Two shots of the fog in northwestern New Jersey on an unusually warm late December afternoon. Click to enlarge.
Booknotes: The Slaveholding Crisis
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The southern farmer – indeed, the American farmer – in the nineteenth century suffered from a sort of claustrophobia. He could not tolerate the prospect of being irrevocably condemned to his existing farm, of being shut out of the possibility of migration to a new life if events should ever require it. But his vision was not of migration to a new world and a new life-style; rather, he wanted the assurance that there was an accessible alternate community in which he could engage in fundamentally the same pursuits, but in circumstances which might produce greater success. Southern rights advocates constantly reminded him that the Yankee culture was very different from his own, and that if he allowed the territories to become re-creations of the northern states, he could thereafter migrate only at the cost of giving up his own egalitarian, democratic world for a socially stratified society swept by the gales of class conflict and unbridled meliorist ferment.
It is essential to note, however, that though this genuinely crucial link in the southern rights argument was, to say the least of it, weak, Unionists almost never mentioned this difficulty. The solution to this paradox is the identification of which element in the southern rights case was the primary source of its force. Despite all the discussion about the effects of free-soil upon southern slavery, the threat of Negro inundation was not the chief terror with which the case conjured; and the Unionists knew it. . . . The essence of the case was not what would happen to southerners when they were excluded from the territories but was the fact that they were to be excluded. . . . Free-soil was an issue basically because it would represent an overtly discriminatory action by the common government.
contented themselves simply with maintaining that most northerners did not hate the South, that the North could be brought to compromise, and that compromise would restore calm to the republic and self-respect to all its citizens without the necessity for radical action. If the southern rights fears of discrimination should ever gain substance, however, Unionists agreed that immediate and harsh reciprocal action would be required.
Secession, then, was not really intended as a remedy for the consequences of free-soil, despite explicit statements to the contrary. It was to be revenge for the condemnation implied by the policy and the inequality inherent in it. Southerners were Americans and they wanted to be treated like Americans; we must never forget that they saw themselves as struggling to preserve the substance of the American dream.
The origin of the "Know Nothing" term was in the semi-secret organization of the party. When a member was asked about its activities, he or she was supposed to reply, "I know nothing."
Fear of Catholic immigration led to a dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party whose leadership in many areas included Irish American Catholics. Activists formed secret groups, coordinating their votes and throwing their weight behind candidates sympathetic to their cause. When asked about these secret organizations, members were to reply "I know nothing," which led to their popularly being called Know Nothings.
The precise origin of this term [“Know Nothings”] is a mystery, but it apparently made its public debut in November 1853. At that time, the New York Tribune reported that the Whig candidate for New York district attorney had lost “through the instrumentality of a mongrel ticket termed the 'Know-Nothing.' . . . This ticket,” continued the Tribune, “is the work of the managers of a secret organization growing out of the Order of United Americans, but ostensibly disconnected therefrom.” A few days later the Tribune again mentioned “the Know-Nothing organization,” calling it “but a new dodge of protean nativism.”
[n]either reference mentions the now universal belief that the term “Know Nothing” derived from members' practice of feigning ignorance when queried about the organization. Nor does it appear that Tribune editor Horace Greeley coined the term. The Tribune's use of the phrase suggests that rather than having concocted the term itself, the newspaper was simply reporting what had been relayed by some outside source.
Perhaps the ticket mentioned by the Tribune had been nicknamed the “Know-Nothing” ticket by its organizers. Local electoral tickets often assumed strange labels . . . [or] adopted names used as slurs by their enemies. Perhaps poll watchers coined the term during the November 1853 New York City election, because they could not discover the source of the OSSB [Order of the Star Spangled Banner] ballots. However the appellation originated, the influence of the Tribune, the most widely read newspaper in the nation, made it stick. From this point onward, the OSSB was referred to as the “Know-Nothings,” and the members initially did little to discourage the term's use.
Sheet music cover for a schottisch (a dance similar to the polka), composed by Francis H. Brown and dedicated to "Miss Mary Leeds of New York." The illustration features the standing figure of "Young America," a young man in coat, waistcoat, and plaid trousers, holding an American flag. Virtually the same idealized, youthful male figure appears as "Citizen Know Nothing" and "Uncle Sam" in other nativist contexts. (See for instance "Uncle Sam's Youngest Son" and "Sam's Coming," nos. 1854-4 and 1855-6.) Behind him on the left a train moves along a track out of a tunnel, and on the right are two ships. These allude to the progressive (or "Young America") Democrats' emphasis on internal improvements, commerce, and trade.
Historians who contend that the South had a material interest in taking slaves to new territories surely have overstated their case. Many southerners shared eagerly in the enthusiasm for territorial expansion widespread in mid-nineteenth-century America. Democrats, especially, believed that economic opportunity and social harmony depended upon access to new land. And some racial theorists held that new territory would become an essential escape valve to keep the South from becoming “Africanized.” But during the 1850s slaveowners displayed no inclination to take their property to the recently acquired domain in the Southwest, even though the huge New Mexico territory had as thorough a territorial slave code as any southerner could wish.
Perkins's grim picture of conditions in the goldfields of California during the 1849 Gold Rush contains a backhanded swipe at the outgoing Polk administration. In the foreground, violence breaks out against a backdrop of hills in the "Gold Region." On the left a man cuts the throat of another over a sack of gold, while beyond and farther to the left appear a man carrying a sack and another fallen victim. At far right two men spar with daggers, one of them evidently a Mexican or Spanish Californian, who declares, "Clear you D--d Foreigner our law is the law of might." Meanwhile, apparently oblivious to the mayhem, other men go about the search for gold. A man with a kerchief around his forehead calmly sifts a pan over a barrel or tub. Behind him another man with a flintlock slung across his back digs into the side of a small rise, and a third, wearing a smock, shovels ore into a wooden sieve. Visible above, beyond the hills, is the U.S. Capitol, on whose lawn stands newly elected President Zachary Taylor. In uniform with his hands behind his back, Taylor watches former President James K. Polk and five of his officers, in the form of birds, fly away toward California. They are armed with pickaxes and the spoils of office. Polk, in the lead, carries a sack marked "Secret Service 3,000,000 [i.e., dollars]" and declares, "The happiest days of my administration. We will take unto ourselves the wings of the morning and depart into the depths of California." Taylor addresses a man who aims a cannon at the flock of birds, "Hold on Capt Bragg 'Dont' waste your Grape.' it is nothing but a "Shide-Polk." Our extra Session shall regulate "California."" These lines echo his famous and decisive order at the Battle of Buena Vista, "A little more grape Captain Bragg." Bragg responds, "As you say General but by G-d! I'd like to make him smell of Buena-Vista." Nearby is the "High Road to California" and a grave marker reading, "In Memory of the Shide-"Poke" Administration. Died 4 M[ar]ch 1849," the customary inauguration date.
Southerners always understood the problem of slavery in the territories in a way that would have been familiar to any duelist. Whatever else Northern attempts to exclude slavery from the territories might have meant, it primarily signified a denial of Southern equality. One Virginia Supreme Court justice [identified in the notes as Peter Vivian Daniel], for example, denounced the Wilmot Proviso because it “pretends to an insulting exclusiveness or superiority on the one hand, and denounces a degrading inequality or inferiority on the other: which says in effect to the Southern man, Avaunt! You are not my equal, and hence are to be excluded as carrying a moral taint with you.”
Democratic candidate James Buchanan, as a buck deer, crosses the finish line of a racecourse ahead of competitors Millard Fillmore and John C. Fremont. Spectators cheer in the stands behind. Fillmore appears as an emaciated horse, fallen on the course. Next, Fremont follows close on the heels of Buchanan. Fremont stands astride two horses: one with the head of New York "Tribune" editor Horace Greeley and the other the "wooly nag" of abolitionism. The latter here more closely resembles a filly than a nag. Greeley: "Monte why didn't you lean more on the wooly horse--you gave me all your weight--never mind we've beat the grey Filly [i.e., Fillmore] next time we'ill head off that hard old Buck." Fremont: "Get out--hang you and the Wooly Horse--I could beat that broken down silver grey "Filly" and the old Buck too--had I gone on my own hook." Fillmore: "Oh! Oh! why did'nt I stay in sweet Italy with my friend King Bomba and the lazy Neapolitans--Then I should not have been blowen up like a Bag of wind in this Chase." Buchanan: "Never mind Gentn. I could not "help" beating you, the American Nation wished it so--I will send you all to Ostend--and I promise you that I will have no Tailors in my white House. [As a youth Fillmore had been apprenticed to a tailor.] Mercy on me! to think that this Glorious People should be almost Pierced to Death [a reference to unpopular Democratic incumbent Franklin Pierce] by War and making Free States in this land of Liberty by a set of Fashion inventores 'I'll none of it.'"
While Democratic and Whig candidates debate strategies to win the presidency, or "shoot the Christmas turkey," Free Soil candidate Martin Van Buren makes off with the bird. At left Democrat Lewis Cass (facing front) and Whig Zachary Taylor (facing left), both in military uniform and holding rifles, quarrel about the turkey which is chained to a stake in the center. Taylor: "I tell you, Cass, that I prefer coming to close quarters. It will be as fair for you as for me." Cass: "But I prefer long shots. It will give more chance for the exercise of skill & ingenuity." Taylor running mate Millard Fillmore enters from the left and sighting Van Buren exclaims, "Blood and thunder! I thought that infernal fox was dead: but he has come out of his hole and carried off the prize, while we have been disputing about the preliminaries!" On the far right, Van Buren, as a fox, grasps the turkey by the neck as David Wilmot cheers, "Huzza! Huzza! Victory! Victory!" Wilmot holds up the famous and controversial Wilmot Proviso of 1846, which forbade slavery in territories acquired by the United States in the Mexican War. The measure, embraced by Van Buren but sidestepped by Cass and Taylor, was a burning issue in the 1848 campaign. On the ground in the center of the scene sits New York editor Horace Greeley with a tally sheet marked "Taylor" and "Cass" nearby. Greeley thumbs his nose at Taylor and Cass and says, "Well, Gentlemen, my place has become a sinecure. I need not keep tally for you now." An ardent and powerful Whig spokesman in the 1844 election, Greeley withheld his support for Taylor until late in the 1848 campaign. By that time his New York "Tribune" had become an established and successful newspaper.
When John Randolph and Henry Clay fought a duel in 1824 Randolph aimed at Clay’s knees on the first shot and fired into the air on the second. He later told Thomas Hart Benton: “I would not have seen him fall mortally, or even doubtfully, wounded for all the land that is watered by the King of Floods and all his tributary streams.”
gathered with his friends and produced an envelope – an envelope he had earlier left with instructions to be opened in the event of his death. It contained a note that directed that the gold coins that Randolph carried in his pocket be made into seals and given to the seconds. “But Clay’s bad shooting shan’t rob you of your seals,” Randolph announced, “I am going to London and have them made for you.”
A figurative portrayal of the presidential race of 1824. A crowd of cheering citizens watch as candidates (left to right) John Quincy Adams, William Crawford, and Andrew Jackson stride toward the finish. Henry Clay has dropped from the race and stands, hand on head, on the far right saying, "D--n it I cant save my distance--so I may as well "draw up."" He is consoled by a man in riding clothes, "Well dont distress yourself--there'll be some scrubbing by & by & then you'll have a chance." Assorted comments come from the crowd, reflecting various sectional and partisan views. A Westerner with stovepipe hat and powder horn: "Hurra for our Jacks-"son."" Former President John Adams: "Hurra for our son "Jack."" Two men in coachmen's livery: "That inne-track fellow [Crawford] goes so well; that I think he must have got the better of the bots [boss?]." and "Like enough; but betwixt you & I--I dont think he'll ever get the better of the "Quinsy."" A ragged Irishman: "Blast my eyes if I dont "venter" a "small" horn of rotgut on that "bald filly" in the middle [Adams]." A Frenchman: "Ah hah! Mon's Neddy I tink dat kick on de "back of you side" is worse den have no dinner de fourt of july." In the left background is a platform and an inaugural scene, the "Presidential Chair" with a purse "
James Wilkinson, disgraced by involvement in Aaron Burr’s schemes to detach the Western states, practically begged John Randolph for a duel in 1807. “I have no hesitation,” he wrote, “to appeal to your justice, your magnanimity and your gallantry, to prescribe the manner of redress.” Randolph denied his request. “I cannot descend to your level,” he wrote.
printing handbills and posting them all over the District of Columbia. “Hector unmasked,” he announced. “In justice to my character, I denounce John Randolph, M.C., to the world as a prevaricating, base, calumniating scoundrel, poltroon and coward.”
The young John Randolph . . . began his career in Virginia politics [with a grand discourse]. In an election-day gathering he spoke just after the aged and venerable Patrick Henry, orator of an earlier era. One listener reacted to Randolph's words in a way that would have warmed the heart of any statesman. Comparing him to Patrick Henry, the man exclaimed: "I tell you what, the young man is no bug eater neither."
Though in retirement and against all of his political instincts, Van Buren accepted the nomination of the Free-Soil party for President in the campaign of 1848. He knew he would be defeated, but he was willing to put his reputation on the line to administer what he felt would be a timely warning to southern extremists that the North would resist further expansion of slavery.
A humorous commentary on Barnburner Democrat Martin Van Buren's opposition to regular Democratic party nominee Lewis Cass. Van Buren and his son John were active in the Free Soil effort to prevent the extension of slavery into new American territories. In this he opposed the conservative Cass, who advocated deferring to popular sovereignty on the question. In "Smoking Him Out," Van Buren and his son (wearing smock, far right) feed an already raging fire in a dilapidated barn. (radical New York Democrats supporting Van Buren were referred to as "Barnburners" because in their zeal for social reforms and anticurrency fiscal policy they were likened to farmers burning their barns to drive out the rats). On the left, Lewis Cass prepares to leap from the roof of the flaming structure while several rats likewise escape below him. The artist seems to favor Van Buren, and his attempt to force the slavery issue in the campaign. The Free Soilers, unlike the Democrats, supported enforcement of the Wilmot Proviso, an act introduced by David Wilmot which prohibited slavery in territories acquired in the Mexican War. John Van Buren, adding another pitchfork of hay to the flames, exclaims, "That's you Dad! more 'Free Soil.' We'll rat'em out yet. Long life to Davy Wilmot."
[N]umerous slave-holding founders and others [assumed] that the population would expand in the temperate South at a greater rate than in the colder North. As a result, they assumed that the express textual protection of slavery would be unnecessary because it would be protected effectively enough by the various electoral mechanisms incorporated into the Constitution. The politics of slavery markedly changed, however, when population unexpectedly expanded disproportionately in the North, thereby increasing its representation in the House as well as in the Electoral College.
When this occurred, the balance of slave and free states in the equally apportioned Senate unexpectedly became the sole remaining political protection of slavery. Ironically, the Virginia Plan for the Constitution had called for proportional representation in both the House and Senate, and the Convention was thrown into turmoil when the smaller states obtained equal representation in the Senate. Later, some Virginians could be quite happy their plan was modified in this respect.
Another attack on the 1856 Democratic platform as pro-South and proslavery. The Buchanan-Breckenridge ticket is reviled on the basis of recent developments occurring during the outgoing Pierce administration. In the center of the picture is a flagstaff bearing an American flag inscribed "Buchanan & Breckenridge. Modern Democracy." To its base are chained two slaves (right)--a man and a woman. The woman kneels before an overseer with a whip and pistol in his pocket, and asks, "Is this Democracy?" The overseer declares, "We will subdue you." In the background one of Cuba's coastal towns burns and is fired upon by a ship. The scene probably refers to expressed Democratic ambitions to annex Cuba for the expansion of American slave territory. The phrase "A due regard for our just rights in the Gulf of Mexico" appears above the burning town. A similar scene of conflagration, "Squatter sovereignty demonstrated," appears in the left background. Here a settlement in Kansas burns and its inhabitants are driven away by armed marauders. Reference is to atrocities committed in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of May 1854, which was endorsed by the Democratic platform. The act provided for dividing the Nebraska territory into two parts, each later to be admitted into the Union as either slave or free, as decided in each case by popular (or "squatter") sovereignty. The measure ushered in a bloody struggle between proslavery and antislavery settlers over control of Kansas. The antislavery town of Lawrence, Kansas, was invaded and sacked by a proslavery posse on May 21, 1856. In the left foreground is Preston S. Brooks's May 22 attack on Charles Sumner in Congress. (See "Arguments of the Chivalry," no. 1856-1.)
It's pretty likely that if Samuel Adams hadn't existed at the time he did, America would have ended up more like Canada, sort of existing in the extended orbit of the British Empire for a much longer period of time and only gradually drifing away.
This isn’t law enforcement but an ideological assault — and we’re fighting the symptoms not the cause. Islamic imperialists want an Islamic society, not just in Palestine and Kashmir but in the Netherlands and Britain, too. Their chances of getting it will be determined by the ideology’s advance among the general Muslim population, and the general Muslim population’s demographic advance among everybody else.
So Bush is history, and we have a new president who promises to heal the planet, and yet the jihadists don’t seem to have got the Obama message that there are no enemies, just friends we haven’t yet held talks without preconditions with. This isn’t about repudiating the Bush years, or withdrawing from Iraq, or even liquidating Israel. It’s bigger than that. And if you don’t have a strategy for beating back the ideology, you’ll lose.
In Islamic extremist Web forums, some praised the Mumbai attacks, including the targeting of Jews.
A man identified as Sheik Youssef al-Ayeri said the killings are in line with Islam.
"It's all right for Muslims to set the infidels' castles on fire, drown them with water .... and take some of them as prisoners, whether young or old, women or men, because it is one of many ways to beat them," he wrote in the al-Fallujah forum.