This Month in U.S. Legal History – January

Each month of the year is packed with legal events of historical significance. Here are some memorable and significant legal events that have taken place regarding legal matters in the U.S. in the month of January.

  • 1/1/1863. President Lincoln issues a finalized version of the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order declaring that slaves in all rebelling states of the Confederacy are to be freed.
  • 1/2/1942. The Allied Powers enter into a treaty agreeing not to make separate peace agreements with any of the Axis Powers.
  • 1/3/1861. Delaware votes not to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy during the Civil War.
  • 1/5/1949. President Truman unveils the “Fair Deal” program, seeking to improve labor, taxation and economic policy in the U.S.
  • 1/7/1972. William Rhenquist is sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • 1/8/1867. African American men are granted the right to vote in Washington, D.C.
  • 1/9/1788. Connecticut becomes the fifth state to be admitted into the United States.
  • 1/10/1984. Congress’s 1867 ban on funding for a diplomatic mission between the U.S. and the Holy See in Vatican City is lifted.
  • 1/11/2002. The first prisoners are received at Camp X-Ray, a U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Three months later, the prisoners are transferred to Camp Delta, a permanent detainment facility also in Guantanamo Bay.
  • 1/12/1991. Congress authorizes military intervention to combat Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait in the first Gulf War.
  • 1/13/1990. Lawrence Douglas Wilder, the first African American to be elected governor of a U.S. state, is sworn in in Virginia.
  • 1/14/1639. The Colony of Connecticut becomes the first modern western government to be based upon a formal written constitution with the adoption of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, earning it the nickname, “The Constitution State.”
  • 1/15/1929. Civil rights luminary Martin Luther King, Jr. is born.
  • 1/16/1990. The Senate accepts the Anglo-German treaty of 1899, and the U.K. renounced its claim to the Samoan islands.
  • 1/17/1998. Matt Drudge breaks the story of the illicit relationship between President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, leading to the second presidential impeachment in U.S. history.
  • 1/18/1967. The “Boston Strangler” is convicted of the murder of 13 women in and around Boston, based upon his confession.
  • 1/19/1920. The Senate votes against the U.S. joining the League of Nations.
  • 1/20/1920. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is founded, focusing initially on freedom of speech for anti-war activists. The organization now boasts more than 500,000 members.
  • 1/21/1977. President Carter pardons the majority of remaining Vietnam War draft evaders. In total, more than 200,000 men were charged with draft evasion in connection with the war.
  • 1/22/1973. The Supreme Court issues its decision in Roe v. Wade, legalizing certain elective abortions in all states.
  • 1/23/1964. The 24th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting the levying of poll taxes in national elections.
  • 1/24/2003. The Department of Homeland Security is established and charged with the primary responsibilities of protecting the United States and its territories from and responding to terrorist attacks, man-made accidents and natural disasters.

Missed last month? Check out This Month in U.S. Legal History: December

Image credit: UIC Digital Collections