Random flotsam from the shattered windmills of my mind

Me, history, politics, Washington D.C., photography, sex

He kisses boys

Actor Gavin MacIntosh.

He has a recurring role on the ABC Family drama series The Fosters. MacIntosh portrays Connor, a handsome and kind-hearted boy who develops a friendship with the shy and isolated foster-child, Jude Jacob-Foster (portrayed by Hayden Byerly). This causes Jude to begin wondering what his sexual orientation might be.

On March 2, 2015, an episode of The Fosters featured MacIntosh's 16-year-old Connor and Byerly's 14-year-old Jude sharing a kiss. It is believed to be the youngest LGBT kiss ever in U.S. television history. Fans of the show were thrilled, and called the two "Jonnor" (a mash-up of Jude and Connor). There's even a hashtag: #Jonnor .

ABC Family uploaded a clip of the episode to YouTube. YouTube promptly added an age restriction to the video -- barring teens from seeing it. A vocal social media campaign to remove the age restriction ensued overnight, and YouTube removed the age restriction less than a day later.

Hollywood.com named Jude to its list of "Favorite LGBTQ Characters on TV."

After the season ended, Byerley revealed that Jude was originally intended to be transgender. The producers decided instead that Jude should be gay, while another chracter would be transgender.

Fans of the show are up in arms, because in the season finale there was gunfire at the teen club which Connor was attending. Now, fans are terrified that Connor is dead and Jude's got no one.


That headline, Wikipedia, is HORRIBLY MISLEADING.

Frankly, there was no two-month American "bombardment" of Puerto Rico.

The first engagement of any kind between U.S. and Spanish forces in Puerto Rico occurred on May 10. The USS Yale, an ocean liner converted to naval ship, captured a Spanish cruiser, the Rita, in San Juan harbor on May 8. A second Spanish ship attacked the Yale on May 9, and the Spanish shore batteries fired on the Yale on May 10, driving her off.

A single bombardment of the capital of San Juan occurred on May 12, 1898. The U.S. North Atlantic Squadron sailed into the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it was believed that the Spanish Atlantic Squadron had anchored. The Spanish were not there (having sailed directly to Santiago de Cuba, a port in Cuba), but Rear Admiral William T. Sampson orders the city bombed anyway. Somewhere between nine and 39 people died, including one Spanish soldier. One American sailor was killed. Destruction was scattered and light.

The tragedy of the bombardment of San Juan was that it was completely unnecessary. Sampson had no orders to bombard the city, and any U.S. invasion was months (perhaps as much as a year) off. Cuba was the first concern. At any rate, at least the damage and loss of life was minimal.

A naval engagement -- but not a bombardment -- occured on June 22, when the cruiser USS Saint Paul, commanded by Captain Charles D. Sigsbee (former commander of the USS Maine), disabled the Spanish Navy destroyer Terror while blockading San Juan, Puerto Rico. No attack on the island occurred.

Another naval engagement -- but not a bombardment -- occured on June 28. President McKinley extended the American naval blockade of Cuba to include a blockade of Puerto Rico. The cruiser USS Yosemite attacked the Spanish Navy transport Antonio Lopez, which was defended by the Spanish cruisers Isabel II and Alfonso XIII. Although the Antonio Lopez ran aground near the city of San Juan and was destroyed, most of her cargo (including heavy artillery) was saved by the Spanish. (The Antonio Lopez would be shelled and destroyed by the USS New Orleans on July 15.)

And that's it. Period. No "over two months of bombardment". Spanish forces in Cuba capitulated on July 17 after the Siege of Santiago de Cuba -- which effectively ended land combat in Cuba for the duration of the war. (Five very, very minor naval and ship-to-shore engagements occurred thereafter.)

The American land invasion of Puerto Rico began on July 25 when U.S. forces came ashore at Guánica. No shots were fired. On July 27, three U.S. Navy ships secured the surrender of the city of Ponce, and again no shots were fired. The port of Arroyo surrendered without a fight on August 1.

