Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Showdown in Virginia

Several days ago I published a post on Showdown in Virginia: The 1861 Convention and the Fate of the Union, the newly-published book, edited by William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson, that contains extracts from the speeches given at the Virginia Secession Convention held between February and April 1861. Although I am not now and have never been a teacher, I ventured to suggest that the volume presented an excellent resource for educators who wanted to expose their students to the use of primary sources. Everyone speculates about the reasons for secession and the causes of the Civil War. Well, here's an opportunity to examine what the participants themselves said to explain and advance their positions.

I am pleased delighted thrilled to report that Prof. Freehling himself has posted a comment thanking me for the post and indicating that his co-editor and he are hoping that the book will be used by educators as I suggested.

As a huge Freehling fan - I think I've read everything he's published in book form - I happily pass on the news that the editors have established a website for use in conjunction with the book, The site contains a Teacher resources section that may be particularly useful.

About the illustration:
A man, labeled "West Virginia," pulls a donkey, labeled "East Virginia," by the tail as it tries to jump off a cliff. White envelope with black ink. Image on left. "No folly 'neath the sun surpasses / The folly of these suicidal asses."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" as Monetary Allegory

In his essay "The Crime of 1873", which appears as Chapter 3 of Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History, Milton Friedman refers to a "fascinating paper" in which Rutgers economist Hugh Rockoff "persuasively argues that L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 'is not only a child's tale but also a sophisticated commentary on the political and economic debates of the Populist Era' . . . that is, on the silver agitation generated by the so-called crime of 1873."
"The land of Oz," according to Rockoff, "is the East [in which] the gold standard reigns supreme and where an ounce (Oz) of gold has almost mystical significance" . . .. Rockoff goes on to identify the Wicked Witch of the East with Grover Cleveland, the gold Democrat who, as president, "led the [successful] repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of [sic, should be "in"] 1893" . . ..
Want to find out which character is identified with William Jennings Bryan? Or why Dorothy's little dog is named Toto? Well, I'm happy to report that Prof. Rockoff's article, The "Wizard of Oz" as Monetary Allegory, is available online.

The illustration at the top is taken from a post at Propaganda & Mass Persuasion.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

George Wythe Randolph, March 16, 1861

George Wythe Randolph was Thomas Jefferson's youngest grandson. Forty-two years of age in 1860, he had left the Piedmont and moved to Richmond, where he was a prominent attorney.

On March 16, 1861, Randolph delivered a speech to the Virginia secession convention. As it appears in Showdown in Virginia: The 1861 Convention and the Fate of the Union, Randolph's speech strikes me a tactically clever and persuasive. It also serves to remind us of the reality with which Virginia was confronted in reaching her decision.

Although Randolph included some emotional diatribes against the North, much of the speech was analytical to the point of being almost dry. The fact was, Randolph pointed out, there were now two Republics inhabiting the former United States: the old Union, now reduced to a Northern Republic, and the newly-formed Southern Republic composed of the seven cotton south states (soon to be eight, he maintained, by the imminent addition of Arkansas).

As a result, Randolph contended, the option was not open for Virginians "to consider whether we will remain as we were." Virginia needed to choose to go with one republic or the other, and the decision needed to be made soon, since in the meantime industry was "paralyzed" and people were "feverish and impatient." Delay had already caused the people to endure "agonies" and would "bankrupt our mercantile community."

Having laid out the options, Randolph then analyzed them. Which would be more beneficial to Virginia's industry and commerce and "our system of labor, the basis of our industrial fabric"? On all counts, Randolph maintained, "a withdrawal from the present Union seems to be the safest and best course for us to pursue."

Randolph's mode of analysis allowed him to avoid the minefield that Jeremiah Morton had entered. In the course of speech, Randolph did refer briefly to Republican patronage and southern disloyalty, but he did so in way that allowed him to affirm the loyalty of all Virginians. It was vain, he maintained, for Virginia to tie its fate to that of the border slave states in the Union. With far fewer slaves than Virginia, those states would ultimately sell out to the North, leaving steadfast Virginia in the lurch:
Of the 1,550,000 slaves in the [Union's remaining] seven slave States, the States of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri have only 428,000 - less than 28 per cent of the whole. The North will wield all the patronage of the government, and we shall be powerless. Have we not just cause to fear that as the white population of the four States before mentioned gains rapidly on the blacks, and their interest in the institution of slavery sinks almost to zero, they may yield to the temptation, and suffer the acquisition of free territory, without requiring an equal addition of slave territory?

Criminations and Cob-Houses

Two nice little turns of phrase from the speeches at the Virginia Secession Convention, as reported in Showdown in Virginia: The 1861 Convention and the Fate of the Union.

