Political beginnings~January 1852


As 1852 begins regional differences and related tensions, particularly over the question of slavery, contribute to the shape of national politics. Some women are building political muscle in anti-slavery activities. The failed democratic European revolutions of 1848 create some ripples in American politics as exemplified by the visit of the leader Louis Kossuth and the number of immigrants coming to the United States. Worldwide Great Britain continues military and political operations against slavery and international slave trade.

January 1– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “All One-sided.– You cannot make a slaveholding politician recognize any rights in the North. The Washington Union, with its pretensions as the central organ of the National Democracy [the Democratic Party], always looks through a sectional medium. It is always one-sided. For example, in a recent editorial on the position of the Democratic party in Congress, it says– ‘Guided by doctrines which are as ancient as the Government, it was not new to them to take such part in the recent excitements, as would restrain the tendency of over-action, whether in guarding the South against unjust assault, or in rebuking the spirit at the North of a lawless disregard of constitutional compacts.’ Look how quietly it takes for granted, that the only party to be protected, is the South, the only party to be rebuked, the North. The North is always aggressive – therefore, the first duty of the Democracy is to guard the South. In the North there is a lawless spirit of the disregard for all constitutional compact, and the great duty of the Democracy is, to correct it. The slaveholders have done no wrong – they are never aggressive, never overbearing, never monopolizing – they are always meek, patient, forbearing – always loyal to the Constitution and Laws – there is no spirit of disunion among them – oh, no! Of course the Democracy can find nothing in them to rebuke or correct. Its sole task is, to cherish and guard the poor, unoffending, long-suffering, much-wronged South, against that insolent, overgrown, usurping, lawless bully, the North. This is a pretty fair paraphrase of the remarks in the Union.” ~ The National Era.

January 1–Thursday– Coast of West Africa–The British Navy begins a six month blockade of the coast of Dahomey to stop ships engaging in slave trading.


January 2– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison announces an anniversary for his controversial newspaper the Liberator. “We enter upon the twenty-second volume of the Liberator. Twenty-one years, therefore, have been completed by us, in advocacy of the sacred claims of our enslaved brethren, through its columns. What was sown in weakness has been raised in power; the cloud that erst was no bigger than a man’s hand, has overspread the entire land. Through obscurity and feebleness through contempt and persecution, through constant vicissitudes and amazing difficulties, the cause of justice has steadily advanced, with a God-given vitality and a divine majesty, till the land rocks beneath its tread, and all eyes are fastened upon it, and all tongues are loosed in its discussion. . . . ‘the end is not yet,’ but the end is neither uncertain nor far distant.”

January 3– Saturday– Honolulu, Hawaii– The first recorded Chinese immigrant laborers to the Hawaiian Islands arrive. They are brought in on 3 year or 5 year contracts to work on sugar plantations. Planters pay them $3 each per month plus room and board for working a 12-hour day, 6 days a week. [In current purchasing power, that would equal $87.30 per month.]

January 4– Sunday– Whitesboro, New York– Frances Miriam Berry Whitcher, popular author and humorist, dies at age 40.

January 5– Monday– Springfield, Illinois– Local lawyer Abraham Lincoln, self-educated, witty, popular with colleagues, fairly wealthy from doing legal work for the expanding railroads, and with political ambitions, joins Archibald Williams, E. Peck, W. H. Herndon, Lyman Trumbull, Thomas L. Harris, R. S. Blackwell, G. Edmunds, Jr., and W. I. Ferguson in signing a call for meeting of citizens Thursday the 8th in the evening to express their views on Louis Kossuth and the 1848 revolution in Hungary. Saved by the Turks and the British from arrest by the Austrians and Russians, the popular Kossuth has arrived in the United States from England and is eager to tour the United States in an attempt to raise support for a renewed revolution in Hungary. [Kossuth, 1802 to 1894, led the revolution and fled to escape capture. He will spend most of the rest of his life living in exile in Italy.]




January 6– Tuesday– Paris, France– Louis Braille, teacher of the blind, musician and inventor of braille system of reading for the blind, dies two days after his 43rd birthday from a persistent respiratory illness which bothered him from his youth.