And that's it. All other combat in Puerto Rico was land-based and involved no naval vessels. The U.S. and Spain signed an armistice on August 12, and the last battle fought in Puerto Rico occurred near the town of Las Marías when U.S. and Spanish forces briefly skirmished. (Three military engagements still occurred, however. The USS Newark, USS Hist, USS Suwanee, USS Alvarado, and USS Osceola -- at sea and not aware of the armistice -- bombarded the Cuban port of Manzanillo and captured it the night of August 12-13. News of the armistice did not reach the Philippines in time, and U.S. troops captured the city of Manila on August 13. On August 14, the USS Mangrove fired on two Spanish Navy ships off Caibarién, Cuba. The Spanish surrendered, and explained that an armistice has been signed.)

Emmett Till, R.I.P.
Today would have been Emmett Till's 74th birthday.

Emmett Louis Till was the son of Louis and Mamie (nee Carthan) Till, born July 25, 1941, in Chicago. His parents separated in 1942, and Mamie and her mother. (The separation was caused by Louis' infideltiy. He later assaulted Mamie, and when he violated court orders to stay away from her, a judge gave him the choice of enlisting or prison. He enlisted, and was executed in Italy in 1945 after being convicted of rape and murder by a court-martial.) When he was six, Emmett contracted polio, and although he made a full recovery the illness left him with a persistent stutter.

Emmett was extremely bright, often acting much more mature than he was. He engaged in numerous schemes to earn money, eagerly helped his mother with chores and home piece-work, and dressed extremely well. He also bragged a lot, making exaggerated claims about his home life, schooling, wealth, and experiences. He was also robust child: At the age of 14, he weighed 150 pounds, was naturally muscular, and was 5'4" tall.

In the summer of 1955, Mamie's uncle, 64-year-old Mose Wright (a sharecropper and part-time preacher), visited her and Emmett in Chicago. Emmett was thrilled by stories of the Mississippi Delta, and his mother agreed to allow him to visit Mississippi.

Mamie warned Emmett repeatedly that Money, Mississippi, was not like Chicago. She lectured him extensively on how to behave: If a white person approached him on the sidewalk, he was to step into the street. He was to walk with his eyes cast at the ground at all times. He was never to speak to a white person, unless spoken to. He should never talk back to a white person. He could not shop in white stores. He must not be seen in town after dark. And much more... Emmett said he agreed.

Emmett arrived in Money on August 21. On August 24, he and a cousin, Curtis Jones, skipped church and went into town. That afternoon, they entered Bryant's Grocery (which catered to black sharecroppers) to buy candy. Twenty-one-year-old Carolyn was alone in the store at the cash register. Jones left Till in the store with the other boys. According to Jones, Till bragged about his integrated school in Chicago, and that he had a white girlfriend. One of the boys then dared Till to speak to Carolyn.

What happened next is unclear. Till may have wolf-whistled at Bryant. (But there is also evidence that Till sometimes whistled to overcome his stuttering.) Till may have grabbed Bryant's hand and asked her for a date. Till may have grabbed her hand and said "Bye, baby" or "You needn't be afraid of me, baby, I've been with white women before." Carolyn Bryant herself said that Till made sexual advances and asked "How about a date, baby?", and when she tried to move away he grabbed her waist and said "What's the matter baby, can't you take it?" Bryant claimed to have freed herself, after which Till told her "You needn't be afraid of me, baby," asked her to "fuck", and said "I've been with white women before." Till's cousin, Simeon Wright, challenged Bryant's version of events, noting that he was gone less than a minute and that when he re-entered the store he saw no inappropriate behavior and heard no lecherous conversation. Wright said Till paid for his items and left. An anonymous source interviewed by the FBI also confirmed Wright's account.

Not in dispute is what happened next: Bryant ran outside to her car and retrieved a pistol, and the teenagers fled across the street. Till whistled as she did so, but it is unclear if he was wolf-whistling at Bryant or whistling about a checkers game he was observing across the street.

