On this day on 5th November

On this day in 1605 Robert Catesby, Thomas Wintour, Guy Fawkes, Thomas Percy, John Wright, Francis Tresham, Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, Thomas Bates and Christopher Wright planned to blow up Parliament.

Catesby's plan involved blowing up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November, 1605. This date was chosen because the king was due to open Parliament on that day. At first the group tried to tunnel under Parliament. This plan changed when Thomas Percy was able to hire a cellar under the House of Lords. The plotters then filled the cellar with barrels of gunpowder. The conspirators also hoped to kidnap the king's daughter, Elizabeth. In time, Catesby was going to arrange Elizabeth's marriage to a Catholic nobleman.

One of the people involved in the plot was Francis Tresham. He was worried that the explosion would kill his friend and brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle. On 26th October, Tresham sent Lord Monteagle a letter warning him not to attend Parliament on 5th November. Monteagle became suspicious and passed the letter to Robert Cecil. Cecil quickly organised a thorough search of the Houses of Parliament.

While searching the cellars below the House of Lords, Sir Thomas Knyvett, keeper of the Palace of Westminster, and his men found Guy Fawkes, who claimed he was John Johnson, the servant of Thomas Percy. He was arrested, and when his men hauled away the faggots and brushwood, they uncovered thirty-six barrels - nearly a ton - of gunpowder.

Guy Fawkes was tortured and admitted that he was part of a plot to "blow the Scotsman (James) back to Scotland". On the 7th November, after enduring further tortures, Fawkes gave the names of his fellow conspirators. "Catesby suggested... making a mine under the upper house of Parliament... because religion had been unjustly suppressed there... twenty barrels of gunpowder were moved to the cellar... It was agreed to seize Lady Elizabeth, the king's eldest daughter... and to proclaim her Queen".

The trial began on the 27th January, 1606. The Attorney-General Sir Edward Coke made a long speech, that included a denial that the King had ever made any promises to the Catholics. He then read out the confessions of the men accused of the crime. Thomas Wintour made a statement where he admitted his involvement but pleaded that his brother, Robert Wintour, should be spared. Everard Digby pleaded guilty, but justified his actions by claiming that the insisting that the King had reneged upon promises of toleration for Catholics.

On 30th January, Everard Digby, Robert Wintour, John Grant, and Thomas Bates, were tied to hurdles and dragged through the crowded streets of London to St Paul's Churchyard. Digby, the first to mount the scaffold, asked the spectators for forgiveness, and refused the attentions of a Protestant clergyman. He was stripped of his clothing, and wearing only a shirt, climbed the ladder to place his head through the noose. He was quickly cut down, and while still fully conscious was castrated, disembowelled, and then quartered, along with the three other prisoners.

Crispen van de Passe, The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators (c.1606)
Crispen van de Passe, The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators (c.1606)

On this day in 1818 Benjamin Butler, American general was born. After graduating from Waterville College in 1838 he became a successful criminal lawyer in Lowell, Massachusetts. As a member of the Democratic Party, Butler served two terms in the state legislature, where he developed a reputation for being sympathetic to the plight of the poor.

Butler supported John Beckenridge against Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election but immediately gave his support to the Union on the outbreak of the American Civil War. Butler was a brigadier general in the Massachusetts militia and during the Fort Sumter crisis rushed his unit to protect Washington. On 13th May, 1861, Butler used his troops to capture Baltimore. Impressed by his loyalty and initiative, Abraham Lincoln promoted Butler to the rank of major general and sent him to command Fort Monroe in Virginia. Soon afterwards, runaway slaves began to appear at the fort seeking protection. The slaveowners demanded that the runaways should be returned. Butler refused, issuing a statement that he considered the slaves to be "contraband of war".

President Jefferson Davis accused Butler of "inciting African slaves to insurrection" in New Orleans by arming them for war. Davis issued a statement ordering that Butler "no longer be considered or treated simply as a public enemy of the Confederate States of America, but as an outlaw and common enemy of mankind, and that, in the event of his capture, the officer in command of the captured force do cause him to be immediately executed by hanging."

