The History Thread (Lizi's Trivia Thread)


Phawww that is a good one. I’ll have to think about that one, let me poll out some of my friends on the facebook. This could be fun!

Edit; So far we have had both Hitler and Napoleon invading Russia, but that is an obvious one. Hannibal bringing elephants. Any Italian invasion post the fall of the Empire.


You’ve read Decline and Fall of Practically Everyone, yes?


Over the night The Suez canal came in along with the argument from my brother that the split of the Roman Empire was the worst. Anyone else have some ideas?


I started a Facebook page to post the trivia I usually post in here, in part so that I don’t clog up the Forum with my random bullshit.


But I like your posts here, it’s like an embedded history blog.


You aren’t clogging up the forum. It’s all in this thread. That’s what this thread is for.


Also this thread is one of the good threads.


I guess this is back by popular demand. Try out this excerpt from “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States” by Sarah Vowell. If it seems like it lacks context at first, it’s because it doesn’t need it.

"The shadowy figure who had been plotting behind the scenes with [French Foreign Minister] Vergennes was, of all people, France’s greatest living dramatist, Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, author of the hit play The Barber of Seville. This came about, oh, the usual way, when the foreign minister enlisted the playwright to go to London and apprehend a vexing cross-dressing ex-spy. Vergennes was so impressed by the mind of Figaro, The Barber of Seville’s shrewd protagonist, that he figured Beaumarchais would have the wiles to ensnare such slippery prey. That and the author’s celebrity were to open doors,

"The object of Beaumarchais’s hunt, the Chevalier d’Eon de Beaumont, had previously served France as both a male soldier in the Seven Years War and a female secret agent who infiltrated the Russian monarchy, successfully befriending and convincing a Russian czarina not to become an ally of France’s enemy Great Britain. No one was entirely sure of his/her gender, and he/she kept them guessing. D’Eon had been extorting the government of Louis XV from his London home for years, threatening to turn over to the British some old French secret plans from the Seven Years’ War to invade England. After the death of Louis, the Government wanted d’Eon and the documents returned home to France.

“Beaumarchais easily scored an invite to a dinner party among the smart set that d’Eon was to attend. Confronting him – for he was dressed as a man at the time – Beaumarchais tried to convince d’Eon to return to France to sort out his problems with the regime. D’Eon said he would, but he was afraid of being locked up in the Bastille, especially since he revealed to Beaumarchais that he was a woman. Whether or not that was true – and technically it wasn’t, based on a postmortem examination of d’Eon’s anatomically male corpse years later – the professionally imaginative Beaumarchais concocted a theatrical solution. After handing over the invasion plans, d’Eon would be welcomed back to France and receive his military pension as long as he agreed to live out the rest of his life as a woman. Which Happened.”


I stumbled over this thread on twitter which explains how “court costs” were used as a pretense to set up a slavery system after the end of the american civil war, its economic ramifications and how it still perpetuates stereotypes and explicitly racist motivations for legislation to the modern day. As a european I knew very little about this beforehand.


The Baltimore Mayor plans to remove the statue of Roger Taney that stands at Mt Vernon Place. Taney was Andrew Jackson’s Attorney General before becoming Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taney would hold that position from 1837 until his death in 1864. He stayed on the court after Southern Secession and actually ruled against Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus in 1861. This particularly amusing to me as Lincoln’s precedent for the suspension had been a suspension of Habeas Corpus in the War of 1812 by the man who put Taney on the Supreme Court, Andrew Jackson.

The reason we need to and are getting rid of Taney’s statue is that he ruled and wrote the majority opinion in the 1857 Dred Scott v Stanford case, which I encourage you read here at some time when anger suppressing substances are in abundance near you. The ruling is more famous than the man and I suspect all the Americans already know it found that black people aren’t people BUT the reasoning why is often overlooked as it reveals an uncomfortable truth about the north.

[TRIGGER WARNING: I’m gonna be using direct quotations from the Dred-Scott Decision]

Taney did not believe that he had the power to determine whether black people /should/ be people or not, explaining

“It is not the province of the court to decide upon the justice or injustice, the policy or impolicy, of these laws. The decision of that question belonged to the political or lawmaking power, to those who formed the sovereignty and framed the Constitution.”

He admits the Declaration of Independence says that all men were created equal (a strange thing to do, since the Declaration isn’t part of American law) but insists that Thomas Jefferson, a man who owned 600 people, couldn’t have intended that all men were created equal, elaborating

“Yet the men who framed this declaration were great men – high in literary acquirements, high in their sense of honor, and incapable of asserting principles inconsistent with those on which they were acting. They perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others, and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which, by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery.”

I’ve used that and other quotes to contradict Scalia-ites who insist that the Founding Fathers were the be all and end all of humanity, but unlike Scalia, Taney understands that the Framers were not supreme, so he looks at the various State laws.

