Jasper F. Cropsey, Autumn of the Hudson (1860)
Jan. 17: Some Themes for the first half of the course:
1. Slavery and Race: Slavery was the great dilemma Americans confronted. Most whites would doubtless have preferred not to think of it at all or to have contented themselves with saying that it was the "peculiar institution" of southern states. But the rush westward and the divergent visions of the West northerners and southerners developed forced everyone to confront the issue. They did so in the context of a deep and pervasive prejudice against people of color. This racism provided a powerful, if perverse, bond of union. How this bond frayed is a key part of the story of the coming of the war. How whites, North and South, reforged that bond is a key part of the story of Reconstruction and beyond.
2. The Pace of Change: Our period witnessed the beginning of the modern age in which we continue to live. Thomas Jefferson famously predicted that it would take Americans 1,000 years to occupy the land of the Louisiana Purchase. In fact, it took less than 50. How could he have been so wildly off target? He assumed that, since it had taken two centuries to settle the land between the Atlantic and the Alleghany Mountains, it would take several times as long to settle the much larger area of the Purchase. A transportation revolution was not part of his calculations. Jefferson did not imagine that steam power would be applied to shipping. He did not imagine an Erie Canal connecting New York City with the Great Lakes. He did not imagine railroads. He could not imagine that journeys that had always taken weeks or months could be completed in hours. Nor could Jefferson, despite his own inventiveness and fondness for new machines, imagine that electricity could be harnessed in the telegraph. Prior to the telegraph, messages traveled at the speed of the messanger. Before the 1830s this meant at the speed of a horse. Then it meant at the speed of a locomotive. Suddenly it meant the speed of an electric impulse moving along a wire. Messages that had taken days or weeks to arrive now took minutes.
Industrialization revolutionized people's lives. All sorts of products traditionally made at home — cloth, shoes, candles, soap — now flowed from factories. And thousands and then tens and then hundreds of thousands of Americans flowed into those factories and into the industrial villages and new cities that housed them. Change became normative.
This too was revolutionary. The vast majority of Americans born in the years before the War of 1812 took it for granted that they would live lives very much like their parents'. They would farm. They would perhaps make shoes in the winter season or do a little carpentry or blacksmithing for their neighbors. If they owned stores, they could expect to travel to Boston or some other nearby city once a year to stock up, their stock limited to what they could carry back on a single wagon. Much of their trade would involve a complex system of bartering since there was a chronic scarcity of specie. Someone with a grist mill, for example, would grind his neighbors' corn or barley in exchange for part of the crop. He would then trade some portion of that for, let us say, shoes for his children. The storekeeper would then seek to dispose of the grain, possibly to someone buying up corn to sell in Boston. Life had gone on in this way and at this pace for generations. Then, in a single generation, it was transformed. Children, including girls, began dreaming of new kinds of lives. Mark Twain, for example, dreamed of a life on the Mississippi piloting steamboats. Abby Kelley dreamed of teaching school, previously a virtually all-male preserve, and then of ending slavery. They lived in a new world, one in which anything seemed possible.
Here are two contemporary accounts of the pace of change. The first is by a retired minister, Rev. Charles Harding; the second is by the leading industrialist of mid-nineteenth-century Worcester, Ichabod Washburn.
Currier and Ives, "Progress of the Century" (ca. 1876)
3. The West: The Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812 required the British to remove their forts from the Ohio Valley. When they did, they effectively abandoned their Native American allies who had to confront the waves of settlers and then the U.S. government on their own. It was an uneven contest. Americans, North and South, relentlessly and remorselessly pushed the tribes out of their way. We will look at the decision of the state of Georgia to dispossess the Cherokee and follow the story to Plains Indians giving sporadic battle to the U.S. Cavalry, often composed black Civil War veterans.
Northerners and Southerners both sought to seize the opportunities they saw the West offering, a process that inevitably produced conflict. Both North and South were expanding, but in different ways. Consider the Erie Canal. This linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and turned New York into the Empire State with New York City becoming the financial capital of the nation. The canal served as a school for civil engineering, and canal alumni would go on to build the country's railroads. The canal led to the first "boom town," Rochester. In 1820 it did not exist. Ten years later, tens of thousands lived and worked there. Northern expansion, in short, helped create the transportation revolution. It spurred urbanization. It encouraged industrialization. It was transformative. The North did not merely grow. It continuously reinvented itself.
Southerners, in contrast, sought to transplant the plantation system. As they acquired new lands, they put them to familiar uses. They did not seek to lead the way in the transportation revolution or in the industrial revolution. It would take a century for the South to take the lead in textile production, for example. There were fewer cities in the South, and they grew more slowly.
These differences were already obvious in 1832 when Tocqueville came to write Democracy in America. They might, he feared, imperil the Union.
4. Republicanism, the Market, and Evangelicalism: Americans sought to make sense of the bewildering possibilities they faced by employing three frames within which they sought to organize their ideas, hopes, and fears. One was republicanism. Whether they were organizing a new territory or a society to ban the delivery of mail on Sunday, Americans wrote constitutions. They elected officers. They held meetings in which they used parliamentary rules of order. They assumed that the majority should rule, that individuals were free to do as they pleased so long as they did not interfere with the rights of others, that everyone was entitled to have and express an opinion. Americans witnessed the slow passing of the revolutionary generation, and they gloried in the success of the republic.
Capitalism provided another powerful frame. Each man was supposed to find his own way in the world and could, Americans believed, because the market rewarded talent and perserverance. If you worked hard, you would succeed. Success did not necessarily mean great wealth. It meant independence. There were few great fortunes in antebellum America. There were a great many farms and shops and stores. Getting ahead meant winning a place for yourself and your family.
Evangelical Protestantism thrived during the first three quarters of the nineteenth century. Millions found salvation in the Second Great Awakening. Church membership grew rapidly. To meet the chronic shortage of clergy, Home Missionary societies formed. Boosters starting towns that they hoped would become the next Rochester routinely began by organizing a church. The denomination did not matter. If a Baptist minister was available, it would be Baptist. If a Methodist or a Presbyterian were available, it would be Methodist or Presbyterian. What mattered was that there be preaching.
All three frames were sets of institutions and behaviors, in short, as well as ways of thinking. Much of the time they converged. All three emphasized the individual, for example. At other times they conflicted. Jackson opposed the measure curtailing mail delivery on the Sabbath citing the First Amendment. In the 1850s the Know-Nothings adopted a strong evangelical platform including the Maine Law (the first attempt at Prohibition) but also directly threatened republican principles, notably Article VI of the Constitution, which excludes any religious test for public office. The market reinforced some evangelical teachings. Businessmen were among the first, for example, to endorse Temperance. It also extolled selfishness.
The Republican Party of the 1850s fused these three frames in an especially powerful fashion.
