History, Holidays & Observances on December 14

Today:  St. John of the Cross, Paxton Boys rebel, Civil Rights and the Commerce Clause, Napoleon, War of 1812, Jimmy Doolittle, Washington Dies, Christmas Music

And More . . .

Holidays and Observances on

Feast of John of the Cross – St. John of the Cross, a 15th century Carmelite friar, is known for his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul. His work is considered the finest of mystical Spanish literature. He is one of thirty-six Doctors of the Church.  Below is one of his poems, Dark Night of the Soul, put to music by Loreena McKennitt


Major Events on Dec. 14

1763 – The Paxton Boys start the first back country rebellion

In colonial America several waves of immigrants had taken up the land near the Atlantic Coast. The last wave of colonial era immigrants where the Scots-Irish. They began to immigrate in large numbers circa 1740, taking land in the areas abutting the Appalachian Mountain Range, what the colonists in each colony referred to as the back country.

These back country settlers faced several challenges. One, they were inevitably on a border with Indian tribes and many were subject to brutal attacks with no quarter given. Two, they were often mere afterthoughts for the coastal settlers who uniformly controlled the Colonial governments.

These issues first rose to a head in 1763 Pennsylvania. A group of about 250 Scots-Irish settlers calling themselves the Paxton Boys, having fended off Indian attacks during the French Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion with little help from the coastal colonists, went on a warpath of their own. Unfortunately, the initial target of their ire was a group of thoroughly Christianized and peaceful Conestoga Indians who were merely passing in the vicinity of the Paxton Boys en route to their home in Lancaster County. On this date, the Paxton Boys slaughtered six of the Indians. Sixteen who escaped the slaughter were given shelter in the Lancaster workhouse, but the Paxton Boys rode into town and killed them as well, on December 27.

The Paxton Boys then marched on Philadelphia. Ben Franklin met them and headed them off without any violence, arranging a meeting to air grievances with the colonial government.

What happened in Pennsylvania pointed to problems in all of the colonial back country settlements on the eve of the American Revolution. The problem was so bad in the Carolinas that the back country settlers started a formal vigilante movement known as the Regulators.

The long and short of all this was that the Scots-Irish back country settlers, people who hated the British with a passion, felt no more love for the coastal citizens who would soon lead the nation into Revolution. Consequently, many back country settlers opted to support Britain as Loyalists at the start of the Revolution. Had Britain been smart, their support could have been decisive. Instead, Britain conducted the war in such a way as to alienate many of the back country settlers as the war progressed.

1964 – Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

The ink on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was barely dry when the owner of the Heart of Atlanta Motel brought suit, claiming the Act was unconstitutional. At issue was Title II of the act, which made it unlawful for the owner of a public accommodation involved in interstate commerce to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin. The plaintiff raised several legal theories, the only substantial one being that Congresses power to regulate Interstate Commerce did not give it the power to regulate a private concern doing business only in Atlanta.

The Supreme Court, on this day, issued its opinion, ruling that discrimination could effect commerce, thus making the Commerce Clause a proper vehicle on which to base anti-discrimination laws. Further, the Court ruled that the Commerce Clause gave the power to Congress to regulate any private business, even one located solely in a single state, so long as the business was deemed to “effect” interstate commerce. In this case, the Court found that 75% of the motels business came from out of state clients.

This case, though laudable in its attack on racial discrimination, was but one more step along the path of expanding the Commerce Clause into a basis for justifying any all Congressional legislation to perfect society. The outer limit of the Commerce Clause for such use was finally reached in regards to the Obamacare mandate, that the Commerce Clause did not give Congress the power to create a law requiring all Americans to buy taxed tea from the East India Company. But where the Commerce Clause finally failed, John Roberts and the taxing authority stepped into the breach to uphold the mandate.

Notable Events on Dec. 14

1782 – The Montgolfier brothers first test fly an unmanned hot air balloon in France, heating the air in the balloon with a fire of wool and hay. The lifting force was so great, that they lost control of their craft. The device floated over a mile in the air and was destroyed after landing by the “indiscretion” of a passersby.

1812 – Napoleon’s invasion of Russia came to an end this day as the shattered remnants of the “Grande Armée” left Russian soil. The defeat was decisive and would ultimately lead to Napoleon’s abdication and exile on the island of Elba.

1814 – During War of 1812, 1,200 British Marines in 42 longboats successfully attacked 5 American gunboats at the Battle of Lake Borgne. The battle set the stage for the British Army to advance on New Orleans, where they would be met in a stalwart defense led by Andrew Jackson.

1902 – The Commercial Pacific Cable Company lays the first Pacific telegraph cable, from San Francisco to Honolulu.

1918 – The 1918 United Kingdom general election occurs, the first where women were permitted to vote.

2012 – An insane twenty year old entered Sandy Hook Elementary School this day, murdering twenty-seven people before taking his own life.

Born on Dec. 14

1546 – Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer and chemist famous for the accuracy of his detailed astronomical measurements and comprehensive observances. While his conclusions proved incorrect, the corpus of his work was a springboard for advancing astronomical science in future years.

1896 – Jimmy Doolittle, an Air Force officer who rose to the rank of four star General, he won the Medal of Honor for leading the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942.

1916 – Shirley Jackson, a horror novelist and short story writer whose most famous work was The Haunting of Hill House.

1962 – NASA’s Mariner 2 becomes the first spacecraft to fly by Venus.

Died on Dec. 14

1799 – George Washington, our nation’s “indispensable man,” died on this day. He had taken a sore throat. This being the Age of Heroic Medicine, his doctors bled him profusely, probably causing his death. You can read the entire story of Washington’s medical treatment at the Mount Vernon website.

Christmas Music:

Do You Hear What I Hear,” composed in 1962, tells a story loosely based upon the story of the nativity of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Matthew.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” is a traditional English carol that dates back probably to the 15th century.

Last, for a long play, is a 1987 multi-artist release, “A Very Special Christmas.”