Regardless of the Impending Crisis~October 1859

Regardless of the Impending Crisis ~ October 1859

With John Brown in prison, newspapers and individuals debate the whys and wherefores of what happened. Some point to the problems of the Fugitive Slave Law, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Dred Scott case and Southern desires to legally reopen the African slave trade, which while officially at an end since 1808 has gone on illicitly through slave markets in Cuba and Brazil. Others point to the relentless agitation by abolitionists, especially radicals such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. Some speak openly of disunion. Democrats attack the moderate ant-slavery position of some Republicans. Strong memories and unwilling reminders must have brought the painful discussion back to soldiers and politicians in the fall of 1864. Federal soldiers will be singing “John Brown’s Body” as they march through Georgia to the sea.

john brown-images

October 22– Saturday– Chicago, Illinois– “The late insurrection in Virginia, which has meant shivers of fear to the inmost fibre of every white man, woman and child in that State, and which will produce a panic throughout all slaveholding communities, is probably but the beginning of a series of like endeavors, which will horrify the country, if the present policy of the bogus Democratic party is pursued for another ten or twenty years. With the madness and recklessness of men bent upon their certain destruction, those engaged in promoting the slaveholding interest are filling the land with their clamor for more Negroes, are weakening the defenses of the institution by spreading it over an indefinite area, and are opposing with deadly bitterness every attempt of the humane and philanthropic to ward off the dangers which they are accumulating upon their heads. In all this they are assisted by the bogus Democratic party. Utterly blind to or regardless of the impending crisis, they have, by their repeated outrages upon the rights and sensibilities of the North, by their breaches of solemn compacts, in the Kansas-Nebraska bill, by their mode of enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law, by their Kansas policy, by their Dred Scot decisions, and by their attempted revival of the infamous Slave- Trade, alienated their most powerful friends of the North, and have put to work bands of reckless and bloody men, like Brown and his confederates, who will shrink at nothing, stop at nothing in the gratification of their instincts of fanaticism and revenge. . . . . The Democratic policy is exploded. It is the policy of propagandism, which can have but one end, and that will be the bloodiest succession of tragedies that the world ever knew. The rights of humanity cannot always be disregarded. It is time for this nation to begin its preparations for retribution. Permit the Democracy to rule, and this Harper’s Ferry blood is but the few falling drops which presage the burst.” ~ Chicago Press and Tribune

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October 22– Saturday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Our telegraphic reports for the last two or three days have contained little else than accounts of the riots at Harper’s Ferry. The Washington and Baltimore papers are also full of the same subject, but as their accounts are vague, contradictory and unsatisfactory, we are unable to give our readers any information in addition to what our dispatches have already conveyed. The public mind is too intensely excited now to ascertain the true state of affairs. We can only say that a fearful riot has occurred, blood has been shed, lives have been lost, and property destroyed. The causes of the riot, it is impossible now to determine. . . . We shall have to wait for the excitement to subside before we can get at the truth of the matter. We will offer no comments nor attempt any explanation until we obtain something more reliable and consistent than any account of the affair we have yet seen.” ~ Republican Banner and Nashville Whig.

October 22– Saturday– Madrid, Spain– The government begins military operations against Morocco to quell alleged activity by pirates.

October 22– Saturday– Kasssel, the German states– Louis Spohr, composer, violinist and conductor, dies at 75 years of age.

October 23– Sunday– Concord, Massachusetts– “I have elected Ticknor & Fields as my publishers . . . . I finished the ‘Song of Nature,’stimulated by your favorable opinion, by writing six more quatrains, & sent it to Lowell, who has it, he says, already in print. It shall be mended, I hope, when the proof comes to me. We are all very well, in spite of the sad Harpers Ferry business, which interests us all who had Brown for our guest twice. And the story of ‘bushels of letters’ naturally alarmed some of his friends in Boston. He is a true hero, but lost his head there.” ~ Letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson to his cousin William Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1857

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1857

October 24– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts– “The panic Mr. Brown with his handful of deluded followers created in Maryland and Virginia was not at all creditable to the people or authorities of the vicinity. They showed the ‘white feather’ [mark of cowardice] in a manner to plainly reveal the inherent weakness of society where slavery is tolerated and free labor regarded as degrading. The fact almost exceeds belief, that seventeen white men and five blacks – only twenty-two persons in all – should not only be able to take possession of the Armory of the United States, but retain it for hours, and not be driven therefrom until the arrival of the military from abroad. . . . . five resolute men could have dislodged ‘the revolutionists’ in five minutes. But terror seems to have seized upon all classes of persons in the immediate vicinity, and the population behaved as madly and wildly as the residents of the interior of New England, where a great fire does not occur more than once in half a century, do, when a large conflagration occurs. To use the word ‘chivalry’ in connection with such cowardice as the Virginians displayed, is to be guilty of the severest sarcasm.” ~ Boston Daily Evening Transcript.

brown raid-07-images

October 24– Monday– Cambridge, Massachusetts– The Museum of Comparative Zoology opens with a generous gift from the Swiss-born scientist Louis Agassiz who donates his extensive personal collection in zoology he had gathered for more than a decade. Agassiz, now age 52, had emigrated to the United States in 1846 and has been teaching at Harvard since 1847. [Dies December 14, 1873.]

