Today in History
History's Happenings for September 1
September 1, 1939 is a day not likely to be forgotten by anyone within a generation or two of World War II.
It was on this day that Adolf Hitler made his biggest mistake and assumed that the rest of the world would continue to sit idly by while he conquered another of his neighbors -- this time he was wrong.
Feeling protected by a recent friendly agreement with the Soviet Union, and using trumped-up charges of Polish aggression, Hitler attempted to do to Poland what he had previously gotten away with doing to Austria, the Czech Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia itself. But at this juncture, Britain and France took a stand, and the world's most devastating war began.
Hitler's triumphs were not finished -- 1940 and 1941 would be good years for him as, having finished Poland in a thunderous Blitzkrieg, he would successively roll over Norway and Denmark, the Lowlands, Northern France and the Balkans. While failing to whip England in the Battle of Britain, he was nonetheless keeping the Tommies at home, ducking for cover and wondering when their supplies would finally run out.
However, in June of 1941 the thieves turned on each other. Hitler invaded Russia and, by winter, the Wehrmacht steamroller had just about run out of steam.
Four more years of bloodletting, with the United States entering the war in December of '41, would be required to push that steamroller back to the Fatherland.
Aaron Burr was an ardent revolutionary early in life, though perhaps more noted as a lawyer with an enhanced capitalist spirit. He served well in the Revolutionary War, having accompanied Benedict Arnold on the cold, deadly march to Quebec. Afterwards he entered politics, first as a Senator, then as a presidential candidate against Thomas Jefferson, in 1800.
He tied Jefferson in actual electoral votes, and Congress required 36 ballots to decide in favor of Jefferson. Under the original Constitution, that made Burr Vice President. But it was during this term that he fought his famous duel with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, in which Hamilton was killed.
Burr escaped prosceution and served out his term, but his political fortunes failed after this disaster.
In 1806 he formed a conspiracy with the Military Governor of the Louisiana Territory to seize New Orleans, and use it as a base from which to liberate Mexico from Spain or, alternatively, to grab America's then-western territories from the Union. Unfortunately for Burr, his confederate, fearing prosecution, turned on him as Burr's messengers arrived in New Orleans with the plans for the scheme. The messengers were arrested for treason and eventually took their case to the Supreme Court, challenging the charge of "levying war upon the United States" when no actual army had yet been assembled. They won.
Burr himself was arrested in 1807 and tried for his treasonable design. Although acquitted on the basis of the aforementioned Supreme Court decision, both his public life and his perceived integrity were at an end. He retired to his law practice.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.