One of the boys told Curtis Jones what happened. An older black man present urged the boys to run home, and they ddi so. Meanwhile, Bryant told her friends and family about what happened. Jones and Till decided not to tell Mose Wright what happened, fearing they would get in trouble for skipping church. That evening, a frightened Till told Jones he wanted to go home to Chicago.

Twenty-four-year-old Roy Bryant returned from a fishing trip on the morning of August 27, and was enraged. During the day, he aggressively questioned several young black men who entered his store. That evening, Bryant and a friend kidnapped a young black man walking along a road. He was released a few hours later after the young man's family vouched for his whereabouts on August 24, and Carolyn's friends said he was not the one who had accosted Roy's wife. Somehow, Bryant learned that the young black man he sought was from Chicago and staying with Mose Wright. Bryant and his 36-year-old half-brother J.W. Milam then discussed kiddnapping Till.

Some time between 2:00 AM and 3:30 AM on August 28, Roy Bryant, Milam (armed with a pistol), and another man drove to Mose Wright's house. They entered the two-bedroom cabin and demanded the "boy from Chicago". Mose took them to Till. Bryant asked Till if he'd spoken to Carolyn in the store, and Till replied, "Yeah." As Till dressed, the men threatened to kill Wright if he told the sherrif about the kidnapping. Till's great-aunt offered the men money to leave Till alone, but they did not reply to her offer.

Till was put in the back of Bryant's pickup truck and driven to a barn at the Clint Shurden Plantation in the nearby village of Drew. The men confronted Till and pistol-whipped him. They threw him in the back of the truck again, and covered him with a tarp. Just where the men went next is unclear. There is some evidence that they took Till to a shed behind Milam's home, and beat him for the next hour or two. By now, Bryant and Milam had picked up two to four other white men. Eyewitnesses even assert that two to four black men were also accompanying him. The group drove tossed the unconscious Till back in the bed of the pickup truck and covered him with the tarp again. They drove to Bryant's store, where several people noticed blood pooling in the bed of the truck. Bryant said he'd he killed a deer. He also showed the body to one black man, and said "that's what happens to smart niggers".

By now it was early daylight. Bryant and Milam drove to a cotton mill, where they seized a 70-pound set of fan blades and some barbed wire. They then drove for several miles along the Tallahatchie River. They finally stopped, shot Till behind the right ear, stripped him, used the barbed wire to tie the fan to his body, and tossed him in the river.

Meanwhile, Mose Wright was frantic. He assumed the men would just scare and beat Till, and waited 20 minutes for them to return. When they did not, he and another man drove around trying to find Till. They returned home at 8:00 AM. Fearing for his life, Wright refused to call the police, but a terrified Curtis Jones called the Leflore County sheriff and his own mother in Chicago. Distraught, Curtis' mother called Mamie Till. (Later, Mose and Elizabeth Wright drove to Sumner to talk things over with Elizabeth's brother. He immediately contacted the sheriff.)

Leflore County Sheriff George Smith questioned Bryant and Milam. They admitted kidnapping Till but claimed they had released him some hours later in front of Bryant's store. Bryant and Milam were arrested for kidnapping. A frantic Mamie Till contacted the NAACP, which believed that publicity would save Till's life. Medgar Evers, field secretary for the Mississippi state NAACP, disguised himself as a cotton picker and went into the cotton fields in an attempt to learn what happened to Till.

On August 31, Till's body was found by two boys fishing in the Tallahatchie River. His body was badly decomposed, and his head mangled by the beating and gunshot wound. He was identified by the silver ring he wore, and its inscription. Mose Wright identified the body. There was no post-mortem.

Till's murder electrified the country. The beating and murder of a 14-year-old boy visiting the Deep South shocked the nation, which was inured to the casual violence, lynching, beating, and harassment of African Ameicans. Fearing her son would be vilified by the press, Mamie allowed the press to publish a picture of a smiling, well-dressed Emmett taken at Christmas 1954. The photograph was printed throughout the United States, garnering sympathy of Till.