Louis Braille


January 8– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “A State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio Will be held in Cincinnati on the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th, days of January, 1852. The edict of the Convention is to recommend and adopt such measures as are best calculated to promote the interests of the colored people of the State. See to it colored men; you who are taxed, yet denied a representation, and made aliens in the land of your birth, that you are largely represented in said Convention. The time has come when you must act or perish, and when silence in you is a crime. We append the following resolution, which sat at Columbus last winter, and we trust that delegates will faithfully comply with it. Resolved, That the delegates composing the convention be requested to write a report in as short a form as is expedient, giving the population, wealth, and condition of the colored people in their respective counties.” ~ Frederick Douglass Paper.

January 9– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Our friends will observe the form of petition for the extension of the elective privilege to women. The present is the most favorable time for nation. Let me press on all the friends of the cause an early and earnest attention to the circulation of those petitions. Every year adds to the momentum, and soon we shall have impulse enough to affect legislative action. Maine leads the way, by a statute six years old, which, so for as property is concerned, is all we could ask. Let Massachusetts do as much, and add to it the right to vote. They should be returned to 21Cornhill, Boston, by the 15th of February. Wendell Phillips.” ~ The Liberator.

January 9– Friday– Springfield, Illinois– Following last evening’s meeting to discuss inviting Kossuth to visit Springfield, a committee of seven men, including Abraham Lincoln, report on the resolutions adopted, recognizing the right of revolution for national independence, denouncing Russia’s intervention in the Hungarian revolution and Britain’s imposition of “the yoke of despotism” upon Ireland and asserting that while non-intervention is a principle of international law binding upon the United States, the principle ought not “prevent this Nation at any time, from interfering in favor of any people who may be struggling for liberty in any part of the world, when a proper occasion shall arrive.” Copies of the resolutions are sent to Kossuth and to the members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation.

January 11– Sunday– Bonndorf, Baden–Birth of Constantin Fehrenbach, who will serve as Chancellor of Germany in 1920 to 1921. [Dies March 26, 1926.]

January 12– Monday– Rochester, New York– In response to a letter from Samuel Porter in which Porter alleged hearing of improper conduct between the English abolitionist Julia Griffiths and Frederick Douglass, Douglass writes to Porter, saying, “When the city, which you allege to be full of scandalous reports implicating Miss G and me, shall put those ‘reports’ in a definite shape, and present a respectable person to back them, it will be time enough for me to attempt to refute them.” [The brilliant and self-educated former slave had obtained international notoriety by publishing an autobiography to refute Southern claims that he was a free-born Northerner claiming to be an escaped slave only to fan abolitionist fervor. When Douglass was in Britain during 1845 to 1847, Griffiths assisted him in his abolitionist work. She was one of the British supporters who contributed money to purchase Douglass’ freedom from his former master. Since 1849 she has been in Rochester working in the abolitionist cause, raising money, helping to form the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society and assisting with Douglass’ publications.]

January 14– Wednesday– Paris, France– President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, age 44, nephew of Emperor Napoleon, proclaims a new constitution for the French Second Republic.

January 15– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “Henry Clay. All accounts agree that this eminent politician is rapidly sinking into the grave. He is greatly emaciated and his cough is incessant and severe. He is in Washington. We wish there was some ground to hope that, before his departure to another world, he might repent in dust and ashes of his heartless and unprincipled course on the question of slavery. Endowed with great talents, he ought to have done much to elevate and ennoble the race; but he is a politician and not a philanthropist, and his life has been mostly spent in a vain effort to ‘split the difference’ between Right and Wrong and to reconcile slavery in practice, with freedom in the abstract. If he had been true to the impulses of his early manhood, he might have left an enviable name to his posterity and gone down to his grave amidst the tears and lamentations of the poor and the oppressed.” ~ Frederick Douglass Paper. [Born in 1777, Henry Clay, along with Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and John C Calhoun of South Carolina, has played a dominant role in American politics for much of the first half of the 19th century. He is indeed dying. As one historian noted, “No man in American public life has had more ardent supporters or more bitter enemies than Clay.” See, Henry Clay, 2 volumes, by Carl Schurz (1887) and The Life of Henry Clay by Glyndon Van Deusen (1937).]


