On this Day In History January 20

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.

January 20 is the 20th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 345 days remaining until the end of the year (346 in leap years).

On this day in 1801, John Marshall is appointed the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall (September 24, 1755 – July 6, 1835) was an American jurist and statesman whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law while enhancing the role of the Supreme Court as a center of power. Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, serving from 1801 until his death in 1835. He had served in the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1800, and was Secretary of State under President John Adams from 1800 to 1801. Marshall was from the Commonwealth of Virginia and was a leader of the Federalist Party.

The longest-serving Chief Justice of the United States, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades (a term outliving his own Federalist Party) and played a significant role in the development of the American legal system. Most notably, he reinforced the principle that federal courts are obligated to exercise judicial review, by disregarding purported laws if they violate the Constitution. Thus, Marshall cemented the position of the American judiciary as an independent and influential branch of government. Furthermore, the Marshall Court made several important decisions relating to federalism, affecting the balance of power between the federal government and the states during the early years of the republic. In particular, he repeatedly confirmed the supremacy of federal law over state law, and supported an expansive reading of the enumerated powers.


Marshall was thrust into the office of Chief Justice in the wake of the presidential election of 1800. With the Federalists soundly defeated and about to lose both the executive and legislative branches to Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, President Adams and the lame duck Congress passed what came to be known as the Midnight Judges Act, which made sweeping changes to the federal judiciary, including a reduction in the number of Justices from six to five so as to deny Jefferson an appointment until two vacancies occurred. As the incumbent Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth was in poor health, Adams first offered the seat to ex-Chief Justice John Jay, who declined on the grounds that the Court lacked “energy, weight, and dignity.” Jay’s letter arrived on January 20, 1801, and as there was precious little time left, Adams nominated Marshall, who was with him at the time and able to accept immediately. The Senate at first delayed, hoping that Adams would make a different choice, such as promoting Justice William Paterson of New Jersey. According to New Jersey Senator Jonathan Dayton, the Senate finally relented “lest another not so qualified, and more disgusting to the Bench, should be substituted, and because it appeared that this gentleman (Marshall) was not privy to his own nomination”. Marshall was confirmed by the Senate on January 27, 1801, and received his commission on January 31, 1801. While Marshall officially took office on February 4, at the request of the President he continued to serve as Secretary of State until Adams’ term expired on March 4. President John Adams offered this appraisal of Marshall’s impact: “My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life.”

 250 – Emperor Decius begins a widespread persecution of Christians in Rome. Pope Fabian is martyred.

1265 – In Westminster, the first English parliament conducts its first meeting held by Simon de Montfort in the Palace of Westminster, now also known colloquially as the “Houses of Parliament”.

1320 – Duke Wladyslaw Lokietek becomes king of Poland.

1356 – Edward Balliol abdicates as King of Scotland.

1502 – The present-day location of Rio de Janeiro is first explored.

1523 – Christian II is forced to abdicate as King of Denmark and Norway.

1576 – The Mexican city of Leon is founded by order of the viceroy Don Martín Enriquez de Almanza.

1649 – Charles I of England goes on trial for treason and other “high crimes”.

1783 – The Kingdom of Great Britain signs a peace treaty with France and Spain, officially ending hostilities in the American Revolutionary War (also known as the American War of Independence).

1788 – The third and main part of First Fleet arrives at Botany Bay. Arthur Phillip decides that Botany Bay is unsuitable for the location of a penal colony, and decides to move to Port Jackson.

1801 – John Marshall is appointed the Chief Justice of the United States.

1839 – In the Battle of Yungay, Chile defeats an alliance between Peru and Bolivia.

1841 – Hong Kong Island is occupied by the British.

1885 – L.A. Thompson patents the roller coaster.

1887 – The United States Senate allows the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base.

1920 – The American Civil Liberties Union is founded.

1921 – The first Constitution of Turkey is adopted, making fundamental changes in the source and exercise of sovereignty by consecrating the principle of national sovereignty.

