Monthly Archives: October 2012

Here I Stand

On this day, All Hallows Eve, in 1517, a German monk by the name of Martin Luther posted on the door of the cathedral church in Wittenberg his “95 Theses.” Actually he entitled them “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” or in the Latin in which he wrote them, “Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum.” This event is considered by most historians as the beginning of what came to be called the Protestant Reformation. As I used to tell my students, look at the words carefully. Protestant-ant literally means one who makes a protest and reformation means a reshaping, a re-forming of something already in existence.


the church doors where Luther posted his theses for debate


In a brilliant 1960 article in the American Historical Review (vol 66, #1, October, 1960, pp 74-84) the Quaker historian Roland Bainton wrote this about Luther. “Luther happened to emerge amid a set of circumstances peculiarly auspicious. Without such a stage and without concomitants both economic and political the Reformation would never have taken hold. As for the claim that Luther was in no sense original, there is no better reply than that to be found in the recent work of Erich Hassinger, who finds Luther’s contribution to have been his rediscovery of the historical core of Christianity. The claim of the Christian religion is that God did something unique in history. . . .

“Luther asserted unequivocally the historical uniqueness of the work of God in Christ. Its continuance in the present is mediated through Scripture, which is the record of the event. And though it must be interpreted by the Spirit, yet the Spirit can never be dissociated from the outward Word. This position divided Luther from Catholics on the one side and from Protestant sectaries on the other. But if it be granted that Luther was original as to religion, the question still remains whether men were stirred by his religion or merely by his revolt. Some historians, here as elsewhere, offer an economic explanation. This of itself is by no means novel. The charge arose almost at once that the princes supported Luther in order to expropriate the goods of the Church, that the peasants at first rallied to him in the hope that the freedom of the Gospel would mean freedom from serfdom, that the masses espoused the Gospel in order to throw off tithes, fees, and indulgences. . . .

Luther takes a stand, refusing to change his position

“At the Diet of the Empire in I530, the German princes presented the Augsburg Confession, fully aware that the Emperor might in consequence deprive them of their titles, lands, and lives. In the I540’s the Emperor came with Spanish troops to crush Protestantism, but neither princes nor people would yield. Had their concern been only economic, one cannot understand such intrepidity. One may note also that some simple laymen like Hans Sachs did grasp what Luther meant in the very core of his theology. Perhaps one reason why they did and could understand his message was that the way had been in some measure prepared by the German mystics who had stressed not outward good works but inward attitudes of humility and love. . . .

“The economic explanation for the movement’s success in Germany is more plausible if it is compared with the failure in Italy. . . . The preaching in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was highly moralistic, directed against specific sins: usury, prostitution, luxury, extortion, tyranny, feuding, and the wearing of vanities. Lyrical raptures over the wounds of Christ ended in appeals to imitate his sufferings. The inference was that penitence and amendment of life would win God’s pardon. But this was just the point that Luther denied. He could denounce sins with all the vehemence of a Savonarola, but his point was that divine forgiveness is a sheer act of God’s grace and in no way contingent upon anything that man can do. Amendment of life flows from the assurance of pardon. The German mystics had come closer to this than ever did the Italian friars, and the difference in the religious preparation may have had more to do with the outcome than had economics.

Luther’s translation of the Bible into German

“Other interpreters stress political factors, contending that the Reformation could have begun in no other country than Germany because of the political decentralization. The point is that in a great monarchical state an obscure professor would have had little chance to persuade a monarch like Francis, Henry, or Charles to embrace his religious ideas. And if the monarch were not at least neutral, the advocate of new religious ideas would be promptly snuffed out. Saxony was small enough and the relations sufficiently personal that a teacher at the University of Wittenberg, supported by his colleagues, could gain the support of a little prince like Frederick the Wise, who was sufficiently independent to pursue a strategy of obstructionism over against the Emperor.”

Martin Luther

As a student of and a teacher of history, I find Bainton’s analysis insightful, helpful and enlightening. As a Christian I owe a personal debt to Luther. I was born in a family active in the church and grew up with a sense of call. However, like many others in the 1960’s [and in other decades as well], I struggled with my religious faith in my college years. I grew angry at the hypocrisy and sinful failings I saw in the Christian church. It was reading a number of Luther’s essays for a history course which I was taking that showed that a person could be angry with the church and remain a person of faith. Like all of us Luther had his sins, faults, prejudices and short-comings. And like so many important people in history, he was a complex person. History can not readily or easily evaluate him or any other such person. History is not written in black and white but rather in every available color of the artist’s palette, some dark and brooding, some light and celebratory. That why, as I have said before, history is not a science but as the ancient Greeks rightly knew, an art form and requires a muse for its proper telling and re-telling.

The historian Martin E Marty, himself a Lutheran, said of Luther in a 2004 interview, “Somebody once asked me to summarize the Lutheran reformation, and I said it`s the revolt of the junior faculty at Wittenberg. Of all those [reform movements], that was the one that caught. And I think it was a set of circumstances — his own spiritual power, his own rhetorical gift, his own energy and the drama a life in which for a quarter century . . . [he] could be killed — we pay special attention to that kind of figure. And whether Europe would have broken up as much as it did — Western Europe was all Catholic, except Jews in ghettos. And at the end of his time . . . you never again had European unity. I think he did advance, whether he wanted to or not, the cause of human freedom by placing so much on individual conscience– yes, the Bible, but reason and conscience.”

Katharina von Bora who became Luther’s wife and made him an advocate for the education of girls

It was over thirty years after I graduated from college before I actually joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [the ELCA] but from the first Sunday I attended a worship service there I knew I had found a satisfying spiritual home and have spiritually flourished there for more than a decade.

I believe that Christianity, particularly Protestant Christianity, calls for people to make protest about racism, homophobia, sexism, militarism, poverty and injustice of every sort. In so doing believers can come to a place where they willingly and happily join people of good will from any creed or from no creed. Idealistic? Yes, I am. Liberal? Very much so. Dreamer? Yes, I am one of those as well. “Without vision the people perish,” a wise prophet wrote long ago.

a book of Luther’s essays

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”– Martin Luther


Belated Birthday Wishes to a Presidential Candidate

Yesterday, I posted a piece about Belva Ann Lockwood, an American Portia, on the occasion of her 182nd birthday. However, especially since we are in the final weeks of a presidential campaign I must say a bit about her campaigns for that high office.

Ms Lockwood worked hard from the outset of her legal career to do well and to make a name for herself, even in such areas as criminal law. According to her biographer, Attorney Lockwood managed to do quite well.

“The postbellum emphasis on gentility made the thought of women working in the criminal courts egregious, even loathsome. Society’s morally repugnant dramas played out in criminal court, a place off-bounds to ladies. Lockwood could have refused criminal cases. Yet, despite her religious rectitude and middle-class aspirations, criminal cases and criminal court argument were as acceptable to her as any other kind of legal work. It is not difficult to imagine this no-nonsense woman facing the judge in a room teeming with people, many of them down on their luck, charged with drunkenness or simple assault. Nor is it difficult to contemplate why the poor and the unfortunate had to accept representation by an inexperienced, woman lawyer. But Lockwood cut a sharp figure and was blessed with a quick mind and tongue. By 1875 she had begun to attract clients charged with more serious crimes, representation that brought her before the judges of the criminal division of the D.C. Supreme Court. From 1875 to 1885 Belva represented at least 69 criminal defendants in this court. They were charged with virtually every category of crime from mail fraud and forgery to burglary and murder. She won “not guilty” decisions in 15 jury trials and submitted guilty pleas in 9. Thirty-one of her clients were judged guilty as charged, while five others were found to be guilty of a lesser charge. An entry of nolle prosequi (termination of the proceedings by the prosecutor) ended four cases. She won retrials for several others.”– Jill Norgren, author of Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who would Be President.

the definitive biography of Lockwood

“Lockwood was not content to rest on her personal achievements. She sought not only suffrage, but full political and civil rights for all women. . . . . Explaining why she entered the race, she wrote in a letter to her future running mate, Marietta Stow: “We shall never have equal rights until we take them, nor respect until we command it.” In 1884 and 1888, during her two campaigns as the presidential nominee of the Equal Rights Party, Lockwood drew attention to a range of issues important to Americans, among them, preservation of public lands, reform of family law to make it less unfair to women, and use of tariff revenues to fund benefits for Civil War veterans. No celestial idealist, Lockwood turned to advantage the publicity of the campaign to launch herself onto the paid lecture circuit.”– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

period political cartoon mocking Lockwood’s candidacy

In 1884 the Equal Rights Party nominated Lockwood for president of the United States. She ran on a liberal platform, radical in its day, that included the following:

1. We pledge ourselves, if elected to power, so far as in us lies to do equal and exact justice to every class of our citizens, without distinction of color, sex, or nationality.  

