Signs of Stress~February 1859~the 1st to 12th

There are some signs of stress in the fabric of the Union.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

February– Rochester, New York– In this month’s issue of Douglass’ Monthly, Frederick Douglass writes firmly against plans and attempts to force free black people to go to Africa. “When in slavery we were liable to perpetual sales, transfers and removals; now that we are free, we are doomed to be constantly harassed with schemes to get us out of the country. We are quite tired of all this, and wish no more of it.”

February 1– Tuesday– Cleveland, Ohio– “A friend sends us from New Orleans the auctioneer’s advertisement of a sale of ‘choice slaves,’ which took place January 18th , and the prices at which these human cattle were struck off. There were nineteen of them that were guaranteed, and a lot of refuse stuff which went off at almost any price. There was Frances, a girl about 14 years, very likely and intelligent, speaks French and English– she brought $1000. Celeste, another girl of 15 years, likely and intelligent, speaks English and French– she brought $1310. Charity with a baby of three years, was knocked down at $1220. Patsey ‘a No. 1 cook’ brought $1180. Bella, with two children, 7 and 4 years, brought $1400. Clarissa, aged 19, very likely, went at $1350. Rachel ‘a field hand’ was struck off at $1000. Julia ‘a Creole’ brought $1000. Anna Maria, aged 17 years ‘very nice’ went at $1190. Griffin, a fine looking fellow, was sold for $1100. Hiiby ‘a first rate carpenter’ sold for $1800. A number of boys ‘all described as orphans’ averaged about $1000 each. It was evident the young women were the most saleable, but all went off at brisk prices.” ~ Cleveland Herald. [As used at this time “likely” meant suitable or promising. To understand the value of the slaves mentioned, $1,000 of 1859 would equal $28,500 today, using the Consumer Price Index. To understand the value of slave labor, a $1,000 would match about $175,000 worth of work performed today.]

February 1– Tuesday– Flint, Michigan– Birth of Lydia Maria Adams De Witt, second daughter and second of three children 0f Oscar and Elizabeth Walton Adams. She will earn an MD from the University of Michigan and become an experimental pathologist and well-known for her work in the pioneer studies in the chemotherapy of tuberculosis. She will die March 10, 1928.

February 1– Tuesday– London, England– Mary Anne Evans, a/k/a George Eliot, age 39, releases her new three volume first novel, Adam Bede, with an initial print run of 2100 copies. [These will be sold out within weeks and the novel will go on to become her most popular and best-selling work during her lifetime, with more than 30,000 copies sold.]

George Eliot

George Eliot

February 1– Tuesday– Dublin, Ireland– Birth of Victor Herbert, musician, composer and conductor. [Dies May 26, 1924.]

February 2– Wednesday– Albany, New York– On the second day of its two day meeting the New York State Anti-Slavery Committee hears speeches from Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, and several others. The meeting debates and passes resolutions advocating the dissolution of the federal Union and terming the Union “a covenant with Death” that ought to be annulled because of the constitutional protections of slavery. The New York Times reporter writes that “all the speeches made were of an extreme character.” Garrison, now 53, has been advocating such a radical measure for much of the last decade. Phillips, age 47, a Harvard graduate, endowed with a good personal income, known as the “golden trumpet” of abolition, has spent the last 22 years in the forefront of the radical abolitionists.

February 2– Wednesday– San Antonio, Texas– German immigrant William Menger opens his three story hotel. He had built a home in 1855 that he expanded with a boarding-house and a brewery, all on the southwest corner of Alamo Plaza, near the famous mission in San Antonio. His hotel will became one of the most famous and luxurious hostelries in Texas.

William Still, abolitionist & underground railroad conductor

William Still, abolitionist & underground railroad conductor

February 2– Wednesday– Toronto, Ontario, Canada– “It have [sic] been two years since I was at your house, at that time I was on my way to Canada, and I told you that I had a wife and had to leave her behind, and you promised me that you would help me to get her if I ever heard from her, and I think my dear friend, that the time is come for me to strike the blow, will you help me, according to your promise. I received a letter from a friend in Washington last night and he says that my wife is in the city of Baltimore, and she will come away if she can find a friend to help her, so I thought I would write to you as you are acquainted with folks there to whom you can trust with such matters . . . if we can do any thing it must be done now, as she will leave there in the spring, and if you will take the matter in hand, you must write me on to reception of this letter, whether you will or not.” ~ Letter from escaped slave Lewis Burrell to William Still in Philadelphia. Still, 37 years old, a free-born black man, has been a conductor on the underground railroad since 1844, aiding about 95% of the fugitives passing through Philadelphia.

February 2– Wednesday– Croydon, England– Birth of Henry Havelock Ellis, physician and author who will write extensively about sexuality and gender. [His most influential work will be Studies in the Psychology of Sex, published between 1897 and 1928. He will die July 8, 1939.]

