First Assembly Day

July 30

“The first phase of the story of the American democracy begins with the meeting of the first General Assembly in 1619 at the Jamestown church…”

Jamestown, the Buried Truth, William Kelso

Yes, it all begin in a little church on a summer’s day in 1619. They didn’t meet with the intent to change the world, just takin’ care of business.


It’s said that America was founded on freedom of religion, but 13 years before the Pilgrims ever stepped aboard the Mayflower, the London Company (later the Virginia Company) packed over a hundred men on three ships bound for America in the hopes of establishing a permanent, viable, and profitable settlement.

After 144 days at sea they settled upon what became Jamestown Island, which they named for the English king. Life was tough in those days. The first years in Jamestown brought us legends like Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, but by far the most popular activities in the early years were getting sick, starving, and dying.

In 1609, the Virginia Company in England shipped much-needed food, supplies, more colonists, and new leaders aboard eight ships, which then got caught in a storm. Most of the colonists arrived in tact; however the ship carrying key foodstuffs, supplies, and leaders (the Sea Venture) crash landed on an uninhabited island chain named Bermuda. (That’s how Bermuda became an English colony. The shipwreck is still visible on Bermuda’s coat-of-arms, and some historians believe the wreck influenced Shakespeare’s ripped-from-the-headlines classic “The Tempest”).


Of the 500 Jamestown settlers, only about 100 survivors remained in June 1610, at which time the colonists decided to abandon Jamestown.

Yes, Jamestown was not a permanent settlement. It was abandoned for two days—June 8-9, 1610. The colonists had just begun sailing back to England when they were intercepted by the new governor, Lord de la Warr, and his party arriving from England. (Back in England, John Smith’s writings had just been published and had sparked a renewed interest in the colony in the nick of time.) Lord de la Warr ordered the colonists back to Jamestown, and it’s been inhabited ever since.

Originally Jamestown was run by a council of seven men, chosen by the Virginia Company. (On that first journey to Virginia in 1607, the list of leaders was kept secret in a locked box, not to be opened until the colonists reached land. The story goes that the captain sentenced John Smith to be executed upon their arrival, but his life was spared because he turned out to be one of the seven.)

By early 1609 only one of the seven remained. The following year the Virginia Company established martial law, making Lord de la Warr the supreme ruler of the colony and the arbiter of all disputes.

In 1618, in an effort to increase productivity and immigration, the Virginia Company back in London allowed colonists to own their own land. The “Greate Charter” also created an annual General Assembly, to consist of the Governor (Sir George Yeardley), the Council (members selected by the Virginia Company) and the House of Burgesses. The House of Burgesses was a group of representatives elected by the colonists, two from each of the 11 towns and plantations. The Assembly’s mission: to decide upon “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people.”

The Assembly first convened on this day (July 30) in 1619. They met for six days in the mid-summer Virginia heat. One of their members died from the heat before the assembly was over.

The Assembly set the price of tobacco—the colony’s big export—and they laid down fines and punishments “Against Idleness, Gaming, drunkeness & excesse in apparell…” Laws also touched upon marriage, food stocks, and the converting of Indians to Christianity.

The assembly adjourned on August 4. One of their best decisions: to meet in much cooler March next time.

Nearly 400 years later, residents of Jamestown, Virginia, celebrate First Assembly Day on July 30, the anniversary of the First General Assembly of the former British colonies and the birth of democratic government in the United States.

Did the Sea Venture shipwreck inspire The Tempest? – MP3 file

Laws at Jamestown – Making Decisions

Jamestown: the Perilous Adventure, by Olga Hall-Quest

Full text of the First General Assembly of Virginia

St. Olav’s Day

July 29

Almost a thousand years after he sailed the fjords of Norway, King Olaf is remembered with Olavsfestdagen (Olaf’s Feast Day) — a week of music, entertainment, and partying.

