Monthly Archives: January 2012

From Time to Time: The State of the Union


Close of the Constitutional Convention-Philadelphia-September, 1787


Tomorrow night we shall observe the federal Constitution in action as President Obama delivers the State of the Union message. This is mandated by the Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution which declares: “He [the president] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Note the language–”from time to time” it says. Can the president do it more than once a year? Yes. Can the president do it less than once a year? Yes. The president must do it from time to time. Why then do we see it happen once a year and why at this time of year?

Like organized religions, American politics are strong on tradition. President George Washington delivered the first state of the union in January of 1790 as the Congress met in New York City. He then delivered the second one that same year, in December of 1790. After that Washington did it only once a year as did his successor, John Adams. Thus began the tradition of once a year, deemed sufficient to satisfy the Constitutional mandate of “from time to time.”

Washington concluded his first State of the Union speech with these words: “The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you [the Congress] in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.” I wonder how many in the present Congress can hear and understand these words.

Washington and Adams delivered their addresses in person as speeches to the Congress. However, Thomas Jefferson, the third president, wrote out his State of the Union message and sent it over to be read aloud to the Congress. While Jefferson wrote eloquently, he was a bit bashful and hated public speaking. That’s part of the reason John Adams asked Jefferson to do the principle drafting of the Declaration of Independence while Adams used his lawyerly oratorical skills to sway the Continental Congress to adopt it. [See pp. 107 to 129 in David McCullough’s John Adams (2002 paperback edition) and American Scripture: The Making of the Declaration of Independence (1997) by Pauline Maier.] By reputation, a great conversationalist, Jefferson preferred dinner conversation or intimate Cabinet meetings. The Cabinet was much smaller then than it is today. Jefferson enjoyed many dinner conversations with the sparkling and politically savvy Abigail Adams. Oh, to eavesdrop on those exchanges! [On Mr Jefferson’s complex character, I highly recommend Joseph Ellis’ brilliant American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson (1996). For another aspect of Jefferson’s complex character, a reader can look with profit at the work of the fine Canadian scholar, Reginald Stuart, The Half-way Pacifist: Thomas Jefferson’s View of War (1978). And for conflicting looks at Jefferson’s views on slavery, one can read the fairly sympathetic The Wolf by the Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery (1995) by John Chester Miller versus the intensely critical article by the fine legal scholar Paul Finkelman, “Thomas Jefferson and Antislavery: The Myth Goes On” in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 102 (2), April, 1994, 193- 228.]

Thomas Jefferson-1800

Jefferson opened the last paragraph of his 1801 message with an echo of Washington. “The prudence and temperance of your [the Congress] discussions will promote within your own walls that conciliation which so much befriends rational conclusion, and by its example will encourage among our constituents that progress of opinion which is tending to unite them in object and in will.” I wonder if the Chief Executive calls for “prudence and temperance” in this Congress if anyone would heed.

Hence, from Jefferson’s administration until 1913, the presidents, even eloquent speakers like Abraham Lincoln, sent their State of the Union messages in writing to the Congress. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson caused a minor storm of controversy when he returned to the Washington-Adams tradition of a personal appearance before a joint session of Congress. Wilson opened his speech on December 2, 1913, by saying:

“In pursuance of my constitutional duty to ‘give to the Congress information of the state of the Union,’ I take the liberty of addressing you on several matters which ought, as it seems to me, particularly to engage the attention of your honorable bodies, as of all who study the welfare and progress of the Nation. I shall ask your indulgence if I venture to depart in some degree from the usual custom of setting before you in formal review the many matters which have engaged the attention and called for the action of the several departments of the Government or which look to them for early treatment in the future, because the list is long, very long, and would suffer in the abbreviation to which I should have to subject it. I shall submit to you the reports of the heads of the several departments, in which these subjects are set forth in careful detail, and beg that they may receive the thoughtful attention of your committees and of all Members of the Congress who may have the leisure to study them. Their obvious importance, as constituting the very substance of the business of the Government, makes comment and emphasis on my part unnecessary.”

Since 1913, every president has delivered the State of the Union message in a personal appearance before Congress, with only a few exceptions of an occasional written message.

Withe the exception of Washington’s first State of the Union, early presidents gave these messages in the fall, anytime between October and December until by President Andrew Jackson’s administration December became the customary month for delivery of the State of the Union message. This continued to 1934, when the change mandated by the ratification of the 20th Amendment in January of 1933 moved the opening of Congress from early March to early January. Since 1934, the State of the Union address has been delivered to Congress in January or February. The 20th Amendment declares in the first two articles as follows:

“1. The terms of the President and the Vice-President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.”

This amendment moved presidential inauguration from March to January as well. Thus in 1937 President Franklin D Roosevelt became the first one to take the oath of office in January instead of March. Other changes which gave us the format for the State of the Union to which we have become accustomed were President Calvin Coolidge’s 1923 message which was the first to be broadcast on radio, President Harry S. Truman’s 1947 message, the first to be broadcast on television and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s in 1965, the first to be delivered in the evening.

Some critics complain that the State of the Union messages are too “political.” For good or ill, such content is also included in the Constitutional mandate. Article II requires the president “to recommend to their [Congress’] Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” So especially in an election year we can expect what sounds like a party platform. However, I must note that can be done with verve and rhetorical skill. Consider two examples, the first from Lincoln’s December, 1862 State of the Union, the second from FDR’s message in January 1941.

President Lincoln--March, 1865

Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, concluded his written message of December 1st, anticipating that the Emancipation Proclamation would take effect in one month, New Year’s Day of 1863, with these words: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must dis-enthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trialthrough which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just–a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless.”

Much of this language the composer Aaron Copeland included in his masterful 1942 composition, “A Lincoln Portrait.”

President Roosevelt--c1937

In January, 1941, much of the world was at war and FDR was garnering support for the remaining free democracies, most especially Great Britain. For citizens of the United States, he called on Congress to expand unemployment compensation, help to the elderly and better access to health care for all citizens. The last part of his State of the Union speech concluded with this now well-known section. “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression– everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want– which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear– which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. To that new order we oppose the greater conception–the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear. Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change–in a perpetual peaceful revolution–a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions–without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society. This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.”

Our present Chief Executive has the oratorical skill of Lincoln and FDR. Personally, I think that is one of the reasons that the opposition party attacks him so repeatedly. My hope is that tomorrow I will hear echoes of Lincoln and FDR.


