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John’s Believe It Or Not… March 2nd

* 1729 – Louis XV authorizes new issue of playing card money in New France. * 1807 Congress abolishes the African slave trade * 1929 Congress passes the Jones Act * 1836 Texas declares independence * 1917 Puerto Ricans become U.S. citizens – are recruited for war effort

Sam Houston

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1729 – Louis XV authorizes new issue of playing card money in New France.

The administration of New France counted on the arrival of cash from France in order to pay civil servants, suppliers, soldiers and clerks. There was confusion if the ship did not arrive until the end of the season, and even more if it did not come at all. In 1685 Intendant Demeulle invented a type of paper money with the purpose of meeting the expenses. He printed various face values on playing cards and affixed his seal to them. When the king’s ship arrived, he redeemed this “card money” in cash. This system was brought to an end after 1686, but it was necessary to return to it during the period 1689-1719. In 1714, card money to a value of 2 million livres was in circulation, some cards being worth as much as 100 livres.

The King later returned to using card money in 1729 because the merchants themselves demanded it, this time using white cards without colors, which were cut or had their corners removed according to a fixed table. The whole card was worth 24 livres (which was the highest sum in card money); with the corners cut off, it was worth 12 livres; etc. In the 18th-century card money was not the most important form of paper money. There was the certificat (certificate), a certified sum given to the supplier by the storekeeper. The ordonnance, a promissory note, was signed by the intendant on a printed form, and like cards and certificates, was redeemable by a lettre de change (bill of exchange) on the Naval Treasury. Finally, there was the lettre de change, or traite, used between private citizens to avoid a cash transfer, which the state also used, particularly to redeem paper money. After the Conquest Canadians still held some 16 million livres in paper money, of which only 3.8% was in card money.

Playing Card money featuring the Jack of Hearts
(moraluniversal.com)

* 1807 Congress abolishes the African slave trade

The U.S. Congress passes an act to “prohibit the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.”

The first shipload of African captives to North America arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619, but for most of the 17th century, European indentured servants were far more numerous in the North American British colonies than were African slaves. However, after 1680, the flow of indentured servants sharply declined, leading to an explosion in the African slave trade. By the middle of the 18th century, slavery could be found in all 13 colonies and was at the core of the Southern colonies’ agricultural economy. By the time of the American Revolution, the English importers alone had brought some three million captive Africans to the Americas.

After the war, as slave labor was not a crucial element of the Northern economy, most Northern states passed legislation to abolish slavery. However, in the South, the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 made cotton a major industry and sharply increased the need for slave labor. Tension arose between the North and the South as the slave or free status of new states was debated. In January 1807, with a self-sustaining population of over four million slaves in the South, some Southern congressmen joined with the North in voting to abolish the African slave trade, an act that became effective January 1, 1808. The widespread trade of slaves within the South was not prohibited, however, and children of slaves automatically became slave themselves, thus ensuring a self-sustaining slave population in the South.

Great Britain also banned the African slave trade in 1807, but the trade of African slaves to Brazil and Cuba continued until the 1860s. By 1865, some 12 million Africans had been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas, and more than one million of these individuals had died from mistreatment during the voyage. In addition, an unknown number of Africans died in slave wars and forced marches directly resulting from the Western Hemisphere’s demand for African slaves.

medallion created as part of anti-slavery campaign by Josiah Wedgwood, 1787 - it depicts a Black slave, shackled, on one knee with the caption: "Am I Not A Man And A Brother?"
Medallion created as part of anti-slavery campaign by Josiah Wedgwood, 1787 (Wikipedia)

* 1929 Congress passes the Jones Act

The Jones Act, the last gasp of the Prohibition, is passed by Congress. Since 1920 when the Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, the United States had banned the production, importation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. But the laws were ineffective at actually stopping the consumption of alcohol. The Jones Act strengthened the federal penalties for bootlegging. Of course, within five years the country ended up rejecting Prohibition and repealing the Eighteenth Amendment.

Prohibition was never particularly popular across the nation and when the people slowly realized that it had other ramifications, it rapidly fell by the wayside. The chief problem with Prohibition is that it didn’t stop the public’s demand for alcohol. Although consumption did drop in raw numbers, it remained substantial. In order to fill this demand, an entire criminal infrastructure was created virtually overnight.

The enormous amounts of money that were available in illegal trafficking helped established organized crime. The nation’s major cities were dominated by criminal syndicates that could afford to bribe officials throughout the criminal justice system. This, in turn, produced a significant change in law enforcement. For the first time, the federal government became a major player in policing and prosecuting lawbreakers.

Many feel that Prohibition also caused a major breakdown in the social fabric because of its effect on the national psyche. With so many of the people brazenly ignoring the law, an atmosphere of cynicism and hypocrisy was established. When the Eighteenth Amendment was finally repealed, Prohibition was widely viewed as a total failure.

[My take… Yet another mistake in our history (Canada had Prohibition too) that we repeated with the War on Drugs.]

The American Issue front page - Note the bottom line of this newspaper reprint: "Momentous Day in World's History"
Note the bottom line of this newspaper reprint: “Momentous Day in World’s History” (Dinge en Goete)

* 1836 Texas declares independence

During the Texas Revolution, a convention of American Texans meets at Washington-on-the-Brazos and declares the independence of Texas from Mexico. The delegates chose David Burnet as provisional president and confirmed Sam Houston [see featured image at the top] as the commander in chief of all Texan forces. The Texans also adopted a constitution that protected the free practice of slavery, which had been prohibited by Mexican law. Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s siege of the Alamo continued, and the fort’s 185 or so American defenders waited for the final Mexican assault.

In 1820, Moses Austin, a U.S. citizen, asked the Spanish government in Mexico for permission to settle in sparsely populated Texas. Land was granted, but Austin died soon thereafter, so his son, Stephen F. Austin, took over the project. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain, and Austin negotiated a contract with the new Mexican government that allowed him to lead some 300 families to the Brazos River. Under the terms of the agreement, the settlers were to be Catholics, but Austin mainly brought Protestants from the southern United States. Other U.S. settlers arrived in succeeding years, and the Americans soon outnumbered the resident Mexicans. In 1826, a conflict between Mexican and American settlers led to the Freedonia Rebellion, and in 1830 the Mexican government took measures to stop the influx of Americans. In 1833, Austin, who sought statehood for Texas in the Mexican federation, was imprisoned after calling on settlers to declare it without the consent of the Mexican congress. He was released in 1835.

In 1834, Santa Anna, a soldier, and politician became dictator of Mexico and sought to crush rebellions in Texas and other areas. In October 1835, Anglo residents of Gonzales, 50 miles east of San Antonio, responded to Santa Anna’s demand that they return a cannon loaned for defense against Indian attack by discharging it against the Mexican troops sent to reclaim it. The Mexicans were routed in what is regarded as the first battle of the Texas Revolution. The American settlers set up a provisional state government, and a Texan army under Sam Houston won a series of minor battles in the fall of 1835.

In December, Texas volunteers commanded by Ben Milam drove Mexican troops out of San Antonio and settled in around the Alamo, a mission compound adapted to military purposes around 1800. In January 1836, Santa Anna concentrated a force of several thousand men south of the Rio Grande, and Sam Houston ordered the Alamo abandoned. Colonel James Bowie, who arrived at the Alamo on January 19, realized that the fort’s captured cannons could not be removed before Santa Anna’s arrival, so he remained entrenched with his men. By delaying Santa Anna’s forces, he also reasoned, Houston would have more time to raise an army large enough to repulse the Mexicans. On February 2, Bowie and his 30 or so men were joined by a small cavalry company under Colonel William Travis, bringing the total number of Alamo defenders to about 140. One week later, the frontiersman Davy Crockett arrived in command of 14 Tennessee Mounted Volunteers.