2. We shall recommend that the laws of the several states be so amended that women will be recognized as voters, and their property-rights made equal with that of the male population, to the end that they may become self-supporting rather than a dependent class.  

3. It will be our earnest endeavor to revive the now lagging industries of the country by encouraging and strengthening our commercial relations with other countries, especially with the Central and South American States, . . . encourage exports by an effort to create a demand for our home productions; and to this end we deem that a moderate tariff-sufficient to protect the laboring classes, but not so high as to keep our goods out of the market-as most likely to conserve the best interests of our whole people. That is to say, we shall avoid as much as possible a high protective tariff on the one hand, and free trade on the other. We shall also endeavor, by all laudable means, to increase the wages of laboring man and women. Our protective system will be most earnestly exerted to protect the commonwealth of the country from venality and corruption in high places.  

4. It will be our earnest effort to see that the solemn contract made with the soldiers of the country on enlistment into the United States service-viz.: that if disabled therein they should be pensioned-strictly carried out; and that without unnecessary expense and delay to them . . . .


6. We believe that the only solution of the Indian question is to . . . treat the Indian like a rational human being, as we have the Negro–make him a citizen, amenable to the laws, and let him manage his own private affairs.  


9. We oppose monopoly, the tendency of which is to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer, as opposed to the genius and welfare of republican institutions.  

10. We shall endeavor to aid in every laudable way the work of educating the masses of the people, not only in book knowledge, but in physical, moral, and social culture, in such a manner as will ‘tend to elevate the standard of American manhood and womanhood-that the individual may receive the highest possible development.  

11. We recommend a uniform system of laws for the several states as desirable, as far as practicable; and especially the laws relating to the descent of property, marriage and divorce, and the limitation of contracts.  

12. We will endeavor to maintain the peaceable relations which now exist between the various sections of our vast country, and strive to enter into a compact of peace with the other American as well as the European nations, in order that the peace which we now enjoy may become perpetual. We believe that war is a relic of barbarism belonging to the past, and should only be resorted to in the direst extremity.  

13. That the dangers of a solid South or a solid North shall be averted by a strict regard to the interests of every section of the country, a fair distribution of public offices, and such a distribution of the public funds, for the increase of the facilities of inter-comi-rercial relations, as will restore the South to her former industrial prestige, develop the exhaustless resources of the West, foster the iron, coal, and woolen interests of the Middle States, and revive the manufactures of the East.  

14. We shall foster evil service, believing that a true civil service reform, honestly and candidly administered, will lift us out of the imputation of having become a nation of office seekers, and have a tendency to develop in candidates for office an earnest desire to make themselves worthy and capable of performing the duties of the office that they desire to fill; and, in order to make the reform a permanent one, recommend that it be engrafted into the Constitution of the United States.  

15. It will be the policy of the Equal Rights party to see that the residue of the public domain is parceled out to actual settlers only, that the honest yeomanry of the land, and especially those who have fought to preserve it, shall enjoy its benefits.  

In October, 1884, Belva Lockwood delivered a campaign speech in New York City to an audience of about 1,050 people, mostly women, whom the New York Times dismissively described as “the leading female suffragists of the city . . . a majority of middle-aged virgins, with one or two pretty girls and fashionable young women.” [NYT, October 20, 1884] Candidate Lockwood, tastefully attired in a black silk dress, a societal reminder that she was indeed a widow, spoke “in an even, clear, and pleasant voice that reached the furthest corner of the hall.” [NYT, October 20, 1884]

most likely how Lockwood dressed while campaigning

A skilled speaker and well aware of the society and her audience, the candidate began with a Biblical quotation from II Samuel 23:3 “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God..” She carefully launched into an explanation of key parts of the party’s platform, pointing out that for 20 years the two major parties governed without much difference in political philosophy and certainly without building peace between capitalist corporate owners and the working masses. Turning to issues near to her heart, Ms Lockwood, knowledgeable in constitutional law, explained that there was no prohibition against a woman being president and though she herself could not vote, nothing prevented men from voting for her. She asserted that males “have been running the Government of the United States on a policy diametrically opposed to the Constitution, for in all of these years a grand aristocracy known as the men of the country have insisted on and have succeeded in distributing all of the public money. [Applause] We are determined to break up this gigantic hide-bound monopoly based on sex which makes of the women of the country paupers and checks and strangles in them at birth inspiration and aspiration, and makes of every male child half a tyrant and half a freeman. This senseless oppression is rapidly deteriorating the mental and physical powers of the race. Only a grand, free woman, with the fresh blood of inspiration flowing through her veins and proud of her motherhood can bear a child fit to govern a republic.”

Sane and sensible platform and challenging campaign speech and still relevant. I wonder if we have in either political party right now enough intelligent minds, hearts of broad vision and will to work for the common good to put into effect such platform provisions.

Ms Lockwood, along Alfred H Love, founded and helped to lead the Universal Peace Union, a peace advocacy group. She supported the establishment of an international court of justice, a parliament of nations and a system of international treaties of arbitration to replace war as an instrument of national policy. On these topics she gave public addresses not only in the United States but in England and on the European continent as well, even being received by the elderly Queen Victoria.

the 1986 postage stamp issued in her honor

Ms Lockwood worked long and hard for woman suffrage. The New York Times in the obituary for Belva Lockwood on May 20, 1917, quoted her as saying, “Suffrage is no longer an issue. It is an accomplished fact. Those states which have denied it to women will come around.”

She died about a month after the United States declared war against Germany. I wonder if that decision to join the Great War saddened unto death her elderly heart so dedicated to peace. Yet she must have died knowing that the first woman elected to Congress, Ms Jeanette Rankin, had put her political career at stake by voting against President Wilson and in keeping with the peace principles which the two women shared. “No one can claim to be called Christian who gives money for the building of warships and arsenals.”– Belva Lockwood

We need more like her.

An American Portia in Her Own Right

In Master Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the beautiful, intelligent, and quick-witted heroine Portia disguises herself as a man and argues eloquently in court to save the life of her lover’s friend, Antonio. In the thirty-five years after the end of the American Civil War a small number of courageous Portias fought their way into law schools, professional practice, the courts and eventually the judicial bench. They did not disguise themselves but wore the dresses with voluminous skirts which were the fashion of the day, although Belva Ann Bennett McNall Lockwood did not hesitate to wear red stockings under those skirts and upon occasion show a bit of her ankles. “Like Shakespeare’s Portia, Lockwood used wit, ingenuity, and sheer force of will to unsettle society’s conceptions of women as weak in body and mind. But Portia, to accomplish her mission, impersonated a man before revealing who she was. Lockwood, in contrast, used no disguise in tackling the prevailing notion that women and lawyering, no less politics, do not mix. Not only did she become the first woman admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court, she ran twice for the office of President of the United States.”–Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, January 24, 2008.


Belva Lockwood in 1879

Belva Bennett was born on October 24, 1830, in the Niagara County town of Royalton in the “Burned Over District” of western New York. Belva was the second daughter, and second of five children, of farmers Lewis and Hannah Bennett. In an 1888 article in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, she wrote this about her childhood:

 “At about ten years of age I had read the Bible through, but had read it as a child reads, believing literally all that it contains. I supposed faith only was necessary to the re-enactment of the miracles of Scripture. Believing that I had this faith, or might have it, with a proper disposition of mind, I undertook to perform these miracles, and of course ingloriously failed. My effort at walking on water resulted in a sad wetting of my pantalets and skirts, the garments then worn by little country-girls of that vicinage (Niagara County, New York), and somewhat shook my belief in my own abilities, or else in my understanding of the word ‘faith.’ I had selected for this experiment a mill-pond near my father’s house, and, without notifying any person of my intention, had proceeded to the edge of the pond alone, and, summoning up courage,—or faith, as I thought,—I undertook to imitate the example of the great apostle Peter, by literally walking on the water. To my surprise and discomfiture, my feet went through to the sandy bed below; and, although I retired in good order, it was with draggled skirts and a doubting mind, to receive a good scolding from my mother.”

