August ~ Election Year 1856

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The new Republican Party, in its first presidential bid with the candidacy of John Fremont, finds active participation by Attorney Abraham Lincoln. The incumbent president, Franklin Pierce, finds little cooperation from Congress and his hands full with diplomatic relations. The first American diplomat arrives in Japan. The slavery issue remains heated. The British press stands aghast at the assault on Senator Charles Sumner.

August 1– Friday– Springfield, Illinois– Abraham Lincoln, joined by Mr Yates, Mr Herndon, and Mr Jayne, sign a note to John M. Palmer, encouraging him to be patient. “It is our judgment that whether you do or do not finally stand as a candidate for Congress, it is better for you to not to publicly decline for a while. It is a long time till the election; and what may turn up no one can tell.”

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Lawyer Lincoln

 

August 2– Saturday– Keene New Hampshire– Birth of Eliza White, author of 29 books for children as well as 9 novels for adults. [Dies January 23, 1947.]

August 4– Monday– New York City– “Our brethren of the South are surely mad. . . . Mr Ruggles told me that ‘if Fremont were elected, he would never be permitted to reach Washington.’ Their brag and bluster can’t well be paralleled, . . . . There are germs of insurrection among the ‘poor trash,’ the plebeians who don’t own Negroes. Such a movement once formed and recognized must triumph sooner or later, and Negro emancipation and the downfall of the . . . aristocracy of those states must follow.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

August 4– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I herewith lay before the House of Representatives a report of the Secretary of War, in reply to a resolution of the House requesting information in regard to the construction of the Capitol and Post-Office extensions.” ~ Message from President Pierce to the House of Representatives.

August 6– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “In compliance with a resolution of the Senate of the 28th ultimo, requesting the President to inform the Senate in relation to any application by the governor of the State of California to maintain the laws and peace of the said State against the usurped authority of an organization calling itself the committee of vigilance in the city and county of San Francisco, and also to lay before the Senate whatever information he may have in respect to the proceedings of the said committee of vigilance, I transmit the accompanying reports from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Navy.” ~ Message from President Pierce to the Senate.

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President Pierce

 

August 7– Thursday– Grand View, Illinois– Abraham Lincoln is one of the speakers at a Republican rally to support John Fremont.

August 8– Friday– Charleston, Illinois– About 6,000 people attend a Fremont rally and hear a speech from Mr Lincoln, among others. A reporter notes that the crowd gives him “marked attention and approbation.”

August 9– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “I transmit to the Senate, for its consideration with a view to ratification, a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation, and for the surrender of fugitive criminals, between the United States and the Republic of Venezuela, signed at Caracas on the 10th of July last.” ~ Message from President Pierce to the Senate.

August 11– Monday– Washington, D. C.– “I return herewith to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, a bill entitled ‘An act for continuing the improvement of the Des Moines Rapids, in the Mississippi River,’ and submit it for reconsideration, because it is, in my judgment, liable to the objections to the prosecution of internal improvements by the General Government set forth at length in a communication addressed by me to the two Houses of Congress on the 30th day of December, 1854, and in other subsequent messages upon the same subject, to which on this occasion I respectfully refer.” ~ Veto message from President Pierce.

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August 12– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “I transmit a report from the Secretary of State, with accompanying papers, in answer to the resolution of the Senate of yesterday.” ~ Message from President Pierce to the Senate. [These documents are relating to The declaration concerning maritime law, adopted by the diplomats of Great Britain, Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, and Turkey at Paris April 16, 1856.]

August 13– Wednesday– Oberlin, Ohio– “The Bible represents Satan as ruling the hearts of men at his will, just as the men who wield the slave power of the South rule the dough faces of the North at their will, dictating the choice of our Presidents and the entire legislation of the Federal Government. So Satan ruled Eve in the garden, so he now ‘works in the children of disobedience.’”~ Reverend Charles G Finney in the Oberlin Evangelist.

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Reverend Charles G Finney

 

August 14– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “I return herewith to the Senate, in which it originated, a bill entitled ‘An act for the improvement of the navigation of the Patapsco River and to render the port of Baltimore accessible to the war steamers of the United States,’ and submit it for reconsideration, because it is, in my judgment, liable to the objections to the prosecution of internal improvements by the General Government set forth at length in a communication addressed by me to the two Houses of Congress on the 30th day of December, 1854, and other subsequent messages upon the same subject, to which on this occasion I respectfully refer.” ~ Veto message from President Pierce.

