Tag Archives: sectionalism

Habeas Corpus, the Fugitive Slave Law, and Executive Authority

Last month, President Donald Trump issued an executive order prohibiting the entry of refugees or visa holders from seven Middle Eastern nations. It went into effect while some foreign nationals were in transit, thus they arrived in a different America than the one they had expected. Among these were two Iraqis, detained at Kennedy Airport on January 27, 2017. Their lawyers filed writs of habeas corpus the following morning, hoping to have their clients released.[1] They were not alone. According to the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, Becca Heller, “we’ve gotten reports of people being detained all over the country…. They’re literally pouring in by the minute.”[2] This executive order has raised, for many Americans, concerns about the role of executive power in a political system that reveres checks and balances, how this will affect refugees from war torn regions, and about our nation’s core identity as a country of immigrants.

Although our twenty-first century context is much different, the implementation of habeas corpus to rescue a detainee from state or federal custody harkens back to the enslaved people who were detained under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. This law was intended to protect slaveholders’ property interests and reinforce a pro-slavery interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. It mandated that in fugitive slave cases where the alleged fugitive was taken into custody in a free state, normal judicial processes were not in force—there was no opportunity for appeal, no jury was present, the alleged owner (i.e. “slave claimant”) was not required to have a warrant, and the appointed slave commissioner had significant leeway in determining what constituted adequate evidence of enslavement. Even more controversially, the act stated that the commissioner was entitled to a ten-dollar fee if he found for the claimant, and only a five-dollar fee if he found for the alleged fugitive. It was a system that encouraged corruption.[3]

Like President Trump’s executive order, the Fugitive Slave Law unleashed a torrent of controversy. Blacks across the nation, whether free or enslaved, knew that this legislation would make it more difficult for fugitives to remain safe in the North, and it would also make it easier for kidnappers to abduct free Northern blacks and sell them into slavery. Proslavery Americans were ecstatic about its passage, since it marshaled the power of the federal government to protect slaveholders’ property rights. Many white Northerners were appalled by the fact that what they believed to be normal judicial processes could simply be swept away. Lewis Tappan noted that “the heart of every antislavery individual will deeply sympathize with the panting fugitive…. In every way in which it can be viewed, it is a disgrace to the nation, an act of extreme cruelty, and can be viewed as an experiment on the part of the Slave Power to see how much the Free States will bear.”[4] In Massachusetts, a group of citizens stated that “the foundations of our government are shaken, and unless the work of destruction shall be stayed, we may soon see that great union, our honor and safety abroad and at home, broken into weak, discordant and shattered fragments.”[5] Much like recent conversations about executive authority, and our obligation to refugees and legal immigrants, the Fugitive Slave Law had a polarizing effect on political discourse.

Political cartoon illustrating a woman being taken into custody
“Practical Illustration of the Fugitive Slave Law,” E. C. del., 1851. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Although the use of habeas corpus has evolved over the past 160 years, it remains an example of our shared conviction that all persons are born free and cannot be deprived of that freedom without due process. Then, as now, a writ of habeas corpus was used to uncover why a person was being restrained or incarcerated; in the antebellum period, “upon the presentation of a prima facie case for issuing the writ, it would be directed to the person detaining another, commanding him to bring the person detained before the judge and to state the reasons for depriving him of his freedom.”[6] Counsel could request a writ, but it was issued by a judge who directed it to the state official responsible for the alleged fugitive’s arrest. Due process is a right enshrined in the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and habeas corpus was one mechanism for protecting this right.

