Jun 07 2011

On This Day In History June 7

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

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June 7 is the 158th day of the year (159th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 207 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1692, a massive earthquake devastates the infamous town of Port Royal in Jamaica, killing thousands. The strong tremors, soil liquefaction and a tsunami brought on by the earthquake combined to destroy the entire town.

Port Royal was built on a small island off the coast of Jamaica in the harbor across from present-day Kingston. Many of the buildings where the 6,500 residents lived and worked were constructed right over the water. In the 17th century, Port Royal was known throughout the New World as a headquarters for piracy, smuggling and debauchery. It was described as “most wicked and sinful city in the world” and “one of the lewdest in the Christian world.”

Earthquakes in the area were not uncommon, but were usually rather small. In 1688, a tremor had toppled three homes. But four years later, late in the morning on June 7, three powerful quakes struck Jamaica. A large tsunami hit soon after, putting half of Port Royal under 40 feet of water. The HMS Swan was carried from the harbor and deposited on top of a building on the island. It turned out to be a refuge for survivors.

Piracy in Port Royal

Port Royal provided a safe harbour initially for privateers and subsequently for pirates plying the shipping lanes to and from Spain and Panama. Buccaneers found Port Royal appealing for several reasons. Its proximity to trade routes allowed them easy access to prey, but the most important advantage was the port’s proximity to several of the only safe passages or straits giving access to the Spanish Main from the Atlantic. The harbour was large enough to accommodate their ships and provided a place to careen and repair these vessels. It was also ideally situated for launching raids on Spanish settlements. From Port Royal, Henry Morgan attacked Panama, Portobello, and Maracaibo. Roche Brasiliano, John Davis (buccaneer), and Edward Mansveldt (Mansfield) also came to Port Royal.

Since the English lacked sufficient troops to prevent either the Spanish or French from seizing it, the Jamaican governors eventually turned to the pirates to defend the city.

By the 1660s, the city had gained a reputation as the Sodom of the New World where most residents were pirates, cutthroats, or prostitutes. When Charles Leslie wrote his history of Jamaica, he included a description of the pirates of Port Royal:

   Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige everyone that passed to drink.

The taverns of Port Royal were known for their excessive consumption of alcohol such that records even exist of the wild animals of the area partaking in the debauchery. During a passing visit, famous Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck is said to have described the scenes:

   The parrots of Port Royal gather to drink from the large stocks of ale with just as much alacrity as the drunks that frequent the taverns that serve it.

There is even speculation in pirate folklore that the infamous Blackbeard met a howler monkey while at leisure in a Port Royal alehouse whom he named Jefferson and formed a strong bond with during the expedition to the island of New Providence. Port Royal benefited from this lively, glamorous infamy and grew to be one of the two largest towns and the most economically important port in the English colonies. At the height of its popularity, the city had one drinking house for every ten residents. In July 1661 alone, forty new licenses were granted to taverns. During a twenty-year period that ended in 1692, nearly 6,500 people lived in Port Royal. In addition to prostitutes and buccaneers, there were four goldsmiths, forty-four tavern keepers, and a variety of artisans and merchants who lived in 2000 buildings crammed into 51 acres of real estate. 213 ships visited the seaport in 1688. The city’s wealth was so great that coins were preferred for payment rather than the more common system of bartering goods for services.

Following Henry Morgan’s appointment as lieutenant governor, Port Royal began to change. Pirates were no longer needed to defend the city. The selling of slaves took on greater importance. Upstanding citizens disliked the reputation the city had acquired. In 1687, Jamaica passed anti-piracy laws. Instead of being a safe haven for pirates, Port Royal became noted as their place of execution. Gallows Point welcomed many to their death, including Charles Vane and Calico Jack, who were hanged in 1720. Two years later, forty-one pirates met their death in one month.

Although a work of historical fiction, James Michener’s The Caribbean details the history, atmosphere and geography of Port Royal accurately.

 1099 – The First Crusade: The Siege of Jerusalem begins.

 1420 – Troops of the Republic of Venice capture Udine, ending the independence of the Patriarchal State of Friuli.

1494 – Spain and Portugal sign the Treaty of Tordesillas which divides the New World between the two countries.

1628 – The Petition of Right, a major English constitutional document, is granted the Royal Assent by Charles I and becomes law.

1654 – Louis XIV is crowned King of France.

1692 – Port Royal, Jamaica, is hit by a catastrophic earthquake; in just three minutes, 1,600 people are killed and 3,000 are seriously injured.

1776 – Richard Henry Lee presents the “Lee Resolution” to the Continental Congress. The motion is seconded by John Adams and leads to the United States Declaration of Independence.

1800 – David Thompson reaches the mouth of the Saskatchewan River in Manitoba.

