Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Today -100: February 2, 1911: Of commutations, bigamists, and booms


Taft commutes the sentence of Fred Warren, the editor of the newspaper Appeal to Reason, jailed for announcing a “reward” for the return to Kentucky of its fugitive former governor (Warren was making a point about a Supreme Court decision that it was perfectly okay to kidnap labor leaders and carry them across state lines to put them on trial). Taft also reduced Warren’s fine from $1,500 to $100. Taft insists that instead of “feeding his vanity by treating him seriously,” Warren should be “treated with ridicule”.

Edward Mylius, distributor of a British republican (anti-monarchist) newspaper printed in Paris, is imprisoned for 12 months for a report in the paper that George V was a bigamist. Which he wasn’t. It was shown in court that in 1890, when the story said George was secretly married in Malta, he wasn’t actually in Malta. The king did not appear in court, claiming it would be unconstitutional to do so, but had a letter read out. Mylius objected that he was being denied his right to question his accuser and that there was not even proof that King George was at present alive.

All of New York is shaken by an explosion of 25 tons of dynamite in Jersey City, some on a tug boat, some on a freight car (a chain reaction). At least 24 dead, hundreds injured, including some at Ellis Island, where the windows were blown out, millions in property damage. Buildings were rocked in Manhattan. I’m always surprised by the level of gruesome detail the NYT was willing to publish: “The head and arm of a stevedore near the end of the demolished pier hung in the torn rigging of the nearest ship.”

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