Day By Day

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Spouses Day", not to be confused with "Military Spouses Day" [which is always the Friday before Mother's Day]. It is a day to be extra nice to your spouse, to love and appreciate and enjoy the most significant person in your life. Think of it as a preliminary Valentine's Day. Not that you have to buy gifts or anything like that [we all are on tight budgets these days], but just take some time today to let him/her/it/them [whatever] know that you appreciate him/her/it/them [whatever].

On this day in 1788 the first group of European settlers in Australia landed at what is today Sydney. They were led by Captain Arthur Phillip. Two years earlier Phillip had been charged with establishing a permanent colony in Australia. He recruited a fleet of eleven ships, took aboard 772 settlers, nearly all of them criminals, and set out for the island continent. The fleet's first landfall was at Botany Bay but Phillip quickly realized that it was an unsuitable site for settlement, so the fleet progressed on to Sydney Harbor arriving there on January 26th. Within a few years a stable, if not yet thriving settlement was in place and the British claim on Australia was secured. It was a great day for the Empire.

Not so great [from an imperial point of view] was this day in 1950. On January 26, 1950 India officially proclaimed itself a republic and Rajendra Prasad was sworn in as it's first President. India had officially gained its independence back in 1947, but there were lots of things to be sorted out, the most important being conflict between the region's Muslim and Hindu populations. The Independence Act had provided for the partition of British India into two nations -- Pakistan and India. The 625 princely states, which continued to exist after independence, would choose to which nation they would adhere. This turned into a huge mess as approximately 25 million people left their homes and moved across borders to a new homeland. The process was accompanied by incredible episodes of violence in which it is estimated that half a million people died and several millions were rendered homeless. In Kashmir province open warfare broke out. The tensions associated with partition make the Indian/Pakistan border still one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints.

It was in this chaotic environment that India forged its constitution -- the one that took effect on this day sixty years ago. It established a quasi-federal system of government with a British-style parliament. The constitution officially describes the new state as "Socialist" and "Democratic", reflecting the priorities of the founding generation. Since 1950, though, India has become more federal as the central government assumed more and more power, but in recent decades India has also become far less socialist and is now one of the great hotbeds of capitalist development in the world. Sixty years on, the Republic of India is still a work in progress.

And on this day in 1998 President Bill Clinton made this statement:

And a very Happy Birthday to actor Scott Glenn who was born on this day in Pittsburgh in 1942.

And on this day in 2009 Timothy Geithner was sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury. From the perspective of one year later we can all say "heck of a job, Timmy".

Leaving the building:

On this day in 2000 Don Budge, the first grand-slam tennis winner [back in 1938] died in Scranton at the age of 84.