Tag Archives: political theorists

Freedom of the Press ~ It’s Essential

In every State, probably, in the Union, the press has exerted a freedom in canvassing the merits and measures of public men of every description which has not been confined to the strict limits of the common law. On this footing the freedom of the press has stood; on this footing it yet stands. . . . Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of everything, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness? ~ James Madison (1751– 1836)

The Progress of Insurrectionary Upheaval~July 1, 1863

The Progress of Insurrectionary Upheaval~Robert Dale Owen

Away from Gettysburg Pennsylvania the war and the world continue. A socialist theorist argues for compensated emancipation. A new treaty between the United States and Great Britain attempts to resolve old but still sore issues. Union soldiers anticipate the fall of Vicksburg while a New York lawyer wonders what General is up to in Pennsylvania. Colonel Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts wait for what comes next. A friend asks Walt Whitman for a favor. In Canada an adventurer is born. It is not all about that battle in Pennsylvania.

July– Boston, Massachusetts– In the July issue of The Atlantic Monthly Robert Dale Own, age 61, political activist and socialist theorist, makes an impassioned plea based on the U S Constitution, history and the current political situation brought on by insurrection, for Congress to past legislation abolishing slavery with a provision for some compensation as Great Britain offered thirty years ago when slavery was ended throughout the British Empire. “Those who demur to the passage of an act which meets the great difficulty before us broadly, effectually, honestly, and in accordance with the dictates of Christianity and civilization, would do well to consider whether, in the progress of this insurrectionary upheaval, we have not reached a point at which there is no prudent alternative left.”

Robert Dale Owen

Robert Dale Owen

July 1– Wednesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong updates the war news.  Sundry telegrams confirming what the newspapers tell us, that Meade is advancing and that Lee has paused and is calling in his scattered columns either for battle or for a retreat with his wagon loads of plunder. Harrisburg breathes more freely, and the Pennsylvania militia is mustering in considerable (numerical) force. Much good they would do, to be sure, in combat with Lee’s desperadoes, cunning sharp-shooters, and stark, hard-riding moss-troopers.”

July 1– Wednesday– Poolesville, Maryland– Union Colonel Charles Russell Lowell to Effie Shaw: “Wars are bad, but there are many things far worse. I believe more in ‘keeping gunpowder dry’ than you do, but am quite convinced that we are likely to suffer a great deal before the end of this.”

July 1– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of State Seward and Lord Lyons, British Minister, sign a treaty between the United States and Great Britain regarding the final settlement of the claims of the Hudson’s Bay and Puget’s Sound Agricultural Companies to solve problems from 17 years ago. “Whereas it is desirable that all questions between the United States authorities on the one hand, and the Hudson’s Bay and Puget’s Sound Agricultural Companies on the other, with respect to the possessory rights and claims of those companies, and of any other British subjects in Oregon and Washington Territory, should be settled by the transfer of those rights and claims to the government of the United States for an adequate money consideration: It is hereby agreed that the United States of America and her Britannic Majesty shall, within twelve months after the exchange of the ratifications of the present treaty, appoint each a commissioner for the purpose of examining anddeciding upon all claims arising out of the provisions of the above-quoted articles of the treaty of June 15,1846.” [The 1846 treaty to which the document refers had settled the border between the United States and Canada in the Pacific Northwest.]

Lord Lynos, Her Majesty's Minister to the United States

Lord Lynos, Her Majesty’s Minister to the United States

July 1– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles in his diary: “We have reports that the Rebels have fallen back from York, and I shall not be surprised if they escape capture, or even a second fight, though we have rumors of hard fighting to-day.”

July 1– Wednesday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw to his sister-in-law Clemence Haggarity: “There is a late-order from Washington, cutting down the pay of colored troops from $13 to $10 per month. They have not yet decided here whether we come under the order or not. If we do, I shall refuse to have the regiment paid off, until I hear from Governor Andrew. Another bit of insanity is a proposition to arm the Negroes with pikes instead of muskets. They might as well go back eighteen centuries as three, and give us bows and arrows. General Strong says the regiment shall retain their rifles; but Montgomery and Higginson are in a great stew about it; and, indeed, such an act would take all the spirit and pluck out of their men, and show them that the government didn’t consider them fit to be trusted with fire-arms; they would be ridiculed by the white soldiers, and made to feel their inferiority in every respect. The folly of some of our leaders is wonder-full! I can’t imagine who started the idea. I hope the gentleman has a book of drill for the pike all ready. There is some movement on foot in this Department. We do not know exactly what will be done yet. I don’t believe Charleston will be taken without some hard knocks.”

54th Massachusetts Regiment

54th Massachusetts Regiment

July 1– Wednesday– Nashville, Tennessee– Will Wallace writes to his friend Walt Whitman to request a favor. “I am ambitious and write consulting you. I see many Inspectors in the Army, some as to cleanliness and discipline of Hospitals others as to the ventilation etc etc I have met a number whom I consider inqualified [sic] for the position from the fact that they are not acquainted with Hospital life. My ambition points to this branch for myself I feel qualified for an inspector of Hospitals and I think can produce testimonials and certificates to that effect from officers of high standing in this Dept and in the Ninth Army Corps. Can you bring any influence to bear on this matter in the City of Washington. You will confer quite a favor by replying in regard to this question.”

July 1– Wednesday– Memphis, Tennessee– Union soldier Frank Guernsey to his wife Fannie: “We are getting a little impatient with affairs at Vicksburg. There is no doubt but Grant has got a sure thing on them but it takes so long to accomplish his ends.I tell you Fannie, this is a good place for a fellow to learn patience and to exercise it too, everything in this department is staked on the issue at Vicksburg if we are successful as we shall be in the end, the war will be virtually closed in the south west. We shall then probably have to go to Va. and try a little of our kind of argument with General Lee. There are some troops in this department that don’t know what the word retreat means. I don’t know how it will be with the 32nd. I am rather anxious that we should have a chance to try our hands, but that will come quick enough after we are mounted. We shall probably get more fighting then than we want.”

Vicksburg under siege

Vicksburg under siege

July 1– Wednesday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Union soldier Lucius Barber updates the status of the siege. “We now had several of their forts undermined and about ready to be blown up, but General Grant thought proper to demand a surrender before proceeding to extremities. Accordingly it was made with the request, that in case of non-acceptance, he, Pemberton [the Confederate commander], would have the women, children and non-combatants removed, as he [Grant] should shell the city. He [Grant] received the haughty reply from the commander that he [Pemberton] was placed there to defend the women, children and helpless, not to turn them off, and the blood be on their own heads for the sacrifice of the women that were killed in the terrible bombardment which followed. They sought shelter in caves, but they were built to protect them from fire from the river side. From the rear it afforded them sorry protection. So sharp was our target shooting that a rebel could not even show his head above the works, but that a dozen bullets would speed after him. There was not a spot in the sand-banks, which formed their loop-holes, but what was pierced with bullets. The rebels lay in their trenches . . . without scarcely stirring. They dared not attempt to leave. Food and water was brought to them in the night. They showed a perseverance and valor worthy of a better cause.”

July 1– Wednesday– Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada– Birth of William Grant Stairs, explorer, soldier and adventurer, the sixth child and third son of John and Mary Morrow Stairs. He will play a key role in 1891 in the European struggle to control the Katanga region of the Congo.

William Grant Stairs

William Grant Stairs

Eve of Jubilee~December, 1862~the 28th to the 31st

In the last four days of the year the bloodshed continues and soldiers wonder if peace will ever come. Gideon Welles complains of party spirit hindering government. Reports arrive in the United States of political changes in Japan. German political theorist Karl Marx works on a manuscript. The poet Walt Whitman, having found that his brother George is alright, looks for employment in Washington. Anti-British sentiment continues because of the raider Alabama.