The state of Mississippi attempted to bury Emmett's body immediately, which would have essentially hidden the extent of the crime. (The state would never have granted a disinterrment order.) But Mamie demanded that the body be sent to Chicago, and angry officials in Illinois supported her claim. Mississippi grudgingly packed the body in lime and shipped it by rail to Chicago.

Local opinion swiftly turned against Bryant and Milam. Mississippi governor Hugh L. White, local newspapers, local county police, and even many whites denounced the crime and asked for a thorough prosecution.

Till's body arrived in Chicago to a massive crowd. Mamie swooned as her boy's corpse was taken from the train, and pictures of the event were widely published. The A.A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago oversaw the funeral. The stench of Till's body was noticeable two blocks away. Mamie decided on an open-casket funeral, saying "There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see." A glass-topped coffin was provided for the funeral.

Tens of thousands of people visited the mortuary to view Till's body, and thousands more attended his funeral on September 6 at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Mamie DEMANDED that photographs of his mutilated corpse lying in its coffin be taken, and they were published in Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper (both black-owned publications, aimed at black readers). The photographs outraged Chicago's black community, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and Illinois Governor William Stratton demanded that the killers be brought to justice, and mainstream newspapers nationwide commented on the publication.

Mississippi became defensive about it perceived to be "Northern" interference in a local matter. Mississippi newspapers falsely reported riots at the Rayner funeral home, ran photos of Bryant and Milam in military uniform, began running stories about Carolyn Bryant's beauty and virtue, and claimed outraged blacks and northern whites were going to invade Leflore County. Tallahatchie County Sheriff Clarence Strider said he doubted that the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River was Till's, and speculated Till was still alive and being hidden by the NAACP.

Bryant and Milam were indicted for murder, even though the local prosecutor doubted a jury would ever return a verdict of guilty.

The trial began on September 18, 1955. The defense argued that the body pulled from the river was not Till's, and that Mose Wright could never have positively identified Bryant and Milam as the men who took Till.

No black man in Mississippi had ever dared challenge a white man in court. When asked by the defense to identiy the kidnapper, Wright stood, pointed to Milam, and loudly announced "Thar he!" Photographer Ernest Withers secretly defied the judge's orders against photography in the courtroom, and caught the dramatic moment on film. Historian Christopher Benson said Wright had "crossed a line that no one could remember a black man ever crossing in Mississippi". A reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote that it was "the most dramatic thing I saw in my career".

Mamie Till also testified, with the defense insinuating that she'd had her own son killed to get a $400 life insurance policy. Eyewitnesses testified to hearing Till beg for mercy while being beatenin Milam's shed, while Sheriff Strider testified that the body retrieved from the river was white.

On September 23, the all-white jury acquitted both defendants after 67 minutes. One juror said, "If we hadn't stopped to drink pop, it wouldn't have taken that long." In later interviews, the jurors acknowledged that Bryant and Milam were guilty, but did not believe life imprisonment or the death penalty was a fit punishment for whites who had killed a black man.

In November 1955, a grand jury declined to indict Bryant and Milam for kidnapping, despite the testimony given that they had admitted taking Till.

Fleeing white retribution, Mose Wright and two other black witnesses relocated to Chicago.

In October 1955, the Jackson Daily News reported the facts about Louis Till's rapes and murder. (It was the first Mamie knew of this, as the Army had previously only told her that he'd been executed for "willful misconduct".) Mississippi senators James Eastland and John C. Stennis then released Army records about Louis Till's crimes. More articles were written about Louis Till in Mississippi than about Emmett Till, and most whites in the state believed that Emmett had inherited his father's depraved traits.

Bryant and Milam told their story to Look magazine in 1956 for $4,000. Protected by constitutional prohibition against double-jeopardy, the two gleefully told how they'd kidnapped Till, brutally beaten him, and how Milam shot him in the head. Reaction to the interview was explosive. Their brazen admission led directly to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which allowed the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in local law cases when civil rights were being compromised.

In Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white bus rider, sparking a year-long grassroots boycott of the public bus system. Parks later said, "I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn't go back." Till's murder influenced Harper Lee's rendition of the character Tom Robinson in her novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

Support for Bryant and Milam swiftly eroded in Mississippi after the interview. They were ostracized, their shops went bankrupt, and banks refused them loans. Both relocated to Texas, but eventually returned to Mississippi. Milam operated heavy equipment operator, was convicted of a wide variety of petty crimes, and died of spinal cancer in 1980 at the age of 61. Bryant worked as a welder, went blind, divorced Carolyn, remarried in 1980, opened a store, and was twice convicted of food stamp fraud. He died of cancer in 1994 at the age of 63. In 1882, he told an interviewer that Emmett Till had ruined his life: "Emmett Till is dead. I don't know why he can't just stay dead."

Carolyn Bryant remarried and still lives in Greenville, Mississippi. As of 2015, she's 87 years old. She has never spoken about the events in the store.

Mamie Till married Gene Mobley, became a teacher, and changed her surname to Till-Mobley. She spent the rest of her life working to educate people about her son's murder. She died of heart failure on January 6, 2003, at the age of 81. The same year, her autobiography Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America, was published.

Mose Wright died in 1966, never having returned to Mississippi. Simeon Wright is now 73 and Curtis Jones is now 75. Both men live in Chicago.

Unresolved questions as to who was involved in the murder and cover-up led federal authorities to try to resolve the questions about Emmett Till's murder. Till's body was exhumed and an autopsy conducted by the Cook County coroner in 2005. DNA, dental records, and other analysis positively identified the body as Till's. The autopsy also revealed Till had a broken left leg, and two broken wrists.

The house where 14-year-old Emmett Till was abducted in the dead of night is long gone. The Bryant store still exists, but is in a severe state of decay. Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, site of Till's funeral, is still open and holds services every Sunday.

Emmett Till's name is inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, as one of 40 martyrs to the civil rights cause. In 1991, a 7-mile stretch of 71st Street in Chicago was renamed "Emmett Till Road". McCosh Elementary School in Chicago, where Till had been a student, was renamed the "Emmett Louis Till Math And Science Academy" in 2005. The "Emmett Till Memorial Highway" was dedicated between Greenwood and Tutwiler, Mississippi, the same route his body took to the train station on its way to Chicago. In 2007, Tallahatchie County issued a formal apology to Till's family, recognizing the terrible miscarriage of justice. In 2008, Congress enacted the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which authorized the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights-era murders.

In July 2009, a manager and three workers at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, were charged with digging up bodies, dumping them in a remote area, and reselling the plots. Hundreds of remains were cast aside. Till's grave was not disturbed, but law enforcement discovered the original glass-topped casket rusting in a dilapidated storage shed. The coffin was supposed to have been placed in storage for safekeeping at a planned Emmett Till memorial museum. The cemetery manager, who administered the museum fund, pocketed the donations.

Relatives of Mamie Till-Mobley donated the casket to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The casket will go on display when the museum opens in 2016.

I feel crappy. I'm achy all over, didn't sleep well last night, am completely lethargic, and my eyes are itchy and red. My cold is going gangbusters... Took some cold meds to keep the stuffy nose at bay, which is helping.

Go set a mockingbird
Many people are upset that Harper Lee had a much different Atticus Finch in mind before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. That Lee has agreed to publish Go Set A Watchman says something about authorial intent -- that the Mockingbird Atticus wasn't meant to be the final statement about the character. Lee could have said, "I'll publish the book, but only as a 'what might have been'." But she hasn't said that, which I think indicates her intent: She sees Watchman as a sequel to Mockingbird.

Many fans of Mockingbird are really upset. But let's be frank: It's not as if authors haven't radically re-invented their works before.

I think what's fueling a lot of the anger is the 55-year gap between Mockingbird and Watchman, which left readers making (reasonable) strong assumptions about the characters. Had Lee published "Watchman" in 1962, these decades of cultural assumption would never have piled up.

