History: February 20

February 20

1437 Death: James I, King of Scotland, assassinated by a group of dissident nobles led by Sir Robert Graham. "In 1406, Prince James of Scotland had been sent to France for his own safety (principally from his uncle, the Duke of Albany, who had already murdered James's elder brother, David). James never reached France as he was captured by English shipping off King's Lynn. James spent the next eighteen years of his life in the Tower of London, at the English court and in English military service in France. On the death of Henry V, the king's ransom was negotiated and James returned to Scotland (with an English wife, Joan Beaufort). Over the next seven years, the king reformed Scottish administrative practice and engaged in a massive blood-letting exercise against the relations of Albany. Neither the reforms nor the vendetta endeared the king to his (extremely depleted) nobility. The situation was made worse by the fact that, after 1431, James became increasingly lazy in terms of government. In 1437, at the Blackfriars Monastery in Perth, James was surprised by a group of discontented lords (led by the king's uncle - thus brother of Albany - the Earl of Atholl) and brutally stabbed to death in a blocked up sewer..."

1694 Birth: Voltaire. "French writer, satirist, the embodiment of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Voltaire is remembered as a crusader against tyranny and bigotry. Compared to Rousseau's (1712-1778) rebelliousness and idealism, Voltaire was skeptical about the solution of the great philosophical problems. Voltaire disliked his great contemporary thinker, but their ideas influenced deeply the French Revolution. In 1761 he wrote to Rousseau: "One feels like crawling on all fours after reading your work." François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire was born in Paris into a middle-class family. His father was a minor treasury official. Voltaire was educated by the Jesuits at the Collège Louis-le-Grand (1704-11). From 1711 to 1713 he studied law, and then worked as a secretary to the French ambassador in Holland before devoting himself entirely to writing. Voltaire's essays did not gain the approval of authorities, but he energetically attacked the government and the Catholic church, which caused him numerous imprisonments and exiles. In his early twenties he spent eleven months in the Bastille for writing satiric verses about the aristocracy. Voltaire did not support the dogmatic theology of institutional religions, his religiosity was anticlerical. The doctrines about the Trinity or the Incarnation he dismissed as nonsense..."

1865 US Civil War: Confederate House of Representatives passes a bill authorizing the use of slaves as soldiers in the Confederate army. (Bradley)

1920 Weimar: The "Twenty-five Point Program" of the German DAP is officially adopted within the party, though not yet announced to the public. Hitler will stand by these points throughout his political career, though some of the more socialist points will be ignored to one degree or another. "...1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples. 2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain. 3. We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population. 4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race..."

1933 Hermann Goering sponsors a fundraiser for Hitler at his residence, a small palace, in Berlin. Attending are Gustav Krupp of Krupp steelworks, Albert Voegler of United Steel, Fritz Springorum, another steel magnate, and Georg von Schnitzler of I.G. Farben, among others. One of the 25 business titans at this meeting is Eduard Schulte, chief executive officer of Giesche, "one of the oldest industrial undertakings in the world and one of the most valuable in Europe." (N.Y. Times; Silence)

1934 Latvia's parliament rejects proposals to abolish Jewish autonomy.

1938 Lord Halifax (Edward F.L. Wood) replaces Anthony Eden as British Foreign Secretary.

1938 German Fuehrer Adolf Hitler addresses the Reichstag: "It fills us, in the fifth year following the first great foreign political agreement of the Reich, with sincere gratification to be able to establish that in our relationship to the State with which we had perhaps the greatest differences, not only has there been a détente, but that in the course of these years a constant improvement in relations has taken place. I know perfectly well that this was above all attributable to the circumstance that at the time there was no Western parliamentarism in Warsaw, but a Polish field-marshal, who as an eminent personality felt the significance, so important to Europe, of such a Germano-Polish détente. This good work, which had been doubted by so many at the time, has meanwhile stood the test, and I may say that, since the League of Nations finally gave up its perpetual attempts to unsettle Danzig and appointed in the new commissioner a man of great personal attainments, this most dangerous spot from the point of view of European peace has entirely lost its menacing character. The Polish State respects the national conditions in this State, and both the city of Danzig and Germany respect Polish rights. And so the way to a friendly understanding has been successfully paved, an understanding which, starting from Danzig, has to-day succeeded in spite of the attempts of certain mischief-makers in finally taking the poison out of the relations between Germany and Poland and transforming them into a sincere, friendly co-operation."

