Election Year 1856 ~ April

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Political issues taking the forefront: slavery, the conflict in Kansas, the rise of a new political party. Women assert their claims on civil rights, much to the distress of some men. Within abolitionist circles, the debate intensifies about non-violence versus the use of force. Peace has brought an end to the carnage of the Crimean War, a loss of life soon to be over-shadowed by America’s Civil War. Divisions manifest themselves among Democrats over who should be the nominee for president. The escapades of the freebooter William Walker draw some favorable attention in the United States at a time when many have imperialistic dreams of controlling the whole of the Western Hemisphere. His conduct angers Great Britain which has led to some talk of war with the United States. Anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant talk find voice in print.

April 1– Tuesday– Richmond, Indiana– “Man alone is but a piece– a fragment– a half of humanity, and he needs the other half by his side, with her smiles and indomitable fortitude, to strengthen his resolutions and share his aspirations and his toils. He will go heavenward when angel woman points the way, and cheers his path with the light of her genius, the power of her example, and the fascinations of her own loveliness. But when he attempts to go alone, he is too apt to go devilward, as he generally has done in political affairs. Could educated woman become an equal arbiter in the fate of nations, especially of this nation, soon indeed would the brain maddening and bloody traffic in alcoholic liquors be prohibited. Soon, too, would the gigantic wrong of American slavery be abolished. It would be no longer necessary for tender mothers to cut their children’s throats to protect them from the hellish despotism in a land which claims to be ‘the asylum of the oppressed, and the home of the free!’” ~ The Lily.

April 3– Thursday– Island of Rhodes– The Ottoman Turks who control the island use the Church of St John, attached to the almost 500 year old Palace of the Grand Masters, as a storehouse for ammunition. Today lightning strikes the church causing a fire and explosion which kills about 4,000 people and turns the two buildings into a huge pile of rubble

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April 4– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “The Twenty-Third Public Anniversary of the American Anti-Slavery Society will be held . . . In the city of New York, on Wednesday, May 7th, at 10 o’clock, A.M. . . . . As full an attendance of the members and friends of the Society as practicable, from all parts of the country, is earnestly desired and strongly urged. We reiterate our former declaration, that the object of the Society is not merely to make Liberty national and Slavery sectional, nor to prevent the acquisition of Cuba nor to restore the Missouri Compromise nor to repeal the Fugitive Slave Bill nor to make Kansas a free State nor to resist the admission of any new slave State into the Union nor to terminate slavery in the District of Columbia and in the National Territories but it is, primarily, Comprehensively, and uncompromisingly to effect the immediate, total and eternal overthrow of Slavery, wherever it exists on American soil, and to expose and confront whatever party or sect seeks to purchase peace or success at the expense of human liberty. Living or dying, our motto is, ‘No Union With Slaveholders, Religiously or Politically!’” ~ The Liberator.

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members of the American Antislavery Society

 

April 5– Saturday– New York City– New York Times quotes likely Democratic candidate James Buchanan as writing “The Missouri Compromise [of 1820] is gone, and gone forever. . . . The time for it has passed away, and I verily believe that the best– nay the only– mode now of putting down the fanatical and restless spirit of Abolition at the North, is to adhere to the existing settlement [the Compromise of 1850] without the slightest thought or appearance of wavering, and without regarding any storm which may be raised against it.”

April 9– Wednesday– Newark, New Jersey– A large number of people attend an organizing rally to create a state-wide Republican Party. Participants insist upon the admission of Kansas as a free state. “New Jersey will enroll herself among the ranks of the Freemen of the Union in the approaching struggle.”

April 9– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Senators of the free States, I appeal to you. Believe the prophets, I know you do. You know then, that Slavery neither works mines and quarries, nor founds cities, nor builds ships, nor levies armies, nor mans navies. Why, then, will you insist closing up this new Territory of Kansas, against all enriching streams of immigration, while you pour into it the turbid and poisonous waters of African Slavery? Which one of you all, whether of Connecticut, or of Pennsylvania, or of Illinois, or of Michigan, would consent thus to extinguish the chief light of civilization within the State in which your own fortunes are cast, and in which your own posterity are to live?” ~ Speech in the Senate by Senator William H Seward, age 54, of New York.

April 10– Thursday– New York City– “The people of this country already knew that Colonel [John C] Fremont was one of the boldest and most indomitable men who have explored our wilderness, and marked out the path of empire; but only his intimate friends knew how heartily and thoroughly he sympathized in every movement towards freedom and the emancipation of the country from an unscrupulous and oppressive oligarchy. There is no equivocation or hesitation in Colonel Fremont’s declaration of sentiments, as regards the [free state] Government of Kansas.” ~ New York Times.

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John C Fremont

 

April 10– Thursday– New Orleans, Louisiana– A ship with 200 recruits leaves to join the force of the freebooter William Walker in Nicaragua.