Jan. 19: We will begin with the Denmark Vesey controversy, a lesson in the problematic nature of historical interpretation in the December 1999 issue of The Atlantic Monthly there is a brief summary of the surge of historical interest in Vesey:
Widespread recognition for Denmark Vesey has been a long time coming. In 1822, in Charleston, South Carolina, Vesey masterminded what would have been the largest slave revolt in American history. When an informer revealed the plans at the last minute and the revolt was nipped in the bud, Charleston authorities downplayed the story, claiming that they had "allowed" the plot to progress so as to ensure the capture of its leaders. Fearing future attempts at insurrection, Charleston slaveowners had Vesey and many of his co-conspirators put to death, and hid written records of the Vesey episode from their slaves. Vesey's legacy was, for all intents and purposes, buried and forgotten.
Now, one hundred and seventy-seven years later, we are witnessing a surge of interest in this forgotten American hero. Three books on Vesey and his plot have appeared in 1999 -- He Shall Go Out Free, by Douglas R. Egerton, Designs Against Charleston: The Trial Record of the Denmark Slave Conspiracy of 1822, edited by Edward A. Pearson, and Denmark Vesey, by David Robertson — and there is talk of television specials and a feature film in the works.
The William and Mary Quarterly, perhaps the leading historical journal for the colonial, revolutionary, and early national periods, commissioned Michael Johnson, Professor of History at Johns Hopkins, to review the new works. [Note: This link is to the History Cooperative via the Assumption library; it will not work off campus. The library subscribes to the journal. The review is in the October 2001 issue.] WMQ editor Robert A. Gross summarized what happened next:
IN the late spring and summer of 1822, the city of Charleston, South Carolina, was thrown into turmoil by reports of an imminent slave insurrection. Municipal authorities swept into action to suppress the plot, seize the perpetrators, and convict and punish the accused. The official inquiry, conducted by the Charleston Court of Magistrates and Freeholders, led to the arrest of 128 black men, both free and slave, of whom thirty-five were hanged from the gallows and forty sent into exile "beyond the limits of the United States." At the head of the plot, the court declared, was a free black carpenter named Denmark Vesey, and the purported rebellion has ever since borne his name.
But did a conspiracy exist outside the minds of fearful whites? Doubts were raised at the time, and they have been occasionally vetted by historians, but to little effect. The consensus view has been to accept the judgment of the Charleston court: the insurrection was real, and it was foiled only by the timely actions of white authorities. Scholars have found in the Vesey conspiracy a testament to African-American resistance to slavery and a revealing glimpse into the world of black Charlestonians during the early republic. In this spirit, three books on Denmark Vesey and his abortive uprising appeared in 1999.
Why the sudden upsurge of interest? To address this question and assess the books, the William and Mary Quarterly commissioned Michael Johnson of Johns Hopkins University to write a review-essay. That assignment soon acquired a life of its own. Undertaking an investigation of the court record at the foundation of all studies of the Vesey affair, Johnson came to doubt the existence of a conspiracy and to offer a reading of the evidence radically different from the books under review. The extensive report of that inquiry follows. Unusual in its length, the review is, in the editors' view, innovative in its reach. It turns an appraisal of a documentary editionEdward Pearson's version of the trial of the alleged conspirators of 1822into a probing inquiry into a central problem in the interpretation of slave rebellions not just in Charleston but throughout the Americas: how can we recover the voices of the oppressed in documents compiled by their oppressors, particularly when those documents are the records of trials organized and controlled by the dominant class, dictating the terms on which the subordinate are summoned to speak, with their very lives at stake? Gross, Robert A., Forum: The Making of a Slave Conspiracy, part 1. The William and Mary Quarterly 58.4 (2001)
You can find the conventional view of the Vesey Conspiracy at Public Broadcasting's companion site to its "Africans in America" series. Read the related topics at the bottom of the page (be sure to read full documents) and briefly comment:
- What evidence convinced white South Carolinians that there was a conspiracy? What convinced them that particular individuals were involved?
- To what did they attribute the conspiracy?
Jan. 22: Michael Johnson's WMQ review essay. This is a long and very detailed article. Be prepared to invest several hours in reading it carefully and then submit notes addressing the following:
- Johnson described Edward Pearson's new edition of the trial record, Designs Against Charleston, as marked by "unrelenting carelessness." What sorts of things did he have in mind? Why, according to him, did they matter so much?
- Pearson's response concedes the "unrelenting carelessness" charge but argues: "Even though my transcription of the trial document is inaccurate, the accompanying analysis based on my reading and consideration of the evidence stands, I believe, as a sound piece of scholarship that contributes not just to our understanding of the plot itself, but also to the historiography on the antebellum South and urban slavery." (You can, if you have time, read the rest of the Forum commissioned by the WMQ.) This claim raises the question: Can an admittedly careless handling of evidence nonetheless yield "a sound piece of scholarship. . . ."? Put another way, did the sorts of errors Pearson admits to amount only to errors of transcription and sequence? and, if so, might such errors impair his analysis?
- What, according to Johnson, is the significance of the changes made from the transcripts to the published Trial Record? What, that is, does he claim "the court" sought to do in making these changes?
January 24: Slave Narratives; Charles Joyner on plantation slavery. We will jump from historiography back into history by taking a look at the slave experience. Read Joyner's brief essay and then choose three documents from the Slave Narratives site which, in your view, clarify, deepen, and/or complicate Joyner's description. For each document provide a one-paragraph rationale for why you think it valuable as an historical source + a more extended discussion on how it clarifies, deepens, and/or complicates your understanding of the slave experience. It is entirely appropriate to choose documents which confuse as well as those which enlighten. As we have just seen, reading historical evidence poses all sorts of challenges.
The Cherokee Removal: Defining "Civilized"
Jan. 26: Lee Sulzman, Cherokee History -- construct a chronology of key events in the history of U.S.-Cherokee contact. Chronologies are basic tools for historians. They are not simple lists of dates. They point to origins, turning points, crises, outcomes. For each date you include provide a sentence indicating why it is significant.
Jan. 29: Map of Cherokee lands, 1815; the Cherokee, Creek, and several other native peoples were known as the "civilized" tribes. They had decided, that is, to adopt key features of white culture and to abandon many of their own traditions. One way to see what this involved is to analyze the following letter from John Ridge to Albert Gallatin. John Ridge was a Cherokee whose Indian name was Kahmungdaclegeh or the Man Who Walks on the Mountaintop, which he Anglicized to Ridge. He attended several mission schools, spoke English fluently, became a Christian, and married a white woman. He owned a farm and several slaves. Albert Gallatin, former Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson, was seeking to collect systematic and authoritative information about native peoples. He employed Ridge, who was twenty-three at the time, to help him.
Ridge's letter recounts the transformation of the Cherokee, in the space of a single generation, into a so-called "civilized" tribe. The excerpts below detail several of the distinguishing marks of "civilization" as Ridge understood it and as the Cherokee sought to realize it.
The Cherokee Nation is bounded on the North by east Tennessee & North Carolina, east by Georgia, south by the Creek Nation & state of Alabama, & west by west Tennessee. The extreme length of the Nation must be upwards of 200 miles & extreme breadth about 150. At a rough conjecture, it has been supposed to contain about 10,000,000 of acres of land. . . . A census of the Nation was taken last year (1825) by order of the [Nation's] Council to ascertain the amount of property and Taxable persons within the Nation. The correctness of this may be relied on, and the population proved to be 13,583 native citizens, 147 white men married in the Nation, 73 white women, and 1,277 African slaves . . . . There is a scanty instance of African mixture with the Cherokee blood, but that of the white may be as 1 to 4, occasioned by intermarriages which has been increasing in proportion to the march of civilization. . . . I take pleasure to state, tho' cautiously, that there is not to my knowledge a solitary Cherokee to be found that depends upon the chase for subsistence and every head of a family has his house & farm. The hardest portion of manual labor is performed by the men, & the women occasionally lend a hand to the field, more by choice and necessity than any thing else. This is applicable to the poorer class, and I can do them the justice to say, they very contentedly perform the duties of the kitchen and that they are the most valuable portion of our Citizens. They sew, they weave, they spin, they cook our meals and act well the duties assigned to them by Nature as mothers as far as they are able & improved. The African slaves are generally mostly held by Half breeds and full Indians of distinguished talents. In this class the principal value of property is retained and their farms are conducted in the same style as the southern white farmers of equal ability in point of property. . . . They have their regular meals as the whites, Servants to attend them in their repasts, and the tables are usually covered with a clean cloth & furnished with the usual plates, knives & forks &c.. . . . . .
Superstition is the portion of all uncivilized Nations and Idolatry is only engendered in the Brain of rudeness. The Cherokees in their most savage state, never worshipped the work of their own hands-neither fire or water nor any one or portion of splendid fires that adorn heaven's Canopy above. They believed in a great first cause or Spirit of all Good & in a great being the author of all evil. These [were] at variance and at war with each other, but the good Spirit was supposed to be superior to the bad one. These immortal beings had on both sides numerous intelligent beings of analogous dispositions to their chieftains. They had a heaven, which consisted of a visible world to those who had undergone a change by death. This heaven was adorned with all the beauties which a savage imagination could conceive: An open forest, yet various, giving shade & fruit of every kind; Flowers of various hues & pleasant to the Smell; Game of all kinds in great abundance, enough of feasts & plenty of dances, & to crown the whole, the most beautiful women, prepared & adorned by the great Spirit, for every individual Indian that by wisdom, hospitality & Bravery was introduced to this happy & immortal region. The Bad place was the reverse of this & in the vicinity of the good place, where the wretched, compelled to live in hunger, hostility & darkness, could hear the rejoicings of the happy, with out the possibility of reaching its shores.
Witches or wizards were in existence and pretended to possess Supernatural powers & intercourse with the Devil or bad Spirit. They were supposed capable of transforming themselves into the beasts of the forest & fowls of the air & take their nocturnal excursions in pursuit of human victims, particularly those suffering from disease, & it was often necessary for their friends to employ witch shooters to protect the sick from such visitors. Such characters were the dread of the Country, & many a time have I trembled at the croaking of a frog, hooting of an owl or guttural hoarseness of a Raven by night in my younger days. After the people began to be a little more courageous, these witches had a bad time of it. They were often on suspicion butchered or tomahawked by the enraged parents, relatives or friends of the deceased, particularly if the sickness was of short duration. The severity of revenge fell most principally on the grey hairs of aged persons of both sexes. To stop this evil, it was necessary to pass a law considering all slaughters of this kind in the light of murder, which has effected the desired remedy. There [are] yet among us who pretend to possess powers of milder character, Such as making rain, allaying a storm or whirlwinds, playing with thunder & foretelling future events with many other trifling conjurations not worth mentioning, but they are generally living monuments of fun to the young and grave Ridicule for those in maturer years. There [are] about 8 churches, where the gospel is preached on sabbath days with in the Nation. They are missionary stations supported by Moravians, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists and each of these churches have a goodly number of pious & exemplary members and others, not professors, attend to preaching with respectable deportment. I am not able to say the precise number of actual christians but they are respectable in point of number & character. And many a drunken, idle & good for nothing Indian has been converted from error & have become useful Citizens: Portions of Scripture & sacred hymns are translated and I have frequently heard with astonishment a Cherokee, unacquainted with the English take his text & preach, read his hymn & sing it, Joined by his audience, and pray to his heavenly father with great propriety & devotion. The influence of Religion on the life of the Indians is powerful & lasting. I have an uncle, who was given to all the vices of savagism in drunkenness, fornication and roguery & he is now tho' poorer in this world's goods but rich in goodness & makes his living by hard labor & is in every respect an honest praying christian.
In respect to marriage, we have no law regulating it & polygamy is still allowed to Native Cherokees. Increase of morality among the men, the same among the women & a respect for their characters & matrimonial happiness is fast consuming this last vestige of our ignorance. We attempted to pass a law regulating marriage, but as nearly all the members of our Legislature, tho' convinced of the propriety, had been married under the old existing ceremony, [and] were afraid it would reflect dishonor on them, it failed. Time will effect the desired change in this system & it is worthy of mention, even now, that the most respectable portion of our females prefer, tho' not required by law to be united in marriage attended by the solemnities of the Christian mode. Indians, tho' naturally highminded, are not addicted to as much revenge as they have been represented, and I can say this, much it is paid for them to endure an intended Insult but they are ready to forgive if they discover marks of repentance in the countenance of an enemy. In regard to Intemperance, we are still as a nation grossly degraded. We are however on the improve. Five years ago our best chiefs during their official labors would get drunk & continue so for two or three days. It is now not the case & any member who should thus depart from duty would now be expelled from the Council. Among the younger class, a large number are of fine habits, temperate & genteel in their deportment. The females aspire to gain the affection of such men & to the females we may always ascribe the honor of effecting the civilization of man. There are about 13 Schools established by missionaries in the Nation and may contain 250 students.
They are entirely supported by the humane Societies in different parts of the U. States. The Nation has not as yet contributed to the support of these Schools. Besides this, some of our most respectable people have their children educated at the academies in the adjoining states. Two cherokee females have recently completed their Education, at the expense of their father, at a celebrated female Academy in Salem, North Carolina. They are highly accomplished & in point of appearance & deportment; they would pass for the genteel & wellbred ladies in any Country.
