Tag Archives: free press

Free Press in the United States

Ida Tarbell helped transform journalism by introducing what is called today investigative journalism. Through her achievements, she not only helped to expand the role of the newspaper in modern society and stimulate the Progressive reform movement, but she also became a role model for women wishing to become professional journalists.

Born on the oil frontier of western Pennsylvania in 1857, Tarbell was among the first women to graduate from Allegheny College in 1880. After trying her hand at the more traditional women’s job of teaching, Tarbell began writing and editing a magazine for the Methodist Church. Then, after studying in France for a few years, she joined S. S. McClure’s new reform-minded magazine in 1894. Initially she wrote two popular biographical series–on Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln. In 1902, she embarked on her ground breaking study of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, or what was called the Standard Oil Trust. Her History of the Standard Oil Company, published in 1904, was a landmark work of expos√© journalism that became known as “muckraking.” Her exposure of Rockefeller’s unfair business methods outraged the public and led the government to prosecute the company for violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. As a result, after years of precedent-setting litigation, the Supreme Court upheld the break-up of Standard Oil.

As the most famous woman journalist of her time, Tarbell founded the American Magazine in 1906. She authored biographies of several important businessmen and wrote a series of articles about an extremely controversial issue of her day, the tariff imposed on goods imported from foreign countries. Of this series President Wilson commented, “She has written more good sense, good plain common sense, about the tariff than any man I know of.” During World War I, she joined the efforts to improve the plight of working women. In 1922, The New York Times named her one of the “Twelve Greatest American Women.” It was journalism like hers that inspired Americans of the early twentieth century to seek reform in our government, in our economic structures, and in our urban areas. Along with other muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and Upton Sinclair, Tarbell ushered in reform journalism. Ever since, newspapers have played a leading role as the watchdogs and consciences of our political, economic, and social lives.

Although Tarbell was not, herself, an advocate of women’s issues or women’s rights, as the most prominent woman active in the muckraking movement and one of the most respected business historians of her generation, Tarbell succeeded in a “male” world ‚Äì the world of journalism, business analysis, and world affairs, thus helping to open the door to other women seeking careers in journalism and, later, in broadcasting.

The Trops Are Moving~June 1863~the 3rd to the 6th

Soldiers on both sides expect hard fighting to come soon. General Lee begins to move. General Hooker watches warily while President Lincoln encourages him to take action. The 54th Massachusetts has a good reputation although they have not yet fired a shot in combat. Union forces continue to pound Vicksburg but sentiment in Richmond is optimistic. Democrats in the North call for peace and the Democratic governor of New York fails to call for black troops. Gideon Welles laments the mistakes of General Burnside and President Lincoln over-rides the general by allowing the Chicago Times to resume publication. In Europe the struggle continues in Poland. The Russian government expresses its appreciation for support from the United States.

Fernando Wood, Democratic critic of the Lincoln administration

Fernando Wood, Democratic critic of the Lincoln administration


June 3– Wednesday– New York City–At a meeting in Cooper Union, the former mayor and now Congressman Fernando Wood and various anti-war Democrats call for immediate peace with the Confederacy.

Harper's Weekly cartoon depicts Fernando Wood as a minister of the devil

Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicts Fernando Wood as a minister of the devil

June 3– Wednesday– In his diary, Gideon Welles analyzes the current state of affairs. “The arrest of Vallandigham and the order to suppress the circulation of the Chicago Times in his military district issued by General Burnside have created much feeling. It should not be otherwise. The proceedings were arbitrary and injudicious. It gives bad men the right of questions, an advantage of which they avail themselves. Good men, who wish to support the Administration, find it difficult to defend these acts. . . . While I have no sympathy for those who are, in their hearts, as unprincipled traitors as Jefferson Davis, I lament that our military officers should, without absolute necessity, disregard those great principles on which our government and institutions rest.”

June 3– Wednesday– Fredericksburg, Virginia– Confederate General Robert E Lee begins his planned invasion of the North by ordering two divisions of General Longstreet’s corp to move to Culpeper Court House, Virginia.

June 3– Wednesday– off Hilton Head, South Carolina– Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw writes to his cousin John Forbes. “The 54th has been a success from beginning to end. The drill & discipline are all that anyone could expect. Crowds of people came to our battalion drills & dress parades every afternoon, and we have heard nothing but words of praise & astonishment from friend & foe– from hunkers & fogeys, old and young. The camp was crowded on the day of our banner presentation and the Governor made an excellent speech. Last Thursday, 28 May, we . . . went by rail to Boston. We marched from the Providence Depot . . . to Battery Wharf where we embarked. The streets were crowded, & I have not seen such enthusiasm since the first troops left for the war.”

detail on the memorial honoring trhe 54th Massaachusetts Regiment

detail on the memorial honoring trhe 54th Massaachusetts Regiment

June 3– Wednesday– Port Royal, South Carolina– Union General David Hunter sends a dispatch to Governor Andrew of Massachusetts. “I have the honor to announce that the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored) troops, Colonel Shaw commanding, arrived safely in this harbor this afternoon and have been sent to Port Royal Island. The regiment had an excellent passage, and from the appearance of the men I doubt not that this command will yet win a reputation and place in history deserving the patronage you have given them. . . . The Fifty-fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers shall soon be profitably and honorably employed; and I beg that you will send for service in this department the other colored regiment which Colonel Shaw tells me you are now organizing and have in forward preparation.”

June 3– Wednesday– St Helena, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke has a wonderful day. “Had a lovely row to the Kingfisher. Tis a delightful floating palace; everything perfectly ordered and elegant. The officers were all very kind and polite and I enjoyed listening to their explanations about the guns.”

Charlotte Forten Grimke

Charlotte Forten Grimke

June 3– Wednesday– Paris, France– The correspondent for the New York Times writes a dispatch about events in Poland. “This evening news has been received of a number of battles having been fought. Fighting has been going on for some time in all parts of ancient Poland. It is not said that the Poles have won any great victories; but, on the other hand, it does not appear, even from the Russian accounts, that they have suffered any great defeat.”

June 4– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln writes to Secretary of War Stanton, telling him to rescind General Burnside’s order suppressing the Chicago Times. “I have received additional despatches, which, with former ones, induce me to believe we should revoke or suspend the order suspending the Chicago Times; and if you concur in opinion, please have it done.”

June 4– Thursday– Falmouth, Virginia– Receiving reliable information that General Lee’s troops are on the move, Union General Hooker telegraphs President Lincoln that he [Hooker] sees this as an attempt by Lee to get between the Union Army and Washington, D.C.

June 4– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– Government clerk John Jones in his diary: “When Grant leaves Vicksburg, our generals will pursue, and assume the aggressive in more directions than one. Lee has some occult object in view, which must soon be manifest.”

Harper's Weekly depicts General Grant leading the siege of Vicksburg

Harper’s Weekly depicts General Grant leading the siege of Vicksburg

June 4– Thursday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Union soldier Lucius Barber from Illinois describes siege activity. “General Grant rode along the line and told the boys that he had plenty of ammunition and not to be afraid to use it. This was a signal for firing. Some of the boys expended over two hundred rounds . . . . The rebs lay in their trenches, quiet as mice, not daring to show their heads.”

Union siege works outside of Vicksburg

Union siege works outside of Vicksburg

June 4– Thursday– St Petersburg, Russia– Prince Gorchakov, Russian Foreign Minister, writes to U S Minister Cassius Marcellus Clay to express the Tsar’s thanks for the letter from Secretary of State Seward. “It is to his Majesty a source of sincere satisfaction to see that his persevering efforts to guide with order and without disturbance all the parts of his empire in the way of regular progress are justly appreciated by a nation towards which his Majesty and the Russian people entertain the most friendly sentiments. Such manifestations must strengthen the bonds of mutual sympathy which unite the two countries, and constitute a consummation which too much accords with the aspirations of the Emperor for his Majesty not to look upon it with pleasure. His Majesty has greatly appreciated the firmness with which the government of the United States maintains the principle of non-intervention, the meaning of which in these days is too often perverted; as well as the loyalty with which they refuse to impose upon other states a rule, the violation of which, in respect to themselves, they would not allow.”

June 5– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a message to General Hooker in regard to Confederate General Lee’s current movements. “I have but one idea which I think worth suggesting to you, and that is, in case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock, I would by no means cross to the south of it. If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it, it would fight in entrenchments and have you at advantage, and so, man for man, worst you at that point, While his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In one word, I would not take any risk of being entangled up on the river like an ox jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear without a fair chance to gore one way or to kick the other.” The President also receives his salary for the month of May in the amount of $2,022.34. [This would equal about $38,200 today. President Obama receives $33,333 per month.]

 June 5– Friday– near Falmouth, Virginia– Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes senses movement. “We have spent nearly a month in ordering our camp and now have orders to leave. In fact we are all packed up and some of the troops are moving toward the river. . . . Tomorrow I suppose we shall try to shoot a few Rebels. I wish it was over, for it is worse for a soldier to wait for a battle to begin than it is to do the fighting.”

June 5– Friday– Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, near Falmouth, Virginia– Union General Henry Hunt issues an order that soldiers serving in the artillery during summer campaigning are limited to “1 Blanket, 1 Great Coat, 1 Jacket, 1 Blouse, 1 pr Trowsers [sic], 3 pr Stockings, 2 pr drawers, 2 flannel shirts, 1 pair shoes or boots.” Further, he requires that “All surplus will be turned in at the commencement of a march.”

June 5– Friday– Culpeper Court House, Virginia– At the invitation of Confederate General Jeb Stuart, a large number of area women, along with their eligible daughters, attend a “grand review” of Confederate cavalry and a ball, sponsored by General Stuart and his staff.

typical womens' outfits of the period

typical womens’ outfits of the period

June 6– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times takes to task the governor of the state for declining to enlist black soldiers. “Governor Seymour is reported by one of his party organs to have declined an application by a Committee of colored men, to aid in the organization of a colored regiment for active service. He did this, it is stated, on the ground that ‘he had too much sympathy for the blacks to consent, as the position they must occupy would be one of extreme danger, and would lead to dreadful and unnecessary sacrifice of life.’ If Governor. Seymour is, indeed, so hard pushed that he has at last to fall back upon such a subterfuge, he can’t give in too quickly. Our people will stand any quantity of Negro ‘sojering’ sooner than that their Governor shall cut so ridiculous a figure.” [Horatio Seymour is a Democrat and an out-spoken critic of the Lincoln Administration.]

New York Governor Seymour

New York Governor Seymour

June 6– Saturday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–A labor paper, Fincher’s Trade Review, begins publication.

June 6– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles to his diary: “Am unhappy over our affairs. The Army of the Potomac is doing but little; I do not learn that much is expected or intended. The failure at Chancellorsville has never been satisfactorily explained. Perhaps it cannot be. Some of the officers say if there had been no whiskey in the army after crossing the Rappahannock we should have had complete success.”

June 6– Saturday– Culpeper Court House, Virginia– Confederate soldier H C Kendrick writes to his mother about the upcoming campaign. “I am still inclined to think, we will invade the enemy’s country this summer, as they will doubtless get a great many more cavalry then they now have, and finally make this war a war of pillaging, plundering, and destroying private citizens’ property. I feel like retaliating in the strictest sense. I don’t think we would do wrong to take horses; burn houses; and commit every depredation possible upon the men of the North. I can’t vindicate the principle of injuring, or insulting the female sex, though they be never so disloyal to our Confederacy and its institutions. Could I ever condescend to the degrading principle of taking from a female’s person, a piece of jewelry? Shall I ever become so thoughtless of my character, or forgetful of my raising? God forbid. But mother, I would not hesitate to take, or burn up any thing belonging to their government or that belonged to a citizen who was loyal to the U.S.”

June 6– Saturday– near Locust Grove, Virginia– Confederate soldier Jedediah Hotchkiss to his wife Sara: “We have left many a scar on the face of the once lovely valley of the Rappahannock to tell of our long occupancy – more than 30 miles of fortifications mark the line of the front and then inner works, of all descriptions, attest the vigor of our intention to use every means in our power to defend our country – wide forests have been swept away, many an old mansion has fallen a victim to the flames or been torn away piece meal by the destroying hand of war – whose business is, surely, ‘devastation & destruction’– O! that this might come to an end.”

June 6– Saturday– Beaufort, South Carolina– Colonel Robert Gould Shaw writes to his mother. “Colonel Higginson came over to see us, day before yesterday. I never saw any one who put his whole soul into his work as he does. I was very much impressed with his open-heartedness & purity of character. He is encamped about 10 miles from here. The bush-whacker Montgomery is a strange compound. He allows no swearing or drinking in his regiment & is anti tobacco. But he burns & destroys wherever he goes with great gusto, & looks as if he had quite a taste for hanging people &c throat-cutting whenever a suitable subject offers. All our stores are very acceptable now, and the Hungarian wine Father sent us is excellent. General Hunter doesn’t impress me as being a great man. There is some talk of his being relieved. If we could have Fremont in his place, wouldn’t it be fine?” [Montgomery is Colonel James Montgomery, age 48, from Ohio, and during the conflict in Kansas in the 1850’s, he committed atrocities against pro-slavery people. At this time he commands the 2nd South Carolina Regiment of black soldiers, most of them ex-slaves.]

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Whispers of Fearful Change~March, 1863~the 1st to the 9th

The pale-fac’d moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change;
Rich men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
The other to enjoy by rage and war.
– Richard II by William Shakespeare, Act !!, scene 4

March brings the promise of eventual spring and renewed campaigning. Citizens South and North complain, grumble and worry, particularly about rising costs. Smuggling continues. A Southern woman wonders if she would be better off without her college education. Former slave Frederick Douglass recruits young black men for the army. The new Congress, re-shaped by last falls elections, begins to meet in Washington. President Lincoln nominates a Californian for the Supreme Court and signs the legislation authorizing conscription to sweel the ranks of Union forces. Censorship rears its head. Revolution in Poland threatens the peace of Europe.


March 1– Sunday– Berlin, Germany– A journalist reports on activities in Poland. “Private letters received here from Warsaw state that the Government is publishing a journal for private circulation exclusively amongst military men. The reports from the theatre of war contained in this journal admit the Russian losses to be constantly augmenting, and state that the insurrection is daily increasing.”

March 2– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Congress rejects the Executive Order of January 21st by President Lincoln to adopt a standard railroad gauge of 5 feet and instead adopts the 4 foot, 8 and one-half inches gauge.