In the antebellum South, however, there was no presumption that all persons were born free, and indeed African Americans were presumed to be slaves unless they could prove otherwise. Northern states, however, began to pass personal liberty laws in the early nineteenth century, as a way to prevent the kidnapping of free blacks. No federal anti-kidnapping law existed, so this power remained with the states. Personal liberty laws became even more significant after 1850. For instance, in 1855 the Massachusetts legislature passed a stringent personal liberty law that not only guaranteed the alleged fugitive a writ of habeas corpus and the right to a jury trial, but also promised serious punishment for anyone who took into custody a free person. The slave claimant could not seek counsel from local citizens. Although the Fugitive Slave Law allowed a mere affidavit by the claimant, at the commissioner’s discretion, this state law went further to require “at least two credible witnesses.”[7] Its passage initiated a prolonged struggle in the Massachusetts statehouse between conservatives and moderates, each jockeying for power to either repeal the law altogether or amend it to ease the burden on slaveholders. In March 1858 the law was amended, but the right to the writ remained.[8]

Similar situations played out in other Northern states, particularly in New England and the mid-Atlantic, which saw a number of high profile fugitive slave cases during the 1850s, and some prior to the new law’s passage, such as the Supreme Court case Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842).[9] There are also less well-known cases where a writ was applied, such as that of Archy Lee in San Francisco in 1858 and Charley Fisher in Kansas in 1859.[10] The courts were caught between the property rights of slaveholders and a guarantee of due process for those who might be legally free. Antislavery resistance to an unjust law came, in these situations, through legal means.

Advertisement Seeking Assistance for Lee’s Legal Fees, c. 1858. Courtesy of Blackpast.org.

Before the Civil War, states could issue writs to rescue fugitives from federal custody, and national courts could not intervene at the state level.[11] This was, much to the chagrin of white Southerners, a states’ rights argument that contravened slavery instead of supporting the peculiar institution (the irony of this should not be lost on us today). From the antislavery perspective, free states should be able “to legislate on this subject for the preservation of their own peace and the protection of their own soil from insult and aggression,” to quote two attorneys who argued the Prigg v. Pennsylvania case.[12] This contest between federal and state power continued in other fugitive cases, including the prominent case of Joshua Glover in Wisconsin, where the territorial Supreme Court ignored a writ of error from the U.S. Supreme Court and even ruled that the Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional. Their decision was overturned in Ableman v. Booth (1859), when Chief Justice Roger Taney asserted that state courts did not have authority over federal courts.[13] States may have had the right to protect their citizens, but Congress and the Supreme Court also had responsibilities to slaveholders. Therein lay the rub.

The world of the 1850s is strikingly different from the world of 2017. Today we face challenges that would be unfamiliar to antebellum Americans who did not experience the 9/11 terrorist attack, nor had they seen their nation survive two world wars. The current administration’s immigration restrictions are predicated on the argument that they will protect us from terrorism, a justification decidedly unlike the property-rights argument used to justify the Fugitive Slave Law. Still, both then and now, those seeking to help detainees turned first to habeas corpus. Today we ask ourselves many of the same questions our nineteenth-century counterparts did. What are the limits of federal power? How freely should we accept immigrants and refugees, whether they be escaping slavery, or escaping war and persecution? What do we owe our allegiance to, human law or a higher law? Americans do not agree on the answers to these questions, nor did they in the 1850s. There is no doubt that the judicial system—and its defense of the Constitution—will play a central role in shaping the outcome.

[1] Brooke Seipel, “Refugees Detailed at US Airports After Trump Exec Order,” The Hill, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/316656-refugees-detained-at-us-airports-following-refugee-ban (accessed January 28, 2017). This writ is available at https://www.scribd.com/document/337777796/1-Complaint?content=10079&campaign=Skimbit%2C+Ltd.&ad_group=&keyword=ft500noi&source=impactradius&medium=affiliate&irgwc=1 (accessed January 29, 2017).

[2] Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Kulish, “Trump’s Order Blocks Immigrants at Airports, Stoking Fear Around Globe,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/refugees-detained-at-us-airports-prompting-legal-challenges-to-trumps-immigration-order.html?smid=tw-share (accessed January 28, 2017).

[3] “Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/fugitive.asp (accessed April 20, 2016).

[4] Lewis Tappan, The Fugitive Slave Bill: Its History and Unconstitutionality; With an Account of the Seizure and Enslavement of James Hamlet, and His Subsequent Restoration to Liberty (New York: William Harned, 1850), preface, https://www.loc.gov/resource/llst.076 (accessed February 11, 2017).