In November, 1863, Edwin M. Stanton, the Secretary of War, sent Butler to New York City with 5,000 troops. Stanton feared that during the presidential elections the city might see a return to the Draft Riots that had taken place that summer. The move was successful and the city remained securely under the control of the Union Army.

Abraham Lincoln decided he wanted Butler as his running mate in the 1864 presidential election. It was argued that this would help Lincoln win the votes of the War Democrats. Simon Cameron was sent to talk to Butler about joining the campaign. However, Butler rejected the offer, jokingly saying that he would only accept if Lincoln promised "that within three months after his inauguration he would die".

The American Civil War radicalized Butler. He became a strong opponent of slavery and refused to return fugitive slaves. He was also one of the few military commanders who favoured the recruitment of black regiments. He established a unit of African American soldiers called the First Regiment Louisiana Native Guards. In December, 1864, he united thirty-seven black regiments to form the Twenty-Fifth Corps. He also arranged for these soldiers to be taught to read and write. These actions made him very popular with the Radical Republicans in Congress.

In 1867 Butler joined with Benjamin Loan and James Ashley in claiming that Andrew Johnson had been involved in the conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln. Butler asked the question: "Who it was that could profit by assassination (of Lincoln) who could not profit by capture and abduction? He followed this with: "Who it was expected by the conspirators would succeed to Lincoln, if the knife made a vacancy?" He also implied that Johnson had been involved in tampering with the diary of John Wilkes Booth. "Who spoliated that book? Who suppressed that evidence?"

In November, 1867, the Judiciary Committee voted 5-4 that Andrew Johnson be impeached by high crimes and misdemeanors. The majority report written by Thomas Williams contained a series of charges including pardoning traitors, profiting from the illegal disposal of railroads in Tennessee, defying Congress, denying the right to reconstruct the South and attempts to prevent the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On 30th March, 1868, Johnson's impeachment trial began. Johnson was the first and only president of the United States to be impeached. The trial, held in the Senate in March, was presided over by Chief Justice Salmon Chase. During the trial Butler was one of Johnson's fiercest critics.

Although a large number of senators believed that Johnson was guilty of the charges, they disliked the idea of Benjamin Wade becoming the next president. Wade, who believed in women's suffrage and trade union rights, was considered by many members of the Republican Party as being an extreme radical. James Garfield warned that Wade was "a man of violent passions, extreme opinions and narrow views who was surrounded by the worst and most violent elements in the Republican Party." Others Republicans such as James Grimes argued that Johnson had less than a year left in office and that they were willing to vote against impeachment if Johnson was willing to provide some guarantees that he would not continue to interfere with Reconstruction.

When the vote was taken all members of the Democratic Party voted against impeachment. So also did those Republicans such as Lyman Trumbull, William Fessenden and James Grimes, who did not want Wade to become president. The result was 35 to 19, one vote short of the required two-thirds majority for conviction. A further vote on 26th May, also failed to get the necessary majority needed to impeach Johnson. The Radical Republicans were angry that not all the Republican Party voted for a conviction and Butler claimed that Johnson had bribed two of the senators who switched their votes at the last moment.

Benjamin Butler
Benjamin Butler

On this day in 1857 Ida Tarbell, investigative journalist was born. Ida was an intelligent student and after leaving Allegheny College, Meadville, she found employment as a teacher at Poland Union Seminary in Poland, Ohio. Her main desire was to work as a writer and after two years teaching she began working for Theodore Flood, editor of The Chautauquan. Flood quickly realised her talent and in 1886 she was appointed managing editor. A job she did for the next eight years.

In 1891 Tarbell went to Paris and studied at Sorbonne University for three years. Her main areas of interest were the activities of Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein and Marie-Jeanne Roland, two women involved in the French Revolution. While in France she continued to contribute to American newspapers.

Samuel McClure, created McClure's Magazine, an American literary and political magazine, in June 1893. Selling at the low price of 15 cents, this illustrated magazine published the work of leading popular writers such as Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle. McClure also produced articles about historical figures from the past and commissioned Tarbell to write about Napoleon Bonaparte.

Lincoln Steffens, the editor of the magazine, was so impressed with her work, he recruited her as a staff writer. Tarbell's 20-part series on Abraham Lincoln doubled the magazine's circulation. In 1900 this material was published in a two-volume book, The Life of Abraham Lincoln. Steffens was interested in using McClure's Magazine to campaign against corruption in politics and business. This style of investigative journalism that became known as muckraking.

