Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kentucky and Fremont's Proclamation

On the Library of Congress American Memory website I ran across a letter from Robert Anderson (the hero of Fort Sumter and a Kentucky native) to President Abraham Lincoln expressing the sentiments of Kentuckians about General John Fremont's premature proclamation (Lincoln quickly rescinded it) that freed the slaves of secessionists in Missouri.

It is obvious after reading it that Anderson thought that Kentuckians believed if slaves were freed in the Unionist majority slave Border State of Missouri (even if they were only the slaves of supporters of the Confederacy) then it could happen to them too.

I feel it my duty to say that Major General Fremont's Proclamation, followed as it has been by the act of a military commission, manumitting slaves, is producing most disastrous results in this State, and that it is the opinion of many of our wisest and soundest men that if this is not immediately disavowed, and annulled, Kentucky will be lost to the Union. I have already heard that on the reception of the news from Missouri, this morning, a company which was ready to be sworn into the service was disbanded. Kentucky feels a direct interest in this matter, as a portion of General Fremont's force is now upon her soil.

Robert Anderson.

Louisville, Ky.

Sept. 13, 1861.

Anderson was not alone in his warnings for Lincoln in this issue. Lincoln's good friend Joshua Speed wanted to make sure Lincoln was fully apprised of the dire consequences Fremont's proclamation would have on Kentuckians; white owners and non-owners and African Americans too. This was a full year before Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which threw Kentuckians into a fury, even though that document excluded the Bluegrass state.

Louisville 3 Sept 1861.

Dear Lincoln

I have been so much distressed since reading, that (to us and to the union cause) that foolish proclamation of Fremont, that I have been unable to eat or sleep--

It will crush out every vestage of a union party in the state-- I perhaps & a few others will be left alone -- for I do not intend that the act of any military cheiftain or any administration to shall drive me from my fidelity to my government:

Think of its practical workings-- We have from 180 to 200000 slaves among us-- A military commander issues an edict which declares 20.000 of them free men-- I suppose that would be about the relative proportion which would be declared free They would not be slow to assert their claim-- It would be a necessity with our entire people to resist -- for the loyal slaveholder & the non slaveholder would all be alike interested in resistance. Cruelty & crime would run riot in the land & the poor negroes would be almost exterminated--

So fixed is public sentiment in this state against freeing negroes & allowing negroes to be emancipated & remain among us -- That you had as well attack the freedom of worship in the north or the right of a parent to teach his child to read -- as to wage war in a slave state on such a principle--

You will have about as much support in one case as in the other--

Think of this I implore you

Your friend

J. F. Speed

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Just Finished Reading

The idea of the Underground Railroad has fascinated me since I was a boy. In 4th grade I had Indiana history and heard tales of personalities like Levi Coffin and places around my town of Madison that had allegedly hid runaway slaves.

Much of the Underground Railroad's story is built on myth, but fortunately, over the last thirty years or so, serious scholarship has been produced to help us better understand the real story of the trail to freedom.

Dr. J. Blaine Hudson's book brings to light many of the people and places that have been ignored in favor more traditional Underground Railroad stories. Hudson's use of primary sources such as runaway slave advertisements, newspaper articles and court cases shows that much of the success that runaways had was due to their own decisions and ambition for freedom. Free African Americans too have not been traditionally received the credit they deserve for providing hiding places, sustenance, and encouragement to runaways. Whites such as Levi Coffin, Calvin Fairbank and John Rankin certainly risked much to help runaways, but much more often blacks received no white assistance and had to rely on their own wits and perseverance.

Of special interest to me was the author's discussion of the Madison crossing point. Slaves fleeing from central Kentucky often crossed the Ohio River at Madison and received direction and aid from Madison blacks such as George DeBaptist, Elijah Anderson, John Lott, Freman Anderson and Chapman Harris.
Provided in the book was a quote from the Louisville Courier from November 25, 1856 describing Harris. "Chapman Harris, a huge free Negro, black as the ace of spades...is a preacher from some where back of Madison, Ind., where he is said to be an active member of the Freedom Party."