Clapham Junction Railway Station

Clapham Junction Railway Station

March 2– Monday– Borough of Wandsworth, London, England– Clapham Junction railway station opens as passenger service continues to expand throughout Great Britain.

March 3– Tuesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Local businessman William Heyser diaries some information about financial conditions. “Great sale of old coins in New York, bringing astounding prices. An 1804 penny brought $36.00. I still have a five dollar gold piece of 1796, the year I was born.” [The $36.00 would equal approximately $665.00 in current vale.]

March 3– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs into law the Conscription Act (a/k/a the National Enrollment Act of 1863) which requires quotas of draftees by state, but allows well-to-do men to buy their way out of service for $300. He also signs legislation requiring that all tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar captured or abandoned in the rebellios states is to be turned over to the U S Treasury.

President Lincoln

President Lincoln

March 4– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs the bill which establishes the Territory of Idaho. The 38th Congress begins its first session with members chosen last November. Mr Lincoln’s Republicans control 66% of the Senate seats and 45.9% of the House of Representatives seats. Democrats hold 20% of seats in the Senate and 39.3% of seats in the House. The remainder of seats, 14% in the Senate and 14.8% in the House, are held by third parties.

John Henry Wigmore, American jurist

John Henry Wigmore, American jurist

March 4– Wednesday– San Francisco, California– Birth of John Henry Wigmore, American jurist who will become an expert in the law of evidence and will serve as the dean of Northwestern Law School from 1901 to 1929.

March 4– Wednesday– Atlantic Ocean– U S warships capture two Spanish merchant ships attempting to run the blockade.

George Templeton Strong

George Templeton Strong

March 5– Thursday– New York City– Attorney George Templeton Strong writes in his diary. “Sharply cold for a day or two. . . . War news very little and not good, though people seem generally in a sanguine fit just now. I can’t tell why.”

March 5– Thursday– Columbus, Ohio– Federal soldiers ransack the offices of The Crisis, an allegedly pro-Confederacy newspaper.

March 5– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles visits the Senate and in his diary compares it to his impression during his first visit when John Quincy Adams was president. “If the present room is larger, the Senators seemed smaller.”

March 6– Rochester, New York– Frederick Douglass writes to Gerrit Smith about efforts to recruit black me for the army. “I have visited Buffalo and obtained seven good men. I spoke here last night and got thirteen. I shall visit Auburn, Syracuse, Ithaca, Troy and Albany and other places in the State till I get one hundred men. Charley my youngest son was the first to put his name down as one of the company.”

March 6– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln nominates Stephen J Field for the position of an associate justice on the Supreme Court. The 46 year old Field, a Democrat strongly loyal to the Union, has been serving as Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court since 1859.

March 6– Friday– Mill Creek, Tennessee– Mary Louise Pearre, ardent secessionist, age 25, a graduate of Franklin Female College and teaching school here, opens her heart to her diary. “Bob is a flatterer. This is quite palpable in his conversation. Says women should be educated. Taught to reason to think and above all should cultivate a fondness for reading. I agree with him, yet I told him that a woman that thought & reasoned to an extent was unhappy, that they find they have to feed too much on mere ‘husks.’The outward world that they hide within their hearts do not agree. If I had read less, imagined less & educated my mind for the practical instead of the ideal in life, I would have been better adapted for the prosaic existence that appears to be mine. That is my fate so far. Yet I threw away (I fear) my hope of earthly happiness & must wait until the troubled heart moans itself unto the rest which knows no waking.” As for slaves, she writes, “I wish they were all in their native land beyond the sea. God only knows if slavery be right. Yet all men were certainly not born equal. If so they surely would have obtained their rights before now. I am a half fatalist. Naturally cannot help it. Have never read any works tinctured with that belief. If I had four years since, what would I have been now.”

Belle Kearney

Belle Kearney

March 6– Friday– Flora, Mississippi– Birth of Belle Kearney, temperance advocate and suffragist who will become the first Southern woman elected to a state legislature, serving two terms in the Mississippi State Senate, beginning in 1924.

March 7– Saturday– Baltimore, Maryland– Federal authorities ban the sale of music which favors secession and Union soldiers confiscate several stocks of alleged “treasonous” music.

March 8– Sunday– Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia– In a daring night-time raid, Confederate cavalry under Captain John Mosby capture a Union brigadier general, two captains and 30 others as well as horses and weapons. They make good their escape, avoiding Union patrols.

Colonel John S Mosby, a/k/a The Grey Ghost

Colonel John S Mosby, a/k/a The Grey Ghost

March 9– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– James Louis Petigru, lawyer, politician and judge, dies 8 weeks away from his 74th birthday. An out-spoken Union supporter, after South Carolina seceded in 1860, Petigru remarked, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Despite his unpopular views, many of the citizens of the city love and respect him. His funeral will draw a large attendance.

What Are They Trying to Hide?

The American Historical Association, of which I am a member, brought this to the attention of the membership. In the name of a budget reduction measure the state of Georgia is closing access by the public to the state archives. This will affect not only historians but scholars in other professions, students, teachers, journalists and genealogists, among many others. It makes me wonder what the state of Georgia is trying to hide. Are they ashamed of the past?



From the News column of the October 2012 issue of Perspectives on History:

In response to news that the state of Georgia intends to effectively close its archives in a cost-cutting move, AHA Executive Director James Grossman sent the following letter to Governor Nathan Deal:

September 17, 2012

Dear Governor Deal:

I write on behalf of the American Historical Association the leading organization of historians in the United States to express our grave concern about plans to effectively close the Georgia Archives.

An early and active proponent of state archives laws in the United States, the AHA remains committed to the preservation of our heritage, and to its accessibility. We understand that a shortage of financial resources has forced the state to make some difficult financial choices, and that in such situations, everyone claims that their particular activity is sacrosanct. The Georgia Archives, however, tells the story of all Georgians. Genealogists, students, historians, journalists: all require access to these vital records to participate in the preservation of the state’s heritage and the practical use of its past.

Beyond the interests of historical researchers stand a wide variety of civic-minded Georgians who depend on open access to archives. Teachers, lawyers, real estate developers, leaders of neighborhood associations all rely not only on the vital records housed in the Georgia Archives, but on the expert advice of its archivists.

The records of any government represent the heritage of its people, and can serve that role only when its citizens have access to consult those records. Closing the doors to the Archives would represent a devastating blow not only to historians, genealogists, and others with an interest in the past, but also the state’s policymakers and leaders who need a solid understanding of the past to help shape Georgia’s future.

I urge you to reconsider this decision, and to work with the Secretary of State to allocate resources that will enable this vital service to remain open and accessible to all.


James R. Grossman

Executive Director, American Historical Association

Background on This Issue

The issue began on September 13, 2012, when Georgia Secretary of State BrianKemp announced that “effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public.” .Kemp also declared his intention to “fight during this legislative session to have this cut restored so that the people will have a place to meet, research, and review the historical records of Georgia.” The National Coalition for History (NCH) rapidlydisseminated information about the Georgia state decision and also providedetailed suggestions for action.

Nearly every state in the union is facing budget shortfalls, and all are lookingfor places to trim expenses. The AHA hopes that a significant protest toGeorgia’s proposed cuts will also catch the attention of decision makers inother states. If a public outcry helps stop the closure of the archives inGeorgia, other states will be far less likely to attempt similar actions.

Let Slip the Dogs of War~August 16th to 21st, 1862

The slavery question takes national prominence yet again as Horace Greeley, 51 years old, founding editor the New York Tribune, reformer and long-time opponent of slavery, publishes his passionate “Prayer of the Twenty Millions” in which he encourages Lincoln to take immediate action to abolish slavery.

Women continue to make outstanding efforts to provide nursing and encouragement for recruitment. While the Lincoln Administration has so far successfully avoided war with Great Britain, war erupts on another front as the Sioux Nations in Minnesota rise in revolt against the indifference and neglect of government agents and commercial traders. George Templeton Strong and Elisha Hunt Rhodes despair of General McClellan’s leadership.

Walt Whitman’s brother George writes to his mother, describing the August 9th inconclusive battle at Cedar Mountain, Virginia, in glowing terms as a Yankee victory. He relishes telling about the soldiers’ success in foraging at the expense of Virginia farmers.

Elsewhere in the world a Canadian pioneer and the mother of Chilean independence die. In the cosmopolitan city of Vienna a grand park opens to the public.


Cartoon depicting Civil War nurses as patriotic heroes


August 16– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times praises the war efforts made by the Woman’s Central Association which has, among other things, trained nurses, noting that “the women who first assumed the untried part of military nurses under their supervision retain their positions still. Ninety-one responsible nurses have been trained by them and are, for the most part, at present actively employed, sustaining thus far reputations for substantial efficiency.”

August 16– Saturday– various battle fronts– Federal and Confederate troops skirmish at locations in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia

August 17– Sunday– Litchfield, Minnesota– Four Sioux warriors kill five settlers near here. This is the first incident in what will be called the “Sioux Uprising.” Resentment among the Sioux has been festering for weeks as promised payments of cash and food to be made by the United States government have not arrived. Traders refuse to sell provisions on credit to the Sioux. Andrew Myrick, a spokesman for the traders, said, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.”

August 17– Sunday– near Cedar Mountain, Virginia– George Washington Whitman writes home to his mother with a distinctly Yankee look at recent fighting against Stonewall Jackson and a view of foraging. “When we arrived here the fight was over and old Stonewall had skedadled back in the mountains, pretty badly licked too, as near as I can find out. This is as handsome a country as I ever saw, we find plenty of forage in the shape of Beef, Chickens, eggs, potatoes, and the way the cattle and sheep have suffered since we have been here is a caution to secesh farmers. Some of our boys go to a house where there is a sheep dog, take the dog and make him catch as many sheep as they want, and bring them in and cook them, and you may be sure the Yankees get some tall cussing from the farmers.”

August 18– Monday– Orange County, Virginia– William Baylor, serving under General Stonewall Jackson, writes home to his wife, Mary Baylor. “We are no doubt preparing for an important movement– 3 days rations to be put into Haversacks– the enemy are not very far off – but we believe have fallen back. May God give us a great victory & preserve me to you & my child – I am in command of the Brigade – feel my inability for such a responsible position & rely only on heaven for wisdom & strength in the discharge of my Duties.”

Sioux warriors fighting in Minnesota, August, 1862

August 18– Monday– Redwood Ferry, Minnesota– Twenty-seven Federal soldiers die in a fight with Sioux warriors.

Simon Fraser, Canadian explorer

August 18– Monday– St Andrew West, Canada–Simon Fraser, fur-trader and first non-indigenous explorer of what became the province of British Columbia, dies at age 86.

August 19–Tuesday– New York City–With an impassioned editorial of about 2200 words in today’s Tribune, Horace Greeley writes as an open letter to President Lincoln, encouraging the president to emancipate all slaves. Near the end of the piece, Greeley declares, “On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion and at the same time uphold its inciting cause are preposterous and futile–that the Rebellion, if crushed out tomorrow, would be renewed within a year if Slavery were left in full vigor–that Army officers who remain to this day devoted to Slavery can at best be but half-way loyal to the Union–and that every hour of deference to Slavery is an hour of added and deepened peril to the Union, I appeal to the testimony of your Ambassadors in Europe. It is freely at your service, not at mine. Ask them to tell you candidly whether the seeming subserviency of your policy to the slaveholding, slavery-upholding interest, is not the perplexity, the despair of statesmen of all parties, and be admonished by the general answer. I close as I began with the statement that what an immense majority of the Loyal Millions of your countrymen require of you is a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land.”

Horace Greeley

August 19– New York City– George Templeton Strong confides to the pages of his diary his opinion of the war effort. “McClellan has gloriously evacuated Harrison’s Landing and got safe back to where he was months ago. Magnificent strategy. Pity it has lost so many thousand men and millions of dollars. . . . McClellan stock is falling fearfully. He is held accountable for the thousands of lives expended without result in digging trenches in the Chickahominy swamp and on the James River.”

August 20– Wednesday– Fort Ridgely, Minnesota– Soldiers and settlers repel an attack by Sioux fighters.

August 20– Wednesday– Canandaigua, New York– Caroline Cowles Richards, age 19, notes in her diary the organization of a new regiment. “The 126th Regiment, just organized, was mustered into service at Camp Swift, Geneva. . . . [regimental surgeon] Dr. Hoyt wrote home: ‘God bless the dear ones we leave behind; and while you try to perform the duties you owe to each other, we will try to perform ours.’ We saw by the papers that the volunteers of the regiment before leaving camp at Geneva allotted over $15,000 of their monthly pay to their families and friends at home. One soldier sent this telegram to his wife, as the regiment started for the front: ‘God bless you. Hail Columbia. Kiss the baby. Write soon.’ A volume in ten words.”

August 20– Wednesday– near Yorktown, Virginia– Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes confides to his journal. “I am well but do not like the appearance of things. We are moving in the wrong direction it seems to me.”

Javiera Carrera, Mother of independent Chile

August 20– Wednesday– Santiago, Chile– Francisca Xaviera Eudoxia Rudecinda Carmen de los Dolores de la Carrera y Verdugo, better known as Javiera Carrera, dies at age 81. Born into one of the most aristocratic Chilean families, she actively participated in the War of Independence against Spain. Together with her three brothers, she was one of most important leaders of the early struggle for freedom and is credited with having sewn the first national flag of Chile. Mourners take to the streets, hailing her as the “Mother of Chile”.


August 21– Thursday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Federal troops withdraw from the city.

August 21– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– President Jeff Davis issues a proclamation that if captured, Union generals David Hunter and John Phelps are to be treated not as prisoners of war but as felons for using slaves against the Confederacy.

August 21– Thursday– Vienna, Austria– The first public park in the city, the Stadtpark, opens its gates.

A section of modern Stadtpark

May’s Mixture–the third week-1862

Union General Butler stifles the free press in New Orleans and issues his infamous order against the women of the city. Southern women such as Sarah Morgan and Mary Chesnut comment “at the brutality of the thing.” Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes the hostility of Southern women toward Union soldiers and a Confederate government employee describes Richmond’s women as being “in ecstasies” at the determination to defend the rebel capital. An English ship builder turns over to the Confederacy the vessel which will shortly gain infamy as a raider and lead to a long-standing legal battle between Britain and the United States. American damage claims about the Alabama will not be resolved until 1871. Around Fortress Monroe some people are kidnaping fugitive slaves back into slavery and selling them in the Carribean.

