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

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