The past is everything that ever happened to anyone anywhere. There is much too much history to remember all of it. So how do we decide about what is worth remembering? Significant events include those that resulted in great change over long periods for large numbers of people.
Significance depends upon one’s perspective and purpose. A historical person or event can get significance if we, the historians, can link it to larger trends and stories that reveal something important for us today.
Let’s discover what happened on August 19 in World History:
1812: Old Ironsides earns its name
On this day in the year 1812, mortal combat took place between the USS Constitution and the British frigate Guerriere 750 miles off the coast of Massachusettes. Barely 50 yards apart; each ship fired its 22 cannon point-blank into its opponent. The barrage from the British frigate seemed to be having little effect, however, as its cannonballs bounced off the Constitution’s crewman shouted: “Huzza, her sides are made of iron!” The Constitution’s nickname was born.
Commissioned in the year 1797, the Constitution was one of the first six ships of the fledgling United States Navy. In the year 1803, she led the squadron of American warships dispatched to the Mediterranean to subdue the Barbary Pirated of Northern Africa who was harassing America’s trade ships in the area.
When war erupted between Great Britain and America in the year 1812 the constitution took the offensive, bringing the battle to the enemy. Also to destroying the Guerrierre, she destroyed the British frigate Java off the coast of Brazil. Her exploits lifted the morale of the American people and elevated the status of the new nation’s naval power.
1919: The U.S. President Wilson appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
On 19th August 1919, in a break with conventional practice, United States President Woodrow Wilson appears personally before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to argue in favor of its ratification of the Versailles Treaty, the peace settlement that ended the World War I.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee took testimony from President Wilson at the White House on the treaty of peace with Germany and the establishment of a League of Nations. The president opened by reading a statement and then answered questions for three and a half hours, after which the president invited them to stay for lunch. Chairman Henry Cabot Lodge explained that the committee was “very desirous of getting information on certain points which seem not clear and on which they thought the information would be of value to them.” Despite Wilson’s efforts, the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles twice, and the U.S. never joined the League.