April 11– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In response to the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher’s assertion that a Sharp’s rifle is a better argument against slavery than the Bible and his defense of the practice of sending guns to Northern settlers in Kansas, in today’s issue of The Liberator William Lloyd Garrison writes: “The rhetoric . . . is very fine, and the spirit of it as tender and magnanimous at is compatible with a deadly use of Sharp’s rifles. Mr. Beecher says, ‘There are times when self-defense is a religious duty’– but not with murderous weapons, we beg leave to add. Are there no times when martyrdom becomes such a duty from which one ‘cannot shrink, without leaving honor, manhood, and Christian fidelity behind’? ‘But I say unto you, Overcome evil with good. They that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’ The weapons of our struggle are not carnal.”

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a Sharp’s rifle

 

April 11– Friday– Rivas, Nicaragua– Costa Rican forces defeat the soldiers of the American mercenary and freebooter William Walker[ 1824-1860]. On Walker and his crimes and misdeeds, see, By-ways of War; the Story of the Filibusters (1901) by James J Roche; Filibusters and Financiers; the Story of William Walker and His Associates (1916) by William O Scroggs; William Walker, Filibuster (1932) by Merritt Parmelee Allen; The Filibuster: the Career of William Walker (1937) by Laurence Greene.

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William Walker

 

April 12– Saturday– New York City– “That Walker is selected as the instrument of important changes in Central and perhaps Southern America, we have a strong conviction. All the circumstances attendant upon his recent acts point to that result. The moderation which he has exhibited in his dealings with the other Central States, whilst it has won for him the respect and good will of the liberal portion of their populations, has only been regarded by their rulers as a proof of weakness. The Costa Rican government, with a fatuity which will be looked upon as suicidal, has thought fit to declare war against the man who holds its fate in his hands, and whose forbearance constituted its only security. Ere many weeks elapse, Costa Rica will in all probability be annexed to Nicaragua, under . . . Walker’s . . . sway, thereby forming the first link in the chain of a powerful Central American confederation. It is likely that this event will operate as a salutary lesson upon the other States; but if it should not, their hostility will only hasten the consummation of an object which all friends of liberty must regard as holding out the only hope of salvation for Central America.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

April 12– Saturday– California, Missouri– A sale of slaves includes a 5 year old boy for $505, a 7 year old boy for $886, a 10 year old boy for $1,015 and a 26 year old woman with her 18 month old child for $1355. [The $1355 would be the equivalent of $39,000 today, using the Consumer Price Index.]

April 15– Tuesday– Richmond, Indiana– “I would like to know if a woman does not need as much property to support a family of children as a man, who gets higher wages for labor? But no; they deprive her of property, reduce her wages, and then compel her to wear away her life in unremitting toil, for a mere pittance, to provide for herself and her helpless children. Now, I ask, what justice is there in this? It is no wonder that people blush at the name of Slavery! I do not intend to cast reflections upon all; for I am sure that we have some true and earnest friends– even among gentlemen– who consider that women are capable of fulfilling a higher mission than what is generally assigned them. But I do censure our unjust rulers, who pride themselves in revelry and drunkenness and he is considered the greatest hero, who can display the most vulgarity, and trample upon the rights of his fellow men!” ~ letter from Almira M. Smith in today’s The Lily.

April 18– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “To the exclusion of much other matter designed for our present [edition], we publish entire, (with the exception, of a small portion of the testimony which he adduced in support of his positions, as given by both parties in Kansas,) the very able, eloquent, comprehensive statesman-like speech of the Hon. William H. Seward, delivered in the U.S. Senate [April 9th] on the Kansas question. We are sure our subscribers will be eager to peruse it. Its arraignment of the President is bold, direct, explicit, worthy of the days of ‘76.” ~ The Liberator.

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William Seward

 

April 18– Friday– New York City– In response to a piece in the Richmond [Virginia] Enquirer which praises border ruffians as “the noblest type of mankind” and that without slavery that some white men will be reduced to the status of European peasants as “mere hereditary bondsmen” the New York Times comments “No solitary reason can be urged for extending Slavery into Kansas which would not have equal weight in favor of reducing to slavery the laboring classes in every Northern State.”