Legends abound of King Olaf’s heroic deeds. According to “Scandanavian Folk-lore – Illustrations of the Tradition Beliefs of the Northern Peoples

When St. Olaf came to the farm of Sten, where his mother is said to have lived, he resolved to build a church there. A giantess, who at the time lived in the mountain…was not at all satisfied with this plan…and challenged him to a contest. “Before you are finished with your church,” said she, “I shall have built a stone bridge over Stensfirth.” Olaf accepted the challenge, and before she was half finished with the bridge, the glorious peal of the bells was heard from St. Olaf’s Church.

In a rage the troll seized the stones with which she had intended to complete the bridge, and hurled them…over the firth at the church, but as none of them struck it, she became so angry that she cut off one of her legs and let that fly at the steeple… [T]he leg landed in a bog behind the church, where to this day it causes a bad smell.

Despite the stories, Olav was not always the saintliest of saints. So scribed Sigvald the skald:

The youthful king stain red the hair
Of Angeln men, and dyed his spear
At Newport in their hearts’ dark blood;
And where the Danes the thickest stood–
Where the shrill storm round Olaf’s head
Of spear and arrow thickest fled,
There thickest lay the Thing-men dead!
Nine battles now of Olaf bold,
Battle by battle, I have told

King Olaf
King Olaf

Yes, Olaf had a tendency to convert Scandanavia’s pagan remnants, not with scripture and Bibles but with sword, fire, and battle-axe.

He was slain in battle in 1030, his body buried near the field, to be later disinterred and moved to Trondheim…

where it was deposited in the magnificent cathedral which rose upon the ruins of the temple of Thor. The recollection of his cruelties was forgotten, and such was the reverence paid to him as a hero and martyr that he might almost be said to have filled the place of the ancient idols in the affections of the nation.

In death the former king became more powerful than in life. Having uprooted centuries of pagan myth and tradition, Olaf himself replaced the Norse god Thor in some ways. He inherited the god’s red hair and beard, and the weapon of choice was changed from hammer to Olaf’s battle-axe.


In death, Olaf’s powers had no bounds. His shrines were said to heal the sick, make strong the weak, and even to heal crippled and severed limbs–though whether this is related to his encounter with the angry giantess at Stensfirth, and the smell emanating from the bog behind his church, the sagas do not say.

Independence Day – Peru

July 28

Jose de San Martín had liberated the Rio de la Plata (Argentina), marched his army across the Andes, and defeated the Spanish in Chile before turning his attention to the north, to Peru—Spain’s most tenacious stronghold on the continent. In Chile he created a navy from scratch in order to attack Peru by sea.

At that moment, San Martín’s newly independent homeland of Argentina was emerged in civil war; yet he felt if he used his army to intervene in Argentina it would only lead to more destruction. Before debarking from Valpasairo, Chile, he issued his proclamation to his countrymen in Argentina on his reasons for continuing to Peru, rather than returning to his homeland to support one warring faction over another:

Provinces of the Rio de la Plata: This proclamation will be my last response to my calumniators: I can do no more than to risk my life and my honor for the sake of my native land. Whatever may be my lot in the campaign of Peru, I shall demonstrate that ever since I returned to my native land, her independence has been my constant thought, and that never had I entertained any ambition other than to merit the hatred of the ungrateful and the esteem of the virtuous.

Upon reaching Peru, he was interviewed by an Englishman, Captain Basil Hall, who paraphrased the General as saying that the war in Peru was “not a war of conquest or glory, but entirely of opinion; it was a war of new and liberal principles against prejudice, bigotry, and tyranny.

San Martin crosses the Andes
San Martin Crosses the Andes

San Martín said he had no territorial ambitions in Peru, or even to wish them independence if the people were not for it.

All that I wish is, that this country should be managed by itself, and by itself alone. As to the manner in which it is to be governed, that belongs not at all to me. I propose simply to give the people the means of declaring themselves independent, and of establishing a suitable form of government; after which I shall consider that I have done enough, and leave them.

A year later, on this day in 1821, the General stood in the great square in Lima, unfurled the new flag of independent Peru, and announced:

From this moment, Peru is free and independent, by the general wish of the people, and by the justice of her cause, which may God defend. Viva la patria! Viva la libertad! Viva la independencia!