 Undeterred by her inability to walk on water she tried to emulate another Biblical miracle. “But this failure did not materially damp my hopefulness nor my ardor. Continuity of purpose has also been one of my characteristics. My next effort was to raise the dead; and for this purpose I selected a neighboring burying-ground, and the child of a neighbor that had just been interred. Remembering my former failure, I now assumed a more serious frame of mind, and endeavored earnestly and prayerfully to accomplish the performance of my second miracle. . . . . But the grave did not open, the dead did not come forth, as in the case of Lazarus; and my self-esteem received another severe shock.”


a young Lockwood, date unknown

Miss Bennett obtained as much formal education as well available to her and became a teacher. In her new profession, she soon emerged as a troubler of Zion. “Here again came up the odious distinction of sex. The male teachers in the free schools of the State of New York received more than double the salary paid to the women teachers at that time, simply because they were men, and for precisely the same work. It was an indignity not to be tamely borne by one with so little discrimination of the merits and demerits of sex, and of course, impolitic as it might seem, I at once began to agitate this question, arguing that pay should be for work, and commensurate to it, and not be based on sex. . . . . An ardent student of history, I soon discovered that most of the great men of the country had received a collegiate education. I also discovered that the colleges of the country were closed to women.”

 Over the next few years she followed the path of many of her contemporaries, which for her led to a baby, early widowhood and the need to provide for herself and her little daughter. “What could a simple country-girl do against the prejudices of centuries? There was only one avenue open to her, and that the one for which the American girl had been educated all of the years of the past century,– marriage. The daughter of a poor farmer, I followed the same well-trodden road, and was soon united in marriage to a promising young farmer of my neighborhood. Marriage to the ordinary woman is the end of her personality, or of her individuality of thought and action. Forever after, she is known by her husband’s name, takes his standing in society, receives only his friends, is represented by him, and becomes a sort of domestic nonentity, reflecting, if anything, her husband’s religious, moral, and political views, and rising or falling in the world as his star shall go up or down. I had not even noted this phase of society, and directly adopted the unwomanly habit of pursuing my studies after my marriage, writing theses for literary gatherings, and sometimes for the public press. A babe soon gladdened my household, but my married life was short, as my husband sickened soon after our marriage and died of a lingering consumption during the fifth year, leaving me, without fortune, to make my way in the world. Not yet twenty-three years of age, a mother and a widow, with poor parents, with not even a liberal education as a reliance for support, the outlook was gloomy.”

 Despite her poverty, widowhood and societal objections and constrictions, Belva Ann Bennett McNall obtained a college degree and spent a number of years as a teacher, doing such radical things as encouraging, indeed requiring, physical exercise for her your female students. She met Susan B Anthony and became interested and involved in the struggle for women’s civil rights. She watched the Civil War with horror, noting later that the cost to fight the bitter struggle could have purchased the freedom of all slaves several time over. The terrible loss of life moved her to spend much of the rest of life in the advocacy of peace. When the war ended, she moved to Washington, D.C., determined to learn more about the law and “to learn something of the practical workings of the machinery of government, and to see what the great men and women of the country felt and thought.” Already interested in a career in law and politics, Mrs McNall tried an approach unused by women at the time.


newspaper illustration of notable American women with Lockwood in the center

“Born a woman, with all of a woman’s feelings and intuitions, I had all of the ambitions of a man, forgetting the gulf between the rights and privileges of the sexes. . . . . There was a vacancy in the consulship at Ghent. Conceiving that I could fill this position, I had the audacity to make application for it. Preparatory to a prospective appointment, I reviewed my German, read all the authors that I could find on International Law in the United States Supreme Court Library, and, procuring through my member of Congress a copy of the Consular Manual, made myself quite familar with its contents, so that I fully believed that I was competent to perform the service required of a consular officer, never once stopping to consider whether the nation to which I should be accredited would receive a woman. To my disappointment and chagrin, no notice was ever taken of my application, and I was too weak-kneed to renew it. The fact that Andrew Johnson soon afterwards became involved in many complications with Congress, which ended in his impeachment by that body, may account in a measure for the lack of interest taken by him and by the public at large in my humble aspirations.”

 In March, 1868, after fifteen years of widowhood and 37 years old at the time, Belva McNall married Reverend Ezekiel Lockwood, some 20 years her senior. When Belva Lockwood decided to pursue formal study to become a lawyer, her husband did not stand in her way, indeed, encouraging and supporting her.. Initially two different law schools refused her admission.

 However, in 1870, “the National University Law School [now the George Washington University Law School] was opened, and, ostensibly as a part of its plan to admit women to membership on the same terms as young men, I was invited, with other ladies, to attend the classes, and gladly accepted. At its first session, fifteen ladies matriculated, partly as a novelty, I suppose, but certainly without any adequate idea of the amount of labor involved. Many of them left with the close of the first quarter; but some continued through the year, and a few of them held on until the middle of the second year. Only two persons, Lydia S. Hall and myself, completed the course. At first, besides the regular class-recitations, we were admitted to the lectures with the young men, although the recitations had been separate. This was a compromise between prejudice and progress. It was not long before there commenced to be a growl by the young men, some of them declaring openly that they would not graduate with women. The women were notified that they could no longer attend the lectures, but would be permitted to complete the course of studies. As Commencement day approached, it became very evident that we were not to receive our diplomas, nor be permitted toappear on the stage with the young men at graduation. This was a heavy blow to my aspirations, as the diploma would have been the entering wedge into the court and saved me the weary contest which followed. For a time I yielded quite ungracefully to the inevitable, while Lydia S. Hall solaced herself by marrying a man named Graffan and leaving the city. She was not a young woman at that time, but a staid matron, past forty; and after her departure I entirely lost sight of her, and suppose she became ‘merged,’ as Blackstone says, in her husband. I was not to be squelched so easily.”

 Rebuffed by the school’s administration, Belva Lockwood took drastic action. By that time, Ulysses S Grant was President of the United States and titular head of the law school’s board of trustees. So Mrs Lockwood wrote him a letter.

Ulysses S Grant during the Civil War


“‘SIR,– You are, or you are not, President of the National University Law School. If you are its President, I desire to say to you that I have passed through the curriculum of study in this school, and am entitled to, and demand, my diploma. If you are not its President, then I ask that you take your name from its papers, and not hold out to the world to be what you are not. Very respectfully, Belva A. Lockwood.’ This letter contained about as much bottled-up indignation as it was possiblefor one short missive to conceal under a respectful guise.”

 The woman who as a youngster tried to walk on water and to raise the dead did receive a miracle. President Grant made no direct response; however, the next week she did receive her diploma and was admitted to the bar of the District of Columbia.

“On my admission, the clerk [of the court] remarked, ‘You went through to-day, Mrs. Lockwood,like a knife. You see the world moves in our day.’ Judge Cartter said, ‘Madam, if you come into this court we shall treat you like a man.’ Judge Arthur McArthur remarked, ‘Bring on as many women lawyers as you choose: I do not believe they will be a success.’ These comments did not affect me, as I already had my hands full of work, and cases ready to file in anticipation of my admission. My friends had confidence in my ability; and the attention that had been called to me in the novel contest I had made not only gave me a wide advertising, but drew towards me a great deal of substantial sympathy in the way of work.”

In 1874 when Mrs Lockwood tried to plead a case before the United States Court of Claims, Judge Charles Drake silenced the courtroom, looked her over, then refused to allow her to proceed, asserting, “Mistress Lockwood, you are a woman.” She later remarked, “For the first time in my life I began to realize that it was a crime to be a woman, but it was too late to put in a denial so I pled guilty.” She hired a male replacement to handle the case but complained, “He was saying very badly in three days what I could have said well in an hour.”

In 1876, having practiced law in the District of Columbia for three years, Belva Lockwood qualified for, and sought U.S. Supreme Court Bar membership. Albert Gallatin Riddle, a distinguished lawyer and former Congressman, sponsored her and made the motion for her admission. “Those nine gowned judges looked at me in amazement and dismay. The case was taken under advisement, and on the following Monday an opinion rendered, of which the following is the substance: ‘As this court knows no English precedent for the admission of women to the bar, it declines to admit, unless there shall be a more extended public opinion, or special legislation.’”

