Today in Legal History: First Continental Congress Met

The First Continental Congress met on September 5, 1774 in Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia.  Every colony except Georgia sent delegates.  The delegates included John Adams, Samuel Adams, George Washington, John Jay and Patrick Henry.  The First Continental Congress formulated some common goals and produced a list of grievances against Britain.  The Congress disbanded on October 26, 1774.

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Today in Legal History: First Labor Day Celebrated

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City.  Two years, later, the holiday was changed to the first Monday in September.  While it is unclear who first suggested Labor Day (some sources say it was a carpenter, others a machinist), it is clear that the holiday was supported by labor organizations.

Cities were the first to officially recognize this “workingman’s” holiday and the states soon followed.  Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a legal observance in 1887.   By 1894, Congress followed suit.

The original proposals for the holiday called for a huge parade and a festival for working men and their families. “It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.” – Department of Labor Website

Today in Legal History: 19th Amendment Ratified

On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified, granting women the right to vote. The effort to achieve this milestone involved decades of struggle and protest. Women suffrage supporters in the mid-19th century lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and protested to change the Constitution. In 1878, the amendment was first introduced to Congress, and it would take the tireless efforts of women suffrage supporters several more decades to see the amendment ratified.

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Today in Legal History: FDR Signs Social Security Act

From WikipediaOn August 15, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. Responding to the widespread suffering caused by the Great Depression, President Roosevelt asked Congress for “social security” legislation on January 17, 1935. The Act would provide old-age benefits that would be financed by a payroll tax on employers and employees. The system later expanded to provide benefits for the disabled, dependents, and the unemployed. Prior to the Social Security Act, elderly people often faced the prospect of poverty upon retirement.

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Today in Legal History: Truman Signs United Nations Charter

On August 8, 1945, President Truman signed the United Nations Charter. The United Nations was formed after WWII in an attempt to maintain international peace and security and to achieve cooperation among nations on economic, social, and humanitarian issues. Its predecessor was the League of Nations, formed during WWI and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles. It attempted to maintain international peace and security; however, the League of Nations activities ceased after it failed to prevent WWII.

The United Nations consists of two main bodies: the General Assembly, which includes all member nations, and the Security Council. The five victors from WWII, China, Great Britain, United States, France, and Russia make up the permanent members of the Security Council, along with ten other countries elected by the General Assembly that serve two-year terms. There are nearly 200 member nations of the United Nations today.

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Today in Legal History: Lincoln Signs the Revenue Act, Imposing First Federal Income Tax

On August 5, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act, passed by Congress, implementing the first income tax ever levied by the federal government. A month earlier, President Lincoln met with Congress to deal with the national emergency caused by the outbreak of the Civil War.  In an effort to generate the funds necessary to pursue the war efforts, Lincoln and Congress decided to impose a 3 percent tax on annual incomes over $800. In 1871, Congress repealed Lincoln’s tax law, but passed the 16th amendment in 1909, which established the federal income-tax system in place today. In 1913, Congress ratified the 16th Amendment.

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Today in Legal History: Delegates Sign Declaration of Independence

On August 2, 1776, the Continental Congressional delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, announcing that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as independent states and no longer part of the British Colonies. The American colonies formed a new nation, the United States of America. News of the Declaration of Independence arrived in London on August 10. Mary Catherine Goddard printed the first official copy of the historic document in 1777.

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Today in Legal History: President Truman Signs National Security Act

On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, a central document in U.S. Cold War policy. The Act, which took more than a year to craft, directed a major reorganization of the foreign policy and military establishments of the U.S. Government. The Act established the National Security Council (NSC), merged the War and Navy departments into the Department of Defense headed by the secretary of defense, and recognized the Air Force as independent from the Army. The Act also established the role of the CIA by assigning the responsibility of foreign intelligence to the CIA.

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Today in Legal History: Apollo 11 Mission

President John F. Kennedy predicted in 1960 that by the end of the decade the country would put a man on the moon and return him home safely.  The triumphant Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, began an era of moon exploration that has so far gone unrivaled.  American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon. About six and a half hours after landing, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.

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President Abraham Lincoln Fatally Shot by John Wilkes Booth, April 14, 1865

The attack on President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth came five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Booth’s initial plot was to kidnap Lincoln and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. When this plot, which was to have occurred in mid-March became moot, because Richmond soon fell, he devised a second plan to simultaneously assassinate Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. He hoped to throw the government into chaos by killing the President and his likely successors.

This second plot was put into action. One of Booth’s co-conspirators was able to break into William Seward’s home and seriously wound him. The person assigned to attack Andrew Johnson, however, lost his nerve and fled. Booth was able to gain entry to Lincoln’s box at the Ford Theater and shoot him in the back of the head. As Booth leapt from the box to the stage he shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!” breaking his leg in the fall. In spite of the broken leg, Booth managed to escape Washington on horseback.

The president, mortally wounded, was carried to a lodging house opposite Ford’s Theater. He died early the next morning. Abraham Lincoln was the first U.S. president to be assassinated. He was 56 years old. Booth was captured in Bowling Green, Virginia, and died from a (possibly self-inflicted) bullet wound as the barn he was hiding in burned to the ground.

To Learn More See:

The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies : Being an Account of the Hatred Felt by Many Americans for President Abraham Lincoln During the Civil War and the First Complete Examination and Refutation of the Many Theories, Hypotheses, and Speculations Put Forward Since 1865 Concerning Those Presumed to Have Aided, Abetted, Controlled, or Directed The Murderous Act of John Wilkes Booth In Ford’s Theater the Night of April 14, William Hanchett (University of Illinois Press c. 1983) available at LAW-3rd Floor E457.5.H26 1983

The Conspiracy Trial for the Murder of the President and the Attempt to Overthrow the Government by the Assassination of Its Principal Officers, David E. Herold (Arno Press 1972) available at LAW-4th Floor KF223.H4 P63 1972 v.1 v. 2 & v. 3

Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln , William A. Tidwell (Barnes & Noble 1997) available at LAW-Culp Collection (3rd Floor-Range 3A) E608.T53 1997