Just Like Andy Jackson

I noted with interest that earlier this week one of the Republican hopefuls who wants to win his party’s nomination for President of the United States said that he wants to treat America’s enemies just as Andrew Jackson did in the early nineteenth century. “Kill them!” this man yelled to the cheers of the audience. Since this individual claims to be a serious student of American history I trust he knows who Andrew Jackson considered as the enemies of America. Jackson viewed African-Americans–especially those with the decided gall to run away from slavery, the British, the Spanish, the Haitians, the Mexicans and Native Americans, especially the Creeks, the Cherokees and the Seminoles, all to be enemies, If this man thinks like Andy Jackson, the country may be headed for a heap of trouble.

I am one of those students of history who take the view that Mr Jackson was one of the worst Presidents we have had. In my mind he ranks with Warren Harding, Richard Nixon, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce as one who did much more harm than good for the country.

I looked in the diary of one of his contemporaries for some period view. John Quincy Adams found Jackson wanting. John Quincy Adams is unfortunately often rated as a weak president. In his one term he was hindered from effective government by a hostile Congress. (Sound familiar?) Adams favored putting federal money into the education of women [the influence of his mother, Abigail Adams?], building observatories for astronomers to study the skies and improving roads and canals. However, he told Emma Hart Willard, pioneering women’s educator, “the Congress thinks of nothing but the making of soldiers.” Adams wrote in his diary that Jackson’s presidency “has been the reign of subaltern knaves” and that Jackson himself was “capable of double-dealing worthy of Ferdinand the Catholic or of Tiberius Caesar.” Jackson appointed Roger Brooke Taney, who would author the infamous Dred Scott opinion, to the Supreme Court bench. The day he left office, Jackson said he regretted not having the opportunity to shoot Henry Clay of Kentucky. During his two terms, Jackson replaced 20% of federal employees with party cronies. In the eight years of his life after he left the presidency, Jackson lived in fairly quiet retirement in Nashville, Tennessee.

John Quincy Adams, on the other hand, served seventeen years in the House of Representatives after he left the White House. He led the fight to establish the Smithsonian Institution, fought for First Amendment rights, especially for anti-slavery activists to petition Congress against slavery and, with Joshua Giddings of Ohio, for the free speech rights of members of Congress to express unpopular views. He successfully represented the Amistad captives before the United States Supreme Court where, before time-limits, his argument required ten hours.

For details I suggest interested readers look at Howard Jones, Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law and Diplomacy, the definitive work about the Amistad case and William Lee Miller’s excellent 1995 book, Arguing About Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress.

Robert V Remini, now age 90, has written critically of Jackson and Jacksonian democracy. And for an over-all challenging look at United States’ history, I strongly recommend the late Howard Zinn’s books, A People’s History of the United States and A People’s History of American Empire. Also, if it can be found, the 1944 work by Alice Felt Tyler entitled, Freedom’s Ferment: Phases of American Social History from the Colonial Period to the Outbreak of the Civil War. Worth the effort to locate a copy, the book is a wonderful overview of multiple antebellum reform movements.

A candidate who wants to be like Andy Jackson makes me nervous. I haven’t yet heard one candidate invoke the name of John Quincy Adams. Come to think of it, none of this crop have yet invoked the names of Republican senators Charles Sumner of Massachusetts (1811 to 1874) or Bob Lafollette of Wisconsin (1855 to 1925). I wonder why that is.

Give Us Bread and Give Us Roses Too

The year 1912 begins with one of the coldest winters in the whole of the 20th century. In the United States it is a presidential election year. A Republican, William Taft, age 55, occupies the White House. However, his renomination seems not to be a certainty. Liberals in the party want “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, senator from Wisconsin, age 56 and well-known progressive reformer, to head the ticket. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, age 54, decides he wants to be back in political life. In the Democratic Party, the Speaker of the House, Champ Clark of Missouri, age 62, seems to have a strong early lead. However, the governor of New Jersey and former president of Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson, age 55, is poised to challenge Clark. William Jennings Bryan, age 52,who has been the standard bearer three times before and lost each time, most recently in 1908, is an outside possibility but could be a deal maker at the upcoming Democratic convention.

People’s movements are steaming along in places around the globe. China ends centuries of monarchy and creates a republic. Violent civil war rocks Ecuador. V I Lenin and the Bolsheviks bolt the main Russian socialist movement. In South Africa, Africans establish the African National Congress (“ANC”). The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) is taking root and raising money even while the violence of lynching continues unabated. American women in the suffrage campaign debate the degree of political involvement which will help their cause. And workers in many places struggle for better wages and hours and safer conditions, from Australia to Portugal to England to Lawrence, Massachusetts where the newly formed International Workers of the World (“IWW”–organized in Chicago in 1905) enters the fray.

The powers do not hesitate to throw their weight around. The Russians intervene in Persia’s affairs. The Italians are fighting the Ottoman Turks as Italy tries to seize Libya (with the silent consent of the French). The United States sends its armed forces to China and to Ecuador to protect its business interests. On a more positive note, many major powers make a treaty commitment for the first time ever to police drug trafficking and legitimate medicinal drug trade.

A race by competing teams of explorers to reach the South Pole leads to great victory and painful defeat. A Wall Street crook fools a president. The widow of a famous writer is honored by the Czar of all the Russias. A famous American attorney himself needs a lawyer. People who will shape the 20th Century, both for good and ill, are born while notable 19th Century contributors die.

In the midst of record cold in the United States and Canada the year is of to quite a start.


January 1–Monday– Nanjing, China– Following three months of fighting and turmoil, leaders of fifteen of the country’s twenty-four provinces elect Sun Yat-sen, 45 years old, as provisional president of the new Republic of China. This marks the beginning of the end of over 2,000 years of imperial rule and the end of the power of the Quing dynasty which has ruled since 1644. Although Sun’s supporters control most of southern China, Yuan Shih-kai retains power in the north as the chief of the Imperial army in Beijing.

Dr Sun Yat-sen

January 1–Monday– Ambala, Punjab Province, India–Birth of Kim Philby who will become notorious as a spy for the Soviet Union. His father is Harry St John Philby, an author, explorer and British civil servant.

 January 1– Monday– Toronto, Canada–In municipal elections, Mayor George R Geary, facing no opponents, wins reelection by acclamation. Two incumbent members of the Board of Control are defeated. Noted Liberal Frank Spence loses his seat but is replaced by fellow Liberal Jesse McCarthy. J. J. Ward, considered a representative of labor also loses his seat.

