Election Year 1852~April

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Not one convention has taken place but the issues are coming into focus and candidates appearing. Issues include the expansion of slavery, enforcement of the Compromise of 1850, particularly the Fugitive Slave Act, the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, religious tolerance. And women are making an unusual amount of agitation.

April 1– Thursday– New York City– “Too many of those who are engaged in the present reform, seem to suppose that the great work we have to do, is to look to our fathers and brothers for help, and accept it when they grant it. True, we need their aid. To work efficiently and harmoniously, we must work together; but on woman rests the responsibility of elevating woman. . . . The law of progress is proclaimed by every page of human history, and whether we aid or retard the work, it still goes on, and they only are losers who oppose its progress. Let woman appeal to Legislative and Ecclesiastical bodies, as well as to Medical Colleges, setting forth the injury inflicted on humanity by the present laws and rules. Let her go herself before those public bodies, and set forth the difficulties under which she labors, the disabilities which are imposed upon her, the injustice of taxation without representation, and of not permitting her to be tried by a jury of her peers. It is objected to this last innovation, that if women sat as jurors, the sentences on woman would be less lenient than they now are. I shall not dispute this; time only can settle it. But admitting that it is so– that the sexes are more merciful to each other than to themselves, then so much greater the reason for woman to share the toil and the responsibility of jurorship. Let there be an interchange of good offices, that men may experience from them the mercy they have failed to find in man. Woman has a deep, intuitive, divine sense of justice, and she has a power of endurance, of quiet fortitude in bearing fatigue, hunger, thirst and sleeplessness, at least equal to man. Or if she has not, a superior education, by giving her habits of close attention and continued concentration of mind, will qualify her for the responsibility of jurorship. Of this I am very certain, if woman is not capable of fulfilling the duties of that post, she will not be elevated to it, or, if elevated, will soon vacate it. Character and ability, like water, will find their level as a general fact; and this accounts for the present position of woman. She is just beginning to realize her wealth of mind, and moral power.” ~ Letter from Sarah Grimke in The Lily. [On Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina, see the excellent biography The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina: Pioneers for Woman’s Rights and Abolition (1967) by Gerda Lerner.]

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April 2– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison criticizes Senator Stephen A Douglas of Illinois as a strong supporter of the South and southern interests.

April 5– Monday– New York City– Reverend W S Balch delivers a lengthy lecture to a large audience in which he argues that no one can be a good republican while claiming allegiance to the pope and the Roman Catholic Church.

April 5–Monday– Washington, D. C.–Congress passes a resolution affirming support of the Compromise of 1850 and mandating full enforcement of all its provisions.

April 8– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “My labors, since the last issue, have quite assured me of returning strength. I have delivered five anti-slavery lectures; two at Hemlock Lake, Livingston County, two at Honeoye, Ontario County, and one in the Congregational Church, St. Paul Street, Rochester: and from these labors, I have experienced no other inconvenience, save that necessarily involved in absence from my post. . . . In a word, I found them as clear as light, in respect to all important points connected with the anti-slavery question; and as strong as steel, in their adhesion to them. I speak this, however, as especially applying to the members of the Independent Congregational Church of Honeoye, for I doubt not, that outside of it there might easily be found many that would not answer his description. This being my first visit to Honeoye, the friends of the slave thought that it would be well for me to narrate my experience in slavery. – This I did, in my second lecture, and it was most gratifying to observe the evidence of sympathy, in old and young, as they listened to my simple story. At the close of my lecture, several came forward and subscribed for my paper, and otherwise rendered me “material aid.” The result of my lecturing tour, is, that I am cheered and strengthened; having had abundant evidence that there are yet “ears to hear,” and hearts to feel. Oh! that the means could be had to send anti-slavery lecturers into every section of the State. – The people must have “line upon line,” and “precept upon precept,” if they are ever confirmed in the great principles of human liberty, upon which the anti-slavery movement is founded.” ~ Frederick Douglass in his Frederick Douglass’ Paper.

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April 9– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Mr. [Parker] Pillsbury took up the subject of the identity of the interests of the working classes with the anti-slavery cause, and showed, as far as words have power to show, that the laboring classes of the North cannot hope for better things until slavery is abolished at the South. He proved that the Northern and Southern slaveholder were banded together by the of interest and trade; that the Church was blessing and sanctifying the unholy union; and unless some change came to the relief of the toiling even of the North, they would, in the progress of a very few years, be at starving point– be literally crushed by this triple and relentless power. Yet his burning eloquence and cogent arguments reached only a very few ears. The people are being led by the priests and politicians like lambs to the slaughter. They assist robbers to rob their own pockets, and then pay the priesthood to reconcile the deed with Divine justice, and themselves to their condition. Father, forgive them all, lo! they know not what they do!” ~Letter from Alonzo J. Grover to The Liberator. [On the life and work of Parker Pillsbury, 1809-1898, see: American Chivalry (1913) by Lillie Buffum Chace Wyman; Parker Pillsbury: Radical Abolitionist, Male Feminist (2007) by Stacey M Robertson.]

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Parker Pillsbury

 

April 10– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times asserts that there is “a party, more or less complete, in different sections of the South, whose sole bond of union is the conservation of Southern rights as dependent upon the institution of slavery and its perpetuity.”

April 11–Sunday– Boston, Massachusetts–At the request of Reverend Theodore Parker, peace activist Adin Ballou preaches a sermon on peace and non-resistence at Parker’s large church. [On the life and work of Adin Ballou, 1803- 1890, see: Autobiography of Adin Ballou, Containing an Elaborate Record and Narrative of His Life from Infancy to Old Age; with Appendixes (1896) compiled and edited by William S Heywood.]

April 13– Tuesday– Rodman, New York– Birth of Frank Winfield Woolworth, American businessman. [Dies April 8 1919. At his death his personal worth is $76,500,000 and his chain of stores numbers over 1,000.]

April 15– Thursday– New York City– The New York Times denounces “Southern Fanaticism” and efforts to expand slave territory and to reopen international slave trade. “There will be no . . . triumphant achievement by means of Quixotic advocacy of the system of African Slavery, or through any schemes, of agitation or coalition, for its extension.”

April 16– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–”The General’s Position Defined. A Washington correspondent of the Nashville Banner recently had an interview with General [Winfield] Scott, who it is said is indignant at the charge made in some of the newspaper, that his position in regard to some, of the Compromise measures is ambiguous. According to the writer, Scott, in his conversation with him, said: ‘How can any one doubt my past or present earnest support of the Compromise measures? Did I not, at the first meeting of the friends of the Union, held in Castle Garden, New York, publicly proclaim my approval of them; at a period, too, when but few in that city advocated the propriety of their adoption? Immediately after my perusal of Mr. Clay’s first great speech in their defense, made in the Senate of the United States, I wrote to him . . . [to express support].’” ~ The Liberator.

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April 19– Monday– Baltimore, Maryland– The Whig Party members in the area hold a convention and debate whether or not to support General Winfield Scott as the party’s nominee for president, his supporters noting that he is a Southern man, born near Petersburg, Virginia, and a supporter of the Compromise of 1850.

April 20– Tuesday– Rochester, New York– Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, Ann Fitzhugh Smith and Abigail Smith Delavan, among others, establish a Woman’s Temperance Society.

April 20– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– The Whig Party caucus ends up bitterly divided along sectional lines.

April 22– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “We take it for granted that the Free Soilers of New York, if they possess any of the sympathies which their name implies, will shudder at the thought of being instrumental to the election of any of those men whose names we have mentioned. Setting aside General Scott, all those men have been mainly instrumental in enacting those terrible laws which have so much shocked our sensibilities, and made our legal code the abhorrence of the civilized world. It is needless to detail the atrocities which they have enacted, and the ferocious and bloody tyranny with which they have sought and are still seeking to enforce them. The ‘compromise’ which they have made, and which they all rely on for the presidency, and which each argues himself as most anxious and able to enforce, for cruelty and injustice, is not surpassed by any other criminal act in the political history of mankind.” ~ Frederick Douglass’ Paper.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

 

