A Judgment on Columbus Day 1968?

Wednesday October 12 commemorates the day Christopher Columbus and his ships landed on an island in the Bahamas in the year 1492 thus discovering what came to be known as the Americas. (It is celebrated as a holiday on Monday, to give those who observe it a three-day weekend.)

In recent times this holiday, and Columbus himself, have been held in disrepute by some, all of whom are on the political left, as a celebration of imperialism and colonialism. This is but one of the attempts of virtue-signaling by leftists and their fellow-travelers in the Democratic Party in an attempt to coalesce a sufficient number of supposedly aggrieved groups to advance candidates who would support insane socialist schemes.

Columbus’s voyages were indeed the advent of exploration and colonial settlement whose effect was to spread Western Civilization throughout the world. On balance, this led to immense benefit, if not always to the then indigenous populations of the European colonies, certainly to their descendants.

This writer posted essays in years past, the most recent being critical of the Dallas City Council’s re-designation of Columbus Day as “Indigenous Peoples Day” as misplaced.

(This post will not belabor the previous essays. For those interested, follow the links at the end of this post.)

The 2021 essay mentioned Michael Musmanno, a U.S. Navy officer, lawyer, and jurist, who was instrumental during the 1930s in persuading the Franklin Roosevelt Administration to make Columbus Day a federal holiday so as to recognize the contributions of Italian-Americans. Musmanno was remarkably accomplished. He wrote numerous books and judicial opinions. In one book he argued that Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas, not the Vikings. He served in both World Wars and was a military governor in Italy after the Mussolini government surrendered. He also presided over one of the courts trying Nazi war crimes perpetrators in Nuremberg. Elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1951, Musmanno served there until his death in 1968. Both as a judge, politician, and private citizen, Musmanno was a colorful character, often quite the contrarian. He wrote a record number of dissenting opinions during his 17 years as a Justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Some much to the annoyance of his colleagues.

Musmanno was an intensely devout Christian. He attended Mount Saint Peter Catholic Church, founded by Italian immigrants near Pittsburgh, for most of his life. While he supported the First Amendment separation of church and state, he believed that public expression of religious beliefs should also be protected. The last of his many dissenting opinions was against overturning an attempted rape conviction in a case in which the court ruled that the trial judge instructed the jury improperly because the judge told the jury that they should decide the case on their consciences. Musmanno quoted from the record that the judge “particularly stated: ‘I’m not telling you what kind of verdict to bring in,’ and he then added, ‘but I’m telling you to stand up like men and women and do what you should do before your God to whom you will answer some day whether you answer to this court or not.’”

He wrote in his dissent “I was afraid it would come to this. It is becoming the fashion to make light of religious invocation. Books are being published asking whether God is dead. Well, God is not dead, and judges who criticize the invocation of Divine Assistance had better begin preparing a brief to use when they stand themselves at the Eternal Bar of Justice on Judgment Day.” Justice Musmanno, concluding his dissent, stated: “I am perfectly willing to take my chances with [the trial judge] at the gates of Saint Peter and answer on our ‘voir dire’ that we were always willing to invoke the name of the Lord in seeking counsel in rendering a grave decision on earth, which I believe the one in this case to be. — Miserere nobis Omnipotens Deus!” (Commonwealth v. Hilton, 432 Pa. 11 at 42 (1968)).

Justice Musmanno died the following day, October 12, 1968, Columbus Day, and presumably that voir dire took place.

Michael Musmanno was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. See his epitaph Here:

Prior Columbus Day posts.

By bobreagan13

My day job is assisting individuals and small businesses as a lawyer. I taught real estate law and American history in the Dallas County Community College system. I have owned and operated private security firms and was a police officer and criminal investigator for the Dallas Police Department.

I am interested in history and historical research, music, cycling, and British mysteries and police dramas.

I welcome comments, positive, negative, or neutral, if they are respectful.

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