 January 1–Monday– New York City– The NAACP, founded three years ago, issues its second annual report. The report lists active chapters in Boston and Chicago as well as here and receipts of $10,317.43 for the eight months ending in December, 1911. [That equals approximately $244,000 in current purchasing power.]

 January 2–Tuesday– Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada– Birth of Barbara Pentland, composer, musician and educator.

 January 2–Tuesday– Tabriz, Persia– With 4,000 Russian troops occupying the city to protect Russian interests, the Russian authorities execute eight Persian leaders who had supported the Constitutional Revolution between 1905 and 1907. Other such leaders had fled the city.

 January 2–Tuesday– New York City– Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens, age 66, son and biographer of the famous author Charles Dickens, dies during a lecture tour of the United States.

 January 3– Wednesday– Antarctica– The British explorer Robert Falcon Scott, determined to be the first to reach the South Pole, sets out from his base camp, taking four men with him and leaving three men at the base, even though the five headed for the Pole have supplies sufficient for a team of four men.


Robert Scott and members of his team

January 3–Wednesday– Canada–The Canadian Pacific Railway expands operations by leasing the Dominion Atlantic Railway in Nova Scotia.

 January 3– Wednesday– Disraeli, Quebec, Canada– Birth of Louise Marguerite Renaude Lapointe, one of the first Canadian women to build a career in journalism and who will serve as a senator from 1971 to 1987.

 January 4– Thursday– Columbus, Ohio– Wind velocity is measured at 50 mph.

 January 5–Friday– Prague, Austro-Hungarian Empire–At the International Party Conference, Vladimir Ilich Lenin and the Bolshevik Party break away from the rest of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.

 January 5– Friday–Nanjing, China– Dr. Sun Yat-sen issues the “Manifesto from the Republic of China to All Friendly Nations,” signaling a major change in Chinese foreign policy with a promise to end the isolationism of the Manchu Emperors and “to rejoin China with the international community.” On the same day, he meets with woman’s suffrage activist Lin Zongsu and pledges to allow women the right to vote in the new republic.

 January 5–Friday– Melbourne, Victoria, Australia– Birth of Doris Jessie Carter, athlete who in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin will become the first Australian woman to make it into the Olympic finals.

 January 5–Friday– New York City– After a year of peace, new gang violence erupts in the city’s Chinatown as the vice-president of the Hip Sing Tong is killed in a shootout at a gambling hall.

 January 6– Saturday– New Mexico is admitted as the 47th state in the Union.

 January 6–Saturday– Deerfield, Michigan– Birth of Amos Kairouz a/k/a Danny Thomas, American comedian, television actor, and founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. His parents are immigrants from Lebanon.

 January 6– Saturday– Frankfurt, Germany– At a meeting of the Geological Association of Germany, Alfred Wegener first presents the theory of continental drift, reading his paper, “Die Herausbildung der Grossformen der Erdinde (Kontinente und Ozeane) auf geophysikalischer Grundlage” (“The geophysical basis of the evolution of large-scale features of the earth’s crust”).

 January 6–Saturday– Bordeaux, France–Birth of Jacques Ellul, philosopher, sociologist, law professor and Christian anarchist.

 January 6–Saturday– Sydney, Australia–The first aircraft crash in the country occurs between Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill.

 January 7– Sunday– The Red Sea outside of Kunfida (now Al Qunfudhah in Saudi Arabia)– Seven Turkish gunboats are sunk by three Italian warships as hostilities begun last September continue.

 January 7– Sunday– Tehran, Persia– The American businessman W Morgan Shuster resigns as Treasurer-General of Persia, bringing to an end to Russia’s military intervention in Persia. In return for his resignation, the Russians guarantee safe passage through occupied territory for Shuster and his family.

 January 7–Sunday– Westfied, New Jersey– Birth of Charles Addams, cartoonist.

 January 7– Sunday– Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England– Dr. Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake, an English physician, teacher and feminist, dies two weeks away from her 72nd birthday. She was one of the first women to practice medicine in the United Kingdom, a leading campaigner for medical education for women and involved in founding two medical schools for women, one in London and the other in Edinburgh, where she also started a women’s hospital.

Dr Sophia Jex-Blake


January 8– Monday– Bloemfontein, South Africa–John Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Sol Plaatiealong with a number of the chiefs of indigenous peoples, people’s representatives, and church representatives form the African National Congress [the ANC] to bring all Africans together to work for liberation and freedom. From its inception the ANC represents both traditional and modern elements, from tribal chiefs to church and community bodies and educated black professionals, though women will only be admitted as affiliate members and only after 1930.

 January 8– Monday– Port Maitland, Nova Scotia, Canada– Birth of Lawrence Walsh, U.S. federal prosecutor who will gain notoriety during his investigation the Iran-Contra affair.

 January 8– Monday– Santurce, Puerto Rico– Birth of Jose Ferrer, film star and director.

 January 8– Monday– Washington, D. C.– The United States Monetary Commission presents its plan to Congress to establish what will become the Federal Reserve System.

 January 9– Tuesday– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania– The National Weather Service reports a maximum wind velocity of 56 mph.

 January 9– Tuesday– New York City–The seven story Equitable Building, New York City’s first skyscraper, completed in 1870, is destroyed by a fast moving early morning fire. The offices of three of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including Equitable Life, and those of many law firms, are destroyed. Fireproof vaults protect several billion dollars of securities, stocks and bonds from destruction. Had the fire occurred later in the day, the city would have seen loss of life as it did in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in March of last year. Urban fire departments remain ill-prepared to fight fires in tall buildings.

 January 9– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– The Democratic National Committee announces that this year’s presidential nominating convention will be held in Baltimore beginning on June 25.

 January10– Wednesday– River Medway, England–Lieutenant Commander Charles Samson successfully takes off in an airplane from a platform constructed over the deck of battleship HMS Africa moored here. It is the United Kingdom’s first such takeoff by an airplane from a ship.

 January 11–Thursday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Women weavers, mostly immigrants, at Everett Cotton Mills realize that the company has reduced their pay by 32 cents and they stop their looms and leave the mill, shouting “short pay, short pay!” and thereby begin what will become know as “the Bread and Roses strike.” [The women earn a little less than $9.00 a week for nearly 60 hours of work. This equals about $209 in current purchasing value.]

 January 11–Thursday– The Black Sea– The Russian passenger steamer Russ, on its way to Odessa, sinks with 172 people on board. Among the dead is the Czar’s new Consul General, Carl Anseff, and his family.

January 12– Friday– Germany– The first round of the German parliamentary election is held today with 208 seats in the Reichstag at stake.