Notably, he focuses on Free States. He points out laws against interracial marriage in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maryland, renewed as recently as 1836. He uses State Supreme Court rulings that agreed with his consensus from the slave state of Kentucky but also from the Free State of Connecticut (the case regarded segregation of schools). What I found most interesting was the introduction to the law banning slave imports to Connecticut that states

“And whereas the increase of slaves in this State is injurious to the poor, and inconvenient…”

Taney argues

“This recital would appear to have been carefully introduced in order to prevent any misunderstanding of the motive which induced the Legislature to pass the law, and places it distinctly upon the interest and convenience of the white population – excluding the inference that it might have been intended in any degree for the benefit of the other.”

After that he gives up naming precedent, saying “It would be impossible to enumerate and compress in the space usually allotted to an opinion of a court the various laws, marking the condition of this race which were passed from time to time after the Revolution and before and since the adoption of the Constitution of the United States” in the only reasonable statement in the ruling.

Taney’s ruling was to the benefit of the slave states but it’s important not to forget that his justification was in the discriminatory actions of the “free” states.


In The Impending Crisis, David M Potter asserts that Dred Scott was ultimately inconsequential to anyone except Dred Scott himself. It’s two most significant rulings were finding the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, but it had been repealed already, and permitting slavery in northern territories, where there is no evidence of slavery being practiced before or after the ruling. Although the logic was heinous, it’s more significant in its igniting abolitionist sentiment than any actual policy change.

Anyway I’m reading Never Caught: The Washington’s Relentless Pursuit of the Runaway Slave Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. It’s an interesting read but slightly disappointing. I was hoping for a look into the life of the enslaved on Mt Vernon and how the first President treated his slaves, but it focuses on very superficial aspects of the life of those in bondage like duties performed and which member of the white family they served instead of how they were treated by the whites and by each other. What got me thinking was when Dunbar was observing that 90% of fugitive slaves in the 18th century were male, and infers that this is because men were morel likely to have been separated from their families. While white oppressors felt they needed to keep mothers with children for proper childcare, either to protect an investment or out of humanitarian concern (it’s the former but apologists insist it’s the latter), fathers were likely to be separated from their families either by being moved elsewhere on the plantation or being sold.

I know the notion that black fathers abandon their families is a dangerous and harmful stereotype for a white person like me to try to discuss, but it’s also a statistical phenomenon (US Census found that 67% of black children live in single parent families vs 35% in the general population), so I have to wonder if this abandonment culture is something that white people forced onto black communities and is another symptom of the slavery based PTSD the black community continues to suffer from.


With the recent decision to keep Jackson on the $20, I’d like to remind everyone we don’t know why he’s there to begin with,


Today is another installation in Donald Trump’s failure to live up to his obsession over Andrew Jackson. I believe I did a piece on his claim that Jackson would have stopped the Civil War, but let me reiterate. Trump has claimed that Jackson is his favorite President, going so far as to add his portrait to the Oval Office, but he has yet to enact a single Jacksonian policy. Today is, by Presidential Proclamation, a National Day of Prayer, a Proclamation directly contradicting the wishes of Andrew Jackson, who in 1829 vetoed an act of Congress that would have designated a National Day of Prayer for those who died in the recent cholera epidemic. His statement reads:

“I am constrained to decline the appointment of any period or mode as proper for the public manifestation of this reliance [on prayer]. I could not do otherwise without transcending those limits, which are prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree which religion now enjoys in this country, in its complete separation from the Federal Government”


James A Garfield was one of those Presidents you mostly forget about. You might remember that he was assassinated, but nothing more. What you definitely wouldn’t know is that he was kind of awesome early in his career. Although in the 1870s he pivoted from the Radical Republicans to the “Half-Breeds” (meaning half Republican half Democrat), his tenure as speaker of the House in the 1860s was strong. He worked with Thaddeus Stevens to impeach Andrew Johnson, hypothetically about the removal of Edwin Stanton from Secretary of War but really about his aggressive defense of the Southern power structure. Today I want to look at a section of a speech he gave on July 4 1865, just less than three months after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox. The purpose of the speech was to promote black suffrage and his writing is more beautiful than even my beloved Sumner’s Crimes Against Kansas. In addition to such choice pieces of rhetoric as “some one says it is dangerous at this time to make new experiments. I answer, it is always safe to do justice," Garfield’s speech contains a fascinating look at the history of black suffrage from 1788 to 1865.

"However, to grant suffrage to the black man in this country is not innovation, but restoration. It is a return to the ancient rinciples and practices of the fathers. Let me refer you to a few facts in our history which have been but little studied by’ the people and politicians of this generation.

  1. During the war of the Revolution, and in 1788, the date of the adoption of our national Constitution, there was but one State among the thirteen whose constitution refused the right of suffrage to the negro. That State was South Carolina. Some, it is true, established a property qualification ; all made freedom a prerequisite; but none save South Carolina made color a condition of suffrage.

