It Was the Best of Times; it Was the Worst of Times
Charles Dickens begins the publication, in serial form, of his Tale of Two Cities. Congressman Sickles literally gets away with murder. The Fugitive Slave Law keeps aggravating tensions between North and South. The threat of war in Europe among Catholic countries concerns the Pope. Travel on ocean or river can be fraught with danger.
April 22– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “What a humiliating spectacle is presented to the world in the trials now going on at Cleveland of your humane and Christian citizens. . . . What a work of moral regeneration yet remains to be done in Ohio, in Massachusetts, throughout the North, in opposition to slavery and slave-hunting! But this very prosecution will give a fresh impetus to our noble cause.” ~ Letter from William Lloyd Garrison to Professor James Monroe of Oberlin College about the trials of the Oberlin-Wellington rescuers.
April 23– Saturday– Ripley, Ohio– “The colored colony of Upper Canada have recently made a commendable movement, which promises to open for them a better prospect for the future. A convention, held at Chatham, has appointed a commission of five of its members to proceed to Africa immediately, with instructions to select a suitable site for the establishment of a new Industrial Colony, to which is proposed to remove the great body of the colored colony of Canada, as rapidly as possible.” ~ Ripley Bee.
April 23– Saturday– Paris, France– French troops begin to depart for Piedmont in anticipation of war with Austria.
April 23– Saturday– Milan, Lombardy, Italy– Austrian General Franz Gyulai, who commands the Austrian troops in this province, delivers an emphatic demand to Turin that the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia disarm within three days or face attack.
April 24– Sunday– near Island Sixty, the Mississippi River– The steamboat St. Nicholas, on its way from St. Louis, Missouri to New Orleans, Louisiana is passing about ten o’clock in the evening when its boilers explode and the vessel catches fire. About forty people are killed and many more are injured or burned and the steamboat is completely destroyed.
April 25– Monday– Washington, D. C.– After deliberating for seventy minutes, the jury in the Daniel Sickles’ murder trial announce their verdict of “not guilty” to cheers in the courtroom. [After a twenty-day trial, the popular Sickles is acquitted in what is generally regarded as the first temporary insanity defense in U.S. legal history.]
April 25– Monday– Chicago, Illinois– The Chicago City Railway Company opens its first line of horse-drawn trolley service, running from State Street as far as Twelfth Street.
April 25– Monday– near Louisville, Kentucky– Seven foot nine inch tall James D. Porter, known popularly as “the Kentucky Giant,” dies in his sleep at age 49. [Porter had been born in Portsmouth, Ohio but had lived most of his life in Kentucky. He had been of normal size as a child but shot up to his remarkable height after his seventeenth birthday. He opened and ran a coffee-house near Louisville on the Portland Canal. He became famous when Charles Dickens, during his visit to the United States, saw and wrote about him. He turned down all following offers of employment on the stage, including with P.T. Barnum, and dies quietly in his sleep at his home near his business.
April 25–Monday– near what will become the city of Port Said, Egypt–The French-owned Suez Canal Company breaks ground for construction of the canal to link the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
April 27– Wednesday– Newark, Ohio– “It is not generally known that, since the first day of the present month, it is a criminal offense, in Ohio, to carry concealed weapons, yet such is the fact. A law was passed by the Legislature, on the 29th of March, to take effect on the 1st of the present April, which provides ‘That whoever shall carry a weapon or weapons concealed on or about his person– such as a pistol, Bowie-knife, dirk, or any other dangerous weapon– shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction for the first offense, shall be fined not exceeding $200, or imprisoned in the county jail not more than thirty days; and for the second offense not exceeding $500, or imprisoned in the county jail not more than three months, or both, at the discretion of the court.” ~ Newark Advocate.
April 27– Wednesday– Rome, Italy– As war looms between Piedmont, Austria, and France, and with nationalist street demonstrations taking place all over Italy, Pope Pius IX issues an encyclical calling for public prayers for peace between Roman Catholic nations. “And so We exhort you [Catholic bishops], to stir the faithful committed to your vigilance in view of your outstanding piety, to turn to God in prayer, so that He might grant His deeply desired peace to all. For the same reason We have ordered that public prayers be offered by all within the Papal Territories to the most kind Father of Mercies. Following the illustrious example of Our predecessors, We have decided to have recourse to your prayers and those of the whole Church. And so We ask that you order public prayers in your dioceses as soon as possible. Having implored the patronage of Mary, may your faithful strenuously beseech our merciful God to turn his wrath from us and banish war to the very ends of the earth. By doing this, he may illuminate all minds by His divine grace and inflame all hearts with the love of Christian peace. He may insure that all may be rooted in faith and love. These then would diligently keep His holy Commandments and humbly beseech His forgiveness for their sins. Turning aside from evil and doing good, they would walk in the ways of justice, exercise mutual charity among themselves and obtain salutary peace with God, with themselves, and with all men.”