Havelock Ellis

Havelock Ellis

February 3– Thursday– Rheydt, Rhine Province, Prussia– Birth of Hugo Junkers, engineer and aircraft designer. [Dies February 3, 1935].

February 4– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–The Liberator quotes Reverend Parker Pillsbury on the increasing tensions about the issue of slavery. Pillsbury declares that unless action is soon take, even the streets of Boston will “run with blood from Beacon Hill to . . . Broad Street.” Today’s issue also reprints the following from the Erie (Pennsylvania) True American, an abolitionist paper: “Now that the wheels of Legislation are again in motion at Harrisburg, we wish to urge upon our Senators and Representatives there, the necessity of enacting a Personal Liberty Law for this Commonwealth– a law securing to every man within the limits of the State, a right to his person and his liberty. We ask that hunting for men with a view to enslave them be forever prohibited in this State. We ask that the homes and the hearths of the old Keystone, be protected by law from the ravages of the kidnapper, and the plunderings of the manhunter. We perceive that movements toward urging such beneficent and needed legislation are being made in another section. A large and influential Anti-Slavery Convention was recently held in Philadelphia, at which strong resolutions were passed upon the subject.” [Since the Fugitive Slave act of 1850, a number of Northern states have passed “Personal Liberty Laws” which defy the federal law, prohibit state and local law enforcement from assisting in the capture of fugitive slaves and prevent Southern slave catchers from operating in these states. Southern slave-holders despise these laws. Pillsbury, age 50, is a Congregational minister and outspoken abolitionist.]

February 4– Friday– Cambridge, Massachusetts– “Only this I will say, that I am honestly delighted with ‘The Minister’s Wooing;’ that reading it has been one of my few editorial pleasures; that no one appreciates your genius more highly than I, or hopes more fervently that you will let yourself go without regard to this, that, or t’other. Don’t read any criticisms on your story: believe that you know better than any of us, and be sure that everybody likes it. That I know. There is not, and never was, anybody so competent to write a true New England poem as yourself, and have no doubt that you are doing it. The native sod sends up the best inspiration to the brain, and you are as sure of immortality as we all are of dying, if you only go on with entire faith in yourself.” ~ Letter from James Russell Lowell to Harriet Beecher Stowe. [Lowell, age 40, is serving as editor of the Atlantic Monthly and began two months ago to run in serial form Beecher’s new novel, The Minister’s Wooing. Stowe, 47 at this time, has written this story with as strong an anti-slavery flavor as Uncle Tom’s Cabin but also with a critical look at some aspects of Calvinist theology for which she has drawn criticism from some quarters. A fine recent evaluation of Beecher’s struggles with Calvinism can be found at David Reynold’s Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America (2011), pp 1-42, 81, 157, 169.]

February 4– Friday– Asuncion, Paraguay– After barely a week of negotiations between United States Commissioner James Bowlin and Paraguayan officials the parties sign a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation. [Paraguay will ratify the treaty a week later and the United States Senate will ratify it on February 27, 1860.]

February 4– Friday– Smolensk, Russia– Birth of Timofei Mikhailov. He will join a group of revolutionaries and become one of the plotters in the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in March of 1881, for which he will be hanged on April 3, 1881.

February 4– Friday– Mt Sinai, Egypt– The German biblical scholar Constantin Tischendorf discovers the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest known complete version of the Bible, dating from the middle of the fourth century, written in Greek on 346 parchments, in the ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Catherine. Tischendorf, age 44, a graduate of the University of Leipzig, is determined to make the most authentic translation of the Christian scriptures. He has undertaken this trip under the auspices of the Russian Tsar Alexander II. [Tischendorf, a friend of Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelson, will publish his Critical Edition of the New Testament in 1869 and 1872 and die of overwork and exhaustion in December, 1874. The manuscript will eventually make its way to Imperial Russia and in 1933 the Soviet government will sell it to the British Museum for £100,000.]

Constantin Tischendorf

Constantin Tischendorf

February 5– Saturday– Boston, Massachusetts– The new Russell’s Mechanical Steam Bakery on Commercial Street is completely destroyed by a fire that breaks out at eleven o’clock at night. The recently completed and furnished six-story brick bakery extended the length of a city block and went back 120 feet from the street. Several injuries occur when walls crumble into neighboring homes but no deaths take place, although police barely have time to push back a crowd of about 500 people that had gathered before the whole stone front of the building collapses into the street. The losses estimated to the bakery alone are about $100,000. [ The loss would amount to $2,850,000 today, using the Consumer Price Index.]

February 6– Sunday– Huron County, Ontario, Canada– Elias Disney is born to Irish immigrants. [He and his family will moved to Kansas in 1884. His own fourth son, Walter Elias Disney, a/k/a Walt Disney, will become the famous entertainer, animator and entrepreneur.]

