Monthly Archives: May 2016

May~Election Year 1876

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President Ulysses Grant would like to serve another term but his administration is wracked with scandal and the economy still suffers from the depression of 1873. Politicians debate about changes to the currency while workers look for help in emerging labor unions and third party movements. Neither major party seems to have a “big name” candidate in contention and critics find little differences between the two parties. The country begins the national celebration of one hundred years of independence as the Centennial Exposition opens in Philadelphia. The U S 7th Cavalry sets out upon a meeting with destiny

May 6– Saturday– New York City– “The schemers of the Republican Party take small heed of innoxious and ineffectual reformers in whose bosoms a deep-rooted prejudice against the Democratic opposition is stronger than the hatred of Republican corruption. The attitude in which these Republican protestants have placed themselves is of commanding significance only as a sign of the evil times upon which we have fallen. Whether they shall have strength and wisdom enough to rise to the height of the political emergencies thrust upon the country, will remain to be seen in the results of their deliberations.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

May 6– Saturday– Batak, Bulgaria– Irregular Ottoman soldiers complete several days of pillaging, burning and massacring local Christians, killing about 4100 or more people.

May 7– Sunday– Flushing, New York– Reverend William Buell Sprague, Presbyterian clergyman and author of the 9 volume Annals of the American Pulpit, dies at 80 years of age.

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Caroline Chapman

 

May 8– Monday– San Francisco, California– Caroline Chapman, a prominent stage actress during the 1840’s and 1850’s, dies at 58 years of age.

May 9– Tuesday– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania– An editorial in today’s Pittsburgh Press declares that “The Molly McGuires [sic] represented the spirit of French Communism . . . [they desired] to dictate the operation of labor.” [The Molly Maguires functioned as a secret or semi-secret fraternal organization and labor union among Irish coal miners in eastern Pennsylvania. The extent of their violence against mine owners, mine management and local authorities remains in dispute as Pinkerton detectives hired by the mine owners infiltrated the group and most likely fabricated some evidence against them. The last trial of the alleged ring leaders concluded a month ago (April, 1876) and next spring six of these men will hang. On the debated history, see: The Molly Maguires (1932) by Anthony Bimba; Labor Disturbances in Pennsylvania, 1850-1880 (1936) by J Walter Coleman; From the Molly Maguires to the United Mine Workers; the Social Ecology of an Industrial Union, 1869-1897 (1971) by Harold W Aurand; The Labor Wars: from the Molly Maguires to the Sitdowns (1973) by Sidney Lens; Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (1998) by Kevin Kenny; A Molly Maguire on Trial– the Thomas Munley Story (2002) by H T Crown; The Sons of Molly Maguire: the Irish Roots of America’s First Labor War (2015) by Mark Bulik.

May 10– Wednesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– The Centennial Exposition, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United States, opens today. [It will run until November 10, 1876 and draw 9,910,966 visitors.] [For more information, see, Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition (2005) by Linda P Gross and Theresa R Snyder and Culture as Curriculum: Education and the International Expositions– 1876-1904 (2012) by Eugene F Provenzo, Jr.]

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Opening Day of the Centennial Exposition

 

May 13– Saturday– New York City– “The scheme now before Congress to drive out the gold coins and replace them with silver dollars proposes a more important change in the money of the country than has been made since the issue of the legal-tender notes. There are so many conclusive objections to this rapacious and dishonest project, that we cannot even enumerate them here. It may be said, in the first place, that there is no good reason for any legislation at all on the subject of silver at this time. It is true that the inflationists on one side and the impracticable hard-money men on the other are clamoring for something to be done with the currency, but it is impossible to find any half-dozen men of either faction who agree as to the precise things they would do if they could have things their own way. The conclusion at which we arrived long ago was, that in the present state of business and of popular intelligence on the currency question the only safety consisted in letting things alone. Not that a statesmanlike measure could not be devised for assisting the nation out of its troubles, but that with Congress constituted as it is, such a measure was not to be hoped for. We think this silver-dollar scheme, which is not at all unlikely to become a law, fully justifies us in having advocated a policy of inaction.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

May 16– Tuesday– Indianapolis, Indiana– The National Convention of the Greenback Party opens with 239 delegates from 17 states in attendance.

May 16–Tuesday– Matamoros, Mexico–American sailors and marines land to protect American interests.

May 17– Wednesday– Indianapolis, Indiana– The National Convention of the Greenback Party concludes. The party’s platform declares “It is the paramount duty of the government, in all its legislation, to keep in view the full development of all legitimate business– agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and commercial. . . . We most earnestly protest against any further issue of gold bonds for sale in foreign markets, by which we would be made for a long period ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ to foreigners, especially as the American people would gladly and promptly take at par all bonds the government may need to sell, providing they are made payable at the option of the holder, and bearing interest at 3.65 per cent per annum, or even a lower rate. . . . We further protest against the sale of government bonds for the purpose of purchasing silver to be used as a substitute for our more convenient and less fractional currency, which, although well calculated to enrich owners of silver mines, yet in operation it will still further oppress, in taxation, an already overburdened people.”

May 17– Wednesday– Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory [now North Dakota]– Elements of the 7th U S Cavalry leave the fort headed for General Alfred Terry’s command along the Powder River with the aim of forcing the Lakota and Cheyenne people back onto reservations.

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soldiers of the 7th Cavalry

 

May 20– Saturday– New York City– “The event to which the whole nation has been looking forward with eager expectation passed off with all the éclat and splendor that the most ardent lover of his country could desire. For the last few days the busy hum of preparation has been heard from early morning until late at night, and so much remained to be done, that only by dint of superhuman exertion could the buildings be put in any suitable order for the inaugural ceremonies. The exhibitors, aided by the Commissioners, showed themselves equal to the occasion, and by nine o’clock on the 10th of May everything was in as great a state of forwardness as was witnessed on the first day in Paris or Vienna. Long before the hour appointed for the opening the entrances were besieged by a crowd of people who were prepared to pay the exact charge required for admission, and who were anxious to secure good positions for witnessing the ceremonies, and for gazing at the distinguished guests who were to occupy the seats of honor on the platform. The multitude was free to march through the Park, but the buildings were closed to them until the Exhibition had been declared open by the President of the United States.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

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Main Building of the Exposition

 

May 20– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Grant orders that “the several Departments of the Government will be closed on Tuesday, the 30th instant, to enable the employees to participate in the decoration of the graves of the soldiers who fell during the rebellion.”

May 27– Saturday– New York City– “Happily, the Centennial Exhibition comes just in the right time to mitigate the ferocity of our Presidential contest this year, as there is no knowing what might happen if there were no sideshow to divide the exasperation and energies of journalistic writers and political spouters. The Centennial serves as a tub for the whale. There is no lack of good, strong political objurgations, it must be confessed, but it must also be admitted that, in the general skirmishing preliminary to the great work of making the nominations for the Presidency, there is less bitterness of feeling exhibited than has ever been known before. This is not wholly owing to the diversion of popular sympathies and attention by the Centennial, but a good deal is owing to this cause beyond a question, and this is an additional reason for entertaining a jubilant feeling in this year of our great jubilee. The chief cause, however, of the moderate tone of the contest between the two great contending parties is that there is really so little difference between them, so far as any essential principle is involved, the contest being narrowed down to a choice of men rather than to an assertion of principles. And even in the choice of men there is so little to contend for that there is a widespread opinion entertained that the two leaders under whose banners the fight is to be conducted are both Great Unknowns; and there will hardly be time, after the nominations shall have been made, to get up much enthusiasm on either side. Certainly neither of the distinguished citizens whose names are now publicly discussed in connection with the nominations to be made are men calculated to create much popular enthusiasm.” ~ Frank Leslies Weekly

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Machinery Hall at the Exposition

 

May 28– Sunday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– Birth of Katharine Blunt, educator, home economist, nutritionist and author who will serve as president of Connecticut College from 1929 to 1943. [Dies July 29, 1954.]

May 29– Monday– Somerville, Massachusetts– Birth of Helen Woodard, home economist, researcher, author, and journal editor who will serve in the U S Department of Agriculture from 1909 to 1923 as well as on a number of committees relating to food, health, children and women. [Dies June 26, 1947.]

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Helen Woodard

 

May 30– Tuesday– Constantinople, Turkey– Sultan Abdulaziz, age 46, ruler of the Ottoman Empire since June, 1861, is deposed by a group of his ministers.