First, before you can have recriminations, you've got to have criminations, right? From Waitman T. Willey's
speech of March 4, 1861:
The first [evil that would result from secession], in my opinion, would be that our country would not only be divided in a Northern Confederacy and into [a] Southern Confederacy, but, soon or later [as an aside, notice that he uses the phrase "soon or later" rather than "sooner or later"] it would be divided into sundry petty Confederacies. We would have a Central Confederacy, a Confederacy of the States of the Mississippi Valley, a Pacific Confederacy, a Western Confederacy, an Eastern Confederacy, a Northern and a Southern Confederacy. . . . We would have between these several Confederacies a perpetual warfare, criminations and recriminations, inroads, strife and discord, until the energies and the wealth of this great people would be utterly destroyed and exhausted. . . .
I wondered whether "crimination" was a real word (just 'cause you can be "rejected" doesn't mean you can be "jected"). However, a quick search indicates that there is precedent for the word "crimination" and indeed for the phrase crimination and recrimination.

The other phrase comes from a Unionist speech delivered by John S. Carlile on March 7, 1861. The context makes clear that a cob-house is something like a straw man:
I know that gentlemen, when they speak of coercion [by the federal government], cannot mean . . . a power to coerce a sovereign state, as such. There is no such power. No man in the land contends for such a power; and if no one contends for it, why level your anathemas against it? Why build up cob-houses that you may have the pleasure of knocking them down?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Torture Never Stops

Sorry. Just listening, at ear-splitting levels, to Frank Zappa's "The Torture Never Stops" - the 16 minute version on You Can't Do That on Stage Any More Vol. 1.

I gather no one buys CDs anymore, but the YouTube video doesn't come close. You need to play it through a good stereo and turn it up LOUD.

I can almost smell the old Fillmore East.

Waitman Willey Calls Out Jeremiah Morton

In my recent post entitled Immediate Secession: Were Southerners Afraid of Southerners? I mentioned that it was awkward for proponents to state directly that they believed that immediate secession was necessary because some of their fellow citizens were potential traitors prepared to betray their states in return for Black Republican patronage.

Despite the awkwardness, as I described (and quoted) on Thursday February 28, 1861 Jeremiah Morton came out and said pretty much exactly that at the Virginia Secession Convention – and subsequent events proved the risks of his doing so.

At the beginning of the next week, on Monday March 4, 1861 – the day of President Abraham Lincoln's inauguration – Waitman T. Willey of “Monongalia County (in extreme northwestern Virginia, on the western edge of Pennsylvania, and 0.8 percent enslaved)” took the floor. Willey, a staunch unionist, would participate in the formation of the state of West Virginia and become that new state's most important early leader. On March 4, he called out Morton, accusing him of calling his fellow citizens corrupt:
In his eloquent speech he other day, [Mr. Morton] referred to another argument – I must say that it was an extraordinary argument to be addressed to Virginians - . . . that Lincoln would so employ the patronage of the Federal Government as to corrupt Virginian. It is an argument that I would not dare to make to my constituents – that I would not like to make in any section of Virginia; and I will say, that if Virginia is of such easy virtue as to be corrupted from her integrity by a little paltry pap from the Federal Treasury, her honor is not worth preserving.
In looking at history-related websites, I see teachers regularly noting the importance of exposing their students to primary sources. It strikes me that Showdown in Virginia: The 1861 Convention and the Fate of the Union, the new book edited by William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson from which the quotes from both Morton's and Willey's speeches are drawn, provides an excellent resource. Assign each student a different speech (they're short, generally ten pages or less) and have each student outline or analyze it. What are the arguments? Are they persuasive? Why or why not? For the right class it might make a great exercise

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Democratic Convention, Charleston 1861

In a recent comment, James referred to the motivations of southern radicals who broke up the Democratic convention in Charleston in April 1860. Did they divide the party to improve the chances of Abraham Lincoln's election and secession, and if so why?

In response I punted. I did so because I'm not even sure that the radicals intended to achieve the result they did.

The conclusion that radicals intentionally conspired to split the Democratic convention is not open-and-shut. J. Mills Thornton, in his magnificent Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama, 1800-1860, denied that William Lowndes Yancy, at least, was a participant:
Yancy, in short, did not go to Charleston with the purpose of disrupting the American Democracy. He went with the purpose of nudging the party a bit further along the road to an open acceptance of southern equality.
I am, frankly, not convinced that Prof. Thornton is correct. But the conclusion of a man as knowledgeable as Prof. Thornton is not to be taken lightly. In my mind, at least, the jury is still out.

About the illustration, entitled Dancing for Eels in the Charleston Market:
The artistic inspiration for this Vanity Fair cartoon is a well-known lithograph first produced in 1848 by James and Eliphalet Brown to advertise Frank Chan Frau’s popular play "New York As It Is." There are slightly different versions of the lithograph, which is entitled "Jack, A Negro and Dancer for Eels" or simply "Dancing for Eels." The lithograph is based on an earlier folk drawing called "Dancing for Eels, 1820 Catharine Market."

