United States

This Day in History: Woody Guthrie and Gerald Ford Are Born

And international diplomacy is changed forever

Legal history in America is made everyday, but July 14 is especially important for marriage-equality, human rights and the freedom of speech.

The Sedition Act of 1798

On July 14, 1798 second president of the United States, John Adams, signed the first American Sedition Act into law.

The law, which the Federalist Party argued strengthened national security, made false statements critical of the government a criminal offense. Opponents of the bill said it violated the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause.

The act was later repealed by Thomas Jefferson, who represented the Democratic-Republican Party.

A similar bill – the Sedition Act of 1918 – extended the government’s ability to punish those who dissented against war efforts during World War I. It was an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917, which was repealed in 1920.

Billy The Kid shot (1881)

Billy the Kid – born Henry McCarty, known as William Bonney – was shot and killed on July 14, 1881.

The Kid, a famous criminal of the American ‘wild west’, was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett after escaping prison. Kid was tried and convicted for the murder of another Sheriff, and believed to have killed up to eight others.

Sheriff Garrett, who captured The Kid in December of 1980, tracked Billy down to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Legends began that Billy survived the encounter, but history says otherwise; The Kid was never heard from again.


In 20th century news, Woody Guthrie, famed folk music singer-songwriter, was born on July 14, 1912.

Guthrie’s most notable song, “This Land Is Your Land,” embodies much of the social justice thoughts he championed. He played a guitar imprinted with This machine kills fascist, during World War II.

Songwriters, such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Paxton credit Guthrie for influencing their own music.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie died of Huntington’s disease in October of 1967. He was 55.

Just one year after Guthrie, future President of the United States Gerald Ford was born – July 14, 1913.

President Ford was appointed to the Vice Presidency following Spiro Agnew’s resignation; he then became president after Nixon. He is the only person to service as Vice President and President without being elected to executive office.

Ford was president during a tough time in American history – following the Watergate scandal, he pardoned Nixon; essentially ended the involvement in Vietnam; and dealt with an economic recession.

Ford defeated future-President Ronald Reagan in the Republican primary in 1976 before eventually losing to Jimmy Carter. He died in December of 2006. He was 93.

Nazi's takeover Germany (1933)

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Hitler-led regime of World War II, officially outlawed the founding of new political parties on July 14, 1933.

Better known as the Nazi Party, they had already outlawed or dissolved all pre-existing parties, without ever winning more than 44% of the popular vote prior to that date.

The Nazis, a party of nationalist, populist, racist and anti-Semitic ideology, consolidated power in Germany before invading Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. World War II subsequently followed; the Allied Forces of the Soviet Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Republic of China defeated the Axis Leaders of Nazi Germany, the Empire of Japan and the Italian Social Republic.

Nazis also orchestrated The Holocaust - the genocide of approximately six million Europeanx of Jewish-faith. It is one of the most horrible violations of human rights in history.

The effects of that war are still seen in diplomacy today. Israel was created, Nazis were prosecuted and the Soviet Union and the United States split Korea into two nations, as well as much more.

Hitler committed suicide during the war and Germany has since strengthened its democratic foundation to avoid ever succumbing to Nazi rule or any other fascist regimes.

MLB umpires resign (1999)

In 1999, the MLB Umpires Association demanded a new labor agreement with the Major League Baseball (MLUA).

On July 14, the umpires met in Philadelphia, where they decided to resign. Richie Phillips, the MLUA’s leader announced on July 15, that 57 umpires would resign, effective September 2.

MLB accepted the resignations of 22 them and hired new umpires to replace them. Over 40 umpires tried to rescind their resignations, but the ones previously accepted were seen as final. The MLUA dropped their labor complaint and the 22 who resigned were given a severance package, in exchange for a pledge not to strike from the association.

Major League Baseball umpires are now represented by the World Umpires Association.

Valerie Plamme and the Federal Marriage Amednment (2003)

On July 14, 2003, columnist Robert Novak wrote in The Washington Post about former diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson’s “Mission to Niger,” which is also the name of the column.

That column identified Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative.

Plame, who is married to Joseph Wilson, had her identity leaked by “two senior administration official,” according to Novak. That information was classified, making that leak a crime.

No one was ever convicted of leaking the information; however, Scooter Libby was convicted of making false statements to a federal agent. President Bush commuted his sentence.

On the same day, in 2003, the United States Senate voted against a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage. 

Any constitutional amendment requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states, but the Senate killed the bill in their chambers.

Neither house of Congress ever passed the amendment; and now state-level bans of same-sex marriage have been ruled unconstitutional, as determine by the Supreme Courts ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

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