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John’s Believe It Or Not… December 2nd

* 1989 – Audrey McLaughlin wins NDP leadership – first woman to lead a national party. * 2002 Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles arrive in California. * 1804 Napoleon crowned emperor. * 1823 Monroe Doctrine declared. * 1859 John Brown hanged.

Audrey McLaughlin (

It’s Saturday! Did You Know…

* 1989 – Audrey McLaughlin wins NDP leadership – first woman to lead a national party.

The 1989 New Democratic Party leadership election was held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada from November 30 to December 3 to elect a leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. Ed Broadbent retired as federal leader, and Audrey McLaughlin [see featured image above] was elected as his replacement. McLaughlin’s victory was the first time a woman won the leadership of a major recognized federal Canadian political party. This convention was followed by six years of decline for the party, culminating in the worst electoral performance of a 20th-century federal democratic socialist party, when the party received only seven percent of the popular vote in the 1993 federal election.

Canadians elected a record 43 NDP Members of Parliament (MPs) in the election of 1988. The Liberal Party, however, had reaped most of the benefits of opposing free trade to emerge as the dominant alternative to the Progressive Conservative (PC) government. The PCs’ barrage of attacks on the Liberals and vote-splitting between the NDP and Liberals helped them win a second consecutive majority. In 1989, Broadbent stepped down after 14 years as federal leader of the NDP.

At the 1989 Winnipeg leadership convention, former B.C. Premier Dave Barrett and Audrey McLaughlin were the main contenders for the leadership. During the campaign, Barrett argued that the party should be concerned with western alienation, rather than focusing its attention on Quebec. The Quebec wing of the NDP strongly opposed Barrett’s candidacy, with Phil Edmonston, the party’s main spokesman in Quebec, threatening to resign from the party if Barrett won. Barrett’s campaign was also hurt when his back-room negotiations with leadership rival Simon De Jong were inadvertently recorded by the latter’s CBC microphone. In these discussions, De Jong apparently agreed to support Barrett in exchange for being named House Leader, but he changed his mind at the last minute and supported McLaughlin instead, announcing his endorsement of her before the vote. In the course of his discussion with Barrett, De Jong explained “It’s a head and heart thing”, i.e., that his head told him to go with Barrett while his heart told him to go with McLaughlin.

McLaughlin won the leadership on the fourth ballot, with 1316 votes for 55 percent of the vote, versus Barrett’s 1072 votes (45 percent). Her victory meant that she became the first woman in Canada to lead a major, recognized, federal political party.

Ed Broadbent raises the arm of Audrey McLaughlin at the New Democratic Leadership Convention.
Ed Broadbent raises the arm of Audrey McLaughlin at the New Democratic Leadership Convention. (Maclean’s)

* 2002 Toyota’s first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles arrive in California.

On this day in 2002, Toyota delivers its first two “market-ready” hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCHVs, in the company’s shorthand) to researchers at the University of California at Irvine and the University of California at Davis. Since 1997, Toyota had been providing research money to UC scientists and engineers who studied the problems associated with “advanced transportation systems” like fuel-cell vehicles. With their new fleet of FCHVs, the researchers finally had a chance to test out their theories.

Unlike the Toyota Prius, which has a gas-electric hybrid engine, FCHVs use a hydrogen fuel-cell system that generates electricity by combining hydrogen with oxygen. That electricity powers the car’s motor and charges its batteries. As a result, the vehicle creates no environmentally unfriendly byproducts: its only emission is water vapor.

The early FCHVs had a cruising range of 180 miles and a top speed of 96 miles per hour. Toyota later revamped the vehicle somewhat, improving its range and making it 25 percent more efficient. In September 2007, company engineers in Japan drove an FCHV 347 miles from the Osaka Prefectural Government Office to the Mega Web amusement center in Tokyo with the air-conditioner on and without refueling. Later that year, they took the FCHV on an even longer test drive, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia–a distance of 2,300 miles. They chose that route for two reasons: because it would demonstrate the FCHV’s hardiness in the face of cold weather and rough roads and because mobile refueling of hydrogen-powered vehicles is allowed on Canadian highways but not on American ones.

In January 2009, Toyota announced that its fuel-cell car would go on the market in 2015. However, since it turns out that California’s influential Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate gives more credits to fuel-cell vehicles than to plug-in hybrid vehicles, the company has since revised its timeline: In May 2009, a Toyota spokesman declared that people might be able to buy the cars in 2014 or even sooner. Toyota and other FCHV proponents then turned their energy to the next challenge: providing fuel for the cars by creating a hydrogen-refueling infrastructure in California and across the country.

The Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS) moves the Mirai.
The Toyota Fuel Cell System (TFCS) moves the Mirai. (Toyota Global)

* 1804 Napoleon crowned emperor.

In Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned Napoleon I, the first Frenchman to hold the title of emperor in a thousand years. Pope Pius VII handed Napoleon the crown that the 35-year-old conqueror of Europe placed on his own head.

The Corsican-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reigns of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 he established the French empire. By 1807, Napoleon’s empire stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.

Beginning in 1812, Napoleon began to encounter the first significant defeats of his military career, suffering through a disastrous invasion of Russia, losing Spain to the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula War, and enduring total defeat against an allied force by 1814. Exiled to the island of Elba, he escaped to France in early 1815 and raised a new Grand Army that enjoyed temporary success before its crushing defeat at Waterloo against an allied force under Wellington on June 18, 1815.

Napoleon was subsequently exiled to the island of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa, where he lived under house arrest with a few followers. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon’s body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides.

Napoleon crowns himself Emperor
Napoleon crowns himself Emperor (Mr Allsop History)

* 1823 Monroe Doctrine declared.

During his annual address to Congress, President James Monroe proclaims a new U.S. foreign policy initiative that becomes known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Primarily the work of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, the Monroe Doctrine forbade European interference in the American hemisphere but also asserted U.S. neutrality in regard to future European conflicts.

The origins of the Monroe Doctrine stem from attempts by several European powers to reassert their influence in the Americas in the early 1820s. In North America, Russia had attempted to expand its influence in the Alaska territory, and in Central and South America the U.S. government feared a Spanish colonial resurgence. Britain too was actively seeking a major role in the political and economic future of the Americas, and Adams feared a subservient role for the United States in an Anglo-American alliance.

The United States invoked the Monroe Doctrine to defend its increasingly imperialistic role in the Americas in the mid-19th century, but it was not until the Spanish-American War in 1898 that the United States declared war against a European power over its interference in the American hemisphere. The isolationist position of the Monroe Doctrine was also a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in the 19th century, and it took the two world wars of the 20th century to draw a hesitant America into its new role as a major global power.

A caricature of England and Germany responding to the Venezuelan Blockade. Punch
A caricature of England and Germany responding to the Venezuelan Blockade. Punch

* 1859 John Brown hanged.

In Charles Town, Virginia, militant abolitionist John Brown is executed on charges of treason, murder, and insurrection.

Brown, born in Connecticut in 1800, first became militant during the mid-1850s, when as a leader of the Free State forces in Kansas he fought pro-slavery settlers in the sharply divided U.S. territory. Achieving only moderate success in his fight against slavery on the Kansas frontier, and committing atrocities in the process, Brown settled on a more ambitious plan in 1859.

With a group of racially mixed followers, Brown set out to Harpers Ferry in present-day West Virginia, intending to seize the Federal arsenal of weapons and retreat to the Appalachian Mountains of Maryland and Virginia, where they would establish an abolitionist republic of liberated slaves and abolitionist whites. Their republic hoped to form a guerrilla army to fight slaveholders and ignite slave insurrections, and its population would grow exponentially with the influx of liberated and fugitive slaves.

At Harpers Ferry on October 16, Brown’s well-trained unit was initially successful, capturing key points in the town, but Brown’s plans began to deteriorate after his raiders stopped a Baltimore-bound train and then allowed it to pass through. News of the raid spread quickly, and militia companies from Maryland and Virginia arrived the next day, killing or capturing several raiders. On October 18, U.S. Marines commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart, both of whom were destined to become famous Civil War generals, recaptured the arsenal, taking John Brown and several other raiders alive. On November 2, Brown was sentenced to death by hanging.

On the day of his execution, 16 months before the outbreak of the Civil War, John Brown prophetically wrote, “The crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

John Brown painting at Harper's Ferry
John Brown painting at Harper’s Ferry (People’s World)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

* Wikipedia                                                                    ,_1989

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

11 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… December 2nd”

  1. I think Napoleon should provide modern day anarchists with an example of what violent revolution might bring. The French Revolution was based on grand principles, yet resulted in brutal dictatorship and deadly war.

    Someone once told me that abolitionist John Brown was “right for all the wrong reasons.” When I asked for clarification, they said that Brown was primarily motivated by his fervent Calvinist beliefs which saw slavery as mortal sin punishable by eternal damnation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More violence triggered by religious belief. You’re right about revolutions that often replace a regime with another dictatorship or totalitarian regime as in the communist regimes of the 20th century. It is criminal that protestors are sometimes driven to violence. Thanks, Bob.

      Liked by 1 person

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