On this day. 1863: As the Civil War raged, President Abraham Lincoln issued his "eye-for-an-eye" order. It was described in the September issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine (p.559) as follows:
"The law of retaliation is formally announced by both the National and the Confederate authorities. Two Confederate officers were executed in Tennessee, June 9, by order of General Rosencrans, as spies found within our lines. The Confederates chose by lot, from among our prisoners at Richmond, two officers, and set them apart for execution, when ordered, in retaliation. Two officers of the enemy in our hands were then placed in close confinement, to be executed if the threats of the enemy were carried out. President Lincoln has also issued a proclamation declaring, in effect, that no distinction will be recognized in the treatment accorded to our white and colored troops who may be captured by the enemy. Every case of ill-treatment will be retaliated in kind: hanging for hanging, shooting for shooting, imprisonment for imprisonment. If a colored soldier, taken prisoner, is sold into slavery, a Confederate prisoner will, in return, be confined at hard labor in some prison until the colored prisoner is set free."
Historians say Lincoln's order was intended primarily as a way to intimidate the Confederacy. It had a slight "restraining" influence on the Confederate government's voiced policy, but individual commanders and soldiers continued to murder captured black soldiers.
On this day. 1956: President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill declaring "In God We Trust" to be the nation’s official motto. The first paper money with that motto was printed in 1957; some critics say it violated the separation of church and state.
On this day. 1965: President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law. In 2011, Medicare/Medicaid spending was $840 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
On this day. 1974: The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Nixon for blocking the Watergate investigation. Nixon would resign ten days later.
Quote of the day
"I despise people who go to the gutter on either the right or the left and hurl rocks at those in the center." -Dwight D. Eisenhower
More from West Wing Reports...
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How my boyfriend and I learned to live on one income
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why the poor's investment of choice is so alarming
- Why China's Communist Party is headed for collapse
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Affirmative action is doomed. Here's what progressives should do about it.
- Obama's next steps on immigration
- What Pope John Paul II could have learned from Sinead O'Connor
- How to make perfect fried rice in 6 easy steps
Subscribe to the Week