April 19– Saturday– New York City– “As the question of the probability of hostilities between this country and Great Britain has been happily set at rest by the common sense of the people of both, it hardly seems worth while to discuss any of the collateral issues raised by it. And yet there is a consideration which has been extensively made use of in the discussion of its chances, to which it may be useful, in view of future contingencies, to devote a few remarks. . . . Canada has now but little if any thing to gain by annexation to the United States. It enjoys as much of the privileges of self-government as it would do as a member of the Union, and commercially speaking, it is a question whether it could derive any additional advantages from the connection. We do not see in what respect we ourselves should be benefitted by it. The Canadian [provinces] would, to be sure, bring us a large additional territory, but of this we have enough as it is. We must not forget to balance against this acquisition the fact that it would also bring us a large French population, the most difficult of any to assimilate with our own, and with their religion likely to prove a troublesome element in our present political condition. We incline to the opinion that Canada is much more useful to us as it is than it could possibly be if it were a member of the Union. It serves as a sort of debatable land to which the discontented spirits who come out here from Europe, and who cannot settle down under republican institutions, may retire as a sort of compromise between their new prejudices and their old hatreds. We are best rid of such people. They only breed disorder and trouble amongst us, and it is, therefore, an advantage to have neighbors who are ready to take them off our hands.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

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Anna Sarah Kugler

 

April 19– Saturday– Ardmore, Pennsylvania– Birth of Anna Sarah Kugler, who will become a physician and serve as a Lutheran medical missionary to India from 1883 until her death on July 20, 1930.

April 20– Sunday– Springfield, Massachusetts– “Most heartily do I join with those friends of peace and good will, whose thank-offerings have, through the last number of The Liberator, been so cordially poured out to you for your most triumphant vindication of the heaven-descended doctrine of non-resistance, against the insane and illogical attacks of those, in other respects, sound, consistent, and excellent men, Henry Ward Beecher and Theodore Parker. Your words were timely and refreshing to every one whose mental and moral vision has been opened to see the divinity and beauty of those precepts of the Man of Nazareth, uttered in unostentatious and simple phrase – ‘Do good to them that hate you’ – ‘Resist not evil’ – &C To me, this is not only sound morality, but true philosophy. Like begets like. . . . it was no part of my intention to argue this question; you have done it completely. H.C. Wright and Adin Ballou have done it over and over again. Humanity in general owes much to them and to you for your joint and several labors in this sacred cause. I am greatly indebted to this distinguished triumvirate of peace; for the last fifteen years, there has scarcely been a day but I have thought more or less of each of you.” ~ letter from E. W. Twing to William Lloyd Garrison.

April 21– Monday– Rock Island, Illinois– The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River opens between here and Davenport, Iowa.

April 25– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Mr. Conway, pastor of the Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., in a sermon lately preached there, said, ‘I have been ashamed to hear in Boston, the descendants of the Puritans apologizing for slavery. I am a Southern man, and they think Southerners like that. Southern politicians are willing to make use of such, while they laugh in their sleeves; but the noble men and women of the South grieve to see men falling thus meanly. I fear act contradiction from any one there when I say, they all respect a man from the North who will not bend from his principles; and not one of them thinks a doughface more to be valued than a cat’s-paw.’ We should think that Northerners who have apologized for slavery, and got down on their knees to do its bidding, would feel on reading this, that they have dirtied themselves all over for nothing.” ~ The Liberator.

April 25– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports that President Pierce and Senator Stephen A Douglas of Illinois are supporting Senator Robert M Hunter of Virginia, age 47, in opposition to James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, as the Democratic nominee for president.

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Senator Robert Hunter

 

April 26– Saturday– Melbourne, Australia– Birth of Joseph George Ward, who will become the 17th Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving from 1906 to 1912. [Dies July 8, 1930.]

April 29– Tuesday– New York City– “The official announcement that the treaty of peace [the Treaty of Paris, signed March 31st, ending the Crimean War] has at last been executed, will be received with almost universal satisfaction, although with little emotion, and no surprise. From the time when the propositions for peace were first suggested, up to yesterday afternoon, when the formal treaty was signed, scarcely any one, who gravely reflected on the matter, entertained much doubt as to what the issue would be. The public are not at present in possession of the particular terms upon which the treaty is based, but we believe that, as far as Great Britain is concerned, they will be strictly in accordance with what is fair and honorable. Although the mere announcement of the conclusion of Peace may be said to have excited comparatively little sensation, the circumstances attending it are already beginning to be felt. Lord Palmerston [British Prime Minister] assures us in his ministerial capacity, and with a full knowledge of what the terms of peace really are, that his ‘conviction is that the treaty which has just been concluded will be deemed satisfactory by this country and by Europe; that by the stipulations of the Treaty the integrity and independence of the Turkish Empire’ – that is to say, the sole object of the war– will be secured, as far as human arrangements can effect that purpose; that the Treaty is honorable to all Powers who are contracting parties to it, and that he (Lord Palmerston) trusts that while, on the one hand, it has put an end to a war which every friend of humanity must naturally have wished to see concluded, it will, on the other, lay the foundation of a lasting and enduring peace. Accompanying this assurance of the Premier, we may recognize the first fruits of peace in the general news of the day. The Bank of France has already reduced the rate of discount from £6 to £5 per cent., and the Bank of England is reported to be about to make a similar reduction. The accounts from the trading and manufacturing districts are also satisfactory.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

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