This book is a great read full of wonderful research. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Occupational Portraits, Part II

African American Cowboy Nat Love (aka Deadwood Dick), born a slave in 1854 in Tennessee

Weaver holding loom shuttle

Watch maker or repairman

Tinker (tinsmith)


Stone Mason

Brick Mason


Seamstress or dressmaker

Salesman with samples



Monday, January 23, 2012

Just Finished Reading

I have had this book on my amazon.com wishlist for several months now, but the price, even for a used copy, only seems to rise. So, I decided to get it through my local library's interlibrary loan program. And, I'm glad I did. Not that it was a bad book, because it wasn't. I really enjoyed reading it, but this collection of twelve essays, had a few that I was not particularly interested in.

As the last part of the subtitle indicates it covered "North American Slavery." That's a lot of ground to cover. Or, on the other hand, it is an easy way to cover a broad range of topics. There were a couple of articles on slave residences in the Caribbean islands and one on slave housing in Rhode Island in the 18th century. These particular articles were well written and interesting, but I would have preferred more coverage of the diverse slave quarters that appeared in the South; I especially would have liked something comparing urban and rural slave quarters.

Another unfortunate aspect of the book I felt was that the only Southern states that the book specifically covered were Virginia and Tennessee. Three articles were on Virginia and one on Tennessee. And, while the Tennessee article was good, it was quite short. I would also have liked an article that explored changes from slave quarters to sharecropping quarters during Reconstruction.

So, in short, I really enjoyed the book, but would have probably sought different articles if I have been editing it. I suppose it is just a case of personal taste.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Occupational Portraits, Part I

We rarely sees it today, but many people in mid-nineteenth century America, especially those with specialized skills, were proud of their occupations. So proud in fact that they wanted their jobs to be recorded with them in formal portrait photographs. I really can't think of an occupation today, other than sports, where people have their image taken with the tools of their trade or in their occupational garb.

The following are a group of fascinating images from the Library of Congress daguerreotype collection. I'll post more that I found, including some women, in a later post.


Iron foundry workers with mold tampers


"Vigilant" fireman



I am guessing coachman?

Stone carver? Great hat!

Carpenter (notice jack plane on chair)


Blacksmith on the job at a forge

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Just Finished Reading

I've been lucky with my reading selections the past few weeks. This was yet another book I have had on the shelf for quite a while. Naturally, I had heard of the New Madrid earthquakes many times in past readings of this time period, but I certainly didn't understand the power of those tremors that hit there between December 1811 and February 1812.

The New Madrid fault is located near where the Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri borders meet. The author, Jay Feldman, suggests that the quakes that hit would be rated from 7.0 to 8.0 on the modern Richter scale, which had not been invented at that time. The quakes were felt as far away as the Rocky Mountains, New York City and Washington D.C. The level of natural damage was tremendous. Fortunately, there were not that may built communities in the immediate area at that time. However, the town of New Madrid (in what would become Missouri) was destroyed. And, as the title suggests, the quake was so powerful that the Mississippi River ran backward for a short time. In fact, so much earth was moved that Reelfoot Lake was created in northwest Tennessee.

The author wraps the earthquake story around several sub-stories; each very interesting and obviously happening at the same time as the quakes. I especially liked the story of the first voyage of a steamboat, the New Orleans, from Pittsburgh to the Crescent City. The New Orleans was on the Ohio River when initial quake hit, but fortunately braved the rough waters. The story of how this boat came into existence is quite a tale.

Also intriguing was the story of Thomas Jefferson's nephews, Isham and Lilburne Lewis, who had moved to Livingston County, Kentucky, but had met with misfortune in their new home state. The brothers, in a night of drinking, took out their frustrations on one of their slaves. They tortured and finally decapitated the man with the other slaves watching. The brothers tried to hide their victim by burning him, but the quake toppled the chimney and neighbors eventually discovered the grisly scene. Afraid of being convicted of murder, the brothers chose to commit suicide by killing each other. Something went wrong in the act and only Lilburne ended up dead. Isham would not escape either, although his death came a little later. He was one of a handful of Americans killed at the Battle of New Orleans three years later.

Another key story in the book is Tecumseh's attempt to confederate Indian tribes against white encroachment. He had earlier spoken to Creek Indians in Alabama and prophesied that if they would not lend support, he would stomp his foot and create an enormous earthquake and tumble their village. One can only image what the Creeks thought when the quakes hit.

One error that I noticed in the book was that the author claimed that Lexington was the capital of Kentucky at one point. The capital has been in Frankfort since statehood was granted in 1792.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

War's Toll on the Human Body

Today a colleague at work sent me a link to some tragic images of amputees from the Civil War. I provide the link not to shock anyone, but to remind us of the huge toll our nation's population paid.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Just Finished Reading

Well, I'm off to a roaring start in my 2012 reading. I've already finished four books and the month is only have over. Hopefully I won't burn my self out.

Although it was only published last year, this particular title is one that I have been hearing about for the past few months. I felt fortunate that I was able to find it at our local public library here in Frankfort and that it wasn't checked out. It's only 190 pages, so it didn't take long to finish reading.

After breezing through the preface of the book I was pretty skeptical that the author would be able to put together a quality historical account based on only five letters from Louisville, Kentucky slaveowner Fanny Thurston (later Ballard) to her escaped slave Cecelia (later Holmes, later Larrison).

The story began when on a vacation trip to Niagara Falls in 1846 with Fanny and her father, Cecelia (15 years old at the time) took advantage of her closeness to Canada, slipped away and crossed the river to freedom. There wasn't much that the Thurstons could do about it since Canada was not obligated to return fugitive slaves.

Cecelia eventually moved to Toronto and married, but her husband soon died. In 1861 she then moved to Rochester, New York where she married again. This husband joined a white Civil War regiment as a cook and served to the end of the war. After the Civil War Cecelia and her husband moved to Louisville to be with Cecelia's mother who had remained a slave for the Thurstons and Ballards, but was now free. Fanny, of course, had grown up too. She married Andrew Jackson Ballard, a Louisville attorney, two years after Cecelia ran away, and then in the 1850s the Ballards had five children.

Having so few letters to construct his story around, the author made good use of other primary sources such as city directories, census and tax records. Also, the author benefited from having a short explanatory article that Fanny's son had left in his papers that filled in some cracks in the documented record. This son was Rogers Clark Ballard Thurston, who had a deep interest in history and eventually became the president of the Filson Club (now Filson Historical Society).

The five letters came into Rogers Clark Ballard Thurston's hands when Cecelia in 1899, needing some financial assistance. When Cecilia's husband suddenly disappeared (possibly drowned) and she had difficulty collecting his Civil War pension, she needed money badly and offered to sell them to Thurston. He eventually donated his papers, which included these letters, to the Filson, where remain are today.

Having so little to go on, the author did have to speculate and infer to a certain degree, but I was pleased that at least he made sure to explain why when he did so. I found his chapter on the Civil War in Louisville especially interesting. The story of Fanny's father as a boy witnessing his father being killed in a cornfield by a slave with a knife (around 1800) was fascinating too. No doubt that legacy left an lasting impression on his descendants and shaped their impressions of African Americans.

On a scale of one to five, I give it a 4, so do like I did, check it out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Sunday Drive to Simpsonville

I thought I'd take advantage of a beautiful, sunny (albeit cold) day yesterday to drive over (west) to Simpsonville, Kentucky, site of a true Kentucky tragedy in late January 1865. I traveled to Simpsonville on Highway 60, the old Civil War era road between Frankfort and Louisville. I normally drive via I-64 to avoid all the stop lights and small communities in between when I go that direction, but I hadn't been on that stretch for quite some time so I thought I'd drive it. I was hoping to see some historic houses along the route as well, and I wasn't disappointed as there were a number, especially near Shelbyville.

The incident that happened just west of Simpsonville on January 25, has been labeled a massacre. Sometimes I think that label is inappropriately administered when it comes to events that happen during wartime, but in this instance it appears warranted, especially if indeed, as reported, the soldiers surrendered and were then shot. Regardless, no doubt, it was a tragic event. Here is how the Louisville Journal described what happened in the next day edition:

"A drove of Government cattle, about nine hundred head, was on the way to this city yesterday from Camp Nelson, guarded, by eighty negro soldiers detailed from various regiments. The day being cold, and no danger being apprehended, the soldiers were allowed to straggle along by themselves, while their officers stopped to warm at various houses on the road. One half of the command marched in front of the cattle, while the other portion kept in the rear of the drove. The cattle and the guards were not yet out of sight of Simpsonville when fifteen guerrillas, headed by the desperate Colter, dashed into the town. Three of the negro officers were loafing in the tavern at the time, but they succeeded in making their escape from the outlaws. The guerrillas robbed the citizens of the place of goods amounting to about twelve hundred dollars when they started in pursuit of the negro troops guarding the cattle. They were not long in over-taking them as the citizens of Simpsonville, soon after their departure from the place, heard rapid firing down the road. In about half an hour the guerrillas returned; loaded down with booty, and stated that they had killed twenty-five of the negroes. They gave no further explanation, but moved off in the direction of Shelbyville. A gentleman who was detained at Simpsonville by the outlaws, after they were out of sight, resumed his journey toward Louisville. Not more than half a mile this side of the village [west] a terrible scene was presented to view. The ground was stained with blood and the dead bodies of negro soldiers were stretched out along the road. It was evident that the guerrillas had dashed upon the party guarding the rear of the cattle and taken them completely by surprise. They could not have offered any serious resistance, as none of the outlaws were even wounded. It is presumed that the negroes surrendered and were shot down in cold blood, as but two of the entire number escaped-one of them by secreting himself behind a wagon, the other by running, as he was met several miles from the scene of tragedy, wounded and nearly exhausted. Thirty-five dead bodies were counted lying m the road and vicinity. It was a horrible butchery, yet the scoundrels engaged in the bloody work shot down their victims with feelings of delight.

The cattle stampeded, and as soon as the advance guard learned of what was going on in the rear, each individual in blue made a tall scamper for a place of safety. Colter, ['One Armed' Samuel] Berry and Sue Mundy [aka Jerome Marcellus Clark] were the leaders of the murderous gang. The outlaws were but fifteen in number-one of them a black scoundrel, who boasted on the return of the band to Simpsonville that he killed three of the soldiers. In making the attack, the guerrillas were only armed with navy revolvers. After the wholesale murder, they took good care to secure the arms and ammunition of the slain. The officers in command of the negro troops should be held responsible for the slaughter, for it is certain that if they had been with their men, and enforced a proper discipline, the outlaws would have been whipped with ease.

If the soldiers had not been straggling, Colter would never have ventured to make the attack. A heavy responsibility rests with some one, and we trust that the facts of the case will be fully inquired into by the authorities.

LATEST: A gentleman who left Simpsonville at 8 o'clock last evening, and arrived in the city at a late hour last night, states that the citizens, up to the time he left, had collected and buried fourteen dead bodies of the murdered soldiers. Eight negroes, so severely wounded that many of them will die, were receiving medical treatment. It was thought that several more bodies would be found this morning scattered about the fields, as after they were shot many of the negroes ran in different directions and fell and died. The guerrillas were traveling towards Shelbyville at last accounts."

One of the most interesting things in this short article to me was the mention that a black man rode with the guerrillas and participated in the atrocity. It said, " The outlaws were but fifteen in number-one of them a black scoundrel, who boasted on the return of the band to Simpsonville that he killed three of the soldiers."

Was this man a slave? Was he a free man? What was his allegiance to the guerrillas? What was his motivation to participate in their activities? Did he have a choice? The movie Ride With the Devil comes to my mind.

Today the site of the killings and mass burial of the soldiers is marked with twenty two veterans' headstones, a state highway marker, flag pole flying a United States flag and a P.O.W. flag, and small interpretive podium.

Interestingly, not a stones trow away, Lincoln Institute was founded in 1912. Lincoln Institute was founded in the wake of the Day Law, passed in 1904 in Kentucky, which forbid blacks and whites to be educated together. For more on the Day Lay see:

Whitney M. Young, probably the school's most famous alumnus was born at Lincoln Institute in 1921. Young, a contemporary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as the director for the National Urban League until his death in 1971. For more on Young see: http://randomthoughtsonhistory.blogspot.com/2009/05/personality-spotlight-whitney-young.html

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Just Finished Reading

There are lot of good things to say about this book, but the part I enjoyed the most was the author's research of the early lives of these two women. Mrs. Lincoln's childhood in Lexington, Kentucky, into a home of privilege, set the stage for much of her adult life. The author contends that Mary Lincoln, although well educated and politically astute, never really matured into an adult. Her inability to deal with minor disappointments and her compulsive shopping would cause her problems with her husband and alienated would-be friends. Elizabeth Keckly on the other hand, grew up in slavery in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. She was the daughter of her white owner and a slave mother. During her lifetime Elizabeth did obtain a practical education and could read and write well, but it is interesting to think what someone with her drive could have accomplished if she had been afforded the opportunities that Mary had.

Elizabeth, or "Lizzy" as she was called by friends, lived a remarkable life. From Dinwiddie County she was moved to Hampden and Sydney College in Prince Edward County and then to Hillsboro, North Carolina by her owner and his family members that controlled her life. As a young woman in Hillsboro she became the mother of a son that was fathered by a white neighbor. Eventually she was moved to St. Louis where she purchased her and her son George's freedom. With her earnings as a noted and widely-referred seamstress she sent George to Wilberforce University in Ohio to be educated and she moved to Washington D.C. The light complexioned George passed for white and enlisted in a Missouri regiment when the Civil War broke out and was killed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek in August 1861.

After moving to D.C. Lizzie became seamstress for the politician's wives including Varina Davis, Jefferson Davis' wife. When the Davis family left Washington, and the Lincoln's arrived, Lizzie was introduced to Mary and Mary found her sewing skills excellent and fashionable and hired her for her personal seamstress. The two developed a close relationship over the next four years in the White House.

After Lincoln's assassination, Mary moved to Chicago and was in financial straits when she called on Lizzie to help her sell some of her old dresses and other possessions. The plan ended up in failure as the newspapers took the story and turned on Mary. Shortly after this Elizabeth wrote a book telling her story which offended the immature and touchy Mary and their relationship fell apart, never to be mended.

This book is indeed a "remarkable story" as the subtitle suggests and the author's writing style lends itself to being an very enjoyable and educational read.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weird Family Portraits, Then and Now


...and now.

Miss Civil War Era 2012

Miss Civil War 2012

1st Runner Up

2nd Runner Up

Courtesy Library of Congress - Prints and Photographs

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bad Hair Day, or Just Bad Hair Style

Back on May 12, 2010, I posted some photos of some well known politicians of the mid-nineteenth century and their inability to tame their coifs in those particular photos. I ran across this one the other day and had to share it as well.

This is E.W. Morgan in 1859, who was the Kentucky Military Institute Superintendent and also professor of engineering and geology. He was a graduate of West Point.

I think I have to call this one a bad style instead of just a bad hair day. The under chin whiskers and sideburns complete the unique look.