1810 – The newspaper Gazeta de Buenos Ayres is first published in Argentina.

1832 – Asian cholera reaches Quebec, brought by Irish immigrants, and kills about 6,000 people in Lower Canada.

1862 – The United States and Britain agree to suppress the slave trade.

1863 – During the French intervention in Mexico, Mexico City is captured by French troops.

1866 – 1,800 Fenian raiders are repelled back to the United States after they loot and plunder around Saint-Armand and Frelighsburg, Quebec.

1880 – War of the Pacific: The Battle of Arica, assault and capture of Morro de Arica (Arica Cape), that ended the Campana del Desierto (Desert Campaign).

1892 – Benjamin Harrison becomes the first President of the United States to attend a baseball game.

1892 – Homer Plessy is arrested for refusing to leave his seat in the “whites-only” car of a train; he would lose the resulting court case, Plessy v. Ferguson.

1893 – Gandhi’s first act of civil disobedience.

1899 – American Temperance crusader Carrie Nation begins her campaign of vandalizing alcohol-serving establishments by destroying the inventory in a saloon in Kiowa, Kansas.

1905 – Norway’s parliament dissolves its union with Sweden, a vote that is confirmed by a national plebiscite on August 13 of that year.

1906 – Cunard Line’s RMS Lusitania is launched at the John Brown Shipyard, Glasgow (Clydebank), Scotland.

1909 – Mary Pickford makes her screen debut at the age of 16.

1917 – World War I: Battle of Messines – Allied ammonal mines underneath German trenches at Messines Ridge are detonated, killing 10,000 German troops.

1929 – The Lateran Treaty is ratified, bringing Vatican City into existence.

1936 – The Steel Workers Organizing Committee, a trade union, is founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Philip Murray is elected its first president.

1938 – The Douglas DC-4E makes its first test flight.

1940 – King Haakon VII of Norway, Crown Prince Olav and the Norwegian government leave Tromsø and go into exile in London.

1942 – World War II: The Battle of Midway ends.

1942 – World War II: Japanese soldiers occupy the American islands of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska.

1944 – World War II: The steamer Danae carrying 350 Cretan Jews and 250 Cretan partisans is sunk without survivors off the shore of Santorini.

1944 – World War II: Battle of Normandy – At Abbey Ardennes members of the SS Division Hitlerjugend massacre 23 Canadian prisoners of war.

1945 – King Haakon VII of Norway returns with his family to Oslo after five years in exile.

1948 – Edvard Benes resigns as President of Czechoslovakia rather than signing a constitution making his nation a Communist state.

1955 – Lux Radio Theater signs off the air permanently. The show launched in New York in 1934, and featured radio adaptations of Broadway shows and popular films.

1965 – The Supreme Court of the United States hands down its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, effectively legalizing the use of contraception by married couples.

1967 – Israeli forces enter Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

1971 – The United States Supreme Court overturns the conviction of Paul Cohen for disturbing the peace, setting the precedent that vulgar writing is protected under the First Amendment.

1971 – The Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Division of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service raids the home of Ken Ballew for illegal possession of hand grenades, which all turn out to be inert or dummies.

1975 – Sony introduces the Betamax videocassette recorder for sale to the public.

1975 – The inaugural Cricket World Cup begins in England.

1977 – 500 million people watch on television as the high day of Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II begins.

1981 – The Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear reactor during Operation Opera. The facility could have been used to make nuclear weapons.

1982 – Priscilla Presley opens Graceland to the public; the bathroom where Elvis Presley died five years earlier is kept off-limits.

1989 – Surinam Airways Flight 764 crashes on approach to Paramaribo-Zanderij International Airport in Suriname due to pilot error, killing 176 of 187 aboard.

1991 – Mount Pinatubo explodes generating an ash column 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) high.

1995 – The long range Boeing 777 enters service with United Airlines.

1998 – James Byrd, Jr. of Texas is killed when white supremacists drag him behind a pickup truck along on asphalt pavement.

2000 – The United Nations defines the Blue Line as the border between Israel and Lebanon.

2006 – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, is killed in an airstrike by the United States Air Force.

Holidays and observances

   * Anniversary of the Memorandum of the Slovak Nation (Slovakia)

   * Birthday of Prince Joachim (Denmark)

   * Christian Feast Day:

       * Colman of Dromore

       * Paul I of Constantinople

       * Robert of Newminster

       * June 7 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Flag Day (Peru)

   * Journalist Day (Argentina)

   * Sette Giugno (Malta)

   * The first day of the Vestalia (Roman Empire)

   * Union Dissolution Day (Norway)

1 comment

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    Religion may have become synonymous with deep philosophical issues, but it is love and compassion that lie at the heart of religion.

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