The Buzz~January, 1860


January 1–Sunday– Troy, New York– Local vigilance members, including several black women, gather at the federal commissioner’s office and lead a crowd against the officers holding Charles Nalle, a fugitive slave from Virginia, and spirit him away to safety.

January 2–Monday– Ellington, New York–Mrs Brooks of the local Anti-slavery Society writes to William Still of Philadelphia. “Enclosed are $2.00, to pay freightage on the box of bedding, wearing apparel, etc., that has been sent to your address. It has been thought best to send you a schedule of the contents of said box. Trusting it will be acceptable, and be the means of assisting the poor fugitive on his perilous way, you have the prayers of our Society, that you may be prospered in your work of mercy, and you surely will meet with your reward according to your merciful acts.” [Today her $2 gift would equal $54.10.]


William Still


January 2–Monday– Columbus, Ohio– In his annual message to the state legislature, Governor Salmon P Chase [1808– 1873], in his second term in office, responds to Virginia Governor Henry Wise’s [1806– 1876] condemnation of northern encouragement of slave revolts. Chase denounces any incitement to violence but lays most of the blame for disturbances in the slave states, following John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry, on southerners themselves, and Chase goes on to condemn the southern arrests of strangers and organized demonstrations against northern neighbors. [Chase will become a member of Lincoln’s Cabinet and later Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court; Wise will become a general in the Confederate army.]

January 2–Monday– Sacramento, California– The state legislature convenes with a narrow Democratic majority. The pro-southern wing of the California Democratic Party has done well in the election. However, even as the new session begins the Democrats are showing signs of a developing split among themselves over the question of slavery.

January 4–Wednesday– Springfield, Illinois– The state Democratic Party Convention meets to select delegates for the upcoming national convention in Charleston, South Carolina. They charge those selected to make sure the Party’s platform resists all federal regulations concerning slavery in the western territories and to support Senator Stephen A Douglas of Illinois as the official Democratic Party nominee.

January 4–Wednesday– Chicago, Illinois– Abolitionist John Hossack and seven other residents of Ottawa, Illinois are indicted under the Fugitive Slave Law for assisting the escape of a Missouri fugitive on October 29, 1859.

January 5–Thursday– Paris, France– Emperor Napoleon III orders a series of free trade reforms in France with the immediate removal of custom’s duties on wool and cottons and a gradual reduction in other items, including sugar.

January 6– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “We have asserted, on another occasion, that, morally speaking, the South is one vast Bedlam on the subject of slavery, and the slaveholders lunatics. In demonstration of the truthfulness of this charge, read Governor Wise’s harangue to the squad of medical students who recently left Philadelphia in great dudgeon because freedom of speech was protected by the city authorities, and whose presence has always been a curse and a poisonous contagion to that city. Did Bedlam ever exhibit any thing more ludicrous or more incoherent: Such a person as Governor Wise, in Massachusetts, would be deemed a fit candidate for the asylum at Worcester.” ~ The Liberator.

January 6–Friday– Vienna, Austria– Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary issues the first of a series of edicts lifting restrictions against Jews throughout the Empire.

January 8– Sunday– Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky– Birth of Nancy Jones, African American missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). She will graduate from Fisk University and become the first unmarried black woman commissioned by the ABCFM, serving in Mozambique from 1888 to 1893 and later in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) from 1893 to 1897. [Her death date is unknown.]

January 8–Sunday– London, England– Birth of Emma Booth, the fourth child and second daughter of William and Catherine Booth, who will soon found the Salvation Army. She will become one of her father’s key advisors and will lead operations in the United States for several years. [Dies October 28, 1903.]


Emma Booth


January 9–Monday– Frankfort, Kentucky– The state Democratic Party convention opens today with generally moderate discussion. Participants voice support for slavery and remaining loyal to the Union. The delegates elected to the national convention are committed to native son James Guthrie, who supports the Dred Scott decision, states’ rights, and adherence to the Union.

January 10–Tuesday– Lawrence, Massachusetts–Due to faulty construction, the Pemberton Mill building collapses, killing or injuring 270 workers, mostly women and young girls. As rescue workers try to free the trapped workers, fire erupts in the debris, adding to the number of dead.

January 11– Wednesday–Albany, New York–Workers form the Iron Molders Union of America.

