Thursday, January 30, 2014



New Delhi, India (JFK+50) Mahatma Ghandi, known worldwide for peaceful disobedience, was fatally shot sixty-six years ago today, January 30, 1948, here in New Delhi.

Ghandi was shot three times in the chest by 39 year old Hindu extremist, Nathuram Godse.  

The Mahatma was walking  to his prayer meeting, on the lawn of Birla House, when the shooting occurred.

Mahatma Ghandi was 78 years old.

As a young man, Ghandi studied law in Great Britain where he was influenced by reading Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience.  He practiced law in South Africa before returning to India in 1914.

By 1930, Ghandi had a mass following.  He protested the British salt tax and led a 200 mile march to the Indian Ocean to make salt.

Ghandi's goal of an independent India had just been realized the year before his death.

In the days before the assassination, the Mahatma had been fasting in an effort to end religious strife in his country.

The assassin, Nathuram Godse, was editor of the "Agrani," a newspaper.  

Godse had written in his last editorial...

"Gandhi must be stopped--at any cost.  I am going to assassinate him in the open, before the my duty..."

A memorable comment of a journalist of the time went...

"Just an old man in a loincloth in distant India:  Yet when he died, humanity wept."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. patterned the methodology of the civil rights movement after Mahatma Ghandi's approach to civil disobedience.

Statue of Mahatma Ghandi
Martin Luther King, Jr.
National Historic Site
Atlanta, Georgia
Photo by John White (2008)

Jennifer White
MLK, Jr. National Historic Site
Photo by John White, 2008


Washington, D.C.  (JFK+50) 179 years ago today, January 30, 1835, the seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, was the target of an assassination attempt.

The first presidential would be assassin was identified as an unemployed house painter with a history of mental illness.

Andrew Jackson, who was in the process of leaving a funeral service at the United States Capitol, was approached by Richard Lawrence, who was carrying two pistols which had been primed and ready to fire.

When the President was within 10 feet, Lawrence fired one of the pistols but while the cap exploded the bullet did not discharge.

A navy lieutenant accompanying Jackson knocked Lawrence down but the would be assassin pulled out his other pistol and fired it at the President.

The second pistol also misfired.

In the meantime, President Jackson proceeded to raise his hickory cane and beat Richard Lawrence over the head.

Etching of Assassination Attempt
on President Andrew Jackson
A group of people came to help restrain the shooter including Congressman David Crockett of Tennessee.

Crockett wrote...

 "I wanted to see the damnedest villan in the world and now I have seen him."

As to the reasons why the pistols misfired, Senator Thomas Hart Benton surmised....

"Both weapons later were tested and found to be functional.  At least one newspaper chalked this up to a miracle--but the humidity of the gloomy day most likely played as big a role as providence."

The odds of both pistols misfiring were said to be 125,000 to 1.

Richard Lawrence, who claimed that he was King Richard III, was prosecuted by Francis Scott Key, best known for his poem which became the American national anthem. 

The jury only took 5 minutes to come back with a "Not Guilty by reason of insanity" verdict. 

Lawrence spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum.

President Jackson, who carried a bullet in his chest from an 1806 duel, suspected his Whig political enemies were behind the attempt on his life.

Vice-President Martin Van Buren, concerned about his own safety, began to carry loaded pistols when he visited the Senate.


"The Daily: The History Page, Hard Target Andrew Jackson escapes an assassin's point blank pistol shots," by Ruth Graham, January 14, 2012,


The four United States presidents who have died at the hands of assassins include...

Abraham Lincoln, 1865
James A. Garfield, 1880
William McKinley, 1901 
John F. Kennedy,  1963

The United States Secret Service was created by President Lincoln on the day of his assassination, but its original purpose was only for the suppression of counterfeiting US currency.

After the assassination of McKinley, Congress requested the Secret Service provide protection for the President, a duty it assumed in 1902.

Assassination attempts were also made on President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Presidents Truman, Reagan and Ford.