, polygamy aside, they are extraordinarily strait-laced. – Molly Ivins

Polygamy: An endeavour to get more out of life than there is in it. – Elbert Hubbard

Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same. – Oscar Wilde

July 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2017

315: The Arch of Constantine officially opens. The Arch was built between 312 and 315 and was dedicated by the Roman Senate to honor Constantine’s reign (306-337) and especially his victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge which took place on October 28, 312. Constantine came to Rome in 312, after his victory and then left two month later and didn’t return until 326. During his time in the capital, they were also celebrating the decennia, a series of games (like the Olympics) Romans participated in. The games were also a reason for many prayers to be offered up. During all the festivities, the Senate decided to build the largest triumphal arch in the empire.

Although dedicated to Constantine, much of the massive structure contains decorative materials from the earlier monuments to Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180). While it was the last of the Roman triumphal arches, it was also the only one to make extensive use of spolia (reused major reliefs from other, earlier monuments). The arch is 68 feet high, 85 feet wide, and 24 feet deep. There are three archways with the central one 37 feet high and 21 feet wide while the two bordering arches are each 24 feet high and 11 feet wide. Above the entire archway is an attic made of brickwork and faced with marble.

The structure is located between the Coliseum and Palatine Hill. The arch spans Via Triumphalis, the road on which emperors entered the city in triumph. The route began at the Campus Martius, threaded through the Circus Maximus, and around Palatine Hill. As soon as the procession passed through the Arch of Constantine, they would turn left at the Meta Sudans and Via Sacra to the Forum Romanum and then on to Capitoline Hill which had them pass through both the Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus. During the Middle Ages, the arch was incorporated into one of the family strongholds of ancient Rome. The first restoration project was carried out in the 1700s. The last excavations took place in the 1990s as the city prepared for the Great Jubilee of 2000. The arch was the finish line for the 1960 Summer Olympics Marathon.

Because pieces were cobbled together from other monuments, it is possible to notice the artistic changes over the centuries of the Roman Empire. Rome was by this time, a city in decline as would become evident when Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople in 324. The styles from the earlier works were much less “violent” but in one relief, the head of an earlier emperor was replaced by Constantine’s image and the later artist was able to copy the style of the earlier one. Earlier parts are more Hellenistic than the later portions of the reliefs. The piece remains, today, a great lesson in art history and the building projects of the Romans.

Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness. – Livy

Ancient Rome was as confident of the immutability of its world and the continual expansion and improvement of the human lot as we are today. – Arthur Erickson

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job. – Brian Clough

Rome will exist as long as the Coliseum does; when the Coliseum falls, so will Rome; when Rome falls, so will the world. –  Venerable Bede

July 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2017

1927: The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is unveiled. Located in Ypres, Belgium, it was dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves were unknown. The region around Ypres proper, the Ypres Salient, was the location of some of the biggest battles of the Great War. British, French, Canadian, and Belgian troops attempted to hold back the German incursion in the 1914 Race to the Sea. Hundreds of thousands of men were casualties of the horrific fighting taking place over several months. The Memorial was placed at the starting point for one of the main roads out of town which led the Allied soldiers to the front lines.

The roadway and gate have existed since medieval times, originally as a trade route. The city had to fortify itself against potential invaders and built walls and gates to do so. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the gates were upgraded several times. The gate became known as the Menenpoort (Menin Gate in English) because the road led to the small town of Menen. German strategic plans called for their capture of Belgium and a route to the North Sea. There were five major battles and several smaller ones fought over the path to the sea. British and Commonwealth soldiers went through the gates with 300,000 of them meeting their deaths, 90,000 of them with no known graves.

The arch was designed by Reginald Blomfield in 1921. One enters a barrel vaulted passage as traffic through the mausoleum honors the Missing. There is a lion atop the arch, representing both Britain and Flanders. There is a large Hall of Memory with the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies were never found. It was originally planned to contain more names, but it was found to be too small and many of the rest of the names are memorialized at Tyne Cot Memorial to the Mission. The Gate was built by the War Graves Commission and as always, not everyone approved. It should be noted, that even now, remains of long dead soldiers are found in the field surrounding Ypres.

When the Gate opened, the citizens wanted to express their thanks to the men and boys who had sacrificed so much so that they might be free. As a symbol of that gratitude, at 8 PM, they played “Last Post”, the British military bugle call to the end of the day. This ceremony has been conducted daily since July 2, 1928 except during World War II when the Germans occupied the region. At that time, the ceremony was held at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England. On the day the Polish troops entered town to evict the Germans, the ceremony began again, even as fighting continued in other part of Ypres. On certain days of the year, an Extended Last Post ceremony is held. Their schedule can be found here.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. – Jacques Maritain

July 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2017

1829: US Patent No. 5581X is issued. The X-patents were issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office between July 1790 (when the first patent was issued) and July 1836 (when a disastrous fire destroyed the patent office. It is thought about 9,957 patents were lost, along with some prototypes also stored at the facility. Better record keeping was instituted after the fire, but only 2,845 of those lost patents have been restored. This invention is one of those lucky ones and the patent is available online.