Henry Clay


January 15–Thursday– New York City–Nine men representing various Hebrew charitable organizations come together to form the Jews Hospital [later renamed Mount Sinai Hospital of New York].

January 16– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In an article in today’s Liberator attacking the use of chewing tobacco, Lewis Ford declares that “most tobacco-chewers keep their mouth so full of the juice as to be unable to enter into a spirited conversation with another, without spattering more or less of the juice into the face of his opponent, not unfrequently causing very unpleasant sensations of the stomach and eyes, bringing tears; and no doubt the chewer, (when talking on serious subjects,) oftentimes mistakes these tears as the effect of his conversation on the mind.” Mr Ford suggests that, by foregoing the use of chewing tobacco, the money used for its purchase could be saved, and contributed to the abolitionist cause.

January 17– Saturday– Sand River, South Africa– In an agreement signed today, Great Britain recognizes the independence of the Transvaal Republic. In return the Boers agree to abolish slavery.

January 19– Monday– Litchfield, Connecticut– Sarah Pierce, educator and text book author who ran a school for girls here from 1792 to 1833, dies from a bout of serious illness at 84 years of age. Her students at one time or another included Catherine Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

January 19– Monday– Springfield, Illinois– Orville H. Browning, a lawyer and Whig politician from Quincy, Illinois, delivers a lecture on “The Dignity of Labor” at Third Presbyterian Church. He notes in his diary that “After the lecture, went to Mr. Lincoln’s to supper.” Like Lincoln, he was born in Kentucky and the two men will help establish the Republican Party in Illinois.

January 21– Wednesday– New York City–In today’s Tribune, Horace Greeley urges support for labor unions in order to improve “the circumstances of the classes now relatively destitute and suffering.” [Born in New Hampshire, 40 year old Greeley began publishing his newspaper in the summer of 1841, establishing high standards for journalism and espousing liberal causes. He will become one of the first editors to support the new Republican Party when it appears on the political scene.]

January 22– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “The Pennsylvania Freeman has come to us since the commencement of the year considerably enlarged, and arrayed in a new and costly typographical dress. Notwithstanding the difference in opinion between us and the Freeman, and the effort made by that paper, as the organ of the Pennsylvania Anti Slavery Society, to press us beyond the pale of genuine abolitionism, we do sincerely rejoice at this new evidence of its prosperity. The points in which we differ, are as nothing compared with those in which we agree. The anti-slavery field is a broad one: there is room for all to work, and we very much doubt if, in the eyes of slaveholders, Frederick Douglass Paper is more approved than is the Freeman. We think that we should stand as good a chance of being rode on a rail, south of Mason and Dixon’s line, or of being hung on a lamp-post, as would any member of the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Anti Slavery Society. Abolitionism is abolitionism south of Mason and Dixon’s line whether it hold the Constitution to be pro-slavery or anti-slavery. Slaveholders have the sagacity to see that it is equally destructive to their cherished institution. Wisdom might be learned by abolitionists, (especially by those who have cast us aside because of our change of opinion,) even from these slave-holders. The Freeman is, just now, under the Editorial management of Oliver Johnson Esq. whose talents, as an able and ready writer, are acknowledged throughout the anti-slavery brotherhood, and needs no commendation from us. The Freeman cannot fail to be serviceable the great cause of human liberty while he is at the helm.” ~ Frederick Douglass Paper.

January 23– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator reports on the Female Benevolent Firm. “This is the title of an association, which was organized in Boston, last year, by some of the most enterprising colored women, for mutual aid and advantage, in case of sickness and misfortune. More than a hundred members belong to it, and it promises to be great utility.” The article continues by noting that at the association’s recent soiree, both William Lloyd Garrison and Parker Pillsbury spoke on behalf of the women’s efforts.

