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The following appeared today in Garrison Keillor’s free daily “Writer’s Almanac”:
It was on this day in 1775 that the lawyer Patrick Henry spoke at the Second Virginia Convention in Richmond, a meeting of American colonial leaders that included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The four-day assembly turned into a fierce debate about whether or not to raise a militia and arm Virginia in the fight against the British. On the topic, Patrick Henry delivered a famous speech that probably included the line “Give me liberty or give me death!” At least, some people thought he did.
There was a problem with Henry’s speeches. They were charismatic and passionate, but afterward, no one could remember what he had said. Thomas Jefferson said of Henry: “When he had spoken in opposition to my opinion, had produced a great effect, and I myself had been highly delighted and moved, I have asked myself when he ceased: ‘What the devil has he said?’ I could never answer the inquiry.”
The speech wasn’t written down until 1816, by Henry’s biographer, William Wirt. Wirt talked to people who had been present at the speech and had them reconstruct it from their memories.
It was on this day in 2010 that President Barack Obama (books by this author) signed into law the Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping piece of federal legislation since Medicare was passed in 1965. Universal health care had long been a dream of the Democratic Party. The passage of the bill extended health care to almost 32 million Americans.
Today marks the first day in 1942 when the U.S. government began moving Japanese-Americans from their West Coast homes to internment camps. Between 110,000 and 120,000 people were forcibly relocated.
Some Japanese-American men were drafted into the War even as their families remained incarcerated. The camps remained open until 1945.