Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today -100: May 31, 1911: I want to make all the stronger nations ask us not to hurt them

Woodrow Wilson, in North Carolina, when asked about a possible presidential run, says “It is too far off to talk about.”

A Mexican is lynched in Barstow, Texas for shouting “Viva Díaz!” during a celebration of the success of the Revolution.

Ray Harroun wins the first Indianapolis 500, driving a Marmon Wasp (the very one pictured below), winning around $15,000. He drove the 500 miles at an average speed of 74 mph. Harroun’s great innovation, used here for the first time in an automobile, was the rear-view mirror; his was the only car not to have a mechanic passenger to keep a watch on the road behind. There was one fatality, the driver of a car whose front wheels fell off and was thrown 20 feet – no one had invented the seat belt.

It was Memorial Day, which in those days was of course strictly about the Civil War (which I notice the NYT doesn’t initial cap). Compare and contrast: President Taft gave a speech at Arlington arguing that the US should “strain ever nerve... to avoid war in the future.” And just as Americans as individuals have (mostly) “progressed” away from fighting duels over insults to their honor, so nations should “refuse to go to war for an insult” and instead “submit to the arbitrament of a peaceful tribunal”. Teddy Roosevelt, on the other hand, addressing Civil War veterans at Grant’s Tomb: “I took part in a little war which came after your big war. It was all the war there was, and it was not our fault that there wasn’t war enough to go around.” He doesn’t support arbitration, especially over the Monroe Doctrine or Asiatic immigration, and he does support a big navy: “I don’t want to put myself in the position of having to ask strong nations not to hurt us. I want to make all the stronger nations ask us not to hurt them”.

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