Is it upsetting when an author runs a beloved novel off the rails? Yes.

But that is every author's right.

As a reader, I am critical of everything I read. Not all of it is good. No one dispute's an author's right to their own vision, but I can also critique that vision and say, "You should have stopped here" or "that last novel shouldn't have been written"... or even "Boy, that stinks! I'll never read a second book of theirs!" I do not need to uncritically imbibe everything an author puts out. I make choices as a reader about what to read. I judge.

Yet, at the same time, it's important for a reader to keep an open mind. I may not like what an author has done. But I need to remain open to seeing the truth of it. An emotional reaction shouldn't be my only one -- especially if my reaction to the first novel was incredibly powerful.

Characters do change. And sometimes that change is not for the better. And yet, I may not "like" the change, but at some level -- the author's writing skill, the good rationales for the character's change, the need for the change, the consistency of the change with what went before -- a reader should acknowledge that the changes were good, even required.

Like film, I shouldn't just react emotionally to a novel. "I liked it" is not good enough. When it comes to film, there are issues of aesthetics, technical skill, craft, and art to consider. A viewer should be able to address cinematography, editing, sound, music, acting, even direction. Someone who really cares about cinema will try to learn the vocabulary of cinema, and the various elements that go into making a good film.

All of that is entirely apart from whether it spoke to a viewer on an emotional level. Many films "speak" on an emotional level, but completely suck from a cinema perspective. The verso is true as well. And when it comes to superb film, it works on both levels.

A novel is much the same.

I can appreciate a film that never speaks to me. I should be able to appreciate a novel that doesn't speak to me, either.

I wonder how many people desperately in love with To Kill a Mockingbird will remain open-minded enough to try to see the aesthetic, technical, and other kills which go into Go Set A Watchman and judge them honestly.

The millstone
It was the best thing I ever did in my life, as every gay person will tell you. I grew up overnight, and I was born again. Everything went better, and it felt as if a great millstone had dropped from my back that I didn't know had been there.

- Ian McKellan, on coming out of the closet

Break a sweat!
YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Washington Blade used my photo of two hunky guys at the Watergate Steps to illustrate this article on "Breaking a Sweat in Washington, D.C."

Dear Jebus, no...
Michael Bay is going to remake Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. God help us...


Death of Marat

July 13, 1793 – Charlotte Corday stabbed to death Jean-Paul Marat, a leader in both the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, in his bathtub.

Later that year, French master-painter Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat -- one of the greatest paintings of the 18th century.

Marat was born in Boudry in the Prussian Principality of Neuchâtel (now Switzerland) on May 24, 1743. He was short and profoundly ugly, and his middle-class parents gave him an educated upbringing. He left home for France at the age of 16, he studied medicine in Paris, and two years later emigrated to England. He earned a medical degree from the University of St Andrews in 1775, while writing radical leftist political tracts and mingling with artists. He returned to Paris, and in 1777 was named physician to the bodyguard of the comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's youngest brother. He became a noted scientist, working in a wide range of fields (including optics).

Marat's outrage at how the common people (the Third Estate) were treated never waned, however. In 1788, he quit all his medical and scientific posts and began writing inflammatory tracts attacking the nobility, press, clergy, and Constituent Assembly. By this time, he was suffering from dermatitis herpetiformis, a chronic and painful blistering skin condition that covered most of his torso and head.

Marat founded a newspaper, Friend of the People (L'ami peuple), where he continued his radical attacks on the establishment. Under attack by the nobility, he hid in the Paris sewers in 1790, continuing to publish his newspaper.

Marat emerged from hiding only during the insurrection of 10 August 1792 -- one of the defining events of the French Revolution. A nobleman had called for harsh repression of the Revolution, and the National Guard and Third Estate stormed the Tuileries Palace. King Louis XVI and the royal family were forced to seek protection from the Legislative Assembly and the monarchy was suspended in favor of a new National Convention. The next month, the September Massacres occured as thousands of political prisoners across France were killed by the National Guard for fear that these monarchists would escape and raise armies to stop the Revolution.