 Mrs Lockwood was appalled at the Coutrt’s lack of knowledge of legal history. No English precedent? “How about Queens Eleanor and Elizabeth, who sat in the aula regia and dispensed the duties of chief chancellor of the English realm in person? How about Anne, Countess of Pembroke, who was hereditary sheriff of Westmoreland, and who at the assizes at Appleby sat with the judges on the bench?”

historical plaque near Ms Lockwood’s birthplace

The Supreme Court had opened a door by saying they would admit her under “special legislation.” Obviously the justices did not fully now the mood of Congress. And they underestimated Belva Lockwood. Ms Lockwood, who became a widow for the second time, petitioned Congress to pass legislation on her behalf. She gained the support of Senator Aaron Augustus Sargent of California, among others. The legislation was entitled “a bill to relieve certain legal disabilities of females.” Every time it came to the floor of the House or the Senate, Ms Lockwood sat in the gallery to watch and listen and sent a basket of flowers to every member who spoke in her favor. Eventually, the bill passed, was signed by President Rutherford B Hayes and in early March of 1879, Ms Lockwood officially became the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. The First Lady, Lucy Hayes, a practicing Methodist as Ms Lockwood was, gave a party at the White House in Ms Lockwood’s honor.

 Belva Ann Lockwood practiced law for over 35 more years. In 1880, she sponsored the admission to the bar of Supreme Court of Samuel Lowery, only the second African American lawyer to be so admitted. In 1906 Ms Lockwood won five million dollars in damages for the Cherokee Nation in a landmark Supreme Court case.

Ms Lockwood’s grave in Washington, D.C.

“Visitors to my chambers will see posted on a wall outside a replica of the vote sheet recording the Court’s refusal to admit Lockwood, . . . She was a woman of sense and steel. Along with legions of others, I am inspired by her example.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Happy birthday wishes for the 182nd time to Belva Ann Bennett McNall Lockwood, pioneering American Portia.



Death of an Amazon: The Execution of Mata Hari~1917

On this day in 1917 a beautiful dancer was executed as a spy. Her stage name was Mata Hari. She had been born in Holland and had a difficult marriage to a Dutch army officer which ended in divorce. She earned a reputation in pre-war Paris as an exotic dancer. Men of various nationalities flocked to give her attention. Eventually she was arrested by French authorities and shot as a German spy. The execution took place on the outskirts of Paris just as the sun came up. She was approximately 41 years old. Today there is considerable doubt about her guilt.


Mata Hari

A number of books, over 30, have been written about her and several films made. The recent books at least try for some historical accuracy; the films are sensationalist fiction. It seems to me that some men are shocked–or at least claim to be shocked– by the conduct of women like Mata Hari because they view women as too tender, too gentle, too soft to accomplish such daring feats as being a spy or double agent or even triple agent. And when the woman is quite attractive, such men are readily inclined to sexualize the activities of these women. Somehow this seems to such men to make the women’s conduct “understandable.” For some reason, it seems to me, from early in human history, some males are afraid of Amazons, women who carry a sword or speak their minds or do activities deemed “beyond their proper sphere.” Until all men understand that any woman may be motivated by patriotism or anger or any political reason, I guess we shall endure fantasy and fable about women such as Mata Hari.

Greta Garbo as Mata Hari in the very fictional 1931 film


The best book about the case of Mata Hari is The Fatal Lover: Mata Hari and the Myth of Women in Espionage by the English scholar Julie Wheelwright in 1992. Here is what Kirkus Review said of the book: “While `”Mata Hari” remains synonymous with the femme fatale trading her body for secrets, this readable biography of the original–the Dutch-born exotic dancer executed by the French in 1917 for espionage–argues that she was framed and challenges the whole notion of women agents as sex workers. Margaretha Zelle MacLeod . . . divorced from an abusive Army captain . . . reinvented herself in Paris in 1904. As Hindu temple-dancer “Mata Hari,”she was a sensation, performing almost nude . . . . With her exotic Orientalist persona, her free spending, her penchant for older men in uniform (and her reliance on their monetary gifts), Mata Hari fit the model of celebrated fin-de-siŠcle courtesan–but after the outbreak of WW I, these same attributes made her suspect. Despite months of surveillance, though, French investigators turned up no evidence that Mata Hari had betrayed French interests to Germany. The investigators did malign her for lying about her past, however, and . . . on racial grounds. Meanwhile, according to British author Wheelwright, apparently Mata Hari’s only foray into espionage was on behalf of France, after her future interrogator insincerely recruited her. Wheelwright contends that the wartime culture saw all women (unless clearly passive, chaste, and self- sacrificing) as treacherous; the “international woman” became a symbol of national betrayal. Indeed, court records (sealed for decades) indicate a trumped-up case–a previously reported conclusion that remains overshadowed by legend.”


Mata Hari, dressed in a stage costume, 1910

What follows is an account of her execution as witnessed by a British journalist named Henry Wales. His account was originally published in newspapers through the International News Service on Oct. 19, 1917.Judge for yourself, gentle reader, what kind of person Mata Hari indeed was.


“The first intimation she received that her plea [to the French government for clemency] had been denied was when she was led at daybreak from her cell in the Saint-Lazare prison to a waiting automobile and then rushed to the barracks where the firing squad awaited her. Never once had the iron will of the beautiful woman failed her. Father Arbaux, accompanied by two sisters of charity, Captain Bouchardon, and Maitre Clunet, her lawyer, entered her cell, where she was still sleeping- a calm, untroubled sleep, it was remarked by the turnkeys and trusties. The sisters gently shook her. She arose and was told that her hour had come. ‘May I write two letters?’ was all she asked.

Consent was given immediately by Captain Bouchardon, and pen, ink, paper, and envelopes were given to her. She seated herself at the edge of the bed and wrote the letters with feverish haste. She handed them over to the custody of her lawyer. Then she drew on her stockings, black, silken, filmy things, grotesque in the circumstances. She placed her high-heeled slippers on her feet and tied the silken ribbons over her insteps.

She arose and took the long black velvet cloak, edged around the bottom with fur and with a huge square fur collar hanging down the back, from a hook over the head of her bed. She placed this cloak over the heavy silk kimono which she had been wearing over her nightdress. Her wealth of black hair was still coiled about her head in braids. She put on a large, flapping black felt hat with a black silk ribbon and bow. Slowly and indifferently, it seemed, she pulled on a pair of black kid gloves. Then she said calmly: ‘I am ready.’

The party slowly filed out of her cell to the waiting automobile. The car sped through the heart of the sleeping city. It was scarcely half-past five in the morning and the sun was not yet fully up. Clear across Paris the car whirled to the Caserne de Vincennes, the barracks of the old fort which the Germans stormed in 1870. The troops were already drawn up for the execution. The twelve Zouaves, forming the firing squad, stood in line, their rifles at ease. A subofficer stood behind them, sword drawn. The automobile stopped, and the party descended, Mata Hari last. The party walked straight to the spot, where a little hummock of earth reared itself seven or eight feet high and afforded a background for such bullets as might miss the human target.

As Father Arbaux spoke with the condemned woman, a French officer approached, carrying a white cloth. ‘The blindfold,’ he whispered to the nuns who stood there and handed it to them.

 ‘Must I wear that?’ asked Mata Hari, turning to her lawyer, as her eyes glimpsed the blindfold.

 Maitre Clunet turned interrogatively to the French officer. ‘If Madame prefers not, it makes no difference,’ replied the officer, hurriedly turning away.

Mata Hari was not bound and she was not blindfolded. She stood gazing steadfastly at her executioners, when the priest, the nuns, and her lawyer stepped away from her. The officer in command of the firing squad, who had been watching his men like a hawk that none might examine his rifle and try to find out whether he was destined to fire the blank cartridge which was in the breech of one rifle, seemed relieved that the business would soon be over. A sharp, crackling command and the file of twelve men assumed rigid positions at attention. Another command, and their rifles were at their shoulders; each man gazed down his barrel at the breast of the women which was the target. She did not move a muscle.

 The underofficer in charge had moved to a position where from the corners of their eyes they could see him. His sword was extended in the air. It dropped. The sun – by this time up – flashed on the burnished blade as it described an arc in falling. Simultaneously the sound of the volley rang out. Flame and a tiny puff of greyish smoke issued from the muzzle of each rifle. Automatically the men dropped their arms. At the report Mata Hari fell. She did not die as actors and moving picture stars would have us believe that people die when they are shot. She did not throw up her hands nor did she plunge straight forward or straight back.

Greta Garbo as Mata Hari in the 1931 film

Instead she seemed to collapse. Slowly, inertly, she settled to her knees, her head up always, and without the slightest change of expression on her face. For the fraction of a second it seemed she tottered there, on her knees, gazing directly at those who had taken her life. Then she fell backward, bending at the waist, with her legs doubled up beneath her. She lay prone, motionless, with her face turned towards the sky. A non-commissioned officer, who accompanied a lieutenant, drew his revolver from the big, black holster strapped about his waist. Bending over, he placed the muzzle of the revolver almost – but not quite – against the left temple of the spy. He pulled the trigger, and the bullet tore into the brain of the woman. Mata Hari was surely dead.” 



