Good News in History, January 1

120 years ago today, the Federation of Australia was born. The Constitution of Australia came into force, uniting the 6 colonies of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia under one federal government. The idea of being ‘Australian’ had been celebrated in songs and poems for decades; finally, a fireworks display in Sydney marked the political achievement with a sign that read ‘One people, one destiny.’

As the six colonies had become inspired by other federations that had emerged around the world, such as the U.S. and Canada, their slogan became “a nation for a continent, and a continent for a nation”.

Each of the states kept their systems of government and legislatures, but they wanted a federal government that would be responsible for matters concerning the whole nation. Championing a national railway system, Sir Henry Parkes, the instrumental and persuasive Premier of the Colony of New South Wales was known as the “Father of Federation”, though he died before its fruition.

He said in his famous 1889 Tenterfield Oration, a speech that birthed the unification of a nation: “Surely what the Americans have done by war, Australians can bring about in peace.” SEE the other notable leader whose efforts were crucial. (1901)

Photos: Edmund Barton (1902), and the reading of the Queen’s proclamation

Sir Edmund Barton, a judge, was instrumental to the process, and later inaugurated as the first prime minister. Barton, who was also a delegate to the constitutional conventions, played a key role in the drafting of a national constitution. He resigned as prime minister after 3 years to become a founding member of the High Court of Australia, where he served until his death.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The importation of slaves into the United States was banned (1808)
  • President Abraham Lincoln signed an Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in US Confederate rebel states and leading to new attitudes about slavery (1863)
  • The Commonwealth of Australia was formed (1901)
  • The United Nations Declaration was signed by 26 nations (1942)
  • Haiti became the first independent country in the West Indies (1804); Spanish rule ended in Cuba (1899); Italy embraced a Constitution (1948)
  • UN Cease-fire orders in Kashmir stopped the war between India and Pakistan (1949)
  • Gaining Independence: Republic of the Sudan (1956), Cameroon (1960), Western Samoa (1962), The Sultanate of Brunei (1984)
  • The feared Y2K computer bugs caused none of the problems predicted to arise with the new millennium date (2000)
  • Norwegian 19 year-old Magnus Carlsen, became the youngest chess grandmaster ever to top the world rankings (2010)

And, on this day in 1892,  Ellis Island opened as a new immigration depot in the New York City harbor. Over 40 percent of the U.S. population — 100 million Americans — can trace their roots back to this doorway.

17 million immigrants took their first steps towards freedom and opportunity at the Ellis Island processing center. A small sample of those who came through Ellis Island reveals some of the greatest names in literature, entertainment, politics, and science.

  1. Singer Enrico Caruso
  2. Olympiad Johann Weismuller
  3. Comedian Henry (Henny) Youngman
  4. Circus founders John and Mabel Ringling
  5. Composer and Conductors, Gustav Mahler and Arturo Toscanini
  6. Physicians Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud
  7. Filmmaker Charles Chaplin
  8. Conductors Leopold Stokowski and Sergei Rachmaninoff
  9. The ancestors of future presidents Woodrow Wilson, William H. Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Herbert Hoover
  10. Writers Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Songwriters George Gershwin, George M. Cohan, Israel Beilin (Irving Berlin) and Cole Porter
  12. Animator Walter Elias Disney
  13. Albert Einstein
Merle Haggard in 1971, public domain

And on this day in 1959, Johnny Cash played a free concert for the inmates of San Quentin prison. In the audience was a 19-year-old guy named Merle Haggard, who was serving a 15-year sentence for armed robbery. Haggard was released on parole the following year after joining the prison’s country band, inspired by Cash. The singer–songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler went on to score 38 number-one hits on the country charts between the 1960s and the 80s.

And, 286 years ago today, Paul Revere was born in Boston. The American silversmith, engraver, and Patriot in the American Revolution was immortalized for his midnight horseback ride to alert the colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the first shots rang out in Lexington and Concord.

At age 41, Paul Revere was a prosperous Boston silversmith who supported independence for the American colonies and helped organize an intelligence network to keep watch on the British military.

Following the war, Revere returned to his silversmith trade, branched out, and, in 1800, he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels. (1735)

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