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May~Election Year 1932

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The United States keeps falling into the Great Depression and citizens look to the federal government to do something. Violence and political troubles shake Germany, France, New Zealand, Peru, Japan, India, Austria and Cuba.

May 2– Washington, D.C.– In the case of Nixon v Condon, the Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 decision holds the Democratic Party’s primary election system in Texas which excludes black people is unconstitutional. Justice Benjamin Cardozo writes the majority opinion while Justice James McReynolds writes for the four dissenters. Cardozo, age 62, is the newest member of the Court, appointed by the president on March 2nd.

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Benjamin Cardozo

 

May 3– Tuesday– New York City– Columbia University announces the winners of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes who include five reporters from the Detroit Free Press, one from the St Louis Post-Dispatch, one from the New York Times, and a cartoonist from the Chicago Tribune. Book awards go to Henry F Pringle for his biography Theodore Roosevelt, Pearl Buck for The Good Earth and retired General John J Pershing for My Experiences in the World War.

May 3– Tuesday– Sacramento, California– John Nance Garner, age 63, a lawyer and politician from Texas, wins the Democratic primary.

May 4– Wednesday– Moscow, Russia– The Soviet union and Estonia sign a non-aggression pact.

May 5– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The imperative need of the nation today is a definite and conclusive program for balancing the budget. Uncertainty is disastrous. It must be in every sense a national program. Sectional, partisan, group, or class considerations can have no place in it. Ours is a government of all the people, created to protect and promote the common good, and when the claims of any group or class are inconsistent with the welfare of all, they must give way.” ~ Message from President Herbert Hoover to Congress.

May 6– Friday– Paris, France– President Paul Doumer, age 75, is shot and mortally wounded by a Russian emigre named Paul Gorguloff at a book fair.

May 7– Saturday– Paris, France– President Paul Doumer dies of his wound.

May 9– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Hoover vetoes a bill which have allowed civilians who served in the Quartermaster Corps to be cared for in old soldiers’ home.

May 10– Tuesday– Paris, France– Albert Francois Lebrun becomes the new President of France.

May 10– Tuesday– Wellington, New Zealand– A riot ensues when the government refuses to respond to the demands of 4,000 relief workers.

May 12– Thursday– Hopewell Township, New Jersey– The body of Charles Lindbergh, Jr, the 20 month old son Charles Lindbergh, is found two months after his kidnaping.

May 12– Thursday– Berlin, Germany– Wilhelm Groener, Defense Minister, resigns from his post. The Reichstag is shut down after violence by four Nazi members.

May 13– Friday– Marseilles, France– Former king Alfonso XIII of Spain is assaulted by a Spanish citizen.

May 14– Saturday– Mexico City, Mexico– The government breaks diplomatic relations with Peru after that country accused Mexican diplomats of plotting to stir up public disorder.

May 15– Sunday– Tokyo, Japan– A group of naval officers and army cadets assassinate Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi in a failed coup attempt.

May 17– Tuesday– Bombay, India– British troops end four days of rioting between Hindus and Muslims by opening fire on the rival crowds.

May 18– Wednesday– Havana, Cuba– Police arrest several hundred people on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

May 19– Dublin, Ireland– By a vote of 77 to 69, the lower house of the Irish Free State parliament passes a bill to abolish the oath of allegiance to the English king which was mandated of all legislators by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 which had concluded the Irish War for Independence.

May 20– Friday– Vienna, Austria– Engelbert Dollfuss becomes Chancellor of Austria.

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Amelia Earhart

 

May 21–Saturday– Culmore, Northern Ireland–Amelia Earhart, age 34, arrives from Newfoundland, becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Engine trouble prevents her from going on to Paris as Charles Lindbergh had done.

May 22–Sunday– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania–The Pittsburgh Courier, an African American newspaper, criticizes the Hoover administration for providing only segregated facilities for black Gold Star Mothers going to visit the graves of their sons in Europe.

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Robert L Vann, founding editor of Pittsburgh Courier

 

May 22– Sunday– County Galway, Ireland– Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory, folklorist, poet, dramatist and key figure in the Irish literary revival, dies of breast cancer at 80 years of age.

May 22– Sunday– Tokyo, Japan– The Emperor appoints Saito Makoto as the new Prime Minister.

May 23– Monday– Geneva, Switzerland– The scientist Albert Einstein, age 53, issues a call for pacifists worldwide to demand total disarmament to take place within the next five years. “War can’t be humanized. It can only be abolished,” he asserts.

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Albert Einstein, circa 1921

 

May 25– Wednesday– Rome, Italy– Italy and Turkey renew their non-aggression treaty of 1928 for another five years and agree to improved trade relations.

May 26– Thursday– Hamburg, Germany– The shortage of food leads to a riot in which two people are killed.

May 27– Friday– Washington, D.C.– At his press conference President Hoover explains his opposition to a pending bill in Congress. “A total of over 3,500 projects of various kinds are proposed in this bill, scattered into every quarter of the United States. Many of these projects have heretofore been discredited by Congress because of useless extravagance involved. Many were originally authorized as justified only in the long-distant future. I do not believe that 20 percent could be brought to the stage of employment for a year. I am advised by the engineers that the amount of labor required to complete a group of $400 million of these works would amount to only 100,000 men for 1 year because they are in large degree mechanized jobs. This is not unemployment relief. It is the most gigantic pork barrel ever proposed to the American Congress. It is an unexampled raid on the Public Treasury. Detailed lists of these projects have been broadcast to every part of the country during the past 24 hours, to the cities, towns, villages, and sections who would receive a portion of this pork barrel. It is apparently expected that the cupidity of these towns and sections will demand that their Congressmen and Senators vote for this bill or threaten to penalize them if they fail to join in this squandering of money. I just do not believe that such lack of intelligence or cupidity exists amongst the people of the United States.”

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President Herbert Hoover

 

May 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I have received Your Majesty’s gracious message. The tribute which you and the Belgian people are paying on Decoration Day to the memory of those American soldiers and sailors who gave their lives for the cause of justice and whose bodies rest in Belgium, echoes and resounds in every American heart with gratitude and affection for their Belgian comrades and friends. I and my fellow country men in dedicating this day to our own dead will be keenly mindful of your own country’s great sacrifice and will bend our heads in silent prayer for Belgium’s heroic dead.” ~ Message from President Hoover to King Albert of Belgium, in response to the king’s memorial day message of friendship.

May ~ Election Year 1916

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The world is in turmoil as the United States prepares to elect a president. Incumbent Woodrow Wilson faces challenges within his party, from Republicans and from several third parties. Most of Europe is being consumed by the Great War. Yet all is not quiet in Western Hemisphere as the United States sends troops into Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Americans express concern for peace and want to avoid involvement in the war. Britain quells rebellion in Ireland and executes Irish leaders.

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Dublin’s General Post Office after the fighting

 

May 1– Monday– Dublin, Ireland–The Easter Rising collapses as Irish fighters, out-gunned by British forces either surrender or go into hiding. Sir John Maxwell, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces announces that all involved in the insurrection have surrendered. The dead include 82 Irish fighters, 126 British soldiers, 17 Irish police officers and 260 civilians.

May 1– Monday– The Hague, Netherlands– The German Counsel recruits a Dutch dancer and courtesan who uses the stage name Mata Hari, to serve as a spy for Germany. She has lived and worked in Paris since 1905 and has numerous friends and clients among French officials and officers.

May 3– Wednesday– New York City– The Socialist Labor Party of America concludes it five day national convention, having nominated Arthur Reimer, a Massachusetts lawyer, age 34 for president and issues its platform which calls upon working people to assume control of “industrial production.”

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May 3– Wednesday– Verdun, France– The Germans begin an intense artillery bombardment of the French position known as Cote 304.

May 4– Thursday– Dublin, Ireland– British authorities execute Ned Daly, Willie Pearse, Michael O’Hanrahan and Joseph Plunkett for their roles in the Easter Rising.

May 5– Friday– Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic– Two companies of U S Marines land from the U.S.S. Prairie to protect the U.S. Legation and the U.S. Consulate, and to occupy Fort San Geronimo. Within hours, the Marines are reinforced with seven additional companies.

May 5– Friday– Berlin, Germany– In response to American protests, the German government pledges not to sink any more merchant ships without warning and to allow time for crew and passengers to abandon ship.