[5] To the Citizens of Massachusetts; The Undersigned Are Moved by an Imperative Sense of Duty to Address their fellow-citizens of the State of Massachusetts, Concerning the Portentous Condition of Our Public Affairs (1850), 1, https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.06501000/ (accessed February 11, 2017).

[6] Thomas D. Morris, Free Men All: The Personal Liberty Laws of the North, 1780-1861 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 9.

[7] Mark Voss-Hubbard, “The Political Culture of Emancipation: Morality, Politics, and the State in Garrisonian Abolitionism, 1853-1863” Journal of American Studies 29 (August 1995): 172.

[8] Voss-Hubbard, 173.

[9] Prigg v. Pennsylvania 41 U.S. 539 (1842), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/41/539/case.html (accessed February 8, 2017).

[10] Samuel May, The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims (New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1861), 97-98, 111-112.

[11] Morris, 10.

[12] Morris, 95.

[13] Early Maltz, “Slavery, Federalism, and the Constitution: Ableman v. Booth and the Struggle over Fugitive Slaves” Cleveland State Law Review 83 (2008): 92.

Kristen Epps

Dr. Kristen Epps is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. She is the author of Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras (Georgia, 2016). Her research focuses on slavery, abolition, and the sectional crisis. She can be reached at kkepps@uca.edu.

New Political Histories of the Sectional Crisis: A Report from the AHA

In August 2016, Kenneth Osgood and Fredrik Logevall (fresh from winning the Pulitzer Prize for his recent book on the Vietnam War, Embers of War) co-authored an op-ed for the New York Times titled “Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?”[1] Like so many nostalgic jeremiads, it assumes that we have stopped teaching political history (or military history, or “traditional” history, etc.), and that politics is now a marginalized field. This is a familiar complaint rising and falling with predictable regularity, and it remains a relevant discussion in Civil War and Reconstruction studies.

At an AHA panel in Denver, historians presented their work in response to this op-ed at Session 150, “Linking the Local and the National in the Politics of Sectional Conflict.” The panel was chaired by Amy Greenberg and included roundtable presentations and discussion featuring Rachel Shelden, Corey Brooks, and Joanne Freeman. Their scholarship confirmed what we were all probably thinking when we saw the Logevall/Osgood op-ed: historians of the antebellum and Civil War eras have never stopped writing or teaching political history. Yes, certainly, there are historians working on less overtly political topics, yet we recognize the many ways in which social and cultural history supplement or alter our writing and teaching about politics. As social and cultural histories become integrated into political history, New Political History emerged, and perhaps what we are all engaged in now is as I once heard Jonathan Earle ironically call label it: the New New Political History. Put whatever label you’d like to on it, but as Shelden emphasized, political history remains as urgent a field of inquiry as ever for scholars of sectionalism.

Shelden’s Washington Brotherhood (2013) exemplifies the way in which political historians have integrated social and cultural history into their studies of the deeply widening sectional conflicts between the war with Mexico and the Civil War. In her current research, Shelden plans to provide just the same new political history approach—integrating non-traditional forms of social and cultural history into her examination of how personal engagement and friendship, collegiality and rivalry, partisanship and ideology all affected the judicial outcomes of the era. Shelden maintains that compared to the Presidency and Congress, the judiciary remains understudied. There is nothing more traditionally political than giving a branch of the federal government close scrutiny, and detractors aside, political history today must be more than the traditional focus on only elite actors in official capacities. Her examination of the pre-Civil War judiciary proposes to be just the kind of scholarship that would satisfy both political and social historians, because it will take the best of both approaches and illuminate an area of the emerging political crisis of the Civil War so often overshadowed by case studies of Dred Scott.

