On Feb. 15, 1898, the USS Maine, a battleship, exploded in the Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 American sailors. An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March 1898 that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly blaming Spain. Nonetheless, Congress declared war and, within three
On Feb. 14, 278 A.D., Valentine, a priest in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, was executed. In order to facilitate the raising of an army for his unpopular military campaigns, the emperor outlawed all marriages and engagements. Valentine defied Claudius’s order and continued to perform marriages for
On Feb. 13, 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrived in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus’s theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. In April, Galileo pled guilty before the Roman Inquisition in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under
On Feb. 12, 1986, Soviet human rights activist Anatoly Scharansky was released after spending eight years in Soviet prisons and labor camps. The amnesty deal was arranged at a summit meeting between Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. Scharansky had been imprisoned for his campaign to win the
On Feb. 11, 1990, after 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela was released by South African authorities. Mandela had joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944, becoming deputy national president of the group in 1952. In 1961, Mandela was arrested for treason, and, although acquitted, was arrested again in
On Feb. 10, 1967, the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, setting the process for presidential succession, was ratified by Nevada, the necessary 38th state to do so.
On Feb. 9, 1737, Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England. Paine would come to America in 1774 and by 1776 publish “Common Sense,” urging American independence. The pamphlet sold more copies than any book save the Bible. Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved
On February 8, 1865, Delaware voters rejected the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, voting to continue the practice of slavery. Delaware belatedly and symbolically ratified the amendment on February 12, 1901.
On February 7, 1990, the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party agreed to give up its monopoly on power, thus ushering the way for the dissolution of the putatively communist empire.
On February 6, 1756, Aaron Burr was born. Burr was an American politician who served as third Vice President of the United States, a man with a deeply ambiguous record. His popularity in his home state of New York, combined with the Slave Power vote, allowed for Thomas Jefferson’s victory
On February 5, 1788, Robert Peel was born. He would become one of the most important of the United Kingdom’s prime ministers, ushering in some reforms that led to the liberalization of England in the 19th century.
On February 4, 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States, under the new constitution, by the U.S. Electoral College. On the same date five years later, the French legislature abolished slavery throughout all territories of the French Republic.