Sunday, July 02, 2006

Happy 2nd of July!!

As most people do not know, the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the 13 British colonies of North America on July 2, 1776, not July4. Thomas Jefferson's manifesto to King George wasn't signed until August.

As an ode to the 2nd of July, the NYT published a cute catalog of other dates, historic yet unsong. My favorite was April 19, 1802, and not only because April 19 is my brother's birthday:

Napoleon had sent a formidable army under his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, to quell the rebellion of former slaves in Haiti.

On April 19, Leclerc reported to Napoleon that the rainy season had arrived, and his troops were falling ill. By the end of the year, almost the whole French force, including Leclerc himself, were dead of mosquito-borne yellow fever.

When Napoleon realized his reconquest had failed, he abandoned hopes of a New World empire, and decided to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

"Across a huge section of the American heartland, from New Orleans up through Montana, they ought to build statues to Toussaint L'Ouverture and the other heroes of the Haitian Revolution," says Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

While giving the U.S. a huge gift, the Haitian revolutionaries actually screwed Haiti. By killing all the white people on the island, the Haitians scared away European capital and technology, setting the stage for the political, economic, and environmental degradation that exists there today. It's documented really well in Jared Diamond's "Collapse".