In his book Liberty Power (2016), and at the session, Corey Brooks argues that antislavery activists and the few politicians sympathetic to their aims used Congressional debates not to win over colleagues, and therefore votes, but instead as a national lyceum. The published speeches and reprinted pamphlets provided much needed labor in building a northern consensus from the 1830s to the 1860s that slavery, if not abolished, certainly needed to be limited in the West. Through the antislavery associations and ultimately through the Liberty Party, Free Soil Party, and Republican Party, Brooks attends closely to the ways in which partisans made effective use of both Congress and the press to move public opinion in the years leading to the election of Abraham Lincoln. For Brooks, the election of Lincoln, and perhaps the Civil War itself, is best explained by studying how political antislavery activists and politicians lobbied, petitioned, and simply harangued their constituents until politicians like Lincoln could express sentiments or support for policies (policies that a generation or two before would have been inconceivably marginal). For many historians of abolition, it is the social pressure of Garrisonians and the moral weight of antislavery intellectuals like Frederick Douglass which capture our attention when writing and teaching about antislavery. Often it is our understanding of the increasing anxiety in the U.S. about how to integrate newly acquired western lands into a nation with sharply diverging sectional economic structures, or the rise of Southern nationalism, or the collapse of the Democratic party, which dominate our understanding of the rise of the Republican party in the 1850s. Brooks, like Shelden, makes the best use of social and cultural history produced over the past twenty-five years in support of his argument that antislavery third-party politics needs greater attention because its role in the politics of the 1840s and 1850s has too long been overshadowed by other explanations for why the War came.

In her classic work Affairs of Honor (2001), Joanne Freeman may well have established the model for the New New Political History by taking seriously the role that cultural traits related to honor, reputation, and violence played in the lives and careers of early national politicians. Not surprisingly, the Hamilton-Burr duel brings many readers to Freeman’s book. (Too soon to call it a classic? I will anyway.) Since its publication Freeman edited Alexander Hamilton: Writings (2001) for the Library of America and has been consumed lately with interviews about the Broadway musical Hamilton (its success attests to the public’s continued interest in “traditional” political history). Her next research project carries her interest in political violence and early U.S. history into the 1830s and 1850s. For Freeman, this period experienced a noticeable shift in print culture in terms of format, content, and accessibility, which along with western expansion, led to the rise of a particular class of “fighting men” within partisan politics. Beyond “affairs of honor” such as duels, these antebellum fighting men provided election day muscle to intimidate people into voting (or not), demonstrated to voters and partisan opponents that words would and often were backed by actions, and may well have led to the escalation of violence in America’s urban centers, but also, of course, in Kansas. She suggests that Representative Preston Brooks’s vicious caning of Senator Charles Sumner in 1856 is in need of greater political context than traditional explanations of Southern honor codes and widening sectional indecorum on the floor of Congress. So frequently in the Northern antebellum press, but also in our scholarship, political violence is attributed to either the genteel Southerner bound to defend his reputation or, alternatively, the barbaric lower classes, often immigrants, who resorted to violence rather than politics or law to settle their disputes. Despite these assumptions, Freeman has identified “fighting men” in the North and South, among Democrats and Republicans, and it may no longer be tenable to maintain that political violence operated on the margins, utilized only be those to be deplored.

Generally, when anyone bewails the decline of the study of traditional forms of history, I tend to shrug because I know that they are wrong. Traditional history is just fine, and I also find the ongoing inquiry into less traditional topics to be both interesting in its own right, but also so obviously useful to political historians like those who participated in this AHA panel. For models of scholarship that integrate social and cultural history into political history on the coming of the Civil War, you could do little better than reading or teaching these panelists.

[1] Fredrick Logevall and Kenneth Osgood, “Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?” https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/opinion/why-did-we-stop-teaching-political-history.html (accessed January 17, 2017).

Nicholas Cox

Nicholas P. Cox is currently the Program Coordinator for the History Department of Houston Community College. He is currently writing a political biography of Colonel Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky, as well as instructional supplements for OUP’s Texas history textbook, Gone to Texas. He has given presentations on his research and teaching at the AHA, SHEAR, TXSHA, ETHA, and HASH; referees article submissions for the Journal of South Texas; and reviews books for a number of journals. You can easily find him on Twitter @npcox or by email at nicholas.cox@hccs.edu.