William Austin Burt was born in Massachusetts in 1792. He was an inventor, legislator, surveyor, and millwright. He was interested in the sea and navigation, but his mother discouraged him from the sailing life since her own father had died at sea. Instead. William used his skills to build better navigational instrumentation. These included a solar compass which used the sun as a measurement and could be used both on land and at sea, and an equatorial sextant which was a precision instrument for positioning a ship at sea. But his patent granted on this day was for something more homebound.

The typographer was America’s first typewriter. While a working prototype was built, it did not speed up secretarial work as hoped. Pellegrino Turri had made a machine in 1808, with this patent, Burt had exclusive American rights to see typographers in the US for 14 years and had the paper signed by President Andrew Jackson to prove it. The name for the machine didn’t change until 1874 and any machine using letters of typeface were typographers. Burt’s machine was unable to make typing much easier and it would take many improvements before typewriters looked anything like we imagine today.

Burt’s machine was 12 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 18 inches long. The user mechanically rotated a lever and when pressed, it would make an impression of the inked character on the paper. The paper was attached to velvet type belt which rotated when the lever was depressed. Different styles of typeface could be used. The paper traveled via the endless band inside the machine. All the letters were inked, but only the one used would be pressed to the paper. A dial on the front of the machine let the user know how long the document had become and was able to print out pages measuring 15 inches in length. Although the original prototype was destroyed in the fire, Burt’s grandson was able to reconstruct the typographer using a copy of the reissued patent. He did so and displayed the machine at the Columbian Exposition in 1892. Burt is called the “father of the typewriter” but he was so far ahead of his time that few models were sold and it was sold off to Cyrus Spalding in 1830 for $75. Eventually, the machine would be perfected.

My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane. – Graham Greene

I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit. – P. G. Wodehouse

I don’t want anything to do with anything mechanical between me and the paper, including a typewriter, and I don’t even want a fountain pen between me and the paper. – Shelby Foote

A typewriter is a means of transcribing thought, not expressing it. – Marshall McLuhan

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July 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 22, 2017

1983:  Martial law is lifted in Poland. General of the Army Wojciech Jaruzelski and the Military Council of National Salvation (WRON) took power illegally, since martial law was only possible during wartime, but it does explain the name of the organization implementing the decree. In March 1981 the Polish government presented plans to the USSR regarding unrest in Poland. Back in October of 1980, Jaruzelski ordered the Polish General Staff to update plans for instituting martial law. This was almost immediately after the Solidarity movement had burst on the scene demanding independent self-government separate from communism and the Soviet Union.

The official decree for martial law came in December 1981. Solidarity was banned and Lech Wałęsa was jailed. The next morning, thousands of soldiers were roaming through the streets in military vehicles. Every major city was affected. A curfew was imposed, national borders were sealed, road access was restricted, phone lines were cut, mail was censored, all classes from grade school through college were suspended, and all independent organizations were criminalized. In the early stages, several dozen people were killed. Officially the number was quite low, later investigations put the number around 90 deaths.

The government imposed a six-day workweek and put all services under government control and ran them as military institutions. If employees misbehaved, they were court-martialed. Eventually, media outlets and schools were “verified” in a process to make sure everyone was member of the political regime. Those who were not able to convince authorities of their subservience were jailed without cause. Martial law induced a nationwide economic crisis. As the government sanctioned price increases, called “economic reforms” even basic goods became scarce.

Although officially ended on this day, government coercion did not simply cease. The economy remained weak. Many of the non-Communist leaders and teachers remained jailed. Hundreds of thousands of Poles fled the country during the 1980s. Between December 1980 and October 1983, 11 flights were hijacked as they left Poland and were forced to land in Berlin. It took until 1986 before the thousands of political prisoners were released and granted a general amnesty. Jaruzelski remained in control of the newly democratized government and was President of the Republic of Poland from July 1989 to December 1990. After communism fell in Poland, Wałęsa was elected as second President and served from 1990 until 1995. Today, Poland is part of the European Union and Andrzej Duda is President, the sixth since the country threw off its Communist rulers.

He who puts out his hand to stop the wheel of history will have his fingers crushed.

The thing that lies at the foundation of positive change, the way I see it, is service to a fellow human being.

Communism is a monopolistic system, economically and politically. The system suppresses individual initiative, and the 21st century is all about individualism and freedom. The development of technology supported these directions.

As a nation we have the right to decide our own affairs, to mould our own future. This does not pose any danger to anybody. Our nation is fully aware of the responsibility for its own fate in the complicated situation of the contemporary world. – all from Lech Wałęsa

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