January 25– Sunday– Pembroke, Massachusetts– Birth of Zilpha Drew Smith, social worker, administrator and educator. [Dies October 12, 1926.]


Zilpha Drew Smith


January 26– Monday– Rome, Italy–Birth of Pierre Paul Francois Camille Savorgnan de Brazza, the 7th son of Count Asconin de Brazza and his wife Giacinta Simonetti. Pierre will become an explorer whose trips up the Congo River in Central Africa will enable France to claim territory in the region. The city of Brazzaville is named after him. [Dies September 14, 1905.]

January 26– Monday– Springfield, Illinois– This morning’s Illinois Journal carries a notice signed by 63 citizens who declare that with the “understanding that Governor Kossuth will probably soon be in Indianapolis, Indiana, on his way to St Louis, respectfully request the citizens of Springfield to meet at the Court House, on Monday (THIS) Evening, the 26th instant, for the purpose of taking measures to invite him to Springfield.” The signatories include Abraham Lincoln, Esquire.

January 28– Wednesday– Boston, Massachusetts–A workers’ convention opens today to gather support and to organize for and promote the ten hour work day.

January 29– Thursday– Rochester, New York– In this issue of Frederick Douglass’ Paper Douglass criticizes Horace Greeley. While acknowledging that Greeley has “often defended our people from the brutal attacks of the press, far more effectively than ever our technical friends could do,” yet Greeley’s recent reaction to Indiana’s ban prohibiting free black people from settling in that state was to exhort African Americans to “clear out to Africa.” Douglass describes Greeley as an “incomprehensible man” and “we ask him how he reconciles his course . . . with the spirit of benevolence? Does he not know . . . the certain effect of urging [us] to depart?”

January 29– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “Abolitionists of Western New York – Take Notice!!! That on Thursday and Friday, the 18th and 19th of March next, the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Sewing Society, of Rochester, will hold, in this city a Grand Anti-slavery Festival and Bazaar, to which, and in aid of which, they earnestly invite the presence and co-operation of abolitionists, without distinction of party. It is intended to make this occasion one of surpassing interest and usefulness; and it is therefore determined to issue a call for a Grand Anti-slavery Convention, to be held in this city, simultaneously with the Festival and Bazaar, and to secure the presence of some of the ablest and most eloquent advocates of emancipation in the country. The necessity for renewed and vigorous exertion is obviously great and increasing. We are not only summoned to this work by the wails of enslaved millions, but by the enormities of slavery, beyond the limits of the sugar and cotton plantations of the South. The evils of slavery have reached our own fire-sides. Through the treachery and moral debasement of Northern politicians, the horrible concomitants of slavery, abolishing all the legal safeguards of human freedom, are rapidly spreading over the free States. The footprints of the slave-hunter may be traced in all our towns and cities; our Courts of Justice have been converted into slave-shambles, and surrounded by chains. To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to take in the stranger, and to deliver the spoiled out of the hands of the spoiler, is to be a traitor; to afford hospitality, is a misdemeanor; to show mercy, is a crime, to be visited with fines and imprisonment; and as a capping-stone to this monument of infamy, we are commanded by our rulers to Be Silent. . . . . Abolitionists! Awake! – Gird on again your Anti-Slavery armor, and in the strength of principle with firm reliance on Divine aid, let us to the work of disseminating our sentiments among the people of Western New York, assured that ‘though hand join in hand the wicked shall not prosper,’ and that, however long delayed, the triumph of Liberty, Justice and Humanity is certain.” ~ a notice in Frederick Douglass’ Paper signed by the nineteen women of the planning committee.

January 30– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator reprints a copy of a lengthy recent letter from a Mr Henry W. Wright, of Michigan, to Richard D. Webb, an Irish abolitionist living in Dublin, which gives an account of Garrison’s early crusade against colonization and recounts the beginning of the Liberator. Because Webb himself is a publisher, who among other things, published Frederick Douglass’ Narrative in the British Isles, Wright expresses the hope that these “few items, touching his [Garrison’s] first consecration of himself to the abolition of American slavery, will be of interest to you as well as to others.”

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