The General was made Protector of Peru, but Spanish forces continued to battle San Martín’s troops, and Peruvian independence was far from assured. General Simón Bolívar, who had defeated the Spanish in Gran Colombia (today’s Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador), entered Peru from the north. The two great Liberators of South America met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on July 26, 1822, to discuss the fate of the continent.

Much has been written about, and hardly anything is known about, what happened between Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín at their only meeting. There were no witnesses other than the two men themselves. But after the interview, San Martín–true to his word–resigned his position as Protector and returned to Argentina, leaving Bolívar to defeat the Spanish in Peru.

San Martin and Simon Bolivar

San Martín’s wife died the following year. Distraught by her death and the civil wars wreaking havoc in Argentina, José de San Martín took his daughter Mercedes and moved to France, where he lived until his death in 1850.

Jose de San Martin
Jose de San Martin

Bolívar was deigned Dictator of Peru in 1824, the same year he drove out the Spanish for good. The southern part of Peru became Bolivia in his honor.

Spain officially recognized Peru’s independence in 1879.

Emancipation of South America – William Pilling

Rise of the Spanish-American Republics as told in the Lives of their Liberators – William Spence Robertson

Cross Atlantic Communication Day

July 27

Morse telegraph

Today’s a good day to reach out and call (or Skype) that friend across the Pond. It’s Cross Atlantic Communication Day, marking the anniversary of the first sustained working telegraph cable between Europe and the Americas.

Before 1866, it took ten days for a message to cross the Atlantic by ship. An early form of the telegraph had been used in Germany as early as 1809, but it wasn’t until the 1830’s that related crucial innovations made the invention commercially viable.

Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke patented the first commercial telegraph in the UK in 1837. That same year inventor Samuel Morse developed a telegraph system in the US, using the language that would come to dominate the wires: Morse Code. In 1844 the U.S. installed a telegraph wire from Washington DC to Baltimore, whereupon Morse relayed its first now-famous message: “What hath God wrought?”

The idea of trans-Atlantic cable connecting Europe and the Americas appealed to several luminaries, but it’s generally seen as the brain-child of entrepreneur Cyrus Field, who raised the cash and made the first attempt in 1857. The 1,700m miles of cable was too big for any one ship to carry, so two were employed, the USS Niagara and the HMS Agamemnon. The two ships met up in the middle of the Atlantic, their two wires were spliced together, and they headed out in opposite directions, laying cable as they went. The cables broke multiple times, and the mission was eventually abandoned. The following summer, after several trials of errors, they set out again, and this time completed the mission, connecting a spliced cable from Newfoundland to Ireland.

On August 16, 1858, the first trans-Atlantic telegraph message was sent: “Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men.” Followed by messages of goodwill and congratulations by Queen Victoria and President Buchanan.

“May the Atlantic telegraph, under the blessing of heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations, and an instrument destined by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization, liberty, and law throughout the world.” — President James Buchanan

The two countries celebrated, but over the next few weeks the connection deteriorated, and finally gave out.

No one tried again for several years, and a Civil War engulfed the States. But in 1865, Cyrus Field tried again. Now there had been built one ship large enough to carry the whole cable: the Great Eastern, which was four times larger than any other ship in existence. Captain by Sir James Anderson, the Great Eastern traveled from Ireland to Newfoundland laying cable as it went. After over 1,000 miles the cable snapped, and the mission was abandoned.

The Great Eastern arriving in Newfoundland, July 1866

The mission finally succeeded the following year when the Great Eastern lay another, more durable cable between the two coasts. The first sustained trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was completed on this day, July 27, 1866.

“It is a great work, a glory to our age and nation, and the men who have achieved it deserve to be honoured among the benefactors of their race.” — The Times, July 28, 1866

[The predecessor of the electric telegraph dated back to 1746, and it wasn’t used to send messages. French monk and scientist Jean-Antoine Nollet had 200 of his brethren stand around in a mile-round circle holding an iron wire and proceeded to shock them all, observing that the monks felt the shock at roughly the same time.]

Day of National Rebelliousness – Cuba

July 26

Today’s holiday—National Rebelliousness Day—is interwoven with yesterday’s holiday, Día de Santiago, or the Feast Day of St. James, though the inciting incidents took place in separate hemispheres nearly two millennia apart.

In the wee hours of July 26, 1953, as the town of Santiago de Cuba recovered from the previous day’s Santiago (St. James) festivities, Fidel and Raul Castro led about 120 rebels in an attack on the Cuban military’s second largest barracks.

The attack failed almost before it began. The Moncada Barracks soldiers sounded the alarm before Castro’s men could gain access to the compound, losing any hope of surprise. Castro’s rebels were heavily outnumbered (sources say between 4:1 and 10:1) but fought on.

Fidel Castro in Washington DC, 1959

The rebels suffered over 60 casualties, though Castro later stated that only a handful died in the battle, and that the others were executed by the Batista regime after the battle ended.

Castro was imprisoned with several of the other survivors, but a popular support movement successfully lobbied for their release. The attack on the Moncada Barracks marked the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, and henceforth, Castro’s coalition against the Fulgencio Batista regime was known as the 26th of July Movement.

Flag of the July 26th movement

Today, Cubans celebrate El Día de la Rebeldía Nacional with three days of fiestas, music, dancing and parades.

The Way of Saint James – Spain

July 25

Saint James

July 25th is the feast day of St. James.

James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee, were two of Jesus’s twelve Apostles. After Jesus’s crucifixion, James took the Gospel westward to unchartered territories—Iberia—and never looked back. Oh wait, he did look back, unfortunately. After receiving a vision of the Virgin Mary, James returned to Judea where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD.

But that’s not the end of James’s story. No, James’s hagiographers tells how James’s followers risked their lives to bring James’s body back to Iberia. They witnessed several miracles on the way, eventually laying his relics to rest at the edge of the western world: Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain.

Santiago de Compostela is the destination for thousands of pilgrims who make the journey to St. James’s resting place each year. The route is known as Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James.

El Camino Frances, Spain
El Camino Frances, Spain

The most commonly traveled route is the Camino Frances. It starts somewhere north of the border in the French Pyrenees near St Jean Pied de Port. The trail winds 780 kilometers westward across Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela, though many pilgrims continue a little further west to Cape Finisterre on the Atlantic. Finisterre comes from the Latin for “land’s end”.

The cape was once believed to be the end of the world.

On foot the pilgrimage takes about a month of walking. Peripatetic veterans recommend walking from 6am to 1pm. There are plenty of towns to stop in along the way, and such a schedule figures in nicely with the Spanish siesta, falling around 2pm each day.

The numbers of pilgrims have skyrocketed since the 1980s, when only a few thousand travelers would make the journey each year. These days that number is in the hundreds of thousands. Religious devotion varies among trekkers.

“Modern Pilgrimages seems to be a lot less about religion and more about peace, finding something in their life, a time to think, and for some a challenge…

“I did not set out on a Spiritual or religious journey – but it ended being that way…”

All about El Camino de Santiago

Birthday of Simón Bolivar

July 24

Today citizens of Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia celebrate the birth of the Libertador of northern South America: Simón Bolivar. He was born on this day in 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela.

Simón Bolivar

Bolivar is one of the few people to have a country permanently named after him, and is the only person born in the New World to have been so honored.

Countries named directly after individuals

Belize – possibly from the Spanish pronunciation of “Wallace”. Captain Peter Wallace was a pirate commissioned by King James I to pillage Spanish ships in the region. He built his base at the mouth of what is now the Belize River. May also be from the Mayan “belix” meaning “muddy water”.

Bermuda – after explorer Juan de Bermudez, who arrived there in 1503.

Colombia – Christopher Columbus

Dominican Republic – after St. Domingo de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order.

El Salvador – literally, “the Savior”, after Jesus of Nazareth.

Kiribati – from the Gilbert Islands, for Captain Thomas Gilbert.

Mozambique – possibly from sheik Mussa Ben Mbiki.