August 15– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “The Fourteenth annual meeting of the Western Anti-Slavery Society will be held in Salem, Ohio, commencing on Saturday, the 30th of August, at 10o’clock, A.M., and continue three days. There probably was never a time when the Anti-slavery cause required of its friends a more stern and faithful advocacy than the present. As their principles have been proclaimed amid scorn, and continually without concealment, so should they be proclaimed amid the strife of political elements, and the allurements of party interest, without compromise. While they may congratulate themselves upon the increasing favor with which their doctrines are received by the popular mind, they should not for a moment cease to inculcate the duty and necessity of demanding, not he restoration of a pro-slavery compromise of former days, not the more limitation of chattelism to State boundaries, but that every friend of human rights should cease to support, by speech or vote, by influence direct or indirect, the system of American Slavery. The infamous Slave Law of 1850, the Border foray upon Kansas, the recent cowardly and murderess attack in the Senate Chamber upon a member of the upper House [attack upon Senator Charles Sumner], are so many evidences of the utter hopelessness of abolitionists effectually laboring to promote the downfall of’ the peculiar institution, except they practically adopt the motto of ‘No Union with Slave-holders.’ All who hate slavery, and seek its extinction, are invited to assemble with us for inquiry, for counsel, and for aid. It is expected that Parker Pillsbury will be present on the occasion, and again greet his Western friends; Charles L. Remond and A. T. Foss have also given us encouragement to hope they will be with us, as well as some others whom we cannot now announce.” ~ The Liberator.

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August 16– Saturday– Oregon, Illinois– A large crowd gathers at the public square, and “then moved to a beautiful grove on the banks of Rock River. After partaking of a repast prepared by the ladies of Ogle County . . . the people listened to most excellent speeches from Honorable Abraham Lincoln, and Honorable John Wentworth” in support of Republican candidates, according to a man who was present.

August 17– Sunday– Hadlyme, Connecticut– Birth of Martha Hillard MacLeish, educator, church leader, community worker and mother of poet Archibald Macleish. [Dies December 19, 1947.]

August 18– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Whereas whilst hostilities exist with various Indian tribes on the remote frontiers of the United States, and whilst in other respects the public peace is seriously threatened, Congress has adjourned without granting necessary supplies for the Army, depriving the Executive of the power to perform his duty in relation to the common defense and security, and an extraordinary occasion has thus arisen for assembling the two Houses of Congress, I do therefore by this my proclamation convene the said Houses to meet in the Capitol, at the city of Washington, on Thursday, the 21st day of August instant, hereby requiring the respective Senators and Representatives then and there to assemble to consult and determine on such measures as the state of the Union may seem to require.” ~ President Pierce calls Congress into special session.

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August 21– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “To refuse supplies to the Army, therefore, is to compel the complete cessation of all its operations and its practical disbandment, and thus to invite hordes of predatory savages from the Western plains and the Rocky Mountains to spread devastation along a frontier of more than 4,000 miles in extent and to deliver up the sparse population of a vast tract of country to rapine and murder. Such, in substance, would be the direct and immediate effects of the refusal of Congress, for the first time in the history of the Government, to grant supplies for the maintenance of the Army– the inevitable waste of millions of public treasure; the infliction of extreme wrong upon all persons connected with the military establishment by service, employment, or contracts; the recall of our forces from the field; the fearful sacrifice of life and incalculable destruction of property on the remote frontiers; the striking of our national flag on the battlements of the fortresses which defend our maritime cities against foreign invasion; the violation of the public honor and good faith, and the discredit of the United States in the eyes of the civilized world. I confidently trust that these considerations, and others appertaining to the domestic peace of the country which can not fail to suggest themselves to every patriotic mind, will on reflection be duly appreciated by both Houses of Congress and induce the enactment of the requisite provisions of law for the support of the Army of the United States.” ~ Message from President Pierce to Congress concerning the business of the special session.

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Townsend Harris

 

August 21– Thursday– Shimoda, Japan– America’s first diplomat to Japan, Townsend Harris, arrives. [Harris, age 52, born in New York, a merchant, politician and diplomat, works hard and successfully to build trust and friendship with the Japanese. Widely read and mostly self-educated, he speaks French, Spanish and Italian. In 1847 he founded what became the City College of New York. He will return to the United States in 1861 and dies February 25, 1878. On his life and work, see: Harris of Japan (1939) by Carl Crow; Townsend Harris, First American Envoy in Japan (1895) by William Elliot Griffis; The Complete Journal of Townsend Harris (1959); Behind the Silken Curtain; the Story of Townsend Harris (1961) by Israel E Levine.

