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.
December 20 is the 354th day of the year (355th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 11 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1803, the French hand over New Orleans and Lower Louisiana to the United States.
In April 1803, the United States purchased from France the 828,000 square miles that had formerly been French Louisiana. The area was divided into two territories: the northern half was Louisiana Territory, the largely unsettled (though home to many Indians) frontier section that was later explored by Lewis and Clark; and the southern Orleans Territory, which was populated by Europeans.
Unlike the sprawling and largely unexplored northern territory (which eventually encompassed a dozen large states), Orleans Territory was a small, densely populated region that was like a little slice of France in the New World. With borders that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Louisiana, Orleans Territory was home to about 50,000 people, a primarily French population that had been living under the direction of a Spanish administration.
The Louisiana Purchase (French: Vente de la Louisiane “Sale of Louisiana”) was the acquisition by the United States of America of 828,800 square miles (2,147,000 km2) of France’s claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S. paid 60 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of debts worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total sum of 15 million dollars for the Louisiana territory ($219 million in today’s currency).
The Louisiana Purchase encompassed all or part of 14 current U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River, most of North Dakota, nearly all of South Dakota, northeastern New Mexico, the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans. (The Oklahoma Panhandle and southwestern portions of Kansas and Louisiana were still claimed by Spain at the time of the Purchase.) In addition, the Purchase contained small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The purchase, which doubled the size of the United States, comprises around 23% of current U.S. territory. The population of European immigrants was estimated to be 92,345 as of the 1810 census.
The purchase was a vital moment in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. At the time, it faced domestic opposition as being possibly unconstitutional. Although he felt that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, Jefferson decided to purchase Louisiana because he felt uneasy about France and Spain having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.
Napoleon Bonaparte, upon completion of the agreement, stated, “This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.”
69 – Vespasian, formerly a general under Nero, enters Rome to claim the title of emperor.
217 – The papacy of Zephyrinus ends. Callixtus I is elected as the sixteenth pope, but is opposed by the theologian Hippolytus who accuses him of laxity and of being a Modalist, one who denies any distinction between the three persons of the Trinity.
1192 – Richard the Lion-Heart is captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria on his way home to England after signing a treaty with Saladin ending the Third crusade.
1522 – Suleiman the Magnificent accepts the surrender of the surviving Knights of Rhodes, who are allowed to evacuate. They eventually settle on Malta and become known as the Knights of Malta.
1606 – The Virginia Company loads three ships with settlers and sets sail to establish Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.
1803 – The Louisiana Purchase is completed at a ceremony in New Orleans.
1860 – South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the United States.
1915 – World War I: Last Australian troops evacuated from Gallipoli.
1917 – Cheka, the first Soviet secret police, is founded.
1924 – Hitler: was released from Landsberg Prison
1941 – World War II: First battle of the American Volunteer Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers” in Kunming, China.
1942 – World War II: Bombing of Calcutta by the Japanese.
1946 – An 8.1 Mw earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Nankaido, Japan, kill over 1,300 people and destroy over 38,000 homes.
1951 – The EBR-1 in Arco, Idaho becomes the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity powered four light bulbs.
1955 – Cardiff is proclaimed the capital city of Wales, United Kingdom.
1960 – National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam is formed.
1968 – The Zodiac Killer kills Betty Lou Jenson and David Faraday in Vallejo, California.
1973 – The Spanish Prime Minister, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, is assassinated by a car bomb attack in Madrid.
1977 – Djibouti and Vietnam join the United Nations.
1984 – The Summit tunnel fire is the largest underground fire in history, as a freight train carrying over 1 million litres of petrol derails near the town of Todmorden in the Pennines.
1987 – History’s worst peacetime sea disaster, when the passenger ferry Dona Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker Vector 1 in the Tablas Strait in the Philippines, killing an estimated 4,000 people (1,749 official).
1988 – The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is signed in Vienna.
1989 – United States invasion of Panama: The United States sends troops into Panama to overthrow government of Manuel Noriega.
1991 – A Missouri court sentences the Palestinian militant Zein Isa and his wife Maria to death for the honor killing of their daughter Palestina.
1995 – NATO begins peacekeeping in Bosnia.
1995 – American Airlines Flight 965, a Boeing 757, crashes into a mountain 50 km north of Cali, Colombia killing 160.
1995 – The Democratic Social Movement is founded in Greece.
1996 – NeXT merges with Apple Computer, starting the path to Mac OS X.
1999 – Macau is handed over to the People’s Republic of China by Portugal.
2002 – US Senator Trent Lott resigns as majority leader.
2005 – US District Court Judge John E. Jones III rules against mandating the teaching of “intelligent design” in his ruling of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
2005 – The first same sex civil partnerships in Scotland are celebrated.
2006 – A judge rules against the death penalty in the case of Naveed Haq, a man convicted in the shooting death and injuries at the Jewish Federation in Seattle.
2007 – Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest ever monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days.
2007 – The painting Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (1904), by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, is stolen from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, along with O Lavrador de Cafe, by the major Brazilian modernist painter Candido Portinari.
* Abolition of Slavery Day, also known as Fete des Cafres (Reunion)
* Christian Feast Day:
o O Clavis
* Earliest date for Winter solstice’s eve:
o Yalda (Iran)
* International Human Solidarity Day (International)
* Macau Special Administrative Region Establishment Day (Macau)