I know of some others who are preparing for an admission in the same institution. I suppose that there are one third of our Citizens, that can read & write in the English Language. George Guess, a Cherokee who is unacquainted with the English has invented 86 characters, in which the cherokees read & write in their own Language and regularly correspond with their Arkansas friends. This mode of writing is most extensively adopted by our people particularly by those who are ignorant of the English Language. A National Academy of a high order is to be soon established by law at our seat of Government. The edifice will be of Brick & will be supported by the Nation. It is also in contemplation to establish an English & Cherokee printing press & a paper edited in both languages at our seat of Government. In our last Session, $1500 was appropriated to purchase the press and regulations adopted to carry the object into effect. We have also a Society organized called the "Moral & Literary Society of the Cherokee Nation." A library is attached to this Institution... — Major John Ridge to Albert Gallatin, February 27, 1826
Highlight key terms that indicate what changes Ridge endorsed. That is, list the key details that Ridge chose to indicate Cherokee progress in becoming more civilized. One mark of civilization was slavery. How did it fit with the others? Comment on the role of whites, especially of missionaries, in the process of change as Ridge described it.
Jan. 31: Discussion of The Cherokee Debate in U.S. Senate; the debate arose out of this petition -- briefly address these questions: What are the legal, including constitutional, issues at stake in this debate? How did the two sides think about the Cherokee? Consult the appropriate documents concerning the Trail of Tears; choose two documents you find especially telling (and/or puzzling) and briefly indicate what you find of interest in each. I am looking for shallow analyses here. We are beginning to examine a very complicated as well as tragic story.
Feb. 2: Essay One due: General Winfield Scott's general order to the troops regarding Cherokee removal and his letter to the Cherokee; an Army private's account. Anyone reading General Scott's order would have anticipated that the Cherokee Removal would have involved little hardship. What went wrong? To what do you attribute the terrible suffering on "The Trail of Tears"? [Note: Essays should be 1,500 words in length, should make extensive use of the primary materials, and should answer the questions posed in sequence. It is important to discuss the materials, both primary and secondary, in terms of their reliability and value. This will be an ongoing preoccupation of this course. If you are feeling in need of additional materials, you can locate some here.]
The Second Great Awakening
Gleason's Pictorial Magazine 1(20): 313
EASTHAM CAMP MEETING.
Our artist has given us here a very accurate view of the late camp meeting, as it took place at Eastham, Mass. The occasion called together an immense body of people, many with the best of motives prompting them, many from mere curiosity, and many for the worst purposes. Father Taylor, the worthy seamen's preacher, was there, and the Bethel flag was conspicuous over the encampment. Over fifty clergymen took part in the exercises, and everything seemed to work harmoniously. Over two hundred souls were converted, says the published account, many backsliders were reclaimed, and the several churches were much revived and benefited. The weather, with the exception of two rainy evenings, was mild and agreeable, and the fare, as usual, excellent. On Sunday, the great day of the meeting, over five thousand people were on the ground, and all seemed to be solemnly impressed with the religious services. The meeting, altogether, was considered most delightful and soul-invigorating, by those who were its prime movers. For ourselves, we look upon this class of devotional meeting, to say the least of it, as being of a most questionable character.
Feb. 5: Read the Overview at TeachUSHistory and submit two questions raised by your reading that deepen, complicate, and/or confuse your understanding of 19th Century American life; introduction to Approaches to studying the Awakening. We will divvy up these materials and students will give oral reports on the topic they chose.
[Note: Wherever feasible, students should illustrate their reports with images from the American Political Prints, 1766-1876 collection of the Library of Congress and other American Memory collections at the LOC. For example, in discussing why the Cherokee were considered a "civilized" tribe, one might have included their alphabet or the translation of the Lord's Prayer into Cherokee. In general, reports should take the form of "show and tell," i.e., students should choose specific segments of documents, specific images, songs, and other materials. They should show these in class and provide a brief but detailed explanation — in the form of notes to the instructor at least one hour before class — of what they found interesting, odd, thought-provoking, enlightening, and/or mystifying about each. The instructor will ask them occasional questions but NEVER with the intention of tripping them up. His role is to help them look for connections. He will also ask other members of the class to comment, especially when he thinks their work complements that under discussion. For example, those who reported on John McDowall may find themselves commenting on reports on the Five Points. The instructor has several motives. One is to enrich class discussion. Another is to prevent students who are not scheduled to report from thinking that they have a day off. Students giving the report can preempt him by asking classmates to comment themselves. Each student will do several reports over the course of the semester.
Feb. 7: Reports on the Revival Experience and on Phoebe Palmer and Holiness Theology
Feb. 9: Reports on John McDowall, "the martyr of the seventh commandment" and on John Gough, the temperance activist as revivalist, including his misadventure in the Five Points
Feb. 12: Opening scene of "Gangs of New York"; Reports on the Five Points
Feb. 14: Reports on the revival and abolition
Race, Religion, Gender, Reform, and Sectional Divisions
Feb. 16: Introduction to the "framing" question for this segment of the course: Given the racial prejudice rampant throughout the North, how and why did anti-slavery sentiments win out? In-class analysis of John Quincey Adams and the Gag Rule debates, January and February, 1837
Feb. 19 (no Washington's Birthday holiday): The Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Riot of 1838; respond to the questions found on the site + introduction to Theodore Dwight Weld and to American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses — this was, prior to the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the most influential anti-slavery publication. Weld had been a leading abolition speaker. When his voice failed, he took up the pen. He also married Angelina Grimké, hero of the Philadelphia Riot. Weld is, to use Emerson's expression, a representative man of the 1830s and 1840s. He was a Finney convert. Then he attended Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, which was founded by Lyman Beecher to head off Jesuit and Catholic influence in the West. Weld organized his fellow students to work with the free black population of the city, something most whites in the city disapproved of vigorously. Beecher attempted to placate the students and the Board of Trustees. Weld and his fellow students, calling themselves the "Band of Seventy," left Lane for the new Oberlin College where Charles Grandison Finney became both president and professor of theology. Browse through American Slavery As It Is. We will do a show-and-tell session for the Feb. 21 class. Select several passage that strike you as particularly interesting, revealing, confusing.
Feb. 21: Discussion of American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses
Feb. 23: How do Contemporary Newspaper Accounts of the 1850 Worcester Woman's Rights Convention Enhance our Understanding of the Issues Debated at that Meeting? by John McClymer (This is available on campus via a subscription.) Documents 11-23 OR the relevant sections of McClymer, A Narrative Guide to the Origins of the Woman's Rights Movement. We will do three show-and-tell sessions involving these materials. Select passages that strike you as particularly interesting, revealing, and/or confusing.
Feb. 26: Woman's Rights Movement, documents 24-27.
Feb. 28: Woman's Rights Movement, document 28.