April 28– Thursday– Milwaukee, Wisconsin– “The Oberlin Women– God Bless Them. It is not perhaps generally known that a number of the wives of the indicted are sharing prison life with their husbands, refusing to accept private hospitality, but constantly cheering the inner walls of that frowning judicial fortress with their smiles and their words of cheer. . . . The jail room of Bushnell was guarded by bailiffs yesterday and last night, though the Marshal had had the test of every possible assurance that Mr. Bushnell had no desire to escape. Mrs. B. is permitted to share his imprisonment, which she does with a true woman’s devotion to one who is persecuted for no other crime but obeying the Golden Rule, of doing unto others as ye would that they should do unto you. Mrs. Peck, Mrs. Fitch, Mrs. Plumb, and other noble women of Oberlin, also cheer, by their presence, the prison life of the husbands, fathers and brothers, on whom the officials of the Federal Government are thus wreaking the vengeance of the ‘sum of all villainies.’”~ Milwaukee Sentinel, reporting on the status of the Oberlin-Wellington rescuers imprisoned in Cleveland, Ohio.
April 28– Thursday– New York City– “The President having found that it will be impossible for him to discharge his public duties in a satisfactory manner, unless he can devote to them a few hours in each day without interruption, we are therefore authorized to state that he will not receive visitors on any day until 1 o’clock P.M. After that hour he will be happy to see his fellow-citizen as usual.” ~ New York Times, reprinting a notice from the Washington Constitution.
April 28– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Senor Jose Marta Mata presents his credentials as ambassador from the Juarez Government of Mexico to President Buchanan.
April 28– Thursday– St Louis, Missouri– “A strike among the laborers in some of the brick yards, which has been in progress for several days, assumed a riotous character yesterday, and a considerable amount of property was destroyed. The police were called out, and after a slight skirmish, resulting in the wounding of several laborers and two policemen, the rioters were dispersed. This morning the men assembled again in large force, and assumed such a threatening attitude that the Mayor gave orders to the military to preserve the peace.” ~ report to the New York Times.
April 28– Thursday– seven miles off the coast near Ballyconigar, Ireland– The 1500 ton American ship Pomona, headed for New York in bad weather with a crew of 37 and 372 emigrants, hits the Blackwater Bank, a sand bank and becomes stuck fast. As the storm intensifies, all attempts to launch small boats fail. The severely damaged ship slips off the sand bank and sinks, killing 386 people. Twenty crewmen and three passengers survive when one boat manages to pull clear from the wreck. The captain and first mate go down with the ship.
April 29– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In The Liberator William Lloyd Garrison takes note that during 1858, in Boston, there were nine colored men married to white women, the same number as in 1857. “There is not an instance reported of the marriage of a white man with a black woman.”
April 29– Friday– Brooklyn, New York– After five years of planning and construction, the city’s ambitious scheme of reservoirs, pipes, and water mains nears completion and the city organizes a big civic celebration.
April 29– Friday– Vienna, Austria– The Austrian Emperor Franz Josef publishes a declaration of war against the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and thereby unknowingly walks into a trap set by the secret arrangements between the French Emperor Napoleon III and Piedmont Prime Minister Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour.
April 30– Saturday– New York City– “The Southern journals are just beginning to realize the difficulty of enforcing a law which is directly contrary to the sentiment of the community in which it is to be executed. They have all along insisted upon enforcing the Fugitive Slave law in Northern States, and imposing Slavery upon the Territories without regard to the will of their inhabitants. They now find, however, that they can carry on the Slave-trade and rely upon their own juries for impunity; they are quite reconciled, therefore, to the embarrassments they labor under in the other matters. Interest weights more than argument in practical affairs.” ~ New York Times.
April 30– Saturday– Staunton, Virginia– “Your two letters came in my absence from home & since my return I have been so disturbed by this calamity which has befallen Stuart that I have had no thoughts of anything else. You have no doubt seen from the papers that Baldwin Stuart is dreadfully if not fatally injured by the Steamboat explosion near Memphis. He lives there now & his mother & father have by this time reached him. Our accounts of his condition are very meager but they are such as to excite the worst apprehensions, of hideous disfigurement or of death.” ~ Letter from John B. Baldwin to John H. McCue.
April 30– Saturday– Springfield, Illinois– “Allow me also to thank you as being one of the very few distinguished men, whose sympathy we in Illinois did receive last year, of all those whose sympathy we thought we had reason to expect. Of course I would have preferred success; but failing in that, I have no regrets for having rejected all advice to the contrary, and resolutely made the struggle. Had we thrown ourselves into the arms of Douglas, as re-electing him by our votes would have done, the Republican cause would have been annihilated in Illinois, and, as I think, demoralized, and prostrated everywhere for years, if not forever. As it is, in the language of Benton ‘we are clean’ and the Republican star gradually rises higher everywhere.” ~ Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Salmon P Chase.
April 30– Saturday– London, England– Charles Dickens publishes the first chapter of The Tale of Two Cities in today’s edition of the London weekly magazine, All the Year Round, a new journal he has founded and controls. [The weekly installments will continue until November 26, 1859, when the great story of the French Revolution will conclude.]