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I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world. Socrates

January 18, 2009


Clara Cluck

My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.

Winston Churchill 

  On January 18, 1862, Harper’s Weekly featured a cartoon about New York City’s government.
Image and text provided by HarpWeek.
spacer Harpers Weekly Cartoon of the Day 

“The City’s Last Struggle With Its Ex-Rulers”

“The Belt Railroad Ordinance, having Passed both Branches of the Outgoing Common Council, has been Signed by Mayor Wood, and the Corporators are now prepared to divide the Plunder.” – New York Daily Paper.

Artist: Unknown (perhaps John McLenan)

his Harper’s Weekly cartoon marks one juncture in the often-corrupt, decades-long battle of politicians and businessmen to construct a rapid transit system in New York City.The fate of commuter railroads in New York City was a perennially divisive issue in the 1850’s and 1860’s; it was, as Harper’s Weekly described it in 1866, an “annual and embarrassing contest for a railroad.” The issue involved competing partisan, factional, regional, and economic interests within the broader context of a bitter power struggle between the state legislature and the city government. Various plans were proposed, debated, accepted, rejected, and reconsidered over the years, many centering on establishing a commuter rail along Broadway.

A major source of dispute was whether the city would construct its own rail system to keep fares low and profits in the city treasury, or award the franchises to private companies. Corruption in the city and state government had always existed, but the development of street railroads in the early 1850’s exacerbated the problem. In 1860, Harper’s Weekly criticized the “shameful” passage of the city railroad bills over the governor’s veto, and called the legislature the “most corrupt, unprincipled, and venal crew ever gathered together for legislative purposes in the State of New York.” The political tug of war did not end there.

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon, unsigned but probably drawn by John McLenan, ridicules one episode in the continuing saga. In one of their last acts in office, the lame-duck city council granted commuter rail franchises to several favored businessmen. Democratic mayor Fernando Wood, recently defeated for reelection, approved the ordinance.

Here, an Irishman, representing the influence of Irish Catholics on the outgoing council, wrenches a belt tightly around the feminine symbol of the city. The railroad owners who will benefit from the ordinance watch approvingly, and one thumbs his nose at their rival, George Law (far left), who has lost this round.

George Law (1806-1881), nicknamed “Live-Oak George” by his workers, was one of the most prominent of the railroad magnates. The son of a farmer, he was a self-taught engineer who became a construction contractor for railroads and canals. In the 1840’s, he bought railroads, and built and purchased steamships, operating one of only four steamship lines to the Pacific. In the 1850’s, he constructed the Ninth Avenue Railroad and bought the Staten Island Ferry and the Grand and Roosevelt Street Ferry. The St. George ferry terminal on Staten Island is named after him. In addition to public transportation, he added to his millions through banking ventures and stock speculation.

The rapid transit system in New York City would finally come to fruition in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

Rob Kennedy

1778 English navigator Captain James Cook became the first European to reach the Hawaiian Islands, which he dubbed the Sandwich Islands.

Captain James Cook FRS RN (7 November [O.S. 27 October] 1728 – 14 February 1779) was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer, ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. Cook was the first to map Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during which he achieved the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years’ War, and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. This allowed General Wolfe to make his famous stealth attack on the Plains of Abraham, and helped to bring Cook to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society. This notice came at a crucial moment both in his personal career and in the direction of British overseas exploration, and led to his commission in 1766 as commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.

Cook charted many areas and recorded several islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. His achievements can be attributed to a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, courage in exploring dangerous locations to confirm the facts (for example dipping into the Antarctic circle repeatedly and exploring around the Great Barrier Reef), an ability to lead men in adverse conditions, and boldness both with regard to the extent of his explorations and his willingness to exceed the instructions given to him by the Admiralty.

Cook died in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779.

The Sandwich Islands was the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by Captain James Cook on his discovery of the islands on January 18, 1778. The name was made in honor of one of his sponsors, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was at the time the First Lord of the Admiralty and Cook’s superior officer. During the late 19th century, the name fell into disuse, replaced by Hawaii.

The Sandwich Islands should not be confused with the South Sandwich Islands, a mostly uninhabited British dependency in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

1782 Lawyer and statesman Daniel Webster was born in Salisbury, N.H.

Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster (January 18, 1782 – October 24, 1852) was a leading American statesman during the nation’s Antebellum Period. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests. His increasingly nationalistic views and the effectiveness with which he articulated them led Webster to become one of the most famous orators and influential Whig leaders of the Second Party System.

Daniel Webster was an attorney, and served as legal counsel in several cases that established important constitutional precedents that bolstered the authority of the Federal government. As Secretary of State, he negotiated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty that established the definitive eastern border between the United States and Canada. Primarily recognized for his Senate tenure, Webster was a key figure in the institution’s “Golden days”. So well-known was his skill as a Senator throughout this period that Webster became the northern member of a trio known as the “Great Triumvirate“, with his colleagues Henry Clay from the west and John C. Calhoun from the south. His “Reply to Hayne” in 1830 was generally regarded as “the most eloquent speech ever delivered in Congress.”

As with Henry Clay, Webster’s desire to see the Union preserved and conflict averted led him to search out compromises designed to stave off the sectionalism that threatened war between the North and South. Webster tried three times to achieve the Presidency; all three bids failed, the final one in part because of his compromises. Similarly, Webster’s efforts to steer the nation away from civil war toward a definite peace ultimately proved futile. Despite this, Webster came to be esteemed for these efforts and was officially named by the U.S. Senate in 1957 as one of its five most outstanding members.

1788 The first English settlers arrived in Australia’s Botany Bay to establish a penal colony.

Aerial photo of Sydney showing Botany Bay in the foreground

Image of Sydney taken by NASA RS satellite. Botany Bay is the large inlet at bottom right.

Botany Bay is a bay in Sydney, New South Wales, a few kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. Two runways of Sydney Airport extend into the bay.

Botany Bay was the site of James Cook‘s first landing of HMS Endeavour on the continent of Australia, after his extensive navigation of New Zealand. Later the British planned Botany Bay as the site for a penal colony. Out of these plans came the first European habitation of Australia at Sydney Cove.

James Cook’s visit

Bicentennial Monument at Botany Bay

James Cook‘s landing marked the beginning of Britain‘s interest in Australia and in the eventual colonisation of this new Southern continent.

Initially the name Sting Ray Harbour was used by Cook and other journal keepers on his expedition, for the stingrays they caught. That name was recorded on an Admiralty chart too. Cook’s log for 6 May 1770 records “The great quantity of these sort of fish found in this place occasioned my giving it the name of Stingrays Harbour”. However, in his journal (prepared later from his log), he changed to “The great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place occasioned my giving it the Name of Botany Bay”. Initially the name Botanist Bay was also sometimes used.

First Fleet arrives

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth, England mourning their lovers who are soon to be transported to Botany Bay, 1792

Governor Arthur Phillip sailed the Armed Tender “Supply” into the bay on 18 January 1788. Two days later the remaining ships of the First Fleet had arrived to found the planned penal colony. Finding that the sandy infertile soil of the site in fact rendered it most unsuitable for settlement, Phillip decided instead to move to the excellent natural harbour of Port Jackson to the north. On 26 January, as the First Fleet was working out of the bay to move up to Port Jackson, the French exploratory expedition of Jean-François de La Pérouse “Laprouse” entered Botany Bay. On the afternoon of the 26th January 1788, the First Fleet were anchored in Sydney Cove and the British Flag “Queen Ann” was hoisted on shore. The good supply of fresh water in the area led to the expansion of its population in the 19th century.

Sydney Airport and Port Botany

Sydney Airport, Australia’s largest airport, sits on north-western side of the bay Botany Bay. Land was reclaimed from the bay to extend its first north-south runway and build a second one parallel to it. Port Botany, to the east of the airport, was built in 1930 and is the largest container terminal in Sydney.

The land around the headlands of the bay is protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as Botany Bay National Park. On the northern side of the mouth of the bay is the historic site of La Perouse and to the south is Kurnell. On the southern side of the bay, a section of water has been fenced off under the authority of the National Parks and Wildlife Service at Towra Point for environmental conservation purposes.

Marine Life

The mouth of Botany Bay from the air

Despite being such a busy port, Botany Bay has a diverse marine population and the area around its entrance is some of the best scuba diving in the Sydney Metropolitan Area. In recent times the Botany Bay Watch Project has begun with volunteers assisting to monitor and protect the Bay Catchment and its unique marine life.

The world’s largest population of Weedy sea dragon ever surveyed is found at the ‘Steps’ dive site, on the southern side (Kurnell) of the Botany Bay National Park. Weedy Sea-Dragons are just one of hundreds of territorial marine creatures that are found within Botany Bay. The Eastern Blue Grouper is the state fish of New South Wales. They are commonly found following divers along the shore line of Botany Bay.

Popular culture

  • song named “Botany Bay” was performed in the 1890s, based on older tunes.

A song entitled “The Shores of Botany Bay” was written by Brian Warfield and recorded by The Wolfe Tones in the early 1970s. This satirical song deals with a group of Irishmen volunteering for the transportation process in the hopes of finding wealth in Australia.

1862 John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, died in Richmond, Va., at age 71.
1892 Oliver Hardy of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy was born Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia.
1904 Actor Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England.

Archibald Alec Leach (January 18, 1904 – November 29, 1986), better known by his stage name, Cary Grant, was a British-born American actor. With his distinctive Mid-Atlantic accent, he was noted as perhaps the foremost exemplar of the debonair leading man, handsome, virile, charismatic and charming. He was named the second Greatest Male Star of All Time of American cinema, after Humphrey Bogart, by the American Film Institute. He was well known for starring in classic films such as The Philadelphia Story, North by Northwest, Notorious, His Girl Friday, To Catch A Thief, Bringing Up Baby and The Bishop’s Wife.


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