What Are They Trying to Hide?

The American Historical Association, of which I am a member, brought this to the attention of the membership. In the name of a budget reduction measure the state of Georgia is closing access by the public to the state archives. This will affect not only historians but scholars in other professions, students, teachers, journalists and genealogists, among many others. It makes me wonder what the state of Georgia is trying to hide. Are they ashamed of the past?



From the News column of the October 2012 issue of Perspectives on History:

In response to news that the state of Georgia intends to effectively close its archives in a cost-cutting move, AHA Executive Director James Grossman sent the following letter to Governor Nathan Deal:

September 17, 2012

Dear Governor Deal:

I write on behalf of the American Historical Association the leading organization of historians in the United States to express our grave concern about plans to effectively close the Georgia Archives.

An early and active proponent of state archives laws in the United States, the AHA remains committed to the preservation of our heritage, and to its accessibility. We understand that a shortage of financial resources has forced the state to make some difficult financial choices, and that in such situations, everyone claims that their particular activity is sacrosanct. The Georgia Archives, however, tells the story of all Georgians. Genealogists, students, historians, journalists: all require access to these vital records to participate in the preservation of the state’s heritage and the practical use of its past.

Beyond the interests of historical researchers stand a wide variety of civic-minded Georgians who depend on open access to archives. Teachers, lawyers, real estate developers, leaders of neighborhood associations all rely not only on the vital records housed in the Georgia Archives, but on the expert advice of its archivists.

The records of any government represent the heritage of its people, and can serve that role only when its citizens have access to consult those records. Closing the doors to the Archives would represent a devastating blow not only to historians, genealogists, and others with an interest in the past, but also the state’s policymakers and leaders who need a solid understanding of the past to help shape Georgia’s future.

I urge you to reconsider this decision, and to work with the Secretary of State to allocate resources that will enable this vital service to remain open and accessible to all.


James R. Grossman

Executive Director, American Historical Association

Background on This Issue

The issue began on September 13, 2012, when Georgia Secretary of State BrianKemp announced that “effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.” .Kemp also declared his intention to “fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so that the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia.” The National Coalition for History (NCH) rapidlydisseminated information about the Georgia state decision and also providedetailed suggestions for action.

Nearly every state in the union is facing budget shortfalls, and all are lookingfor places to trim expenses. The AHA hopes that a significant protest toGeorgia’s proposed cuts will also catch the attention of decision makers inother states. If a public outcry helps stop the closure of the archives inGeorgia, other states will be far less likely to attempt similar actions.

The Lyre & Harp of God’s Kindness

The marvels of God are not brought forth from one’s self.

Rather, it is more like a chord, a sound that is played.

The tone does not come out of the chord itself, but rather,

through the touch of the Musician.

I am, of course, the lyre and harp of God’s kindness.

– Abbess Hildegard von Bingen

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, the Benedictine Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), was named a “Doctor of the Church” by the Roman Catholic Church. She was the founder of the Rhineland mystic movement, a healer, composer, administrator, preacher, theologian, poet, artist, visionary, advocate for justice, author and one of the most important medieval European women who wrote numerous letters. For years she served as abbess of the famous monastery at Rupertsberg. Hildegard’s concept of veriditas (greening life-force) speaks of divine justice rolling down like water.


Abbess Hildegard of Bingen

In the Roman Catholic Church the title of “Doctor of the Church” is used to designate someone as a contributor of the highest rank to the knowledge and theology of the church. Before 1970 no women were so designated and only four women before Abbess Hildegard have been so honored. However, I must say I feel like the Vatican is a “johnny-come-lately” in recognizing this amazing woman. I am a Protestant who has admired and been inspired by this dynamic abbess for 30 years. [By way of full disclosure, I must also say that I am a Lutheran, by choice, not by birth, who fully agrees with Dr Luther on the nature, authority, limitations and role of the bishop of Rome but that is an essay for another time. Perhaps some day I’ll post my own 95 Theses here.]

 According to reliable sources, “Born the tenth child of a noble couple, Hildebert and Mechtild from Bermersheim in the Rhineland, Hildegard was destined for the religious life from childhood. She was enclosed with a religious noblewoman, Jutta of Sponheim, a recluse, perhaps when she was eight, and she took vows in the monastery of St. Disibod with Jutta in 1112, when she was 14, along with other girls attached to Jutta. Jutta presumably taught Hildegard to read the psalter. Hildegard never had a formal Latin education, and relied on her various secretaries to edit her grammar, but she seems to have read widely through her life.”


“As Hildegard’s reputation grew and the number of pilgrims to St. Disibod increased, Hildegard felt more constrained and in 1148 she had a vision that commanded her to move with her nuns (and their dowries) to a new location. Despite Abbot Kuno’s resistance– Hildegard’s presence gave his monastery much prestige– and wariness on the part of the nuns and their families, Hildegard, with the help of a serendipitous illness, had her way, and established a new house at Rupertsberg.”

 “At Rupertsberg, Hildegard cared for the sick, studied their illnesses and wrote two medical works, one theoretical, known as the Causes and Cures, the other more practical, the Physica, which suggests remedies. She also composed religious poems and music, a play, the Ordo virtutum, two other volumes of visions, the Liber vitae meritorum (the Book of Life’s Merits) and the Liber diivinorum operum, (the Book of Divine Works), and a life of St. Rupert.” 

We have extant today almost 400 of her letters. In her correspondence, “Hildegard plays many roles: as the voice of God, the instrument by which God addressed and admonished mankind and the church, admonishing popes and bishops to fight injustice and corruption; as a mediator with the divine, carrying God’s message to humankind and individuals’ prayers back to God; as a mediator among humans, particularly in the monastic world, between abbesses and their nuns or abbots and their monks, telling those who want to give up their responsibilities to carry the burden they took on, but at the same time urging their flocks to behave better; as a source of knowledge and wisdom, theological, prophetic, moral, and practical, both legal and medical; as a crusader for what she believed in (and/or believed God wanted), like her assertion of her right to bury a previously excommunicated but repentant nobleman in the monastery grounds; and as a woman who inspired both awe and affection in the women and men who knew and worked with her. She deals sternly with those in power and sympathetically with those in distress. She preaches mercy as well as justice, love rather than fear, compassion rather than anger, moderation rather than fanaticism, and always a strong sense of responsibility. Her advice is often practical, though her style is usually rich with parables and striking imagery. On occasion she used letters to powerful people to try to get her way, as in her unsuccessful attempt to keep [her favorite secretary, a Sister Richardis of Stade] with her, through letters to Pope Eugene III, two archbishops and a marchioness, and her successful insistence on the right of her convent to a provost of their choice . . . [a matter] which she again took to the pope (Alexander III).”


some of her musical compositions

For more information on this amazing woman, see Voice of the Living Light, Hildegard of Bingen and Her World, Barbara Newman, editor (1998); Sister of Wisdom by Barbara Newman (1987); The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, translated by Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (1994, 1998, 2004); Hildegard of Bingen : Devotions, Prayers, & Living Wisdom, edited by Mirabai Starr (2008);Cry Out and Write: a Feminine Poetics of Revelation by Edward P Nolan (1994); Hildegard of Bingen: a Book of Essays, edited by Maud Burnett McInerney (1998). There are over 100 books about Hildegard; this is merely a tastey sample for those interested in learning more.

 A number of fine contemporary musicians have recorded Abbess Hildegard’s music, the finest of which, in my opinion, are the recordings by Anonymous 4. These four women, singing a acappella, take the listener through time and it as listening to Hildegard and her nuns singing in their chapel.

 You can hear a sample at:

To Northern Neighbors

This weekend includes the observance of Thanksgiving in Canada so to my Canadian friends and readers I extend my wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

For centuries before any Europeans arrived in North America numerous First Nations [I like that Canadian term more than the one now commonly used in the United States] observed a fall feast of thanksgiving for good hunting and good crops. Both in England and on the European continent harvest festivals were commonly observed. The first recorded Thanksgiving observed by Europeans in North America occurred in 1578 when the explorer Martin Frobisher did it. “Mayster Wolfall, a learned man, appointed by her Majesties Councell to be their minister and preacher, made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for their strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places, . . . . They celebrated Communion . . . The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ’s name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters” according to a period writer.

The several provinces developed periodic observances as European settlers expanded across the beautiful Canadian frontier. After Canadian Confederation the first Thanksgiving Day was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness. Beginning with Thanksgiving Day in 1879, the holiday was observed every year, but the date was initially a Thursday in November. The date of celebration changed several times until, in 1957, Canada’s Parliament officially declared it to be the second Monday in October.

