Thursday, January 26, 2017

Operation AXIOM: Yes, M!ch!gan!

One hundred eighty years ago to the day, 26 January 1837, Michigan was admitted to the Union as the twenty-sixth state. French explorers became the first Europeans to reach latter-day Michigan in 1622, with the first permanent settlement being established at Sault Sainte Marie (invariably written Sault Ste. Marie) by Jesuit Missionaries in 1668. Forts followed at modern St. Joseph & Detroit in 1679 & 1701, respectively. After the French & Indian War (the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years' War, 1754-1763), the British Empire assumed control of Michigan. Ceded to the newly independent United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the British occupied Michigan until 1794. Michigan was, successively, part of the Northwest Territory (1785), the Indiana Territory (1800), & finally the Michigan Territory (1805). The Michigan Territory's admission as a State was complicated by & tied up with the Territory's dispute with the State of Ohio over the "Toledo Strip." the federal Congress imposed a compromise whereby Toledo was awarded to Ohio & the seemingly worthless wilderness of the western Upper Peninsula was stripped from the Wisconsin Territory & given to Michigan. (The vast mineral wealth of the U.P. would not become known for decades, so at the time it was a disadvantageous exchange for Michigan.) Under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the balance 'twixt free & slave states had to be maintained. Free Michigan was admitted as the counterbalance to slave Arkansas, which had been admitted to the Union as the twenty-fifth state in 1836. Michigan was the nation's leading source of lumber of decades in the middle of the nineteenth century, & during the Civil War Michigan contributed for than forty regiments to crush to Confederate rebellion & end slavery. In the twentieth century, Michigan became the center of the American, & thus eventually the worldwide, automotive industry, & everything changed. My family arrived in sacred Michigan in 1973, drawn by employment in the automotive industry like so many other immigrant families. In the twenty-first century, two out of three adult children in my family left Michigan, a tale that is all far, far too common.
Michigan is the tenth most populous state in the Union, with a population of almost precisely ten million residents. Geographically, Michigan in the eleventh largest state, & the largest east of the Mississippi River. Michigan's twin peninsulas give it the second longest amount of coastline of any state, after mammoth Alaska, also a peninsula. (Michiganders often fudge these figures by rightly claiming that Michigan has, by far, the longest freshwater coastline of any state, & then conveniently neglecting the word "freshwater.") Michigan has a larger percentage of its territory composed of water than any other state, even Hawai'i, which is nothing but islands, islands, & more islands. This is altogether fitting, since the word "Michigan" comes from an Ojibwa (or Chippewa) word, "mishigamaa," meaning "large water." Michigan touches four of the five Great Lakes, including the only Great Lake entirely within the territory of the United States, Lake Michigan. (Think about the name "Lake Michigan" in light of what we've just learned about the etymology of Michigan.)

The State of Michigan, sacred Michigan, gained admission into the Union, 26 January 1837, one hundred eighty years ago to the day.
"If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you"
("Si Quæris Peninsulam Amœnam Circumspice")

Bonus! Song of Michigan
Brian d'Arcy James, "Michigan Christmas" via iTunes (from From Christmas Eve to Christmas Morn) (The Last Angry Michigander)

"I want a Michigan Christmas,
With Michigan snow on the Saginaw trees,
And I want to be home with my family,
A Michigan Christmas is all that I'm asking for, please.

"I want the Thumb of the Mitten,
The Mackinac Bridge, a Lake Michigan breeze,
And I want to be home with my family,
A Michigan Christmas is all that I'm asking for, please…

"But I know a place that is special,
Where memories linger as sweet as your dreams…"

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