1938 Church and Reich: Bishop Ehrenfried of Wurzburg in a pastoral letter expresses the desire that "the totalitarianism of the State and the totalitarianism of the Church" should coexist "without conflicts and bitterness." (Lewy)

1938 Church and Reich: Franz Josef Rarkowski is consecrated as bishop of the German army in a lavish ceremony conducted by Nuncio Orsenigo, assisted by Bishops Preysing and Galen. Rarkowski will hold this post until the end of World War II. (Lewy)

1939 WW2: A pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York draws 20,000 Nazi sympathizers and supporters of Father Charles Coughlin.

1941 WW2: British and German patrols make contact for the first time in the desert, near El Agheila.

1943 A farmer in the Mexican region of Colima watches in amazement as a new volcano, now known as Paracutin, erupts from his cornfield.

1947 Lord Louis Mountbatten, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria who served as an Allied commander during WW1, is named the last British viceroy, or colonial administrator, of India. As Britain had promised independence to India at the end of WW2, Mountbatten's appointment enrages many Indians, leading to violence and mass protests. However, later in the year, Lord Mountbatten will prove instrumental in concluding the negotiations for the former Mogul Empire, and on 15 August 1947, India and Pakistan will gain independence. Mohandas Gandhi, the political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, will hail the granting of independence to India as the "noblest act of the British nation". Mountbatten will later serve as Britain's military chief of staff and as the governor of the England's Isle of Wight. On 27 August 1979, his fishing yacht will e blown up by an Irish Republican Army terrorist bomb off of Mullaghmore, Ireland, killing him, his grandson, and two other royal relatives. (Bradley)

1962 Friendship 7: John Glenn Jr. is successfully launched into space aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first orbital flight by an American astronaut. Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the US Marine Corps, is among the seven men chosen by NASA in 1959 to become America's first astronauts. A decorated pilot, he flew nearly 150 combat missions during WW2 and the Korean War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes. Toward the end of Glenn's third and last orbit, mission control will receive a mechanical signal from the spacecraft indicating that the heat shield on the base of the capsule is possibly loose. Traveling at its immense speed, the capsule would be incinerated if the shield failed to absorb and dissipate the extremely high reentry temperatures. It is decided that the craft's retrorockets, usually jettisoned before reentry, will be left on in order to better secure the heat shield. Less than a minute later, Friendship 7 slams into Earth's atmosphere. After four minutes of radio silence, Glenn's voice crackles through loudspeakers at mission control, and Friendship 7 splashes down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. He is picked up by the USS destroyer Noa, and his first words upon stepping out of the capsule and onto the deck of the Noa are, "It was hot in there." He had spent nearly five hours in space. Glenn is hailed as a national hero, and on 23 February President John F. Kennedy will visit him at Cape Canaveral. He will later address Congress and be given a ticker-tape parade in New York City. On 29 October 1998, nearly four decades after his famous orbital flight, the 77-year-old Glenn became the oldest human ever to travel in space. During the nine-day mission, he will serve as part of a NASA study on health problems associated with aging. In 1999, he will retire from his US Senate seat after four consecutive terms in office, a record for the state of Ohio. (Bradley)

1971 A former British Army sergeant, self-appointed Major-General Idi Amin Dada promotes himself to General and President of Uganda. "Ugandan Field Marshal and politician, self-proclaimed "Lord of All Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular" born in 1925. The exact date of his birth is still disputed, as no birth records exist. Idi amin himself has revealed very little about his childhood other than the fact that he came from a poor family where he helped herd goats, carry water and till the soil to earn money for his parents. But these reminiscences are not to be accepted as true, as Idi Amin often portrayed himself to be close to the destitution of his own his own people..."

1985 Contraceptives go on sale in the Irish Republic for the first time.












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