What emancipation will bring as depicted by Thomas Nast

What emancipation will bring as depicted by Thomas Nast

Above all, abolitionists and free black people, fugitive slaves, the Federal government in Washington and the Confederate government in Richmond all wonder if the essential nature os the war is about to change. Will President Lincoln carry out his promise of September to put the Emancipation Proclamation into effect? New Year’s Eve is a watch night for many.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

December 28– Sunday– Rochester, New York– Speaking at Zion Church in anticipation of the Emancipation Proclamation actually taking effect in a matter of days, Frederick Douglass sounds a prophetic warning. “This is no time for the friends of freedom to fold their hands and consider their work at an end. The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance. Even after slavery has been legally abolished, and the rebellion substantially suppressed, even when there shall come representatives to Congress from the states now in rebellion, and they shall have repudiated the miserable and disasterous error of disunion, or secession, and the country shall have reached a condition of comparative peace, there will still remain an urgent necessity for the benevolent activity of the men and the women who have from the first opposed slavery from high moral conviction.”

December 28– Sunday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Outside of the city, Union and Confederate skirmishers stop shooting long enough to exchange friendly banter and out-dated newspapers. Afterward, one Union soldier writes, “So we met and parted, not realizing we were enemies. My God, when will this unnatural war have an end!– when shall friend cease to seek the life of friend, and mankind once more realize the blessings of peace?”

December 28– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports political changes in Japan. “Intelligence has . . . just reached us, via San Francisco, that . . . . revolution has, in fact, taken place, which will probably have a most injurious effect on the interests of foreigners in Japan. For it is no longer the party friendly to the foreigner and to foreign commerce that governs . . . and determines the privileges of intruders, but that fanatical faction who have always been the inveterate foes of the stranger, and who have always been prompt to incite their followers to outrage against him. There is a chance . . . that things may not turn out so bad as they promise. Parties are seldom as ultra in as out of office, and such may be the case in Japan. But if the Reactionists remain true to the principles which they practiced when in opposition; if they still hold it a sacred duty to disregard the rights of aliens, and to protect their assassins, the foreign residents may prepare for persecution under the new regime. But should the treaties be disregarded, and the residence of aliens in the Empire be rendered unsafe and intolerable, Japan will speedily call down upon her head the punishment she deserves. The adoption of so execrable a policy on the part of the Japanese will be an open defiance of civilization; and the crimes and the arrogance of the Islanders will arouse the indignation of foreign Governments.”

Karl Marx

Karl Marx

December 28– Sunday– London, England– Karl Marx, age 44 and in exile in London since 1849, writes to his friend Frederick Engels about his manuscript for a book on political economy which he will call Capital. He explains the delays in finishing the work and his plans for publication. Also, he inquires about the political situation in Germany with expectations of coming revolution. “I have been, and still am, forced to undertake a large amount of hackwork to prevent myself and my family from actually being relegated to the streets. I had even decided to become a ‘practical man’ and had intended to enter a railway officer at the beginning of next year. Luckily — or perhaps I should say unluckily? — I did not get the post because of my bad handwriting. So, you will see that I had little time left and few quiet moments for theoretical work. It seems probable that the same circumstances will delay my finishing the book for the printers for longer than I should have wished. . . . The conspiration de silence with which I am honored by the German literary rabble as soon as the latter finds out that the thing can’t be dismissed with insults is . . . unfavorable from the point of view of sales. As soon as I have a fair copy of the manuscript (upon which I shall make a start in January 1863), I shall bring it to Germany myself, it being easier to deal with publishers on a personal basis. . . . I should be most grateful if you could write to me occasionally about the situation at home. We are obviously heading for revolution — something I have never once doubted since 1850. The first act will include a by no means gratifying rehash of the stupidities of ’48-’49. However, that’s how world history runs its course, and one has to take it as one finds it.”

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

December 29– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Having come looking for his brother to see if George is alright after the battle of December 13th, Walt Whitman finally writes to his mother. “When I found dear brother George, and found that he was alive and well, O you may imagine how trifling all my little cares and difficulties seemed– they vanished into nothing. And now that I have lived for eight or nine days amid such scenes as the camps furnish, and had a practical part in it all, and realize the way that hundreds of thousands of good men are now living, and have had to live for a year or more, not only without any of the comforts, but with death and sickness and hard marching and hard fighting, (and no success at that,) for their continual experience– really nothing we call trouble seems worth talking about. . . . George is very well in health, has a good appetite. I think he is at times more wearied out and homesick than he shows, but stands it upon the whole very well. Every one of the soldiers, to a man, wants to get home.” On this same day, Whitman writes to Ralph Waldo Emerson, telling Emerson that he is seeking employment in Washington and asking Emerson to write letters of reference to Secretary of State Seward and to Treasury Secretary Chase as well as a letter of introduction to Senator Charles Sumner.

December 29– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles notes new activities on the high seas. “We had yesterday a telegram that the British pirate craft Alabama captured the Ariel . . . on her passage from New York to Aspinwall [now, Colon, Panama], off the coast of Cuba.” Referring to the raider as “this wolf from Liverpool”, Welles vows to “have a day of reckoning with Great Britain for these wrongs, and I sometimes think I care not how soon nor in what manner that reckoning comes.”

December 29– Monday– Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi–From strong defensive positions, Confederate troops repel an attack by William Tecumseh Sherman’s force and inflict heavy losses. Union killed, wounded and missing total 1776 while the rebel defenders suffer a total of 207 casualties.

December 29– Monday– Helena, Arkansas– A group of Federal military chaplains and Army doctors file a protest regarding the poor treatment of fugitive slaves by some soldiers. They request that the generals in charge take some remedial action. “The Contrabands [escaped slaves] within our lines are experiencing hardships oppression & neglect the removal of which calls loudly for the intervention of authority. We daily see & deplore the evil and leave it to your wisdom to devise a remedy. In a great degree the contrabands are left entirely to the mercy and rapacity of the unprincipled part of our army . . . with no person clothed with Specific authority to look after & protect them. . . . These grievances reported to us by persons in whom we have confidence, & some of which we know to be true, are but a few of the many wrongs of which they complain– For the sake of humanity, for the sake of Christianity, for the good name of our army, for the honor of our country, cannot something be done to prevent this oppression & to stop its demoralizing influences upon the Soldiers themselves?”

December 30– Tuesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong wonders in the pages of his diary if the Emancipation Proclamation will really take effect on Thursday. “Will Lincoln’s backbone carry him through the work he is pledged them [the slave population] to do? It is generally supposed that he intends to redeem his pledge, but nobody knows, and I am not sanguine on the subject. If he comes out fair and square, he will . . . take high place among the men who have controled the destinies of nations. If he postpone or dilute his action, his name will be a byword and a hissing till the annals of the nineteenth century are forgotten.”

December 30– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Preparing to issue the formal Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day, President Lincoln provides members of the Cabinet with a copy of the Final Emancipation Proclamation and requests them to offer suggestions. The President informs General Burnside that “You must not make a general movement of the army without letting me know.”

December 31– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.–President Lincoln signs the act approving admission of West Virginia to the United States. He also meets with his Cabinet for a final review of the Emancipation Proclamation.

December 31– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles finishes his diary for this year. “The year closes less favorably than I had hoped and expected, yet some progress has been made. It is not to be denied . . . that the national ailment seems more chronic. The disease is deep seated. Energetic measures are necessary . . . . Worse than this, the envenomed, relentless, and unpatriotic spirit of party paralyzes and weakens the hand of the Government and country.”

December 31– Wednesday– Falmouth, Virginia– Elisha Hunt Rhodes observes the day. “Well, the year 1862 is drawing to a close. As I look back I am bewildered when I think of the hundreds of miles I have tramped, the thousands of dead and wounded that I have seen, and the many strange sights that I have witnessed. I can truly thank God for his preserving care over me and the many blessings I have received. . . . The year has not amounted to much as far as the War is concerned, but we have hope for the best and feel sure that in the end the Union will be restored. Good bye, 1862.” He makes a list in his journal of 73 towns and cities were he has been since his enlistment 18 months ago.

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

December 31– Wednesday– Murfreesboro, Tennessee– Union and Confederate forces clash in almost simultaneous attacks. The fighting begins at dawn and will last until the 2nd of next month.

December 31– Wednesday– Mobile, Alabama– President Jeff Davis sends a message to the War Department in Richmond, saying that “guns and ammunition . . . needed at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Very much depends upon prompt supply.”

December 31– Wednesday– Off the coast of North Carolina–The Union ironclad Monitor sinks in a gale with 16 of the 62 crewmen lost in the storm.