May 5– Friday– Verdun, France– German troops begin an assault against Cote 304.

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tired French troops on Cote 304

 

May 7– Sunday– Waterbury, Connecticut– Mrs Ethel O’Neill and her sister Mrs Bedelia Griffen head to Washington, D.C., to call upon the State Department to have the British release their brother James Mark Sullivan whom the British government has charged with involvement in the Easter rising. [Sullivan, age 43, a lawyer born in Ireland, is a naturalized American citizen, was visiting family in Ireland and had a reputation for making anti-British public statements. He will be released by the British. He dies in Florida on August 15, 1935.]

May 8– Monday– Marathon, Texas– Units of United States cavalry set out to pursue Mexican raiders who attacked Texas towns.

May 8– Monday– Dublin, Ireland– British authorities execute Eamon Kent, Michael Mallin, Con Colbert and Sean Houston for their roles in the Easter Rising.

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location where Irish prisoners were executed

 

May 8– Monday– Verdun, France– After three days of fierce fighting German troops capture Cote 304.

May 9– Tuesday– Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania– About 15,000 workers at Westinghouse Electric plants who went out on strike April 22, return to work without winning any improvements in wages and working conditions as the company threatens to fire them all. However, the union reports that about 2,000 machinists have left the region to find work elsewhere.

May 9– Tuesday– New Haven, Connecticut– Homer S Cummings, a member of the Democratic National Committee, declares that Republican critics of President Wilson place party ahead of the best interests of the country and while attacking the current administration have offered “no definite policy indicating what alternative course the Administration could have pursued which would have more completely accorded with the dignity and traditions of America.”

May 11– Thursday– London, England– During a debate in Parliament on the Irish crisis, John Dillon of the Irish Parliamentary Party calls on the British government to end the executions of the Easter Rising leaders.

May 13– Saturday– New Hartford, Connecticut– Clara Louise Kellogg, dramatic soprano who was a popular performer in both the United States and Europe from 1863 through 1881, dies from cancer at 73 years of age.

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Clara Louise Kellogg

 

May 13– Saturday– London, England– The government orders the call-up of married men between the ages of 36 and 41 for military service.

May 13– Saturday– Luxeuil-les-Bains, France– The Escadrille Americaine, a/k/a the Lafayette Escadrille, American pilots fighting for the French, fly their first patrol.

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pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille

 

May 14– Sunday– New York City– In today’s New York Times Dr Abbott Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard, presents a lengthy article calling for educators to join others in building an international body of the League to Enforce Peace by utilizing arbitration, economic sanctions and an international tribunal to discourage nations from going to war. [Lowell, age 59, has been Harvard’s president since 1909. He is one of 7 children and his sisters are the poet Amy Lowell and the advocate of pre-natal care Elizabeth Lowell Putnam. He dies on January 6, 1943, ten years after leaving Harvard. On Lowell’s life and work, see Lawrence Lowell and His Revolution (1980) by Nathan M. Pusey. On the League to Enforce Peace, see Blocking New Wars (1918) by Herbert S Houston; The League to Enforce Peace (1944) by Ruhl J Bartlett; Development of the League of Nations Idea: Documents and Correspondence of Theodore Marburg (2003) edited by John H Latane.]

May 15– Monday– Waco, Texas– Jesse Washington, a teenaged black farmhand, is brutally lynched by a crowd of nearly 10,000 white people, for allegedly murdering his employer’s wife. He is mutilated, then hung and burned while photographs are taken and sold as souvenirs.

May 15– Monday– Trentino, Province, Italy– The Austrians launch a major offensive with a heavy artillery barrage which does severe damage to Italian positions.

May 16– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Speaking at the National Press Club President Wilson declares that the United States must remain out of the war in Europe so that it can, with other neutral nations, help build an impartial peace.

May 17– Wednesday– Limerick, Ireland– Thomas O’Dwyer, Roman Catholic Bishop, refuses a request to discipline two of his priests who expressed sympathies for the establishment of an Irish republic. He reminds British General Maxwell that the general has shown no mercy to those fighters who surrendered.

May 17– Wednesday– Rome, Italy– Sir Henry Howard, British Minister to the Vatican, reports that Pope Benedict XV has urged Germany to abandon submarine warfare.

May 18– Thursday– London, England– The Royal Commission established to inquire into the Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland, begins hearings today.

May 19– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Wilson and his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, head by train to North Carolina to visit several towns and cities, including Salisbury, Greensboro and Charlotte.

May 20– Saturday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– This issue of the Saturday Evening Post uses the first cover with a painting by a young artist named Norman Rockwell, age 22. The picture is entitled “Boy with Baby Carriage.”

May 20– Saturday– Charlotte, North Carolina– In a speech here President Wilson says that as the United States has learned and continues to learn “that it is made up out of all the nations of the world”, it can teach other countries how “this great cataclysm of European war” may “be turned into a coordination and cooperation of elements” which will make for “peace . . . accommodation and righteous judgment.”

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President Wilson prepares to speak from the back of a train

 

May 23– Tuesday– New York City– The sixth annual convention of the National Council of Settlements closes. Speaking at the luncheon Lillian D Wald warns against the rising spirit of militarism which threatens peace and can derail the social work of settlement houses. [On settlement houses generally, see Settlement Houses: Improving the Social Welfare of America’s Immigrants (2006) by Michael Friedman & Brett Friedman; American Settlement Houses and Progressive Social Reform: an Encyclopedia of the American Settlement Movement (1999) by Domenica M Barbuto; Settlement Houses and the Great Depression (1975) by Judith Ann Trolander; Children of the Settlement Houses (1998) by Caroline Arnold.

May 23– Tuesday– Vienna, Austria– The Austrian government is reviewing President Wilson’s speech of May 20th.

May 27– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “If it should ever be our privilege to suggest or initiate a movement for peace among the nations now at war, I am sure that the people of the United States would wish their Government to move along these lines: First, such a settlement with regard to their own immediate interests as the belligerents may agree upon. We have nothing material of any kind to ask for ourselves, and are quite aware that we are in no sense or degree parties to the present quarrel. Our interest is only in peace and its future guarantees. Second, an universal association of the nations to maintain the inviolate security of the highway of the seas for the common and unhindered use of all the nations of the world, and to prevent any war begun either contrary to treaty covenants or without warning and full submission of the causes to the opinion of the world,—a virtual guarantee of territorial integrity and political independence. But I did not come here, let me repeat, to discuss a program. I came only to avow a creed and give expression to the confidence I feel that the world is even now upon the eve of a great consummation, when some common force will be brought into existence which shall safeguard right as the first and most fundamental interest of all peoples and all governments, when coercion shall be summoned not to the service of political ambition or selfish hostility, but to the service of a common order, a common justice, and a common peace. God grant that the dawn of that day of frank dealing and of settled peace, concord, and cooperation may be near at hand!” ~ President Woodrow Wilson speaking to the First National Assembly of the League to Enforce Peace

May 30– Tuesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– Giving a Memorial Day speech at G. A. R Post #1, John Wanamaker, age 78, businessman, civic and political figure, asserts that the United States, as a friend to all nations, is called to emancipate the world from the scourge of war.

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John Wanamaker

 

May 30– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “I therefore suggest and request that throughout the nation and if possible in every community the fourteenth day of June be observed as FLAG DAY with special patriotic exercises, at which means shall be taken to give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in the history and our enthusiasm for the political program of the nation, our determination to make it greater and purer with each generation, and our resolution to demonstrate to all the world its, vital union in sentiment and purpose, accepting only those as true compatriots who feel as we do the compulsion of this supreme allegiance. Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation, ‘one and inseparable’ from which every thought that is not worthy of our fathers’ first vows in independence, liberty, and right shall be excluded and in which we shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself,-a nation signally distinguished among all the nations of mankind for its clear, individual conception alike of its duties and its privileges, its obligations and its rights.” ~ Proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson.

May 31– Wednesday– London, England– In a letter to the Times of London, Lord Cromer asserts that the British government has no confidence in President Wilson’s ability to broker peace. “It is more than doubtful in spite of the very friendly feelings entertained toward America and Americans generally that the people of this country would under any circumstances welcome the idea that President Wilson should assume the role of mediator.”

May 31– Wednesday– North Sea, near the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark– British naval forces of 111 warships commence the first day of a two day battle with 99 warships of the German navy.

May ~ Election Year 1864

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Certainly before this time, no American president had faced re-election in the midst of a difficult war, compounded by problems at home and abroad. Union military operations seemed stalled– Grant unable to reach Richmond, Sherman not yet at Atlanta. Casualties keep mounting higher and higher. A bogus proclamation appears in several New York newspapers. Black soldiers had been massacred. Radical Republicans break from the party and nominate their own candidate. A European power is meddling in the affairs of Mexico. Many fear that Lincoln cannot win again.

May 1– Sunday– New York City– “In another column we give copious extracts from our files of English journals, together with translations of notable passages from our French files, to illustrate the popular feeling abroad regarding the progress of events in Mexico. The supercilious, insulting tone in which reference is made to the disability of our Government to interfere at present with the erection of a monarchy upon the ruins of the Mexican Republic might, and perhaps would, excite our indignation, were it not for the ludicrous perplexity in which both the English and French journalists appear to be regarding what has actually been accomplished by Napoleon, and the fears which seem to haunt them unless the would-be Emperor may not after all find his path to the Mexican capital strewn with roses.” ~ New York Times

May 2– Monday– Washington, D.C.– A group of 73 women, most of them the wives of senators, congressmen, judges, clergy or military officers, form a “Ladies National Covenant” and agree to help the war effort by refraining from purchasing European goods. “For the good of our country and the honor of our sex, let us redeem ourselves from this reproach of wanton extravagance.” They agree to encourage women across the country to make the same pledge.

May 2– Monday– St Louis, Missouri– Birth of Alice Bertha Kroeger, first daughter and second child of Adolph and Eliza Curren Kroeger. She will become a librarian, author, lecturerer, advocate for suffrage, organizer and first director of the school of library science at Drexel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [Dies October 31, 1909]

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Gideon Welles

 

May 3– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “At the Cabinet-meeting the President requested each member to give him an opinion as to what course the Government should pursue in relation to the recent massacre at Fort Pillow. The committee from Congress who have visited the scene returned yesterday and will soon report. All the reported horrors are said to be verified. The President wishes to be prepared to act as soon as the subject is brought to his notice officially, and hence Cabinet advice in advance. The subject is one of great responsibility and great embarrassment, especially before we are in possession of the facts and evidence of the committee. There must be something in these terrible reports, but I distrust Congressional committees. They exaggerate.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 5– Thursday– Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania– Birth of Elizabeth Jane Cochran, a/k/a Nellie Bly, journalist, author and inventor. [Dies January 27, 1922.]

May 5– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “I have written a letter to the President in relation to the Fort Pillow massacre, but it is not satisfactory to me, nor can I make it so without the evidence of what was done, nor am I certain that even then I could come to a conclusion on so grave and important a question. The idea of retaliation,– killing man for man,– which is the popular noisy demand, is barbarous, and I cannot assent to or advise it. . . . The whole subject is beset with difficulties. I cannot yield to any inhuman scheme of retaliation. Must wait the publication of the testimony.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 6– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “Between Mr. Bates and Mr. Blair a suggestion came out that met my views better than anything that had previously been offered. It is that the President should by proclamation declare the officers who had command at the massacre outlaws, and require any of our officers who may capture them, to detain them in custody and not exchange them, but hold them to punishment. . . . I expressed myself favorable to this new suggestion, which relieved the subject of much of the difficulty. It avoids communication with the Rebel authorities. Takes the matter in our own hands. We get rid of the barbarity of retaliation. Stanton fell in with my suggestion, so far as to propose that, should Forrest, or Chalmers, or any officer conspicuous in this butchery be captured, he should be turned over for trial for the murders at Fort Pillow. I sat beside Chase and mentioned to him some of the advantages of this course, and he said it made a favorable impression. I urged him to say so, for it appeared to me that the President and Seward did not appreciate it. We get no tidings from the front. There is an impression that we are on the eve of a great battle and that it may already have commenced.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 7– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “Some fragmentary intelligence comes to us of a conflict of the two great armies. A two days’ fight is said to have taken place. The President came into my room about 1 p.m., and told me he had slept none last night. He lay down for a short time on the sofa in my room and detailed all the news he had gathered.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

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May 9– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “To the Friends of the Union and Liberty: Enough is known of the army operations within the last five days to claim our especial gratitude to God, while what remains undone demands our most sincere prayers to and reliance upon Him, without whom all human efforts are in vain. I recommend that all patriots, at their homes, in their places of public worship, and wherever they may be, unite in common thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God.” ~ Proclamation by President Lincoln.

May 13– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “The army news is interesting and as well received as the great loss of life will permit. Hancock has made a successful onset and captured Edward Johnson and two other generals, with about fifty other officers and four thousand prisoners, thirty pieces of cannon, etc. General Sheridan, with his cavalry, has got in rear of Lee and destroyed about ten miles of railroad, captured two trains, and destroyed the depot of Rebel supplies at Beaver Dam. Our troops are in good heart and everything looks auspicious for the republic. Many valuable lives have been offered up for the Union, and many a Rebel has fallen.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 13– Friday– Morris Island, South Carolina– “We have been fighting as brave as ever there was any soldiers fought. I know if every regiment that are out and have been out would have done as well as we have the war would be over. I do really think that it’s God’s will that this war Shall not end till the Colored people get their rights. It goes very hard for the White people to think of it But by God’s will and power they will have their rights. Us that are living now may not live to see it. I shall die a trying for our rights so that other that are born hereafter may live and enjoy a happy life.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Jacob Christy, a black man, to his sister Mary Jane Demus.

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May 16– Monday– near Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia– “We have had the best of the fighting so far and its my opinion that General Grant has got Lee in a pretty tight spot. We had a severe fight here on the 12th and the loss was heavy on both sides . . . . The Army is in first rate spirits and everyone seems confident and hopeful.”~ Letter from Union soldier George Whitman to his mother Louisa.

May 18– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Mr. Seward informed me that a forged proclamation had been published by sundry papers in New York, among others by the World and Journal of Commerce, imposing a fast on account of the failures of Grant and calling for a draft of 300,000 men. Seward said he at once sent on contradicting it . . . . He then had called on Stanton to know whether such a document had passed over the regular telegraph. Stanton said there had not. . . . Seward then asked if the World and Journal of Commerce had been shut up. Stanton said he knew of their course only a minute before. Seward said the papers had been published a minute too long; and Stanton said if he and the President directed, they should be suspended. Seward thought there should be no delay. Gold, under the excitement, has gone up ten per cent . . . . It seems to have been a cunningly devised scheme– probably by the Rebels and the gold speculators, as they are called, who are in sympathy with them.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 18– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Whereas there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning in the New York World and New York Journal of Commerce, newspapers printed and published in the city of New York, a false and spurious proclamation purporting to be signed by the President and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and to the rebels now at war against the Government and their aiders and abettors, you are therefore hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command the editors, proprietors, and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy; and you will hold the persons so arrested in close custody until they can be brought to trial before a military commission for their offense. You will also take possession by military force of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce, and hold the same until further orders, and prohibit any further publication therefrom.” ~ Executive order from President Lincoln to General John Adams Dix.

May 18– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Mother, I see such awful things– I expect one of these days, if I live, I shall have awful thoughts & dreams– but it is such a great thing to be able to do some real good, assuage these horrible pains & wounds, & save life even– that’s the only thing that keeps a fellow up,” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

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Walt Whitman

 

May 19– Thursday– New York City– “The undersigned, editors and publishers of a portion of the daily press of the city of New York, respectfully represent that the leading journals of this city sustain very extended telegraphic news arrangements, under an organization established in 1848 and known as the New York Associated Press, which is controlled by its members, acting through an executive committee, a general agent in this city, and assistant agents immediately responsible to the association at every important news center throughout this country and Europe. Under the above-named organization the rule has always been to transmit by telegraph all intelligence to the office of the general agent in this city, and by him the same is properly prepared for publication, and then written out by manifold process on tissue paper, and a copy of the same is sent simultaneously in sealed envelopes to each of the editors who are entitled to receive the same. From foregoing statement of facts Your Excellency will readily perceive that an ingenious rogue, knowing the manner in which the editors were supplied with much of their telegraphic news, could, by selecting his time and opportunity, easily impose upon editors or compositors the most wicked and fraudulent reports. . . . . the suspension by Your Excellency’s orders of the two papers last evening has had the effect to awaken editors and publishers and news agents, telegraph companies, &c., to the propriety of increased vigilance in their several duties, the undersigned respectfully request that Your Excellency will be pleased to rescind the order under which The World and the Journal of Commerce were suppressed.” ~ Message from Sidney Howard Gay of the New York Tribune, Erastus Brooks, of the New York Express, Frederick Hudson for James G. Bennett, of the New York Herald and Moses Sperry Beach, of the New York Sun to President Lincoln. [The four of them together represent a spectrum of both journalistic approaches and political views.]