Marat was elected to the National Convention in September 1792. France was declared a republic on September 22, and immediately put the deposed king Louis XVI on trial. Marat was fiercely independent, and said it was unfair to try Louis for any crimes committed before his speech in which he accepted the French Constitution of 1791. Nevertheless, he called for Louis' death.

Louis XVI was guillotined on January 2, 1793. Political turmoil followed as the Revolution was no longer unified in its opposition to the king. A very significant minority of the National Convention belonged to the Jacobin Club, a group which supported republicanism, the rule of law, radical reform of French society and economics, banishment of Catholic clergy, and war with Austria (whom they felt would eventually invade France to restore the monarchy).

There were two factions in the Jacobin Club, the Girondists (who wanted war) and the more radical Montagnards (who wanted radical domestic reform first). The Montagnards were led by Maximilien Robespierre, a politician and lawyer. A series of parliamentary maneuvers allowed the Montagnards to seize more and more power in the National Convention, and in May 1793 they fostered a coup (backed by the Paris mob) in which they toppled the government and began the Reign of Terror. Thousands would be guillotined (including 200 Girondist leaders), and the Montagnards would establish a "Republic of Virtue" in which almost every aspect of French society was reformed (right down to the name of months, and whether women should breastfeed). The Reign of Terror itself collapsed in July 1794, after which the Jacobin Club -- now leaderless -- ceased to exist.

It was as the Montagnards rose to power that Marat began his most vicious attacks on the Girondists, whom he felt were betraying the Revolution and seeking a restoration of the monarchy. Although not a Montagnard, he allied with them and began calling for the Third Estate to rise up and eliminate the Girondists. The Girondists managed to have him arrested, but Marat gave such a decisive and powerful speech during his trial that he was acquitted of all charges.

Charlotte Corday was a member of a minor aristocratic family in Normandy, born in 1768. Nuns took care of her when her mother died, and she read extensively in their library -- which included the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. She moved to Caen, where she inherited some wealth upon the death of her cousin.

Corday became increasingly influenced by Girondist newspapers and political tracts, and was horrified by the September Massacres of 1792. On July 9, 1793, Corday moved to Paris, where she rented a room at the Hôtel de Providence and bought a six-inch kitchen knife. She planned to assassinate Marat in front of the entire National Convention, but discovered that his skin disease had so disabled him that he no longer attended its meetings.

Just before noon on July 13, Corday appeared at Marat's home, claiming to have knowledge of a Girondist plot. Marat's wife turned her away. She returned that evening, and Marat told a servant to admit her. To alleviate the pain from his skin disease, Marat spent most of his time in a large copper bathtub, his head wrapped in a bandage soaked in vinegar. Corday was admitted to Marat's bathing room. He asked her to write down the names of the Girondist plotters, and she did so. This apparently put the servants at ease, who withdrew.

Then she pulled out the knife and plunged it into his chest, piercing his lung and heart. He called out, "Aidez-moi, ma chère amie!" ("Help me, my dear friend!") and died. Servants rushed in, and Corday -- who offered no resistance -- was arrested.

Marat was buried at the cemetery of the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.

Charlotte Corday was put on trial the same day. She defended herself in Girondist style, declaring that Marat was fostering a civil war. "I knew that he was perverting France. I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand!" she declared. On July 17, 1793, Corday was found guilty and guillotined a few hours later. Her corpse was disposed of in a mass grave in Madeleine Cemetery.

The assassination of Marat helped fueld the Montagnard coup, bringing about the very Reign of Terror which Charlotte Corday had hoped to avoid.

Marat's tub was in the shape of an old-fashioned high-buttoned shoe and had a copper lining. After Marat's death, his wife sold to a neighbor, who sold it to the writer Saint-Hilaire. It was inherited by his daughter, who sold it to a French clergyman. The clergyman sold the tub to the Musée Grévin, where it remains today.

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thrillist used my photo of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery for this article on "53 free things to do in Washington, D.C."


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