Tarbell's articles on John D. Rockefeller and how he had achieved a monopoly in refining, transporting and marketing oil appeared in the magazine between November, 1902 and October, 1904. This material was eventually published as a book, History of the Standard Oil Company (1904). Rockefeller responded to these attacks by describing Tarbell as "Miss Tarbarrel". The New York Times commented that "Miss Tarbell's fine analytical powers and gift for popular interpretation stood her in good stead" in the articles that she wrote for the magazine. It is claimed that these articles were partly responsible for the passing of the Clayton Antitrust Act.

In 1906 Tarbell joined with Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker and William A. White to establish the radical American Magazine. Steffens's biographer, Justin Kaplan, the author of Lincoln Steffens: A Biography (1974), has argued: "That summer he and his partners celebrated their freedom from McClure's house of bondage, as they now saw it. There was a spirit of picnic and honeymoon about the enterprise; affections, loyalties, professional comradeship had never seemed quite so strong before and never would again. They dealt with each other as equals." Steffens later commented: "We were all to edit a writers' magazine." Articles by Tarbell for the magazine included John D. Rockefeller: A Character Sketch (July, 1907); Roosevelt vs. Rockefeller (December, 1908); The Mysteries and Cruelties of the Tariff (November, 1910) and The Hunt for the Money Trust (May, 1913). She also wrote several books on the role of women including The Business of Being a Woman (1912) and The Ways of Women (1915).

C. C. Regier, the author of The Era of the Muckrakers (1933) has argued that it is possible to tabulate the achievements of investigative journalism by Tarbell and her friends: "The list of reforms accomplished between 1900 and 1915 is an impressive one. The convict and peonage systems were destroyed in some states; prison reforms were undertaken; a federal pure food act was passed in 1906; child labour laws were adopted by many states; a federal employers' liability act was passed in 1906, and a second one in 1908, which was amended in 1910; forest reserves were set aside; the Newlands Act of 1902 made reclamation of millions of acres of land possible; a policy of the conservation of natural resources was followed; eight-hour laws for women were passed in some states; race-track gambling was prohibited; twenty states passed mothers' pension acts between 1908 and 1913; twenty-five states had workmen's compensation laws in 1915; an income tax amendment was added to the Constitution; the Standard Oil and the Tobacco companies were dissolved; Niagara Falls was saved from the greed of corporations; Alaska was saved from the Guggenheims and other capitalists; and better insurance laws and packing-house laws were placed on the statute books."

Ida Tarbell
Ida Tarbell

On this day in 1872 in defiance of the law, suffragist Susan B. Anthony votes for the first time, and is later fined $100. In 1869 Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). The organisation condemned the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments as blatant injustices to women. The NWSA also advocated easier divorce and an end to discrimination in employment and pay. Anthony toured the country making speeches on women's rights. In one year alone, she travelled 13,000 miles and made over 170 speeches. In 1872 Anthony attempted to vote in a an election in Rochester. She was arrested, charged and later found guilty of violating voting rights.

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

On this day in 1913 Vivien Leigh, Indian-British actress was born. Leigh won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, for her performances as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a role she had also played on stage in London's West End in 1949. She also won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway musical version of Tovarich (1963). Although her career had periods of inactivity, in 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Leigh as the 16th greatest female movie star of classic Hollywood cinema.

Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh

On this day in 1916 there was armed confrontation between the police and members of the Industrial Workers of the World at Everett, Washington. The IWW (also called Wobblies) had arrived in town to give support for striking shingle workers who had been involved in a five-month dispute. Once there, vigilantes employed by businessmen had beaten them up with axe handles and run them out of town.

On the 5th November about 300 IWW members met at the IWW Hall in Seattle and then marched down to the docks where they boarded the steamers Verona and Calista which then headed north to Everett. More than 200 vigilantes (citizen deputies) under the authority of Sheriff Donald McRae, met the ships when they sailed into the dock. McRae drew his pistol, told them he was the sheriff, he was enforcing the law, and they couldn't land. The vigilantes then opened fire on the IWW. Passengers aboard the Verona rushed to the opposite side of the ship, nearly capsizing the vessel. The ship's rail broke and a number of passengers were ejected into the water, some drowned as a result but how many is not known, or whether persons who'd been shot also went overboard. Over 175 bullets pierced the pilot house alone.

