Saturday, October 22, 2016

Today -100: October 22, 1916: Everyone is justified to use force when the laws are destroyed

Count Karl von Stürgkh, the authoritarian minister-president (prime minister) of Austria (but not of Hungary) since 1911, is assassinated in a Viennese restaurant by Friedrich Adler, 37, son of Victor Adler, the founder of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. Friedrich, a publisher, was upset that his anti-war writings were censored. At his trial, he will say that his act of killing was exactly the same as the war which Stürgkh waged without the permission or consent of the Austrian people; “Everyone is justified to use force when the laws are destroyed,” Adler says. After a delayed trial he will be sentenced to death but the emperor will commute his sentence and then release him altogether, which is a little odd if you consider that this whole stupid war started because of an Austrian assassination.

Adler was also a physicist and a friend of Albert Einstein. Freddy will stay active in Socialist politics, fleeing Austria in 1938. He’ll then live in exile the rest of his life, first in New York and then Switzerland, dying in 1960 at 80. His father’s political career doesn’t seem to have been affected: he became foreign minister in the last days of the war, and died of a heart attack on the last day.

Stürgkh will be replaced by a series of short-lived minister-presidents, five over the next two years.

If it’s Sunday, it must be the Sunday New York Times Magazine’s special English Authors Prettying Up the War issue. There’s H.G. Wells’s “Italy’s Picturesque Mountain War” and Rudyard Kipling writing about British destroyers in the North Sea looking for German u-boats, which is just like fox-hunting, he says. Just like it.

Congressional elections in Mexico tomorrow. Only Constitutionalists are eligible for office. And no secret ballot.

German soldiers have been given a letter they’re supposed to mail to their relatives, asking them not to send any depressing news from home because it would just be a “drag” on the army – “many a letter speaks of discouragement, a feeling to which we would remain foreign; we at the front ignore the meaning of the word discouragement.” The German Army is especially annoyed that letters from home describing the hardships of daily life have been found on POWs and published by the Allies.

The letter makes interesting reading, although the translation comes from the London Times, which has been known to be less than trustworthy in this regard – in 1917 it will accuse Germany of rendering soldiers’ corpses to produce glycerine based on a deliberate mistranslation. Anyway, the letter refers in passing to “the hypocrisy of the United States, who is merely playing the ignoble role of moneylender.”

Theodore Roosevelt gets in a debate/shouting match with hecklers in Gallup, New Mexico about the 8-hour day, Mexico, etc. And then there was this exchange, which I’m a little confused by:
“Didn’t yet let the Japs sit beside our children in the schools of California?” 
“Ha! I sent the battle fleet [the “Great White Fleet”’s round-the-world tour of 1907-9] around the world to protect just such men as you against the Japs.”

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  1. The assassination actually took place the day prior, October 21, but was reported on today's date in the papers.

    In big news, this was the first day you could go to see Prudence the Pirate.

  2. My "Today -100" is almost always the newspaper (NY Times) date. It's already too much fiddly work having to track down the first names of people the paper routinely leaves out without having to figure out how many days each event took to make the paper, especially with delays from wartime censorship and the like (the news of the assassination of Rasputin took several days to reach the Times).

    By the way, you have Adler as Alder.

    Prudence the Pirate sounds like a lot of (lost) fun.

  3. I fully understand on the newspapers and figured that was it. I had a similar problem when I was writing my book. And thanks for the correction (I'm a terrible proofreader).

    We can always hope for an overblown Prudence remake.