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August 18, 1920: The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, prohibiting any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. The Constitution allows the states to determine the qualifications for voting, and until the 1910s most states disenfranchised women. The amendment was the culmination of the women's suffrage movement in the United States, which fought at both state and national levels to achieve the vote. The Nineteenth Amendment's ratification effectively overturned Minor v. Happersett, in which a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give women the right to vote.
August 19, 1612: The "Samlesbury witches", three women from the Lancashire village of Samlesbury, England, were put on trial, accused of practicing witchcraft, one of the most famous witch trials in British history. The charges against the women included child murder and cannibalism. The case against the three women collapsed "spectacularly" when the chief prosecution witness, Grace Sowerbutts, was exposed by the trial judge to be "the perjuring tool of a Catholic priest." The trial of the Samlesbury witches is one clear example of what has been described as "largely a piece of anti-Catholic propaganda," and even as a show-trial, to demonstrate that Lancashire, considered at that time to be a wild and lawless region, was being purged not only of witches but also of "popish plotters."
August 20, 1882: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow, Russia. The overture written in 1880 to commemorate Russia's defense of its motherland against Napoleon's invading Grande Armée in 1812. It has also become a common accompaniment to fireworks displays, including those which occur in the United States in association with its Fourth of July celebrations. The piece has no connection to the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, but was personally conducted by Tchaikovsky in 1891 at the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York City.
August 21, 1831: Nat Turner led a deadly slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths and at least 100 black deaths. The rebellion was ultimately suppressed within two days, but Turner would elude capture until October 30. Upon his arrest, he was quickly tried and convicted for "conspiring to rebel and making insurrection." He was executed on November 11, 1831, in the town of Jerusalem, Virginia (now known as Courtland)
August 22, 1485: The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought in what would be was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York that raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. The battle was won by the Lancastrians. Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, by his victory became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty. His opponent, Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, making it a defining moment of English and Welsh history.
August 23, 1839: The United Kingdom captured Hong Kong as a base as it prepared for war with Qing China. The ensuing 3-year conflict will later be known as the First Opium War. Trade with China was heavily regulated and could only be conducted with silver, Growing demand in England for tea created significant trade deficits. However, in 1817, the British hit upon counter-trading in a narcotic drug, Indian opium, as a way to reduce the trade deficit. The Qing Administration originally tolerated opium importation, because it created an indirect tax on Chinese subjects, while allowing the British to double tea exports from China to England—which profited the monopoly for tea exports of the Qing imperial treasury and its agents. However, by 1820, China's accelerated opium consumption reversed the flow of silver, just when the Imperial Treasury needed to finance suppression of rebellions against the Qing. The Qing government began its efforts to end the opium trade, which would ultimately lead to conflict.
August 24, 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Hardliners in the Soviet leadership, calling themselves the 'State Emergency Committee', launched the coup in 1991 in an attempt to remove Gorbachev from power. During this time, Gorbachev spent three days (19, 20 and 21 August) under house arrest at a dacha in the Crimea before being freed and restored to power. However, upon his return, Gorbachev found that neither union nor Russian power structures heeded his commands as support had swung over to Boris Yeltsin, whose defiance had led to the coup's collapse. For all intents and purposes, the coup was the end politically for Gorbachev. On August 24th, he advised the Central Committee to dissolve, resigned as General Secretary and disbanded all party units within the government. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Soviet suspended all Party activities on Soviet territory. In effect, Communist rule in the Soviet Union had ended—thus eliminating the only unifying force left in the country.
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July 28, 1932: President Herbert Hoover orders the United States Army to forcibly evict the "Bonus Army" of World War I veterans gathered in Washington, D.C. The veterans had assembled to demand cash-payment redemption of their service certificates promised with the passage of the World War Adjusted Compensation Act of 1924. Although not redeemable until 1945, each service certificate issued to a qualified veteran soldier, bore a face value equal to the soldier's promised payment plus compound interest. The principal demand of the Bonus Army was the immediate cash payment of their certificates.
July 29, 1907: Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp in Poole Harbour on the south coast of England. The camp ran from August 1 to August 9, 1907, and is regarded as the foundation of the Scouting movement.
July 30, 1619: In Jamestown, Virginia, the first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convened for the first time. The House was established by the Virginia Company, who created the body as part of an effort to encourage English craftsmen to settle in North America and to make conditions in the colony more agreeable for its current inhabitants. The House's first session accomplished little, as it was cut short by an outbreak of malaria.
July 31, 1703: Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet entitled The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church. In it he ruthlessly satirized both the High church Tories and those Dissenters who hypocritically practiced so-called "occasional conformity." Though it was published anonymously, the true authorship was quickly discovered and Defoe was arrested and charged with seditious libel. Defoe was found guilty. He was fined, sentenced to public humiliation in a pillory, and to an indeterminate length of imprisonment which would only end upon the discharge of the punitive fine. According to legend, the publication of his poem Hymn to the Pillory caused his audience at the pillory to throw flowers instead of the customary harmful and noxious objects and to drink to his health.
August 1, 1960: Dahomey declared independence from France under the presidency of Hubert Maga. For the next twelve years, ethnic strife contributed to a period of turbulence, as there were several coups and regime changes. On October 26, 1972, Lt. Col. Mathieu Kérékou overthrew the ruling triumvirate to become president and stated that the country would not "burden itself by copying foreign ideology, and wants neither Capitalism, Communism, nor Socialism". Later he announced that the country was officially Marxist, nationalized the petroleum industry and banks, and renamed the country to the People's Republic of Benin.
August 2, 1923: Warren G, Harding died unexpectedly in San Francisco, California, and Vice President, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the 30th President of the United States. Doctors issued a release stating that the cause of Harding’s death was "some brain evolvement, probably an apoplexy." Mrs. Harding refused to allow an autopsy. In retrospect, scholars speculate that Harding had shown physical signs of cardiac insufficiency with congestive heart failure in the preceding weeks. Naval medical consultants who examined the president in San Francisco concluded he had suffered a heart attack. Dr. Wilbur included in his memoirs a letter from Dr. Charles Miner Cooper in support of their cerebral apoplexy diagnosis, based on Harding's last observed condition, while acknowledging that no final determination could be made.
August 3, 1678: Robert LaSalle completed construction of the Le Griffon, the first known ship built on the Great Lakes. The explorer sought a Northwest Passage to China and Japan in order to extend France's trade. Creating a fur trade monopoly with the Native Americans would finance his quest and building Le Griffon was an "essential link in the scheme."