On Dec. 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
On this date:
In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1863, in a speech to the Prussian Parliament, Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck declared, "Politics is not an exact science."
In 1892, Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 1912, fossil collector Charles Dawson reported to the Geological Society of London his discovery of supposedly fragmented early human remains at a gravel pit in Piltdown. (More than four decades later, Piltdown Man was exposed as a hoax.)
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson, widowed the year before, married Edith Bolling Galt at her Washington home.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.)
In 1958, the world's first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), nicknamed "Chatterbox," was launched by the United States aboard an Atlas rocket.
In 1971, the Rev. Jesse Jackson announced in Chicago the founding of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity).
In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.)
In 1980, former Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin died at age 76.
In 1998, the House debated articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. South Carolina carried out the nation's 500th execution since capital punishment resumed in 1977.
In 2011, the last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait in darkness in the final moments of a nine-year war.
Ten years ago: Two federal appeals courts ruled the U.S. military could not indefinitely hold prisoners without access to lawyers or American courts. A jury in Chesapeake, Va., convicted teenager Lee Boyd Malvo of two counts of capital murder in the Washington-area sniper shootings (he was later sentenced to life in prison without parole). A judge in Seattle sentenced confessed Green River Killer Gary Ridgway to 48 consecutive life terms. Michael Jackson was formally charged with molesting a cancer-stricken boy at his Neverland Ranch; Jackson was acquitted at trial.
Five years ago: A U.N. court in Tanzania convicted a former Rwandan army colonel, Theoneste Bagosora, of genocide and crimes against humanity for masterminding the killings of more than half a million people in a 100-day slaughter in 1994. (Bagosora was sentenced to life in prison, but had his sentence reduced in 2011 to 35 years.) W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who'd revealed himself as "Deep Throat" three decades after the Watergate scandal, died in Santa Rosa, Calif., at age 95. "Star Trek" actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of series creator Gene Roddenberry, died in Los Angeles at age 76.
One year ago: Classes resumed in Newtown, Conn., except at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the scene of a massacre four days earlier. Two bank robbers pulled off a daring escape from downtown Chicago's high-rise jail by scaling down 17 stories using a makeshift rope. (Kenneth Conley and Jose Banks were later recaptured.) Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to be voted The Associated Press Player of the Year in college football.
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