January 11–Wednesday– New York City–George Templeton Strong writes in his diary about yesterday’s industrial accident in Lawrence, Massachusetts. “Of course, nobody will be hanged. Somebody has murdered about two hundred people, many of them with hideous torture, in order to save money, but society has no avenging gibbet for the respectable millionaire and homicide. Of course not.”

January 11–Wednesday– Montgomery, Alabama– The state Democratic Convention opens its four day meeting controlled by advocates of states’ rights. William L Yancey, one of the Southern fire-eaters, gives an important speech. The meeting will end by endorsing a series of resolutions that defend slavery in the western territories, affirm the Dred Scott decision, and threaten a withdrawal from the national convention should these demands not be met.

January 13– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “A public meting of the citizen of Marlborough (Massachusetts) was convened in the town hall on Friday evening, Dec. 2, to express their sentiments respecting the execution of John Brown, and their sympathy with his affected family. The meeting was called to order by O. W. Albee, principal of [the old Gates Academy] High School Mr. Howe was chosen Chairman, and Wm. F. Brigham, Secretary. Mr. Howe a made a few remarks on the event that had called the people together, and then called on Mr. Albee to address the meeting. Mr. A. responded by referring to the tragic event of to-day, and then passed to a review of the aggression of the Slave Power, and their affect on such minds as his who bad that day passed to heaven from a Virginia gallows. John Brown could not have been true to his convictions of right and duty, and have done or suffered less. He said he (Brown) was a believer in the Old Testament as well as in the New, and believed in gunpowder as well as in prayer; and, acting up to this standard, he inevitably must meet such an end. Mr. A. would not argue that all his actions were judicious; but, viewed from Brown’s standpoint, he saw a heroism and an unselfishness rarely equaled, and never surpassed, in history. Charles Brigham expressed his deep sorrow for so painful an event, and expressed a determination to be more devoted to the cause of freedom than he had heretofore been. Rev. Mr. Wakefield, of Feltonville, was the next speaker; and for more than thirty minutes he spoke with a fervor and eloquence rarely surpassed– portraying the wrongs of the slave, the outrages inflicted upon Kansas, the stirring scenes through which Brown and his compeers had passed, and the terrible destiny that awaits this guilty nation, and the certainty that disunion and bloodshed must be the final result. . . . . A collection was taken for the family of Brown, and the meeting closed.” ~ The Liberator.

January 14–Saturday–Sacramento, California– Democrat Milton Latham [1827– 1882]resigns as governor after only taking office five days ago. He leaves the governorship to take the unexpired U S Senate seat of David Broderick. Broderick died September 16, 1859, from a gunshot received in a duel with the former chief justice of the California supreme court. [John Downey (1827– 1894) takes over the office of governor; Latham will serve one term in the Senate.]

January 15– Sunday– Springfield, Illinois– Abraham Lincoln writes to a colleague about the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. “I said . . . in substance, and have often said, I think Congress has constitutional power to enact a Fugitive slave law; that the law of 1850 appears to me objectionable in some of its provisions; but whether it is unconstitutional in any of it’s provisions, I do not remember that I have ever undertaken to decide. I should be glad to see you, and to talk with you more fully than I can write.”

January 15–Sunday–Buffalo, New York– Birth of Katherine Bement Davis, social reformer and penologist. [Dies December 10, 1935.]


January15–Sunday– New Orleans, Louisiana–In response to an invitation from Fabre Nicholas Geffrard, President of Haiti, eighty-one free black persons set sail for a new life in Haiti as immigrants.

January 16– Monday– Washington, D.C.–The forty-third annual meeting of the American Colonization Society, founded by slave-holders in 1816 to encourage free black people to move to West Africa, opens at the Smithsonian Institution under its president, John Latrobe, age 56, a lawyer, engineer, inventor, author and artist from Baltimore, Maryland. The membership hears reports on the current state of Liberia and a variety of speeches. A Mr N. G. Taylor of Tennessee notes that the recent efforts in some states to expel free black people means that the society should redouble its efforts by providing a safe haven in Liberia.

January 17– Tuesday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– In a farewell message, former governor Robert Wickliffe [1819– 1895] denounces Northern anti-slavery criticism and calls for Southern economic self-defense. The North, he says, is a “dependent” economy and “if the cotton crop of the South were to fail, for a single year, there would not be a solvent bank capitalist, manufacturer, or ship owner in the entire North.”