Mar. 2: John McClymer, The "Kidnapping" of Anthony Burns (1854); respond to the questions found on the site
Mar. 5-11: Spring Break
Mar. 12: Essay Two due: Essays should be 1,500 words in length, should make extensive use of the primary materials. Topic: John McClymer, Thomas Wentworth Higginson: A Represenatative Life of the 1850s at E Pluribus Unum Project; read the sketch of his life and one of the following: the story of the Whole World's Temperance Convention of 1853 including the account of the break-up of the World Temperance Convention several months earlier; Higginson's Inaugural Sermon + Emerson's Divinity School Address; "The Confessions of a Medium" — if Higginson was a "representative man" in Emerson's sense of the term, i.e., a figure who played leading roles in the major issues of the time, what does his career suggest about ONE of the following: reform; religion.
Mar. 14: Read John McClymer, The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Bleeding Kansas: Overview + Why did Douglas introduce the Kansas-Nebraska bill? and choose one of the remaining "approaches" — submit two or more questions suggested by your reading; provide for each question a brief explanation of why you think the question worth asking
Mar. 16: Reports on "Reactions to the Kansas-Nebraska Act" and "Territorial Elections, Border Ruffians, and the Collapse of the Rule of Law"
Mar. 19: Reports on "John Brown and a Massacre in Kansas" and "James Buchanan and the LeCompton Constitution: Making a Bad Situation Worse"
Mar. 21: Dred Scott Decision — read the introduction and choose one of the approaches
Mar. 23: Reports on "Examining the Case" and "Examining the Decision,"
Mar. 26: The Dakota Sioux Conflict (1862); respond to the questions found on the site
Race, Slavery, Anti-Slavery, Sectional Divisions Revisited
Mar. 28: No Class Meeting but still submit assignment
The "Orange Riot" of 1871 is little remembered today but provides a window on ethnic, religious, and class tensions of the day. Look over the coverage in Harper's Weekly, including a double-page illustration by Thomas Nast and a narrative account. If you were one of the many who religiously read Harper's every week,
- What would you have thought happened?
- Who would you blame?
- How would the illustrations deepen, complicate, or confuse your understanding?
Mar. 30: No Class Meeting but still submit assignment
Even less well remembered is John Allen, once reputed to be "the wickedest man" in New York City. Read the Harper's Weekly acounts of his sins and reformation. If you were one of the many who religiously read Harper's every week,
- How would you know from the first illustration that the female dancers were prostitutes?
- How did the illustrator protray these same women at the prayer meeting?
- How might you and your family discuss these stories? That is, put yourself into 1860s middle-class America and imagine a conversation over the dinner table. Remember that the whole family, including the children, read Harper's.
Apr. 2: New York City Draft Riots scene from "Gangs of New York"; Reports on the New York City Draft Riots according to official military sources; according to Harper's Weekly choose specific segments of documents, specific images, songs, and other materials. Show these in class and provide a brief but detailed explanation of what you found interesting, odd, thought-provoking, enlightening, and/or mystifying about each.
Apr. 4: Emanicipation; respond to the questions found on the site
Easter Recess, April 5-9
Apr. 11: Some Themes for the latter half of the course:
1. Race: Reconstruction briefly enfranchised black men, but southern whites fought a determined and ultimately successful battle to reinstate white supremacy, a success they named "REDEMPTION." After the Hayes-Tilden disputed election of 1876, the Republicans agreed to withdraw the remaining federal troops, and white-dominated state governments began the long process of segregating every aspect of daily life from schooling to seating arrangements in theatres. In 1896 the Supreme Court upheld segregation under the rubric of "separate but equal," a decision now routinely taught in law schools as one of the worst in U.S. legal history. Racism was not limited to discrimination against blacks. A "Chinese Must Go" campaign in California led to the exclusion of Chinese immigration. Native Americans continued to suffer under the reservation system and then under federal efforts to break up the tribes (the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887). Congressman Henry Dawes, the law's sponsor, claimed it would "civilize" the Indians, by which he meant they would "wear civilized clothes . . . cultivate the ground, live in houses, ride in Studebaker wagons, send children to school, drink whiskey [and] own property." (It is a definition that begs for comparision with that offered by Major John Ridge in his description of the Cherokee.) The vision of a multi-racial society that had inspired Frederick Douglass, some of the abolitionists, and some of the so-called "radical" Republicans faded.
2. The Pace of Change: Railroads helped trigger a second industrial revolution. The first had been a mechanics' revolution in which the ingenious mechanic, epitomized by Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee, working in a small shop, figured out how to draw wire more rapidly (Ichabod Washburn) or invented the adjustable wrench or devised the envelope and then the greeting card (all examples from antebellum Worcester). The second was the corporations' revolution. The railroads were the first giant enterprises. Lines like the Union Pacific or the New York Central employed tens of thousands of workers and issued millions in stocks and bonds. They also were a market for steel and coal, and Andrew Carnegie set about building the nation's largest corporation, Carnegie Steel. John D. Rockefeller pursued the same goal via Standard Oil. The lone inventor did not disappear, but the career of Thomas Edison illustrates the new paradigm. Edison started as a mechanic. But, in addition to the phonograph and the motion picture camera and projector and his other inventions, he also invented the research laboratory. Scores of scientists and technicians worked at Menlo Park on Edison's projects. And more and more corporations began to fund research and development departments. The effects were numerous and profound. One is that the rate of technical progress accelerated. A second is that the size and nature of the workplace changed from the shop of 10 or 20 mechanics and apprentices to the factory with hundreds or thousands of employees most of whom were unskilled or semi-skilled. A third shift was in the nature of the work those employees performed. The typical workshop had been an open space with closets holding various tools and machines. When an order came in, workers bid on it. The low bidder then organized production. Skilled mechanics, as a result, controlled the workplace and the pace of work. The latter nineteenth-century saw control shift to management as the new profession of mechanical engineering enabled owners and managers to exercise control. In the great Homestead Strike of 1892 Carnegie broke the steel union and the power of the skilled steelworker to control production. At left is a photograph of the Carnegie Works at night, once famously descripted as "hell with the roof ripped off." All of this meant that one of the animating visions of antebellum America (particularly of the North), the "Mechanic's Ideal" rapidly became obsolete. Ichabod Washburn's employees could not follow his example.
3. The West: The North's victory decisively determined how the West would be developed. The popular press was full of stories of Buffalo Bill and other western heroes in which they fought renegade Indians, rescued beautiful maidens, ran down rustlers, and performed other feats of deering-do. And Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show toured the nation and then the world promoting these myths. But William Cody got his nickname for slaughtering buffalo. The vast herds blocked railroad construction. So, in a different way, did the Plains Indians. Railroads needed freight to haul — cattle, wheat, iron ore, coal — and that meant farmers, ranchers, miners. It meant towns and cities. It meant pushing the tribes out of the way. Incidentally, many of those doing the pushing were black cavalry troopers, so-called Buffalo Soldiers. It is not too much to say that the railroads developed the West.