Courtesy Kentucky Historical Society Digital Collections

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Slaves at Mammoth Cave

A fascinating quick read is Making Their Mark: The Signature of Slavery at Mammoth Cave. This little booklet, (65 pages with numerous pictures) written by Joy Medley Lyons is published by Eastern National, which handles books and souvenirs for the National Park Service.

I remember visiting Mammoth Cave on a family trip when I was a boy. The main thing that sticks in my memory is that they took us into the cave quite a distance and then turned out the lights. It was the darkest place I had ever experienced. I admit, I was so happy when they turned the lights back on. Little did I know back then that Mammoth Cave had such an interesting history; a story that included slave cave explorers and tour guides who must have experienced that dreaded darkness just as I did.

Making Their Mark briefly tells the stories of slave Stephen Bishop who came to work at the cave in 1838 and died of unknown causes in 1857 at the young age of 37. Bishop mapped out much of the cave and was the first person known to travel into many parts of the cavern's tunnels. His graffiti marks still exist in parts of the cave and he was an extremely popular guide with the cave's visitors, many of which mentioned him in their travel accounts.

This little book also tells the story of other slaves such as mixed race slave Materson "Mat" Bransford whose descendants worked taking tourists into the cave into the 20th century. Also, Nicholas "Nick" Bransford is covered. Owned by the same man as Mat, the older Nick was apparently not blood related to Mat. Nick retired as a guide and passed away in 1895.

Another point the booklet makes is that while much of the rest of Kentucky and the nation was experiencing the nadir of race relations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, apparently the settlement around Mammoth Cave was much more colorblind. White, black and mixed race guides lived next door shared games, hobbies and farming secrets and continued to take mainly white visitors into the cave to see nature's wondrous sights that were unimaginable outside the cave.

And, while the book hints at it, I wish the author had explored the idea more that the black and mixed race guides experienced some level of power over whites while in the cave. Since the guides knew the cave and areas that were both dangerous and safe their guests often had to place their lives in the guides' hands. If a black man, especially a slave, had told a white where to step and or to hurry up or slow down outside the cave, they could easily have been reprimanded or even punished, but in the cave, it was the guides' world and guides' rules.

For more on this topic see Mammoth Cave's website:

An additional article that I highly recommend and that does explore the slave guides' power while underground is:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just Finished Reading

It has often been said that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." But, as Dr. Lindsey Apple explained in The Family Legacy of Henry Clay: In the Shadow of a Kentucky Patriarch, Henry Clay Jr's statement that, "how difficult it is for a young tree to grow in the shade of an aged oak," might be more appropriate.

I count myself fortunate to have become acquainted with Dr. Apple over the past couple of years through working together on Teaching American History grants. Everyone who meets him will agree that he is truly a scholar and a gentleman. And, I think his book is certainly not to be overlooked. It is an interesting read filled with stories of tragedy and of missed opportunities, but it is also of accomplishments and perseverance.

Some of the tragedies the author examines are that Clay had two sons committed to an asylum, and Henry Jr. was killed in the Mexican War. All of Clay's daughters died before he did in 1852. In addition, the family was plagued with mental diseases such as depression and physical ailments such as tuberculosis, plus the stress of living up to the family name that Henry Clay made famous. Also, the second and third generation was particularly divided by the Civil War.

But, there were also generations that would have made Clay as pleased as punch. Sons and grandsons and great grandsons had successes in farming and horse breeding. Numerous Clays bravely served the nation by joining the armed forces. And, possibly the most Henry Clay-like descendant was not a male. Great granddaughter Madeline (Madge) McDowell Breckinridge was a leading Progressive Era reformer and suffragist. But, unfortunately, like so many other Clays, her story too was tragic as she died at the young age of 48 from a stroke after suffering extensively from tuberculosis of the bone. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Henry Clay and the legacy he left for Kentucky and the United States.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.25. Well done Dr. Apple.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cool Random Civil War Era Photograph

John R. Boyette, 4th Kentucky Infantry (CSA). Killed at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Confederates, often not having standard issued uniforms, had the ability to individualize their look and style more than their Yankee opponents. This Southern soldier sported a rakish hat, long cravat and plaid pants.

