Archive for May 3rd, 2008


Blowin in the Wind



On This Day, 5-3-08: Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli born

On this day in 1469, the Italian philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli is born. A lifelong patriot and diehard proponent of a unified Italy, Machiavelli became one of the fathers of modern political theory.

Machiavelli entered the political service of his native Florence by the time he was 29. As defense secretary, he distinguished himself by executing policies that strengthened Florence politically. He soon found himself assigned diplomatic missions for his principality, through which he met such luminaries as Louis XII of France, Pope Julius II, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and perhaps most importantly for Machiavelli, a prince of the Papal States named Cesare Borgia. The shrewd and cunning Borgia later inspired the title character in Machiavelli’s famous and influential political treatise The Prince (1532).

Machiavelli’s political life took a downward turn after 1512, when he fell out of favor with the powerful Medici family. He was accused of conspiracy, imprisoned, tortured and temporarily exiled. It was an attempt to regain a political post and the Medici family’s good favor that Machiavelli penned The Prince, which was to become his most well-known work.

Though released in book form posthumously in 1532, The Prince was first published as a pamphlet in 1513. In it, Machiavelli outlined his vision of an ideal leader: an amoral, calculating tyrant for whom the end justifies the means. The Prince not only failed to win the Medici family’s favor, it also alienated him from the Florentine people. Machiavelli was never truly welcomed back into politics, and when the Florentine Republic was reestablished in 1527, Machiavelli was an object of great suspicion. He died later that year, embittered and shut out from the Florentine society to which he had devoted his life.

Though Machiavelli has long been associated with the practice of diabolical expediency in the realm of politics that was made famous in The Prince, his actual views were not so extreme. In fact, in such longer and more detailed writings as Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy (1517) and History of Florence (1525), he shows himself to be a more principled political moralist. Still, even today, the term “Machiavellian” is used to describe an action undertaken for gain without regard for right or wrong.

“Niccolo Machiavelli born.” 2008. The History Channel website. 3 May 2008, 03:07

1802 – Washington, DC, was incorporated as a city.

1855 – Macon B. Allen became the first African American to be admitted to the Bar in Massachusetts.

1916 – Irish nationalist Padraic Pearse and two others were executed by the British for their roles in the Easter Rising.

1926 – U.S. Marines landed in Nicaragua and stayed until 1933.

1933 – The U.S. Mint was under the direction of a woman for the first time when Nellie Ross took the position.

1948 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to blacks and other minorities were legally unenforceable.

1952 – The first airplane landed at the geographic North Pole.

1971 – Anti-war protesters began four days of demonstrations in Washington, DC.

1992 – Five days of rioting and looting ended in Los Angeles, CA. The riots, that killed 53 people, began after the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King.

2006 – In Alexandria, VA, Al-Quaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui was given a sentence of life in prison for his role in the terrorist attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001.


Strike turns bloody in Chicago

May of 1886 was an explosive, and ultimately tragic, month for the nation’s labor movement. The action, which was concentrated in industry-heavy Chicago, kicked off on the very first day of the month, as forty thousand workers, under the charge of anarchists and a band of German socialists, took to the streets to call for an eight-hour workday. Unlike the events that were about to unfold, the march came and went without violence. However, on May 3, things turned bloody at the McCormick Reaper Works: with simmering tensions between the plant’s strikers and scabs threatening to come to a boil, police were called in to quell the situation. The day quickly turned violent, as the officers began attacking the workers; two unarmed strikers were killed, while others were beaten and wounded. August Spies, an anarchist and staunch supporter of workers’ rights, witnessed the incident and immediately called for action against the “latest atrocious act of the police.” At Spies’s behest, workers gathered the next day in Chicago’s Haymarket Square for what proved to be a fateful protest: a bomb was thrown during one speech, prompting the police to open fire on the crowd. The Haymarket Riot left eight officers dead and many more wounded, including scores of workers. Though police and prosecutors were unable to find evidence that the radicals were connected to the bomb, a band of seven anarchists were charged with, and in a four cases hung for, murder.

“Strike turns bloody in Chicago.” 2008. The History Channel website. 3 May 2008, 03:17

Allisons face mixed day at Talladega

The late Davey Allison recorded his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory at the Winston 500 in Talladega, Alabama, driving his #28 Ford Thunderbird. Davey, the son of racing legend Bobby Allison, was born into racing as a member of the Alabama Gang. His father Bobby was Alabama’s most successful stock-car racer ever. Both men have come to be remembered for their triumphs and their tragedies at the Alabama Superspeedway in Talladega. On this day in 1987, while Davey won his first race, his father Bobby suffered a terrible crash in which his rear tire was pierced by a chunk of metal, causing his car to flip into the grandstand at over 200mph.

“Allisons face mixed day at Talladega.” 2008. The History Channel website. 3 May 2008, 03:28

May 2008

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