 January 12– Friday– London, England– The General Post Office of the British government takes complete control of the national telephone system, leaving only the United States as the sole major industrialized nation in which the network is privately owned.

 January 12–Friday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Almost 10,00 workers in area textile plants walk out on strike as thousands more join the 1750 who walked out yesterday. At the Washington Mills, the workers turn off the power, cut belts on machines and break light bulbs as they walk out. Half of the strikers are women.

 January 12–Friday– Washta, Iowa– In the midst of one of coldest winters on record in the United States, the lowest temperature ever measured in the state is reached at -47°F, while in Pipestone, Minnesota, a low record is set -40°F. In Duluth, Minnesota, the temperature has averaged -19°F since New Year’s Day.

 January 13–Saturday– New York City– Speaking at Bryant Hall, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the I.W.W. organizer, encourages striking waiters to refuse tip-taking and instead to demand a living wage from the hotel and restaurant proprietors. The idea provokes considerable debate among the strikers, many of whom are immigrants, and the final vote is unanimous against accepting gratuities.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn


January 13– Saturday– Lawrence, Massachusetts– The Evening Tribune reports that “It is felt that the worst uprising in the city has reached its climax and that the trouble will now gradually simmer down to normal conditions.”

 January 13–Saturday– Oakland, Maryland– As a cold wave sweeps the Atlantic states, Maryland measures its lowest temperature ever, -40°F.

 January 13–Saturday– Bangkok, Siam– A group of seven army officers, dissatisfied with the reign of the new King Rama VI, in the second year of his reign, and with his absolutist regime, lavish life style and his favoritism toward his royal guards, decide to overthrow the King and begin to plot a palace coup.

 January 14–Sunday– Shanghai, China– Tao Chengzhang, a Chinese revolutionary who criticized Sun Yat-sen, is murdered in his bed in the Sainte-Marie Hospital.

 January 14–Sunday– Wahoo, Nebraska– Birth of Tillie Lerner Olsen, author and feminist.

 January 14– Sunday– Waterford, Virginia– Outside of town, Mrs Charlton Chamberlin, a farm wife, records in her diary that this morning the low temperature stood at -25°F, in the barn her horses are covered with frost and in her cellar even a layer of heavy blankets has not kept her apples from freezing.

 January 15– Monday– Ecuador–The battleship USS Maryland arrives to protect American interests during the violence of the civil war..

 January 15– Monday– Paris, France– Birth of Michael Jean-Pierre Debre who will serve in the French Resistance during the Second World War and as the first Prime Minister of the Fifth French Republic from 1959 to 1962.

 January 15– Monday– Toronto, Canada– The harbor is frozen solid with no ship traffic able to move.

 January 15– Monday– Washington, D.C.– The Senate votes 58-8 to discuss arbitration treaties publicly rather than in closed sessions. Peace advocates see this as a step forward.

 January 15– Monday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Authorities arrest 36 strikers for throwing snowballs at police officers and militiamen. Organizers of the IWW establish twenty-four hours a day picketing of the mills. The Evening Tribune reports that “Authorities have the situation well in hand.”

State militia confront unarmed strikers--Lawrence, Massachusetts


January 15– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts– The governor orders five additional companies of state militia to Lawrence “to suppress the rioting, to preserve order and to protect property.”

 January 16–Tuesday– Ankara, Turkey– The Sultan Abdul Hamid II on his own initiative dissolves the Turkish Chamber of Deputies. Engaged in an expensive and bloody war with Italy since the end of September, 1911, attempting to repel the Italian invasion of Libya, an Ottoman province, the Sultan appears angry and frustrated with the Chamber.

 January 16–Tuesday– Beijing, China– An attempt is made on the life of Yuan Shih-kai. Three bombs are thrown at him as he returns from an audience at the Imperial Palace. Yuan is unhurt, but twenty people around him are injured.

 January 16–Tuesday– Antarctica– As the British Antarctic Expedition approaches the South Pole, Captain Robert Scott writes in his journal that the party discovered “the remains of a camp; sledge tracks and ski tracks going and coming and the clear trace of dogs’ paws- many dogs. This told us the whole story. The Norwegians have forestalled us and are first at the Pole.”

 January 17–Wednesday– Antarctica–British polar explorer Robert F Scott and a team of four become the second expeditionary group to reach the South Pole as they find with certainty that the Norwegian Ronald Amundsen and his team reached the goal before them. Scott writes in his journal, “The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day . . . . Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here. . . . Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it.”

 January 17– Wednesday– Lawrence, Massachusetts– At the train station about 3000 strikers and supporters cheer the arrival of “Smiling Joe” Ettor, 26 years old and well known labor organizer and IWW activist.

Smiling Joe Ettor in the center


January 18–Thursday– Brisbane, Queensland, Australia– Members of the Australian Tramway Employees Association are dismissed from their jobs when they wear union badges to work. Although the Brisbane tramways are owned by the General Electric Company of the United Kingdom, they are managed by Joseph Stillman Badger, an American, who is responsible for the firing of these workers. Later he will refuse to negotiate with the Queensland main union body, the Australian Labour Federation. The terminated workers and supporters march to Brisbane Trades Hall where a meeting is held. In the evening 10,000 people gather in Market Square to protest the company’s action.

 January 18– Thursday– Yaguachi, Ecuador– Over 1,000 people are killed in fighting between troops from the Quito national government and the Guayaquil rebel government.

 January 18– Thursday– Roanne, France– Birth of David Rousset, writer and political activist who will survive the Buchenwald concentration camp during the Second World War.

 January 18–Thursday– Tientsin, China– American troops occupy the city to protect American interests. The United States is concerned about political instability in China.

 January 18– Thursday– London, England– The British Miners’ Federation releases the final tally on a strike vote with 445,801 in favor and 115,921 opposed. The strike, aimed at securing a minimum wage for coal miners, is scheduled begin on March 1.

January 18– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Acting with the assurances of several U S Army doctors that the prisoner is terminally ill with Bright’s disease and will soon die if he remains in prison, President Taft pardons Charles W Morse. Morse is a 55 year old Wall Street speculator who has served only one year of a 15 year sentence for violations of federal banking laws. [Upon his release from the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, Morse immediately departs for a health spa in Europe. Later it will be discovered that Morse faked his symptoms by drinking soapy water combined with some chemicals. He will return to the United States, re-engage in questionable business activity and only die in 1933.]

 January 19– Friday– New York City– The National Weather Service reports a maximum wind velocity of 52 mph.