President Lincoln officially repudiates General Hunter’s attempts to free slaves and appeals to Southern sates to accept compensated emancipation. He also appoints the first Jewish chaplain in the U S military and signs into law the Homestead Act which recognizes the claim to land by women who are heads of households. A New York woman serving as a Union nurse describes the death of a patient. Robert Gould Shaw moves closer to his destiny as he seeks a commission in yet to be organized regiments of black troops.

The Canadian government falls. Paris and London are abuzz about the capture of New Orleans while the possibility of European intervention in the American war still lurks in the background.

A distraught prominent musician kills himself

Seal of the Department of Agriculture


May 15– Thursday–Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln signs the measure creating the Department of Agriculture as a new department of the federal government but without cabinet status. [It will only gain that position in 1889.]

May 15– Thursday– Liverpool, England– At the Laird shipyards, a newly completed vessel, know simply as “#290,” is launched. It has been built for the Confederacy and will become the CSS Alabama.

CSS Alabama

May 15– Thursday– New Orleans, Louisiana– General Ben Butler, Federal commander of the occupied city, issues his infamous Order #28. “As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women calling themselves ‘ladies of New-Orleans,’ in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall by word, gesture or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.”

May 15– Thursday– London, England– Charles Darwin publishes On the Various Contrivances by Which British and Foreign Orchids Are Fertilized by Insects, and on the Good Effects of Intercrossing.

Charles Darwin–c1855

May 15– Thursday– Vienna, Austria– Birth of Arthur Schnitzler, Austrian author and dramatist whose frank writing about sexuality and strong stand against anti-Semitism will create controversy during his career.

May 16– Friday– Macon’s Plantation, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes comments about Southern women. “The female portion of the population are very bitter and insult every soldier they meet, or rather think they do. One of them said as the U S flag was borne by her house: ‘I never expected to live to see this day.’”

May 16– Friday– New Orleans, Louisiana– General Butler suspends publication of the New Orleans Bee. The paper, founded in 1827 and at this time published in both French and English, is the city’s premier journal.

May 16– Paris, France– The correspondent for the New York Times writes a dispatch about French reaction to the war. “Nothing which has occurred since the commencement of the war has made such an impression on the French as the fall of New Orleans. No blow which has been struck has served so effectually in removing the illusion that the South possessed all the military genius of the country. In France people in general know but two great towns in America – New York and New Orleans – and they know that New Orleans is the greatest city of the South. Moreover, it is an old French town, the Capital of an old French colony, and the social and commercial relations between it and France are almost as intimate as if still a dependency of France. Any shock at New Orleans, therefore, is sure to produce a corresponding vibration throughout France.”

May 16– Friday– Wellington, New Zealand– Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a career politician who early advocated the colonization of Australia and New Zealand, dies at age 66.

May 17– Saturday– New York City–This issue of Harper’s Weekly reports thatCommodore Farragut’s fleet which captured New Orleans, “consists of forty-six sail, carrying two hundred and eighty-six guns, and twenty-one mortars” and landed U S Marines who are patrolling the city.

May 17– Saturday– Baton Rouge, Louisiana– Sarah Morgan writes about General Butler’s action against women. “A new proclamation from Butler has just come. It seems that the ladies have an ugly way of gathering their skirts when the Federals pass, to avoid any possible contact. Some even turn up their noses. Unladylike, to say the least. But it is, maybe, owing to the odor they have, which is said to be unbearable even at this early season of the year. Butler says, whereas the so-called ladies of New Orleans insult his men and officers, he gives one and all permission to insult any or all who so treat them, then and there, with the assurance that the women will not receive the slightest protection from the Government, and that the men will all be justified. I did not have time to read it, but repeat it as it was told to me by mother, who is in utter despair at the brutality of the thing. These men our brothers? Not mine! Let us hope for the honor of their nation that Butler is not counted among the gentlemen of the land.”

May 18– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– Miss M B Gardener, a volunteer nurse, writes to her family in New York City, describing her work on a hospital ship on the Potomac River. “Among the sick we had 22 wounded, (amputations, &c.,) the rest of the 420 were fever patients, fever in all its stages. We lost six during the passage. I myself closed the eyes of two – Americans and young men. They died of typhus fever, and were completely insensible after we received them. One of them, a man of immense vitality, apparently mistaking me for his mother, seized my hand with so strong a grip as to be really painful, and looking at us all with wild, imploring eyes, and his poor black tongue moving with difficulty, he called mother with such a lamentable cry, as I shall never forget.”

Front cover of the diary of Mary Chesnut as first published

May 18– Sunday– Columbia, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut writes in her diary. “Read Milton. See the speech of Adam to Eve in a new light. Women will not stay at home; will go out to see and be seen, even if it be by the devil himself. . . . There is said to be an order from Butler turning over the women of New Orleans to his soldiers. Thus is the measure of his iniquities filled. We thought that generals always restrained, by shot or sword if need be, the brutality of soldiers. This hideous, cross-eyed beast orders his men to treat the ladies of New Orleans as women of the town – to punish them, he says, for their insolence.

 May 19– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln issues a proclamation repudiating General Hunter’s orders freeing slaves in the area under his command. “Neither General Hunter nor any other commander or person has been authorized by the Government of the United States to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free, and that the supposed proclamation now in question . . . is altogether void so far as respects such declaration.” Mr Lincoln urges the Confederate states to review and accept the offer of compensated emancipation which Congress passed and he signed into law. “To the people of those States I now earnestly appeal– I do not argue; I beseech you to make the arguments for yourselves; you can not, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any. It acts not the Pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything. Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done by one effort in all past time as, in the providence of God, it is now your high privilege to do. May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.”

May 19– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Robert Gould Shaw writes to his father about the matter which brought him to the capital. “Major Copeland . . . . wants me to take hold of the black regiment with him, if he can get permission to raise it, and offers me a major’s commission in it.”


Rabbi Jacob Frankel

May 20– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln appoints Rabbi Jacob Frankel of Philadelphia as the first Jewish chaplain in the U S military.

May 20– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Congress approves and sends to President Lincoln the Homestead Act. The law provides that any U S citizen or immigrant demonstrating intent to become a citizen can purchase 160 acres of western prairie land for a fee of $10, provided that the individual works on and improves the land for at least five years. The act specifically includes military veterans and women who are heads of household but excludes rebel fighters. The second section of the law requires that “the person applying for the benefit of this act shall, upon application to the register of the land office in which he or she is about to make such entry, make affidavit before the said register or receiver that he or she is the head of a family, or is twenty-one years or more of age, or shall have performed service in the army or navy of the United States, and that he has never borne arms against the Government of the United States or has given aid and comfort to its enemies, and that such application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation.”

Women homesteading in Nebraska

May 20– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– John B Jones notes in his diary the spirit of resistance in the city. “The President, in response to the Legislative Committee, announced that Richmond would be defended. A thrill of joy electrifies every heart, a smile of triumph is on every lip. The inhabitants seem to know that their brave defenders in the field will prove invincible; and it is understood that Gen. Lee considers the city susceptible of successful defense. The ladies are in ecstasies.”

May 20– Tuesday– Cold Harbor, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes describes the war-torn country side. “The plantations as a rule are deserted but show that this was before the war a delightful country.”

May 20– Tuesday– Ottawa, Canada–The Macdonald-Cartier government falls as the Parliament defeats the Militia Bill, a measure to make Canadians pay for their defense by Great Britain against an expected American invasion.

Canada’s parliament building under construction–1863

May 20– Tuesday– London, England– A correspondent for the New York Times writes a dispatch about British attitudes toward the Union occupation of New Orleans and Yorktown and the increasing unemployment due to the lack of American cotton for the textile mills. “All eyes are turned to America. The Pope, Victor Emanuel and all European interests are forgotten. Prosperity or adversity, peace or war, life or death, depend upon the events now taking place in Virginia and the Southwest. If the North is to conquer, it must be soon. England cannot bear a protracted struggle. There will be intervention if there is not peace.”

May 21– Wednesday– New York City–Fearful of financial reverses, Edwin Pearce Christy, founder of Christy’s Minstrels kills himself by jumping out of a window of his home. He is 46 years old.

Edwin Christy


May 21– Wednesday– Fortress Monroe, Virginia– A reporter from Philadelphia sends a dispatch to his newspaper in which he claims that white men have lured away escaped slaves on the pretext of offering them day work and then making them captive. A ship with about 270 such fugitives, “sprightly lads, worth, in Cuba, from $1,200 to $1,300 each,” set sail during the night. However, a Union gunboat has been sent in pursuit. [The sale price of those human beings would equal between $27,700 and $30,000 in today’s dollars.]

Now that April is Come–the Fourth Week

As April, 1862, draws to a close, soldiers on both sides write of the busyness of campaigns and the destruction they see, their worries about the enemy, the rightness of their cause, and the lack of mail from home. Some Union soldiers assert their opposition to abolition while the Senate approves the treaty with Great Britain for suppression of international slave trade. (In heaven, William Wilberforce and John Wesley must be smiling.) Union naval officer Commodore Farragut makes a name for himself by capturing New Orleans which distresses southerners like Mary Chesnut and pleases Yankees like Elisha Hunt Rhodes. In New York, the business man Isaac Singer is involved in a messy and expensive divorce. On the West Coast, California discriminates against Chinese immigrant labor. (Between 1854 and the end of 1860, over 41,000 Chinese immigrants have entered the United States, mostly in California.) Spain and England begin to withdraw from the European intervention in Mexico, leaving the French to discover the tenacity of Mexican soldiers. The Russian Tsar keeps a tight hold on the press and a British correspondent accuses President Lincoln of doing likewise. French author Victor Hugo finally comes out with a new novel and President Lincoln recites poetry with a friend during a quiet private evening at the White House. Publicly, visiting French sailors cheer the American President.

April 22– Tuesday– Hampton, Virginia– Christian Geisel, serving with the Union forces under General McClellan, writes to his sister Louisa back home in Pennsylvania. His unit let their horses graze “on a farm along the James river, about two miles from our camp; it must have been a splendid place at one time, but it is now deserted and the buildings are all burnt down. We hear cannonading most every day in the direction of Yorktown, but no general battle has taken place yet, but I suppose they will begin before long. There are now about 250,000 men concentrated around Yorktown on both sides, and I expect there will be a hard fight there.”

April 22– Tuesday– Somewhere between Stanardsville and Harrisonburg, Virginia– W H Baylor, newly selected colonel of the 5th Virginia Regiment, writes home to his wife, whom he addresses formally as Mrs Baylor. “It cannot be that our cause is not just. It cannot be that we have so sinned as to be worthy of destruction. No it cannot be . . . . if we rely upon God & do our duty the result will be our success. The result at Yorktown I trust will be in our favor– a great success there would be glorious for our cause. It would almost put a stop to the War. I feel much confidence in the result as we have noble Generals & brave troops to rely upon.”

Isaac Singer in one of the theatrical costumes he designed for himself

April 23– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times reports the status on the divorce proceedings of Mary Ann Sponsler Singer against her husband, Isaac Singer, the sewing machine entrepreneur. Mr Singer, out on bond after his wife had him arrested for bigamy, has fled to Europe with his lover, Mary McGonigal, a former employee who has born Isaac five children. The court orders that Mary Ann is to “have an allowance of $8,000 per annum alimony pending suit, dating from the commencement of the action.” [In today’s dollars this would equal about $179,000 in purchasing power. The judge bases this on Singer’s corporate earnings of $200,000 in 1861, which would equal about $4.47 million today.]

April 23– Wednesday– Warwick Court House, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes in his diary that “We never get lonesome now, for something exciting is going on all the time.”

Alexander II, Tsar of all Russia

April 23– Wednesday– St Petersburg, Russia– A local journal reports that the Tsar intends “to maintain the system of censorship upon all periodical publications, but to replace it gradually by judicial proceedings.”

April 24– Thursday– New York City– Based upon European sources, the New York Times reports that Spain’s withdrawal from the intervention in Mexico can be attributed to “what it calls the change in the policy of the Madrid Cabinet, ‘which,’according to a telegram from Madrid, ‘nothing will turn aside from its firm determination to abstain from any thing affecting the independence of Mexico,’ to fear of America.” Yet the French government is dispatching more troops to Mexico and has instructed the admiral who has been in command of all the French forces “to confine himself to his duties as Commander of the [naval] squadron, . . . [and] informed [him] in . . . a non-official letter, that if he thinks proper to return to France he is at liberty to do so.”

April 24– Thursday– Conrad’s Store [now, Elkton], Virginia– Jedediah Hotchkiss writes to his wife Sara about the conduct of Union soldiers in the Winchester area. “They have an iron rule there, visiting houses searching everything, marauding over the country & insulting people. Most of those there are Dutch, and they are more brutal than any others – but our women there are not afraid of them and tell them freely what they think of them. . . . If the foe should come to your door, outwardly submit, but coldly abhor to the last those that seek our firesides . . . . Train our children, as you have done, in the ways of knowledge, virtue and holiness and so fill up the weary hours of our separation, and may the Lord in mercy shorten these days of tribulation.”

April 24– Thursday– Mississippi River, below New Orleans, Louisiana–Early in the morning Commodore Farragut’s vessels begin sailing up the Mississippi River past Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip. After half the fleet sails past the fort the Confederates discover the movement and open fire. However, the majority of Federal ships make it past the forts.

Union naval hero Farragut in his admiral's uniform

April 25– Friday– New Orleans, Louisiana– After defeating Confederate ships at English Turn, Commodore Farragut’s fleet drops anchor at the city and demands the surrender of the most important port in the South. With a population of 168,675, it is the largest city in the Confederacy and 6th largest in the United States.

Farragut's ships at New Orleans, April, 1862

April 25– Friday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the dissolution of joint European operations in Mexico and the problem of on-going French military presence. “The movement has nothing to do with the collection of the recognized debt of Mexico to France; it has nothing to do with the restoration of order or the regeneration of a fallen people. It is simply an exceedingly loathsome and disreputable stock-jobbing swindle, of which the Frenchman’s love of glory is made the instrument. The French expedition will never have accomplished its purpose until it shall have placed in power a Government which will acknowledge this spurious debt, and agree to repay what it never received and enjoyed. It is well to comprehend the merits of this business fully. It may be our business to deal with it practically hereafter.”

April 25– Friday– Washington, D.C.– The Senate unanimously approves the treaty with Great Britain regarding joint efforts to suppress the slave trade, without changes or amendments.