One Canadian writer described the traditions of the day. “Most families in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving with a special dinner for family and friends. The dinner usually includes a roasted turkey and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving provides an opportunity to look at pioneer life, and it is an ideal time to celebrate the importance of Canadian farmers for all Canadians. Many families use to have special meal, and go around the table expressing their thankfulness for during the past year. It is a special day for children to spend with their Canadian grandparents, and to appreciate the abundance in everyone’s lives. Many friends and family members use to get together to convey their thankfulness for the past year.”

1916 postcard of the railroad statiion in North Toronto

Because I have English blood in my veins through my father [Saxon blood, mind you– my foremothers and forefathers were there well before the Normans crossed the Channel], I happily join two of my dearest friends in Toronto to say, “Happy Thanksgiving” and “God save the Queen!”

Real Nature of the Contest~October 25 to 31, 1862

As the month ends, President Lincoln shows his impatience with General McClellan. Also he meets with a Quaker woman who brings a peace message. Some in the North believe, particularly after the Emancipation Proclamation, that Mr Lincoln is a mere tool in the hand of the abolitionist trouble-makers and ponder the hugh cost of the war. Mary Lincoln visits a military installation and is warmly received.

The Secretary of the Navy desires order and justice in the armed forces. A scholarly Union general dies of disease. Northern women continue to raise money to meet the medical and personal needs of soldiers. Omens of things to come appear. General Grant takes command in an important theater of operations. Black soldiers take a role in combat against the rebels. And railroads, which will dramatically reshape the United States in the coming fifty years, take more attention, even that of the President.

Secretary of State Seward and Minister Charles Francis Adams evaluate international affairs, including the coup in Greece, the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation in Europe and British collusion with the Confederacy in arming and staffing the raider Alabama. Mexico stiffens its resistance to French intervention while the French emperor seeks to mediate the American war.

October 25– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– In response to a message from General McClellan, President Lincoln writes to the general. “I have just read your dispatch about sore-tongued and fatigued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?”

October 25– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Welles writes on the Cabinet meeting. “Some discussion was held yesterday in Cabinet in regard to the course which should be pursued towards General J. C. Davis who killed Major General Nelson [on September 29th].. The grand jury . . . have ignored the bill [of indictment] . . . . I remarked that if the transaction had occurred in the Navy, we should at least have had a court of inquiry.”

Gideon Welles

October 25–Saturday– Corinth, Mississippi– General Ulysses S. Grant takes command of Union forces comprising the 13th Army Corps and the Department of Tennessee.

October 25– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser, local shopkeeper and farmer, confides to his diary. “Pleasant. Business at the bank, rode to my farm to inspect the new seeding. Home early in the evening to do some writing. . . . I fear Lincoln is a tool in the hands of the Abolitionists. We need a man of [President Andrew] Jackson’s iron will in our present emergency to hold our National Government together.”

October 25– Saturday– Jersey City, New Jersey– A boiler in a locomotive of the New York and Erie Railroad explodes, killing five workers.

October 26– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports that Mexico City is preparing to resist the French. “The last accounts from Vera Cruz received in Havana mention the arrival in the former place of a Spaniard, proceeding from Mexico City, who brings accounts of the enthusiasm displayed in the capital and other places to resist the French invasion. Several forts have been built, and every one in the City of Mexico has been obliged to take up arms.”

October 26– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Mrs. Eliza P. Gurney, the American widow of Joseph J. Gurney, an English Quaker philanthropist who opposed capital punishment and slavery, meets with President Lincoln in his office and prays with him for peace. In a note of appreciation to her, the President writes, “I am glad of this interview, and glad to know that I have your sympathy and prayers. We are indeed going through a great trial—a fiery trial. . . . If I had been allowed my way this war would have been ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of his own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that he who made the world still governs it.”

Eliza P Gurney–seated in the middle–with family members

October 26– Sunday– Linwood, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan writes in her diary. “This place is completely overrun by soldiers passing and repassing. Friday night five stayed here, last night two more, and another has just gone. One, last night, a bashful Tennesseean, had never tasted sugar-cane. We were sitting around a blazing fire, enjoying it hugely, when in answer to our repeated invitations to help himself, he confessed he had never eaten it. Once instructed, though, he got on remarkably well, and ate it in a civilized manner, considering it was a first attempt.”

Sarah Morgan

October 27– Monday– Mexico City, Mexico–The Juarez government informs its minister in Washington that French agents are purchasing mules and supplies in U S territory for operations against the Mexicans.

October 28– Tuesday– Augusta, Maine–The Maine Central Railroad is formed by merger of the Androscoggin and Kennebec Railroad with the Penobscot and Kennebec Railroad.

October 28– Tuesday– London, England– Charles Francis Adams updates Secretary of State Seward on the situation in Europe. “The insurrection in Greece is a new event, not unlikely to be productive of further complications in Europe. The agitation of the eastern question, as indicated in the published correspondence between the Russian and the British cabinets, is also an element of importance in estimating the probabilities of the approaching year. Possibly the rapid increase of clouds in this atmosphere may have had its effect in producing the most decided manifestation of good will to the President that has been made since I have been here. The effect here will be beneficial.”

October 29– Wednesday– Brooklyn, New York– Accompanied by several high ranking officers from the Navy and the Army, Mary Todd Lincoln visits the Navy Yard. She is enthusiastically cheered by the sailors and marines.

commanders house at Brooklyn Navy Yard

October 29– Wednesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser notes the vast cost of the war. “Out to my farm for inspection of the seeding. Nearly opposite there is an encampment of the drafted militia under Col. George Wiestling, who is to get them in military trim. They are a raw set of men. It is hoped to get at least 600,000 men for another army together to crush this rebellion. Meanwhile our national debt is staggering, some 640,000,000 dollars. The expenditure of a million and a quarter a day to keep this war machine going.”

October 29– Wednesday– Island Mount, Missouri–At the end of three days of skirmishing the First Kansas Colored Volunteers drive off a larger Confederate force. This is the first recorded battle involving regular African American soldiers. They suffer 8 dead and 12 wounded. Confederate losses are estimated between 25 and 40.

October 30– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward writes to Charles Francis Adams, U S Minister in London, about British violations of neutrality. “I send herewith a communication which has been received at this department from the Secretary of the Navy, giving information of a breach of international obligations by the commander of her Britannic Majesty’s gunboat Bull Dog, in July last, by transporting from Nassau to Bermuda one Pegram and seven other persons, who were proceeding from this country to England to take commands in the gunboat 290 [the CSA Alabama], a steam war vessel then being built, manned, and equipped in, and since despatched from, a British port, and since engaged in committing depredations on American commerce on the high seas, equally in violation of the treaties existing between Great Britain and the United States, the law of nations, and the iaws of Great Britain. The President desires that you will bring the subject to the notice of Earl Russell, and ask that an examination of the case may be instituted, and that such redress may be thereafter afforded to the United States as the result of the investigation shall give them a right to expect.”

Secretary of State Seward

October 30– Thursday– Beaufort, South Carolina– Union General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, age 52, dies of yellow fever. Mitchel was a pioneering American astronomer who began publication of the first astronomy magazine in the United States. He was also a lawyer, surveyor and college professor.

General Mitchel, astronomer and professor–nicknamed “Old Stars” by his soldiers

October 30– Thursday– Paris, France–Emperor Napoleon III requests that Great Britain and Russia join him in forming a council to mediate an end to the war in the United States.

October 31– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the recent fund raising activity of the Rose Hill Ladies’ Relief Union for Military Invalids. “A reunion of the most cordial character took place on Wednesday evening in the Rose Hill Methodist Episcopal Church. Its object was to assist, by subscription and immediate donation of money, the self-sacrificing and patriotic efforts of the Society of ladies who give their special attention to the military wards of Bellevue Hospital.” The article concludes that “a much larger sum was collected than was expected, and the best of it was that the money was sent up with the names and often without, some being too modest to be known.” The same issue carries a letter from a Union soldier fighting in Virginia. “Last evening one of the loyal Virginians of this place remarked to me that the President’s Proclamation would do more toward the finishing of the war than all other military measures combined. Sixty years spent in the South enables him to speak intelligently of what pertains to Southerners. Such is the impression entertained by all the loyal Virginians, whom I have met. And who more competent to judge? On our recent advance to Charlestown, the effects of the proclamation on the rebels were very apparent.”

illustration of various activities of women during the Civil War

October 31– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln meets with several political and business leaders to discuss building a railroad from Point of Rocks, Maryland to the city of Washington.

