History, Holidays & Observances on January 20: Martin Luther King Day

Holiday & Observances: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Major Events: Montfort’s Parliament & Representative Democracy
Notable Events: Pope St. Fabian, Charles I tried for treason, tyranny, Hong Kong Island, motion pictures, Wannsee Conference, Harry Truman’s foreign aid, Angus Deaton, Sudan, Sharia Law,
Born: Richard Henry Lee, Clarice Cliff
Died: David Garrick, Jean-François Millet, John Ruskin, William Roberts, Audrey Hepburn, Al Hirschfeld


Holidays and Observances on January 20

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day –

Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January celebrating the life and accomplishments of Rev. King. His birthday is on 15 January. He would be 92 years old were he alive today.  He would not recognize the neo-Marxist obscenity into which the progressive left has turned the civil rights movement.

The civil rights movement began in the United States after slavery ended.  Slavery had gone from accepted world wide and throughout history prior to the American Revolution to being under assault by the abolitionist movement during and after the American Revolution.  The United States and Britain were the two driving forces that ended slavery as an accepted practice in the world.  After the Civil War and the end of slavery in the United States, the civil rights movement began as an effort to bring equal rights to blacks.  Racism and unequal treatment were still rampant in this nation for near a century after the Civil War concluded.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929. He did not start the Civil Rights movement, but ended being its most important voice. He shamed white America with their failure to live up to the promise of this nation, enshrined in our first Founding document, The Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.”

Dr. King brought a moral message that our nation could not ignore, and he pushed it relentlessly, at great danger to himself, and he did so with non-violence. His speech in 1963 in Washington D.C., now known as the “I Have A Dream” speech, is perhaps the most recognizable speech in our nation’s history, and rightly so. He finished the speech with a stirring call for an America where people are judged “not . . . by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Rev. King’s call for color blind equality was a moral clarion call in 1964. Since Rev. King’s death, the “civil rights movement” he championed has been wholly bastardized by the left to achieve political power at whatever expense to our nation. They seek to completely define people by their external characteristics – to “judge people by the color of their skin.”  Their goal is to balkanize the nation and build a coalition from the competing special interest groups.

In that regards, little exemplifies what the left is attempting more than the 1619 Project, being pushed by the NYT and other progressive outlets.  Attorney Peter Kirsanow wrote at the NRO, quoting several eminent historians, that the 1619 Project presents a false and twisted narrative of slavery and race in America.     For that, and for the sin of commenting on race while being white, Kirsanow was taken to task in the race hustling publication, The Root.  The problem for writers at the Root, Peter Kirsanow is black.  Unfortunately, the 1619 Project is just the very tip of the progressive left’s victimology iceberg (see, for example, Hearther MacDonald’s story on Harvard’s Garcia Pena).

What the neo-Marxist left has done with civil rights movement does not in any way detract from Rev. King’s message. To the contrary, it only increases the need for us fulfill his vision. Our nation will not survive otherwise.  Or as another famous American — one whom Rev. King mentioned often — once famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Major Events on January 20

1265 – Simon du Montfort’s Parliament & Representative Democracy

The Anglo-Saxon system of law and government has proven far from perfect. Still, it is the system on which our Constitution is written and, throughout all of world history, has proven the fairest and most beneficial possible for the citizens who are fortunate enough to live under it.

None of this came without conflict and much bloodshed. The natural inclination of every type of government is to maximize what is best for the people then in power – and that is rarely what is best for the citizenry. That was as true in 13th century England as it was in the 20th century Soviet Union or Maoist China.

What sets the Anglo-Saxon system apart from all of the others are five simple concepts:

(1) Everyone is subject to the law, even the King (or President), whose power the law defines and limits.

(2) Everyone is entitled to procedural due process of law to insure fair treatment at the hands of the government. No one is below the law’s protections. There can be no Levitnay Beria’s – “show me the man, I’ll find you the crime.”

(3) The three functions of government – legislative to make laws, executive to enforce the laws, and judicial to decide issues of the law — are given to three separate branches of government. Or to put it another way, no man may be judge, jury and executioner.

(4) There must be checks and balances – people to watch the watchers, if you will, to insure that the other two branches of government are not acting unlawfully or beyond their authority.

(5) The people must retain a right choose their representatives who will legislate on their behalf and the people must have the right to a peaceful revolution – i.e., to decide, at reasonable intervals, whether to vote out or retain their representatives.

Those five concepts are the difference between a tyrannical, if not murderous, government and one that promotes freedom. The seeds of all of those concepts were planted in the Anglo-Saxon political and legal system during the 13th century and watered with blood of people who gave their lives so that all who have followed since may enjoy these freedoms.

The first four concepts were planted when some of the Barons of England – the King’s twenty-four or so primary warlords who had been granted large land holdings in return for military service – angered at King John’s tyranny, gave him a choice between war or agreeing to the Magna Carta, the seminal Constitutional document in American / Anglo-Saxon history. King John, in 1215, chose to sign the Magna Carta, though he had no intention of abiding by it. But then, lo and behold, he almost immediately died of dysentery. Who says there is no God?

The Magna Carta became part and parcel of British law forever after, beginning with King John’s successor, King Henry III. It bound the King to obey the laws and it limited his powers. The King had to ask his Council of Nobles to legislate for taxes, he couldn’t impose them by fiat. The Magna Carta made reference to courts and juries to try crimes. And everyone in the land was to be afforded due process. (All of that in addition to a ton of specifics dealing with life in a feudal society, none of which is important today.)

All well and good, but there was still no representative government, though the King was referring to his Baronial council meetings as “Parliaments.”

The term “parliament” had first appeared in the 1230s and 1240s to describe large gatherings of the royal court, and parliamentary gatherings were held periodically throughout Henry’s reign. They were used to agree upon the raising of taxes which, in the 13th century, were single, one-off levies, typically on movable property, intended to support the King’s normal revenues for particular projects.

At about mid-century, Henry III had begun to rule as a tyrant. Several rebel Barons rose up to challenge the King under the leadership of Simon de Montfort in what would become the Second Barons War. By 1264, de Montfort held the upper hand in the war, but the country was in chaos and his hold was quite tenuous. He called his first parliament, directing each county to send four knights, who at the meeting were allowed go beyond the simple matter of taxes and “to comment on general matters of state – the first time this had occurred.”

That first parliament failed to stabilize the country, so

hoping to win wider support for his government, Montfort summoned a new parliament for 20 January 1265 which continued until mid March that year. . . . He summoned not only the barons, senior churchmen and two knights from each county, but also two burgesses from each of the major towns such as York, Lincoln, Sandwich, and the Cinque Ports, the first time this had been done.

The burgesses were freemen of the realm. Summoning them was a watershed moment. It was the first major step to giving political power to common people.

Montfort would be dead in battle within a year and King Henry III restored. But “Montfort’s Parliament” as a model and the expansion of Parliament’s power beyond simply voting upon taxes would live on. The Barons and the Bishops would continue to sit in what would become the House of Lords. By the early 14th century, the burgesses and knights would be sitting in a body of their own, the House of Commons. Over time, the seed Montfort planted would evolve into what is, today, representative democracy with near universal suffrage.

Notable Events on January 20

250 – Pope St. Fabian was a consequential 3rd century Pope who made administrative reforms to the Church and dispatched evangelists to the Gauls. He is most famous, though, for how he was selected Pope – “a dove is said to have descended on his head to mark him as the Holy Spirit’s unexpected choice to become the next pope.” St. Fabian was martyred during the Decian persecution.

1649 – King Charles I of England, like King John I and King Henry III, also tried to govern as a tyrant. Parliament was not as forgiving with Charles. On this date, he was put on trial for treason and other “high crimes.” He would soon lose his head. To emphasize a point that cannot be emphasized enough, the form of Anglo-Saxon government and the rights afforded citizens living therein are all proven to work by history, and all are bathed in the blood of men who refused to bow to tyranny.

