Wednesday, June 8, 2016

History: The Year is 1803

I've uploaded year 1803 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Roots: The Legend of Igbo Landing -- Can African slaves fly? No, but it is part of the legend. I talk about the facts, the fantasy and Superman.

Let's Make a Deal! The Louisiana Purchase -- For about 3 cents an acre, Thomas Jefferson buys his way out of a war with France.

Watch Out for Shrapnel. He is Going Far -- Lt. Shrapnel invents the fragmentation shell that will be in use into WWI.

In Other News -- Fulton's steam boat and Ohio becomes a state in 1953!

Roots: The Legend of Igbo Landing

To be clear, in the 19th century, African slaves cannot fly. Neither can they walk on water. It is difficult to tell fact from fiction in an oral tradition, but let's try. A ship carrying slaves from West Africa lands on a small island near Savannah, Georgia. (NOT in Louisiana as Alex Haley suggests in his book, Roots.) The slaves are mostly from the Igbo tribe, a well-known militant group. They are transferred to a ship, southbound for St. Simons Island. As the ship comes in sight of the Island, the slaves overwhelm the crew and throw them overboard, drowning them. (FYI, I am definitely OK with that.) The ship grounds on a sandbar in the Glynn marshlands. At this point, the story gets a little weird, but let's roll with it. The Igbo have mastered the art of flight. By uttering a few magic words and avoiding the ingestion of salt, an Igbo can fly. The Igbo slaves take a vow never to be taken alive, and step out into the water singing to the water god for their salvation. At least 10 Igbo drown. The rest are recaptured and spread the legend of the flying Igbo. [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
These sort of flight fantasies are common amongst oppressed people. The story of Superman is one of them. Although he didn't start off as a flying man, he was strong enough to leap over tall buildings. His creators were Jewish high school students of the 1930s. In those days it was believed that Jews were physically weak and that one's body defined one's destiny. Some people were called "useless eaters" and it was suggested that they be forcibly sterilized or gassed. Here is a quote from George Bernard Shaw in 1931 on justifying one's existence to society. He was part of the "Let's gas them" group. [4] [5]
I think it would be a good thing to make everybody come before a properly appointed board just as he might come before the income tax commissioner and say every 5 years or every 7 years... just put them there and say, "Sir or madam will you be kind enough to justify your existence... if you’re not producing as much as you consume or perhaps a little bit more then clearly we cannot use the big organization of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive. Because your life does not benefit us and it can’t be of very much use to yourself." [YouTube video] [6] [7]

Let's Make a Deal! The Louisiana Purchase

President Thomas Jefferson doesn't like spending the taxpayer's money on frivolous foreign entanglements, but Napoleon needs a quick infusion of cash as he continues his conquest of Europe. France has recently signed a treaty with Spain where the Louisiana Territory is returned to France. (France has not held the territory since 1762.) A few weeks later, Napoleon turns around and offers it to President Jefferson for $11 million in cash and forgiveness of France's debt. (Mark your calendars. It is the 4th of July!) Jefferson agrees to the terms and documents are signed before Napoleon can change his mind. (He actually does change his mind but it is too late.) The Federalists scream bloody murder, and call it plain dumb luck that Jefferson has had such a deal fall into his lap. In a backhanded way, the Federalists have co-signed the Purchase. The deed is done. Jefferson has become the Imperial President. [8]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
In a modern context, we are talking about buying most of Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming and Colorado. Included were parts of Canada, Northern Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Minnesota along with the entirety of Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Iowa. Historian Joseph Ellis pointed out that at about 3 cents an acre for half a continent, the Louisiana Purchase was a better deal than buying Manhattan from the Indians for a few dollars and some trinkets. A US President is not empowered to buy land, but Jefferson argued that he was allowed to do so under his authority to negotiate treaties. I'm calling BS on that one. The authorization to spend money is SUPPOSED to originate in the House of Representatives, but heck, committing the United States to a 15 million dollar price tag to buy the territory ranging from the Gulf Coast to Canada was a great deal! In 2015 it would have been $297 million. That is still a great deal! Certainly, it was less money than the U.S. would have spent taking it from France, not to mention the cost in lives. The Mississippi Valley was of vital strategic interest to the United States. If Jefferson had not taken the deal, the war with France would have been inevitable. [9] [10]

Watch Out for Shrapnel. He is Going Far

Lieutenant Henry Shrapnel has produced a hollowed out cannon ball that he calls a shell. He fills the sphere with musket balls and rigs a fuse so that after it clears the muzzle of the cannon, it will NOT explode until it is over the battlefield. Then the explosion rains metal and terror on the enemy without losing speed or energy. Currently, if you shoot grapeshot out of a cannon, it tends to slow down rapidly, losing its effectiveness. Using a shell allows small projectiles to become long-range weapons. It works so well at killing the enemy that the British Army promotes Shrapnel to colonel this year. The military will modify his design, creating an elongated shell rather than a sphere. These fragmentation shells will be called shrapnel almost immediately. The design will remain in use well into World War One after which high explosives will be more effective than shrapnel. [11] [12] [13] [14]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Henry Shrapnel eventually reached the rank of Major General and received a substantial pension in recognition of his efforts. The fragmentation shell was definitely a significant improvement in mayhem. So many of the improvements over the centuries seem obvious to the modern mind, but someone had to think of it first. Sometimes seeing the obvious can be the hardest thing to do. [15] [16]

In Other News

  • Robert Fulton builds a commercially viable steamboat. The emphasis is on "commercially viable". He didn't invent the thing. He improved it. [13]
  • Ohio becomes a state... in 1953! Congress approved Ohio's borders and state constitution. Thomas Jefferson signed the bill, but Ohio was never formally acknowledged as a state until 1953 when someone noticed the oversight. (Does that mean that Ohio got their federal taxes refunded? Forget about it.) [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1803, Wikipedia.

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