 January 19– Friday– Saint Petersburg, Russia– Birth of Leonid Kantorovich, mathematician who will win the Nobel Prize in economics in 1975.

 January 19– Friday– Antarctica– Exhausted, saddened and with greatly limited supplies, Robert Scott and his four fellow explorers set off on the 900 mile journey northward to return to their base.

 January 20– Saturday– Germany– The second round of Reichstag elections begins with 77 seats at stake.

 January 20–Saturday– Lawrence, Massachusetts– Police detectives find a stash of dynamite in an empty room in back of Marad Dye Works and arrest seven people, two of them women.

 January 21– Sunday– Neisse, Germany (now Nysa, Poland)– Birth of Konrad Emil Bloch, biochemist who will win the 1964 Nobel Prize in medicine.

 January 21–Sunday– New York City– The New York Herald begins presenting in weekly serial form Joseph Conrad’s novel, Chance, which will run for nine weeks and brings Conrad some significant income.

 January 22– Monday– Hamilton, Georgia–A white mob lynches three black men and one black woman.

 January 22– Monday– Key West, Florida– The first passenger train on the newly completed Florida Overseas Railroad arrives from Palm Beach with the railroad’s owner, Henry Morrison Flagler, age 82, among the riders. He tells a cheering crowd of 10,000 people that “Now I can die happy. My dream is fulfilled.” The project to connect the islands of the Florida Keys has taken six years to lay a 169 miles of track, creating landfills and building bridges as it moved along. Flagler, who has spent most of his life and over $50,000,000 developing Florida, financed the project himself. [He will die in May of 1913 and the railroad will go out of business in 1935.]

 January 22– Monday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Almost 22,000 workers are now on strike. Business in town is at a standstill.

 January 22– Monday– Nanjing, China– Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shih-kai complete negotiations on the unification of the Republic of China, with Dr. Sun agreeing to yield the presidency to Yuan upon the abdication of the emperor.

 January 23–Tuesday– The Hague, The Netherlands– For the first time ever, a number of countries sign a treaty to control drug trade. The International Opium Convention, signed by China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, Siam, the United States and the United Kingdom, provides that the signatories “shall use their best endeavors to control, or to cause to be controlled, all persons manufacturing, importing, selling, distributing, and exporting morphine, cocaine, and their respective salts, as well as the buildings in which these persons carry such an industry or trade.” Other countries are invited to agree to the terms later.

 January 24– Wednesday– North Head, Washington– Maximum wind velocity reaches 72 mph.

 January 24– Wednesday– Lawrence, Massachusetts– At the train station thousands of strikers, their families and supporters cheer the arrival of “Big Bill” Haywood, age 42 and well known labor organizer and IWW activist. In a speech before Haywood’s arrival Joseph Ettor warns the strikers to beware of Pinkerton detectives who may act as agent provocateurs to discredit the workers.

 January 25– Thursday– Guayaquil, Ecuador– General Pedro Montero, who had been proclaimed President of Ecuador on December 29, 1911, by rebelling Ecuadorian troops, is sentenced to 16 years in prison. When the sentence is announced, the crowd outside the courthouse nosily protests that the sentence is too light. A number of people rush in, shoot Montero to death, and carry his corpse outside, where others behead and then burn the body.

 January 25–Thursday– Germany– Voting in elections for the Reichstag concludes today with the Socialists having the largest number of seats, winning 100, and the Radical and National Liberal parties having won 44 and 47, respectively, and the (Catholic) Centre Party taking 91 seats. The results make possible a majority coalition of groups hostile to or ambivalent about the ruling elites of the German Empire; however, distrust and in-fighting among liberals and progressives will, for the most part, leave the government of Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg free to do as it wishes.

 January 25–Thursday– Bay of Whales, Antarctica– The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team of four men arrive back at their base, along with eleven surviving dogs. They started with 52 sled dogs.

 January 26–Friday– Beijing, China– A group of 47 generals and commanders of the Imperial Army, all of whom had pledged their allegiance to the monarchy earlier in this month, sign a petition to the Emperor and the regent, asking that the dynasty give way to a republic under Yuan Shih-kai.

 January 27– Saturday– Lawrence, Massachusetts– Benoit Clothing Company, a local store, runs advertisements pledging 10% of each days sales to be given to relief of the strikers.

 January 28–Sunday– Newark, New Jersey– Birth of Sidney Lens, author, labor organizer and political activist.

 January 28–Sunday– Nanjing, China– The Lin-shih ts’an-i-yuan, also known as the Nanking Assembly and the first legislature for the Republic of China, convenes with representatives from all of the provinces.

 January 28– Sunday– Quito, Ecuador– A mob storms the prison where former President Eloy Alfaro and his brothers Flavio and Medardo are being held as prisoners of war since their capture six days ago, and lynches them.

 January 28–Sunday– Cody, Wyoming–Birth of Jackson Pollock, American abstract expressionist painter.

 January 29– Monday– Los Angeles, California– Attorney Clarence Darrow is indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted bribery of a juror in the case of the McNamara brothers, James and John, who were on trial eight weeks ago for the bombing of the Los Angeles Times in October of 1910.

Clarence Darrow


January 29– Monday– Chicago, Illinois– At a meeting of the “No Vote, No Tax League”–a women’s tax resistance group–an intense debate begins when Miss Belle Squire and Dr Cornelia De Bey urge the group to endorse Teddy Roosevelt for President of the United States. Dr De Bay declares that “When he sees that votes for women is a winning issue he will embrace it.” However, the proposal is defeated by a 2-to1 margin.

Dr Cornelia De Bey


January 29– Monday– Pierce City, Missouri– Birth of Martha Wright Griffiths, lawyer and judge. She will become the first woman elected to the United States Congress from Michigan as a member of the Democratic Party and the first woman to serve on the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means. She will also be the person most responsible for including the prohibition of sex discrimination under Title VII in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and will finish her distinguished career becoming the first woman elected as Lieutenant Governor of Michigan.

Representative Martha Griffiths


January 29– Monday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Police and strikers clash. Annie Lo Pizza, a striker, is shot and killed. The Evening Tribune opines that while strikers appear more confident than ever, “the chaos which prevailed at the early stages of the strike has returned and it seems as if drastic efforts would be necessary to once again restore order. It is possible that the city will be placed under martial law.” In response to the threats of the mayor and business owners, Joseph Ettor declares, “Fine! We will win the strike even if they erect scaffolds on the streets.”