April 25– Friday– Washington, D.C.– In the evening, Senator Orville Browning, a Republican and personal friend from Illinois, visits President Lincoln at the White House. For a quiet ninety minutes the two men discuss poetry in general and, in particular, the works of English poet Thomas Hood (1799-1845), a humorist and social critic. The President, always an avid reader and memorizer, recites several of Hood’s poems. [Senator Browning was appointed to fill the seat vacated by the death of Stephen A Douglas last year.]


Chinese immigrants--late 1850s

April 26– Saturday– Sacramento, California–The state legislature passes “An Act to Protect Free White Labor Against Competition with Chinese Coolie Labor, and to Discourage The Immigration of the Chinese into the State of California” (commonly called “The Anti-Coolie Act of 1862”). The law levies a tax of $2.50 per month on anyone of Chinese origin who applies for a license to work in the mines or to operate any kind of business. Since the majority of Chinese workers earn only wages of $3 or $4 a month, the tax is a significant burden.

April 26– Saturday– Washington Navy Yard– President Lincoln is warmly received by the crew of the visiting French warship, Gassendi.

April 26– Saturday– London, England– Birth of Edward Grey who will serve as British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916. [In 1914, when war erupts across Europe, Sir Edward Grey will say, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.”]

Victor Hugo--c.1855

April 26– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times reports on the publication of a long-delayed novel by French writer Victor Hugo. “The author’s only other novel, Notre Dame de Paris, was accepted by its publisher on condition that he should bring out every succeeding work by that author. Notre Dame proved a brilliant success, and made the fortune of – the publisher. Victor Hugo then wrote Les Miserables, determining to respect the condition, but to make his own terms with the unscrupulous brain-trafficker. These terms were at once rejected, and the author, unreleased from the old obligation, was obliged to put by his manuscript for a more favorable season. Year after year he renewed proposals, increasing each year his demand, until at last the publisher died, and, after waiting nearly a quarter of a century, the well-seasoned, if not seasonable, Les Miserables is in press.”

April 26– Saturday– Fort Macon, North Carolina– The Confederate force formally surrenders, the Federals taking 400 of the rebels as prisoners.

April 26– Saturday– Mississippi River below New Orleans, Louisiana– Captain Richard Elliot, from Massachusetts, serving under General Butler on one of the troop ships, writes in his diary. “A large fire raft came down upon us last night but fortunately the current took it to one side of us so it done no harm. It floated down and run aground on the flats. It was composed of the hulk of a large vessel of some kind coppered and copper fastened. Filled with cotton & tar and other combustible materials.”

April 27– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports at length on the sermon delivered last Sunday, Easter Day, by Dr Nathan Lewis Rice, prominent Presbyterian minister. “I have never believed that the great peril of the country is the war. I have always believed that it would have been ended before now if it had not been for those corrupt and fanatical influences that were crippling every effort to end it in a right manner. There are two great perils that threaten the country now– one is immorality, and the other fanaticism. In an age of excitement error becomes fanaticism; men are carried away with whatever is held up before them. In the absence of excitement religious error takes the form of philosophical speculation, but in times of excitement it becomes fanaticism, which is far more dangerous to Church and State.”

April 27– Sunday– New Bern, North Carolina– Union soldier George Whitman writes to his mother and family about a constant concern of soldiers. “I have not heard from home in almost a month. Mother you don’t know how bad it makes a fellow feel to have a mail arrive and bring him no letter. I wish some of you would write every week if only to say that you are all well. We expect a mail in tomorrow and if I don’t get a letter I shall feel quite disappointed.”

William H Russell, war correspondent for the Times of London, seen by northerners as pro-Confederacy

April 27– Sunday– Paris, France– Mr William H Russell, war correspondent for the Times of London, sends a dispatch in which he criticizes President Lincoln for not allowing him [Russell] to visit and report from General McClellan’s headquarters while in contrast Emperor Napoleon III allowed Russell “perfect liberty to accompany the [French] army, and that all he captured was, not that he himself or the army should be praised, but that the account of the operations should be impartial. . . . I am happy to have an opportunity of contrasting the conduct of the President of the ‘free and enlightened Republic’ with the ruler of a Military Empire, who led his own armies in the field.”

April 28– Monday– Nassau, the Bahamas–In a deal with certain British sources, the Confederacy takes possession of the British ship Oreto which will become the warship CSS Florida.

April 28– Monday– New Orleans, Louisiana– The city formally surrenders to Federal forces after Farragut threatens to bombard the city.

April 28– Monday– Harrisonburg, Virginia– Union General Banks reports quite optimistically to the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton.. “Our force is entirely secure here. The enemy is in no condition for offensive movements, and nothing can prevent our troops from joining the main body in safety if attacked. . . . You need have no apprehensions for our safety. I think we are now just in condition to do all you can desire of us in this valley-clear the enemy out permanently.”


Union General N P Banks


April 29– Augusta County, Virginia– Mr A B Roler writes to one of his cousins. He responds to his cousin’s declaration of intent to marry and tells of his own participation in the war and what may come. “I have no lady ‘courted’ like yourself and another difficulty with me just at this time is that the unnatural and detestable war will have to be fought through before I can allow my cranium to be besieged with connubial thoughts. . . . I have joined an Artillery Company and will meet my Company in Richmond. . . . I tell you we are in a smart hubbub– in a pretty bad ‘old fix’ just now in the Valley. I hope and pray that our arms may be successful at Yorktown. That battle when ever it does come off I think will decide the fate of the Valley indeed of Richmond and of entire Va and if we are successful I think will be the decisive one of the war. . . . I am afraid that we will not be able to recover from the effects of this destructive war for a long time. Religious, moral and educational institutions are at a very low ebb and it will take us a long time to catch up again.”

April 29– Tuesday– Padova, Italy– Birth of Vittorio Mano Vanzo, composer.

April 29– Tuesday– Columbia, South Carolina– Mary Chesnut evaluates the war news. “A grand smash, the news from New Orleans fatal to us.”

April 30– Wednesday– Young’s Farm, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes evaluates the war news. “The news of the capture of New Orleans has been received, and it gives us great joy. Well, the war will end in God’s own time and we shall have peace. But the Rebels must lay down their arms before the United States will make peace with them.”

April 30– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Congress votes to censure former Secretary of War Simon Cameron for misconduct while in the Cabinet, particularly for acts that were “highly injurious to the public service” such as entrusting public money to Alexander Cummings, his assistant who spent about $21,000 on personal purchases, and granting fraudulent contracts to his former business associates. [The $21,000 misspent then would equal about $470,000 misappropriated today.]

April 30– Wednesday– outside New Orleans, Louisiana– Captain Richard Elliot with Union forces preparing to occupy the city, notes in his journal his frustration with the regimental chaplain who this morning “exasperated Col Dudley and many other Officers of our Regiment, by giving a very strong Abolition speech and I am in favor of having a stop put to it, it is not right. We are not Slave catchers, or liberators. When we come to that I must go home, it is the Union as it has been, and not Abolition of Slavery I want and the majority of our Regiment are the same. Col Dudley is a thorough Democrat. and will not fight for N—— any more than I will and we are not alone.”

April 30– Wednesday– Cameron, Mexico– A sixty-five man company of the French Foreign Legion fights an all-day battle with Mexican irregular forces. Only 5 of the Legionaries survive.

Pioneering Journalist

It is 1848. Revolutions rumble through much of Europe. Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Rome are shaken by demonstrations of students and workers, demanding democracy and reforms. English philosopher John Stuart Mill shakes up economic theory. Karl Marx writes about the exploitation of the laboring masses. In the United States, it’s a presidential election year and Daniel Webster and Henry Clay find once again that the executive office has eluded them both. A determined group of women are gathering in Seneca Falls, New York. The Oneida Community begins a radical experiment in group living. The Associated Press is organized. Telegraph service extends from New York to Chicago. Gold is discovered in California at Sutter’s Mill. Over a quarter of a million (226,527) immigrants enter the United States, of whom 49.8% come from economically ravaged Ireland; And in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a new weekly newspaper appears. It’s revolutionary because its editor is a woman.

Her name is Jane Grey Canon Swisshelm. Jane Grey Cannon was born in Pittsburgh on December 6, 1815. Jane’s father died when Jane was 12, leaving his wife Mary with three children to support. Mary Canon put Jane to work, sewing dresses, making lace and fashioning corsets for well-to-do women. Jane received some formal schooling yet was like many nineteenth century women and men–naturally bright, a voracious reader and mostly self-educated. [For other examples, consider magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, business developer Madame C J Walker, politician Abraham Lincoln and activist Frederick Douglass.] When 21 years old, Jane married James Swisshelm, handsome, extremely rich, cold-hearted and rather narrow-minded. Mr Swisshelm was not well-prepared for a wife like Jane–petite, slender and with a will of iron and voice determined to speak her mind. At age 32 Jane Swisshelm’s name had already appeared in print in letters and articles. She was against capital punishment, against slavery, and in favor of Pennsylvania’s Married Woman’s Property Act which sought to protect the financial interests of wives from greedy husbands. She relished stirring the pot

Jane Grey Canon Swisshelm

Ms Swisshelm was writing regularly for the Pittsburgh Daily Commercial Journal when fate moved her to begin her own newspaper. As she tells in Half a Century her autobiography, local abolitionists began to gather their scattered forces and wanted a Liberty Party organ. To meet this want, Charles P Shiras started the Albatross in the fall of ‘47. . . . He was of an old and influential family, had considerable private fortune, was courted and flattered, but laid himself and gifts on the altar of Liberty. His paper was devoted to the cause of the slave and of the free laborer, and started with bright prospects. However, after only a matter of months, Shiras’ paper failed. Swisshelm decided to fill in the gap. She convinced Robert Riddle, editor of the Daily Commercial Journal, to enter a business arrangement with her, allowing her to print her paper at his facility.

The coming advent was announced, but I had no arrangements for securing either advertisements or subscribers. Josiah King, now proprietor of the Pittsburgh Gazette and James H. McClelland called at the Journal office and subscribed, and with these two supporters, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter [sic], entered life. The mechanical difficulty of getting out the first number proved to be so great that the forms were not onthe press at 3 P.M. By five the streets were so blocked by a waiting crowd, that vehicles went around by other ways, and it was six o’clock, January 20th, 1848, when the first copy was sold at the counter. I was in the editorial room all afternoon, correcting proof to the last moment, and when there was nothing more I could do, was detained by the crowd around the doors until it was after eleven.

Her newspaper caused an immediate stir locally and nationally. It was customary at the time for editors to exchange complimentary copies with other papers, even rival papers. This provided plenty of canon-fodder for papers of differing opinions to attack one another. Ms Swisshelm describes the response to her first issue:

My paper was a six column weekly, with a small Roman letter head, my motto, “Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward,” the names of my candidates at the head of the editorial column and the platform inserted as standing matter. It was quite an insignificant looking sheet, but no sooner did the American eagle catch sight of it, than he swooned and fell off his perch. Democratic roosters straightened out their necks and ran screaming with terror. Whig coons scampered up trees and barked furiously. The world was falling and every one had “heard it, saw it, and felt it.”

A woman had started a political paper! A woman! Could he believe his eyes? A woman! Instantly he sprang to his feet and clutched his pantaloons, shouted to the assistant editor, when he, too, read andgrasped frantically at his cassimeres, called to the reporters and pressmen and typos and devils, who all rushed in, heard the news, seized their nether garments and joined the general chorus, “My breeches! oh, my breeches!” Here was a woman resolved to steal their pantaloons, their trousers, and when these were gone they might cry “Ye have taken away my gods, and what have I more?” The imminence of the peril called for prompt action, and with one accord they shouted, “On to the breach, in defense of our breeches! Repel the invader or fill the trenches with our noble dead.”

“That woman shall not have my pantaloons,” cried the editor of the big city daily; “nor my pantaloons” said the editor of the dignified weekly;”nor my pantaloons,” said he who issued manifestos but once a month;”nor mine,” “nor mine,” “nor mine,” chimed in the small fry of the country towns. Even the religious press could not get past the tailor shop, and “pantaloons” was the watchword all along the line.”

Ms Swisshelm enjoyed making a stir. And her first issue was just a modest beginning. James Swisshelm had taken Jane with him to Kentucky where she observed to her horror, a slave woman, about her own age, naked to the waist, strapped to a post and being publicly bull-whipped by her owner. Jane swore to her Presbyterian God that she would do all she could for the oppressed–that is, slaves and married women. So when a Dr Robert Mitchell from Indiana County, Pennsylvania, sheltered and fed a fugitive slave named Jerry, was arrested, tried and fined by a judge named Grier for the kindness shown, Swisshelm was outraged. Of note, the $5000 fine levied by Grier would equal $108,000 today. The unrepentant Dr Mitchell said he’s do it again, regardless. In her second week as an editor, Ms Swisshelm took on the judge. Her account follows:

 There was disappointment that I had not criticized Judge Grier’s course in the first number of the Visiter, but this was part of my plan. In the second number I stated that there had been for a long time a great legal luminary visible in the Pennsylvania heavens, which had suddenly disappeared. I had been searching for him for several weeks with the best telescopes in the city, and had about given him up as a lost star, when I bethought me of Paddy, who had heated his gun-barrel and bent it around a tree so that he might be able to shoot around corners. Paddy’s idea was so excellent that I had adopted it and made a crooked telescope, by which I had found that luminary almost sixty degrees below our moral horizon. From this I proceeded to the merits of the case.

Judge Grier and Dr. Mitchell were both elders in the Presbyterian church. The Judge administered to men the eucharist oath to follow Christ, then usurped the law-making power of the United States to punish them for obeying one of the plainest precepts of the Master.

The article threw the judge into a fit. He threatened to sue the Mr Riddle, the owner of the Daily Commercial Journal who printed The Visiter and threatened Ms Swisshelm with imprisonment in the county jail and a libel suit. Grier demanded a published apology. He didn’t know who he was dealing with in that newspaper editor

My next article was headed “An Apology,” and in it I stated the circumstances which had called it out, and the pleasant prospect of my being sent to Mount Airy (our county jail) in case this, my apology, was not satisfactory. I should of course do my best to satisfy his honor, but in case of failure, should take comfort in the fact that the Mount would make a good observatory. From that height I should be able to use my telescope much better than in my present valley of humiliation. Indeed, the mere prospect had so improved my glass, that I had caught a new view of our sunken star, and to-day, this dispenser of justice, this gentleman with the high sense of honor, was a criminal under sentence of death by the divine law.

