Interest of Many~February, 1852

No political parties have yet held conventions yet it is clear that the Compromise of 1850 and questions around slavery will be political issues. Also, it is almost four years since the conference at Seneca Falls, New York, and women are sounding off about their issues.


February– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “In what regards government and politics, do we not find the interest of the many sacrificed to the few? while, in all that regards society, the morals and the happiness of individuals are sacrificed to the many? and both are wrong. I never can bring myself to admire a social system, in which the honor, rights, or happiness of any individual, though the meanest is made to yield to a supposed future or general good. It is a wicked calculation, and it will be found as inexpedient as It is wicked. We women have especial reason to exclaim against this principle. We are told openly, by moralists and politicians, that it is for the general good of society, nay, an absolute necessity, that one-fifth part of our sex should be condemned as the legitimate prey of the other, predoomed to die in reprobation, in the streets, in hospitals, that the virtue of the rest may be preserved, and the pride and the passions of men both gratified. But I have a bitter pleasure in thinking that this most base, most cruel conventional law is avenged upon those who made and uphold it; that here the sacrifice of a certain number of one sex to the permitted license of the other is no general good, but a general curse– a very ulcer in the bosom of society. The subject is a hateful one– more hateful is it to hear it sometimes alluded to with sneering levity, and sometimes waved aside with a fastidious or arrogant prudery. Unless we women take some courage to look upon the evil, and find some help, some remedy within ourselves, I know not where it is to come from. It is a fact upon which I shall take an opportunity of enlarging, that almost all the greatest men who have lived in the world, whether poets, philosophers, artists, or statesmen, have derived their mental and physical organization more from the mother’s than the father’s side; and the same is true, unhappily, of those who have been in an extraordinary degree perverted. And does this not lead us to some awful considerations on the importance of the moral and physical well-being of women, and their present condition in society, as a branch of legislation and polities, which must ere long be modified? Let our lords and masters reflect that if an extensive influence for good or for evil be not denied to us, an influence commencing not only with, but before the birth of their children, it is time that the manifold mischiefs and miseries lurking in the bosom of society, and of which woman is at once the wretched instrument and more wretched victim, be looked to.” ~ an essay on prostitution, of course without using the word, in this month’s issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book

February 3– Tuesday– Buenos Aires, Argentina– United States Marines land to protect American interests.

February 5– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “The Evening Journal of Saturday contains some of the affidavits, upon which the counsel for the defense founded a motion to set aside the indictments found against the rescuers of the fugitive Jerry, at Syracuse. It appears that the District Attorney, when the witnesses were called, directed them to be sworn to give evidence ‘in the case of Moses Summers and others;’ that the son of the District Attorney was present in the Grand Jury Room during the hearing of testimony; that many of the witnesses were not examined, but simply listened to the reading of ex-parte affidavits made to procure the warrants for the arrest of the accused persons, and then asked whether they were correct, that these affidavits were admitted as legal testimony for the purpose of saving time, &c. There are also other alleged irregularities, but these appear to be the ones mainly relied upon by the defense for setting aside the indictments. The case of Enoch Reed is the one on trial, but if the above allegations are true, and they are not disputed by the prosecution, there was not a single witness sworn before the Grand Jury to give evidence against him! The attempt to hold him to answer to an indictment, because the District Attorney supposes him to be one of the ‘others,’ and because he had in his pocket an old affidavit to that effect, appears not simply ridiculous, but as one of the loosest, and therefore the most dangerous, modes of conducting a criminal prosecution. The affidavits were no more legal evidence – such as is required to find and prosecute an indictment – than the newspaper articles about the rescue of Jerry, with which the District Attorney might have saved time and greatly diminished the labors of he prosecuting officer; but in matters of such grave moment – when a citizen is to be subjected to the infamy of an indictment and the danger of being convicted of a crime, no such considerations are sufficient to excuse a departure from the rigid rules which govern proceedings before a Grand Jury. Let them be relaxed, as in this case, and it would not be difficult for prosecuting officers to procure any number of indictments they pleased, and against whoever they pleased. It may be answered, that the affidavits contained just what the witnesses would have sworn to had they been regularly examined; but it is to be remembered that the law defines what is testimony, and how it shall be taken, and the records of criminal proceedings will be searched in vain for a case where an indictment has ever been found upon the affidavit of a witness, made a month prior to his examination before the Grand Jury. Those engaged in prosecuting others for alleged violations of law, should be, and are properly required to be, careful of the rules prescribed as safeguards of the reputation and liberty of every citizen.” ~ Frederick Douglass Paper. [In early October, 1851, a mob of rowdy abolitionists disrupted federal proceedings and spirited away to Canada a fugitive slave.]


building where the Jerry Rescue took place


February 6– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–”On Sunday evening, January 25, 1852, I heard Parker Pillsbury deliver a masterly discourse at the Lyceum Hall in the city, from the text ‘I came not to bring peace on the earth.’ The hall was well filled by an enlightened and attentive audience. Mr. Pillsbury’s discourse was a written one, of the highest character as a literacy production. The glowing imagination of the speaker clothed the subject with the life-fires of reality, and every one seemed living amid the scenes and circumstances he described. It requires a mind and heart like Pillsbury’s to show up to the life the damning nature of slavery, the duplicity of political parties, and the depth of the moral lethargy is which the church lies embedded, The discourse made a good impression on the audience, and will be long remembered as one of those rare treats to which poor barren society is occasionally invited, where the chains of evil customs and the time-worn attire of error are thrown off, and we are permitted to see things as they are. The time will come, when Pillsbury and his compatriots will be appreciated by the world, and their labors and moral heroism applauded by mankind, and children taught to revere their memories, and as predicted by the speaker, future generations, in speaking of the events of our times, will exclaim, ‘There were giants in those days.’ Preach on, noble Pillsbury, for the enemies of truth Are myriads ! Bravely, for they are mighty ! Yet, remember the truth thou utterest must prevail, for they are Heaven-descended ; and thy reward in the Heaven from whence they descend.” ~ Letter to the editor from “a Friend of Humanity” in today’s issue of The Liberator.