 January 29– Monday– Lisbon, Portugal– A general strike cripples the city as newspapers, stores and theaters are closed and no streetcars run. The government blames strikers for several bombings.

 January 30– Tuesday– New York City–Birth of Barbara Tuchman, historian.

 January 30–Tuesday– Chicago, Illinois–In an interview with the Evening Post, former President Theodore Roosevelt goes on record as saying that he would accept nomination for the presidency, though he is not actively seek a return to the White House. The 53 year old Roosevelt has been hunting big game in Africa and lecturing in Europe since leaving office in March of 1909 but is beginning to drift apart from his old friend President Taft.


White House portrait of Roosevelt, 1903

January 30–Tuesday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Soldiers bayonet and kill a 16 year old boy who is not a striker. Also, Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti, IWW labor organizers, are arrested and charged as “accessories” in the murder of Annie Lo Pizza.

 January 30–Tuesday– Washington, D. C.– Mrs Lillian M N Stevens, National President of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and Mrs Mary Harris Armour, of the Georgia WCTU, testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and encourage the passage of a prohibition amendment to the federal constitution.

 January 30– Tuesday– Brisbane, Queensland, Australia– The members of all the trade unions in the city go out on a general strike not just for the right to wear a badge but for the more basic right to join a union.

 January 30– Tuesday– Antarctica– Roald Amundsen and the crew of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition leave Antarctica on board the ship Fram, bound for Buenos Aires, Argentina..

 January 30–Tuesday– London, England– Florence St. John, born Margaret Florence Greig, singer and actress, dies at age 56. Her career included burlesque, music halls, comedy, operettas and opera.

 January 30–Tuesday– St Petersburg, Russia– Czar Nicholas II grants a pension of 10,000 roubles per year to Sophia Tolstoy, the widow of Count Leo Tolstoy who died fourteen months ago. [This equaled about $5000 American at the time and about $116,000 in contemporary (2011) buying power.]


Prospects and Problems–January, 1862



Seal of the Sanitary Commission

The new year– 1862– begins with prospects and problems. The Trent Affair peacefully resolves although Northerners like George Templeton Strong find themselves increasingly bitter toward Britain while the insightful former slave, Frederick Douglass, points out that for decades the United States refused the right of search in international waters when Britain sought to suppress African slave trade. Lincoln’s cabinet experiences a shake-up and the President attends the opera to relax. Charles Finney, president of Oberlin College and prominent evangelical preacher, joins in petitioning Congress to end slavery. People who will shape the arts, sciences and business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are born throughout this year.

With the exceptions of Union General Grant and Confederate General Jackson, most commanders on both sides are doing little or nothing, much to President Lincoln’s dismay as well as that of ordinary soldiers like Elisha Hunt Rhodes. Frederick Douglass, as he will do ceaselessly for many months, calls on the federal government to enlist African Americans who are willing to serve. With the United States distracted by internal strife, European powers intervene in Mexico.

Many Northern people, women and men, become active in the Sanitary Commission, a private relief agency, to meet the needs of soldiers. The Commission is headed by Frederick Law Olmstead, a friend of George Templeton Strong.

January–Rochester, New York–In this month’s issue of Douglass’ Monthly, Frederick Douglass takes the country to task for the Trent Affair. “To our mind, the capture was wrong and inexcusable on general principles, and especially so on American principles. No nation has maintained a more steady position against the right of search in all its forms, and exacted greater deference to our national flag than have the American government and people. We have seen our national flag the last refuge of pirates and slave-traders, and have contended that even this abuse could not justify even the right of visit. While all the great powers have been ready these twenty-five years to unite in a treaty by which slave-traders could not shelter their hell-black traffic under their respective flags, the United States, with her usual tenderness towards slavery in all its forms, and all her sensitive regard for the sacredness of our flag have sternly refused to unite with the world in this honorable concession for the promotion of honesty on the ocean.”

 January 1–Wednesday– Provincetown, Massachusetts–The Confederate emissaries Mason and Slidell who had been seized from the British mail steamer Trent, depart the United States on the British warship Rinaldo.

 January 1–Wednesday–New York City– The New York Times speaks of the turning of the year. “It is to be hoped that the old year carries with it too the final solution of the trouble lately threatening us from across the seas. It carries a message and a pledge of peace from us to England; and if England does not desire to thwart this nation’s purposes and destiny (which it is not, indeed, in her power to accomplish), she will accept our pledge of peace in the spirit of conciliation in which it is offered. . . . We begin the new year with hope, and with a consciousness of National strength which contrasts wonderfully with the dubious feeling of a year ago.”

 January 1–Wednesday–Nigeria–Great Britain annexes Lagos Island.

 January 2–Thursday–Memphis, Tennessee– The Argus complains that Confederate forces are not being put to good use yet Richmond continues to gather tax money to fight the war.

January 2–Thursday–New York City–Attorney and business man George Templeton Strong takes the measure of the times as he writes in his diary. “It was a pleasant day, but in these times one cannot get rid of the presence of national peril. Even when one gives up a whole day to mere amusement, he is haunted by a phantom of possible calamity and disgrace. . . . William H Russell of the London Times dined at the New York Club on the invitation of Samuel Ward and others. His presence stirred up a little row outside the dining room. . . . The difference was assuaged, I hear, by drinks all round. But we are beginning to hate England and Englishmen, not without reason.”

 January 3–Friday–Cockpit Point, Virginia–Confederate shore batteries, set up to blockade the entrance to the Potomac River, are bombarded by Union gunboats.

 January 3–Friday–Washington, D. C.–This evening President Lincoln attends a lecture by Horace Greeley at Smithsonian. Some of General Fremont’s supporters are publicly rude to the President.

 January 3–Friday–London, England–Matthew Cotes Wyatt, English painter, sculptor and member of the Wyatt family of artists, dies at age 84. He leaves an estate valued at £80,000. [Today worth about £5,820,000 or about $8,230,000.]

January 4–Saturday–Washington, D. C.–Standing in front of the White House, President Lincoln reviews troopers of the 6th U.S. Cavalry.

 January 6–Monday– Hancock, Maryland– Confederate artillery under General Stonewall Jackson’s command begins two days of shelling the town from the West Virginia side of the Potomac River.

General "Stonewall" Jackson, CSA

January 6–Monday–Veracruz, Mexico–French, Spanish, and British forces arrive, beginning the European intervention in Mexico to collect debts owed to the European powers.

January 7–Tuesday–Washington, D. C.–President Lincoln acknowledges receipt of memorial from a group of English Quakers, thanking them for their “generous suggestions in the interests of peace and humanity.”

