Not Doing Any Thing of Much Importance~March 1859~21st to 31st

Not Doing Any Thing of Much Importance~ James Johnston

The last part of March gives no hint of the troubles coming before the end of the year nor of the tumult of Civil War coming soon.

Abraham Lincoln, Attorney-at-law

Abraham Lincoln, Attorney-at-law

March 21– Monday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– “Many of my old friends are dead, and I am not inclined to forget the few, who remain. I believe that there is sympathy between you and me, and I am more inclined to cultivate it than to allow it to fall into nothing. I am not doing any thing of much importance, and have not for some time. I tried through a friend to get a situation in the Cincinnati, or St. Louis press, but he tried in vain, for all situations are filled. I am not very anxious to leave Penna, but I owe some money, and I am excessively anxious to pay my debts. I will help upon the farm during the Spring & Summer, and in the fall will, perhaps, try my hand at teaching a school. This will be a new business to me, and I detest the idea of it, but necessitas non habet legem. I mention these things, because you inquire what I am doing. I am doing no harm, and am doing no good. My existence for some time past has been that of indifference and nonchalance. My vessel is high & dry in a sand-bank, & I lack the levers to put her afloat.” ~ Letter from James Johnston to Edward McPherson.

March 21– Monday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– The Zoological Society of Philadelphia incorporates the Philadelphia Zoological Garden, the first zoo in the United States. [The Philadelphia Zoo will not open to the public until July 1, 1874.]

March 21– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– “Black republicanism opposes the acquisition [of Cuba] because it may strengthen slavery, however desirable in other respects. . . . . Let the people of the South understand their position.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

March 22– Tuesday– Quito, Ecuador– The city is struck by a massive earthquake this morning. In less than 90 seconds, the majority of buildings are leveled and at least 5000 people are reported to have died.

March 22– Tuesday– London, England– Once again a bill that would overturn the ban in British law against a man marrying his dead wife’s sister is defeated 39 to 49 in the House of Lords. This time, the bill had passed the House of Commons rather easily. However, the Anglican bishops who are voting members of the House of Lords argue that such a marriage is prohibited by the law of Moses. [This marriage prohibition will not be lifted in Britain until 1907.]

March 22– Tuesday– Paris, France– A French newspaper reports that Russia has proposed a Great Power conference designed to cool the warlike preparations of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and the Austrian Empire and that France is willing to participate in such a conference. [In fact, Napoleon III has already secretly agreed to help the Italians against Austria when the anticipated war which he has helped to cause actually erupts.]

March 22– Tuesday– dateline: Berlin, Germany– Today’s New York Times reports that last month at the observance of George Washington’s birthday at the American Embassy two elderly Germans who both knew Washington– Senator Adami from Bremen and Baron von Humboldt– joined the festive dinner.

March 23– Wednesday– Savannah, Georgia– A group of Africans illegally imported as slaves and found by U S officials are set free. “The Negroes disliked very much to leave, as they had been treated very kindly by the [local] citizens.” ~ Savannah Republican.

March 23– Wednesday– Montreal, Quebec, Canada– Jacob De Witt, banker, businessman and political activist, dies at age 73.

March 24– Thursday– New York City– In response to a Mr King of Canada who has urged that the parts of the province of Ontario formerly know as “Upper Canada” should join the United States, today’s New York Times says “we must say we think we are better as we are.”

March 24– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– New York Congressman Daniel Sickles surrendered immediately to authorities after he shot and killed U.S. District Attorney Philip Barton Key after Sickles’ wife made a confession of her protracted adultery with Key. Sickles has been held in prison awaiting indictment and trial. Today the Grand Jury in the capital indicts him for murder and sets his trial to begin April 4th, eleven days from now.

Sickles murders Key

Sickles murders Key

March 26– Saturday– Logan County, Illinois– “I would really be pleased with a publication substantially as you propose. But I would suggest a few variations from your plan. I would not include the Republican platform; because that would give the work a one-sided & party cast, unless the democratic platform was also included. I would not take all the speeches from the Press & Tribune; but I would take mine from that paper; and those of Judge Douglas from the Chicago Times. This would represent each of us, as reported by his own friends, and thus be mutual, and fair. I would take the speeches alone; rigidly excluding all comments of the newspapers. I would include the correspondence between Judge Douglas and myself which led to the joint discussions. I would call the thing Illinois political canvass of 1858 and, as falling within the title, I would select and include half a dozen of the National Democratic speeches.” ~ Letter from Abraham Lincoln to William Ross regarding a book of the speeches in the Lincoln–Douglas debates.

March 26– Saturday– Bromsgrove, England– Birth of Alfred Edward Housman, poet. [He will die April 30, 1936.]

