A look at some of the history, holidays & observances on November 16
In the early 1700’s, the Netherlands colonized the small island and operated it as the world’s great smuggling supermarket. Before the Revolution, American smugglers went there for three staples of colonial life: French molasses, Spanish Madeira and Dutch tea. In the critical years from 1775 to 1780, Americans went there for gunpowder and weapons. It proved of vital importance to the success of the Revolution. So today, in honor of the shady entrepreneurs of St. Eustacia, drink a few toasts with the national spirit of the Netherlands, gin . . . and get double points if it is smuggled.
1776 – American Revolutionary War: The Battle of Fort Washington
The year 1776 was a wildly swinging pendulum for the Patriots. It started exceptionally well. In March, Washington had forced the British out of Boston. In June, the Patriots in South Carolina beat back the first major British invasion of the war at Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. Then the 2nd Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence. After that, the pendulum went in the other direction, as the British Army nearly annihilated the Continental Army in New York, with the nadir coming at the disastrous Battle of Fort Washington.
The battle was fought as part of Britain’s second major offensive of the war, this one aimed at capturing the port of New York and the colony of New Jersey. Washington defended with the Continental Army in some depth in the area of New York City, but in a series of actions, was driven back across the Hudson River, leaving only one fortified Patriot defense, Fort Washington, on Manhattan Island. Manned by some 3,000 soldiers, Washington considered withdrawing the troops, but was swayed by Gen. Greene and others to maintain the post, believing that the Fort could hold out for months against a sustained British attack. At 7 a.m. on this date in 1776, the British had maneuvered into position and began their assault on the forward defenses of the Fort. By 4 p.m. that day, the fighting was over and the commander of the Fort surrendered it to the British. The Americans had suffered 59 killed, 96 wounded casualties, and some 2,838 men, captured. It was one of the three worst defeats of the war for the Patriots (the other two coming in 1780, both in South Carolina, first at the Siege of Charleston, then at the Battle of Camden). Of the 2,838 captured, so severe were the conditions in which they were held by the British, many on prison ships in New York Harbor, that only 800 remained alive some 18 months later.
Following this defeat, Washington began a retreat across New Jersey. It seemed that defeat for the Revolution was inevitable. But there would be yet one more wild swing of the pendulum to go for the Patriots in 1776 — all due to Washington’s dogged determination. But that wouldn’t come until December 26. Stay tuned.
1793 – French Revolution: The Drownings at Nantes
Most of the people executed as enemies of the state during the Reign of Terror phase of the French Revolution were by guillotine, but not all. Some were executed by firing squad, while in Nantes, many were drowned.
In the midst of the “reign of terror” imposed by France’s revolutionary government, anyone who was suspected of not sufficiently supporting the Revolution was subject to summary execution. Catholic clergy were particular targets of government as part of the socialists’ war on religion, and on this date in 1793, a French official rounded up some 90 of the clergy then under arrest in Nantes, ferried them on a barge into the middle of the Loire River, then ordered soldiers to drown them in what the official called “the national bathtub.” This marked the first of the “drownings” as a state sponsored method of execution and mass murder. Between November 16, 1793 and Feb. 27, 1794, some 4,000 people, men, women, and children of all ages, were executed by this method in Nantes.
Comparing the French Revolution to the American Revolution, the latter was the the apex of the Enlightenment. The American Revolution was fought to establish equal application of the rule of law. Though secular, It was founded upon the doctrines of — and embraced — the Judaeo-Christian religions. And the American Revolution was, outside of the war itself, comparatively quite peaceful, with changes to society debated and voted upon.
The French Revolution, beginning less than a decade later, was the opposite in every respect. It marked the end of the Enlightenment. It was fought to establish socialism and, ostensibly, a rough equality of outcome (except for the leadership, who become wealthy in such societies). The socialists leading the Revolution sought to destroy the Judaeo-Christian religions and replace them with their government as the godhead dispensing its own version of morality and ethics. And the socialists imposed a bloody police state to enforce their will through executions and terror. There was nothing to distinguish The French Revolution in that last respect from any of the bloody revolutions fought by communists and socialists in the over two centuries since.
1965 – Venera program: The Soviet Union launches the Venera 3 space probe toward Venus. The Soviets lost contact with the craft and it is unlikely that it made landfall on the hellscape that is Venus.
1990 – Pop group Milli Vanilli are stripped of their Grammy Award because the duo did not sing at all on the Girl You Know It’s True album. Session musicians had provided all the vocals.
1992 – The Hoxne Hoard is discovered by Eric Lawes in Hoxne, Suffolk, with a metal detector.
42 BC – Tiberius, a superb general but a sadistic and miserly Roman Emperor who cared little for ruling during his 22 year reign.
Died on November 16
2006 – Milton Friedman, a brilliant economist, an eloquent champion of free market capitalism, and a prolific author died this day in 2006. The Heritage Foundation, on news of his passing, called him the “father of economic freedom:”
“The Heritage Foundation bids goodbye to a leading intellectual light of the 20th century whose powerful ideas continue to transform our world. Milton Friedman’s economic: philosophical, and political writing inspired decades of Heritage work in such diverse areas as Social Security reform, competition in education, and tax policy. We are particularly indebted for his role in championing economic freedom, and that effort lives on in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal annual Index of Economic Freedom. The life of Milton Friedman is proof that a single individual’s ideas can shape history for the better.”