January 1856

The year begins with the issue of Kansas statehood and the questions about slavery in the minds of many.

January– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “In order to avoid being misunderstood, the reader is requested to bear in mind that the great principle in dress is to develop beauties by appropriate treatment of costume and decoration, not to conceal any defects which may unfortunately be found on our persons. Whatever is false or artificial is as reprehensible in dress as in morals. Pearl powder and rouge, false and dyed hair, are falsehoods addressed to the eye instead of the ear; and, like, other untruths, seldom escape detection and contempt. In spite of the skill with which they are employed, their artificiality is betrayed by their utter want of harmony with the surrounding parts. . . . . The only way to ascertain whether a fashion is really becoming or not, is to strip it of adventitious ornaments and trimmings, to reduce it to a simple outline, and then to observe whether the lines formed by the drapery with the figure are graceful. If these satisfy the eye of taste, and there is nothing in the fashion which militates against propriety, decorum, and health, the fashion may be safely adopted; otherwise, it should be resolutely discountenanced by all women of sense.” ~ from an article entitled “How Far Should the Fashions Be Followed?” by Mrs Merrifield in this month’s issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book.


January 3– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Franklin Pierce sends to the Senate for ratification three treaties made with the various branches of the Chippewa Indian Nation.

January 4– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “So much disgusted have I been with the custom of puffing for a purpose which abounds in certain quarters, that I have always refrained from expressing admiration through the press of any of our public speakers. But I am now impelled, in justice to the transcendent interests for which your paper is striving, to say a word of the last week’s lecture of our Worcester course, by J. Elizabeth Jones, of Salem, Ohio. So far as I have beard an opinion expressed, and it is somewhat extensive, it has been of unalloyed admiration. Comprehensive in its scope, yet clear and definite, rising from fundamental principles to our positive measures and responsibilities, delivered with a fine, well-modulated voice, a manner calm but earnest, and leaving on the hearer an impression never to be effaced. I say these few words, hoping they may have a tendency to call out the uses full to overflowing in other places in which J. E. Jones has engagements to speak. It is a rare opportunity to hear the greatest question of our age presented in a form and manner unusually attractive and impressive. There will be deep regrets by those who fail to listen when they shall have an opportunity.” ~ Letter to the editor from E. L. C in The Liberator. [Jane Elizabeth Hitchcock Jones, 1813– 1896, by this time in her life has been active in the causes of abolition and woman’s rights for most of the last fifteen years. She and her husband Benjamin Jones founded the Anti-Slavery Bugle and she gave a brilliant speech at the woman’s rights convention in Salem in April, 1850.]

January 7– Monday– New London, Ohio– “George Garretson, one of the earliest, most faithful and unceasing friends of the down-trodden millions of our country, has fallen by the hand of death, in the 69th year of his age, on the 30th ult. When you first unfurled the banner Liberator, our friend was among its earliest patrons, and continued to be for many years. And not only was he a generous patron of anti-slavery papers, but his doors was ever open to the earnest pleader for the soul’s redemption, and his means were liberally bestowed to the promotion of the cause of human rights. The panting fugitive ever found a safe retreat beneath his hospitable roof, a family which warmly commiserated his forlorn condition, and kind hands to help him beyond the power and scent of too many republican (so-called) bloodhounds, who sought his freedom for a price. The writer of this note owes his ‘conversion,’ in part, to the anti-slavery cause, to the persuasions and mild solicitations of our departed friend, and must ever cherish a high regard for his memory. He is gone; and may his humble and unpretending example be imitated by those of us who survive him, in our future labors in behalf of the suffering, who cannot help themselves.” ~ Letter from J. F. to William Lloyd Garrison.


Lizette Woodworth Reese


January 9– Wednesday– Baltimore, Maryland– Birth of Lizette Woodworth Reese, poet, author and educator. [Dies December 17, 1935.]

January 11– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In today’s Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison includes an excerpt from a new book, entitled Glances end Glimpses; or, Fifty Years Social, including Twenty Years Professional Life by Dr Harriot K Hunt. Dr Hunt writes: “Now I see no possible reason why young women, unless they are absolutely needed in the domestic circle– and even then, self-reliance should be taught them– should not be trained to some healthful, remunerative employment. To say nothing of its beneficial effects on their own character, or of the independent position it would give them is society, such employment would often enable them to sustain their parents by their own earnings, when the chances and changes of life have brought reverses to the home, and to gladden the declining years of those parents with comforts, too often wanting now. Daughters would then be capable of rendering assistance, as well as sons.” [Dr Hunt (1805 – 1875) was a radical feminist and pioneer of women practitioners in medicine.]

January 11– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Pierce updates the Senate about the situation in Central America.

January 20– Sunday– Seneca Falls, New York– Birth of Harriet Stanton Blatch, suffrage activist and author, the second daughter and sixth of the seven children of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. [Dies November 20, 1940.]

January 21– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Pierce sends to the Senate for ratification a treaty with Native Americans in New Mexico Territory.

January 23– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “I communicate herewith to the Senate, for its constitutional action thereon, a treaty between the United States and the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes of Indians.” ~ Message from President Pierce to the Senate.

January 24– Thursday– Boston, Massachusetts– Senator Robert Toombs [1812 – 1885], a wealthy slave-owner from Georgia, delivers a passionate speech in defense of slavery.

