Talk with You on Political Matters~April 1859~13th to 21st

Talk with You on Political Matters~ Thomas Pickett to Abraham Lincoln

Many people are looking ahead to the 1860 election. The trials of the Oberlin-Wellington rescuers continues. Public attention is focused on the Sickles case. A popular Frenchman dies. George Peabody makes a large donation. In India the English take a final measure of vengeance for the Indian mutiny.

The Sickles crime

The Sickles crime

April 13– Wednesday– Rock Island, Illinois– “At the request of several citizens of this place, I write to request that you will deliver your lecture on ‘Inventions’ in this city at such time as may suit your convenience. We think a full house would greet you. Please write and let me know whether it will be within your power to come. I would like to have a ‘talk’ with you on political matters – as to the policy of announcing your name for the Presidency – while you are in our city. My partner (C. W. Waite) and myself are about addressing the Republican editors of the State on the subject of a simultaneous announcement of your name for the Presidency.” ~ Letter from Thomas J. Pickett to Abraham Lincoln. [Lincoln holds a patent awarded in 1849 for an invention to lift boats and barges over shoals and obstructions in rivers and streams. As a lawyer representing railroads he constantly manifested great interest in technological advances. He remains the only U S President to hold a patent.]

April 14– Thursday– Mexico City, Mexico– The Conservative Government, locked in conflict with the Constitutional Government, led by Benito Juarez, in the ‘War of Reform,’ retaliates for the recognition extended by the United States to the Juarez government. The Conservative leaders, Felix Zuloaga and Miguel Miramon, order that all United States consulates in areas under their control be closed and they expel the American consul here.

April 14– Thursday– Woodstock, England– Don Antonio Arrom de Ayala, the Spanish consul to Australia, commits suicide in the Duke of Marlborough’s Blenheim Park. On his body investigators find a long letter addressed to the Duke apologizing for the intrusion. He wrote, “It may be a childish feeling but one cannot blow one’s brains out in a common road. . . . So I have not found another proper place to die decently than your handsome park, and you must bear the inconvenience of a dead man in your grounds. I mean no offense.”

April 15– Friday– Cleveland, Ohio– The ten day trial of Simeon Bushnell in federal court for his part in Oberlin-Wellington rescue ends today with a guilty verdict. The judge sentences him to sixty days in prison.

April 15– Friday– Shivpuri, India– The British military authorities begin the court-martial of Tatya Tope, one of the remaining leaders of the Indian Rebellion, whom they captured a week ago.

April 16– Saturday– Ripley, Ohio– “The signal discomfiture of Governor [Henry Alexander] Wise [of Virginia], in his efforts to supplant Mr. Hunter as United States Senator, was anything but a favorable augury of his Presidential prospects. But the desperation of the Black Democracy, and the utter hopelessness of the cause for 1860, with a Lecomptonite at their head, has gradually undermined their pride, and prepared them to overlook Mr. Wise’s past errors, for the sake of his supposed ‘availability.’ We have remarked numerous signs of Mr. Wise’s improving prospects, which he owes entirely to his opposition to the Lecompton fraud concocted by his own party friends. His star for the present at least, is in the ascendant, and we shall not be surprised if he should become the candidate of the party for the Presidency. The Southern wing of the party demand that the South shall have the next Presidential nomination, and Mr. Wise is the only prominent Anti Lecomptonite of the party south of Mason and Dixon’s line. Hence the necessity of forgiving his past [eccentricity], since that eccentricity can alone secure a Southern President.” ~ Ripley Bee. [Wise, a lawyer, age 52, has been governor since 1856. While an outspoken defender of slavery, he is seen as moderate on other issues, particularly religious toleration and, unlike some Southerners, opposes re-opening international slave trade. He will serve as a Confederate officer during the Civil War and will die September 12, 1876.]

George Peabody

George Peabody

April 16– Saturday– Baltimore, Maryland– George Peabody (1795-1869), an American businessman and financier, living in London, had made a gift of $1.5 million to found a music institute for his home city in 1857. The Peabody Institute was incorporated on March 9th, five weeks ago. Today the cornerstone is officially laid at the corner of Charles and Monument Streets in the city. [The building will not be completed until after the Civil War and will finally be dedicated on October 25, 1866. His gift would equal $41.3 million in today’s dollars using the Consumer Price Index.]

April 16– Saturday– Cannes, France– Alexis de Tocqueville, French historian and political analyst, dies of tuberculosis at age 53. In the United States the 1851 reprint of his Democracy in America remains popular in the North.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

April 17– Sunday– New York City– “The Sickles Case. The second week of this very important trial is over, and there is still no immediate prospect of its conclusion. When the cause was commenced there was a general impression that its hearing would be concluded in a week or ten days, and that it was pre-judged to a great extent. But we find, on the contrary, that every step is closely contested by counsel on both sides. Indeed, so strong is the personal feeling, that counsel of proverbial coolness have lost their tempers and engaged in bitter wordy wars, hardly suited, as the Court remarked, to the dignity of the profession. It must be remembered, however, that the case is rather a remarkable one in its personal aspect. A new District Attorney is trying a lawyer for killing another lawyer, and he the predecessor of the prosecutor. The Washington lawyers are straining every nerve to justify the memory of their former confrere; while the New York lawyers are the intimate personal friends of the prisoner at the bar. So, for the last three or four days, the trial has been one of skill between the lawyers, while the Court, jury, prisoner, and, indeed, the country at large, look on the proceedings as the audience in a gymnasium might regard a lengthened contest between eminent masters of the fence. From the questions of law and fact already raised the case has assumed an aspect of the deepest importance. It is so regarded throughout the Union, and both lawyers and layman are deeply interested in the precedents which it will establish. We should not be surprised to see new evidence introduced and new issues raised; so that the trial might last two weeks longer.” ~ New York Herald.

