CONTEXT

December 2, 2010

Politics

A very busy day – James Madison was reelected president, for one thing, but I mention that only so we can all be reminded that his vp was Elbridge Gerry.  Not too many politicians wind up in the dictionary by name, so Gerry is special.

The Gerry-Mander

It happened in early 1812 when Gerry (pronounced ‘gary’ btw) was governor of Massachusetts.  The legislature redrew the map of districts in order to keep all the Federalists in one district, leaving the rest of the state for Gerry and his Democratic-Republican party.  In March, the Boston Gazette ran a political cartoon featuring a Gerry/salamander of districts, thus a Gerrymander.  Then it became a verb and the pronunciation also changed.

Gerrymandering, of course, is still very much with us.

Moving along, this was the date in 1823 that President James Monroe announced his doctrine.  His declaration – that no one could colonize the Americas without provoking US intervention – was an effort by a young country to keep the old world at bay.  Visions of a US surrounded by Spanish or French colonies – big ones, like Mexico or Brazil – made the new democracy very nervous.

Without much of a navy or army, though, the US could never have intervened very effectively at all and so began the special relationship with Britain.  Britain more or less enforced the doctrine with its navy and that worked for the Brits, because they viewed all of the Americas as a potential market.  Interesting how quickly Britain became an ally after the War of 1812.

Fidel Castro in the US in 1959. Photo from U.S. News & World Report collection at LoC.

Skipping ahead a couple of centuries, this is the date in 1954 that the Senate censured Sen. Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin for  “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”  Took them a while to get to it.

In 1970, the EPA began its work, and in 1976, Fidel Castro became president of Cuba.  Would love to hear Monroe’s opinion about that.

Finally, Enron filed for Chapter 11 on Dec. 2 in 2001.  Looking back, it’s surprising that the government didn’t offer to lend them billions of dollars.

* * *

Many happy returns to the great Julie Harris who celebrates her 85th today – if you haven’t seen The Haunting, just do it.

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2 Comments »

  1. I’LL BE DARNED “GERRY-MANDERING! HUH!

    Comment by GALYA TARMU — December 2, 2010 @ 7:01 pm | Reply

  2. Fascinating thank you.

    Comment by avery — December 4, 2010 @ 9:58 am | Reply


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