Louis Agassiz

Louis Agassiz

October 24– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “The outbreak at Harper’s Ferry must exert no small influence upon political movements. It is a mark upon the Republicans, & must make them more pliable, yielding and conciliatory;– less audacious, confident & exacting. In this state of things it seems to me that boldness, decision & prompt action on our part, is the dictate of sound policy. Timidity & hesitation always invite aggression and encourage assumption. I should be glad to have your views on this subject. . . . What I rather fear is, that your [Republican] convention, excited by the late scenes & outrages, will adopt some resolution, or give expression to some sentiment not calculated to ‘turn away wrath,’ but to invite by ‘touching the raw’ of the North. I hope, however, you will be able to prevent this. . . . It seems to be generally concluded that the Harpers Ferry transactions have laid Seward on the shelf, as well as Chase, Banks & all others belonging to the ‘irrepressible conflict’ section of the Republican party.” ~ Letter from N. Sargent to Alexander H. H. Stuart.

October 24– Monday– Frankfort, Kentucky– “We are pleased to observe that the Northern press, without the distinction of party, express the most unqualified condemnation of the wicked and insane projects of Brown and his hair-brained associates. The great mass of the Northern people, including the most inveterate Republicans, regard such schemes with as much abhorrence as they do any other conspiracy to murder by wholesale, and it is not going too far to assert that in case there had been any necessity for their aid, thousands of true men in the North would have promptly taken up arms in behalf of the Southern slaveholder against the brutality and of the slave. Throughout the entire North but few such desperate and incendiary wretches as Brown . . . can be found, and when they are they certainly meet with little encouragement from the Northern people. Their acts have been emphatically repudiated by every Republican paper we have yet seen, and we doubt if even [William] Lloyd Garrison, who is himself rejected by the Republicans as a political teacher, will justify it.” ~ Frankfort Commonwealth.

October 24– Monday– Nashville, Tennessee– “This attempt to excite an insurrection among the slaves is one of the natural results of the agitation of the slavery question, originated and so persistently kept up by designing politicians, both of the North and the South for partisan purposes. It can be traced to no other cause, and unless the people of both sections rise in the majesty of their strength and put an end at once to this mischievous agitation, the page that records the bloody events of the last two days, will be but a preface to the history of a civil war in which the same scenes will be re-enacted on a larger scale, and end in the dissolution of our glorious Union. . . . The folly of the Southern people in their incessant demand for more slavery legislation is exhibited in a strong light by this view of the subject, and should convince them of the impolicy of further agitation. By ceasing the agitation in the South, an end will be put to the discussion of this subject in the North. As long as we agitate the North will do the same, and though only seventeen men of the entire North were engaged in the conspiracy, there is no telling how many may engage in the next plot unless the subject of slavery ceases to be a matter of discussion among demagogues. The people have the means in their hands of putting an end to this evil, by resolutely refusing to elevate men to political office who seek to ride into power by incendiary appeals to sectional prejudices.” ~ Republican Banner and Nashville Whig.

brown defenders-images

October 25– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “The voice of the Southern people has not been heard, and may never be heard. The shallow waters murmur, but the deep are dumb; and such is the state of public feeling at this moment from the Potomac to the Gulf. Let not the people of the North mistake this silence for indifference. There exists a horror and indignation which neither press nor public meeting can express, a feeling that has weakened the foundations of the Union, and which may at any moment rase the superstructure. Will not the people of New York, from the polls, speak some word of encouragement, and, if possible, re-instate the Union sentiments disturbed by their own people? The Harper’s Ferry invasion has advanced the cause of Disunion, more than any other event that has happened since the formation of the Government; it has rallied to that standard men who formerly looked upon it with horror; it has revived, with ten fold strength the desire of a Southern Confederacy.” ~ Richmond Enquirer.

October 25– Tuesday– Charles Town, Virginia– The trial of John Brown and his accomplices opens. Brown refuses to be represented by a lawyer. His wounds remain quite noticeable. The court appoints lawyers to represent him.

October 25– Tuesday– New Orleans, Louisiana– “Now this is the very serious question, which the men of the North who are not incurably touched with the same madness – and these constitute, we believe, a large numerical majority – will be apt to put to themselves and to each other, when they read of such things as have transpired at Harper’s Ferry. These wanton disturbances of the peace of a great community, fearfully aggravated by the uncertainties which thicken with unimagined terrors, about a subject in which so many of tenderest interests of life are concerned; these scenes of disorder suddenly provoked, and crushed out with such stern necessity of bloodshed; these cruel seductions of the victims of the false philanthropy into suffering and punishment for the guilty, and increased rigors for the whole race; the incitement, the cause, and the consequences, are but the legitimate growth of the ultraisms which have been permitted to gain such an ascendancy over the minds of the Northern people, and have been made more powerful and more dangerous by being used as the means by which aspiring politicians and selfish demagogues seek to ride into power and office. The fools that became the criminals and have perished in their folly, as all such will do when they fling themselves against the ramparts with which the South can protect itself against this incendiarism, are themselves victims of those false teachers, who are themselves morally guilty of the very offences they will repudiate entirely, and responsible for the consequences they may affect to deplore. They are guilty of all the mischief done by the firebrands with which they have armed the heedless and the wicked.” ~ Times-Picayune.

October 25– Tuesday– Amsterdam, Netherlands– Birth of Stephanie Helene Swarth, a poet. [Dies June 20, 1941]

Stephanie Helene Swarth

Stephanie Helene Swarth

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