Real Nature of the Contest~October 16 to 24, 1862

The military draft both North and South appears problematic. In Pennsylvania while thousands of me do report there is also strong draft resistance while in Virginia a government clerk doubts the efficacy of the draft. President Lincoln takes another step to reestablish Federal authority in Louisiana while some white men encourage him to send free black people to Africa.. Soldiers, even generals, write home. In New York George Templeton Strong worries about adverse political effects of General McClellan’s lack of success and activity. Union raiders escape from jail in Georgia. There appears to be a difference of opinion between General Lee and the government in Richmond. The fame and fortunes of Confederate generals involved in the failed invasion of Kentucky seem to be changing.

Internationally, the raiding by the Confederate ship Alabama, built and armed by British companies, increases anti-British feeling in the Northen press and the Lincoln Administration. Legal issues about the ship will simmer for years after the war ends. Secretary of State Seward advises Charles Francis Adams about some of the dimensions of emancipation while Adams makes a formal protest about Gladstone’s recent pro-Southern speech. In England, Italian and Irish workers riot in Hyde Park. In France a creative genius who will make a name for himself in the new art of film is born. A coup in Greece topples the monarch.

October 16– Thursday– Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania–Miners demonstrate in opposition to the draft by stopping a train full of conscripts. They inform the men on board, “Those who want to go, can, but we will protect those who don’t.”

October 16– Thursday– Jackson, Tennessee– Union General Ulysses Grant writes to his sister, Mary. “I believe you have now got it all quiet on the Ohio. I hope it will soon be so every place else. It does look to me that we now have such an advantage over the rebels that there should be but little more hard fighting. Give my love to all at home. Write often and without expecting either very prompt or very long replies.”


General Ulysses S Grant

October 16– Thursday– Atlanta, Georgia– Six northern men who were part of Andrew’s Raiders in the “great locomotive chase” back in April, escape from the Fulton County jail.


Andrews Raiders~survivors~ c.1906

October 17– Friday– Pennsylvania–Demonstrations against the draft occur in three counties in the eastern half of the state.

October 18– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times describes the activities of the Confederate raider Alabama, asserting that it has attacked and burned eleven merchant and whaling ships in the last eight weeks, acting like a pirate by flying flags of various nations until it begins its attack, “She was built expressly for the business. She is engaged to destroy, fight or run, as the character of her opponent may be. She took her armament and crew, and most of her officers on board, near Terciera, Western Islands, from an English vessel. Her crew are principally English; the officers chivalry of the South.”

October 18– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward writes to Charles Francis Adams, U S Minister in London, regarding the Emancipation Proclamation. “You are well aware how long political controversy has been wearing a gulf to divide opinion in our country on the subject of interference with slavery in the slaveholding States. You know how deep that gulf has become, and how confessedly impassable it is except under the pressure of absolute, immediate, and irretrievable danger to the Union itself. Notwithstanding many respected counselors at home, and all our representatives abroad, have long and earnestly urged an earlier adoption of such a measure as the President has at last accepted, it was nevertheless wisely delayed until the necessity for it should become so manifest as to make it certain that, instead of dividing the loyal people of the Union into two parties, one for and the other against the prosecution of the war for the maintenance of the Union, it would be universally accepted and sustained. It is now apparent that the measure will be thus sustained.”

Charles Francis Adams, Lincoln’s Minister to the Court of St James, London~the same post once held by his father & grandfather


October 18– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Welles writes in his diary, expressing anti-British sentiment. “The ravages by the roving steamer 290, alias Alabama, are enormous. England should be held accountable for these outrages. The vessel was built in England and has never been in the ports of any other nation. British authorities were warned of her true character repeatedly before she left.”


the CSS Alabama

October 19– Sunday– Besancon, France– Birth of Auguste Marie Louis Lumiere, who, with his brother, will become one of the earliest and most creative cinematographers in Europe.

first known film poster~1895

 October 20– Monday– Pleasant Valley, Maryland– Union soldier George Whitman writes to his mother. “Where in thunder does all the troops go, that the papers say are leaving New York, and the other Cities every day. Why don’t they send em, out to the front, and let us old veterans come home, and see our Mammies. We ought to have force enough now, to go right ahead and balsmather the seceshers. I don’t like the idea of fighting the same ground over three or four times but I suppose its all right.”

 October 20– Monday– Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln becomes the first U S president to issue numbered “Executive Orders” and keeping a file of them in the State Department. One of these is an Executive Order establishing a Provisional Court in Louisiana. “The insurrection which has for some time prevailed in several of the States of this Union, including Louisiana. having temporarily subverted and swept away the civil institutions of that State, including the judiciary and the judicial authorities of the Union, so that it has become necessary to hold the State in military occupation, and it being indispensably necessary that there shall be some judicial tribunal existing there capable of administering justice, I have therefore thought it proper to appoint, and I do hereby constitute, a provisional court, which shall be a court of record, for the State of Louisiana; and I do hereby appoint Charles A. Peabody, of New York, to be a provisional judge to hold said court, with authority to hear, try, and determine all causes, civil and criminal, including causes in law, equity, revenue, and admiralty, and particularly all such powers and jurisdiction as belong to the district and circuit courts of the United States.”

October 20– Monday– Harpers Ferry, [West] Virginia– Union soldier Alexander Adams writes to his mother in Pennsylvania. “You speak of me coming home this winter. I would like to very much. I would give anything in the world to see you all once more . . . . I think the war will soon be over and then I can come home to stay awhile. I would like very much to be at home to help you pick apples and keep you company while pap is in the country. We have never been paid since we came from Newport News. We have nearly 4 months pay coming to us but I expect we will be paid before long but I must bring my scribbling to a close.”

 October 20– Monday– London, England– Charles Thomas Longley becomes Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding John Bird Sumner who died early in September.

Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury

October 21– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones writes in his diary that “The government is uneasy about Richmond. They want a portion of Lee’s army sent hither. But Lee responds, that although he is not advised of the condition of things on the south side of James River, yet, if he detaches a portion of his army, he may be too weak to encounter McClellan, if he should advance.”

 October 21– Tuesday– London, England– In Hyde Park another violent confrontation occurs between pro-Garibaldi Italians and pro-papacy Irish. Police and soldiers end the violence and disperse the crowds. “A large number of persons were severely injured during the afternoon, and the various surgeries in the neighborhood were crowded with parties waiting to have their wounds dressed. It is to be hoped the authorities will take measures to prevent any repetition of these disgraceful doings,” says the New York Times.

map of Hyde Park, 1833

October 22– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln asks Secretary of War Stanton to investigate and stop persons who may be profiteering from the sale of cotton which is in short supply.

 October 22– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones notes more problems in his diary. “We have Bragg’s report of the battle of Perryville. He beat the enemy from his positions, driving him back two miles, when night set in. But finding overwhelming masses accumulating around him, he withdrew in good order to Bryattsville. Thus Kentucky is given up for the present! . . . . The President will call out, under the Conscription Act, all between the ages of eighteen and forty. This will furnish, according to the Secretary’s estimate, 500,000, after deducting the exempts. A great mistake.”


Confederate General Braxton Bragg

October 23–Thursday– London, England–Charles Francis Adams, the American Minister, makes an official protest to Her Majesty’s Government about Gladstone’s speech of October 7th. The Foreign Office reassures him of Britain’s continued neutrality at present but no promises for the future.

October 23– Thursday– New York City–Attorney George Templeton Strong complains to his diary. “Our war on rebellion languishes. We make no onward movements and gain no victories. McClellan’s repose is doubtless majestic, but if a couchant lion postpone his spring too long, people will begin wondering whether he is not a stuffed specimen after all. . . . One thing is clear: that unless we gain decisive success before the November election, this state will range itself against the Administration. If it does, a dishonorable peace and permanent disunion are not unlikely.”

 October 23– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln receives a hand-delivered letter from the New York State Colonization Society, urging colonization of black people in Liberia.

October 23– Thursday– Athens, Greece– While King Otto I, age 47, is out of the city making a tour, a coup deposes him. He has ruled since 1833.

King Otto of Greece being expelled

October 24– New York City– The New York Times reports that in Pennsylvania drafted men are arriving “by thousands . . . by every train” at Harrisburg (the state capital) as well as at camps in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chambersburg, York, and Gettysburg. However the Philadelphia City Council has passed a resolution asking the mayor to delay implementing that city’s draft quota in order to allow more volunteers to enlist and receive a $200 bonus.