February 6– Friday– Gila River, Arizona Territory– Army units fight a running battle with Apache warriors.

February 13– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “I wish, though the Liberator, to make a suggestion to his Excellency, the Governor of Massachusetts. The season of the year is approaching when it is customary for the Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth to call upon the people to turn aside from their ordinary avocations, and spend a day in ‘fasting, humiliation and prayer.’ Now, I wish to suggest to his Excellency the propriety of appointing the anniversary of the day on which Thomas Sims was dragged from Massachusetts into perpetual slavery as the annual day of ‘fasting, humiliation and prayer’ for the State of Massachusetts. It seems to me that that event marks out clearly the day for a Fast in Massachusetts, until such time, at least, as the State shall put it beyond the possibility for a like occurrence to take place on her soil.” ~ letter to the editor in today’s Liberator. [Sims had escaped from slavery in Georgia, was captured in Boston on April 4, 1851, and his arrest and deportation South caused such an outcry that federal troops were sent into the city to insure his removal back to slavery.]



William Lloyd Garrison


February 16– Monday– Allegheny, Pennsylvania [now part of Pittsburgh]– Birth of Charles Taze Russell, prominent Protestant evangelist. [Dies October 31, 1916.]

February 19– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “The proximity of this city to Canada has ensured a ready fight in the fugitive’s emergency. Several who had resided here for years, sustaining good business positions, have been compelled to abandon home and loved associations, for fear of being dragged back to bondage. Fugitives are constantly passing through here, giving no rest to their feet nor slumber to their eyelids, until the protecting air of Queen Victoria makes them welcome freemen on Canada’s shore. A party of fifteen thus rid themselves of republican slavery on Thanksgiving day– to them truly a day consecrated with sincere thanksgiving to the God of freedom.” ~ Letter from William C Nell to William Lloyd Garrison.


William C Nell


February 20– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Man-worship is a habit to which the Americans are exceedingly prone. They do not pay half enough regard to the rights of men in general, as is proved by the existence of slavery among them, of restrictions based upon color, &c; but they have a decided fondness for picking out some idol among the great slaughterers or great slaveholders of the nation, and then fairly crouching down in the dust before him. They plaster his with praise split their throats hurrahing for him, adopt his sayings as the perfection of wisdom, defend him from every imputation of the slightest fault, and are ready to engage in any Quixotic undertaking, or establish any system of policy which he proposes. All considerations of justice, duty, expediency or propriety are thrown to the winds when the bell-weather of the day hands for a certain path; and onward rush the masses, pell-mell, after him, never thinking how their flesh may be torn by the brambles of wrong, or in what wretched pasturage of folly they may ‘fetch up.’ This country abounds in men who are in the constant habit of pining their faith in some priest’s sleeve in religion, and hanging hold of some demagogue’s coat-tail in politics. They can no more stand alone than a babe five minutes old; and seem to possess no more facility at using their intellects on matters of Church and State , than such an infant would possess at using its limbs in gymnastic exercises. . . . . This mania often breaks out into enthusiastic adoration of some foreigner who chances to visit us. The public mind is heated to a fever pitch about him; his actions and sayings fill all the news paper ;his portrait stares at you from every print-seller’s window; his movements gain that senatorial notice and that legislative attention which are denied to copies of ten fold more pressing consequence. That Louis Kossuth, ‘the American demi-god of a large class today’ has spoken many lofty truths, and performed many noble -deeds, and endured much personal suffering, to promote the welfare of humanity, I do not doubt. That he is far higher in aim and purer in motive than the mass of our own statesmen, I also believe. But he has not uttered such lofty truths, or performed such noble deeds , or endured such personal suffering. as many a persecuted and despised abolitionist in this very land. He is not so high in aim or pure in motive as the of the party who rally round the principle of immediate emancipation. Where then, is the sense of going into at his eloquence, earnest and moving as it is ;Where the benefit of saving all our esteem and admiration to bestow upon him, especially when we are too apt to treat with contumely and violence those who remind us of our duty at home in tones more thrilling than his ? Why meet with toasting and feasting one whose love for his brothers tops at the boundary of his native land, or at all events dies out when the victim of oppression chance to be of a little (and but a little) darker hue than himself; and meet with insult and injury those whose love for their brethren is all embracing, and stops at no degree of latitude, and dies out at no shade of complexion? Let us not fall into the inconsistency of honoring a partial development of virtue, while we slight and even abuse more perfect impersonations of the same virtue.” ~ The Liberator.

February 29– Sunday– Paris, France– Across the country the first day of voting in parliamentary elections takes place. The next day of balloting will occur on March 14.

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