May 19– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “The bogus proclamation has been the principal topic to-day. The knowledge that it is a forgery has not quieted the public mind.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 21– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln decides to lift publication ban on New York newspapers World and Journal of Commerce.

May 23– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “The author of the forged proclamation has been detected. His name is Howard, and he has been long connected with the New York press, but especially with the Times. . . . He is of a pestiferous class of reckless sensation-writers for an unscrupulous set of journalists who misinform the public mind. Scarcely one of them has regard for truth, and nearly all make use of their positions to subserve selfish, mercenary ends. This forger and falsifier Howard is a specimen of the miserable tribe. The seizure of the office of the World and Journal of Commerce for publishing this forgery was hasty, rash, inconsiderate, and wrong, and cannot be defended. They are mischievous and pernicious, working assiduously against the Union and the Government and giving countenance and encouragement to the Rebellion, but were in this instance the dupes, perhaps the willing dupes, of a knave and wretch.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 28–Saturday– Veracruz, Mexico– The nobles Maximilian, age 32, and his wife Charlotte, age 24, arrive from Europe. Maximilian has claimed the throne of Mexico at urging of and with the military support of French Emperor Napoleon III. [Maximilian will be captured by the Mexicans and executed June 19, 1867. Charlotte will flee to Europe before her husband’s capture and will eventually die in seclusion in Belgium on January 19, 1927.]

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Emperor Maximilian

 

May 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “The army movements have been interesting for the last few days, though not sensational. Grant has not obtained a victory but performed another remarkably successful flank movement. Sherman is progressing in Georgia.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 31–Tuesday– Cleveland, Ohio–A convention of 350 Radical Republicans nominates John C Fremont for president and John Cochran of New York for vice-president. Their platform calls for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, no compromise with the Confederacy, a one term limit for the office of president, direct election of president and vice-president, a policy of reconstruction for the defeated South to be set by Congress and not the president, the plantations of Southern rebels to be given to Union veterans and no toleration of “the establishment of any anti-republican government on this continent by any foreign power.”

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John C Fremont

 

May 31–Tuesday– Washington, D.C.–The House of Representatives defeats a resolution for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery [which will eventually become the Thirteenth Amendment] by a vote of 55 in favor but 75 opposed.

May~Election Year 1892

 

american-flag-pictures-8-622x415Former president Grover Cleveland seems close to the Democratic nomination in an effort to win another term. Although the incumbent Benjamin Harrison faces some opposition within the Republican party, he seems likely to be re-nominated. The conventions are scheduled for June, the Democratic in Chicago, the Republican in Minneapolis. Violence against black people in the South has some people concerned. With thousands of Civil War veterans from both sides still living, many, including President Harrison, take a conciliatory tone.

May 2– Monday– Liege, France– A bomb damages two wealthy homes but no one is killed or injured. Officials suspect socialists, communists or foreigners.

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Grover Cleveland

 

May 12– Thursday– New York City– The New York Times reports that with wins in three more Democratic state conventions, former president Grover Cleveland seems likely to be the Democratic candidate.

May 13– Friday– Ogdensburg, New York– Winning 49% of the vote, the Prohibition candidate wins the mayoral race against both a Democrat and a Republican.

May 13–Friday– Little Rock, Arkansas–While people lynch James Henry, a black man.

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a lynching in the South

 

May 14– Saturday– Berlin, Germany– Conservatives and moderates continue planning to restrict the involvement of Jews in political affairs.

May 15– Sunday– Orange, New Jersey– Carpenters and joiners plan to go on strike for the eight hour day.

May 16– Monday– New York City– A survey of opinions in Democratic newspapers published in today’s New York Times indicates that former president Grover Cleveland has strong support, particularly among workingmen and farmers.

May 17–Tuesday– Clarksville, Georgia–A white mob lynches three black men.

May 19–Thursday– Nigeria–As part of British efforts to expand control of trade in the interior area, British troops, armed with a Maxim gun, defeat Ijebu infantry at the battle of Yemoja River. Hundreds of Africans are killed.

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Maxim gun

 

May 21–Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “When you called upon me on the 13th day of May, just prior to my departure with Mrs. Harrison, I expressed myself somewhat fully to you orally upon the subject of the memorial which you submitted, and promised to respond in writing at the earliest practicable moment. Those who have read my public addresses and official papers must be aware of the fact that I have felt the reproach which lawlessness has brought upon some of our communities. I have endeavored to hold up the law as the one single admissible rule of conduct for good citizens. I have appealed against race discriminations as to civil rights and immunities, and have asked that law-abiding men of all creeds and all colors should unite to discourage and to suppress lawlessness. Lynchings are a reproach to any community; they impeach the adequacy of our institutions for the punishment of crime; they brutalize the participants and shame our Christian civilization. I have not time to explain to you the limitations of the Federal power further than to say that under the Constitution and laws I am, in a large measure, without the power to interfere for the prevention or punishment of these offenses. You will not need to be assured that the Department of Justice will let no case pass that is one of Federal jurisdiction without the most strenuous endeavors to bring the guilty persons to punishment. I will give the matter you have suggested the most serious consideration and you may be assured that my voice and help will be given to every effort to arouse the conscience of our people and to stimulate efficient efforts to reestablish the supremacy of the courts and public officers as the only proper agency for the detection arid punishment of crime and the only security of those who are falsely accused.” ~ Letter from President Benjamin Harrison to the Virginia State Baptist Convention on lawlessness in the Southern states.

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Benjamin Harrison

 

May 23– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Harrison announces his intention to seek another term.

May 24– London, England– Queen Victoria bestows the title of Duke of York upon her grandson Prince George of Wales, age 27, making him next in line to the throne after his father, Prince Edward. [George will ascend the throne after his father’s death in 1910 and will rule until his own death on January 20, 1936.]

May 28– Saturday– San Francisco, California– The naturalist and author John Muir, age 52, forms the Sierra Club to advocate for the conservation of nature.

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John Muir, circa 1902

 

May 30– Monday– Rochester, New York– “It took a great deal to separate the home-loving, peaceful people from their homes– these farmers and artisans and clerks and professional men. It must be a strong pull that could withdraw them from association that so closely bound their affections and their lives, but when the moment came and the dreaded war was present, with what magnificent self-denial, with what alacrity every family tie and every commercial interest were put beneath the supreme duty to save the nation and redeem the flag from dishonor. Out of this war we have brought a mutual respect that would not otherwise have been possible. Some of us fancied that the Southern people were given to vaporing– that each one of them was equal to five Northern soldiers. But the South learned that Paul Revere still rode the highways of Massachusetts, and that the man of Concord still plowed his fields. And we, on our part, learned that the spirit of the cavalier which was found in the Southern army was combined with the reserve and steadfastness of Cromwell’s Ironsides. We have found a plane of mutual respect, and I am glad of it; and not only this, but we have found a common country. I do not think– indeed, I am sure that no war ever waged in history before our civil war brought equal blessings to the victor and to the vanquished. No companies of weary, sad-eyed captives at the chariot wheel adorned our triumph and return. We brought into full participation in the glories of restored Union those who had mistakenly sought to destroy it. It gladdens my heart now to believe that the love of the old flag is so revived in these Southern hearts that they would vie with martial ardor to be in front of the charge if we should ever be called to meet a common enemy. Glorious victory and God-given and God-blessed peace! No yoke upon the defeated except that yoke which we wore, comrades, when we resumed our place as citizens– the obligation to obey the Constitution, and all laws made in pursuance of it, as the condition of peaceful citizenship.” ~ Address by President Benjamin Harrison at the dedication ceremony for the Union Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. [Harrison had served as an officer in the Union Army, commanding troops under General William Tecumseh Sherman in the drive to capture Atlanta, Georgia, in 1864. On Harrison’s life and legacy, see: Benjamin Harrison: Centennial President (2006) by Anne Chieko; Life and Public Services of Benjamin Harrison, Twenty-third President of the United States (1901) by James P Boyd.]