1841 – Hong Kong Island is occupied by the British. Communist China eventually had a say, and Britain transferred the island to their control in 1997. And now the people of Hong Kong are having their say.

1887 – The United States Senate allows the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base. It became the permanent home of the Pacific Fleet in 1941.

1929 – The first full-length talking motion picture filmed outdoors, In Old Arizona, is released.

1942 – Holocaust: At the Wannsee Conference held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, senior Nazi German officials discuss the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish question.” SS General Reinhard Heydrich indicated that he expected to exterminate 11 million Jews in Europe.

1949 – Point Four Program a program for economic aid to poor countries announced by United States President Harry S. Truman in his inaugural address for a full term as President. Truman was a visionary and his goals laudable. That said, with seventy years of history to provide data, Prof. Angus Deaton won a Nobel Prize for Economics in 2015 for his work showing “that aid actually stifles development in poorer countries and can help prop up brutal dictatorships.” At what point does continuing such aid amount to pathological altruism?

1991 – Sudan’s government imposes Islamic law nationwide, worsening the civil war between the country’s Muslim north and Christian south. So why is it that we end up with Ilhan Omar rather than a Sudanese Christian refugee?

Born on January 20

1732 – Richard Henry Lee, a prominent member of the Lee family of Virginia and one of our nations Founding Fathers. Lee is best remembered for his efforts to have Congress draft the Declaration of Independence at a time when many in Congress were deluding themselves that such a bold action was not necessary. On June 7, 1776 Lee, a delegate to the Continental Congress, put forth the motion to the to declare Independence from Great Britain. Lee’s Resolution read, in part:

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

In the play 1776, Lee is made into a buffoonish character who is manipulated by Ben Franklin. It was far from the truth, but the song is entertaining.

1899 – Clarice Cliff, a British artist whose canvas was ceramic. She worked her way to becoming the head of artistic design at the factory of A.J. Wilkinson, heading up a large team of female painters.

Died on January 20

1779 – David Garrick, the most popular and influential actor, director and producer of 18th century Britain. After earning wealth and a sterling reputation as an actor, Garrick took over the management of the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane and, over the next 29 years, raised it “to prominence as one of the leading theaters in Europe. At his death, three years after his retirement from Drury Lane and the stage, he was given a lavish public funeral at Westminster Abbey where he was laid to rest in Poets’ Corner.”

1875 – Jean-François Millet, a French painter who often painted scenes of peasant farmers. His work would later serve as the primary inspiration for van Gogh.

1900 – John Ruskin, a very influential figure in Victorian England. He was an erudite man with many interests, and it seems that he wrote and lectured on all of them. He was the “leading British art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.”

As is common with academics, his political philosophy was that of a utopian socialist. “More of the British Labour Party’s earliest MPs acknowledged Ruskin’s influence than mentioned Karl Marx . . .” Ruskin was a significant influence on Clement Attlee as he built Britain’s massive welfare state in the ruins of WW II. All of that said, Ruskin dabbled in art himself.

1980 – William Roberts, an English Cubist painter. He served in WWI and several of his more famous painting deal with the war, such as the one below, the The First German Gas Attack at Ypres.

1993 – Audrey Hepburn, one of the Golden Era of Hollywood’s most famous actresses. She worked her way up in the business, starting as a chorus girl in musicals. Her starring role was in the 1953 film, Roman Holiday, for which she won an Oscar. She was in constant demand through the late 1960’s, when she went into semi-retirement and devoted herself to humanitarian efforts, mostly raising money and awareness for UNICEF. The clip below is from the musical My Fair Lady, with Hepburn playing a Cockney lass trying to be trained to speak as a member of the British upper class.

2003 – Al Hirschfeld, a popular artist specializing in caricatures of celebrities. His work graced many of the newspapers and magazine covers in 20th century America.