Judge Grier had helped a gang of thieves to steal Jerry, whose ancestors had been stolen in Africa. The original thief sold all he could sell–the title of a thief–and as the stream cannot rise above the fountain, Jerry’s master held the same title to him that any man would to Judge Grier’s horse, provided he had stolen it. The purchaser of a stolen horse acquired no title in him, and the purchaser of a stolen man acquired no title in him. The man who helped another steal a horse, was a horse thief, and the man who helped another steal a man, was a man thief, condemned to death by divine law. Jerry, after having been once stolen, had recovered possession of himself, and his master and other thieves had re-stolen him! Judge Grier, with full knowledge of this fact, had prostituted law for the benefit of the thieves.

Nothing more was heard of a libel suit. Two years after, James McMasters was sued for harboring a fugitive; was to be tried before Grier, and spoke to his lawyer about summoning the editor of the Visiter. The attorney exclaimed: “Oh bring her, by all means! No matter what she knows, or whether she knows anything; bring her into court, and I’ll win the case for you. Grier is more afraid of her than of the devil.”

Two years later, when Congress debated Henry Clay’s Compromise of 1850, Swisshelm became the first woman to sit and work in the press gallery. She covered the proceedings not only for her weekly but also as a stringer for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. [It is worth noting that Greeley had hired Margaret Fuller as a stringer when she went to Europe to view first-hand the Revolutions of 1848.] Like many others in the North who shared anti-slavery sentiment, Ms Swisshelm was shocked by Daniel Webster’s speech of March 7th, and accused Webster of selling out to the southern slave power. She described the event:

Darkest of the dark omens for the slave, in that dark day, was the defalcation of Daniel Webster. He whose eloquence had secured in name the great Northwest to freedom, and who had so long been dreaded by the slave-power, had laid his crown in the dust; had counseled the people of the North to conquer their prejudices against catching slaves, and by his vote would open every sanctuary to the bloodhound. The prestige of his great name and the power of his great intellect were turned over to slavery, and the friends of freedom deplored and trembled for the result.

For more than a decade, Ms Swisshelm made trouble and enjoyed doing it. In a brilliant piece in her newspaper, she described her feelings about what was refered to as “the woman’s sphere.”

If you wish to maintain your proper position in society, to command the respect of your friends now, and husbands and children in future, you should read, read–think, study, try to be wise, to know your own places and keep them, your own duties and do them. You should try to understand every thing you see and hear; to act and judge for yourselves; to remember you each have a soul of your own to account for; –a mind of your own to improve. When you once get these ideas fixed, and learn to act upon them, no man or set of men, no laws, customs, or combinations of them can seriously oppress you. Ignorance, folly, and levity, are more or less essential to the character of a slave. If women knew their rights, and proper places, we would never hear of men “making their wives” do this, that, or the other.

Hence, before Women’s History Month is completely gone, I take a moment to salute this pioneering journalist. Learn, gentle readers, from the woes of editors whose pants were stolen by a woman and the judge who feared the editor who did not fear jail and the senator who broke faith.

Swisshelm's grave, Pittsburgh PA

Oh, a final note– March is celebrated as Women’s History Month. But the history of women runs from January 1st to December 31st every year, every decade, every century. If you doubt it, remember, Clio, the inspirational muse of good historians, is female!

Boil & bubble! Toil and trouble! The election of 1860

Dividing the Country-1860

The Campaign and Election of 1860–

First in a series on the roots of the Civil War


For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1


In American history we see any number of complicated and problematic election years, elections which changed our history, dramatically changed us as a nation. Such elections as 1800, 1824, 1828, 1876, 1912, 1932, 1940, 1968 and 2000. But it seems to me that none was as complicated, as divisive, as problematic, as surprising and leading to such dramatic change–change which led to a new definition of the United States–as the election of 1860.

The political heat in the country was rising to a hard boil with divisions over slavery, economic development, the banking system, tariffs and taxes. In the decade between 1850 and 1860, the Compromise of 1850 was enacted with the strengthened Fugitive Slave Law, so punitive that many Northerners who had been indifferent to slavery became anti-slavery. A novel entitled Uncle Tom’s Cabin, written by a preacher’s wife, stirred debate, anger and resentment (1852). Debate grew about expansion of slavery in western territories as Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and turned “bleeding Kansas” into a rehearsal for larger conflict. More Northerners accepted Henry Ward Beecher’s declaration that “a Sharp’s rifle is a better argument against slavery than the Bible” while Southerners insisted they could take slavery anywhere and sought to re-open the African slave trade by illegal and legal means. Canada openly welcomed black fugitives while the Royal Navy did its best to stop international slave trade. All the while Britain bought as much cotton as the South had to sell. On the Senate floor, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was assaulted and seriously injured by a Southerner (1856). The election of 1856 sent James Buchanan from Pennsylvania to the White House. Abolitionists, black and white, saw the administration as incompetent and Buchanan as a “dough-face”–a white Northerner who acted like a Southern slave-owner. In the case of Dred Scott, a majority of the Supreme Court held that black people were not and never could be citizens (1857). A successful railroad lawyer in Illinois named Abraham Lincoln tried to unseat Senator Stephen A Douglas (1858); their debates focused attention on the issue of the expansion of slavery and the nature of the federal union. Claiming to be inspired by God, John Brown attempted to start a slave uprising by seizing the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (1859). More fugitives took passage on the underground railroad while more Northern states did less about it. If the country needed more heat to come to a boil, this election provided it.

Senator Sumner of Massachusetts

 The Republican Party emerged in 1854, growing out of a coalition of anti-slavery Whigs [the American “Whig” Party was founded in 1832-3 and dissolved in 1854] and Free Soil Democrats who mobilized in opposition to Senator Douglas’ introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill which repealed the 1820 Missouri Compromise prohibition on slavery in territory north of the 36degree 30minute latitude line. The new party quickly composed a platform of developing the United States by encouraging cheap or free homesteads on western lands, encouraging immigration from western Europe, expanding railroads, and protecting growing industries. They argued that free-market labor was superior to slavery and indeed was the foundation of civic virtue.

Both the well-established Democratic Party (formed in the 1830s from factions of the Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson, which had largely collapsed by 1824 and is the Democratic Party we know by that name today) and the newly emerging Republican Party had particular ethnic and cultural foundations, particularly in the churches which provided social networks throughout most of the nineteenth century. The pietistic churches, growing during the Second Great Awakening, which came in waves between 1820 and the end of the Civil War, placed heavy emphasis on the duty of the Christian to reform society. (Methodism was the fastest growing church in the antebellum period and the slavery issue split the church in the mid-1830’s). Sin in society took many forms such as alcohol abuse, polygamy and slavery. The more liberal elements of the Second Great Awakening also encouraged the participation of women in the church which helps explain the faith of many of the antebellum feminists. The “Yankees” who dominated New England, upstate New York, and much of the upper Midwest became the strongest supporters of the new Republican Party. Many members came from Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches. The Quakers were a small tight-knit group that became heavily Republican as anti-slavery activists pinned their hopes to the Republicans..The liturgical “high-churches” such as Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and German Lutheran largely retained their adherence to the Democratic Party. Irish immigrants, even in northern cities, were mainly Democrats. Immigrants from England and Scotland tended toward the Republicans.

 In the mid-term election of 1858, the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives for the first time, benefitting from the breakdown of the anti-immigration and anti-Catholic American Party [“the Know Nothing movement”] and from increasing strife within the Democratic Party. While actually several seats short of a numerical majority, the Republicans exercised authority by support from members of other parties.

At the beginning of the campaign year, the Democrats continued to splinter. Yet the Republican field of potential nominees for the presidency seemed quite full. William H. Seward of New York was considered the front runner, followed by Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania and Edward Bates of Missouri.

 Seward was a distinguished lawyer, had been governor of New York and served in the U S Senate since 1849. He held abolitionist sympathies and he and his wife had sheltered fugitive slaves in their home. Southerners either despised or feared him.

 Chase, also a distinguished lawyer, had been born in New Hampshire. Blinded in one eye as a youth, he was raised by an uncle, an Episcopal bishop. For his defense of escaped slaves seized in Ohio, he was called “the Attorney General for Fugitive Slaves.” His argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Jones v.Van Zandt on the constitutionality of fugitive slave laws attracted much attention. He had served as U S Senator for Ohio and as the state’s governor from January 14, 1856 to January 9, 1860.

 Cameron, a Pennsylvania native son, made a considerable fortune in railroads and banking. He twice served as a U S Senator from Pennsylvania.

 Bates, Virginia-born, was a veteran of the War of 1812 and a lawyer. He moved to Missouri after the war and became active in Missouri politics at both the state and national levels.

Campaign flag--1860

 Lincoln, like the others, was a lawyer. Unlike Seward, Chase and Cameron, he had not attended college and had minimal formal schooling. Like most antebellum lawyers, he “read law” while clerking for a lawyer and then sought admission to the bar. He had natural wit, read everything he got his hands on and was an excellent story-teller. He had served one term in Congress as a representative from Illinois where he opposed the War with Mexico in 1846. He married a southern woman. He made a considerable fortune doing legal work for the growing railroads. His 1858 challenge to Stephen A Douglas for the seat in the U S Senate gave him some notoriety beyond Illinois.

 As the convention in Chicago developed, it became clear that Seward, Chase, Bates and Cameron had each alienated some faction of the Republican Party. Seward appeared too closely identified with the radical wing of the party. [Remember, gentle reader, in this period and during Reconstruction after the Civil War, the terms “radical” and “Republican” were not mutually exclusive]. Chase, a former Democrat, alienated many of the former Whigs by his coalition with the Democrats in the late 1840s, opposed tariffs demanded by Pennsylvania industry, and faced some opposition among his own delegation from Ohio. Bates alienated people in the border states and southern conservatives as well as German-Americans in the party. Cameron was slick and opportunistic, having no real support outside of Pennsylvania. After his famous Cooper Union address in February, 1860, Lincoln developed a national reputation as the most articulate moderate in the party. He won the nomination on the third ballot on May 18, 1860. Hannibal Hamlin, a lawyer and politician from Maine and known for his anti-slavery views, was selected as vice-presidential candidate to balance the ticket.

Picture of Lincoln taken by Matthew Brady at the time of the Cooper Union speech

 The Democrats helped the Republicans win by fracturing internally, not once but twice. Technically, there were four candidates running for the presidency.

 Stephen Douglas became the first presidential candidate in American history to undertake a nationwide campaign tour. He traveled to the South where he did not expect to win many votes, however, he pled for the maintenance of the Union, rejecting both radical abolitionists and secessionists. Beginning in August, following Douglas’ example, William L. Yancey, a pro-slavery orator, made a speaking tour of the North. He had been instrumental in denying the Charleston nomination to Douglas, and he supported the Richmond Convention nominating Breckinridge.

 Throughout the general election, Lincoln did not campaign or give speeches, following standard practice of most presidential candidates in the first part of the nineteenth century. State and county Republican organizations, using techniques such as rallies, torch-light parades, support in local newspapers, and passing out flyers, sought to generate party enthusiasm and obtain high turnout. Throughout the North, all during the campaign, there were thousands of Republican speakers, millions of campaign posters and leaflets, and tens of thousands of newspaper editorials. These focused on the party platform and on Lincoln’s boot-strap rise from his boyhood poverty.

 Not all Northerners felt happy about the Republicans. Outside of northern Democrats, black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, while fearful of Stephen Douglas or a Southerner winning, distrusted the Republicans, especially the moderates like Lincoln. Others, like the white radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, either longed for a kind of Christian anarchy or the creation of two separate nations. Remember, on a Fourth of July celebration near Boston, Garrison had put a match to a copy of the U S Constitution, denouncing that document as a covenant with death and a pact with hell for the protection it gave slavery.

 The selected representative chronology which follows hopefully provides you, gentle readers, with a kaleidoscopic view of this tumultuous election year and provides some enlightenment about the terrible war which soon followed. Also, it is important to remember that the general election system which we know today only evolved in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 The selection for the Senate in 1860 is performed as mandated by Article 1, Section 3, Sub-section 1 which says “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.” This will change only in 1913 with the adoption of the 17th Amendment which says “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislatures.”


Lincoln campaign button-1860

Election for the House of Representatives is even a bit more complicated. Before 1872, different states could hold elections at various times. The first elections for the 37th Congress are held on August 6, 1860 in Arkansas and Missouri, while the last election will take place in California on September 4, 1861. Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina select Representatives before the presidential election, electing 7 Democrats and 2 independents. These will be the only House elections from the seceding states to the 37th Congress. After South Carolina decides to secede and the Confederate States of America are formed, other Southern states secede as well and elect Representatives to the new Congress of the Confederate States instead of the United States Congress. When Congress comes into session on July 4, 1861, the size of the Democratic House caucus is drastically reduced, resulting in a huge Republican majority. Of the 183 seats, 102 will be held by Republicans, 44 by Democrats, 28 by other parties with 9 seats declared vacant.

 Likewise, state elections such as governorships and state legislatures also took place at different times in different states. Their significance in this election serves as indicia of the November results for president.

 Also, allow me, gentle reader, a final explanatory comment on the significance of the popular vote. Lincoln and his running-mate received only 39.8% of the total popular vote, not uncommon in that period. In five presidential elections between 1844 and 1860, only Franklin Pierce in 1852 won a majority of the popular vote, and Pierce’s majority was a skin-of-the-teeth 50.8%. However, in 1861, when he would take office, Lincoln will not have a minority presidency. Even before the secessionist movement, a reversal of party fortunes swamps the Democratic boat. Republican and third party candidates win a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate. The withdrawal of congressional delegations by the seceding Southern states, beginning even before the start of the new year, will further expand the Republican majorities and the governing power of the new president. The voter turnout rate in 1860 was the second-highest on record (81.2%, second only to 1876, with 81.8%). However, remember registered voters in 1860 are only free white males and in some states, free black males who own property. No women can vote. No Native Americans can vote. The majority of free black men can not vote. No enslaved men can vote. In the six decades after the bitter war which is about to envelop the United States, that suffrage picture will change between 1865 and 1925. Slowly. But change will come. And it will be followed by additional change between 1955 and 1975.



January 2–Monday–Sacramento, California–The state legislature convenes with a narrow Democratic majority. The pro-southern wing of the California Democratic Party has done well in the election. However, even as the new session begins the Democrats are showing signs of a developing split among themselves over the question of slavery.

 January 4–Wednesday–Springfield, Illinois–The state Democratic Party Convention meets to select delegates for the upcoming national convention in Charleston, South Carolina. They charge those selected to make sure the Party’s platform resists all federal regulations concerning slavery in the western territories and to support Senator Stephen A Douglas of Illinois as the official Democratic Party nominee.