Abolitionism, Vigilance Associations, and the Rhetoric of “Law and Order”

In today’s heated political climate, only days away from a contentious Presidential election, Americans are no stranger to public threats of intimidation or violence as a mechanism for maintaining “law and order.” From Donald Trump’s frequent references to the need for restoring “law and order” in urban communities, to his pleas for poll watchers, to the Bundy brothers’ revolt in Oregon, and the state action against #NoDAPL protesters in North Dakota, this theme of restoring the rule of law is inescapable.[1] In many news outlets, and even in casual conversations across this nation, there is a sense that we have lost our way. In many cases, these statements are a reaction to a loss of political power or social hegemony; as women, African Americans, immigrants, the LGBT community, and other groups continue to fight for equality before the law, those who had previously enjoyed significant social privilege are left with a sense of powerlessness. Promises of restoring law and order are both a mechanism for taking back what has been lost and a strategy for silencing dissent.

Such concerns would have been quite familiar to western Missourians living in the 1850s. The strife of Bleeding Kansas had shaken their world. In April 1855, an antislavery minister named Frederick Starr documented the goings on in Platte County, Missouri, a center of pro-slavery sentiment on the Kansas-Missouri border (in what is now the Kansas City metro). He wrote in a letter that “we are in the midst of terrible times…. The ballot box is violated, the press overthrown, the church denounced, surely pro-slavery forces are making great advances and one victory crowds on the heels of another…. Glorious nation this.”[2] He referred here not only to the Kansas troubles, but also to a nearly year-long struggle between Missouri anti-slavery advocates, like himself, and their pro-slavery neighbors. In addition to the battle to populate Kansas, Platte County simultaneously encountered profound internal conflicts over the presence of free-soilers and abolitionists in their midst, men and women whose antislavery views challenged the social order.

image-1-frederick-starr
Frederick Starr, a Presbyterian minister in Platte County, Missouri. From Milton E. Bierbaum, “Frederick Starr, A Missouri Border Abolitionist: The Making of a Martyr” Missouri Historical Review 58, no. 3 (April 1964), 309.

To some extent, this was a contest between anti- and pro-slavery value systems, a battle for the future of the United States. But as abhorrent as anti-slavery views might be to slaveholding leaders, it was only once abolitionist, free-soil, or colonizationist views became public, that they became a public problem, and abolitionists became public nuisances. To protect their definition of how proper slaveholding communities should function, cracking down on dissenting views was necessary to maintain law and order. In response, dissenters like Frederick Starr presented their own interpretations of law and order, critiquing pro-slavery rhetoric and offering a counter-narrative of the community’s needs and values.

Despite the fact that Starr did not preach against slavery from the pulpit, by 1854 he had become known throughout Platte County as an opponent of slavery. Starr’s primary antagonist was an organization called the Platte County Self Defensive Association (PCSDA), which formed at a public meeting in Weston on July 20, 1854, to protect the community from abolitionist threats. These groups were often known as vigilance associations, or vigilance committees. They policed any “suspicious looking persons” who emigrated to Kansas, distributed abolitionist literature, or associated with slaves and free blacks. They also styled themselves as protectors of pro-slavery settlers in Kansas who might face abuse from Northern neighbors. They eventually adopted secret passwords and badges. The association had hundreds of members at its height, including such prominent figures as David Rice Atchison and Benjamin Stringfellow.[3]

Members of the PCSDA had repeatedly asked Starr to join, and he always politely declined, on the grounds that he had no slave property to protect. However, while shopping one day in a downtown Weston business, Starr found himself accosted by a slaveholder and PCSDA member, Jack Vineyard. Vineyard was frustrated by Starr’s refusal to recognize that “every good citizen, when there were certain legal institutions and interests in the community where he lived, should do all he could to maintain harmony and quiet and to protect legal property.”[4] In response to this very public disagreement, the PCSDA staged a mock “trial” of Starr. Several hundred people attended. In his vigorous defense, Starr outlined his own, competing definition of the challenge to law and order. Those who harassed citizens based on hearsay and false accusations were the true criminals, he believed, using extra-legal means and intimidation to silence citizens. When it came to Northern transplants like himself, Southerners could expect “that he will not be a disturber of the peace of the community nor disturb the legal rights of any man…. But it [the South] has no right to expect that a man will lay aside or change his opinions and principles.”[5]

image-2-weston
An early lithograph of the Weston waterfront. From Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri, http://www.kchistory.org/u?/Montgomery,7170.

