June 9th gives us two great examples of standing up to injustice with the burning of the Gaspee and Joseph Welch’s rebuke of Senator Joe McCarthy, plus one of the most dominating performances in sports history with Secretariat winning horse racing’s Triple Crown.
The Burning of the Gaspee
In order to increase revenue from the colonies, the British sought to crack down on smuggling and their custom schooners became notorious. In the first-ever planned attack against the British, when the customs schooner Gaspee ran aground near Warwick, Rhode Island, a group of Providence merchants boarded the vessel at dawn to seize the ship (shooting the captain in the process), which was looted and set afire. The merchants included Brown University founder John Brown.
The English were furious and demanded that those responsible be tried in England for their crime. This caused alarm across the colonies who felt it denied their right to a jury of their own peers. This event led to the creation of a correspondence council among the colonies to report on English abuses since, as Sam Adams explained, “an attack on the liberties of one Colony was an attack on the liberties of all.”
The Beginning of the End of McCarthyism
After thirty days of hearings on alleged Communist infiltration of defense plants, a fed up Army counsel Joseph Welch challenged McCarthy’s counsel to provide the Attorney General with his alleged list of 130 Communists “before the sun goes down.” McCarthy countered the challenge by going after an associate at Welch’s firm Hale and Dorr who had been a member of the National Lawyers Guild while in law school. This triggered a stern rebuke from Welch (at 2:44 in the video) who asked “have you no sense of decency sir”, drawing applause at the end.
Welch’s rebuke of McCarthy came just after CBS’ Edward R. Murrow had exposed the Senator on See It Now. In January 1954, McCarthy’s approval was at 50 percent to only 29 disapprove. By August, it had reversed to 36 percent approval to 51 percent disapproval.
Secretariat Wins Belmont By 31 Lengths for Triple CrownEmbed from Getty Images
In my lifetime, there has been only a handful of athletes who totally dominated their sport – Michael Jordan or Mike Tyson come to mind but before them was Secretariat.
After winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, it would come down to the Belmont Stakes – the race that was supposed to be too long for the speedy champion. Secretariat not only shattered the Belmont record (which still stands today) but his 31 length victory set a visual portrait of his total dominance of the sport. In doing so, he became the ninth Triple Crown winner in history and the first in 25 years.
In 1999, the Associated Press assembled a panel of experts to name the top racehorses of the 20th century and Secretariat came in second to Man o’War.