 January 8–Wednesday–Vera Cruz, Mexico–In the port 700 British troops and 2,500 French troops join the 6,000 Spanish soldiers present.

 January 8–Wednesday–London, England–Her Majesty’s Government receives a telegram from the British Minister in Washington, Lord Lyons, confirming that Mason and Slidell have been released by the Federal Government.

 January 8–Wednesday–Silver Creek, Missouri–Federal forces attack and rout a Confederate force.

 January 8–Wednesday–Brooklyn, New York–Birth of Frank Doubleday, American publisher.

 January 9–Thursday–Lima, Peru–The government of Peru suggests the formation of a hemispheric alliance among the United States, Peru and other South American countries to prevent European intervention in the Americas. Further, Peru indicates it is willing to send 5,000 troops to the aid of President Juarez in Mexico.

 January 9–Thursday– St Isidore de Dorchester, Quebec, Canada– Birth of Joseph-Octave Samson, businessman and politician who will serve as the 28th Mayor of Quebec City from 1920 to 1926.

 January 9–Thursday–New York City–The New York Times asserts that while British newspapers claim that the Union blockade is inefficient, the Confederate papers complain of the blockade’s effects. “This is evidence which the journals of secessionist proclivities, on the other side of the water will hardly attempt to rebut, however indiscreet they may consider their rebel friends in blazoning forth to the world the proofs of the extraordinary perfection of our blockade, and thus spoiling the efforts they have been making to convince Europe that it is of no account.”

 January 9–Thursday–Virginia City, Nevada Territory–Birth of Carrie Clark Ward, silent film actress who will make 62 films between 1911 and 1925.

Carrie Clark Ward--Hollywood promotional picture

 January 10–Friday–Sacramento, California–Amasa Leland Stanford takes office as the 8th governor of the state and its first Republican governor.

 January 10– Friday–Hartford, Connecticut– Samuel Colt, American inventor and firearms manufacturer, dies at age 47.

 January 10–Friday–Washington, D. C.– With General McClellan ill, President Lincoln holds a meeting in White House with several Cabinet members, military advisors and Senators, saying at one point, “if McClellan is not going to use the Army anytime soon, I would like to borrow it.” The President also transmits to Congress, a translation of Austrian documents provided by Austria’s Minister to the United States, relating to the position of the Austrian Empire on the Trent affair.

January 10–Friday–London, England–Lord Russell writes to Lord Lyon, the British Minister in Washington, advising that Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied with the American action of freeing Mason and Slidell and now views the Trent affair as closed.

January 11–Saturday–Washington, D. C.–Simon Cameron resigns as Secretary of War.

 January 11–Saturday–New York City–Today’s issue of Harper’s Weekly praises Secretary of State Seward. “Of all Mr. Seward’s services to his country—and they are many and signal, unquestionably greater than those of any other of our living statesmen—none is more honorable to his country and himself than his correspondence with Great Britain during the last year.”

January 11–Saturday–New York City–In his diary George Templeton Strong writes of the war’s financial problems. “Congress will probably make the national paper money a legal tender. This is disastrous for certain classes of the community, including mortgagees like myself. . . . I shall not complain if the nation be saved.”

 January 11–Saturday–Paris, France– Jean Philibert Damiron, philosopher and historian, dies one day after his 68th birthday.

January 13–Monday–Washington, D. C.–President Lincoln sends to Senate the nomination of Simon Cameron as American minister to Russia. He also nominates Edwin Stanton to take Cameron’s position as Secretary of War.

 January 14–Tuesday–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–Speaking at National Hall, Frederick Douglass gives his view on why the Union is failing to win the war. “We are fighting the rebels with only one hand, when we ought to be fighting them with both. We are recruiting our troops in the towns and villages of the North when we ought to be recruiting them on the plantations of the South. We are striking the guilty rebels with our soft, white hand, when we should be striking with the iron hand of the black man, which we keep chained behind us. We have catching slaves instead of arming them. We have thus far repelled our natural friends to win the worthless and faithless friendship of our unnatural enemies.”

 January 15–Wednesday–Washington–Edwin Stanton becomes Secretary of War following the resignation of Simon Cameron.

Edwin Stanton

January 15–Wednesday– Washington, D.C.–Both the Senate and the House of Representatives receive a letter written by the evangelist and president of Oberlin College of Ohio, Charles G Finney, and signed by him and over 75 others, urging immediate action on the slavery question. “The undersigned citizens of Oberlin Ohio respectfully ask you in the name of God, of Justice, of Humanity, of Liberty, and of sound policy, to take immediate measures to abolish slavery in the U.S. and render its future existence in the same forever impossible.”

 January 15–Wednesday–Fullersburg, Illinois–Birth of Loie Fuller, pioneer of modern dancer and theatrical lighting techniques. She will dance in Paris for a number of years.

Loie Fuller--circa 1900

 January 16–Thursday–Cedar Keys, Florida–Union forces burn ships and railroad cars in the town

 January 16–Thursday–Northumberland, England–In a terrible industrial accident 204 miners die following collapse of machinery at the Hartley Colliery.

 January 17–Friday–Mississippi River–Ice jams 20 miles below St Louis, Missouri, bring river traffic to a halt.

January 18–Saturday– Richmond, Virginia–Former President, John Tyler, 10th President of the United States, dies at age 71, apparently of a stroke. His last words, spoken to his doctor, are, “I am going. Perhaps it is best.”

 January 19–Sunday–Mill Springs, Kentucky–Union forces under General Ulysses Grant begin a thrust into Kentucky as they beat back Confederate units, with 261 Union killed, injured and missing and 533 Confederate casualties.

General Ulysses S Grant, U.S. Army

 January 20–Monday–Washington, D. C–Elisha Hunt Rhodes, soldier from Rhode Island, notes in his diary that “Today all the Army officers in Washington are to be presented to Hon Edwin M Stanton, the new Secretary of War.”

January 20–Monday–New York City– The New York Times offers a view of the term “contraband.” An enterprising antiquarian has discovered that the happy epithet of ‘contraband’ which Gen[eral] Butler applied to the slaves of rebels, and which was at once universally recognized as both a pun and a stroke of genius, is not so much the impromptu inspiration it was thought to be. It seems the original author of the term is our present excellent Mayor, George Opdyke. Ten years ago he published a treatise on Political Economy– a book whose merit has never received adequate appreciation.” The ambitious 56 year old Opdyke was just narrowly elected mayor last month.