Image courtesy of Kentucky Virtual Library

Friday, January 6, 2012

Just Finished Reading

This is yet another book that I have had on the shelf for quite a while. I'm glad I finally pulled it off and got a chance to read it. Burton does a good job of explaining the evolution of democracy and society in the 1830 to 1900 time period. His writing style is very easy to read. However, I did not appreciate the way the he noted the work. The bibliographic essay unfortunately does not tell me specifically where the author took his evidence (primary and secondary sources) to make his claims. That style referencing in one sense seems lazy, but on the other hand it seems like lot of work to put the bibliography into the essay format. Why not just use footnotes or end notes?

On a 1 to 5 scale, I give it a 3.75.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Brawling Kentuckians in Bleeding Kansas

I admit it! I love reading nineteenth century newspapers. These rags of the day, whether they are daily, weeklies or tri-weeklies, have the unique ability to give you a quick sense of what life was like by reading the articles and advertisements.

In my last few posts I have been sharing excerpts that I have found from the Lexington Kentucky Observer and Reporter in the 1850s and 1860s. Thanks goes out to the Kentucky Virtual Library for having these online and available for the public to browse.

After months of contentious debate the Kansas-Nebraska Act finally passed through both the senate and house of representatives and was signed by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. Immediately upon passage settlers flooded into the new territories. At odds were those that favored the new lands be left for free labor and those that favored slave labor. Naturally arguments broke out over land disputes and boundary lines, but the free soilers and pro-slavery men brought an increased intensity.

Although no mention is made of the two feuding groups' politics, this November 8, 1854 story in the Observer and Reporter, which was a re-run story that originally ran in the Chicago Tribune, provides an idea of the reign of lawlessness in Kansas. It reads:

"We learn that an affray occurred in Kansas Territory on Tuesday last week, that resulted, it is feared, fatally to two citizens of that Territory. The difficulty was between two Kentuckians and several persons from Platte county, about a claim. The matter was left to a third party to settle, who decided in favor of the Kentuckians. When the decision was proclaimed, the Platte county claimants headed by one Burgess, attacked the other party and cut them up with knives in such a manner that no hopes are entertained of their recovery. The Governor, who is at Leavenworth, had the parties arrested at once, and it is hoped he will use vigorous means to put a stop to such lawless proceedings."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Southern Opposition to Homestead Act

When Texas annexation was being debated in the 1840s Southerners were very much in favor of the measure because they knew it would allow for slavery's expansion into the new state. Their position quickly changed though when new territories were attempted in the North (Kansas-Nebraska). Southerners understood that slavery had a slim chance of being established in those areas.

The disdain for what would become the future Homestead Act (when it finally passed in 1862 due to the lack of Southern opposition - since they had seceded) is revealed in a short newspaper story that was republished in the Lexington Observer and Reporter on April 11, 1860; just one year before Fort Sumter. It read in full -

"THE HOMESTEAD BILL - The Richmond [Virginia] Whig, in reference to the Homestead bill, which recently passed the House, says:- 'Never was there a more odious and iniquitous bill passed by any deliberative body on earth.' and adds:

Thus under the provisions of this Homestead bill, the public lands, comprising over one thousand millions of acres, and belonging equally to all of the States, are given away to all manner of persons, and for the exclusive benefit of the Northern States. They are given not only to native born, but to all persons who may file a declaration of intention to become citizens at a future date--thus embracing in the terms and benefits of the grant the hundreds of thousands of foreigners who land upon our shores. And thus goes the vast public domain, to the strengthening and enriching of the Northern States, at the expense of the Southern, Virginia included."