4. Republicanism, the Market, and Evangelicalism: Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans reinvented the republic. They abolished slavery. They made citizenship national. The Fourteenth Amendment declared that no state could deny those rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to any citizen, something states had routinely done prior to the war (and, in the South, would again following Redemption). The Republicans created the transcontinental rail system, established a national currency and required everyone to use it, endowed the state university system, raised the tariff to protect manufactures. They even made the Stars and Stripes the official flag. The Civil War was, many historians argue, a second American Revolution.
The market, as noted above, changed dramatically. U.S. producers were now part of a global market. Those farmers who settled on the Great Plains under the terms of the Homestead Act, for example, competed with farmers in Argentina, Russia, and elsewhere. In order to compete, they had to mechanize. To do that they had to borrow. And the banks that controlled the money supply, they discovered to their dismay, were back east. The family farm had been a symbol of self-sufficiency. No longer. Similarly, small merchants found they had to compete with giant firms like Sears, Roebuck whose catalogues reached virtually every home and whose goods were promptly delivered by other giant firms like Wells, Fargo. More and more, the middle class was composed of those who worked at the middle levels of corporations. Again, self-sufficiency became an ever more elusive dream.
Evangelicalism found itself in crisis despite the triumph of the Republicans, despite the abolition of slavery, despite the success of the Temperance campaign. The "higher criticism" of the Bible, the application of historical and linguistic approaches to the study of sacred texts, opened deep doubts about the inerrancy of the "Word." If the earliest gospel texts, to cite a core issue, date from about seventy years after Jesus' death, and if there were more than four gospels regarded as valid in the early Christian community, how are we to know what exactly the Word is? Evolution and other scientific discoveries also undermined the notion of inerrancy. If the account of the creation in Genesis cannot be read literally, how are we to read it? Such questions threatened to tear evangelical churches apart. Those who sought to accommodate the claims of the new knowledge came to be called "Modernists." Their opponents, who established a list of "fundamentals" that all Christians must believe, became "Fundamentalists." The revival, so potent in antebellum America, became the preserve of the Fundamentalists. Protestant seminaries, in contrast, became bastions for the Modernists. And, as they lost control of the seminaries, the Fundamentalists began to create Bible colleges, schools where ministerial candidates could learn what it was safe for them to know about the Bible, uncontaminated by the new knowledge.
The changing nature of American society also threatened evangelical churches. One change was the overwhelming numbers of Catholic, Jewish, and Greek or Russian Orthodox immigrants. All proved resistant to evangelical messages. Another was the emergence of a consumer ethos that emphasized pleasure. Dance crazes, amusement parks, vaudeville, movies all were menaces. Revivalist Billy Sunday claimed that the dance was the greatest moral challenge facing America. As Sunday's comment exemplifies, evangelicals risked becoming irrelevant. There were profound social evils, child labor for example. Evangelicals had little to say. Those who did address these questions adhered to what they called the Social Gospel, one that de-emphasized the individual sinner and called attention to social conditions like low wages, unsafe workplaces, and the sexual harassment of women workers. Billy Sunday scoffed that you could not deal with the problem of prostitution by raising wages. It went "deeper" than that. By deeper he meant the dance. Three-quarters of all fallen women, he claimed, fell through the dance. At right is a portrait of Sunday by the American artist George Bellows.
5. America in the World: In 1890 the U.S. Census Bureau announced the closing of the American frontier. There was no longer a contiguous line of unsettled territory. Would American expansionism continue? Into the Caribbean? Into the Pacific? This was the era of Western imperialism. Britain led the way. But countries like Belgium and Portugal held vast colonial lands. Should the U.S. join the imperial competition? Should it "take up the White Man's Burden'?
Apr. 13: The Reason Why, chapters one and four choose specific segments of documents, specific images, and other materials. (You can find photographs here, at the Lynchings in America site. These are very graphic and disturbing. You may decide you do not wish to view them.) Provide a brief but detailed explanation of what you found interesting, odd, thought-provoking, enlightening, and/or mystifying about each.
Apr. 16: The Shipp Trial read Douglas Linder's account choose three specific segments of documents, specific images, and other materials from those available on the site which, in your view, clarify, deepen, and/or complicate Linder's discussion. For each document provide a one-paragraph rationale for why you think it valuable as an historical source + a more extended discussion on how it clarifies, deepens, and/or complicates your understanding of the prevalence of lynching in the United States.
Apr. 18: Final Project proposals due. I will schedule meetings to discuss each project. Here is a list of potential resources you might investigate before choosing a topic. You can also choose among any of the topics dealt with in the course or pick a topic entirely of your own devising.
- The Triangle Fire
- Mark Twain and His Times
- American Variety Stage
- On The Lower East Side + How The Other Half Lives
- 1896: The Presidential Campaign
- The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson + The Andrew Johnson Impeachment Trial
- Hayes vs. Tilden
- The Trial of Susan B. Anthony (for attempting to vote in the 1872 presidential election)
- Amistad Trials + U.S. vs. Amistad (especially Mr. Adams's argument)
- 19th Century Shock Cities
- Frederick Douglass, "What to the Negro is the Fourth of July?"
- Little Big Horn — My life on the plains.: Or, Personal experiences with Indians. By Gen. G. A. Custer, U. S. A. — available at University of Michigan "Making of America"; The Battle of Little Bighorn: An Eyewitness Account by the Lakota Chief Red Horse recorded in pictographs and text at the Cheyenne River Reservation, 1881 [at PBS Archives of the West] + images at the same site; George Herendon's account of the battle; dime novel versions of the battle at Stanford — "Custer's Last Shot," "Sitting Bull on the War Path," Part 1 and 2
- Wounded Knee — excerpts from James Mooney, "The Ghost-dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890," 14th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Part 2 (1894) including the "Messiah" letter, a description of the "Ghost Dance" by Mrs. Z. A. Parker, a Barracks Ballad by Pvt. W. H. Prather, and U.S. Military accounts + James McLaughlin, Account of the Death of Sitting Bull and of the Circumstances Attending It (Philadelphia, 1891)] + Lakota accounts from Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1891 [all available at PBS, Archives of the West, episode eight]
- Wilmington, N.C. Race Riot of 1898, For the Record + Race Riot Report (2006) + Early African American Perspectives on the Wilmington Race Riots of 1898 + 1898 Wilmington: Debunking the Myths
- Visualizing White Supremacy: The American Campaign in the Philippines in Film, Stereoptical Slides, and Advertisements
- Hetch-Hetchy Dam controversy using materials at The Evolution of the Conservation Movement site at the American Memory site of the Library of Congress) — this controversy pitted conservationists whose credo was preservation (led by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club) against conservationists whose credo was scientifically guided use (led by, among others, Gifford Pinchot, TR's chief environmental advisor)
- The Paterson Silk Strike of 1913 — materials from The Paterson Silk Strike: Primary Materials for Studying about Immigrants, Women, and Labor, produced under a grant to the Garden State Immigration History Consortium from the New Jersey Department of Higher Education. 1987. (From the collections of the Paterson Museum) It is available as a Pdf file. Includes materials about Pageant at Madison Square Garden in support of the strike.