January 24– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The inflammatory agitation, of which the present is but a part, has for twenty years produced nothing save unmitigated evil, North and South. But for it the character of the domestic institutions of the future new State would have been a matter of too little interest to the inhabitants of the contiguous States, personally or collectively, to produce among them any political emotion. Climate, soil, production, hopes of rapid advancement and the pursuit of happiness on the part of the settlers themselves, with good wishes, but with no interference from without, would have quietly determined the question which is at this time of such disturbing character. But we are constrained to turn our attention to the circumstances of embarrassment as they now exist. It is the duty of the people of Kansas to discountenance every act or purpose of resistance to its laws. Above all, the emergency appeals to the citizens of the States, and especially of those contiguous to the Territory, neither by intervention of nonresidents in elections nor by unauthorized military force to attempt to encroach upon or usurp the authority of the inhabitants of the Territory. No citizen of our country should permit himself to forget that he is a part of its Government and entitled to be heard in the determination of its policy and its measures, and that therefore the highest considerations of personal honor and patriotism require him to maintain by whatever of power or influence he may possess the integrity of the laws of the Republic. Entertaining these views, it will be my imperative duty to exert the whole power of the Federal Executive to support public order in the Territory; to vindicate its laws, whether Federal or local, against all attempts of organized resistance, and so to protect its people in the establishment of their own institutions, undisturbed by encroachment from without, and in the full enjoyment of the rights of self-government assured to them by the Constitution and the organic act of Congress. Although serious and threatening disturbances in the Territory of Kansas, announced to me by the governor in December last, were speedily quieted without the effusion of blood and in a satisfactory manner, there is, I regret to say, reason to apprehend that disorders will continue to occur there, with increasing tendency to violence, until some decisive measure be taken to dispose of the question itself which constitutes the inducement or occasion of internal agitation and of external interference. This, it seems to me, can best be accomplished by providing that when the inhabitants of Kansas may desire it and shall be of sufficient number to constitute a State, a convention of delegates, duly elected by the qualified voters, shall assemble to frame a constitution, and thus to prepare through regular and lawful means for its admission into the Union as a State. I respectfully recommend the enactment of a law to that effect. I recommend also that a special appropriation be made to defray any expense which may become requisite in the execution of the laws or the maintenance of public order in the Territory of Kansas.” ~ Message to Congress from President Pierce, addressing the on-going two year conflict in Kansas between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions. In this message he rejects the Free State [anti-slavery] government established in Topeka, Kansas, in the fall of last year as illegal and insurrectionary. This will increase the tensions between the opposing parties.


William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Liberator


January 25– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “It is nothing to the ‘federal executive’ that an armed mob of blood-thirsty marauders invade a territory of the United States, with the publicly avowed purpose of murdering its inhabitants. It is nothing that the officers of the ‘federal executive’ are urging on this infernal mob to their devilish work. It is nothing that those beleaguered citizens call for aid in the name of Law, Liberty and the Constitution. It is only ‘some acts prejudicial to good order, which will not justify the interposition of the federal executive.’ The truth is, Franklin Pierce is morally as guilty in respect to all the outrages committed in Kansas, as are Atchison and Stringfellow. But for the knowledge that the ‘federal executive’ would not interfere to thwart or punish them, not one of the outrages with which that territory has been filled, would ever have occurred, A single earnest word from the ‘federal executive’ would have made them shun Kansas as they would shun the halter they so well deserve. No word has been spoken. On the contrary, the acts of the ‘federal executive,’ which speak louder than words, have told them to go on, repeating their outrages, to stop short of no murderous deed necessary to expel Liberty and plant Slavery in that covenanted ‘home of the free.’ What but a proclamation to this effect was the removal of Governor Reeder, and the appointment of Shannon, the miserablest doughface in all the North! What else was to be understood by the removal of Judge Johnson, the only other Free State man appointed? What else mean; the retention in office of S. H. Woodson, as Secretary of the territory– a man who was implicated in the election frauds, and whose whole conduct has shown him capable of committing any crime necessary to the establishment of Slavery in Kansas! What meant the accumulation of every territorial office in the hands of the ‘ruffians’ and their abettors? It meant that slavery was to be established there at all hazards, and by any means within the power of violence, ruffiansm and fraud; and that the ‘federal executive’ would take care that they warn not molested in their hellish work. No occasion for ‘the interposition of the federal executive!’ Of course not. The ‘federal executive’ authorities are the head plotters and conspirators in the most atrocious scheme of blood known in modern history. Nor is Franklin Pierce the least guilty of these conspirators. On his skirts, to-day rests the blood of the men murdered by those bandits in the employ of his tools. Before God and his country, he is the head and front of that conspiracy which was intended, in the language of the ‘ruffians,’ to ‘wipe out’ Lawrence, and leave it but the grave of its brave defenders. Thanks to the gallant men and heroic women of that doomed city, the conspirators were over awed and the conspiracy failed. Lawrence still exists by freemen, and is not yet enslaved.” ~ from the Concord New Hampshire Democrat reprinted in today’s Liberator.

January 26– Saturday– Seattle, Washington Territory– Aided by Marines and artillery fire from the USS Decatur, settlers drive off a force of Native American attackers. This is part on-going tension and skirmishing between settlers and indigenous people which has been going on since the fall of last year.

January 28– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I transmit herewith a report from the Secretary of State, in answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 10th of January, calling for the correspondence between the Secretary of State and Edward Worrell while the latter was acting as consul at Matanzas in relation to the estates of deceased American citizens on the island of Cuba.” ~ Special Message from President Franklin Pierce to the Senate.

January 29– Charlotte, North Carolina– The 223-mile North Carolina Railroad is completed from Goldsboro through Raleigh and Salisbury to here.


Victoria Cross


January 29– Tuesday– London, England– In response to the military service rendered by her soldiers in the Crimean War, Queen Victoria, age 36, announces the establishment of the Victoria Cross, a new and the highest award for military bravery in the face of the enemy.

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