Day-By-Day Walk Through US Legal History: April

1 April 1863 – The first wartime conscription legislation in the U.S. comes into effect. The legislation included a ‘rich man’s’ exception, which allowed persons to pay $300 in order to avoid the draft. This exception sparked violent riots in New York City in July 1863.

2 April 1970 – In a test to the constitutionality of the Vietnam War, the Governor of Massachusetts signs into law an anti-Vietnam War Bill. The Bill exempted drafted men from serving overseas until Congress declared war under Article 1 of the US Constitution.

3 April 1948 – President Truman signed the Foreign Assistance Act, bringing into effect his Marshall Plan. The Plan allocated over $5billion in aid to be distributed to 16 countries in Europe.

4 April 1818 – Congress decides that the flag for the United States would have 13 red and white stripes and 20 stars, and that an additional star would be added for each new state.

5 April 1792 – The first presidential veto is cast by President George Washington to reject a measure from Congress that was to apportion representatives among the state on the basis that it was unconstitutional.

6 April 1931 – Nine African American men are put on trial in Alabama based on allegations that they had raped two white women on a train trip from Tennessee.

7 April 1969 – The Supreme Court hands down its decision in Stanley v Georgia, which was key to the establishment of a right the privacy in the US. The Court struck down a law that prohibited the possession of obscene materials on the basis that it was unconstitutional.

8 April 1913 – The 17th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. The amendment provided that senators were to be elected by popular vote, not selected by state legislatures.

9 April 1866 – African Americans are granted citizenship of the US, and African American males are allowed the same rights as white males.

10 April 1790 – The Patent Act of 1970, the first Patent Act in America, is approved by Congress. The Act gave inventors the right to patent an invention and keep the patent for 14 years, as well as establishing the US Patent Board.

11 April 1921 – Iowa becomes the first state in the US to impose a tax on cigarettes.

12 April 1945 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage. He was the 32nd President of the United States, and Harry S. Truman stepped into the presidency after his death.

13 April 1743 – Thomas Jefferson was born on this day. He went on to become President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence.

14 April 1775 – Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush established the first anti-slavery organization in America.

15 April 1861 – President Lincoln died after being shot nine hours beforehand. He was shot by John Wilkes Booth whilst attending a comedy show in Washington.

16 April 1818 – The Rush-Bagot Treaty is ratified by the United States Senate; establishing the border between Canada and the U.S.

17 April 1905 – The Supreme Court hands down its decision in Lochner v New York. The Court held that a New York law attempting to limit working hours violated the ‘freedom of contract’ implied in the 14th Amendment.

18 April 2007 – The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act 2003 is upheld by the Supreme Court in the case Gonzales v Carhart. The Court considered that the Act did not place an undue burden on women so as to infringe their right to obtain an abortion.

19 April 1971 – Charles Manson is sentenced to death for conspiracy to commit the murders of seven people, including Sharon Tate. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

20 April 1946 – The League of Nations, the brainchild of President Wilson, is dissolved. Most of its powers were passed on to the United Nations.

21 April 1789 – John Adams was sworn in and became the first vice president of the United States.

22 April 1994 – Richard Nixon died in New York four days after suffering a stroke. He served as the 37th President of the United States.

23 April 2010 – Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act into law. It was one of the most strict anti-illegal immigration laws in US history, requiring aliens to register within 30 days and to carry registration documents at all times.

24 April 1800 – Congress approved a bill that would establish the Library of Congress.

25 April 1938 – The Supreme Court hands down its decision in Erie Railroad Co v Tompkins. The decision overturned decades of federal common law, holding that the federal courts hearing state law claims were not empowered to create general federal law.

26 April 2000 – Governor Howard Dean of Vermont signed a bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions, the first to do so in the U.S.

27 April 1861 – President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in some Mid-western states and Maryland. He took this measure to deal with Union states that bordered confederate states and were threatening to secede, and to manage anti-draft riots during the American Civil War.

28 April 1994 – Aldrich Ames, a former CIA analyst and officer, pleads guilty to passing U.S. state secrets to the Russians.

29 April 1967 – Muhammad Ali is stripped of his boxing title after refusing the join the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

30 April 1789 – George Washington took the oath of office in New York, becoming the first President of the United States.