Catharine’s Fish Market was located at the Catharine Street boardwalk by New York Harbor in a working-class area of New York City. The original drawing is based on a time when slaves from New Jersey were sent to Manhattan to sell their masters’ produce at the "Bear Market." (Because New Jersey’s emancipation law was implemented gradually, the state still had some slaves circa 1820.) The slaves were then joined at Catharine Market by free blacks from the city. If they were unable to win money at gambling, the black men would literally dance for the eels or fish sold at Catharine Market. Such a sight was typical of the theatrical nature of street culture in 19th-century New York City.

In this Vanity Fair cartoon Stephen Douglas, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, assumes the role of the dancing black man. The artist moves the market from Catharine Street to Charleston, South Carolina, the site of the first 1860 Democratic National Convention. As Douglas performs, he is surrounded by major Democratic politicians dressed in various working-class attire. They are (clockwise) President James Buchanan (1), former president Franklin Pierce (2), former Virginia Governor Henry Wise (5), Senator Robert M. T. Hunter (4), and Senator Jefferson Davis (3). Hunter, a challenger to Douglas for the nomination, is depicted as a slave woman with a basket of eels on her head.

Obligatory Cute Animal Friendship Post

From Izismile:
The cat, named Muschi, and the bear, named Maeuscchen, in these photos are lifelong friends. While it may be an unlikely friendship, it began eight years ago when the 40-year-old Asian bear and the cat first met and now the cat can’t stand to be apart from her friend. The pair was recently split up temporarily and the distraught cat was soon spotted sitting outside the bear’s cage pining for her friend. Once reunited, they were very happy as they cuddled after greeting each other.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Immediate Secession: Were Southerners Afraid of Southerners?

Historians have puzzled over the reasons for immediate secession in the South in 1860-1861. Why did advocates believe that that it was imperative that their states secede even before Abraham Lincoln's inauguration? Why were they convinced that their States should not await specific evidence demonstrating Republican bad acts and bad faith – for example, refusal to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act?

A number of historians have posited that Southern fear of other Southerners was a substantial motivating factor among advocates of immediate secession. Immediate secessionists feared, so the argument goes, that the Republicans would use patronage and other devices to induce some southern whites to form the nucleus of a Republican party in their state. In other words, the South contained whites who formed a potentially disloyal fifth column that might later betray their States if secession were not promptly accomplished.

Historians making this argument usually contend that direct evidence of this motivation is hard to come by, because it was not the sort of thing advocates could state in so many words. Because they also maintained that all elements of southern society uniformly supported that society and southern institutions, they could not admit that differences among supposedly equal whites festered below the surface.

Editors William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson have produced a valuable new volume of excerpts of the speeches from the Virginia secession convention of 1861, Showdown in Virginia: The 1861 Convention and the Fate of the Union. As I began the book yesterday, I thought it would be a good opportunity to test the hypothesis described above (among others). As I read the arguments of advocates of immediate secession, could I find arguments that suggested that southerners were afraid of other southerners?

Remarkably, the very first speech in the volume seems to validate the hypothesis. Jeremiah Morton, a wealthy planter representing Orange and Greene Counties in the western Piedmont, was “the anomalous former Whig who was a prominent disunionist.” On February 28, 1861, Morton delivered a speech in favor of immediate secession. The speech includes a lengthy passage in which Morton argued that, without secession, “Black Republicans” would “spoils” and “public patronage” and “fat office” to lure southern whites into the Republican party:
They [the Black Republicans] will administer the Government for the strengthening of the party; they will make capital out of every appointment; and, Mr. President, with a Government, every Department of which shall be in the hands of the Black Republicans, administered upon the principles upon which William H. Seward and Abraham Lincoln will administer it, how long would our institutions be safe? . . . Whenever it comes to the administration of the spoils with the view to the advancement of party – and that for many years has been the general type of all administrations – what are the number that will be purchased up by the patronage of the Government? I do not mean to say, Mr. President, corruptly. But when there is a fat office which is tendered, and the aspirant for that office knows how important it may be that his opinions should be identical and should assimilate with the powers that be, how natural it is for a man under circumstances like these to satisfy himself that he once was a little wrong, and that the sober, second thought, is the best position. This is human nature. . . .

And I tell you, Mr. President, that Abraham Lincoln will seek to hold a power over all the Southern States. . . . If you stay . . . [in the Union] for the next twelve months there will be more beneficent showers of public patronage upon Virginia and Maryland and Tennessee – I think he would hardly go to North Carolina – but he will go to Kentucky and Missouri, sooner than to any other States.

And, Mr. President, when a man gets a rich office, how many friends circle around him to congratulate him. . . . The donee of a fat office – be it a Judgeship, be it a Collectorship, be it a Postmaster of this city – has much power, and each one will form a nucleus of sympathizing friends with the powers that be. . . . Let us acquiesce, and I tell you that in the next Presidential canvass – if not in the next, in the second; certainly in the third – you will find Black Republicans upon every stump, and organizing in every county; and that is the peace that we shall have from this “glorious Union.”