February 7– Monday– New York City– “There seems to be a very active and formidable rebellion on foot in Virginia against the National Administration. Both the leading organs of the Democratic Party at Richmond denounce the policy of the President with great vehemence. His Pacific Railroad scheme– his general extravagance, and the thirty million scheme have found scarcely any favor among the Democrats of the Old Dominion. And now the Enquirer is out against the whole project of acquiring Cuba, and submits some very forcible arguments in support of this view.” ~ New York Times.

February 7– Monday– west of El Passo, Texas– Soldiers from Fort Bliss engage in a fire fight with a group of Mescalero Apaches. The Army loses 3 killed and 7 wounded out of their 22 soldier unit. They estimate that the Apache casualties total 9 but the soldiers retreat as they are outnumbered.

February 8– Tuesday– Williamsburg, Virginia– William and Mary College suffers the disastrous loss of its main building in a fire that erupts around one in the morning, probably in the science laboratory. All students sleeping in their rooms are awakened in time to escape and no injuries are reported. With the help of a crowd of townspeople, the college records and the college seal are saved, along with some historical paintings and antique furniture, but all the college library books and all of the scientific apparatus are destroyed along with the building.

February 9– Wednesday– New York City– “The Mobile Mercury of the 1st instant publishes an extremely interesting account of the reception of General [William] Walker, of filibustering notoriety, into the fold of the Roman Catholic Church. It is gratifying to know that the General has become a member of any church; but it is possible that there may be some people uncharitable enough to imagine that his change of religion is only a prelude to another foray upon Central America, and that he is preparing to render himself acceptable to the people of that distracted country by embracing their religion. The Mercury has no doubt that General Walker was induced to enter the fold of the Catholic Church from ‘overwhelming conviction,’ and we have no doubt such was the case. The great filibuster, to do him no more than strict justice, appears to have always been influenced by an overwhelming conviction in all his escapades.” ~ New York Times. [Walker, age 34, is an adventurer and soldier of fortune who tried in 1856 to overthrow the government of Nicaragua and establish his own government which would restore slavery to the country. His efforts were stopped in May, 1857 but at this time he is secretly preparing another attempt which will cost him his life in September, 1860.]

William Walker, soldier of fortune

William Walker, soldier of fortune

February 10– Thursday– New York City– “May a Negro go to college? This question was decided in the negative, a few days ago, at Schenectady. . . . . This was at the North, in the Free State of New-York. The community where it occurred no doubt hold stock in the under-ground railroad. They would lend their sympathy;, if not more active aid, in thwarting the odious Fugitive Slave law. But they would not suffer a man of Negro blood to study in Union College. We refer to the case as a curious illustration of the relations between the white and the blacks in the Free States. The course pursued towards the man in question, whose desire it was to fit himself for usefulness by means of public institution of learning, shows how much easier it is to utter sentiment in behalf of black ‘men and brothers’ than to extend practical sympathy. We neither judge nor censure the people of Union College. They but participate in a pervading sentiment or prejudice. Many others have their full share of that feeling whose professions might lead to contrary conclusions. It is proper to say that the applicant referred to was eventually admitted, the vote of exclusion being reconsidered and rescinded upon proof that he was a half-breed Indian, without a particle of African blood in his veins.” ~ New York Times

February 11– Friday– Jacksonville, Illinois– Attorney Abraham Lincoln lectures on “Discoveries and Inventions” at the Congregational Church. The address is sponsored by Phi Alpha Society of Illinois College, which has elected Mr Lincoln an honorary member. After the lecture Lincoln is the guest of honor at tea party given by Dr Owen M. Long at his home. A newspaper says of the lecture, “It was received with repeated and hearty bursts of applause.”

February 12– Saturday– Springfield, Illinois– Abraham Lincoln turns 50 years of age.

February 12– Saturday– Atchison, Kansas– “Several publications have recently been made in the papers of the Territory in relation to some of the citizens of Atchison turning out to aid in arresting old John Brown. To set right the minds of any who might be misled by these paragraphs, we would state that if any one supposes there is any feeling or excitement here in regard to the matter, he is mistaken; or if any one imagines there was anything political connected with this affair, they are deceived. The whole matter is simply this: The Marshal sent a written summons to Atchison, for help to arrest Old Brown. The message arrived on Sunday, and on the spur of the moment several turned out, and went solely with the view of assisting the Marshal in executing any process he might have. The expedition did not turn out very profitable to the Atchison boys, and they and some others who were there think the Marshall was not the man to send on such an expedition. The above is the whole story, and there is nothing political or excitable about it. Peace and good will prevail here, and there are no hard feelings or bickering among our citizens. We discuss political and other questions cooly and calmly, and our citizens are determined, let others do as they may, to have peace. We hope our neighboring towns will not become jealous of our peace and prosperity, and attempt to throw fire brands among us. We are too busy building up our town to quarrel among ourselves.” ~ Atchison Freedom’s Champion


Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

February 12– Saturday– Moor Park, England– A sickly Charles Darwin celebrates his fiftieth birthday by “taking the waters” as he finishes preparation of his manuscript on the origin of the species. [It will be published this coming November and promptly sell out.]

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