"We cannot attain genuine peace of mind merely by seeking our own salvation while remaining indifferent to the welfare of others."
- Roshi Philip Kapleau
On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their deaths, by the electric chair. The Rosenbergs were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime and their case remains controversial to this day.
Julius Rosenberg was an engineer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps who was born in New York on May 12, 1918. His wife, born Ethel Greenglass, also in New York, on September 28, 1915, worked as a secretary. The couple met as members of the Young Communist League, married in 1939 and had two sons. Julius Rosenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage on June 17, 1950, and accused of heading a spy ring that passed top-secret information concerning the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Ethel was arrested two months later. The Rosenbergs were implicated by David Greenglass, Ethel's younger brother and a former army sergeant and machinist at Los Alamos, the secret atomic bomb lab in New Mexico. Greenglass, who himself had confessed to providing nuclear secrets to the Soviets through an intermediary, testified against his sister and brother-in-law in court. He later served 10 years in prison.
The Rosenbergs vigorously protested their innocence, but after a brief trial that began on March 6, 1951, and attracted much media attention, the couple was convicted. On April 5, 1951, a judge sentenced them to death and the pair was taken to Sing Sing to await execution.
During the next two years, the couple became the subject of both national and international debate. Some people believed that the Rosenbergs were the victims of a surge of hysterical anti-communist feeling in the United States, and protested that the death sentence handed down was cruel and unusual punishment. Many Americans, however, believed that the Rosenbergs had been dealt with justly. They agreed with President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he issued a statement declining to invoke executive clemency for the pair. He stated, "I can only say that, by immeasurably increasing the chances of atomic war, the Rosenbergs may have condemned to death tens of millions of innocent people all over the world. The execution of two human beings is a grave matter. But even graver is the thought of the millions of dead whose deaths may be directly attributable to what these spies have done."
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for June 19, 2013 is:
habiliment \huh-BIL-uh-munt\ noun
1 : characteristic apparatus : trappings 2 a : the dress characteristic of an occupation or occasion usually used in plural b : clothes usually used in plural
"My riches are these poor habiliments, / Of which if you should here disfurnish me, / You take the sum and substance that I have." From Shakespeare's 1595 play The Two Gentlemen of Verona
"In 1837, a Times-Picayune reporter noted that the first documented Mardi Gras walking parade excited considerable speculation as to who they were, what were their motives, and what upon earth could induce them to turn out in such grotesque and outlandish habiliments. Some things never change." From an article released by Tulane University and published by States News Service, January 24, 2013
Did you know?
"Habiliment," from Middle French "abillement," is a bit old-fashioned and is often used to describe complex, multi-pieced outfits like those of medieval times. For instance, a full suit of armorwhich might include a helmet, gorget, pallette, brassard, skirt of tasses, tuille, gauntlet, cuisse, jambeau, and solleret, along with other pieces and platescan be considered the habiliments of a knight. Nowadays, "habiliment," which is usually used in its plural form, is also fitting for the dress of an occupation, such as the different vestments of a priest, or for clothes, such as elegant formal wear, worn on special occasions. When "habiliment" is used for plain old "clothes," it is more than likely for jocular or poetic effectas we see it being used by Shakespeare in the first example above.