On February 23, Santa Anna and some 3,000 Mexican troops besieged the Alamo, and the former mission was bombarded with cannon and rifle fire for 12 days. On February 24, in the chaos of the siege, Colonel Travis smuggled out a letter that read: “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World…. I shall never surrender or retreat…. Victory or Death!” On March 1, the last Texan reinforcements from nearby Gonzales broke through the enemy’s lines and into the Alamo, bringing the total defenders to approximately 185. On March 2, Texas’ revolutionary government formally declared its independence from Mexico.

In the early morning of March 6, Santa Anna ordered his troops to storm the Alamo. Travis’ artillery decimated the first and then the second Mexican charge, but in just over an hour the Texans were overwhelmed, and the Alamo was taken. Santa Anna had ordered that no prisoners be taken, and all the Texan and American defenders were killed in brutal hand-to-hand fighting. The only survivors of the Alamo were a handful of civilians, mostly women and children. Several hundred of Santa Anna’s men died during the siege and storming of the Alamo.

Six weeks later, a large Texan army under Sam Houston surprised Santa Anna’s army at San Jacinto. Shouting “Remember the Alamo!” the Texans defeated the Mexicans and captured Santa Anna. The Mexican dictator was forced to recognize Texas’ independence and withdrew his forces south of the Rýo Grande.

Texas sought annexation by the United States, but both Mexico and antislavery forces in the United States opposed its admission into the Union. For nearly a decade, Texas existed as an independent republic, and Houston was Texas’ first elected president. In 1845, Texas joined the Union as the 28th state, leading to the outbreak of the Mexican-American War.

Replica of the building at Washington-on-the-Brazos where the Texas Declaration was signed. An inscription reads: "Here a Nation was born".
Replica of the building at Washington-on-the-Brazos where the Texas Declaration was signed. An inscription reads: “Here a Nation was born”. (Wikipedia)

* 1917 Puerto Ricans become U.S. citizens – are recruited for war effort

Barely a month before the United States enters World War I, President Woodrow Wilson signs the Jones-Shafroth act, granting U.S. citizenship to the inhabitants of Puerto Rico.

Located about 1,000 miles southeast of Florida—and less than half that distance from the coast of South America—Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. by Spain in December 1898 as part of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War. In 1900, a Congressional act created a civil government for the island; the first governor under this act, Charles H. Allen, was appointed by President William McKinley and inaugurated that May in Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan.

On March 2, 1917, Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act, under which Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory and Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship, meaning that citizenship was granted by an act of Congress and not by the Constitution (thus it was not guaranteed by the Constitution). The act also created a bill of rights for the territory, separated its government into executive, legislative and judicial branches, and declared Puerto Rico’s official language to be English.

As citizens, Puerto Ricans could now join the U.S. Army, but few chose to do so. After Wilson signed a compulsory military service act two months later, however, 20,000 Puerto Ricans were eventually drafted to serve during World War I. Puerto Rican soldiers were sent to guard the Panama Canal, the important waterway, in operation since 1914, which joined the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean across the Isthmus of Panama in Central America. Puerto Rican infantry regiments were also sent to the Western Front, including the 396th Infantry Regiment of Puerto Rico, created in New York City, whose members earned the nickname Harlem Hell Fighters.

Later, during World War II, Puerto Rico became an important military and naval base for the U.S. Army. Its economy continued to grow, aided by a hydroelectric-power expansion program instituted in the 1940s. In 1951, Puerto Rican voters approved by referendum a new U.S. law granting the islanders the right to draft their own constitution. In March 1952, Luis Munoz Marin, Puerto Rico’s governor, proclaimed Puerto Rico a freely associated U.S. commonwealth under the new constitution; the status was made official that July. Though nationalist agitation for the island’s complete independence from the U.S. was a constant—as were calls for Puerto Rico to become a state—subsequent referendums confirmed the decision to remain a commonwealth.

Two flags: U.S.A. and Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has spoken. Citizens of the island commonwealth want U.S. statehood. With 97 percent of the vote, Puerto Rican’s voted in favor of being admitted to the Union (imperiox.net)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                       http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/playing-card-money/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/                         

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 (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

4 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… March 2nd”

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