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No August vacation for events of historical significance [Eagle Archives]

U.S. CongressU.S. SenateRichard NixonMartin Luther King Jr.White House

Historically, the month of August in Maryland is known for its hot and humid lazy southern days, and a slower schedule. It's the time often referred to as the "dog days" of summer. Although many say it is a quiet time of the year usually reserved for vacations, history disagrees.

To be certain, "By tradition and by law, Congress recesses for the month of August," according to a history found on the website of the U.S. Senate.

"When the Senate moved to its current chamber in 1859, senators were optimistic about its 'modern' ventilation system, but they soon found the new system ineffective. Long sessions were plagued by hot and stormy weather.

"The 1920s brought 'manufactured weather' to the Senate chamber, but even modern climate control could not cope with the hottest days, forcing 20th-century senators to escape the summer heat. In 1970, finally facing the reality of long sessions, Congress mandated a summer break as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act."

Of course, some will argue that Congress taking the month off is a good thing. Others may suggest that in recent memory there is little difference between Congress in session and Congress in recess. However, to suggest that nothing happens in government during the month of August is really a misperception.

One of the biggest challenges in history for Washington, D.C., and the nation, was the British invasion that occurred before the Beatles, the Who and the Rolling Stones first appeared on the scene from 1964-1966.

Before The Beatles, there was the time, Aug. 24-25, 1814, to be exact, during the British invasion known as the War of 1812, when British forces burned the Capitol, the White House and many other public administration buildings in the city.

While perhaps not as colorful, other significant events also took place in the final month of summer.

It was on Aug. 2, 1776, when most of the 55 representatives of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.

On Aug. 2, 1923, President Warren Harding died in office in San Francisco.

President Abraham Lincoln signed into the law the first federal income tax in the country's history on Aug. 5, 1861. It was originally designed to collect a 3 percent tax on incomes over $800 to pay for the Civil War. It was later declared unconstitutional.

At noon, on Aug. 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned the presidency as a result of the Watergate scandal. Gerald Ford became the 38th president of the United States in an unusual succession of office that essentially ended a constitutional crisis.

On Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act.

On Aug. 21, 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower signed legislation that admitted Hawaii into the United States as the 50th state.

On Aug. 28, 1963, over 250,000 folks attended a civil rights rally and march on Washington. It was at this event that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

When he is not dreaming of an endless summer, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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U.S. CongressU.S. SenateRichard NixonMartin Luther King Jr.White House
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