We Shall Be Far Better Organized for 1860~January 1859~15th to 31st

We Shall Be Far Better Organized for 1860 ~ Abraham Lincoln

Things appear calm enough but next year’s election is in the minds of many including a prominent lawyer from Illinois.

January 15– Saturday– Wonewoc, Wisconsin– Birth of Elmore Yocum Sarles. He will become a banker, businessman and politician who will serve as governor of North Dakota from 1905 to 1907. [Dies on February 14, 1929].

January 15– Saturday– London, England– Originally chartered in December, 1856, the National Portrait Gallery first opens to the public in its temporary building on Great George Street in London. George Scharf serves as its first curator. [The Gallery will move to South Kensington in March 1870 and then in 1896 to its current site in St. Martin’s Place.]


National Portrait Gallery in London at its current location

National Portrait Gallery in London at its current location

January 16– Sunday– Massachusetts– “P. M.– to Walden and thence via Cassandra Ponds to Fair Haven and down river. There is still a good deal of ice on the north sides of woods and in and about the sheltered swamps. As we go southwestward through the Cassandra hollows toward the declining sun, they look successively, both by their form and color, like burnished silvery shields in the midst of which we walked, looking toward the sun. The whole surface of the snow the country over, and of the ice, as yesterday, is rough, as if composed of hailstones half melted together. This being the case, I noticed yesterday, when walking on the river, that where there was little or no snow and this rough surface was accordingly dark, you might have thought that the ice was covered with cinders, from the innumerable black points reflecting the dark water.” ~ Diary of Henry David Thoreau.


Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

January 17– Monday– Bucharest, the Balkans– Wallachia and Moldavia are united by Alexander John Cuza, age 39, under the name Romania.

January 18– Tuesday– Indianapolis, Indiana– The Indiana State Temperance Convention drafts a petition to the state legislature for an amendment to the state constitution which would ban the sale of liquor.

January 19– Wednesday– Springfield, Illinois– In the Illinois Supreme Court, Attorney Abraham Lincoln represents the Illinois Central Railroad in six suits in which railroad is the defendant.

January 19– Wednesday– Toronto, Ontario, Canada– Birth of Alice Eastwood, one of the three children of Colin and Eliza Jane Gowdey Eastwood. She will become an educator and botanist, authoring several books, including A Handbook of the Trees of California (1905), and over 300 articles. [She will die in San Francisco on October 30, 1953.]

January 20– Thursday– New York City– “According to the newspapers, there are symptoms premonitory of a European muss. The majesty of France has personally snubbed the Austrian Ambassador, and the pent-up elements of trouble in Padua and Milan and Italy in general seem simmering with special energy.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

January 20– Thursday– Mossy Creek, Virginia– “Unless circumstances or some clever woman turns my course I expect . . . to set off for Kentucky in a week or ten days, for the purpose of making a final tour among old grand mama’s Eve’s fair descendants, to ascertain whether or not indeed this individual can gather up the scattered fragments of his heart’s affections so as to concentrate them upon some one whose charms & attractions ((personal & social)) shall be sufficient to lead me right up to Hymen’s altar!! The truth is every day’s experience like the atmosphere around is pressing me with the conviction that it is not good & never was designed to be, for man to be alone!! that his living is but a mere animal existence floating upon the surface of things . . . . I have just lingered on the borders of single-wretchedness long enough to discover that there is not in her wide [unclear] one single oasis on which my eyes or my hopes might rest, and therefore I announce to you, to all the world & the rest of mankind, but rather more of woman kind, that ere long I design to shake the very dust of celibacy off my understandings & take up my line of march gladly & joyously for ‘That land of mixed delight///Where Bachelors nowhere tarry///Where Hymen’s says dispel the night///And lead me on to marry!!!!’” ~ Letter from B. Estill to his friend John McCue.

January 20– Thursday– Berlin, Prussia– Bettina Brentano, novelist, composer, arts patron and social activist, dies at age 73. She bore seven children to her late husband, Achim von Armin (1781– 1831).