 January 23–Thursday– Washington, D. C.– In the evening, President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, attend the Washington Theater to watch the New York Academy of Music perform selections from two Italian operas, Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Vincenzo Bellini’s I Puritani. When the President takes his seat in one of the private boxes the audience greets him with hearty applause.

 January 23–Thursday–Konigsberg, Prussia–Birth of David Hilbert, who will become one of the most important mathematicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 January 24–Friday–New York City–Birth of Edith Wharton, American writer.


Edith Wharton


January 27–Monday–Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln issues his General Order #1, requiring all Union army and naval forces to move against the insurgents on February 22nd.

 January 27–Monday–Paris, France–Emperor Napoleon III complains that the American Civil War has hurt French commerce but France will take no action as long as the rights of neutrals are respected.

 January 28–Tuesday–Washington, D. C.–In the evening, President Lincoln and his wife, Mary, host a reception at the White House. Newspapers report that “Mrs. Lincoln was never more elegantly attired, and of course was the center of attraction.”

 January 29–Wednesday–Bradford, England–Birth of Frederick Theodore Albert Delius, composer.

 January 29–Wednesday–Washington, D. C.–President Lincoln meets privately with Ellen Sherman, the wife of General William T. Sherman, and with her father Thomas Ewing, a former United States Senator from Ohio. They seek to deflect public criticism of General Sherman and refute newspaper allegations of the General’s madness.

 January 29–Wednesday–Washington, D. C.– Spending several days in the capital on business for the Sanitary Commission, George Templeton Strong confides to his diary his impressions of the Secretary of War and the President. “Stanton impresses me and everybody else most favorably. Not handsome . . . . Intelligent, prompt, clear-headed, fluent without wordiness, and above all, earnest . . . . a live man, and of a genial robust Luther-oid type.” Of Lincoln, Strong writes, “He is a barbarian . . . in respect of outside polish . . . but a most sensible, straightforward, honest old codger. The best President we have had since old Jackson’s time, at least, as I believe.”

 January 30–Thursday–Bresloau, Silesia–Birth of Walter Damrosch, conductor and composer

January 30–Thursday–Southampton, England–Confederate emissaries Mason and Slidell arrive from America.

 January 30–Thursday–Brooklyn, New York–Builders, engineers and Navy officials watch the launch of the iron-clad USS Monitor at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. With its turreted center gun, its design will change naval warfare.

 January 31–Friday–Washington, D. C.–In his diary Elisha Hunt Rhodes describes the wintry conditions in the capital. “Mud, mud. I am thinking of starting a steamboat line to run on Pennsylvania Avenue between our office and the Capitol. If I was owner of this town I would sell it very cheap. Will the mud never dry up so the Army can move? I hope so, for I am tired and weary of mud and routine work.. I want to see service and have the war over so that I can go home.”

 January 31–Friday–Evanston, Illinois–The American astronomer Alvan Graham Clark, who founded a company producing the best telescopes available at this time, makes pioneering observations of stars through an eighteen inch telescope at Northwestern University.

 January 31–Friday–Finland–The first rail line in the Grand Duchy of Finland opens with service between Helsinki and Hameenlinna.


Happy Yuletide!

A happy and joyous Yuletide to you! I am a believer in the old traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the series of festive days beginning Christmas Day (the 25th of December) and running to January 6th the traditional observation of the visit of the Magi. This period is also known as Christmastide, Yuletide or Twelvetide. That’s what the gift giving is about in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas–you know, French hens, golden rings and dancers and all. As I write this on the Ninth Day of Christmas I have Christmas music playing, loudly and happily. I try to ignore it in the stores and on the radio from Halloween to Christmas. After that you don’t hear it publicly or on the radio but I enjoy such music all through Christmastide and Epiphany. In this regard, I am terribly old-fashioned. How old-fashioned you ask? Oh, just medieval England old-fashioned.

Traditionally the Twelfth Night of Christmas is always on the evening of January 5th but the Twelfth Day can either precede or follow the Twelfth Night. In medieval England this period was one of almost constant merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night, the traditional end of the Christmas season. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night became increasingly popular with William Shakespeare’s stage play entitled Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. Some of these traditions were adapted from older European customs, including the Roman Saturnalia and the Germanic Yuletide. Some roles and practices traditionally include the mocking of authority and the principal male lead in skits, dances and pantomime played by a woman, while the leading older female character, or “Dame”, is played by a man.

The Epiphany season is the liturgical period following the Christmas season. It begins on the day of Epiphany, and ends at various points depending on usage by various Christian denominations. In the Anglican, Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the Epiphany season begins at Evening Prayer on the Eve of the Epiphany (which may be celebrated on January 6th or the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th ) and ends at Evening Prayer (or Night Prayer) on the Feast of the Presentation (which may be celebrated on February 2nd or on the Sunday between January 28th and February 3rd ). The Epiphany season is seen as a continuation of the Christmas season, and together they last forty days. The three events in main focus during the Epiphany season are the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’s miracle at the marriage at Cana. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity also falls within the season, allowing another seasonal theme to be that of unity.

As a gift this evening I offer the following Carol for New Year’s Day from a black-letter collection printed in 1642. If you want to sing it, the music is Green Sleeves. You have to imagine harpsichord or viola or lute.

The old year now away is fled,

The new year it is entered;

Then let us now our sins down tread,

And joyfully all appear.

Let’s merry be this holiday,

And let us run with sport and play,

Hang sorrow, let’s cast care away—

God send you a happy new year.


And now with new year’s gifts each friend

Unto each other they do send;

God grant we may our lives amend,

And that the truth may appear.

Now like the snake east off your skin

Of evil thoughts and wicked sin

And to amend this new year begin—

God send us a merry new year.


And now let all the company

In friendly manner all agree,

For we are here welcome all may see

Unto this jolly good cheer.

I thank my master and my dame,

The which are founders of the same,

To eat to drink now is no shame—

God send us a merry new year.


Come lads and lasses every one,

Jack, Tom, Dick, Bess, Mary, and Joan,

Let’s cut the meat unto the bone,

For welcome you need not fear.

And here for good liquor we shall not lack,

It will whet my brains and strengthen my back,

This jolly good cheer it must go to wrack—

God send us a merry new year.


Come, give us more liquor when I do call,

I’ll drink to each one in this hall,

I hope that so loud I must not-bawl,

But unto me lend an ear.

Good fortune to my master send,

And to my dame which is our friend,

God bless us all, and so I end—

And God send us a happy new year.