About the illustration at the top of the post, entitled Virginny:
An old woman is surprised by a skull coming out of a teapot. Cream envelope with blue ink. Image on left. Virginny, mother of "Old Dominion" presidents and other ([Henry A.] Wise) things, is asked by Mrs. [Varina] Davis to try a cup of secession tea – and finds death in the pot!

About the second illustration, entitled Secession Web:
[Jefferson] Davis as a spider catching the secession states in his web strung from the American flag. There is a skull and cross bones on his spider back and he is dripping blood and clutching Virginia. Cream envelope with red and blue ink. Image on left side. "Walk into my parlor," says the Spider to the Fly.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Old Fatty" Demands His Dollar

Inadvertently prompted in part by Frances Hunter, I picked up a copy of John S.D. Eisenhower's Zachary Taylor. The slim volume (roughly 140 pages of text, exclusive of endnotes, index, etc.), published by the Times Books imprint of Henry Holt & Co., is part of that publisher's American Presidents series.

John Eisenhower, as you probably know, is a son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and himself a retired general. About half way through, I can report that the book is a straightforward, chronological review of Old Rough and Ready's life and career, divided almost exactly in half by the year 1848. Gen. Eisenhower writes decently and, although there are few frills, he has a good eye for the little stories that give the reader a better feel for the subject of the book. Here, for example, is a tale about Taylor in camp near Corpus Christi in 1845:
[O]n one occasion, according to a questionable source, a young lieutenant came by [Taylor's] tent to “see the general.” The general apparently absent, he approached an old man cleaning a saber and offered his new friend a dollar to clean his own. The young man returned the next day to retrieve his saber, only to discover that “Old Fatty,” as he had called the gentleman, was the general himself – who also said, “I'll take that dollar.”
About the illustration, entitled Knock'd into a cock'd hat, which strikes me as unusual because it relies almost entirely on the image and eschews the wordiness common in most political cartoons of the period:
Zachary Taylor's presidential nomination at the Whig national convention in Philadelphia on June 9, 1848, is represented as a severe blow to Lewis Cass, nominated by the Democrats a few weeks earlier. The extremely simple cartoon shows a cannon ball, marked with a portrait of Taylor, expelled by a cannon marked "Philadelphia Convention." The ball slams Cass backward into a large hat.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Realigning America

The other day I finished R. Hal Williams's Realigning America: McKinley, Bryan, and the Remarkable Election of 1896, the newest addition to the University Press of Kansas's American Presidential Elections Series. I'm too lazy to put together a formal review, but I thought I would provide a few observations.

First, the strength of Prof. Williams's short volume (171 pages of text, excluding appendices, endnotes, index, etc.) is his ability to paint vivid portraits of the characters and convey the drama of the inherently dramatic events. Through the use of details and quotes by eye witnesses, he can in a few words give you a stunning “you-are-there” picture that etches a scene in your mind's eye. Here, for example, is William Jennings Bryan bounding to the podium to deliver his Cross of Gold speech:
“Suddenly I saw [Edgar Lee Masters said] a man spring up from his seat among the delegates, and with the agility and swiftness of an eager boxer hurry to the speaker's rostrum. He was slim, tall, pale, raven-haired, beaked of nose.” Delegates caught at his coat as he made his way to the platform, “as if to bid him God-speed."

He climbed the platform “two steps at a time,” a reporter for the New York World said, with the look of a “strong-limbed, strong-lunged” athlete; “Ear-splitting noises were heard; waves of scarlet fans danced in the galleries.” Another reporter, positioned about fifty yards away, saw “a man in the full energy of ambitious life – flashing, gleaming eye, broad-shouldered, straight as an arrow, the physique of a gladiator, the spirit of a crusader; voice clear and vibrant; 15,000 spectators emotionally following every word, every gesture.”
Second, Prof. Williams – whose book is clearly aimed at those who, like me, do not have a lot of knowledge about the period – does a good job setting up the economic backdrop to the election. Just as the Panic of 1837 brought down Martin Van Buren, so too the Panic of 1893 laid waste to the presidency of the newly-elected Grover Cleveland. Using his descriptive powers, Prof. Williams conveys the devastation and the president's growing isolation and passivity as he proved unable to deal with it. As depression continued to stalk the land, the Democrats suffered massive defeats in off-year elections. Barring unforeseen developments, 1896 was clearly going to be a Republican year.

And unforeseen developments there were, which Prof. Williams, clearly a political junkie, leads us through skillfully. There are perceptive analyses of both major candidates and a sympathetic discussion of the plight of the Populists after Bryan's nomination.

The book has one major failing, however. The treatment of the silver issue is virtually incomprehensible. Prof. Williams takes all of a page and a half to summarize bimetallism, and I believe that someone coming new to the subject will remain befuddled as to what, exactly, it was and why devotees of Free Silver so fervently took up the cause. The result is a huge hole that leaves the reader without backround mystified as to why anyone cared about the election - and why anyone should bother reading about it now. Stanley L. Jones's The Presidential Election of 1896 opened with a separate chapter that explained the history of bimetallism and effectively conveyed its allure (even while criticizing it as simplistic and naive). Prof. Williams's volume desperately needs a similar preamble.

