Year
1908

Sultan of Turkey restores constitution at demand of Young Turk rebels

On this day in 1908, amid turmoil in the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdul Hamid decrees restoration of the constitution, fulfilling the main demand of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), a rising reformist political party known as the Young Turkey Party, or the Young Turks.

In the first decade of the 20th century, members of the CUP, one of many rebellious secret societies within Turkey, infiltrated the Ottoman Third Army, which was charged with the difficult duty of pacifying Macedonia, an Ottoman province in the center of the Balkans region coveted by Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria alike and plagued by lawlessness and disorder. The goal of the Young Turks was to modernize and reinvigorate the faltering empire and stop Europe from taking Ottoman territory—starting with Macedonia.

Spurred to action by the revelation, in June 1908, that Russia and Britain had hatched a plan to send in European officers to police Macedonia and restore order, the Young Turks briefly surfaced from their murky secrecy to lodge their forceful protests against such measures, which would effectively have meant Turkey had lost control of yet another province. The sultan took the opportunity to send his officials to arrest various CUP leaders; the Young Turks eluded capture and fomented a rebellion within the army, demanding restoration of the Turkish constitution. As a response to the mounting turmoil, the sultan had no choice but to grant this demand, which he did on July 24, 1908, calling a session of parliament to address the Young Turks’ further calls for reform.

The following year, with disorder still rampant, the Ottoman army, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk, he became the first president of Turkey) declared martial law and consolidated power for the CUP, forcing the sultan to abdicate in favor of his more compliant brother. Though the Young Turks did not fully gain control of the Ottoman Empire until 1913—in a rebellion led by the army officers Enver Pasha, Mehmed Talaat and Ahmed Djemal—the events of 1908 put the European powers on notice that a change was occurring in the previously stale, fading empire. A more immediate result of the turmoil in Macedonia was the creation of similar secret societies within the Serbian army, founded by ultra-nationalist officers eager to grasp as much territory as possible for Serbia. In 1914, one of these societies, the Black Hand, would be blamed for aiding the young terrorists who plotted and carried out the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in late June 1914—the incident that sparked the chain of events that led, one month later, to the outbreak of the First World War.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Mormons settle Salt Lake Valley

After 17 months and many miles of travel, Brigham Young leads 148 Mormon pioneers into Utah’s Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Gazing over the parched earth of the remote location, Young declared, “This is the place,” and the pioneers began preparations for the thousands of Mormon ...read more

Mary Queen of Scots deposed

During her imprisonment at Lochleven Castle in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots is forced to abdicate in favor of her one-year-old son, later crowned King James VI of Scotland.In 1542, while just six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne upon the death of her father, King ...read more

Kennedy’s goal accomplished

At 12:51 EDT, Apollo 11, the U.S. spacecraft that had taken the first astronauts to the surface of the moon, safely returns to Earth.The American effort to send astronauts to the moon had its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of ...read more

Machu Picchu discovered

On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a ...read more

Lance Armstrong wins seventh Tour de France

On this day in 2005, American cyclist Lance Armstrong wins a record-setting seventh consecutive Tour de France and retires from the sport. After Armstrong survived testicular cancer, his rise to cycling greatness inspired cancer patients and fans around the world and ...read more

O. Henry is released from prison

William Sydney Porter, otherwise known as O. Henry, is released from prison on this day, after serving three years in jail for embezzlement from a bank in Austin, Texas.To escape imprisonment, Porter had fled the authorities and hidden in Honduras, but returned when his wife, ...read more

Saving Private Ryan opens in theaters

On this day in 1998, the director Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan, is released in theaters across the United States. The film, which starred Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, was praised for its authentic portrayal of war and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. ...read more

Hundreds drown in Eastland disaster

On this day in 1915, the steamer Eastland overturns in the Chicago River, drowning between 800 and 850 of its passengers who were heading to a picnic. The disaster was caused by serious problems with the boat’s design, which were known but never remedied.The Eastland was owned ...read more

Battle of Kernstown, Virginia

Confederate General Jubal Early defeats Union troops under General George Crook to keep the Shenandoah Valley clear of Yankees.On June 13, 1864, General Robert E. Lee sent Early north from Petersburg to clear the Shenandoah of Union troops and relieve pressure on his own ...read more

Hancock scolds Schuyler

Schuyler was likely ill-prepared to deal with the diversity of enlisted men under his command, coming mainly from the lower ranks of society. They were brought together only by their common desire to defeat the British. He himself had a much different background as the product ...read more

Operation Gomorrah is launched

On this day in 1943, British bombers raid Hamburg, Germany, by night in Operation Gomorrah, while Americans bomb it by day in its own “Blitz Week.”Britain had suffered the deaths of 167 civilians as a result of German bombing raids in July. Now the tables were going to turn. The ...read more