January 17– Tuesday– Castlerea, County Roscommon, Ireland– Birth of Douglas Hyde, educator and Gaelic scholar who will serve as the first President of Ireland from 1938 to 1945. [Dies July 12, 1949.]


Douglas Hyde


January 18–Wednesday– Meriden, Connecticut– About 300 businessmen attending the state Convention of Manufacturers divide into Republican and Democratic factions in heated debate about the upcoming elections. Eventually the Democrats walk out and hold their meeting in another location.

January 18–Wednesday– San Francisco, California–Today’s edition of the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin complains about the laxity of the eight-year-old San Quentin prison and the way the prison staff allows “trusty” prisoners freedom to roam. “Grand Juries have repeatedly presented this defiance of the statute on the part of the prison authorities, by allowing certain trusty inmates to go at large before the expiration of the time of the sentence. It is time to stop the practice. Otherwise abolish the State Prison, and the expensive luxury of convicting culprits who are to range the streets at will and make conviction popular among rogues.”

January 19–Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “We are gratified to announce that the Council or Senate of Nebraska Territory has retraced its steps, and has passed an act for the exclusion of slavery from that Territory. Some weeks ago, the Council rejected a bill from the House of Representatives having the same object in view; but subsequently a Democratic member reconsidered the matter, and a new bill was brought in and adopted. It was immediately sent to the House, and met the approbation of that body; so that if it is approved by the Federal Governor, Mr. Black, who was appointed from Pennsylvania by Mr. Buchanan, it will become a law. But a veto, we are sorry to learn, is expected. This act of abolishing slavery by a Territorial Government is perhaps the first assertion of ‘popular sovereignty’ against the wishes of the President and the decision of the Dred Scott case. The moral effect of the victory will enure to the Republicans, to whom it belongs, since they introduced the subject, and pressed it upon the attention of the Legislature. It is true that the Legislature is Democratic in both its branches, but the party drill was compelled to give way before the moral pressure. . . . . The squatter [pro-slavery] sovereigns have a right to do right, but not a right to do wrong. All honor to Nebraska. In two years, if not sooner, she will be knocking at the doors of Congress for admission into the Union as a free Republican State.” ~ The National Era.

January 19–Thursday– Springfield, Illinois–Abraham Lincoln answers a letter from recently retired Congressman Alexander Stephens of Georgia. Lincoln details his own position on slavery and his understanding of states rights and the federal constitution. There is, Lincoln asserts, “no loop hole left for nullification, and none for secession– because the right of peaceable assembly and of petition and by article Fifth of the Constitution, the right of amendment, is the Constitutional substitute for revolution. Here is our Magna Carta not wrested by Barons from King John, but the free gift of states to the nation they create and in the very amendments harped upon by states rights men are proposed by the Federal congress and approved by Presidents, to make the liberties of the Republic of the West forever sure. All of the States’ Rights which they wished to retain are now and forever retained in the Union, including slavery; and so I have sworn loyalty to this constitutional union, and for it let me live or let me die. But you say that slavery is the corner stone of the south and if separated, would be that of a new Republic; God forbid. When a boy I went to New Orleans on a flat boat and there I saw slavery and slave markets as I have never seen them in Kentucky . . . . I hoped and prayed that the gradual emancipation plan . . .might lead to its extinction in the United States.”

January 20–Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “I called at 24 Portland Place, the office of the American Minister, Hon. Mr. Dallas, with my passport which I had obtained before leaving the United States. I asked to have it vised for the purpose of going to Paris. The Secretary said I was not a citizen of the United States, and he could not sign it. I informed him that I was a citizen of Salem in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts, acknowledged my citizenship and the fact of my having the passport was a proof of my citizenship. The Secretary still refused to sign it, and said I ought to be satisfied with his refusal. During the conversation, I turned to my sister and said, ‘Thank God we are in a country where our rights are respected, and I have no doubt we can obtain passports which will take us to France.’ This remark called froth from the gentlemanly Secretary this reply, ‘If you do not cease this conversation, I will have you put out of this house.’ Most earnestly would I ask all who read this letter to judge what the spirit of a country is that will allow such treatment to its citizens, the spirit which enslaves four million of men and women, and insults the free colored population of the United States? You may read the facts, but no words can express the mental suffering we are obliged to bear because we happen to have a dark complexion. No language can give one an idea of the spirit of prejudice which exists in the States.” ~ a letter from Sarah Parker Remond, age 44, African American abolitionist agent working in London, England, printed in today’s issue of The Liberator. [The American Minister she had to deal with was George Mifflin Dallas, (1792– 1864) a career diplomat and lawyer, conservative, pro-slavery, defender of illegal international slave trade, vehemently anti-abolitionist. Lincoln will replace him with Charles Francis Adams.]


