June 18, 1815
Napoleon defeated at Waterloo
At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon Bonaparte suffers defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington, bringing an end to the Napoleonic era of European history.
On June 16, 1815, he defeated the Prussians under Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher at Ligny, and sent 33,000 men, or about one-third of his total force, in pursuit of the retreating Prussians. On June 18, Napoleon led his remaining 72,000 troops against the Duke of Wellington’s 68,000-man allied army, which had taken up a strong position 12 miles south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. In a fatal blunder, Napoleon waited until mid-day to give the command to attack in order to let the ground dry. The delay in fighting gave Blucher’s troops, who had eluded their pursuers, time to march to Waterloo and join the battle by the late afternoon.
In repeated attacks, Napoleon failed to break the center of the allied [line]. Meanwhile, the Prussians gradually arrived and put pressure on Napoleon’s eastern flank. At 6 p.m., the French under Marshal Michel Ney managed to capture a farmhouse in the allied center and began decimating Wellington’s troops with artillery. Napoleon, however, was preoccupied with the 30,000 Prussians attacking his flank and did not release troops to aid Ney’s attack until after 7 p.m. By that time, Wellington had reorganized his defenses, and the French attack was repulsed. Fifteen minutes later, the allied army launched a general advance, and the Prussians attacked in the east, throwing the French troops into panic and then a disorganized retreat. The Prussians pursued the remnants of the French army, and Napoleon left the field. French casualties in the Battle of Waterloo were 25,000 men killed and wounded and 9,000 captured, while the allies lost about 23,000.
Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22 abdicated in favor of his son. He decided to leave France before counterrevolutionary forces could rally against him, and on July 15 he surrendered to British protection at the port of Rochefort. He hoped to travel to the United States, but the British instead sent him to Saint Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Napoleon protested but had no choice but to accept the exile. With a group of followers, he lived quietly on St. Helena for six years. In May 1821, he died, most likely of stomach cancer. He was only 51 years old. In 1840, his body was returned to Paris, and a magnificent funeral was held. Napoleon’s body was conveyed through the Arc de Triomphe and entombed under the dome of the Invalides.
“Napoleon defeated at Waterloo,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=6932 (accessed Jun 18, 2009).
1155 – Frederick I Barbarossa was crowned emperor of Rome.
1778 – Britain evacuated Philadelphia during the U.S. Revolutionary War.
1812 – The War of 1812 began as the U.S. declared war against Great Britain. The conflict began over trade restrictions.
1817 – London’s Waterloo Bridge opened. The bridge, designed by John Rennie, was built over the River Thames.
1873 – Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for attempting to vote for a U.S. President.
1928 – Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as she completed a flight from Newfoundland to Wales.
1942 – The U.S. Navy commissioned its first black officer, Harvard University medical student Bernard Whitfield Robinson.
1959 – A Federal Court annulled the Arkansas law allowing school closings to prevent integration.
1979 – In Vienna, U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) 2.
1983 – Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
June 18, 1798
Adams passes first of Alien and Sedition Acts
President John Adams passes the Naturalization Act, the first of four pieces of controversial legislation known together as the Alien and Sedition Acts, on this day in 1798. Strong political opposition to these acts succeeded in undermining the Adams administration, helping Thomas Jefferson to win the presidency in 1800.
At the time, America was threatened by war with France, and Congress was attempting to pass laws that would give more authority to the federal government, and the president in particular, to deal with suspicious persons, especially foreign nationals. The Naturalization Act raised the requirements for aliens to apply for U.S. citizenship, requiring that immigrants reside in the U.S. for 14 years before becoming eligible. The earlier law had required only five years of residence before an application could be made.
Adams, in fact, never enforced the Naturalization Act. Nevertheless, he came under heavy fire from the Republicans, led by Vice President Thomas Jefferson, who felt that the Naturalization Act and its companion legislation was unconstitutional and smacked of despotism. So disgusted was Jefferson with Adams’ enthusiastic support of the law that he could no longer support the president and left Washington during the Congressional vote. Former President George Washington, on the other hand, supported the legislation. Adams signed the second piece of the legislation, the Alien Act, on June 25. This act gave the president the authority to deport aliens during peacetime. The Alien Enemies Act, which Adams signed on July 6, gave him the power to deport any alien living in the U.S. with ties to U.S. wartime enemies. Finally, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14, gave Adams tremendous power to define “treasonable activity” including “any false, scandalous and malicious writing.” The intended targets of the Sedition Act were newspaper, pamphlet and broadside publishers who printed what he considered to be libelous articles aimed primarily at his administration. Abigail Adams urged her husband to pass the Sedition Act, calling his opponents “criminal” and “vile.”
Of the four acts, the Sedition Act was the most distressing to staunch First Amendment advocates. They objected to the fact that “treasonable activity” was vaguely defined, was defined at the discretion of the president and would be punished by heavy fines and imprisonment. The arrest and imprisonment of 25 men for supposedly violating the Sedition Act ignited an enormous outcry against the legislation. Among those arrested was Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, who was the editor of the Republican-leaning Philadelphia Democrat-Republican Aurora. Citing Adams’ abuse of presidential powers and threats to free speech, Jefferson’s party took control of Congress and the presidency in 1800.
“Adams passes first of Alien and Sedition Acts,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=661 (accessed Jun 18, 2009).