For this reason, if you are new to the period and the Free Silver issue you really need a prequel, such as Milton Friedman's essay "The Crime of 1873" in Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History, discussed previously here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Obligatory Cute Baby Animal Post

It's a naked, wrinkly and adorable baby aardvark! Courtesy of Zooborns.

Happy Birthday, Jemmy!

And if, in fulfillment of that stern decree which denounces decay and death on all human beings - a decree before which Babylon and Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, and all that was illustrious in antiquity have crumbled into dust - if it be irreversible to all, and America be doomed to travel through ages of bondage, let us indulge the consolatory hope that the life of Madison, triumphing over the injuries of time, may become a pillar of light by which some future patriot may reconduct his countrymen to their lost inheritance.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer


The Albert Gallatin Brown Resolutions, January 1860

In the comments to my last post, Sean referred to the fact that Jefferson Davis's fellow senator from Mississippi, Albert Gallatin Brown, introduced a competing set of resolutions concerning slavery in the territories during early 1860. The two men disliked each other personally and were political rivals.

As we have seen, Davis's resolutions were moderate by the standards of the deep south. Although they asserted that slave codes for a territory or territories might be necessary at some point in the future, the resolutions denied that they were required at present.

Brown's resolutions, in contrast, took the position that slave codes for the territories were mandatory. Congress should instruct territorial legislatures to enact them. And if the territorial legislatures failed or refused to do so, then it was “the admitted duty of Congress to interfere and pass such laws” itself.

Here are Brown's resolutions, which he introduced on January 18, 1860:
Resolved, That the Territories are the common property of all the States; and that it is the privilege of the citizens of all the States to go into the Territories with every kind or description of property recognized by the Constitution of the United States, and held under the laws of any of the States; and that it is the constitutional duty of the law-making power, wherever lodged, or by whomsoever exercised, whether by the Congress or by the Territorial Legislature, to enact such laws as may be found necessary for the adequate and sufficient protection of such property.

Resolved, That the Committee on Territories be instructed to insert, in any bill they may report for the organization of new Territories, a clause declaring it to be the duty of the Territorial Legislature to enact adequate and sufficient laws for the protection of all kinds of property, as above described, within the limits of the Territory; and that, upon its failure or refusal to do so, it is the admitted duty of Congress to interfere and pass such laws.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jefferson Davis's Freeport Doctrine

I recently posted, in the form of a quiz, a quote from a speech delivered by Jefferson Davis in Portland, Maine on September 11, 1858 in which the former Secretary of War and then current Senator from Mississippi made a point identical to that expressed by Senator Stephen A. Douglas the prior month in a debate with one Abraham Lincoln in Freeport, Illinois.

Here's Douglas:
The next question propounded to me by Mr. Lincoln is, Can the people of a Territory in any lawful way, against the wishes of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from their limits prior to the formation of a State constitution? I answer emphatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred times from every stump in Illinois, that in my opinion the people of a Territory can, by lawful means, exclude slavery from their limits prior to the formation of a State constitution. Mr Lincoln knew that I had answered that question over and over again. He heard me argue the Nebraska bill on that principle all over the State in 1854, in 1855, and in 1856, and he has no excuse for pretending to be in doubt as to my position on that question. It matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a Territory under the Constitution, the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature; and if the people are opposed to slavery, they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. If, on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension. Hence, no matter what the decision of the Supreme Court may be on that abstract question, still the right of the people to make a Slave Territory or a Free Territory is perfect and complete under the Nebraska bill. I hope Mr. Lincoln deems my answer satisfactory on that point.
And here's Davis:
If the inhabitants of any territory should refuse to enact such laws and police regulations as would give security to their property or to his, it would be rendered more or less valueless, in proportion to the difficulty of holding it without such protection.

In the case of property in the labor of man, or what is usually called slave property, the insecurity would be so great that the owner could not ordinarily retain it. Therefore, though the right would remain, the remedy being withheld, it would follow that the owner would be practically debarred by the circumstances of the case, from taking slave property into a territory where the sense of the inhabitants was opposed to its introduction.