Industrialism and Empire
Apr. 20: Essay Three due: Essays should be 1,500 words in length, should make extensive use of the primary materials.
- Bret Harte, "Plain Language from Truthful James" + Thomas Nast cartoon lampooning James G. Blaine for supporting exclusion + Nast, "Every Dog Has His Day" and "Let the Chinese Embrace Civilization . . . "
- Denis Kearney, "Chinese Invasion" (1878) + "The Chinese Must Go" Workingman's ballot + materials on Kearneyism at the Museum of San Francisco
- text of proposed treaty with China and of exclusion legislation of 1882
- Chinese immigration: The social, moral, and political effect of Chinese immigration. Testimony taken before a committee of the Senate of the state of California, appointed April 3d, 1876 is available at the Making of America at the University of Michigan.
- There is an extensive collection of materials on the Chinese experience in America drawn from Harper's Weekly at HarpWeek.
- The Library of Congress' American Memory has an exhibition on the Chinese in California.
Race & Ethnicity: Securing a "White Man's Country," 1877-1920
Introduction: Chinese Exclusion — The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 came five years after the end of Reconstruction and signaled a national, bipartisan agreement that the United States was to be "a white man's country." White Democrats in the South had already launched the process of establishing legal segregation, which the Supreme Court sanctioned in 1896 with its "separate but equal" ruling. With state and local governments securely in the hands of white supremacists, lynchings became commonplace as did lesser acts of violence. The wars with the Plains Indians continued, culminating in the Wounded Knee Massacre. Many of the cavalry who fought these wars were African-Americans, veterans of the Civil War. General Philip Sheridan had charge of the campaign for much of the period. "The only good Indian is a dead Indian," he infamously remarked. His black soldiers got no credit for making the West safe for railroads and white settlers. Instead the public lionized the fictional exploits of "Kit" Carson, "Buffalo Bill" Cody and other white heroes of a mythical "Wild West." Also, in the 1880s and '90s, the United States embraced imperialism, a policy premised on the notion of white supremacy. The debate over Chinese Exclusion highlights some of the keys to this turn towards an explicitly racist national policy.
"The Chinese Must Go" was the slogan of the California Workingman's Party headed by an Irish immigrant named Denis Kearney. Thomas Nast, the most influential political cartoonist of the day, mocked him as "a real American" and compared the anti-Chinese campaign to the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish crusade of the Native American Party or Know-Nothings of the 1850s. "Every Dog" (No Distinction of Color) "Has His Day" read one of Nast's ironic captions. Many disagreed. It was "absurd" to compare "even the lowest white laborers," Irish and German immigrants for example, to the Chinese.
The Chinese — Facts for Atlantic Papers
All comparisons between Irish and German immigration and that of the Chinese are unjust. The former make their homes here, buy farms and homesteads, are of the same general race, are buried here after death, and take an interest and aid in all things pertaining to the best interests of the country. The Chinese come for a season only; and, while they give their labor, they do not expend the proceeds of such labor in the country. They do not come to settle or make homes, and not one in fifty of them is married. Their women are all suffering slaves and prostitutes, for which possession murderous feuds and high-handed cruelty are constantly occurring. To compare the Chinese with even the lowest white laborers is, therefore, absurd.
Our best interests are suffering of these Asiatic slaves; we are trying to make them live decently while here, and to discourage their arrival in such numbers as to drive white laborers out of the country. Nineteen persons out of every twenty here desire and intend that all this shall be done peaceably and without oppression; all that is asked is that motives and acts not entertained or practiced shall not be charged against California by those who discuss this question with but a slight knowledge of the facts, and that knowledge distorted and one sided.
San Francisco Real Estate Circular
For the Month of September, 1874
Kearney was important in whipping up anti-Chinese hysteria in California, especially in San Francisco. But his influence raises precisely the question Nast's cartoon posed: How did an Irish immigrant, loosely connected to Karl Marx's International Workingman's Party and widely and justly considered a rabblerouser, come to play such a role? One who sought to answer was James Bryce, a British aristocrat who wrote a highly regarded study of American government, The American Commonwealth. Two chapters dealt with "Kearneyism": KEARNEYISM IN CALIFORNIA and THE SAND LOT PARTY. The second chapter contains Kearney's own comments and objections to Bryce's analysis.
Bryce and Kearney both focused upon conditions in California, especially the bad economic times and the corrupt and unresponsive government. Neither explored the roots of anti-Chinese sentiments. These went very deep. Much of the support for pre-Civil War calls to make the West a home to "Free Soil" was explicitly racist. Keeping out slavery was a way of keeping out blacks. Stephen Douglas, architect of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, offered this explanation in a letter for why the territory had to be settled quickly:
How are we to develop, cherish and protect our immense interests and possessions in the Pacific, with a vast wilderness fifteen hundred miles in breadth filled with hostile savages, and cutting off direct communication? The Indian barrier must be removed. The tide of emigration and civilization must be permitted to roll onward until it rushes through the passes of the mountains, and spreads over the plains, and mingles with the waters of the Pacific. Continuous lines of settlements with civil, political and religious institutions, under the protection of law, are imperiously demanded by the highest national considerations. These are essential, but they are not sufficient. . . . We must therefore have Rail Roads and Telegraphs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, through our own territory. Not one line only, but many lines, for the valley of the Mississippi will require as many Rail Roads to the Pacific as to the Atlantic, and will not venture to limit the number.
Also in 1854, in "The People vs. Hall," the California Supreme Court ruled that the provision in the state constitution which prohibited blacks from testifying against whites applied to Chinese immigrants. The decision held that the Chinese were "a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point, as their history has shown; differing in language, opinions, color, and physical conformation; between whom and ourselves nature has placed an impassable difference" and therefore they could not be permitted "to swear away the life of a citizen" or join "with us in administering the affairs of our Government."
We are of the opinion that the words "white," "Negro," "mulatto," "Indian," and "black person," wherever they occur in our Constitution and laws, must be taken in their generic sense, and that, even admitting the Indian of this continent is not of the Mongolian type, that the words "black person," in the 14th section, must be taken as contradistinguished from white, and necessarily excludes all races other than the Caucasian.