By the fall of 1854, the Self Defensives’ posturing had tested the Weston community’s patience.[6] On September 1, 1854, citizens of Weston who opposed the use of violence (by either faction), and who were “favorable to law and order,” met in protest.[7] Their published pamphlet referenced the community’s need for stability and protection, stating that “our rights and privileges, as citizens of Weston, Platte county, Mo., have been disregarded, infringed upon, and grievously violated within the last few weeks, by certain members of the ‘Platte County Self-Defensive Association.’” Indeed, these actions had disrupted “the domestic quiet to our families, the sacred honor of our sons and daughters, the safety of our property, the security of our living and persons, the ‘good name’ our fathers left us, [and] the ‘good name’ of us all.”[8]

What mattered above all else, for those of either orientation, was stability. For slaveholders and their supporters, abolitionists were treasonous, cowardly, deceitful rabble-rousers who disrupted the peaceful workings of these Platte County communities. In response, anti-slavery residents, whether self-identified abolitionists or not, forwarded their own definition of law and order, decrying the PCSDA’s extra-legal maneuvers aimed at white dissenters and free blacks, their embrace of violence, and their attempts to constrain the freedoms of speech and press.

We find ourselves in a much different political context today, but Platte Countians’ internal war can provide some powerful lessons. The varying definitions of “law and order” that Republicans and Democrats adopt today—and that anti-slavery and pro-slavery partisans adopted in the 1850s—illustrate how divisive politics can be, particularly when it appears to threaten the normal, predictable workings of our society. This rhetoric of “law and order” speaks to our need for consistency and structure, and our human desire for a society that fundamentally makes sense. But claims (made by anyone) to restore law and order usually hearken to the need for extra-legal resistance as a mechanism to restore that law and order; Trump’s poll watchers and the PCSDA both serve as a perfect example of such cognitive dissonance. Such assumptions also liken the rule of law to justice, a dangerous false equivalency (as we learned from Nixon’s rhetoric in the 1970s, which led to an epidemic of mass incarceration). The American right to protest, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment, gives the lie to the idea that law and order is the answer to injustice, or that restoring some mythic past will generate stability. Indeed, much of today’s rhetoric in this regard seeks to silence those who speak out against injustice, or to limit the rights of minority communities. Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, this rhetoric carries weight, and those who engage in such language must bear the burden of that rhetoric if—or when—it leads to violence.


[1] For some examples, please consult “We Have to Bring Back Law and Order,” CNN Politics, http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/09/27/clinton-trump-debate-hofstra-stop-and-frisk-sot-five.cnn; Trip Gabriel, “Donald Trump’s Call to Monitor Polls Raises Fears of Intimidation,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/us/politics/donald-trump-voting-election-rigging.html?_r=0; Maxine Bernstein, “Jury finds all Oregon standoff defendants not guilty of federal conspiracy, gun charges,” The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/10/oregon_standoff_verdicts_annou.html; Sam Levin and Nicky Woolf, “Protesters pushed back after mass arrests at North Dakota pipeline site—as it happened,” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2016/oct/27/north-dakota-access-pipeline-police-protesters-live-updates.

[2] Frederick Starr to Unknown, April 1855, Frederick Starr Papers, Western Historical Manuscript Collection, Columbia, Missouri.

[3] History of Clay and Platte Counties, Missouri (St. Louis: National Historical Company, 1885), 634-635.

[4] Frederick Starr to Dear Father and All, October 30, 1854, Starr Papers, WHMC.

[5] Frederick Starr to Dear Father, January 15, 1855, Starr Papers, WHMC.