1929 – In Old Arizona, the first full-length talking motion picture filmed outdoors, is released.

1934 – Fujifilm, the photographic and electronics company, is founded in Tokyo, Japan.

1936 – Edward VIII becomes King of the United Kingdom.

1937 – Franklin Roosevelt is inaugurated for a second term as U.S. President. This is the first inauguration on January 20. The date was changed from March 4 by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.

1941 – Franklin Roosevelt is the only President inaugurated for a third term.

1941 – A Nazi officer is murdered in Bucharest, Romania, sparking a rebellion and pogrom by the Iron Guard, killing 125 Jews and 30 soldiers.

1942 – World War II: At the Wannsee Conference held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, senior Nazi German officials discuss the implenetation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.

1945 – World War II: Hungary agrees to an armistice with the Allies.

1945 – World War II: Germany begins the evacuation of 1.8 million people from East Prussia, a task which will take nearly two months.

1945 – Franklin Roosevelt’s fourth and final inauguration is held at the White House due to wartime considerations.

1949 – Point Four Program a program for economic aid to poor countries announced by United States President Harry S. Truman in his inaugural address for a full term as President.

1953 – Dwight D. Eisenhower is inaugurated as the first Republican President in twenty years.

1954 – The National Negro Network is established with 40 charter member radio stations.

1959 – The first flight of the Vickers Vanguard.

1960 – Hendrik Verwoerd announces a plebiscite on whether South Africa should become a Republic.

1961 – John F. Kennedy is inaugurated as the youngest elected and first Roman Catholic President of the U.S. His inaugural address is one of the most memorable of the 20th century.

1968 – The Houston Cougars defeat the UCLA Bruins 71-69 to win the Game of the Century.

1969 – East Pakistani police kill student activist Amanullah Asaduzzaman. The resulting outrage is in part responsible for the Bangladesh Liberation War.

1977 – Jimmy Carter is inaugurated as the 39th President of the United States. He is the last President inaugurated at the east front of the Capitol, which had been the traditional site for Presidential inaugurations since 1829.

1981 – Twenty minutes after Ronald Reagan is inaugurated, at age 69 the oldest man ever to be inaugurated as U.S. President, Iran releases 52 American hostages. It is the first Presidential inauguration to be held at the west front of the Capitol.

1986 – Martin Luther King, Jr. day is celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time.

1987 – Church of England envoy Terry Waite is kidnapped in Lebanon.

1990 – Tragedy at Baku – The Red Army killed Azerbaijani people in Baku.

1991 – Sudan’s government imposes Islamic law nationwide, worsening the civil war between the country’s Muslim north and Christian south.

1992 – Air Inter Flight 148 crashes near Strasbourg, France, killing 82 passengers and 5 crew.

1999 – The China News Service announces new government restrictions on Internet use aimed especially at Internet cafés.

2001 – Philippine president Joseph Estrada is ousted in a nonviolent 4-day revolution, and is succeeded by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

2006 – Witnesses report sightings of a Bottlenose whale swimming in the River Thames, the first time the species had been seen in the River Thames since records began in 1913.

2007 – A three-man team, using only skis and kites, completes a 1,093-mile (1,759 km) trek to reach the southern pole of inaccessibility for the first time since 1958 and for the first time ever without mechanical assistance.

2009 – Barack Obama inaugurated as the 44th and first African-American President of the United States.

Holidays and observances

   * Armed Forces Day (Mali)

   * Christian Feast Day:

         o Abadios

         o Euthymius the Great

         o Fabian

         o Sebastian

         o Manchan of Lemanaghan

         o January 20 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Martyrs’ Day (Azerbaijan)

   * United States presidential inauguration, held every four years since 1937 (with 2 exceptions by Eisenhower & Reagan, on January 21st) in odd-numbered years after years when the United States Presidential Election takes place (as the election takes place in years divisible by four – 2004, 2008, 2012, and so on – the inauguration takes place in 2005, 2009, 2013, etc.). The incoming/reelected President traditionally swears-in as close to Noon as possible.