January 21– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison defends Theodore Parker and Henry Ward Beecher who have recently been assailed in the conservative press for their stands on reform issues, particularly speaking against slavery. Parker had been called an “infidel” and Beecher accused of being “unorthodox” by pro-slavery journalists. Garrison also reports that a memorial signed by William Cooper Nell, had been brought before the state legislature, asking for the vindication and protection of the rights of colored citizens. Representative Spofford, of Newburyport rose to protest the consideration of the petition. “I rise to protest, at this early stage of the session, against the introduction of this agitating question of slavery . . . there is nothing to be gained by the petition; nothing whatever is asked.” He moved that a vote be taken by yeas and nays, “in order that the people of the Commonwealth may know who the Representatives are who are disposed to continue, throughout the session, constant and useless agitation of the slavery question.” [Nell, a free born black man, age 42, is an abolitionist activist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, journalist and historian.]

January 21– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “I have this day transmitted to the Senate a digest of the statistics of manufactures, according to the returns of the Seventh Census [1850], prepared under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior in accordance with a provision contained in the first section of an act of Congress approved June 12, 1858, entitled ‘An act making appropriations for sundry civil expenses of the Government for the year ending the 30th of June, 1859.’ The magnitude of the work has prevented the preparation of another copy.” ~ Special message of President Buchanan to the House of Representatives.

January 21– Friday– Coshocton Ohio– About ten o’clock at night, several armed men overpower the County Treasurer who was working late in his office. They tie him up, open the safe and successfully escape with approximately $20,000, about $4000 of it in gold. [The $4000 in gold would have been about 211 troy ounces which would be worth about $331,000 in today’s market. The $16,000 in cash would equal $456,000 today, calculated on the Consumer Price Index.] 

January 22– Saturday– Hanover, the German States– At the piano himself, Johannes Brahms, age 25, performs his First Piano Concerto in D Minor, Opus 15. The audience is polite but obviously not enthusiastic.

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms


January 23– Sunday– Memphis, Tennessee– “The President . . . does not approve of the Pension Bill which recently passed the House [of Representatives] , but believes that the admission of the principle it involves would open the door to such unlimited claims as to bankrupt the Government. It is hardly likely that the bill will pass the Senate.” ~ Memphis Appeal.

January 23– Sunday– Port-au-Prince, Haiti– After a successful insurrection against Faustin Elie Souloque, the self-styled Emperor Faustin I, who has ruled since 1849, Nicholas Fabre Geffrard is sworn in as president of Haiti. [He will rule until being sent into exile in 1867.]

January 23– Sunday– Hawaiian Islands– A significant volcanic eruption begins on the big island of Hawaii with a spectacular spray of lava from the north top of Mount Mauna Loa. There is no accompanying earthquake and no casualties reported but the lava spurts to a height of 300 feet. [This continues for several days and the lava flows for several weeks.]

January 24– Monday– New York City– The New York Times reports that the ship Laurens, seized by Federal officers last Thursday at New London, Connecticut, had clearly been refitted for use in the African slave trade while under the guise of being a whaling ship.

January 25– Tuesday– London, England– The Caledonia Society holds a banquet to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. Festivals are held in every Scottish town and Scots around the world host dinners and special celebrations. All the festivities end with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”

January 25– Tuesday– Springfield, Illinois– In the evening, the Concert Hall is the scene of a celebration marking the 100th birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The organizers had promoted the event as an evening of “toasts, sentiments and songs.” A newspaper report declares that the “supper was splendid and abundant, and was well attended. The toasts offered on this occasion were most appropriate, and were responded to by some of the most talented men of the state, among whom were, Abraham Lincoln . . . and others.”

January 26– Wednesday– Asuncion, Paraguay– United States Commissioner James B. Bowlin presents his credentials to President Carlos Antonio Lopez in preparation for negotiations on a treaty of friendship and commerce between the two countries.

January 27– Thursday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society convenes for its twenty-seventh annual meeting at the Mercantile Hall. Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison are among the key speakers.

January 27– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– In Congress, Speaker of the House James Orr, age36, of South Carolina and Congressman James Hughes, age 35, of Indiana, both Democrats and both retiring from Congress after this session, argue on the floor of the House, exchanging language that a reporter calls “racy, vigorous, and original.” In a burst of anger, Orr challenges Hughes to meet outside to settle their differences. However colleagues with cooler heads prevail and apologies are exchanged. This is the latest in a series of acrimonious exchanges that have occurred between members of the Thirty-Fifth Congress. [During the Civil War, Orr will serve as a senator in the Confederate government and will become a Republican after the war. Hughes will change political parties in 1860.]

January 27– Thursday– Berlin, Prussia– At three o’clock in the afternoon Princess Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and wife of Prince Frederick William of Prussia, gives birth to her first child, William. [The boy will become the Crown Prince in 1861 and eventually reign as Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany from 1888 till 1918.]


Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria

Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria

January 28– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– William Hickling Prescott, age 62, one of America’s most famous historians, dies two hours after suffering a stroke in the library at his Beacon Hill home. Almost blind since his college years at Harvard, he has produced remarkable works on the history and literature of Spain, especially as they concerned the New World at the time of Ferdinand and Isabella. His three-volume Conquest of Mexico gained him great fame and prestige. [The town of Prescott, Arizona will be named for him.]


January 28– Friday– along the coast of Virginia– The steamer North Carolina on its way from Norfolk to Baltimore, Maryland, catches fire and completely burns. Two people are killed. Everyone else escapes harm.


January 28– Friday– Olympia, Washington Territory– The city is incorporated.


January 29– Saturday– Springfield, Illinois– “When you can find leisure, write me your present impressions of Douglas’ movements. Our friends here from different parts of the State, in and out of the Legislature, are united, resolute, and determined; and I think it is almost certain that we shall be far better organized for 1860 than ever before.” ~ Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Lyman Trumbull.


January 29– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “I transmit a report from the Secretary of War, with the accompanying documents, recommending the repayment to [British colonial] Governor [Sir James] Douglas, of Vancouver Island, of the sum of $7,000, advanced by him to Governor [Isaac Ingalls] Stevens, of Washington Territory, which was applied to the purchase of ammunition and subsistence stores for the forces of the United States in time of need and at a critical period of the late Indian war in that Territory. As this advance was made by Governor Douglas out of his own private means and from friendly motives toward the United States, I recommend that an appropriation may be made for its immediate payment, with interest.” ~ Message to Congress from President Buchanan. [That $7000 loaned by a British official out of his own pocket would equal $199,000 in today’s dollars, using the Consumer Price Index. The purchasing power would buy the about the same as $2.52 million today.]


January 29– Saturday– Lynchburg, Virginia– “It strikes me . . . that is a wealthy section of country, and that a paper could succeed well there. If we succeed in getting the subscribers, I am in hopes we will be able to remunerate you in some way for your kindness in taking such an interest in the enterprise. If you say so, I will send my son-in-law there next Court-day, and get you and your friends to make a strong pull and we will have an office there, and I believe your citizens will support it liberally. Of course your Clerks, Lawyers, Merchants &C., would do all they could to keep it up. 500 subscribers to begin with would establish the paper on a firm footing. I have all the material, and all of it paid for. I think a neutral paper would succeed better than a political one, but

I am Whig to the core.” ~ Letter from A. Waddill to J. H. McCue regarding the development of a new newspaper.


January 30– Sunday– Island of Hawaii– Lava from the volcanic eruption of a week ago reaches the Pacific Ocean, forty miles from the mountain.


January 30– Sunday– Turin, Italy– Prince Napoleon Joseph Charles, age 37, a cousin of French Emperor Napoleon III, marries Princess Maria Clotilde of Savoy, age 15, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II of Peidmont-Sardinia. Many people comment that this union further signals the growing alliance between France and the Italians who favor a united Italy. [The couple will have three children but will separate in 1870.]

January 31– Monday– “John Cloud has been arrested as concerned in the robbery of the Coshocton Treasury [on Friday, January 21st]. We have spoken of the arrest of George Bell at Columbus, and the telegraph notices the arrest of a man at Dayton and one at Eaton.” ~ Cleveland Herald .

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