So much for the oft repeated fallacy of forcing slavery upon any community.
William W. Freehling describes the aftermath. Not unexpectedly, Davis's remarks generated anger and suspicion in his home state. In November 1858, Davis appeared before the Mississippi legislature to explain himself and to execute a “guarded retreat.”
“The difference between us is . . . wide,” [Davis explained] for I only conceded that “all property requires protection,” or it cannot be “held.” Douglas sees no governmental obligation to protect. But I know that a hostile community's power to free a slave generates not “a right to destroy but an obligation to protect.”
Davis did not explain what form the “obligation to protect” should take until eight months later. In a speech to the Democratic state convention in July 1859, he laid out a surprisingly moderate position. Protection of slavery in the territories did not require Congressional enactment of a slave code unless legal remedies failed:
Davis there declared that courts could prevent a hostile community from robbing a slaveholder. Thus our “right to protection does not necessarily involve the enactment of additional laws.” Maybe someday, if courts fail a slaveholder, we may need congressional protection. We must now claim our right to national protective laws in that possible future contingency. But as for Northern Democrats' fear that we now demand a national slave code, “you know it to be utterly unfounded and . . . absurd.”
Consistent with his stated approach, on February 2, 1860 Senator Davis submitted to the Senate a series of seven resolutions concerning slavery and slavery in the territories. As modified by Davis on March 1, 1860, the key resolutions provided that a slave code was not necessary at present, although it might be in the future:
4. Resolved, That neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislature, whether by direct legislation or legislation of an indirect and unfriendly character, possesses power to annul or impair the constitutional right of any citizen of the United States to take his slave property into the common Territories, and there hold and enjoy the same while the territorial condition remains.

5. Resolved, That if experience should at any time prove that the judiciary and executive authority do not possess means to insure adequate protection to constitutional rights in a Territory, and if the territorial government shall fail or refuse to provide the necessary remedies for that purpose it will be the duty of Congress to supply such deficiency.
The Senate passed Davis's resolutions on May 25, 1860. The vote in favor of the key 5th Resolution was a surprisingly lopsided 35 to 2.

Isn't the advertisement at the top of the post, which was printed in Washington, DC in 1860, wonderful? Apart from the fact that it refers to Jefferson Davis, it's irrelevant to the subject matter of the post, but I couldn't resist.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Death of Zachary Taylor

Prompted by a comment left by Frances Hunter, I've consulted some sources about the medical treatment administered to President Zachary Taylor before his death on July 9, 1850.

The onset of the illness is pretty well known. On Thursday July 4, 1850, Taylor sat outside for three hours or more listening to speeches and ceremonies at the uncompleted Washington Monument. The day was a brutal one, even by Washington standards. One source recorded the temperature as 92 degrees, and the humidity was “crushing.” A Washington correspondent noted “that numerous people fainted and that several horses dropped dead in the streets from sunstroke.” Taylor was 65 years of age may have been coming down with something even before the ceremonies started. John C. Waugh reports that Taylor “complained of dizziness and headache” as he arrived at the Monument.

Taylor apparently sat in the shade most of the time, but also spent some time in the blazing direct sunlight. Although he was in the sun for only part of the time, Taylor may have suffered from mild sunstroke and was almost certainly dehydrated.

When he returned to the White House, he (in the words of Elbert B. Smith) “ate raw fruit, probably cherries, and, reportedly, various raw vegetables as well, which he washed down with large quantities of iced milk.” By early evening, he was feeling unwell and sent his regrets that he was unable to attend a dinner party. Soon after he was seized with a violent attack of “cramps, indigestion, diarrhea and vomiting.” At first the president, who had a history of intestinal disorders, was not concerned. “But by midnight he was much worse.”

It is unclear when physicians were first called. John C. Waugh and Elbert B. Smith indicate that the president was treated quickly, apparently on Friday July 5. Mark J. Stegmaier states that “a physician was finally called in to attend him” only on the afternoon of Saturday July 6. Whenever the doctors arrived, they diagnosed “cholera morbus”, probably acute gastroenteritis, and prescribed "calomel (a mercury compound) and opium.”

Whether as a result of medical treatment or not, the president at first rallied somewhat. Although he canceled appointments on the morning of Friday July 5, by that afternoon he was feeling somewhat better, capable of signing documents relating to the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and writing a few letters while resting on a sofa.

Then, at about 3:00 p.m that afternoon. Taylor endured a confrontational visit by Alexander Stephens and Robert Toombs, who angrily castigated the president over his position on the ongoing slavery crisis. Among other things, they told the president that his position endangered the Union, and they threatened to have the president censured over the Galphin Affair if he did not change his course. At that point the president was reportedly strong enough to defy his visitors and issue his own warning against threats of disunion:
Gentlemen, . . . if ever the flag of disunion is raised within the borders of these United States while I occupy the Chair, I will plant the stars and stripes alongside of it, and with my own hand strike it down, if not a soul comes to my aid south of Mason and Dixon's line.

There is some reason to wonder whether the stress of the Stephens-Toombs visit contributed to the president's subsequent relapse. Taylor was unable to sleep the night of July 5 – July 6 and became progressively more ill on Saturday July 6. By that afternoon (if not earlier), a doctor or doctors were called and administered “massive” doses of quinine and calomel. At some point, they added "[b]leeding and blisters" to their treatments.

Despite or because of these remedies, the president's condition became progressively worse. By Monday July 8, Taylor was feverish and delusional and recognized that death was near.

By Tuesday July 9, the president's life was clearly in the balance. During the course of the afternoon, his conditioned worsened, then rallied briefly. However, he then suffered a relapse that all present apparently recognized as final. The doctors ceased treatment and declared he was in God's hands. Death came at 10:35 that night.