Kearney built upon this racist foundation. As he explained in an 1878 open letter to the workers of Indianapolis, railroad tycoons and other capitalists had brutally exploited California laborers. Part of their tyranny depended upon the importation of "coolies" from China:
In our golden state all these evils have been intensified. Land monopoly has seized upon all the best soil in this fair land. A few men own from ten thousand to two hundred thousand acres each. The poor Laborer can find no resting place, save on the barren mountain, or in the trackless desert. Money monopoly has reached its grandest proportions. Here, in San Francisco, the palace of the millionaire looms up above the hovel of the starving poor with as wide a contrast as anywhere on earth. To add to our misery and despair, a bloated aristocracy has sent to China -- the greatest and oldest despotism in the world -- for a cheap working slave. It rakes the slums of Asia to find the meanest slave on earth -- the Chinese coolie -- and imports him here to meet the free American in the Labor market, and still further widen the breach between the rich and the poor, still further to degrade white Labor. These cheap slaves fill every place. Their dress is scant and cheap. Their food is rice from China. They hedge twenty in a room, ten by ten. They are whipped curs, abject in docility, mean, contemptible and obedient in all things. They have no wives, children or dependents.
They are imported by companies, controlled as serfs, worked like slaves, and at last go back to China with all their earnings. They are in every place, they seem to have no sex. Boys work, girls work; it is all alike to them. The [white] father of a family is met by them at every turn. Would he get work for himself? Ah! A stout Chinaman does it cheaper. Will he get a place for his oldest boy? He can not. His girl? Why, the Chinaman is in her place too! Every door is closed. He can only go to crime or suicide, his wife and daughter to prostitution, and his boys to hoodlumism and the penitentiary.
Do not believe those who call us savages, rioters, incendiaries, and outlaws. We seek our ends calmly, rationally, at the ballot box. So far good order has marked all our proceedings. But, we know how false, how inhuman, our adversaries are. We know that if gold, if fraud, if force can defeat us, they will all be used. And we have resolved that they shall not defeat us. We shall arm. We shall meet fraud and falsehood with defiance, and force with force, if need be. We are men, and propose to live like men in this free land, without the contamination of slave labor, or die like men, if need be, in asserting the rights of our race, our country, and our families.
California must be all American or all Chinese. We are resolved that it shall be American, and are prepared to make it so. May we not rely upon your sympathy and assistance?
Kearney proved a force, albeit a short-lived one, in California politics. In 1879 his candidate won the mayor's office in San Francisco, and the Workingman's Party captured one-third of the seats in the convention called to revise the state constitution. They pushed through a number of anti-Chinese provisions, all of which were subsequently invalidated as violations of the U.S. Constitution. There matters might have rested had not Republican Senator James G. Blaine, "the Plumed Knight of Maine, taken up the anti-Chinese banner.
On February 14, 1879 Blaine made a speech supporting a bill which would limit to fifteen the number of Chinese passengers on any boat headed for the United States.
The question lies in my mind thus: either the Anglo-Saxon race will possess the Pacific slope or the Mongolians will possess it. . . . We have this day to choose . . . whether our legislation shall be in the interest of the American free laborer or for the servile laborer from China. . . . You cannot work a man who must have beef and bread, and would prefer beer, alongside of a man who can live on rice. . . . .
There is not a laboring man from the Penobscot [in Maine] to the Sacramento [in California] who would not feel aggrieved, outraged, burdened, crushed, at being forced into competition with the labor and wages of the Chinese cooly. . . . .
I feel and know that I am pleading the cause of the free American laborer and of his children and of his children's children.
Ten days later, in an open letter published in the New York Tribune, Blaine drew an analogy:
If as a nation we have the right to exclude the criminal classes from coming to us, we surely have the right to exclude that immigration which reeks with impurity and which cannot come to us without plenteously sowing the seeds of moral and physical disease, destitution, and death.
Harper's Weekly for March 15, 1879 carried this cartoon by Thomas Nast satirizing Blaine. His title came from a popular comic poem by Bret Harte, "Plain Language from Truthful James," in which James and his pal Bill Nye attempt to cheat a "heathen Chinee" at cards. Joaquin Miller was another well-known poet who had prospected for gold, been a Pony Express rider, and a judge in Canyon City, Oregon. Nast contrasted the Chinese and the Irish. One had a vote, one had not. One represented "dear" and the other "cheap" labor. One represented industry. The Irishman, on the other hand, carried a whiskey bottle and a shillelagh (cudgel or club) in his back pocket.
Blaine had presidential ambitions. He had sought his party's nomination in 1876 and would seek it again in 1880 and, successfully, in 1884. The disputed election of 1876 was extremely close. It may be that Blaine was looking for potential votes in California and from workingmen generally. Nast certainly thought he was appealing to the Irish. If so, fate had a cruel trick in store. In 1884 the Rev. Samuel D. Burchard, addressing the Religious Bureau of the Republican National Committee a week before the general election, stated "We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag." Blaine was in attendance but apparently did not pay attention. He waited three days before repudiating Blanchard's anti-Catholic comment. It was too late.
Whatever Blaine's motivations, his endorsement of Chinese Exclusion was an early step in a long Republican retreat from the principles of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments that barred discrimination based upon race, creed, or previous condition of servitude. With both parties competing to establish their commitment to white supremacy, public policy became more and more racist.
Topic: Out of the array of sources linked above, choose five that best help explain the adoption of Chinese exclusion. For each highlight specific passages and/or details and explain how these deepened, clarified, or confused your understanding of the campaign against the Chinese and why it succeeded.
Apr. 23: "The Chinese of the Eastern States": Carroll Wright and French Canadian Immigration — excerpts from Wright's Twelfth and Thirteenth Annual Reports of the Massachusetts Bureau of the Statistics of Labor (1881, 1882). In the first Wright accused French Canadians of being a "horde" of industrial invaders who "care nothing for our institutions" and whose only good trait was docility. The second report contains the proceedings of a hearing Wright called to appease outraged French Canadians. Do the "tasks" on the site.
Apr. 25: George Washington Plunkitt, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall excerpt + Jane Addams, "Why the Ward Boss Rules"; George Washington Plunkitt was exactly the sort of politician Jane Addams detested. Yet they largely agreed on the secrets of political success in cities like New York and Chicago. Choose passages from each that illustrate this convergence. Comment on what you see as the main similarities and differences in their outlooks.
Apr. 26: (not a class day) individual meetings on final projects.
Apr. 27: Sadie Frowne, "The Story of a Sweatshop Girl," Independent, LIV (Sept 25, 1902), 2279-82 + Jane Addams, "Youth in the City," chapter 1 in The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (New York: The Macillan Company, 1909), pp. 6-13 (excerpted); Addams devoted her life to helping people like Sadie, but most of the Sadies and their male counterparts had little use for Addams when it came to choosing leisure pursuits. Choose passages from each source that illustrate this divergence of views. Comment on what you suspect gave rise to these differences.
Apr. 30: "The White Man's Burden" and "To the Person Sitting in Darkness": The Debate over Empire; respond to the questions found on the site; course evaluations
May 7: Final projects due