Sarah Parker Remond


January 21– Saturday– Klara, Sweden– Birth of Karl Staaff, lawyer, liberal politician, advocate of universal suffrage who will serve as Sweden’s Prime Minister from 1905 to 1906 and again from 1911 to 1914. [Dies October 4, 1915.]

January 23–Monday– Paris, France– Great Britain and France sign the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty, which substantially liberalizes trade between the two countries. The treaty is less popular in France than in Britain and weakens the popularity of Napoleon III.

January 26– Thursday– Brookline, Massachusetts– Eliza Lee Cabot Follen, abolitionist, author and editor, dies at 73 years of age from typhus fever.

January 26–Thursday– Coburg, Germany– Wilhelmine Schroeder-Devrient, opera soprano who was known for her dramatic intensity, dies at age 55. She participated in the Revolutions of 1848 and spent some time in prison for her activism. She had three short-lived marriages. In 1872 Richard Wagner will dedicate his essay “On Actors and Singers” to her memory.

January 27– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “No one who knows me, or who has read my writings, Can be doubtful for a moment as to my position– Utter abhorrence of war, and of slavery as in itself a State of war, where the violence is all on one side. The pledge which we gave to the world at Philadelphia, twenty-six years ago, when we signed the Declaration of Sentiments, fresh from thy pen, that We would reject ourselves, and entreat the oppressed To reject the use of all carnal weapons for deliverance From bondage; that we admitted the sovereignty of the State over the subject of slavery within their limits; and that we were under high moral obligations to use, for the promotion of our cause, moral and political action as prescribed in the Constitution of the United States, we have since reiterated in a thousand forms, and on as many occasions. I have seen no reason to doubt the wisdom of that pledge. Slavery was just what it is now, neither better nor Worse, when we made it. If it is right and proper Now to use forcible means in behalf of the slave, it was right and proper then. If it be said that Old Testament Christians are not bound by our pledges, and that we are at liberty to applauded them in appeals To the sword, I can only say that I dare not encourage others who have not my scruples to do what I regard as morally wrong. . . . . I am painfully sensible of many errors of feeling and judgment, but my conscience bears me witness that I have, at least, honestly striven to be faithful alike to Freedom and Peace. That this is thy own earnest Desire I have as little doubt.” ~ letter from the Quaker poet, pacifist and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier to his old friend William Lloyd Garrison, in their on-going discussion about John Brown’s resort to violence to free slaves, printed in today’s issue of The Liberator.


John Greenleaf Whittier


January 27–Friday– Washington–Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writes to his friend, John Greenleaf Whittier, that tensions are so high in the city that foreign “diplomats cannot give a dinner without studying their lists as a protocol.” They are obliged to invite American guests by the section of the country from which they come.

January 29–Sunday– Paris, France– Emperor Napoleon III issues an imperial decree closing The Univers, a Catholic newspaper which supported the Pope in the increasing conflict between the French government and the Papacy.

January 29–Sunday– Nice, France–Stephanie Louise Adrienne de Beauharnais dies at age 70. From 1811 to 1818, she was the consort of Karl, Grand Duke of Baden, during which time she bore him five children. After the Duke’s death, she remained a widow. For many years her salon in Mannheim was important to and popular with artists and intellectuals.

January 29– Sunday– Rome, Italy– Pope Pius IX visits the newly opened Pontifical North American College which began only December 8, 1859, to train American men for ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood.

January 30– Monday– Savannah, Georgia– The Savannah News claims that there really has been violence in Canada between black people and white people, despite abolitionist denials. “It is easier to believe that vagabond free Negroes and the equally mean white people who harbor them, would fall to fighting each other, than to believe a respectable newspaper capable of fabricating such wholesale falsehood.”

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