Manila Bay and Law Day

Chosen only because of their harmonics…not.  The first day in May marks a number of historic events, including the birth of Wellington in 1769, and Calamity Jane in 1852, the beginning of the concept of “Great Britain” in 1707 and the founding of the Illuminati in 1777, the opening of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and the opening of the Empire State Building in 1931.  But today, Manila Bay and the law.

For reasons both obscure and obvious, the United States began its war with Spain in late April 1898 (the exact date is a matter of taste: 21 April or 25 April…don’t ask; just look it up). For propaganda reasons, Americans on the West Coast were terrified (supposedly) of the small Spanish squadron based in the Philippines, so Assistant Secretary of the Navy alerted the US Navy’s Pacific Squadron in Hong Kong under George Dewey days before the war was actually declared. Dewey loaded up his squadron of four fairly new protected cruisers (warships of about 6,000 tons with armored decks), two gunboats, a revenue cutter and two colliers and set off for Manila Bay, where the Spanish squadron was based.

Entering the Bay on the night of 30 April (technically violating international law because the news of the war had not yet reached Manila), the little American battlegroup sailed unopposed to the Spanish anchorage off Cavite.  The Spanish squadron that supposedly struck fear into the heart of America was led by Patricio Montojo, who had been told in Madrid that the war could not be won, and that any resistance would only be token.  His obsolete squadron of older two protected and four unprotected cruisers was manned by sailors who had not trained for over a year.  The ensuing daybreak battle on 1 May was a one-sided affair that saw all six Spanish warships sunk and no serious damage to any American ships. One American died of heat stroke and nine others were wounded to somewhat over three hundred Spanish casualties. The long American involvement in the Philippines can be said to begin with the decisive action at Manila Bay, but many long years of conflict, building, colonization and nation-building was to follow until both the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption and Typhoon Yunia covered the Subic Bay Naval Base in a foot of rain-soaked ash in June 1991.  The base was closed in 1992, to become the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

The First of May is denoted in many countries as Labor Day, and in others as International Workers Day.  It is often marked by parades of military equipment, of workers and of children all marching in some symbolism of freedom.  But in the US, Law Day was declared by Dwight Eisenhower on 5 February 1958 as a day to mark the power of law as opposed to the power of force.  Like other national and international days, it isn’t often a legal holiday, but rather one of commemoration.  Bar associations often hold luncheons and symposiums to recognize the importance of codified rules legitimately enforced. Forgetting (or not caring) that the most important tool of law is the power of incarceration and compulsion behind it, lawyers and other pundits like to talk a great deal on Law Day about their important work in making laws that are often not enforced, or enforceable, while lining their pockets with the money made by those who actually create capital by making tangible goods from raw material.


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