History, Holidays & Observances on January 21

Major Events: French Revolution & Execution of Louis XVI
Notable Events: USS Nautilus, Miss Sam, Khe Sanh, Thule Air Base Nuclear Incident, New Gingrich Ethics Ciolations, Pussy Hat March
Born: Antonio Molinari, Adriaen van der Werff, Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, Peter De Wint, Moritz von Schwind, Stonewall Jackson, Felix Hoffmann, Jack Nicklaus
Died: Anthony Ashley Cooper, Vladimir Lenin


Major Events on 21 January

1793 – After being found guilty of treason by the French National Convention, Louis XVI of France is executed by guillotine.

The blade fell. It was 10:22 am. One of the assistants of Sanson showed the head of Louis XVI to the people, whereupon a huge cry of “Vive la Nation! Vive la République!” arose and an artillery salute rang out which reached the ears of the imprisoned Royal family.

The French Revolution devolved into violence and terror with the September Massacres in 1792, marking the start of the Reign of Terror, when those holding power in the government turned the began the murder of their perceived enemies. Paul Marat famously began the massacres with a speech to the Parisian mobs, “good citizens . . . go to the Abbaye . . . seize priests, and especially the officers of the Swiss guards and their accomplices and run a sword through them.”

Louis XVI, executed this day on the guillotine before cheering crowds in Paris, wasn’t guilty of treason. He was guilty of being the King in a line of monarchs stretching back over a millennium. For those giving birth to socialism – for that is what the Revolution birthed – there could be no room for competing ideas, old or new. That was true for the monarchy, and it was true for religion as well. As Denis Diderot had said, “man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Since 1792, the world has been in a competition to see which will win out, the American Revolution or the French Revolution. The stakes could not be higher. The American Revolution represents the high water mark of the Enlightenment, with God-given individual rights existing beyond the reach of government. The French Revolution represented the end of the Enlightenment, the birth of socialism, and the substitution of government in place of the Judaeo-Christian religion, with all of the evils that portended in the 20th century.

Notable Events on 21 January

1535 – Protestants raised polemic attacks on Catholicism in France in an event known as the Affair of the Placards, There was a backlash from the King and other Catholics in France that culminated this day, when several French Protestants believed involved in the Affair were burned at the stake in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.

1950 – Alger Hiss was accused by Whitaker Chambers of spying for the Soviet Union when Hiss had been working for the U.S. government. Hiss denied it in testimony before Congress, then then Chambers produced additional evidence. Hiss could not be tried for espionage because the statute of limitations had passed, but the government brought him to trial on charges of perjury. A first trial resulted in a hung jury. A second trial concluded on this date when a jury found Hiss guilty of perjury.

1954 – The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched in Groton, Connecticut by Mamie Eisenhower, the First Lady of the United States. Because of its vastly improved speed, endurance and the length it could operate submerged, the Nautilus revolutionized submarine and anti-submarine warfare and changed the calculus of nuclear deterrence.

1960 – Little Joe 1B, a Mercury spacecraft, lifts off from Wallops Island, Virginia with Miss Sam, a female rhesus monkey on board. Hopefully, she was given many bananas upon her successful return to earth.

1968 – Vietnam War: Three North Vietnamese divisions lay siege to an isolated Marine Base, beginning the five month long Battle of Khe Sanh. While the Marines were able to successfully defend the base, in the end, they withdrew from the base, deeming it poorly located.

1968 – A B-52 bomber crashes near Thule Air Base in Greenland, contaminating the area after the conventional explosives to detonate, rupturing the nuclear payload. One of the four bombs remains unaccounted for after the cleanup operation is complete.

1997 – The U.S. House of Representatives votes 395–28 to reprimand Newt Gingrich for ethics violations, making him the first Speaker of the House to be so disciplined. It was a ludicrous ethics violation that Pelosi and the Democrats insisted on prosecuting to tarnish Gingrich. It in many ways parallels the Pelosi effort to tarnish Trump prior to the 2020 election.

2017 – The Pussy Hat March: To quote Ms. BWR, “vulgar gals out there protesting just about everything, united only by their crudity, their hated, their stupidity, and their infantile sexual obsessions” gathered to march on this day, Donald Trump’s first full day as President of the United States.

Born on 21 January

1655 – Antonio Molinari, Italian painter of the Baroque era who typically painted “tumultuous” scenes on large canvases.

1659 – Adriaen van der Werff, a popular Dutch painter of the era who, besides the typical portraits, devotional and mythological scenes, also did erotic works.

1724 – Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, French rococo painter with a storied career. At various times, he served as” Court painter to Elizabeth, Empress of Russia; Director of the Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg; Director of the French Academy in Rome; and Honorary director-curator of the Louvre museum.

1784 – Peter De Wint, English artist who specialized in landscapes, preferring watercoulors.

1804 – Moritz von Schwind, a popular Austrian painter who preferred scenes of chivalry and folklore.

1824 – Stonewall Jackson, who earned his nickname “stonewall” for his actions in command of a Confederate Brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run. Raised to the rank of General, he was a gifted tactician. He died on the battlefield in 1863 when he was shot by mistake by one of his own pickets.

1868 – Felix Hoffmann, the original Dr. Feelgood. Hoffman was a German chemist who synthesized heroin and aspirin.

1940 – Jack Nicklaus, the “Golden Bear,” one of the three greatest golfers of history, along with Bobby Jones and Tiger Woods.

Died on 21 January

1683 – Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, English politician, Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was rewarded by Charles II, along with several others, with title to build a new colony in South Carolina. The rivers abutting Charleston and feeding its Harbor, the Ashley and Cooper Rivers are both named for him. Cooper was also the patron of the most important political philosopher of the era, John Locke, whose Two Treatises on Government so informed the creation of the United States.

1924 – Vladimir Lenin, the man who led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and whose version of Marxism led to the death of multiple millions of people in the 20th century.