Philippines – King Philip II of Spain

San Marino – from St Marinus, an ancient stonemason who fled to the area to escape Roman persecution

Sao Tome and Principe – from St. Thomas. Portuguese explorers encountered the land on St. Thomas’s Day. (December 21)

Seychelles – for Jean Moreau de Sechelles, King Louis XV’s Finance Minister.

Amerigo Vespucci is the only person to have a continent named after him, and he got two! The explorer helped prove that the lands Christopher Columbus encountered were not in Asia, but were entirely new continents. In 1507 cartographer Martin Waldseemuller labeled the new continents after the Italian explorer when he printed 1000 copies of his famous globe of the world.

Waldseemuller's Wall Map of the World

Waldseemuller’s 1507 Globe Map

Waldseemuller’s 1507 Wall Map

Parents’ Day – U.S.

4th Sunday in July

Yes, Parents’ Day is a real, official national holiday, just like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Celebrated on the fourth Sunday in July, it worked its way quietly through Congress in 1994 with bipartisan support and was signed into existence as a national holiday by President Clinton. Parents’ Day has mercifully hovered beneath the commercialism radar. And probably yours as well.

Normally I am not one to promote conspiracy theories on my blog (despite my own personal belief that Hollywood is run by a cadre of aliens from the planet Slebian) but the Parents Day origin story warrants some scrutiny.

In “Parents’ Day: History and Highlights“, political strategist Gary Jarmin writes:

“Gary L. Jarmin, Political Director for the American Freedom Coalition and chief coordinator for the lobbying campaign, originally submitted draft language to Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN) to make Parents’ Day a permanent day of commemoration…Burton introduced H. Res. 236 “to declare July 28, 1994 be recognized as Parents’ Day.” After a successful grassroots lobbying campaign, primarily led and coordinated by the State Directors of the American Freedom Coalition, the Congress adopted the resolution on March 11, 1994.”

According to the International Relations Center

…the American Freedom Coalition is closely tied to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The Washington Post (March 30, 1988 ) has even described the AFC as a “Moonsponsored lobbying group.”

Yes, this is the same Sun Myung Moon who in 2004 “donned a crown in a Senate office building and declared himself the Messiah while members of Congress watched.” (NYTimes June 24, 2004)

The American Freedom Coalition and the National Parents’ Day Council share the same address as the Sun Myung Moon-sponsored Washington Times: 3600 New York Ave NE, Washington DC.

Members of the Unification Church call Sun Myung Moon “True Father” and his wife as “True Mother”. Collectively, “True Parents”. True Parents’ Day, honoring Moon and his wife, has been celebrated by the Unification Church for decades, though in March, not July.

Whether members of Congress realized exactly who was behind the creation of Parents’ Day is unknown. But it wouldn’t be the first holiday pushed through by less than transparent causes. We must remember that Women’s Day (March 8 ) and Labor Day were both supported by communist organizations, and for that reason met with much resistance, especially in the United States. Here, Women’s Day–celebrated on March 8 in the rest of the world–is barely recognized. And Labor Day–celebrated on May 1 in most countries–is observed in September.

Similarly, politicians in the 1980s hesitated to create Martin Luther King Day because of their belief that King was a communist sympathizer.

Sen. Helms delivered his speech on King on October 3 and later supplemented it with a document of some 300 pages consisting mainly of declassified FBI and other government reports about King’s connections with communists and communist-influenced groups…

Samuel Francis, American Renaissance

Regardless of the motivations behind our holidays, the holidays themselves tend to take on a life of their own over time. Just as the true origins of many religious holidays have been changed and obscured over the centuries, perhaps a hundred years from now the bizarre evolution of Parents’ Day will be supplanted by stories of noble parental deeds.

Today the holiday seems superfluous with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day falling in the preceding months, but who knows? Maybe Parents’ Day will take on a roll Mother’s Day was originally meant to fulfill. Julia Ward Howe called it Mothers’ Day for Peace. It wasn’t about honoring mothers. It was a day for mother’s to come together to work toward the future well-being of their children. To use their power to make the world a better place for the parents of tomorrow.