 January 9–Monday–Frankfort, Kentucky–The state Democratic Party convention opens today with generally moderate discussion. Participants voice support for slavery and remaining loyal to the Union. The delegates elected to the national convention are committed to native son James Guthrie, who supports the Dred Scott decision, states’ rights, and adherence to the Union.

 January 11–Wednesday–Montgomery, Alabama–The state Democratic Convention opens its four day meeting controlled by advocates of states’ rights. William L Yancey, one of the Southern fire-eaters, gives an important speech. The meeting will end by endorsing a series of resolutions that defend slavery in the western territories, affirm the Dred Scott decision, and threaten a withdrawal from the national convention should these demands not be met.

 January 14–Saturday–Sacramento, California–Democrat Milton Latham resigns as governor after only taking office five days ago. He leaves the governorship to take the unexpired U S Senate seat of David Broderick. Broderick died September 16, 1859, from a gunshot in a duel with the former chief justice of the California supreme court.

 January 18–Wednesday–Meriden, Connecticut–About 300 businessmen attending the state Convention of Manufacturers divide into Republican and Democratic factions in heated debate about the upcoming elections. Eventually the Democrats walk out and hold their meeting in another location.

 January 19–Thursday–Washington–Today’s issue of the abolitionist National Era reports on developments in Nebraska Territory. “We are gratified to announce that the . . . Senate of Nebraska Territory has retraced its steps, and has passed an act for the exclusion of slavery from that Territory. . . . This act of abolishing slavery by a Territorial Government is perhaps the first assertion of ‘popular sovereignty’ against the wishes of the President and the decision of the Dred Scott case. The moral effect of the victory will enure to the Republicans, to whom it belongs, since they introduced the subject, and pressed it upon the attention of the Legislature.”

 January 19–Springfield, Illinois–Abraham Lincoln answers a letter from recently retired Congressman Alexander Stephens of Georgia. Lincoln details his own position on slavery and his understanding of states rights and the federal constitution. There is, Lincoln asserts, “no loop hole left for nullification, and none for secession–because the right of peaceable assembly and of petition and by article Fifth of the Constitution, the right of amendment, is the Constitutional substitute for revolution. Here is our Magna Carta not wrested by Barons from King John, but the free gift of states to the nation they create and in the very amendments harped upon by states rights men are proposed by the Federal congress and approved by Presidents, to make the liberties of the Republic of the West forever sure. All of the States’ Rights which they wished to retain are now and forever retained in the Union, including slavery; and so I have sworn loyalty to this constitutional union, and for it let me live or let me die. But you say that slavery is the corner stone of the south and if separated, would be that of a new Republic; God forbid. When a boy I went to New Orleans on a flat boat and there I saw slavery and slave markets as I have never seen them in Kentucky . . . . I hoped and prayed that the gradual emancipation plan . . .might lead to its extinction in the United States.”

 January 27–Friday–Washington–Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writes to his friend, the Quaker poet and abolitionist, John Greenleaf Whittier, that tensions are so high in the city that foreign “diplomats cannot give a dinner without studying their lists as a protocol.” They are obliged to invite American guests by the section of the country from which they come.

Like a biblical king, President Buchanan sees the hand-writing on the wall

 February 1–Wednesday–Congress–Members of the House of Representatives have been in session since December 5, 1859. Today, after forty-four ballots in the last two months, they finally elect Republican William Pennington of New Jersey as Speaker of the House. His selection comes on a strictly sectional vote with a count of 117 for him and a total of 116 votes spread among his challengers, who include John Sherman of Ohio, a brother of William Tecumseh Sherman, an army officer. Pennington receives only one vote from a Southern representative. (In this his only term in Congress, Pennington will absent himself for 398 of 433 roll call votes).

 February 23–Thursday–Harrisburg, Pennsylvania–Republicans finish their two-day convention selecting delegates for the Chicago convention. Those chosen include David Wilmot and Thaddeus Stevens. All delegates are pledged to vote for Simon Cameron for president at the convention. After three ballots, they select Andrew Gregg Curtin as the party’s candidate for governor of Pennsylvania.

 February 27–Monday–New York City–Abraham Lincoln delivers a major speech at Cooper Union. The excellent and well-prepared speech examines the views of the framers of the Constitution. In a careful, understandable analysis, Lincoln argues that a majority of the framers believed Congress should control slavery in the territories and not allow it to expand. The Republican position restricting the expansion of slavery is like that of the framers, many of whom were Southerners. He points out the inconsistent positions of Senator Stephan Douglas and the errors of Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Dred Scott case. He concludes by exhorting his audience. “Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” His 1500 listeners clap and cheer as he finishes.

 February 28–Tuesday–Providence, Rhode Island–Mr Lincoln delivers a speech to a large and supportive crowd.


Senator Seward of New York

February 29–Wednesday–Madison, Wisconsin–The state Republican Convention, meets to select delegates for the national convention in Chicago. These delegates are pledged to Senator William Seward of New York as the Republican nominee for president.

 March 7–Wednesday–Worcester, Massachusetts–An extremely large state Republican Convention meets to select delegates for the national convention in Chicago. The majority of those chosen support William Seward for president while most of the rest express their support for Representative Nathaniel Banks as a favorite son of Massachusetts.

 March 9–Friday–Norwich, Connecticut–Mr Lincoln speaks to an enthusiastic crowd at the town hall, calling slavery “the all absorbing topic of the day.” He concludes by saying, as he did at Cooper Union, “Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as God gives us power, and as we understand it.”

 March 17–Saturday–New York City–In this issue the Weekly Anglo-African declares that the Republican Party is not far removed from the attitudes of southern Democrats with regard to black people.

 March 17–New York City–A local politico named James Briggs writes to Salmon P Chase. He is working on the Chase campaign. “The contest for the Presidency is between yourself and Seward. His late speech has improved his chances some. Jersey men say he cannot carry that State, & so say many from Pa.”

Salmon P Chase of Ohio


March 26–Monday–Glasgow, Scotland–Speaking to a large audience, Frederick Douglass addresses needed change in American politics. “If 350,000 slaveholders have, by devoting their energies to that single end, been able to make slavery the vital and animating spirit of the American Confederacy for the last 72 years, now let the freemen of the North, who have the power in their own hands, and who can make the American government just what they think fit, resolve to blot out for ever the foul and haggard crime, which is the blight and mildew, the curse and the disgrace of the whole United States.”

 March 30–Friday–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–Mr Thomas L Kane, a Democrat, corresponds with Senator Robert M Hunter, Democrat of Virginia, about the upcoming national convention. Senator Hunter is the favorite son candidate of Virginia and has support in other states. Kane reports on his informal survey of Pennsylvania Democrats and what support he finds for Senator Douglas. “As far as I am able to ascertain, Mr D’s adherents incline to consider it their chief’s interest to support you, and, what is more, I suspect one individual of having taken his cue to this effect directly from the Illinois Senator himself. They have no difficulty in understanding that, if their candidate must look to another Convention, it is his interest to have the Presidential chair filled till ‘64 by a Southerner, to have a platform adopted which it will not humble him or his men to stand upon, to have an opportunity of conciliating the South by contributing to nominate its accepted favorite.”

 April 2–Monday–Connecticut–Republicans sweep the state elections, winning victories in all of the state wide races. Republican William Buckingham wins re-election as governor and the party gains healthy majorities in both houses of the state legislature.

 April 17–Tuesday–New York City–In his diary George Templeton Strong notes that he expects the Democrats “will nominate [Stephan A] Douglas, I think. Then comes the sanhedrin of the undeveloped Third Party.”

 April 18–Wednesday–Syracuse, New York–The state Republican Convention meets and selects delegates for the upcoming national convention in Chicago. They vote unanimously and enthusiastically for William H. Seward as the choice of New York for the nomination for president.

 April 23–Monday–Charleston, South Carolina–The Democratic National Convention convenes at the South Carolina Institute Hall.

 April 29–Sunday–Springfield, Illinois–In a letter to his friend and fellow Republican, Lyman Trumbull, Lincoln writes regarding the up-coming convention in Chicago. “Charleston [the Democratic convention] hangs fire, and I wait no longer. As you request, I will be entirely frank. The taste is in my mouth a little; and this, no doubt, disqualifies me, to some extent, to form correct opinions. You may confidently rely, however, that by no advice or consent of mine, shall my pretensions be pressed to the point of endangering our common cause.”

Lincoln serves up the split Democrats "on the half shell"


April 30–Monday–Charleston, South Carolina–When the Democrats by a vote of 165 to 138 adopt a platform endorsed by Northerners, 50 Southern Democrats, led by William L Yancey, one of the “fire-eaters” who strongly support slavery. walk out. Yancey and the Alabama delegation leave the hall and are followed by the delegates of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, three of the four delegates from Arkansas, and one of the three delegates from Delaware. The Southern delegates gather at St. Andrews Hall on Broad Street, declaring themselves the real convention, and awaiting conciliatory action by the Institute Hall convention. However, the others simply proceed to nominations.

 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 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.”

 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.


The Chicago Wigwam--site of the Republican convention

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. The adopted party platform calls for preservation of the federal union; reform to correct the corruption of the Buchanan Administration; a return to “rigid economy” in the federal budget; banning slavery in new territories as mandated by the Constitution; Congressional action to stop the recent reopening of the African slave trade, trade which is “a crime against humanity and a burning shame to our country and age;” the admission of Kansas as a free state; better wages for laborers and improved income for farmers; prompt passage of a homestead act to encourage settlement in the west; construction of a transcontinental railroad; protection of naturalized citizens; federal financing of improvements to rivers and harbors. The guiding philosophy is “that the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Federal Constitution, . . . is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States must and shall be preserved.”

Hamlin of Maine--Lincoln's running mate


May 19–Saturday–New York City–Lawyer George Templeton Strong commits his opinions about the Republican Party to the pages of his diary. “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.”

 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 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.”


Frederick Douglass

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 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.”

 June 4–Monday–Congress–In the Senate, Charles Sumner of Massachusetts delivers a long, blistering speech called “The Barbarism of Slavery” in which he severely criticizes the slave system and the whole of Southern culture. In it he declares “It is in the Character of Slavery itself that we are to find the Character of Slave-masters; but I need not go back to the golden lips of Chrysostom, to learn that ‘Slavery is the fruit of covetousness, of extravagance, of insatiable greediness;’ for we have already seen that this five-fold enormity is inspired by the single idea of compelling men to work without wages. This spirit must naturally appear in the Slave-master. But the eloquent Christian Saint did not disclose the whole truth. Slavery is founded on violence, as we have already too clearly seen; of course it can be sustained only by kindred violence, sometimes against the defenseless slave, sometimes against the freeman whose indignation is aroused at the outrage. It is founded on brutal and vulgar pretensions, as we have already too dearly seen; of course it can be sustained only by kindred brutality and vulgarity. The denial of all rights in the slave can be sustained only by a disregard of other rights, common to the whole community, whether of the person, of the press, or of speech.”

In response, Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina attacks the adulation given to Sumner in the North and in Britain as modern idolatry. “In Egypt, also, we know they deified beasts and reptiles; but even that bestial people worshiped their idols on account of some supposed virtue. It has been left for this day, for this country, for the Abolitionists of Massachusetts, to deify the incarnation of malice, mendacity, and cowardice. Sir, we not intend to be guilty of aiding in the apotheosis of pusillanimity and meanness.”

Political cartoon saying Lincoln is two-faced

June 4–Buffalo, New York–Having been in session since Tuesday, May 1st, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church concludes when the conference can no longer produce a quorum.Hundreds of delegates from all over the country have been in attendance; however, bitter debate about slavery and some other issues caused some to leave in anger, others to return home out of exhaustion.

 June 5–Tuesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Josiah Quincy, former president of Harvard and now 88 years old, sends a letter of praise to Senator Sumner. “I have read enough to approve, and rejoice that you have been permitted, thus truly, fully, and faithfully to expose the ‘Barbarism’ of Slavery on that very floor on which you were so cruelly and brutally stricken down by the spirit of that Barbarism.”

 June 9–Saturday–Washington–Senator Stephen A. Douglas writes to Follett Foster & Company with complaints about their reprint of his 1858 debates with Mr Lincoln. “I find that Mr Lincoln’s speeches have been revised, corrected and improved since their publication in the newspapers of Illinois, while mine have been mutilated, and in some instances, the meaning changed by the omission of interrogatories and expressions of approbation and disapprobation by persons in the crowd to which my remarks were made responsive, but by the omission of which my replies seemed ambiguous, incoherent or unintelligible. . . . In short, I regard your publication as partial and unfair and designed to do me injustice by placing me in a false position.”


Senator Stephen A Douglas

June 11–Monday–Milwaukee, Wisconsin–The Milwaukee Sentinel evaluates Democratic response to the Republican convention. “The Chicago Convention accomplished one thing very effectually. It opened the eyes of the Democratic journals to the shining qualities and eminent public services of Senator SEWARD. Heretofore the Democratic papers have been accustomed to speak in disparaging and denunciatory terms of Mr. SEWARD, his doctrines and public career. Now all that is changed, and they have no language but praises, for the great statesman of New York.”

 June 18–Monday–Baltimore, Maryland–The Democrats convene again at the Front Street Theater. A dispute over credentials and the delegates who walked out at Charleston splits the party yet again.

 June 18–Springfield, Illinois–Lincoln writes to Carl Schurz, German immigrant “Forty-eighter” and actively involved in Republican politics. “I beg you to be assured that your having supported Gov Seward, in preference to myself in the convention, is not even remembered by me for any practicalpurpose, or the slightest unpleasant feeling. I go not back of the convention, to make distinctions among its members; and, to the extent of our limited acquaintance, no man stands nearer my heart than yourself.”

 June 23–Saturday–Baltimore, Maryland–The national convention of the Democratic Party adjourns, having nominated Stephan A Douglas of Illinois for president and Herschel Johnson of Georgia for vice-president. Their adopted platform calls for a decision by the Supreme Court on slavery in the territories, building a transcontinental railroad, acquiring Cuba, and an end to Northern resistance to enforcement of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law.

 June 28–Thursday–Richmond, Virginia–The break-away Southern Democrats finish a three day convention in Richmond where they select John C. Breckinridge as their nominee for president. They adopt a platform which affirms the right to expand slavery into the western territories as settlers may decide, favors “the acquisition of the Island of Cuba, on such terms as shall be honorable to ourselves and just to Spain, at the earliest practicable moment,” stringent enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, supports “the duty of this Government to protect the naturalized citizen in all his rights, whether at home or in foreign lands, to the same extent as its native-born citizens,” and to secure the passage of some bill, to the extent of the constitutional authority of Congress, for the construction of a Pacific Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, at the earliest practicable moment.”


