The First and Last Man Executed for the Crime of Slave Trading

Only one person was ever executed in the United States for slave trading across borders, despite the fact that it was illegal from 1810 through the American Civil War. The Maine resident Nathaniel Gordon was captaining a slave ship from the Congo River to the United Stats in 1860 when it was seized at sea by a naval cruiser. The crime was automatically a federal case. After two trials in New York, Gordon was convicted and sentenced to hang on February 7, 1862. The only way out was a presidential pardon.


Abraham Lincoln had not yet been in office a full year, but he was widely known for his sense of mercy, and his frequent use of the presidential pardon. He also received thousands of letters asking for Gordon to be pardoned, and a visit to the White House by Gordon's wife and widowed mother. Lincoln held fast, however: there could be no pardon for a man who made his living selling other human beings into slavery.


“I think,” the president wrote, “I would personally prefer to let this man live in confinement and let him meditate on his deeds, yet in the name of justice and the majesty of law, there ought to be one case, at least one specific instance, of a professional slave-trader, a Northern white man, given the exact penalty of death because of the incalculable number of deaths he and his kind inflicted upon black men amid the horror of the sea-voyage from Africa.” Lincoln did give him a two-week reprieve because the president thought the condemned man had been misled into thinking he would be pardoned, and so had not properly made his peace with God and his upcoming death. The two weeks passed by, then Gordon was executed on February 21st, 1862.

Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax made a number of instruments, including the popular saxhorn and the short-lived saxotromba, before creating his best-known work in 1846: the saxophone.

Indigenous Land Management Still Impacting Amazon, Centuries After It Stopped Being Practiced

Researchers from the University of Exeter and Brazil’s State University of Mato Grosso sampled some 4,000 trees in southern and eastern Amazonia, and found that areas of the Amazon where so-called “dark earth” is found have more diverse ecosystems. Edmar Almeida de Oliveira explained that this vegetation includes more edible fruit trees and different species of colossal trees than are found in the surrounding forest. The study shows that these patches of dark earth, which were created over a period of 5,000 years by early farmers who fertilized the soil with charcoal from fires and food waste, still have more nutrients and are thus more fertile than untreated soils. Early farmers are thought to have grown food in the treated soils and forested trees from untreated areas. Dark earth areas were abandoned, the researchers added, when indigenous communities collapsed after the arrival of Europeans.

The Panic of 1873 was once known as "The Great Depression." It became known by a different term after the stock market crash of 1929 and the global economic depression that followed.

The United States has had over 2,000 people elected or appointed to be senators in the US Senate. Only ten have been African American. Nine have been Asian-American. Thirteen have been Hispanic or Latino. And just four have had Native American tribal ancestry. One of those four was also African American. Meaning that just 35 non-White senators have ever served in the United States Senate.

The Vatican had a list of prohibited books ("Index Librorum Prohibitorum") a surprisingly long time: from 1557 until 1966.

When Eunuchs Could Marry

According to Chinese official historical records, there had been a historical record of eunuch marriage as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty. But they were not common until the Ming Dynasty. Starting in 1402, the Yongle Emperor quietly began allowing eunuchs to marry, as thanks for their significant contributions in Jingnan Rebellion which nearly knocked Yongle off his throne. From then on the marriage of eunuchs had legitimacy because it had the tacit approval of the emperor. The Yongle Emperor even awarded wedding to eunuchs who made significant contributions. These were, for obvious reasons, marriages for intimacy and companionship not children. Eunuch marriages remained common in the imperial court through the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.

In 1894, Queen Victoria of England decided to pay a visit the London Horse Guards in her carriage. She was not amused to arrive and find guards drinking and gambling while they were supposed to be on duty. She ordered that, as punishment, the guards had to parade for inspection by an officer every day at 4 o’clock -- for 100 years! The punishment ended in 1994 but Queen Elizabeth II wanted the parade to continue. So the Household Cavalry still parade every day.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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