  2. The Federal Constitution makes no such distinction, nor did the Articles of Confederation. In the Congress of the Confederation, on the 25th of June, 1778, the fourth article was under discussion. It provided that “the free inhabitants of each of these States — paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted — shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States” The delegates from South Carolina moved to insert between the words “free inhabitants” the word “white,” thus denying the privileges and immunities of citizenship to the colored man. According to the rules of the convention, each State had but one vote. Eleven States voted on the question. One was divided ; two voted aye ; and eight voted no.^ It was thus early, and almost unanimously, decided ^zX, freedom, not color, should be the test of citizenship.

  3. No Federal legislation prior to 1812 placed any restriction on the right of suffrage in consequence of the color of the citizen. From 1789 to 1812 Congress passed ten separate laws establishing new Territories. In all these, freedom, and not color, was the basis of suffrage.

  4. After nearly a quarter of a century of prosperity under the Constitution, the spirit of slavery so far triumphed over the early principles and practices of the government that, in 1812, South Carolina and her followers in Congress succeeded in inserting the word " white " in the suffrage clause of the act establishing a territorial government for Missouri. One by one the Slave States, and many of the free States, gave way before the crusade of slavery against negro citizenship. In 181 7, Connecticut caught the infection, and in her constitution she excluded the negro from the ballot-box. In every other New England State his ancient right of suffrage has remained and still remains undisturbed. Free negroes voted in Maryland till 1833 ; in North Carolina, till 1835 ; in Pennsylvania, till 1838. It was the boast of Cave Johnson of Tennessee that he owed his election to Congress in 1828 to the free negroes who worked in his mills. They were denied the suffrage in 1834, under the new constitution of Tennessee, by a vote of thirty-three to twenty-three. As new States were formed, their constitutions for the most part ex-
    cluded the negro from citizenship. Then followed the shameful catalogue of black laws — expatriation and ostracism in every form — which have so deeply disgraced the record of legislation in many of the States"



So this one’s a question: Anyone know the legal history of Gerrymandering and how it is the Supreme Court gets to rule on it? What piece of law grants the Federal Government the power to regulate that and how are those Federal regulations defined?


So I’m not a lawyer, but I do have a massive hardon for the supreme court and MAY be able to at the very least give you a starting point.

I believe it originally comes from an interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause as interpreted by the 1986 case Davis v. Bandemer

This isn’t a lock and I’ll quickly explain why I believe this to be our reasoning.

I knew Gill v. Whitford was on the docket and would face argument soon and that it’d concern itself with gerrymandering. At issue in that case is whether or not the appellate court violated Vieth v. Jubelirer.

A quick reading of the majority opinion of Scalia there reveals this little line:

Eighteen years ago, we held that the Equal Protection Clause grants judges the power—and duty—to control political gerrymandering, see Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U. S. 109 (1986). It is to consideration of this precedent that we now turn.

Happy I could finally help you. You provide us so much by way of interesting history for me to peruse.


Wasn’t sure whether to post to this thread or the Cishet thread but this write up on the Two Spirit people of pre-contact America is really interesting.


The year is 1803. John Sevier narrowly lost the position of Major General of the Tennessee Militia to Andrew Jackson but was seeking the Governorship from Jackson’s incumbent friend. Jackson published a series of papers suggesting Sevier had bribed several officials. Traveling to Jonesborough in eastern Tennessee on business (Jackson was a judge when he was not needed in the militia), he fell ill with a severe fever. A group of Sevier’s supporters gathered with a prominent proponent of his, Colonel Harrison and went to where Jackson lay ill with tar and feathers.

A friend of Jackson’s rushed upstairs to warn him, urging him to lock the doors. Instead, the General got out of bed and said to his friend “Give my compliments to Colonel Harrison and tell him my door is open to receive him and his regiment whenever they choose to wait upon me; and that I hope the Colonel’s chivalry will induce him to lead his men and not follow them.” The crowd then dispersed without entering the hotel, intimidated by the ill old man.


To follow up on what Naoza said, most gerrymandering cases make race-based claims rather than purely political ones. Since the Voting Rights Act (which I think laid it out explicitly), changes to voting (including policies, procedures, and districting) that are made with the intent of reducing the voting power of a racial minority constitute Fourteenth Amendment violations, and thus can be sued over in federal court. Since most African-Americans vote Democrat, gerrymandering against Dems (particularly in the South) happens to also look like gerrymandering against black people, which gives suits significantly firmer legal ground.

In addition, there used to be a requirement in the VRA (until Shelby County v. Holder) that certain districts with a history of racism were required to submit any such changes to the Judicial Department for review. The sudden surge in voting rights cases is in some sense due to the South trying to make up for fifty years of lost racism.


I’ll update as I get info from /r/AskHistorians and the resources they give me, but, as I understand it, Reconstruction was responsible for the first minimum wage law. Usually credited with the first minimum wage law is my state Massachusetts in 1912, however, Eric Foner writes in his book on Reconstruction that in 1865, Freedmen’s Bureau chief Davis Tilson enacted a policy in Georgia requiring a minimum wage from planters hiring freemen. The details on this I don’t have but am looking for. However, between this, collective bargaining agreements, and welfare benefit programs, it’s clear to me that the Freeman’s Bureau was a solid 50 years or more ahead of its time.