April 17– Sunday– Panama City, [then part of Columbia, now] Panama– In the midst of Palm Sunday celebrations an argument between white and black youths escalates into a full scale riot with troops called out. An exchange of gunfire kills the commander of the soldiers and the situation becomes tense. The U.S. consul, concerned about American property and civilians in transit across the Isthmus of Panama, signals U.S. Navy vessels in the harbor and eight hundred sailors and marines are speedily dispatched to the port. The rioting dissipates and the sailors and marines are back on their ships before midnight.

April 18– Monday– Cleveland, Ohio– The trial of Charles Langston, a black man, begins in federal court for his part in the Oberlin-Wellington rescue, in violation of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Attorneys Rufus Spalding and Albert Riddle prevail in demanding the selection of a new jury rather than use of the same jury as in Bushnell’s trial. Jury selection is completed by only by 4 o’clock in the afternoon. This is part of the defense strategy to drag out the proceedings and increase coats to the government. In the meantime Anderson Jennings and Richard Mitchell, the Kentucky men who claimed ownership of the fugitive slave, continue to be held in protective custody to keep them safe from the wrath of abolitionists who appear to be shadowing them and from the sheriff of Lorain County, Ohio, who has warrants for their arrest on kidnaping charges under Ohio law.


the Oberlin Rescuers in front of the jail, Cleveland, Ohio, April 1859

the Oberlin Rescuers in front of the jail, Cleveland, Ohio, April 1859

April 18– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The Texas papers give particulars of the proceedings of several meetings recently held . . . for the purpose of taking measures to expel members of the Methodist Church North, who are accused of being abolitionists. At one meeting a committee of fifty was appointed to wait on Bishop Jayne with a warning. They performed their duty on a Sunday, while the Bishop was engaged in the morning service in the church. It was also resolved that the Methodist Church North could not be tolerated in Texas, and that it must be put down if necessary. A committee was appointed to draft other resolutions to be acted upon at an adjourned meeting.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

April 19– Wednesday– Shivpuri, India– The British military authorities hang Tatya Tope, one of the last leaders of the Indian Rebellion, whom they captured on the 8th April.

April 20– Wednesday– New York City– Bayard Taylor, age 34, whose name is a household word in the United States thanks to his six volumes of accounts of his travels in Africa, the Middle and Far East, and the American West, today announces that he will now write for the weekly New York Sunday Mercury, which has gained fame for its regular coverage of the sport of baseball since 1853. The news creates a sensation in the press across the country and is an impressive advertising coup for both the circulation of the Mercury and the sale of Taylor’s book sales. [Taylor will continue to gain in reputation, publish several novels and more books of travel and poetry, translate Goethe’s Faust into English, teach at Cornell and serve the Union cause in various ways during the Civil War. He dies December 19, 1878.]


Bayard Taylor

Bayard Taylor

April 20– Wednesday– New York City– “Some of the regular democratic organs are questioning Judge Douglas, Chevalier Forney and their anti-Lecompton ‘popular sovereignty’ newspapers, whether they do or do not intend to abide by the nomination and the platform of the Charleston Convention? All such questions, we presume, will be answered in the Convention, and not before. We suspect, too, that the upshot of the Convention will be the final dispersion of the democracy,

and two or three scrub tickets; for it is manifest that the fixed policy of every prominent clique of the party jugglers for the succession is rule or ruin.” ~ New York Herald on the upcoming 1860 national convention of the Democratic Party in Charleston, South Carolina, and whether debate about Kansas as a free or a slave state will divide the party.

April 21– Thursday– Chicago, Illinois– “The New York Tribune, in publishing letters from prominent Republicans who replied to invitations to attend the Jefferson Birthday Celebration in Boston, omits the letter of Honorable Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois. Whether the Republicanism to which that gentleman gives utterance is unsuited to the appetite of that disorganizing sheet, or whether it disliked to contrast his sentiments with its recent support of Douglas, we do not care to inquire. Sufficient for us is the omission– a part and parcel of which the Tribune has pursued toward one of the ablest and purest Republicans in the Union, since he dared to oppose the nominee of that sheet for United States Senator from Illinois. We state the fact only; we do not complain.” ~ Chicago Press and Tribune. [Horace Greeley, founding editor of the New York Tribune, had backed Senator Douglas for re-election in order to split the Democratic Party by pitting Douglas against the Southern wing of the party and weaken it in the upcoming 1860 presidential election.]

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