Two citizen deputies were killed with about 18 others wounded, including Sheriff McRae. The two deputies that were shot were actually shot in the back by fellow deputies; their injuries were not caused by IWW gunfire. It is estimated that about 12 members of the IWW officially were killed.

Seventy-four Wobblies were arrested as a direct result of the Everett Massacre including IWW leader Thomas H. Tracy. They were charged with the murder of the two deputies. After a two-month trial, Tracy was acquitted by a jury on May 5, 1917. Shortly thereafter, all charges were dropped against the remaining 73 defendants and they were released from jail.

The Seattle Star (6th November, 1916)
The Seattle Star (6th November, 1916)

On this day in 1925 Sidney Reilly is executed by the secret police of the Soviet Union. In April 1918, Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the head of MI6 sent Reilly to Russia. He joined a team that included the Robert Bruce Lockhart, the Head of Special Mission to the Soviet Government with the rank of acting British Consul-General, George Alexander Hill, Paul Dukes, Cudbert Thornhill, Ernest Boyce, Oswald Rayner and Stephen Alley. Xenophon Kalamatiano, the main American agent in Russia, also joined this conspiracy. The main objective of this group was to bring about the overthrow of the Bolshevik government. Reilly had a passionate hatred for communism. "Bolshevism had been baptised in the blood of the bourgeoise... its leaders were criminals, assassins, murderers, gunmen, desperadoes.... Over all, silent, secret, ferocious, menacing, hung the crimson shadow of the Cheka. The new masters were ruling in Russia."

Jan Buikis, a Soviet agent, made contact with Francis Cromie, the naval attaché at the British Embassy, and requested a meeting with Robert Bruce Lockhart. On 14th August, 1918, Buikis and Colonel Eduard Berzin, met Lockhart. Berzin told Lockhart that there was serious disaffection among the Lettish troops and asked for money to finance an anti-Bolshevik coup. Lockhart, who described Berzin as "a tall powerfully-built man with clear-cut features and hard steely eyes" was impressed by Berzen. He told Lockhart that he was a senior commander of the Lettish (Latvian) regiments that had been protecting the Bolshevik Government ever since the revolution. Berzin insisted that these regiments had proved indispensable to Lenin, saving his regime from several attempted coups d'état.

Robert Bruce Lockhart asked Xenophon Kalamatiano to help arrange funds from America to pay for the overthrow of the Bolsheviks. Colonel Henri de Vertement, the leading French intelligence agent in Russia also contributed money for the venture. Over the next week, George Reilly, Ernest Boyce and George Alexander Hill had regular meetings with Colonel Eduard Berzin, where they planned the overthrow of the Bolsheviks. During this period they handed over 1,200,000 rubles. Unknown to MI6 this money was immediately handed over to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of Cheka. So also were the details of the British conspiracy.

Berzin told the agents that his troops had been to assigned to guard the theatre where the Soviet Central Executive Committee was to met. A plan was devised to arrest Lenin and Leon Trotsky at the meeting was to take place on 28th August, 1918. Robin Bruce Lockhart, the author of Reilly: Ace of Spies (1992) has argued: "Reilly's grand plan was to arrest all the Red leaders in one swoop on August 28th when a meeting of the Soviet Central Executive Committee was due to be held. Rather than execute them, Reilly intended to de-bag the Bolshevik hierarchy and with Lenin and Trotsky in front, to march them through the streets of Moscow bereft of trousers and underpants, shirt-tails flying in the breeze. They would then be imprisoned. Reilly maintained that it was better to destroy their power by ridicule than to make martyrs of the Bolshevik leaders by shooting them." Reilly's plan was eventually rejected and it was decided to execute the entire leadership of the Bolshevik Party.

Reilly later recalled: "At a given signal, the soldiers were to close the doors and cover all the people in the Theatre with their rifles, while a selected detachment was to secure the persons of Lenin and Trotsky... In case there was any hitch in the proceedings, in case the Soviets showed fight or the Letts proved nervous... the other conspirators and myself would carry grenades in our place of concealment behind the curtains." However, at the last moment, the Soviet Central Executive Committee meeting was postponed until 6th September.