John C Breckinridge

July 2–Monday–New York City–Democrats gather in a mass gathering at Tammany Hall to overwhelmingly endorse Stephen Douglas as the single Democratic presidential candidate. A considerable number of speakers emphasize the importance of rejecting Breckinridge and the South in favor of Union. The crowd moves to Senator Douglas’ hotel on Fifth Avenue to shout their support. In response Douglas comes out on the hotel balcony and gives brief remarks.

 July 2–Philadelphia, Pennsylvania–The state Democratic Executive Committee meets at the Merchants’ Hotel in an attempt to work out a compromise over the split in the Democratic ticket. A motion to name Stephen Douglas as the sole nominee loses heavily.

 July 4–Wednesday–Columbus, Ohio–The Democratic State Convention meets in Columbus and when a slim majority vote to endorse the Douglas-Johnson ticket, a significant number of Breckinridge supporters immediately withdraw. They gather in another location and issue a call for another state-wide nominating convention to be held in August.

 July 6–Friday–New York City–Recognizing the problems of his party, Fernando Wood, the Democratic mayor proposes in a public letter that the splintered Democrats vote strategically in the upcoming presidential election in order to defeat Lincoln and the Republicans. In states where Douglas is most popular, Democrats should vote for Douglas, and where Breckinridge is favored, Democrats should vote for Breckinridge. The result will send the election from the Electoral College into the House of Representatives as in 1824 and a Democratic candidate will be selected.

 July 9–Monday–Washington–A massive Democratic crowd this evening gathers outside city hall in support of the Breckinridge and Lane ticket. They listen to a number of senators, including Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, urge their support. Then they move to the White House where President Buchanan appears and speaks. While acknowledging the split in the Democratic Party, he gives the reasons why he prefers Breckinridge over Douglas.


Anti-Buchanan cartoon--his high wire failure

July 10—Tuesday–Alexandria, Louisiana–Serving as the first superintendent of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his wife Ellen in Ohio about the upcoming election. He opines that whoever is elected in November “the same old game will be played, and he will go out of office like Pierce and Buchanan with their former honors sunk and lost.”

 July 11–Wednesday–New York City–At a mass meeting of Republican young men at the Cooper Institute Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts gives a fiery speech attacking slavery. Vehemently he declares that if the institution could be driven back into the slave states and kept out of the western territories then the slave system will die “as a poisoned rat dies of rage in its hole.” He calls for a Republican victory in the November election to make this happen.

 July 13–Friday–New York–Mr James Putnam, a prominent American Party [the name used by “the Know-Nothing” anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant party in the last six years] politician in the state, issues a letter state wide, endorsing Lincoln for president. Putnam asserts that Republicans are not abolitionists and Lincoln is “no fanatic” on matters of racial equality.

 July 16–Monday–New York City–Two thousand people gather in Union Park for an evening pro-Lincoln rally. Horace Greeley speaks at length, seeking the support of Whig Party and American Party voters for the Republican ticket.

 July 16–Hartford, Connecticut–Senator Douglas arrives to an enthusiastic reception from a large crowd. In his speech, he asserts that he is the voice of reason in the campaign, standing in the center between two extremes, and that the regular” Democratic Party is the only party that can save the country.

 July 17–Tuesday–Boston, Massachusetts–Senator Douglas arrives to the welcome of a large crowd who parade him through the streets to his hotel where he gives a speech in the evening.

 July 29–Sunday–Missouri–Carl Schurz, German “Forty-eighter” immigrant, is campaigning across the state on behalf of Lincoln. He is reaching out to fellow German-born voters by giving his speeches in their native language. He writes to his wife, “I have been in all respects highly successful. The Germans are coming to our side by hundreds and thousands.”

 August 1–Wednesday–New York City–Today’s edition of the New York Herald quotes the mayor of Chicago as saying that Southerners are busy playing “the old game of scaring and bullying the North into submission to Southern demands and Southern tyranny.”

 August 1–Rochester, New York–In a speech in honor of the twenty-sixth anniversary of the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire, Frederick Douglass praises Senator Sumner of Massachusetts, calling Sumner “the Wilberforce of America.” Douglass goes on to say that he hopes that the Republican party will avoid “acts of discrimination against the free colored people of the United States. I certainly look to that party for a nobler policy than that avowed by some connected with the Republican organization.”

 August 7–Tuesday–New York City–Today’s Times quotes a Southern writer who favors Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington “paved ten fathoms deep with mangled bodies” rather than see Lincoln become president.

 August 8–Wednesday–Springfield, Illinois–Lincoln appears at a campaign rally to a tumultuous response. He declines to give a long speech but limits himself to a few impromptu remarks. “I am gratified, because it is a tribute such as can be paid to no man as a man. It is the evidence that four years from this time you will give a like manifestation to the next man who is the representative of the truth on the questions that now agitate the public. And it is because you will then fight for this cause as you do now, or with even greater ardor than now, though I be dead and gone. I most profoundly and sincerely thank you.”

 August 11–Saturday–Washington–President Buchanan sends a private letter to a journalist in which he denies that he is firing supporters of Senator Douglas from their government jobs.

 August 14–Tuesday–Tennessee–The Memphis Daily Appeal quotes Stephen A Douglas as favoring the acquisition of Cuba and other territories in the Caribbean and in Central America.

 August 17–Friday–Omaha, Nebraska Territory–The Democratic Territorial Convention opens with the nationwide split much in evidence. The Breckinridge forces manage to overwhelm the Douglas supporters on most issues. The gathering does manage to unanimously nominate a candidate for territorial delegate to Congress after only four ballots.

 August 17–Chicago, Illinois–The Press and Tribune reports that “The opposition to Old Abe is played out. Without an union among the different parties who compose it, he will gallop over the course, not pushed to wet a hair or draw a long breath. . . . the Republicans will, at one haul, take one hundred thousand voters out of the Douglas ranks and enroll them under the free soil banner.”

 August 27–Monday–New York City–The Herald quotes Stephan A Douglas as saying, “I am for putting down the Northen abolitionists, but am also for putting down the Southern secessionists, and that too by the exercise of the same constitutional power. I believe that the peace, harmony, and safety of the country depend upon destroying both factions.”

 August 31–Friday–Newark,Ohio–This day’s number of the Newark Advocate in an article entitled “Is Lincoln an Abolitionist?” argues that since Lincoln declared that the nation cannot exist indefinitely half-slave and half-free and opposes the expansion of slavery into the western territories, he therefore must be an abolitionist.


Lincoln outruns Douglas

September 4–Tuesday–Detroit, Michigan–Speaking to a large gathering at a railroad yard, Senator William Seward gives an energetic speech supporting Lincoln and other Republicans.

 September 6–Thursday–Baltimore, Maryland–Senator Douglas speaks for two hours to a large crowd of his supporters. He attacks Breckinridge, saying that without Breckinridge’s interference, he could readily beat Lincoln in every state with the exception of Vermont and Massachusetts.

 September 6–Sacramento, California–With the state Democratic Party irrevocably split, the Douglas loyalists, claiming to be the true Democratic Party, close their two day convention, endorsing the Douglas ticket and the national platform passed in Baltimore. They also strongly condemn the withdrawals at the national conventions which resulted in the alternative nomination of Breckinridge.

 September 7–Friday–Boston, Massachusetts–Garrison pokes fun at the Democrats and President Buchanan in the current issue of The Liberator. Under the headline “Lost: One Cent Reward,” he describes the Democratic Party as lost on the road between Charleston and Baltimore and last seen running after a fugitive slave. “The stock in trade being hopelessly lost, the above reward will be paid by James Buchanan, Caleb Cushing, Benjamin D. Butler, Assignees.”


Garrison, editor of The Liberator

September 8–Saturday–New York City–Today’s Herald quotes William H Seward’s recent speech in Lansing, Michigan in which he said, “I favor . . . the decrease and diminution of African slavery in all the states.”

 September 14–Friday–Upstate New York–Traveling with his wife, Senator Douglas speaks in five towns in the region.

 September 14–New York City–George Templeton Strong confides to his diary his evaluation of the candidates. “I don’t know clearly on which side to count myself in. I’ve a leaning toward the Republicans. But I shall be sorry to see Seward and Thurlow Weed with their profligate lobby men promoted from Albany to Washington. I do not like the tone of the Republican papers and party in regard to the John Brown business of last fall, and I do not think rail-splitting in early life a guarantee of fitness for the presidency. . . . But I can’t support . . . Douglas, the little giant, for I hold the little giant to be a mere demagogue. As to Breckenridge, the ultra Southern candidate, I renounce and abhor him and his party. He represents the most cruel, blind, unreasoning, cowardly absolute despotism that now disgraces the earth.”

 September 18–Tuesday–Rochester, New York–After his well-attended speech, Senator Douglas is honored at night by torch-light parade through the downtown.

 September 23–Sunday–St Joseph, Missouri–Senator William Seward encourages 2000 people to support Lincoln.

 September 26–Wednesday–Lawrence, Kansas–Senator Seward receives a hero’s welcome in this center of free soil Kansas. Several thousand people listen attentively to his rousing speech recounting the efforts Kansas is making to reject slavery and enter the Union as a free state. When he asks them to vote for the Republican ticket he receives claps and cheers.

 October 1–Monday–New York City–Greeley’s Tribune quotes William H Seward on the coming end of slavery. “It is bound to go through all of the thirty-three states of the Union, for the simple reason that it is going through all the world.”

 October 4–Thursday–Cleveland, Ohio–Despite a chilly rain, a large crowd turns out to hear Senator William Seward speak on behalf of Republican candidates.

 October 5–Friday–South Carolina–Governor William Henry Gist notifies other southern states that South Carolina is considering secession.

 October 8–Monday–New York City–In a large meeting at the Cooper Institute, Democrats determined to defeat Abraham Lincoln in November put together a “fusion” movement in an attempt to heal the rift between supporters of Breckinridge and those of Stephen Douglas. Politicians including John Dix, Samuel Tilden, and John Cochrane give fire-and-brimstone anti-Lincoln speeches. Those present ratify an agreement to unite Democrats state-wide to defeat the Republican ticket next month.


New Arrangements in U S politics

October 9–Tuesday–Elections for state-wide offices are held today in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. All result in Republican victories with their candidates winning the governor’s race in each state. The size of their majorities bodes well for the Lincoln-Hamlin ticket, indicating a possible Republican sweep in these states in the upcoming general election and the news further excites talk of secession in the South.

 October 10–Wednesday–New York City–William L Yancey, the Georgia fire-brand politician, advocate of slavery and secession, tells an audience that slavery “is necessary to the civilization of the world, is necessary to your prosperity as well as ours.”


William L Yancey

October 10–New York City–In his diary, George Templeton Strong notes, “republicanism triumphant in Pennsylvania . . . . So the question is settled and Honest Abe will be our next President. Amen. We may as well ask the question at once whether the existence of the Union depends on the submission to the South.”

 October 19–Friday–St. Louis, Missouri–With a major speech here, Democratic candidate Stephen A Douglas, accompanied by his wife, begins an eleven day final campaign swing, concentrating in the Deep South.

,October 19––Boston, Massachusetts–This issue of The Liberator contains a letter from retired Congressman (and radical abolitionist) Joshua R Giddings in which he asserts that black men have a right to vote.

 October20–Saturday–Towanda,Pennsylvania–FormerPennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot, 46 years old, writes to candidate Lincoln about the state elections and his forecast for November. “The victory is complete at all points, and we can hold the country until our principles and policy are irreversibly established in the Government . . . . I have watched the progress of this great revolution for many years, with anxious, often painful interest; and I now feel very much like a Sentinel, who is at length relieved after a weary & protracted watch. If not before, I shall hope to see you at your Inauguration.”

 October 22–Monday–New York City–George Templeton Strong confides to his diary his intent “to deposit a lukewarm Republican vote next month. It is a choice of evils . . . . It is impossible for me to vote . . . [to] strengthen the show of the mischief-making demagogue Douglas.”

 October 24–Wednesday–New Haven, Connecticut–The Daily Palladium quotes Horace Greeley on the slavery question. “Believing slavery to be a flagrant violation of the inalienable rights of man, a burning reproach to the country, an enemy to prosperity and progress in art, intelligence and civilization, I mean to labor for its eradication from my own and all other countries, so long as I live.”

 October 25–Thursday–Augusta, South Carolina–With less than two weeks before the national election, Senator James Hammond hosts a high level meeting of political leaders at his home. Those present include the current governor William Gist, the former governor Robert Allston, and all of South Carolina’s congressional delegation except for one man who is excused for illness. They decide that South Carolina must secede from the Union in the event of Republican victory.

 October 26–Friday–Springfield, Illinois–Candidate Lincoln writes to Major David Hunter, currently stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Major Hunter, a Northerner with strong anti-slavery convictions has been corresponding with Lincoln. Lincoln requests a favor. “I have another letter from a writer unknown to me, saying the officers of the Army at Fort Kearney, have determined, in case of Republican success, at the approaching Presidential election, to take themselves, and the arms at that point, South, for the purpose of resistence to the government. While I think there are many chances to one that this is a hum-bug, it occurs to me that any real movement of this sort in the army would leak out and become known to you. In such case, if it would not be unprofessional, or dishonorable (of which you are to be judge) I shall be much obliged if you will apprize me of it.”

 October 30–Tuesday–New York City–Today’s New York Times declares that an independent Southern Confederation would refuse to pay debts to Northern banks and will steal industrial patents.

 November 1–Thursday–Baltimore, Maryland–A large group of white men attack a parade of 300 Republicans as they approach the Front Street Theater, where their meeting is to be held. A considerable number of hecklers manage to enter the hall and disrupt the speeches despite the efforts of the police.

 November 2–Friday–New York City–Today The New York Times reports that last night the city’s Veterans of the War of 1812 met to hear political speeches. At the conclusion of the assembly the veterans gave a unanimous vote in support of Mr Lincoln and the Republican ticket.

 November 6–Tuesday–In the popular vote for president, Lincoln receives 1,866,452 votes; Douglas receives 1,375,157 votes; John Breckinridge receives 847,953 votes; John Bell receives 590,631 votes. Lincoln carries California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Douglas receives a majority (51.9%) only in New Jersey and in Missouri where he edges Bell by only 429 votes. Breckinridge carries most of the slave-holding states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and edges out Bell by 722 votes in Maryland. Bell carries only Kentucky and Missouri. South Carolina opts not to participate.

On this day, the Republicans win 29 seats in the U S Senate, the Democrats win 23 seats and other parties win 1. [As Southern states secede following the election, and members leave the Senate to join the Confederacy, or are expelled for supporting the rebellion, seats will be declared vacant. The Republicans will gain 1 more seat, other parties will gain 6 more seats and when the Senate finally convenes in 1861, only 13 Democrats will answer the roll call.]

 November 10–Saturday–Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina, husband of Mary Chesnut, becomes the first Southerner to resign from the U S Senate. He is quickly followed by James H. Hammond

November 10–Alexandria, Louisiana–Serving as the first superintendent of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman writes to his wife Ellen about the election. “I thought I ought not to vote in this election, and did not. I would have preferred Bell, but I think he has no chance, and I do not wish to be subject to any political conditions. If I am to hold my place by a political tenure I prefer again to turn vagabond. I would not be surprised to learn that my not voting was construed into a friendly regard for Lincoln, and that it might result in my being declared a public enemy. I shall however rest under a belief that now as the election is over all this hard feeling will subside and peace once more settle on the country.”

 November 13–Tuesday–New York City–Writing in his private diary, George Templeton Strong evaluates the possible secession of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. “We shall be well rid of them.”

 November 16–Friday–Boston–The ever eloquent abolitionist Wendell Phillips declares that the election of Lincoln is a moral victory for abolitionists.

 November 26–Monday–Mansfield, Ohio–From his home town, Congressman John Sherman writes to his brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, with an evaluation of the election and the threat of secession and war. “As a matter of course, I rejoice in the result, for in my judgment the administration of Lincoln will do much to dissipate the feeling in the South against the North by showing what are the real purposes of the Republican party. In the meantime, it is evident we have to meet in a serious form the movements of South Carolinian Disunionists. These men have for years desired this disunion; they have plotted for it. They drove Buchanan into his Kansas policy; they got up this new dogma about slave protection; they broke up the Charleston Convention merely to advance secession; they are now hurrying forward excited men into acts of treason without giving time for passion to cool or reason to resume its sway. God knows what will be the result. . . . Secession is revolution. They seem bent upon attempting it. If so, shall the government resist? If so, then comes civil war, a fearful subject for Americans to think of. Since the election I have been looking over the field for the purpose of marking out a course to follow this winter, and I have, as well as I could, tested my political course in the past. There has been nothing done by the Republican party but merits the cordial approval of my judgment.”

 December–In the issue of Douglass’ Monthly for this month, Frederick Douglass evaluates the election and the in-coming administration. “With the single exception of the question of slavery extension, Mr Lincoln proposes no measure which can bring him into antagonistic collision with the traffickers in human flesh . . . . Slavery will be as safe, and safer, in the Union under such a President than it can be under any President of a Southern Confederacy. This is our impression, and we deeply regret the facts from which it is derived.”

 December 1–Saturday–New York City–George Templeton Strong asks of himself in his diary how things came to such a pass. “The clamor of the South about the admission of California ten years ago introduced the question of slavery to the North as one in which it had an interest adverse to the South. . . . The question was unfortunate for our peace. But we might have forgotten it had not S A Douglas undertaken to get Southern votes by repealing the Missouri Compromise [of 1820]. That was the fatal blow.”

December 3–Monday–Washington–President James Buchanan delivers his State of the Union message to Congress. While finding the nation at peace, except with Mexico, and with increasing prosperity, he blames the current discord solely on the North. “Why is it, then, that discontent now so extensively prevails, and the Union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings, is threatened with destruction? The long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects. The different sections of the Union are now arrayed against each other, and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been formed. I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending danger. . . . The immediate peril arises . . . from the fact that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrections. . . . Sooner or later the bonds of such a union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived, and my prayer to God is that He would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations. But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of danger. It can not be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation at the North against slavery has been incessant.”

 December 6–Thursday–Washington–Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury in the Buchanan Cabinet, writes an open letter to the people of his home state of Georgia from his office here. He concludes that after the Lincoln Administration takes power “in my honest judgement, each hour that Georgia remains thereafter a member of the Union will be an hour of degradation, to be followed by certain and speedy ruin.”

 December 8–Saturday–Springfield, Illinois–President-elect Lincoln writes to William H Seward asking him to accept nomination as Secretary of State in the new cabinet. He notes that he has intended to do so since his nomination in Chicago.

December 8–Washington–Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb resigns from the government. President Buchanan replaces Cobb with Philip Thomas, a Maryland man. Also, President Buchanan meets with the five members of the South Carolina congressional delegation. The South Carolina men leave wit the understanding that the President has promised that the status quo will continue and that the federal forts around Charleston will not be reinforced. In turn, they promise that state authorities will not seize or attack federal facilities.

 December 12–Wednesday–Annapolis, Maryland–Midshipman William Cushing writes to a cousin about the current state of the Naval Academy. He reports that cadets are resigning everyday and that “each southerner has orders to resign as soon as his state secedes.” Outside the gates, men are “arming in every portion of the State.”

 December 14–Friday–Georgia calls for a convention of Southern states to form an independent nation.

 December 14–Washington–Lewis Cass resigns as Secretary of State.

December 15–Saturday–New York City–George Templeton Strong evaluates for his diary the shake-up in the Buchanan Cabinet. “Cass has resigned, following the example of Mr Secretary Cobb, whom no one regrets in the least. General Scott has been in council with the Cabinet, giving advice that old Buchanan declines to accept . . . . Is old Buchanan imbecile or a traitor?”

 December 18–Tuesday–Congress–Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky introduces a series of measures aiming to resolve the secession crisis by addressing the grievances that is lead the slave states of the United States to contemplate secession from the United States. Basically the substance of the “Crittenden Compromise” protects the existence and expansion of slavery.

 December 20–Thursday–South Carolina officially approves the proposed Ordinance of Secession.

 December 26–Wednesday–Charleston, South Carolina–As darkness falls, Major Robert Anderson, in command of federal forces here, quietly evacuates Fort Moultrie in the harbor and occupies nearby Fort Sumter. By doing so, he gives the appearance of concentrating almost all federal forces in the area in one strong position and seemingly preparing for a siege.

 December 27–Thursday–Charleston, South Carolina–As South Carolina authorities perceive what Major Anderson has done, they are furious, believing that President Buchanan has violated his pledge of December 8th.

 December 27–Charleston, South Carolina–As tensions rise, Mary Chesnut notes in her diary the state of affairs. “The row is fast and furious now. State after State is taking its forts and fortresses. They say if we [South Carolina] had been left out in the cold alone, we might have sulked a while, but back we would have had to go, and would merely have fretted and fumed and quarreled among ourselves. We needed a little wholesome neglect. . . . [N]ow our sister States have joined us, and we are strong. . . . Those who want a row are in high glee. Those who dread it are glum and thoughtful enough.”

 December 28–Friday–Auburn, New York–William H Seward accepts Lincoln’s offer to serve as Secretary of State in the upcoming administration.

 December 29–Saturday–Washington–The Buchanan Administration continues in crisis and unraveling in its ability to function. Since the November election, many Northerners suspect Secretary of War John B Floyd, from Virginia, of disloyalty, particularly concerning arms shipments to Southern states, questionable involvements with defense contractors, and embezzlement of federal money. Today Floyd submits his resignation which President Buchanan quickly accepts, cancelling Floyd’s last scheduled shipment of heavy guns south, and appointing Postmaster-General Joseph Holt in Floyd’s place.

 December 31–Monday–Congress–The Senate tables the Crittenden Compromise.

 In another four and a half months, Southerners and Northerners will be shooting each other.

The Power of the Free Press

Today, June 13th, marks the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of publication by The New York Times of the “Pentagon Papers, ” a secret study of United States involvement in Vietnam. As I think about that event, history occurring in my lifetime, I ponder the list of editors, journalists and publishers who took risks, made trouble and in some ways advanced freedom and justice. I could compose and chant a litany of them. As the philosopher Cornel West has commented, “Sometimes it’s good just to say their names.”

The two that come to my mind today are John Peter Zenger and William Lloyd Garrison. I find it worthwhile to remember who they were and what they did.

At age 13, Zenger, born in Germany, emigrated to America in 1710 and took work as an apprentice to William Bradford, the only printer in New York at that time. Sixteen years later Zenger opened his own printing shop, For the six years, he primarily published religious tracts and open letters concerning public issues.

In the summer of 1732 William Crosby arrived in New York to take his position as the new governor of the colony of New York. Almost immediately Crosby began a series of manipulations of government offices, the courts and a newspaper, the New York Gazette, to advance his public career and his private fortune. On November 5, 1733, Zenger published the first issue of his New York Weekly Journal, a paper funded by James Alexander, an outspoken opponent of Governor Cosby and his policies. In one issue in January, 1734 and again in two issues in September, the Weekly Journal accused governor Cosby of threatening the “liberties and properties” of the people and violating the rules of his office.

On October 22, 1734, Governor Cosby ordered that copies of Zenger’s Weekly Journal be burned in public near the city’s pillory. When local magistrates refused to carry out the order, Francis Harison, editor of the pro-Crosby newspaper, carried out the burning with the compelled assistance of his black slave.

On a Sunday, November 17, the sheriff arrested Zenger, placing him in jail incommunicado and at an extremely high bail, an amount set at Governor Cosby’s request. Initially, the judges set to hear the case, acting at the Governor’s orders, delayed the start of trial. Finally jury selection began on July 29, 1735. Zenger’s previous counsel having been disbarred for challenging the judge, Zenger was represented by Andrew Hamilton of Philadelphia, the best known and probably best trial lawyer of the time. Hamilton took the case at the urging of Ben Franklin, a printer of Philadelphia. The trial opened on August 4. The king’s prosecutor for the colony of New York, a Mr Bradley, argued to the jury that in order to prove the charge of “seditious libel,” he need only prove that the statements in question were printed. The truth or falsity of the statements was irrelevant. Mr Hamilton presented a lengthy and eloquent argument to the jury. In key parts, he said:

“There is heresy in law as well as in religion, and both have changed very much. We well know that it is not two centuries ago that a man would have been burned as a heretic for owning such opinions in matters of religion as are publicly written and printed at this day. They were fallible men, it seems, and we take the liberty not only to differ from them in religious opinions, but to condemn them and their opinions too. I must presume that in taking these freedoms in thinking and speaking about matters of faith or religion, we are in the right; for although it is said that there are very great liberties of this kind taken in New York, yet I have heard of no information preferred by [Mr. Bradley] for any offenses of this sort. From which I think it is pretty clear that in New York a man may make very free with his God, but he must take a special care what he says of his governor.”

I imagine smiles upon the faces of some members of the jury by this point and disapproving frowns on the faces of the judge and prosecutor. Hamilton continued:

“It is agreed upon by all men that this is a reign of liberty. While men keep within the bounds of truth 1 hope they may with safety both speak and write their sentiments of the conduct of men in power, I mean of that part f their conduct only which affects the liberty or property of the people under their administration. Were this to be denied, then the next step may make them slaves; for what notions can be entertained of slavery beyond that of suffering the greatest injuries and oppressions without the liberty of complaining, or if they do, to be destroyed, body and estate, for so doing?”

Invoking the concept of jury nullification, a plea that the jury return a “Not Guilty” verdict despite instructions from the court, a concept approved by England’s highest court in the trial of William Penn for unauthorized preaching, Hamilton declared to the jury:

“Gentlemen: The danger is great in proportion to the mischief that may happen through our too great credulity. A proper confidence in a court is commendable, but as the verdict, whatever it is, will be yours, you ought to refer no part of your duty to the discretion of other persons. If you should be of the opinion that there is no falsehood in Mr. Zenger’s papers, you will, nay pardon me for the expression, you ought, to say so- because you do not know whether others – I mean the Court – may be of that opinion. It is your right to do so, and there is much depending upon your resolution as well as upon your integrity.”

The jury acquitted Zenger after a short period of deliberation. The next March the disgraced Governor Cosby died. Andrew Hamilton drew up architectural plans for a building in Philadelphia which came to be known as “Independence Hall” where in the spring of 1787, a convention met to draw up a constitution for the new government of the United States.

Like Zenger, young William Lloyd Garrison, in 1819, at age fourteen, began working as an apprentice for the Newburyport (Massachusetts) Herald. By age twenty-five he was deeply committed to the cause of radical, immediate abolition of slavery. Eventually he became known as one of most articulate opponents of the slave power. In January of 1831, he began publication of his own anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator. In his famous opening editorial, he wrote:

“I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”

And for thirty-five years, he made every effort to be heard. Interestingly, when he began seeking money to start The Liberator, most white anti-slavery advocates refused to help. Two well-to-do African Americans from Pennsylvania, John Vashon from Pittsburgh and James Forten from Philadelphia, provided the money Garrison needed.

In addition to advocacy of abolition of slavery, Garrison spoke and wrote on behalf of many reform movements–international peace, non-resistance, abolition of the death penalty, universal suffrage, protection of laborers and the rights of women. For example, in October, 1853, he argued that “the natural rights of one human being are those of every other; in all cases equally sacred and inalienable; hence, the boasted Rights of Man, about which we hear so much, are simply the Rights of Woman, about which we hear so little; or, in other words, they are the Rights of Humankind, neither affected by or dependent on sex or condition.”

Such advocacy earned him the friendship of people like Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Lydia Maria Child and Susan B. Anthony while often alienating him from white male and some black activists and reformers. Early on, copies of The Liberator were taken from the mail in southern post offices and burned. Several slave-holding states made it a crime for a slave to even posses or handle a copy of The Liberator.

Garrison knew and cherished the symbolic gesture. In a nineteenth-century antecedent to flag-burning, Garrison, at the Fourth of July celebration in 1854 at Framingham, Massachusetts, set a match to a copy of the Unites States constitution, denouncing that document as “a Covenant with Death, an Agreement with Hell” because of the protections of slavery written into it by the framers. “So perish all compromises with tyranny. And let all the people say, ‘Amen,’” Garrison exclaimed like a revivalist preacher. As Henry Mayer in his brilliant biography of Garrison, All On Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, writes, “With a gesture harking back to Martin Luther’s defiant burning of both the canon law and the papal bull that had excommunicated him for heresy, the editor made his most sensational and concentrated statement yet against” the slave system and the government which protected it.

I appreciate journalists and editors who dare speak truth to power. They make us uncomfortable. But that is exactly what we need.