We Learn From Every Portion~March 1859~the 1st to the 7th

We Learn from Every Portion ~San Francisco Evening Bulletin

Anyone who cared to do so in 1864 could look back a mere five years and see the emerging roots of the civil struggle disrupting the Union. Likewise, any of us today can see in the last years of the antebellum period not only issues around slavery but others which would come to the fore in the 19th and 20th centuries: struggles by “strong-minded” women, the battles over temperance, urban problems with health and crime, Federal budget debates, difficulties in Mexico, debates about states rights and the role of the Federal courts.

March 1– Tuesday– Memphis, Tennessee– Fire breaks out in the basement of the Eagle and Enquirer newspaper on Main Street. The flames quickly spread to other newspaper offices situated in this area and four more are destroyed, including the Presbyterian Sentinel and the Christian Advocate. Several stores also burn. In all, half a city block on the street is burned out with total damages estimated at $150,000. [The damage total would equal $4,270,000 in current dollars using the Consumer Price Index.]

March 2– Wednesday– New York City– In response to “strong-minded” women asserting “self-dependence” the New York Times runs a lengthy article about young women who earn a living making corsets and the hoops to go under the voluminous hoop skirts. “The introduction of hoops into modern fashion has given employment to thousands of girls who were unable to use a needle and who now have become invaluable to their employers in this particular trade. Having this in view we may wish the hoops a long and successful reign.”

the fashionable hoop to be worn under a skirt

the fashionable hoop to be worn under a skirt

March 2– Wednesday– Newark, Ohio– “Philip Barton Key, the victim of the late terrible domestic tragedy in Washington, was the brother of the wife of the Honorable George H Pendleton, of this city, and the son of the immortal author of the Star-spangled Banner. He was, we believe, a married man. His age was about thirty-eight. Mrs. Sickles, whose alleged unfortunate frailty has been the cause of this distressing affair, is possessed of great personal beauty. She is youthful– ‘not being over twenty-one or twenty-two years old’– and has been married about two years. She has been a reigning belle in Washington for the last winter. Mr. Sickles, the member of Congress who killed Mr. Key, represents New York City. He has been re-elected to the next Congress. He was formerly Secretary of Legation in London when President Buchanan was Minister to England, and had been a member of the State Senate in New York. He is a man of much more than ordinary abilities.” ~ Newark Advocate.

March 2– Wednesday– Cedar County, Iowa– “I write to let you know that all is yet well with me, except that I am not very strong. I have something of the ague yet hanging about me. I confidently expect to be able to send you some help about team [of horses or mules], etc., in a very few days. However, if I should be delayed about it longer than I could wish, do not be discouraged. I was much relieved to find on coming here that you had got the draft sent by Mr. Painter. He has been helping me a little . . . . Do not be in haste to buy a team until you can have time to get further word from me. I shall do as fast as I can and may God bless and keep you all!” ~ Letter from John Brown to his wife and children.

March 2– Wednesday– San Francisco, California– “We learn from every portion of the interior that the snow on the mountains is unusually deep, and it is the general impression that if warm weather comes upon us suddenly, with heavy rains, the floods in the valley will do much damage. Cold rains are not to be feared, for they become snow upon the mountains, and have very slight present effect upon our mountain rivers. If the snow does not soon begin to melt gradually, we may be quite sure that a sudden visitation of mild weather, with gentle south winds will bring down a quantity of water that will forcibly remind us of Sacramento floods in the early settlement of this city. Our authorities should have an eye to the signs in the heavens, and if they portend an extraordinary deluge, it will be well for them to make a general call upon the citizens to rally on the line of the levee, and do yeoman service with their picks and shovels.” ~ San Francisco Evening Bulletin.

March 2– Wednesday– Pereyaslav, Russian Empire– Birth of Solomon N Rabinovich, a/k/a Sholem Aleichem, author. [Dies May 13, 1916.]

Sholem Aleichem in 1907

Sholem Aleichem in 1907

March 3– Thursday– Albany, New York– Mary Hartung is sentenced to hang on April 27 for the murder of her husband Emil which she did in 1858 by putting white arsenic in his food and drink.

March 3– Thursday– New York City– In an article about temperance, the New York Times says that however worthy the cause, the failure to achieve the control of the sale and abuse of liquor is because tavern owners have political power at the ballot box while people “who desire to see the law enforced, having only an abstract and general interest in securing that end, devote themselves to fastening the responsibility” for enforcement upon others.

March 3– Thursday– Williamsport, Pennsylvania– The East Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Church opens its meeting with one hundred and sixty clergymen in attendance and Bishop Levi Scott presiding. [Despite regional divisions over the question of slavery, at this time Methodism is the fastest growing religious group in the antebellum United States.]

March 3– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “An imperative sense of duty compels me to make an appeal to Congress to preserve the credit of the country. This is the last day of the present Congress, and no provision has yet been made for the payment of appropriations and to meet the outstanding Treasury notes issued under the authority of law. From the information which has already been communicated to Congress by the Secretary of the Treasury it is manifest that the ordinary receipts into the Treasury, even under the most favorable circumstances, will scarcely meet the ordinary expenses of the Government during the remainder of the present fiscal year, ending on the 30th of June. . . . . Under these circumstances I earnestly recommend to Congress to make provision within the few remaining hours of the session for the preservation of the public credit. The urgency of the case not only justifies but demands that, if necessary, this shall be done by a separate bill. We ought to incur no risk when the good faith of the country is at stake.” ~ Special Message from President Buchanan to Congress.