On 31st August 1918 Dora Kaplan attempted to assassinate Lenin. It was claimed that this was part of the British conspiracy to overthrow the Bolshevik government and orders were issued by Felix Dzerzhinsky, the head of Cheka, to round up the agents based in British Embassy in Petrograd. The naval attaché, Francis Cromie was killed resisting arrest. According to Robin Bruce Lockhart: "The gallant Cromie had resisted to the last; with a Browning in each hand he had killed a commissar and wounded several Cheka thugs, before falling himself riddled with Red bullets. Kicked and trampled on, his body was thrown out of the second floor window."

Ernest Boyce and Robert Bruce Lockhart were both arrested but Sidney Reilly had a lucky escape. He arranged to meet Cromie that morning. He arrived at the British Embassy soon after Cromie had been killed: "The Embassy door had been battered off its hinges. The Embassy flag had been torn down. The Embassy had been carried by storm." Reilly now went into hiding and after paying 60,000 rubles to be smuggled out of Russia on board a Dutch freighter.

Reilly arrived back in London with another agent, George Alexander Hill, were asked to return to London in November 1918. Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the head of MI6 was very pleased with the information the two men had smuggled out of Russia and arranged for them to receive the Military Cross. Smith-Cumming then asked the men if they were willing to return to Russia. The main objective was to assess the prospects of the White Army led by General Anton Denikin against the Red Army in the Russian Civil War. The men agreeed but was shocked when they were told that their train bound for Odessa was departing in two hours. Hill and Reilly realised that it was a dangerous mission and if they were caught by the Bolsheviks they would be executed.

Reilly wrote to Robert Bruce Lockhart: "I told "C" (and I am anxious that you should know it too) that I consider that there is a very earnest obligation upon me to continue to serve - if my services can be made use of in the question of Russia and Bolshevism. I feel that I have no right to go back to the making of dollars until I have discharged my obligations. I also venture to think that the state should not lose my services. I would devote the rest of my wicked life to this kind of work.... I need not enlarge upon my motives to you; I am sure you will understand them and if you can do something I should feel grateful. I should like nothing better than to serve under you. I don't believe that the Russians can do anything against the Bolsheviks without our most active support. The salvation of Russia has become a most sacred duty which we owe to the untold thousands of Russian men and women who have sacrificed their lives because they trusted in the promise of our support."

Ernest Boyce, the MI6 station chief in Helsinki, wrote to Reilly asking him to meet the leaders of Monarchist Union of Central Russia in Moscow. Reilly replied: "Much as I am concerned about my own personal affairs which, as you know, are in a hellish state. I am, at any moment, if I see the right people and prospects of real action, prepared to chuck everything else and devote myself entirely to the Syndicate's interests. I was fifty-one yesterday and I want to do something worthwhile, while I can."

According to Keith Jeffery, the author of MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service (2010), Boyce had sent Reilly into Russia without clearing the scheme with his superiors in London. "Boyce had to take some of the blame for the tragedy. Back in London, as recalled by Harry Carr, his assistant in Helsinki" he was "carpeted by the Chief for the role he had played in this unfortunate affair."

After a number of delays caused mainly by Reilly's debt-ridden business dealings, he met Ernest Boyce in Paris before crossing the Finnish border on 25th September 1925. At a house outside Moscow two days later he had a meeting with the leaders of MUCR, where he was arrested by the secret police. Reilly was told he would be executed because of his attempts to overthrow the Bolshevik government in 1918.

According to the Soviet account of his interrogation, on 13th October 1925, Reilly wrote to Felix Dzerzhinsky, head of Cheka, saying he was ready to cooperate and give full information on the British and American Intelligence Services. Sidney Reilly's appeal failed and he was executed on 5th November 1925. For his role in the "liquidation" of Savinkov and Reilly, Artur Artuzov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

Sidney Reilly
Sidney Reilly

On this day in 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to Congress. She served for seven terms until 1983. In the 1972 United States presidential election she became the first black candidate to run for a major party's nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party 's presidential nomination.

Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm