May ~ Election Year 1856

3334091662_46ee00f1a5

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.]

lucia-ames-mead

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.

am-i-not-a-man-and-a-brother-the-seal-everett

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.

Charles_Sumner_-_Brady-Handy

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.

Southern_Chivalry

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.

Sacking-lawrence

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.

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: