WTF Fun Fact 13033 – The Proposed U.S. Referendum on War

The request for a referendum on war has come up many times since WWI. But one of the more memorable proposals of a U.S. referendum on war came from a group of Nebraskans in 1916 who largely wanted to encourage either peace or isolationism. At the very least, they wanted the people who voted for war to walk to the walk.

A referendum on war

A 1987 article in the NYT (cited below) listed some of the amendments citizens have proposed over the years. Among them was one from a group of Nebraskans that tends to recirculate any time the U.S. appears to be about to engage in a war effort.

“The petition, sent to Washington by a group of Nebraska residents in 1916, proposed an amendment requiring a national referendum before Congress could declare war. To dissuade votes for war, the petition proposed that all those who voted in favor of the United States entering World War I be willing to enlist.”

The petition got so many signatures in the petitioner’s town that the US Archives noted that he had to add extra pieces of paper to accommodate them all.

The Ludlow Amendment

The 1916 attempt to give citizens the power to declare war wasn’t the only attempt.

The Ludlow Amendment was a constitutional amendment proposed in 1938 by Indiana Representative Louis Ludlow. According to the US House of Representatives Archives, it “called for a national referendum before the United States could enter a war, except in cases of invasion or attack on U.S. soil.” This would have removed the power to declare war from Congress in most cases.

A poll found that many people favored this amendment, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. “On December 8, the House of Representatives voted 388 to 1 to approve President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s request to declare war on Japan, with the President signing the declaration later that day. On December 11, Congress approved war resolutions against Germany and Italy, with Roosevelt also signing them the day they were passed.” (Source)

 WTF fun facts

Source: “WASHINTON TALK; Letters to Congress: Amend the Constitution? Let Us Count the Ways” — NY Times Archives

WTF Fun Facts 12690 – The Official Creation of U.S. Memorial Day

The U.S. Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971 with the Uniform Holiday Memorial Act, however it has a history dating back much farther. The long title of the act that created Memorial Day is “An act to provide for uniform annual observances of certain legal public holidays on Mondays, and for other purposes.”

The Act is identified as Pub.L. 90–363, 82 Stat. 250 and was actually enacted on June 28, 1968, though it didn’t “take effect” until 1971. Of course, people celebrated, but creating a national holiday requires some extra time to work around business schedules since it would be a federal holiday and an official day off for federal workers. The travel industry played a role in lobbying for the Act in order to increase the number of 3-day weekends for Americans to plan vacations.

While the act may have been passed in part for political and financial reasons in Congress, to many Americans it was (and is) an important day of acknowledgment for soldiers past and present. At the time, the war in Vietnam was still raging as well, and this didn’t have heavy support on the homefront.

What is now “Memorial Day” started not long after the U.S. Civil War (which makes sense, since it claimed more lives than any other conflict in American history), and in many places was called originally called “Decoration Day.” In 1966, the federal government named Waterloo, New York the “birthplace of Memorial Day.” (But if you read the next “Fun” Fact, you’ll see why this was problematic for many people.)

It was (and IS) a day to celebrate all the members of the military who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. A number that stands at around 1.3 million people. – WTF fun facts

Source: “Memorial Day” —