Before midnight, there was a knock on Millard Fillmore's door at the Willard Hotel.

Friday, March 12, 2010

John Bingham's Epiphany

The second part of Lawprof Kurt T. Lash's "three-part investigation of the origins of the Privileges or Immunities Clause" is out at SSRN: The Origins of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, Part II: John Bingham's Epiphany. I haven't read it yet, but here's the abstract:
Historical accounts of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment generally assume that John Bingham based the text on Article IV of the original Constitution and that Bingham, like other Reconstruction Republicans, viewed Justice Washington’s opinion in Corfield v. Coryell as the definitive interpretation of Article IV. According to this view, Justice Miller in the Slaughterhouse Cases failed to follow both framers’ intent and obvious textual meaning when he sharply distinguished Section One’s privileges or immunities from Article IV’s privileges and immunities.

This article, the second in a three-part investigation of the origins of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, presents historical evidence which strongly suggests that none of these assumptions are correct. Although John Bingham’s first draft of the Fourteenth Amendment used the language of Article IV, mid-way through the Reconstruction debates Bingham realized he had made a mistake. Withdrawing his initial proposal, Bingham abandoned the language of Article IV and drafted a second version of the Amendment. This second version protected the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” — a phrase which mirrored antebellum language regarding the rights of national citizenship. Bingham insisted that his second and final version of Section One did not refer to the common law state-conferred rights of Corfield and Article IV, but instead nationalized a different and limited set of constitutionally recognized privileges and immunities, in particular the first eight amendments to the Constitution. Understanding the difference between Bingham’s first and second drafts not only explains what otherwise appear to be inconsistencies in Bingham’s speeches, it also calls into question contemporary efforts to read the Privileges or Immunities Clause as a source of un-enumerated natural rights. Like other moderates in the Thirty-Ninth Congress, Bingham wished to expand the protection of individual rights in the states, but not at the expense of the retained right of the people in the states to regulate the content of most civil rights, subject only to the requirements of due process and equal protection.

The first secion of Prof. Lash's study, which was published on SSRN last year, is The Origins of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, Part I: "Privileges and Immunities" as an Antebellum Term of Art.

UPDATE: Prof. Lash has published a post on his article at PrawfsBlawg: Alternative Interpretations of the Privileges or Immunities Clause - and desperately seeking John Bingham.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Last month, a post at Frances Hunter's American Heroes Blog, entitled Lewis & Clark's Medicine Chest, gave rise in the comments to some speculation as to whether those who lacked access to medical care in the 18th and early 19th Centuries were better off for it. Was there any empirical evidence to support the proposition?

A post at overcomingbias suggests an affirmative answer, at least with respect to pneumonia patients. The post quotes a book entitled Hard Facts as follows:

Bloodletting was used routinely until 1836 when French physician Pierre Louis conducted one of the first clinical trials in medicine. Louis compared pneumonia patients whom he treated with aggressive bloodletting and those he treated without it. Louis found that bloodletting was linked to far more deaths. . . . George Washington, the first president of the United States, . . . died two days after a doctor treated his sore throat by draining almost five pints of blood.

H/T Lawprof Mike Rappaport at The Right Coast.

The Education of John Jay

City Journal has a nice article on John Jay: The Education of John Jay: America's Indispensable Diplomat. It records, among other things, this ditty published in a newspaper at the time of Jay's return from Britain in May 1795 after negotiating Jay's Treaty:
May it please your highness, I John Jay
Have traveled all this mighty way
To inquire if you, good Lord will please
To suffer me while on my knees,
To show all others I surpass,
In love, by kissing of your ___.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Name that Speaker

I haven't posted a quiz in a long time, so here's one. Who delivered a speech in 1858 that included the following passage? I have added paragraph breaks for readability.
If the inhabitants of any territory should refuse to enact such laws and police regulations as would give security to their property or to his, it would be rendered more or less valueless, in proportion to the difficulty of holding it without such protection.

In the case of property in the labor of man, or what is usually called slave property, the insecurity would be so great that the owner could not ordinarily retain it. Therefore, though the right would remain, the remedy being withheld, it would follow that the owner would be practically debarred by the circumstances of the case, from taking slave property into a territory where the sense of the inhabitants was opposed to its introduction.

So much for the oft repeated fallacy of forcing slavery upon any community.