October 24– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones writes of the fortunes of two Confederate generals. “Bragg is in full retreat, leaving Kentucky, and racing for Chattanooga– the point of interest now. But Beauregard, from whom was taken the command of the Western army, day before yesterday repulsed with slaughter a large detachment of the Yankees that had penetrated to the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. Thus, in spite of the fantastic tricks of small men here, the popular general is destined to rise again.”

Real Nature of the Contest~October 6 to 16, 1862

Tension between the United States and Britain increases as a member of the English Cabinet gives a public speech in favor of recognizing the Confederacy as an independent nation. The American Minister expects other British politicians to follow suit. Quietly in London a baby girl is born who will as an adventurous adult become an explorer.

The vicious treatment of the Indians in Minnesota angers a member of Lincoln’s Cabinet. The President orders an effort to be made to establish a loyal government in Louisiana. People in Boston express approval of the Emancipation Proclamation. Union forces in Kentucky win an important battle. Robert Gould Shaw tries to explain his feelings to his abolitionist mother. While wartime scarcity increases in Richmond, a troop of Confederate cavalry makes a daring raid into Pennsylvania.

October 6– Monday– Highland County, Ohio– Birth of Albert J Beveridge, politician and historian whose 4 volume biography of Chief Justice John Marshall will win a Pulitzer Prize in 1920.

Albert Beveridge in 1920

October 6– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones writes in his diary about the city’s problems. “A Jewish store, in Main Street, was robbed of $8000 worth of goods on Saturday night. They were carted away. This is significant. . . . And our own people, who ask for prices for wood and coal, may contribute to produce a new Reign of Terror. The supplies necessary for existence should not be withheld from a suffering people. It is dangerous.”

October 7– Tuesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–The Philadelphia News reports that Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the president, has sent 1,000 pounds of. grapes to the sick and wounded in military hospitals during the week.

Mary Todd Lincoln

October 7– Tuesday– Newcastle, England– In a speech here, William Gladstone, currently serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cabinet, urges official diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy. “We may anticipate with certainly the success of the Southern States, so far as regards effecting their separation from the North. I, for my own part, cannot but believe that that event is as certain as any event yet future and contingent can be. But it is from feeling that that great event is likely to arise, and that the North will have to suffer that mortification, that I earnestly hope that England will do nothing to inflict additional shame, sorrow, or pain upon those who have already suffered much, and who will probably have to suffer more. It may be that a time might arrive when it would be the duty of Europe to offer a word of expostulation, or of friendly aid toward composing the quarrel.”

William Gladstone, British Cabinet member hostile to the Union cause

October 7– Tuesday– Paris, France– The correspondent for the New York Times writes that “Not withstanding the fact that we are passing through a complete calm in European and local politics, the discussions in the Press on the Roman and other questions, absorbs the attention of the journals to such an extent that the American question is but little discussed. We are promised, however, some leading articles on the Emancipation question.”

October 8– Wednesday– Downsville, Maryland– Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes about the war. “We do not complain, as it is all for the Union. The war will not end until the North wakes up. As it is now conducted it seems to me to be a grand farce. When certain politicians, Army contractors and traitors North are put out of the way, we shall succeed.”

October 8– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to General Grant. “I congratulate you and all concerned on your recent battles and victories. How does it all sum up? I especially regret the death of Gen. Hackleman; and am very anxious to know the condition of Gen. Oglesby, who is an intimate personal friend.”

October 8– Wednesday– Perryville, Kentucky– In the major battle fought in Kentucky, Union troops beat back a Confederate invasion of the state. The fighting is costly to both sides. Southern dead, wounded and missing total 3405 [21.3% of the total force] while Northern dead, wounded and missing come to 4211 [11,4% of the total Union force]. The Union hero of the day is General Philip H Sheridan, age 31

Battle of Perryville, Kentucky

October 8– Wednesday– London, England– James Walker, one of the premier civil engineers of the 19th century, dies at age 81

October 9– Thursday– Leesburg, Virginia– About 1800 Confederate cavalry troopers under the command of Jeb Stuart cross the Potomac River on a raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania, a raid which again take Stuart on a circumferance ride around Federal forces.

October 10– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–The Liberator reports a recent “great meeting” at Faneuil Hall, at which Senator Charles Sumner spoke and those assembled passed resolutions expressing satisfaction with and support of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

October 10– Friday– London, England– U S Minister Charles Francis Adams reports to Secretary of State Seward. “The last week has been marked by only two events of any particular importance. The first of these was the reception of the news of the President’s proclamation respecting the slaves. The effect of it has been only to draw the line with greater distinctness between those persons really friendly to the United States and the remainder of the community, and to test the extent of the genuine anti-slavery feeling left in this country. The second is the appearance of Mr. Gladstone, the chancellor of the exchequer, once more in a popular address referring to the state of things in America. From the first there has been little doubt on which side his sympathy was. . . . As this is just the season when public men are in the practice of making their addresses all over the country, it is probable that more or less of them will be appearing from day to day in the newspapers.”

October 10– Friday– Louvain, Belgium– Birth of Arthur De Greef, composer and pianist

October 11– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry seize horses and supplies and destroy some war materiels and telegraph lines and then turn south toward Virginia.

rebel cavalry in Pennsylvania as depicted in Harper’s Weekly

October 12– Sunday– Poolesville, Virginia– Completing a daring four day maneuver, Confederate cavalry under General Jeb Stuart return to the safety of their own lines. Union cavalry have failed to catch or stop them. None of Stuart’s men have been killed or captured. While not militarily of great significance, the escapade boosts Southern morale and embarrasses General McClellan.

October 13– Monday– Chambersburg, P:ennsylvania– Benjamin Schneck writes to his sister, Margaretta Keller. “To make you feel easy by exaggerated rumors which you will no doubt obtain of the Cavalry Raid here . . . I will merely say, that we are all safe & feel like thanking God, that God deemed to have kept the hearts of these 1600 men in check not to eke out their vengeance, as one might have expected, upon us. . . . the Rebel cavalry will laugh the more heartily at their dashing, bold, successful raid. They got probably 800 horses, plenty of our army clothing at the Depot, sabers, pistols & as much as they wanted, & are now nearly all at least, safe in Virginia. One must give credit for two things: Gentlemanly conduct in their intercourse with our people, and intrepidity and boldness.”

October 13– Monday– London, England– Birth of Mary Kingsley, explorer and ethnographic writer.

Mary Kingsley

October 14– Tuesday– Maryland Heights, Maryland– Union soldier Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother in Massachusetts. “I believe that the Right will conquer in the end, but we ought not to forget that that able generals, a well-disciplined army, and a powerful navy are the means to reach our end in this case. .; . . You must have thought from my late letters that I was degenerating sadly from the principles in which I was brought up; but an ordinary mortal must be somewhat affected by his surroundings, and events which you look at in one way from a distance, often seem very different when you are in the midst of them.”

October 14– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Wells notes angrily in his diary the discussion at today’s Cabinet meeting. “[Secretary of War] Stanton read a dispatch from General Pope, stating that the Indians in the Northwest had surrendered and he [Pope] was anxious to execute a number of them. . . . I was disgusted with the whole thing; the tone and opinions of the dispatch are discreditable. It was not the production of a good man . . . . The Indian outrages have, I doubt not, been horrible; what may have been the provocation we are not told. . . . . [some Indians] have good land which white men want and mean to have.”

October 14– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a letter to General Butler and other military commandeers in New Orleans instructing them to find candidates to represent Louisiana once again in the Congress. “In all available ways give the people a chance to express their wishes at these elections. Follow forms of law as far as convenient, but at all events get the expression of the largest number of the people possible. All see how such action will connect with, and affect the proclamation of September 22nd. Of course the men elected should be gentlemen of character, willing to swear support to the constitution, as of old, and known to be above reasonable suspicion of duplicity.”

October 15– Wednesday– Downsville, Maryland– Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes about morale. “We are very much ashamed that the Rebels were allowed to make their late raid into Pennsylvania. If this Army cannot protect the loyal states we had better sell out and go home. I ought not to complain, but I am mortified to think we did not catch some of the Rebel raiders.”

October 16– Thursday– New York City– The annual trade sale of books opens at the offices of George A. Leavitt & Company. The New York Times reports that “attendance was quite as large as in former years, though the South was not very largely represented among the buyers. Orders from the rebel States will probably be deferred until after the 1st of January next, when the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln will have gone into effect, and the rebels will have time to turn their attention from war to literature.” A lunch of pork, beef, beans and coffee is available to book buyers.