August 22– Friday–Boston, Massachusetts– “I am moving about in this sad Lancaster fulfilling my appointments, and endeavoring to all, both Jews and Greeks, the more excellent [ways] of securing the triumphs of freedom and the overthrow of slavery, than by rushing into any political party, and withdrawing their energies from every other point, in order to concentrate all on the election of Colonel Fremont. The Fremont enthusiasm is very great here, exceeding any thing I have seen in New England. I frankly admit to them, that all the political anti-slavery there is, is embodied in the Republican party; but I argue to them, that it is wholly inadequate to the purposes of Freedom, and to saving us from the toils of the Slave Power. Some of the Fremont people are very earnest in laboring with me, to induce me to omit all discussion of the United States Constitution, and of Disunion, and Non-Voting. They speak at my meetings and they call on me is private.” ~ Letter from Reverend Samuel J May in today’s issue of The Liberator. May writes from his speaking tour in eastern Pennsylvania.

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Reverend Samuel J May

 

August 27– Wednesday– Kalamazoo, Michigan– “We are a great empire. We are eighty years old. We stand at once the wonder and admiration of the whole world, and we must enquire what it is that has given us so much prosperity, and we shall understand that to give up that one thing, would be to give up all future prosperity. This cause is that every man can make himself. It has been said that such a race of prosperity has been run nowhere else. We find a people on the North-east, who have a different government from ours, being ruled by a Queen. Turning to the South, we see a people who, while they boast of being free, keep their fellow beings in bondage. Compare our Free States with either, shall we say here that we have no interest in keeping that principle alive? Shall we say– ‘Let it be?’ No– we have an interest in the maintenance of the principles of the Government, and without this interest, it is worth nothing. I have noticed in Southern newspapers, particularly the Richmond Enquirer, the Southern view of the Free States. They insist that slavery has a right to spread. They defend it upon principle. They insist that their slaves are far better off than Northern freemen. What a mistaken view do these men have of Northern laborers! They think that men are always to remain laborers here– but there is no such class. The man who labored for another last year, this year labors for himself, and next year he will hire others to labor for him. These men don’t understand when they think in this manner of Northern free labor. When these reasons can be introduced, tell me not that we have no interest in keeping the Territories free for the settlement of free laborers.” ~ Speech by Abraham Lincoln in support of Fremont.

August 29– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Among the most shocking– to our notions, at least– was the assault recently committed by the representative of South Carolina, Mr. Brooks, on Mr. Sumner, Senator of Massachusetts. The provocation was a speech delivered in the Senate by the latter on the side of the abolitionists. The speech was elaborately strong, but not stronger than many delivered within the walls of our own Parliament during the discussion on the Reform and Emancipation Bills. But it was strong enough to excite Mr. Brooks, a member of the lower House, to the commission of a what we should call a monstrous outrage. He assaulted Mr. Sumner while seated writing at a table in the Senate, struck him severely with a cane over the head, and left him insensible. . . . It is this conduct which strikes us with astonishment. We can understand that in the hot conflict of passions and interest between the abolitionists and the slaveholders, one legislator might be so far carried away by his impetuosity as to strike another. But we cannot figure to ourselves a legislator deliberately and premeditatedly watching his opportunity to assail a man sitting at his desk in another House of Legislation, striking him before he could rise, beating him in the presence of his colleagues, and finally justifying this sacrilege against the national dignity to the assembled delegates of the people. Where this can be done so coolly as it seems to have been done by Mr. Brooks, we are inclined to fear that the license of action and immunity from control among the members of the American Congress are tending towards that line which separates extreme liberty from reactionary and vindictive despotism. Mr. Brooks in his speech entirely ignores the principle that Congress has a national and collective character. In his eyes it is only a fortuitous conglomeration of individual atoms, each as good as its neighbor, and the whole not a bit better than any one. Its right to regulate the conduct of members within its walls, to maintain order, to suppress violence, he says he, ‘believe that the spirit of American freedom would tolerate slander in high places, and permit a member of Congress to publish and circulate a libel on another, and then call upon either House to protect him against the personal responsibilities which he had thus incurred.’ That is to say, nobody had any right to say anything against slavery without being prepared to fight or be caned on the spot. A rational and effectual inducement to free discussion this.~ Article from the Times of London reprinted in today’s issue of The Liberator.

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assault on Senator Sumner

 

August 30– Saturday– New York City– “Saw George Curtis, wholly wrapt up in the Fremont campaign, wherein he does good and active service, speaking almost every night with great approval and with much more ability than I gave him credit for. . . . Fillmore seems rather to lose ground. Fremont rather gains. His enemies help him by the bitter malignity of their personal attacks, which will surely decide some thousands to vote in his favor.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

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