About the illustration (which does not necessarily contain the figure who gave the speech):
A bitter indictment of the Democratic administration's responsibility for violence and bloodshed in Kansas in the wake of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. (See also "Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler" and "Democratic Platform Illustrated," nos. 1856-8 and 1856-11.) The print appeared during the presidential campaign of 1856. In the center stands Democratic incumbent Franklin Pierce, dressed in the buckskins of a "border ruffian," as the violent, proslavery invaders of the Kansas territory from Missouri were known. He has planted his foot on an American flag which is draped over Liberty, who kneels at his feet imploring, "O spare me gentlemen, spare me!!" Pierce is armed with a rifle, and has a tomahawk, dagger, pistol, and scalp on his belt. At right a similarly outfitted Lewis Cass stands licking his lips and scoffing, "Poor little Dear. We wouldnt hurt her for the world, would we Frank? ha! ha! ha! . . ." At the far right Democratic senator Stephen Douglas kneels over a slain farmer and holds up the hapless victim's scalp, exclaiming, "Hurrah for our side! Victory! Victory! "We will subdue them yet." "On the far left Democratic candidate James Buchanan and secretary of state William Marcy (with his characteristic fifty-cent" trouser patch) kneel over another victim and empty his pockets. Buchanan lifts the man's watch, saying,"T'was your's once but its mine now, "Might makes right," dont it." Pierce responds, "You may bet your life on that, ole Puddinhead," and says to Liberty, "Come Sis--sy, you go along wid me, I'le take Good care of "you" (hic) "over the left."" In the left background a cottage burns, and the mad widow of a murdered settler stands before a group of ruffians. Widow: "Come husband let us go to heaven, where our poor Children are." Ruffian, thumbing his nose: "Ho! ho! She thinks I'm her husband, we Scalped the Cus and she like a D--m fool went Crazy on it, and now she wants me to go to heaven with her, . . . " In the distance are further scenes of pillage and murder. Attribution to Magee is based on the print's clear stylistic similarity to his "Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler" (no. 1856-8). A number of satires published by John Childs during the 1856 campaign are also attributable to Magee on stylistic grounds.

Baby, Baby, Baby!

Man does not live by history alone. He also needs . . . baby animals! Here are three from Zooborns. Above is a baby Malayan tapir at the San Diego Zoo. Below are a baby giraffe at the Riverbanks Zoo and a baby gorilla at the San Francisco Zoo.

Oh baby!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Brief History of Pretty Much Eveything

Well done. Quiz second period tomorrow.

H/T Debby, Jonah's Odd Links Gal.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Barnett on Privileges or Immunities

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Law Prof. Randy Barnett, one of my favorites, has been posting periodically about the origins of the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The posts grow out of Prof. Barnett's recently-published article, Whence Comes Section One? The Abolitionist Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment, and in part respond to another recently-released paper, Philip Hamburger, Privileges or Immunities. To date they include Hamburger's "Rough Draft" on Privileges or Immunities, Philip Hamburger Responds on the Original Meaning of the Privileges or Immunities Clause, Jacob Howard Explains Privileges or Immunities, and Chief Justice Taney on the Privileges or Immunities of Citizens of the United States. More posts are on their way, I suspect, so make sure to watch for them.

If I may be so bold, Prof. Barnett's post on Chief Justice Taney makes a point that I noted several years ago in Justice Taney's Understanding of the "Privileges and Immunities of Citizens". See also Justice Curtis's Understanding of the "Privileges and Immunities of Citizens" and Democrats and Whigs on Citizens and Citizenship.

About the illustration:
A crudely drawn anti-Jackson satire, applauding Henry Clay's orchestration of Congressional resistance to the President's plan to withdraw Treasury funds from the Bank of the United States. The print also attacks Vice-President Van Buren's purported manipulation of administration fiscal policy. The title continues, "Shewing the Beneficial Effects of Clay & Co's Highly Approved Congress Water administered to a very old man sick of the Deposite [sic] Fever caused by wearing Van Buren's newly invented Patent Magic High Pressure Cabinet Spectacles." In the center Jackson, wearing dark spectacles, bends over, vomiting papers inscribed "Veto", "Responsibility" and "Message" while Henry Clay (seated at table, left) and Major Jack Downing (laughing, right) look on and comment. Clay holds a bottle, having just administered his "Congress Water" to Jackson: "'Tis good Chieftain 'twill bring forth Offensive matter." Downing: "...I kinder hinted To the Jinerl I ges'd Congress-Water and Responsibility wouldn't agree on his Stomach. The Jineral says to me says he 'Major that Clay is a bold impudent feller and will speak out his mind if the Divil stands at the Door." Jackson: "Devil Take the Treasury and my Secretary Too." Behind him, the Devil walks toward the door with Treasury Secretary Roger B. Taney and a sack "$200,000,000 United States Treasures" slung over his back. The image alludes to Congress's refusal to confirm Taney as Treasury Secretary.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Abe as Good as Millard: Alexander Stephens

In the summer of 1860, Georgia radicals were warning that the election of Abraham Lincoln would mean disaster for the south. Secession would be the only remedy.

Cooperationist (and future vice president of the Confederate States) Alexander Stephens was unconvinced. Writing to a friend in July 1860, Stephens opined that Lincoln, if elected, would be as good as, and perhaps better than, . . . wait for it . . . Millard Fillmore!
"I know the man [Lincoln] well," [Stephens wrote], "he is not a bad man." In fact, Stephens predicted, "He will make as good a President as Fillmore did and better too in my opinion."

Michael P. Johnson, Toward a Patriarchal Republic: The Secession of Georgia.
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