March 3– Thursday– Hawesville, Kentucky– A mob breaks into the jail and murders a prisoner who was arrested for assaulting the county prosecutor.

March 4– Friday– Batavia, New York– Mr David Curry shoots and kills Mr John Foster, claiming that Foster seduced Mrs Curry and then assaulted Mr Curry. The newspapers immediately draw parallels to the Sickles case in Washington, D.C.

March 4– Friday– Moffett’s Creek, Virginia– “Rejoicing at the reception of your very welcome epistle not long since, conclude to respond without any procrastination, as I was delighted to hear from you a schoolmate & a friend. Oh! it affords inexpressible joy to me, when I get such informative news, from such a kind one, about persons and the vicinity, so much appreciated & admired by one whose memory still points to Christian’s Creek and its noble fascinating commodity, with whom I have long roamed. I have not much of interest to write only I have been on the sick list for some few days & desire your sympathy. Give my respects to Miss Mat and Sister. Sorry to hear that so many ladies are going to get married in that neighborhood, & in fact in all vicinities there is nothing but marrying going on: pity the poor wretches that are left single. Have you any singings in your respective places, like you formerly have had, this winter? I have been in some charming meetings of the kind. I have had a splendid time attending singings this winter in New Port & other places.” ~ Letter to Miss Kate Armentrout from a male admirer.

March 5– Saturday– Beacon Falls, Connecticut– Birth of William F Durand, pioneer in the science oif aeronautics. [Dies August 9, 1958.]

William F Durand

William F Durand

March 5– Saturday– Ripley, Ohio– “Our Army in Utah is costing the country at the rate of nearly five millions of dollars per annum, and is doing no good whatever. It does not even cause Federal authority to be respected within gunshot of the camp. It does not vindicate a single law. Brigham Young is still monarch of the valley; his tyranny has not abated in the least. The Governor sent out to supersede him, is a cipher. The Indians are troublesome as they always have been. The contractors in the transport service are making enormous fortunes, and the Mormons find Camp Floyd a market which is a mine of coined gold to them. And here is the sum total of our Utah expedition. The Federal Judges, unable to enforce the laws, are about to return home.”~ Ripley Bee.

March 5– Saturday– Berne, Switzerland– There have been recent rumors circulating of French military incursions into Swiss territory during the slow build-up to possible war between Austria and France. Today the Swiss government declares that it desires no involvement of any sort in the conflict and says that it will defend both Switzerland’s borders and its neutrality by force of arms should that become necessary.

March 7– Monday– Lowell, Massachusetts– “The unhealthiness of the city of New York is attracting the attention of the legislators at Albany. From the reports published, it appears that New York is one of the most unhealthy cities on the globe, or at least of any of the great capitals of Europe or America. The weekly mortality of Boston appears small in comparison, as some of the wards of New York show nearly as many deaths as this entire city. Week before last 445 deaths occurred in New York, and only 44 in Boston, or one-tenth as many. New York being about four and one-half times larger than Boston, it should have shown (were it equally healthy) only about 200 deaths. In our most sickly seasons, when the deaths in Boston have reached 100 per week, New York has shown 1000 and upwards. Boston had but 17 deaths of Americans one week this month, and its statistics show it to be one of the most healthy places in the world.” ~ Lowell Citizen & News.

March 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Buchanan appoints an experienced diplomat, Robert Milligan McLane of Maryland, as minister plenipotentiary to Mexico. Buchanan charges him with ascertaining if the government of Benito Juarez, embroiled in the War of Reform, is worthy of recognition. His instructions stipulate that a recognizable government does not have to occupy the capital but does require the allegiance of the great majority of the population. McLane, age 43 at the time, a graduate of West Point, Class of 1837, is a lawyer who has served the United States as a diplomat to China and Nicaragua and as a Congressman from Maryland.

Roger Taney

Roger Taney

March 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Chief Justice Roger Taney writes for a unanimous court in the case of Ableman v. Booth. Sherman M. Booth, a Wisconsin abolitionist, had helped a runaway slave and was imprisoned under federal law in March, 1854. He had appealed to the Wisconsin state supreme court for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that the Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional. The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed and nullified the Fugitive Slave Law. Chief Justice Taney rules that the Wisconsin court had no right to nullify federal laws nor to release a federal prisoner. Taney asserts the constitutional supremacy of federal law over state courts and further declares that “we are not willing to be misunderstood, it is proper to say that, in the judgment of this court, the act of Congress commonly called the fugitive slave law is, in all of its provisions, fully authorized by the Constitution of the United States, that the commissioner had lawful authority to issue the warrant and commit the party, and that his proceedings were regular and conformable to law.” [Booth, age 46, will be re-arrested and imprisoned but after 8 failed attempts, friends will break him out of jail. He will die August 10, 1904. Taney, age 82, from a slave-holding Maryland family, author of the infamous opinion in Dred Scott in which he had declared that even free black people had no legal rights, had been appointed Chief Justice by President Andrew Jackson in 1836 after the death of the brilliant John Marshall, a man Jackson hated. Taney will die in the last months of the Civil War on October 12, 1864. Interestingly, during the 1850’s it is a number of Northen states who assert the doctrine of states rights, as in this case, to defy the Fugitive Slave Law which many in the North view as unconstitutional.]

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