April 22– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “This beautiful new evangel of freedom– for so the book seems to us– does not suddenly flash the intolerable light of God’s truth upon souls benighted in error, but softly drops veil after veil till they stand in mid-day brightness, wondering and remorseful. . . . . We have undertaken nothing like a critique of this book; but we must be allowed to say, even in this circumscribed notice, that the work to us gives evidence of greater power, of deeper and more various resources, than any other novel of the time. It displays rare dramatic genius, its characters are strongly drawn, refreshingly peculiar and original, yet wondrously true to nature and to many a reader’s experience of life. It abounds alike with quaint, delicious humor, and the most heart-searching pathos; with the vividest word-painting, in the way of description, with argument, philosophy, eloquence, and poetry. And straight and pure through all– through characterization, conversation, description, and narrative, sweeps the continuous moral– the one deep thought, flowing ceaselessly from the soul of the writer, and fed by ‘under-springs of silent deity.’So great and good a thing has Mrs. Stowe here accomplished for humanity, for freedom, for God, that we cannot refrain from applying to her sacred words, and exclaiming, ‘Blessed art thou among women!’” ~ The National Era reviews Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or Life Among the Lowly which ran in this newspaper in serialized form beginning in June of 1851 and just appeared in a 2 volume book form on March 20th. [In its first sixteen months it will sell 1,200,000 copies.]

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April 23– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “In the midst of all this stir about men’s rights, on indefatigable Friend, Anne Knight, is pursuing her course with the patience of a martyr. She writes letters . . . and publishes them by hundreds. She is admitted to all classes of society, and whether you find her at the soirees of the nobility, or among the humble builders on the great walls of time, there you hear her untiring plea for the equal political rights of women. A few evenings since, I saw her in close with a brilliant wit and beauty connected with the court circle. Anne had on her Quaker cap with a black net over it, a black satin dress with a large black shawl thrown over her shoulders to conceal a large satchel that she always carries about her filled with papers. The other wore a white dress, with a opera cloak, trimmed with ermine. ‘Night and day personified,’ quoth the gentleman at my left hand. I could not but smile at the appropriateness; but, after all her meek face had in it much of the serenity of midsummer moonlight, and I could not but admire its earnestness and purity.” ~ Letter from Mrs. H.M. T reprinted in The Liberator. [Anne Knight, 1786– 1862, an English Quaker, spent her adult life as a feminist and abolitionist activist.]

April 23–Friday– New York City–David Low Dodge, merchant and peace activist, founder of the New York Peace Society and the New York Bible Society, dies at age 77. [For information about his life and work, see: Pacifism in the United States from the Colonial Era to the First World War (1968) by Peter Brock, pp 450-463, 466-471, 478-482.]

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April 24– Saturday– Peoria, Illinois– Birth of Annis Bertha Ford Eastman, Congregational minister, feminist and scholar who will mother Crystal Eastman and Max Eastman. [Dies October 22, 1910.]

April 27– Cincinnati, Ohio– An anti-slavery convention opens today. Prominent participants include Frederick Douglass, George Washington Julian, Charles Calistus Burleigh and Reverend John G Fee.

April 29– Thursday– Rochester, New York– “Again, what but an approaching presidential election could have wrought a universal pledge of the Whig and Democratic parties to the policy, sanctity, and perpetuity of the Fugitive Slave Law and its kindred measures of compromise? Were there no such election at hand, who believes the people could have been induced to set forward candidates professedly for no other purpose but their fitness to sustain and continue those unconstitutional and infernal measures? At this moment the only issue between the Democratic and Whig parties, is, whether [Winfield] Scott, or [Daniel] Webster, or Fillmore, is a more suitable man than Cass, or [Stephen A] Douglas, or Marcy, or [James] Buchanan, &c., to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law upon the people of the North. The issue is not whether that like measures shall be continued, whether they are politic, just and wise, but which of the parties can furnish a president of the greatest ability to compel the people of the North to submit to them and obey them. We have no hesitation to say that this is the only issue between these great parties. They are both agreed to enforce these most humiliating and diabolical measures, and disagree only as to be the intellectual and physical force of their infernal materials. What has become of the Tariff question, the Bank question, the Land Distribution question, and all those questions which once agitated the country? All gone– gone forever; and the parties are rushing into the campaign for a popular vote on the question which is best qualified and disposed to pollute and oppress the North with pro-slavery sentiments and measures.” ~ Frederick Douglass’ Paper

April 30– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– Parker Pillsbury writes that “we have just closed a fatiguing and every way trying [anti-slavery] campaign in Maine. In Portland we had meetings of a truly cheering character. . . . we had some disturbance, though slight compared with what we often encounter. In Bath we good meetings, and found a few excellent and good friends.” ~ The Liberator.

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