A E Housman

A E Housman

March 26– Saturday– Orgeres-en-Beauce, France– In his amateur observatory seventy miles from Paris, Edmond Modeste Lescarbault, a French physician, age 45, observes a small dark body transit the sun. [Leading French astronomer Urbain Le Ferrier will double check Lescarbault’s calculations and on January 2, 1860 will announce the discovery of the planet Vulcan, a body between Mercury and the sun, whose existence had been hypothesized for decades. Dr Lescarbault will become a member of France’s Legion of Honor. Later, twentieth century science will prove conclusively that Vulcan does not exist but it will remain in literature as a convenient fictional planet, including its role as the home planet of the Star Trek character Mr Spock.]

March 27– Sunday– Vera Cruz, Mexico– Having met determined resistence, the military forces under General Miguel Miramon withdraw from the area.

March 28– Monday– Springfield, Illinois– “Your kind note inviting me to deliver a lecture at Galesburg is received. I regret to say I cannot do so now; I must stick to the courts awhile. I read a sort of lecture to three different audiences during the last month and this; but I did so under circumstances which made it a waste of no time whatever.” ~ Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Mr W M Morris.

March 28– Monday– Hamburg, Germany– Johannes Brahms’ First Serenade for Orchestra in D Major receives its premier performance. [He will continue to work on the piece, revising it into his Serenade for Large Orchestra, which he will publish in December, 1860.]

Johannes Brahams

Johannes Brahams

March 29– Tuesday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Cochituate Aqueduct, completed in 1848, brought up to eighteen million gallons of water a day from Lake Cochituate into the city, serving as the city’s first general water supply. Today the aqueduct suffers a breach at Lower Newton where it crosses the Charles River over a brick bridge. The cascade of water creates a gouge in the surrounding landscape sixty feet wide, eighty feet deep, and two hundred feet long before it can be brought under control. [The break will be repaired within a matter of days and the Aqueduct will serve Boston until 1951.]

March 29– Tuesday– Cambridge, Massachusetts– “The parting with my old church in Federal Street was a sad funeral to me. I was much overcome, as the past swept over me in a tide, and I thought of my mother as I remembered her, sitting upon the very spot in the pew I occupied, with the gentle refinement of her features, her rose-shell complexion, and eyes full of holiest thoughts, her admiration of Dr [William Ellery] Channing [1780-1842; Unitarian minister & theologian], though herself an unyielding Calvinist, and her willingness to listen to his ministry many years; then of him I had a vision as he sat at the side of the pulpit, with his earnest, penetrating eyes, and hair swept forehead, and the inspired fervor of his discourse, making the soul seem so out of proportion to the frail body-then his tender, touching eloquence to us children at the pulpit-foot, when we listened to him as to an angel all this broke me completely down.” ~ Letter from Frances Appleton Longfellow [1817-1861] to a friend. [An artist, Frances is the second wife of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whom she married in 1843 and bore him six children between 1844 and 1855.]

March 29– Tuesday– San Francisco, California– “Occasionally paragraphs are copied from the English papers, stating that such and such a person has been ‘outlawed.’ Bearing in mind the famous outlaw bold Rob Roy, who is said by the poet to have been as excellent a thief as Robin Hood, many persons believe that outlawry is the penalty of crime. Such, however, is not the case. It is merely the consequence of avoiding suit in civil matters, and many men who take refuge in . . . New York, when London has become ‘hot,’ and who refuse to answer the sweet call of the crier of the Bankruptcy Court, are at once declared ‘outlaws.’” ~ San Francisco Evening Bulletin.

March 29– Tuesday– London, England– James Stark, English landscape painter, dies at age 64.

March 29– Tuesday– Wurttemberg, Germany– Birth of Oscar Mayer. As a youngster he will emigrate to the United States and eventually found the food company which bears his name. [Dies March 11, 1955.]

Oscar Mayer

Oscar Mayer

March 30– Wednesday– Provo, Utah– Federal Judge John Cradlebaugh had opened a session of federal court on March 8th to pursue indictments against the Mormon men implicated in the Mountain Meadows Massacre sixteen months before. Since there were none of the usual court or jail facilities available, Cradlebaugh requested federal troops to secure and protect the proceedings. This brought protests from the Mormon mayor of the town and Governor Albert Cumming was prevailed upon to ask the regional commander, General Albert Sidney Johnston, to withdraw his men. When General Johnston cited the judicial request and refused, Governor Cumming stood on his position as territorial governor with the authority to order the removal. Today the judge denounces the Governor’s order in court. [Despite this the troops will be returned to their regular units a few days from now.]

March 31– Thursday– Fayetteville, North Carolina– An advertisement in the Fayetteville Observer encourages the widows of soldiers who died in the war with Mexico or the War of 1812 to contact a Mr J. M. Rose, agent for pensions, as “Congress [has] made additional provision. Give me the management of your claims and the money shall come at once or no charge.”

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