 

May ~ Election Year 1860

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The slavery question is dividing the country. Southern attempts to reinvigorate the African slave trade cause various problems. The new Republican Party nominates Illinois attorney Abe Lincoln for president and adopts a platform which promises protection for the rights of immigrants. [My, how things have changed in 2016!!] A sitting Supreme Court justice dies. [The Senate will defeat President Buchanan’s nominee but only after a proper hearing, debate and vote.]

May 3– Thursday– Washington, D.C.–The Senate defeats a treaty with Spain because it includes a payment for damages to the slave ship Amistad in the notorious 1839 slave revolt episode.

May 3– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina–After failing in 57 rounds of balloting to give Senator Douglas the nomination, the Northern Democratic delegates vote to adjourn the convention and to reconvene in Baltimore in June.

May 3– Thursday– Stockholm, Sweden– The thirty-four year old Charles XV is crowned as King of Sweden and Norway.

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King Charles XV ~ 1860

 

May 3– Thursday– Newcastle, England–A Quaker abolitionist, Anna H. Richardson writes to William Still, an African-American conductor on the underground railroad in Philadelphia, with a promise of five British pounds to support his work, saying she “would gladly have enclosed a £5 note in this envelope, but we are rather afraid of sending the actual money in letters, and our London bankers do not like to remit small sums. I shall continue to watch for the first opportunity of forwarding the above.”

May 6– Sunday– Atlantic Ocean–A U S warship captures the slaver Falmouth.

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May 9–Wednesday– Off the coast of Cuba– An American warship, the U.S.S. Wyandotte captures the slaver William in international waters. A Baltimore company owns the William which set sail from West Africa two months ago, bound for Cuba with a cargo of 744 slaves. When intercepted, 513 surviving Africans remain in the hold. The bodies of those who died were simply thrown overboard.

May 9–Wednesday– Baltimore, Maryland–In a one day convention, the Constitutional Union Party nominates John Bell of Tennessee for president and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for vice-president. They reject traditional specific platform statements and call for citizens to do “both the part of patriotism and of duty to recognize no political principle other than the Constitution of the Country, the Union of the States, and the Enforcement of the Laws, and that, as representatives of the Constitutional Union men of the country, in National Convention assembled, we hereby pledge ourselves to maintain, protect, and defend, separately and unitedly, these great principles of public liberty and national safety, against all enemies, at home and abroad; believing that thereby peace may once more be restored to the country.”

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Bell & Everett campaign poster

 

May 10– Thursday– New York City– The tenth National Women’s Rights Convention, held at the Cooper Union Hall, concludes it two-day meeting today. Approximately 700 persons are in attendance with Martha Coffin Pelham Wright as presiding officer. [Wright, 1806– 1875, a sister of Lucretia Coffin Mott, is a feminist and abolitionist and was one of the planners of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848.]

May 10–Thursday– Florence, Italy– Theodore Parker, clergyman, Transcendentalist, and abolitionist, dies of tuberculosis at age 49.

May 12–Saturday– Chicago, Illinois–The Republican national convention opens. Mary Ashton Rice Livermore covers the proceedings for New Covenant, a magazine which employs her as associate editor. By her presence she becomes the first woman working as a reporter to cover a political convention in the United States. [Livermore, 1820– 1905, is an advocate of temperance and of woman suffrage. During the Civil War she will work with the Chicago Sanitary Commission to meet the needs of Union soldiers.]

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Mary Livermore

 

May 14– Monday– Washington, D.C.– The first diplomatic mission from Japan to the United States arrives after a long journey from Japan, via Hawaii, San Francisco, and Panama. Excitement is high in the city and both the House of Representatives and the Senate adjourn so as to watch the visitors land. The seventy-four person party are hosted at the Willard Hotel in the city.

May 15– Tuesday– Savannah, Georgia– Birth of Ellen Louise Axson Wilson, who will become the first wife of Woodrow Wilson while he is a professor at Bryn Mawr College. She will die on August 6, 1914, while her husband serves his first term as President of the United States and war is erupting in Europe.

May 16– Wednesday– Buffalo, New York– Methodist bishops are meeting in their annual conference. The Committee on Slavery presents both a majority and minority report on the controversial topic with the majority wishing to strengthen language to say that the very holding of slaves is a sin, not just their sale or traffic. The minority report objects to any changes, saying the issue would make Methodism in the South impossible at such an “excited time.”

May 17– Thursday– Chicago, Illinois– The Republican Party adopts its platform which says, among other things:7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country. 8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that “no persons should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to givelegal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States. 9. That we brand the recent reopening of the African slave trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age; and we call upon Congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic. . . . . 14. That the Republican party is opposed to any change in our naturalization laws or any state legislation by which the rights of citizens hitherto accorded to immigrants from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired; and in favor of giving a full and efficient protection to the rights of all classes of citizens, whether native or naturalized, both at home and abroad. . . . 16. That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country; that the federal government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction; and that, as preliminary thereto, a daily overland mail should be promptly established.”

May 18– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–Today’s issue of The Liberator carries a letter from “T.T.C.” which criticizes Elizabeth Cady Stanton for disrupting the Anti-Slavery Society meeting in New York City with her demands for the rights of women.

May 18–Friday– Chicago, Illinois–The Republican national convention closes, having nominated Abraham Lincoln of Illinois for president and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for vice-president.

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May 19–Saturday– New York City–”The Chicago Convention nominates Lincoln and Hamlin. They will be beat, unless the South perpetrate some special act of idiocy, arrogance, or brutality before next fall. . . . The Tribune and other papers commend him [Lincoln] to popular favor as having but six months’ schooling in his whole life . . . . ‘Honest Abe’ sounds less efficient than ‘Fremont and Jessie,’ and that failed four years ago.” ~ George Templeton Strong.

May 19– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– On the 26th day of April last Lieutenant Craven, of the United States steamer Mohawk , captured the slaver Wildfire on the coast of Cuba, with 507 African Negroes on board. The prize was brought into Key West on the 31st of April and the Negroes were delivered into the custody of Fernando J. Moreno, marshal of the southern district of Florida. The question which now demands immediate decision is, What disposition shall be made of these Africans? In the annual message to Congress of December 6, 1858, I expressed my opinion in regard to the construction of the act of the 3rd March, 1819, ‘in addition to the acts prohibiting the slave trade,’ so far as the same is applicable to the present case. . . . The capturing officer, in case he should bring his prize directly to the United States, ought to be required to land the Negroes in some one or more ports, to be designated by Congress, where the prevailing health throughout the year is good. At these ports cheap but permanent accommodations might be provided for the Negroes until they could be sent away, without incurring the expense of erecting such accommodations at every port where the capturing officer may think proper to enter. On the present occasion these Negroes have been brought to Key West, and, according to the estimate presented by the marshal of the southern district of Florida to the Secretary of the Interior, the cost of providing temporary quarters for them will be $2,500 and the aggregate expenses for the single month of May will amount to $12,000. But this is far from being the worst evil. Within a few weeks the yellow fever will most probably prevail at Key West, and hence the marshal urges their removal from their present quarters at an early day, which must be done, in any event, as soon as practicable. For these reasons I earnestly commend this subject to the immediate attention of Congress. I transmit herewith a copy of the letter and estimate of Fernando J. Moreno, marshal of the southern district of Florida, to the Secretary of the Interior, dated 10th May, 1860, together with a copy of the letter of the Secretary of the Interior to myself, dated 16th May. It is truly lamentable that Great Britain and the United States should be obliged to expend such a vast amount of blood and treasure for the suppression of the African slave trade, and this when the only portions of the civilized world where it is tolerated and encouraged are the Spanish islands of Cuba and Porto Rico.” ~ Message to Congress from President James Buchanan.

May 21– Monday– Springfield, Illinois–Lincoln writes to his friend Joshua R Giddings, radical abolitionist, now age 64, retired from Congress and home in Jefferson, Ohio. “It is indeed, most grateful to my feelings, that the responsible position assigned me, comes without conditions, save only such honorable ones as are fairly implied. . . . Your letter comes to my aid in this point, most opportunely. May the Almighty grant that the cause of truth, justice, and humanity, shall in no wise suffer at my hands.”

May 22– Tuesday– New York City– George McClellan, age 33, weds Mary Ellen Marcy, age 25, at Calvary Church.

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McClellan & his wife Mary Ellen Marcy ~ he made her sit because she was a few inches taller than him

 

 

May 22–Tuesday– Charleston, South Carolina– “Our special dispatch announces the nomination of Levi Lincoln, of Illinois, to lead the future crusades of Northern fanaticism against the domestic institutions of the South. A great error of memory or haste has been committed, for the Savannah Republican cannot be ignorant of ‘Abe Lincoln,’ the great apostle of rail splitting, who has been selected to split the Union. ‘Abe’ is the man, not Levi.” ~ Charleston Courier

 

May 23–Wednesday– Off the coast of Cuba–An American warship seizes the slaver Bogota with 500 slaves on board.

May 23–Wednesday– Springfield, Illinois– Abraham Lincoln writes to George Ashmun, 56 years old and former Congressman from Massachusetts who is one of the founders of the Republican Party. “I accept the nomination tendered me by the Convention over which you presided, and of which I am formally apprized in the letter of yourself and others, acting as a committee of the convention, for the purpose. The declaration of principles and sentiments, which accompanies your letter, meets my approval; and it shall be my care not to violate, or disregard it, in any part. Imploring the assistance of Divine Providence, and with due regard to the views and feelings of all who were represented in the convention; to the rights of all the states, and territories, and people of the nation; to the inviolability of the constitution, and the perpetual union, harmony, and prosperity of all, I am most happy to co-operate for the practical success of the principles declared by the convention.”

May 25–Friday– Boston, Massachusetts–Today’s issue of Garrison’s Liberator contains a notice of a meeting soon to be held at Mercantile Hall to consider the formation of a political anti-slavery party and “to take such other political action as may be deemed advisable.”

May 26–Saturday– Rochester, New York–Frederick Douglass writes to British friends to explain why he has returned to the United States. “Even in the event of the election of a Republican President, which I still hopefully anticipate, the real work of abolitionizing the public mind will still remain, and every pen, press and voice now employed will then, as now, be needed to carry forward that great work. The Republican party is . . . only negatively anti-slavery. It is opposed to the political power of slavery, rather than to the slave power itself . . . . The triumph of the Republican party will only open the way for this great work.”

May 28– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts–The American Peace Society, with only a few members in attendance, convenes its annual meeting and calls for arbitration and peace between North and South.

May 30–Wednesday–Washington–Congressman Schuyler Colfax of Indiana writes to candidate Lincoln to inform him about discussion with another representative from Indiana. “The Chicago platform contained some things with which he did not agree: but knowing you, & having confidence in you, both from personal knowledge & from having read your discussions with Douglas, he had the highest possible confidence in you, and the most assured conviction that you could do right. That Indiana must not be carried by the Democracy; and that he expected to oppose the formation of any Bell Electoral ticket in the State, so that it might be carried for you, as, in the event, it would certainly be.”

May 31–Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– Peter Vivian Daniel, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court , age 76, dies at his home. A Democrat appointed by President Van Buren in 1841, Justice Daniel has been a defender of states’ rights, limited government, and slavery. [The Senate will reject President James Buchanan’s choice, Jeremiah Black of Pennsylvania, by one vote on February 21, 1861, and Daniel’s seat on the Court will remain empty until July 16, 1862, when President Lincoln will nominate Samuel F. Miller of Iowa.]

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Justice Peter Daniel

May ~ Election Year 1856

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If there was any doubt, it becomes even more clear that slavery is a political and religious issue diving the country. Increased violence in Kansas provides a preview of what will come in 1861. And the attack upon Massachusetts Senator Sumner in the Senate chamber adds fuel to an increasing fire.

May 2– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “It is in no spirit of pride or fancied superiority that we make our appeal, but rather in a spirit of self-humiliation, remembering that we also (by being a part of the nation) are implemented in upholding slavery, and partakers (in a measure) of this very great iniquity. Therefore do we the more earnestly, but respectfully, appeal to you to do all in your power for the immediate, entire and unqualified emancipation of all the slaves throughout our land; and, so far as rights are concerned, place them, together with the free blacks, on an equality with the whites. Especially do we appeal to you, on the ground of justice and legality, to permit no slavery in the Territories, to do away with the domestic slave traffic between the States, and slavery in the District of Columbia. Congress having exclusive jurisdiction over these, we consider you have not even a legal, much less a just excuse for permitting or continuing slavery in them. And, in case of non-performance, we conceive the very great responsibility will attach to you of endangering the peace and the welfare of this great nation, for the best antagonistic in principle, cannot dwell together without eventually destroying the peace and unity, which should bind together, in the arms of justice and love, all nations. Under a sense of this great evil, we entreat you to labor untiringly for the establishing in the nation the standard of right. Delays are dangerous: the present time only is available for the performance of duty.” ~ Petition to the U S Congress from a quarterly meeting of the Society of Friends [Quakers], held at Easton, New York, reprinted in The Liberator.

May 5– Monday– Boscawen, New Hampshire– Birth of Lucy Jane Ames a/k/a Lucia True Ames Mead, pacifist, internationalist, suffragist, author, lecturer and an activist in the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Peace Society, the National Council for the Prevention of War and the League for Permanent Peace. [Dies November 1, 1936.]

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Lucia True Ames Mead

 

May 6– Tuesday– Freiberg, Moravia, in the Austrian Empire [now part of the Czech Republic]– Birth of Sigmund Freud, neurologist and father of psychoanalysis. [Dies September 23, 1939.]

May 7– Wednesday– New York City– “We may now end this crime against humanity by ballots; wait a little and only with sword and blood can this deep and widening blot of shame be scoured out from the Continent. No election since that first and unopposed of Washington has been so important to America as this now before us. Once the nation chose between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson. When the choice is between slavery and freedom, will the North choose wrong? Any railroad company may, by accident, elect a knave for President, but when he has been convicted for squandering their substance on himself, and blowing up their engines, nay, destroying their sons and daughters, will the stockholders choose the swindler forever? I think we shall put slavery down. I have small doubt of that. But shall we do it now and without tumult, or by and by with a dreadful revolution, . . . massacres and the ghastly work of war? Shall America decide for wickedness, extend the dark places of the earth, filled up fuller with the habitations of cruelty? Then our ruin is certain—is also just. The power of self-rule, which we were not fit for, will pass from our hands, and the halter of vengeance will grip our neck, and America will lie there on the shore of the sea, one other victim who fell as the fool dieth. What a ruin it would be! Come away– I cannot look even in fancy on so foul a sight!” ~ Speech of Theodore Parker at the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Theodore_Parker_BPL_c1855-crop

Theodore Parker

 

May 9– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Are these the ‘Evangelical Christians’ whom the officers of the Tract Society dare not offend? These men, who sell their brother-believers, because they are poor, to ‘support the Gospel’ for themselves and their children – who make the family a farce, and build their churches by such horrible co-partnership with the dealers in human souls– are they the ones whose resistance is to still the voice of American Christendom on those questions of our times which are a thousand-fold more deep and urgent than any other? Is it the men whose hands are dripping with this bloody sweat, wrung from the anguished souls whom God created in his own image, and whom the Savior died to redeem, whose anticipated remonstrance is more powerful at the Tract House than all the impulses of Humanity and Religion? Fellow-Christians at the North—Fellow-CHRISTIANS at the South, if there are those there, as we believe, to whom such horrible wickedness as this is just as abhorrent as it is to us – shall these things be, without dissent, and be for ever! Then there is one inspired utterance of the great and fervent Apostle to the Gentiles which flashes into the memory like a very bolt of light from the mind of God himself: ‘Ye Cannot Drink the Cup of The Lord, and the Cup of Devils !’” ~ The Liberator

May 11– Sunday– Monterey, California– Thee Mexicans along with one Native American, all awaiting trial, are snatched from the jail and lynched by a mob.

May 14– Wednesday– Salamanca, New York– Birth of Julia Dempsey, who in 1878 will enter an order of Catholic nuns, taking the name of Sister Mary Joseph and will become a hospital administrator and surgical assistant to Dr William J Mayo at St Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. [Dies March 29, 1939.]

May 16– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “It is [the] Democratic [Party] now to break faith plighted between the States, in compacts made to preserve the Union and its peace. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now to break faith with the constitution, and violate the representative principle on which our republics are all founded. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now to disobey the instructions of constituent bodies, and exert the force of the Government to defeat the efforts of the people to redress the wrong committed by one set of representatives, by turning them out and choosing another. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now, after nullifying the clause authorizing Congress to make rules and regulations for the Territories, and all the compromises regulating their mode of settlement, and Interpolating the new principle of non-intervention as the substitute, to connive at the use of armed force to defeat the new law—to drive the settlers from the polls where they were invited to decide the question of Slavery—to introduce voters from a slave State to impose Slavery on the Territory against the w of the rightful voters, the actual settlers—and to elect a Legislature representing the slaveholders of the invading State—to usurp the Government of the Territory—repeal the organic act of Congress, and destroy the rights guaranteed under it. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now to defend the establishment of test oaths, requiring all settlers opposed to slavery to swear allegiance to a law they hold to be unconstitutional, to entitle them to suffrage, and enabling these not entitled to vote as settlers, to avoid taking the oath of residence, on which the right of suffrage depends, by paying a dollar as a substitute for all other qualifications. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now to expel, as aliens, citizens invited by the act of Congress to settle the Territory, and to intimidate emigrants opposed to slavery from entering, by examples of Lynch law which would disgrace barbarians. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now to put sedition laws, prohibiting discussion and the denial of slave-ownership where slavery was not authorized, denouncing the penalty of death against that as a crime which the organic law required as a duty to be performed by the people. It is [the] Democratic [Party] now in a President to see his reign of terror established by force of arms, and a usurpation made to triumph over the laws of the United States, by a series of invasions publicly prepared, announced in advance, and occupying more than a year in accomplishing their object, and yet not to raise a finger to avert the wrong; but after its consummation, to proclaim that he would use all the force of the Union, of the army and the militia, if necessary, to maintain it.” ~ The Liberator.

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May 17– Saturday–New York City– “The Legislature of Ohio has adjourned without doing anything towards extending the privileges of the elective franchise to those who are deprived of it by constitutional provision. Memorials for this purpose were addressed to the Legislature in behalf of the disfranchised women and colored people. Some of the petitions embracing both classes, others one of them. The colored people themselves sent in a memorial, in regard to their case, which was referred to a special committee. So far as we are informed, that committee never reported at all on the subject. A joint committee of both Houses was appointed to report amendments to the Constitution. They reported several clauses for amendment. But no redress was proposed for the disfranchised. The Presidential election was too near at hand, for a majority of Republicans to jeopardize their prospect of success, by advocating or granting equal rights to all.” ~ National Anti-Slavery Standard.

May 20– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– In the Senate, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivers a passionate verbal attack upon slavery, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the senators who support both.

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Senator Sumner

 

May 20– Tuesday– Edinburgh, Scotland– Birth of Helen Hopekirk, composer, concert performer and educator. [Dies November 19, 1945.]

May 21– Wednesday– New York City– Birth of Grace Hoadley Dodge, social welfare worker, educator, author, advocate for working women and philanthropist. [Dies December 27, 1914.]

May 21– Wednesday– Lawrence, Kansas– Pro-slavery forces attack and burn much of the town.

May 22– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– In the Senate chamber Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina viciously attacks Senator Charles Sumner with a stout wooden cane and so seriously injures him that Sumner will be unable to return to the Senate until 1859. [On Sumner and the attack, see: Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (1960) by David Herbert Donald; The Caning of Charles Sumner (2003) by Lloyd Benson; The Caning: the Assault That Drove America to Civil War (2012) by Stephen Puleo.

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May 23– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Friend Garrison, That devoted and efficient worker in the field of anti-slavery labor, Sallie Holley, spoke in Florence last Thursday evening, and twice in this village on Sunday, the 18th, in the Town Hall. This is her first visit to Northampton, and I think her lectures have been quite useful to the cause. She spoke earnestly and impassioned. Her meetings were not large, but composed of attentive and thoughtful listeners. This, you know, is a church-going town, and so full of piety that there is no room for the practical religion of anti-slavery. The eulogizers of Daniel Webster can have the highest pulpit in the place, while the Christ-like defender of the outraged and down-trodden slave would be deemed a sacrilegious and Sabbath-breaking intruder. Still, there are progressive spirits here and if the so-called religion teachers would go into the kingdom themselves, or suffer them that are entering to go in, the town might be thoroughly abolitionized; and so of every other place.” ~ Letter to Garrison from Seth Nuni, appearing in today’s issue of The Liberator. [On the life and work of Sallie Holley (1818–1893), see A Life for Liberty: Anti-slavery and Other Letters of Sallie Holley (1899) by John White Chadwick.]

sallie holley

Sallie Holley

 

May 24– Saturday– New York City– “The Anti-Slavery cause has at length, after a quarter of a century of labors, taken possession, in one form or another, of almost every mind in our American community. To men of great sympathies, it has shown the sufferings of the slave; to men of a profound sense of right, it has shown his wrongs; to men whose hope is in another life, it has shown him deprived of Bibles, and Sabbaths, and sanctuary privileges; to men whose hope is in this life, it has shown him deprived of education and the means of self-improvement and success. To patriots, it has shown their country’s shame and danger. To politicians, it has shown one most selfish and accursed interest devouring every true one. To Christians, it has shown their Redeemer crucified afresh in the persons of these the least of his brethren. To philanthropists, it has shown human nature degraded and ruined in the person of both master and slave, by the outrages of the one against the liberty of the other.” ~ The National Anti-Slavery Standard.

May 24– Saturday– Dutch Henry’s Crossing, Kansas Territory– Militant abolitionist John Brown and his followers kill 25 pro-slavery settlers.

May 26– Monday– Wilmington, North Carolina–What we have to say with regard to this affair shall be brief. We think Sumner deserved what he got, but we do not approve the conduct of Brooks. Sumner had not insulted him, and he was not called upon to resent an indignity offered to Senator Butler, even though the latter was his relative and absent. Again, he attacked Sumner under very reprehensible circumstances. He caned him in the Senate chamber, and took him, moreover, at an advantage – while sitting in his chair. The Senate Chamber is not the arena for exhibitions of this character. It is disgraceful that scenes of violence like these should be permitted to occur within it. – If Congress is to be leveled to a mere ring for bullying and fighting, we had best amend the Constitution and abolish the Congress. We should at least preserve more respectability at home and abroad.” ~ Wilmington Daily Herald

May 29– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina– Reverend Thomas Smith (1808– 1873), a Presbyterian minister, sells about half of the 20,000 books in his personal library to Columbia [South Carolina] Theological Seminary for $14,400. [This would equal $415,000 in today’s dollars using the Consumer Price Index.]

May 30– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– In today’s issue of The Liberator, Garrison provides detailed information about the “attempt to murder” Senator Charles Sumner and on the destruction of Lawrence, Kansas.

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damage to Lawrence, Kansas

 

May 31– Saturday– Washington, D. C.– “The Senate, last Thursday, was crowded with spectators, anxious to know what course that body would pursue in relation to the outrage on Mr. Sumner, and in vindication of its privileges. After the brief, unimpassioned statement made by Senator Wilson, . . . there was a pause, it being expected that some member of the majority would move in the matter, but, as it was soon evident that no motion would come from that quarter, Mr. Seward moved the appointment of a Committee. Then the majority spoke through Senator Mason, who, unwilling to trust the appointment of the Committee to the Chair, suggested that it be elected by the Senate. The motion having been amended accordingly, it was passed unanimously, and the Senate then elected Messrs. Cass, Allen, Dodge, Pearce, and Geyer– all political opponents of Mr. Sumner, the majority taking special care to allow on the Committee not a single political friend! Such is Senatorial magnanimity. Had any other deliberating body done likewise, we might have been surprised. However, we are content. It is well that the majority have assumed the responsibility of determining what are the rights and privileges of the Senate, what protection is due to its members. Let them look at it. Their own rights are involved in the decision they may make. Their action now must furnish a precedent for proceedings hereafter, should one of their own number become a victim to lawless violence. Majorities in this country are changing – the minority in that Senate is destined to become the majority, and rules now established it will then have the benefit of. In the House, as usual, an attempt was made to prevent any action in the premises, and at one time the Southern members seemed disposed, by a resort to factious motions and calls for the yeas and nays, to hold the majority at bay- but this policy was soon abandoned.” ~ The National Era.