[6] Lester B. Baltimore, “Benjamin F. Stringfellow: The Fight for Slavery on the Missouri Border” Missouri Historical Review 62, no. 1 (October 1967), 18.

[7] At least four members of the committee appointed to draft their resolutions, George T. Hulse, Elijah Cody, A. B. Hathaway, and J. V. Parrott, were slaveholders according to the 1850 census.

[8] “Citizens Meeting,” Starr Papers, WHMC. This was published as a broadside that Starr included in his personal papers.

Kristen Epps

Dr. Kristen Epps is an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. She is the author of Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras (Georgia, 2016). Her research focuses on slavery, abolition, and the sectional crisis. She can be reached at kkepps@uca.edu.

Whither the Whigs? Donald Trump, the Know-Nothings, and the Politics of the 1850s

The historical curiosity of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Republican nomination has resulted in, among other things, a seeming endless litany of historical comparisons. As modern pundits, politicos, and historians have attempted to explain the success of Trump’s campaign, they have compared his candidacy to any number of historical precedents, ranging from Barry Goldwater and George Wallace in the 1960s, to Teddy Roosevelt and Huey Long, and, perhaps most frequently, Andrew Jackson.[i] Of course, Trump’s candidacy is also notable for the fractious impact it has had on the Republican Party, and that, too, has produced its own share of historical parallels. Predictions of a contested Republican nominating convention earlier this year, for example, invoked the stereotype of the supposedly corrupt party conventions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when wirepullers brokered nominations in smoke-filled back rooms. When that scenario failed to materialize, the divisive rhetoric of this summer’s Republican National Convention prompted several prominent historians and political scientists to rate it among the worst conventions ever, placing the 2016 RNC alongside such luminaries as the 1868 and 1968 Democratic National Conventions.[ii] (As a side note, however, it was disappointing that the 1860 DNC failed to make that list, as it is difficult to imagine a less successful convention than one that adjourned without a nominee.)

alexander_image_1
Some historians have compared the 2016 Republican National Convention to the Democratic National Convention that met in New York City in July 1868. Harper’s Weekly, July 7, 1868. Courtesy of HarpWeek.

Earlier this month, political commentator Rachel Maddow and the host of MSNBC’s nightly The Rachel Maddow Show offered an extended piece exploring the similarities between the current state of the Republican Party and the collapse of the Whig Party and the so-called “Second Party System” of Whigs and Democrats during the decade of the 1850s.[iii] To be sure, Maddow is by no means the first observer to compare the fortunes of today’s Republican Party with the fate of the Whigs. For that matter, neither is today’s political milieu the only historical moment when Americans have predicted the doom of a political party by hearkening back to the Whigs. Indeed, as the only major, national, political party in American history to disappear, over the years the Whigs have served, if nothing else, as political fodder for commentators to invoke any time a modern political party appears in a state of disarray.

Maddow’s piece is noteworthy, however, not only for her focus on the collapse of the Whigs and the Second Party System, but also her explicit, and at times even sophisticated, discussion of the link between the disintegration of the Whigs and the political nativism of the 1850s. That nativism produced the so-called Know-Nothing Party—an anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic third party that experienced substantial electoral success in 1854 and 1855. In the editorial Maddow argues that, historically, the breakdown of America’s two-party system (in her words, “when normal politics collapses”) has allowed fringe voices to gain a mainstream audience, even if temporarily, thereby eclipsing “decent political discourse.” Thus, as Maddow tells it, in the context of the 1850s, the collapse of the Whigs created a political “wasteland,” which allowed the Know-Nothing Party to emerge and spread their nativistic message of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred. Maddow suggests that this provides a lesson for our contemporary election, as she claims a similar political message of intolerance, bigotry, and hatred has emerged, in part, “because the Republican Party was weak, and failing.”[iv]

The so-called Know-Nothing Party produced virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric. Its supporters believed German and Irish immigrants were disrupting American democracy, as depicted in this ca. 1850s political cartoon, likely penned by political cartoonist John H. Goater. Original held at the New York Public Library. The author thanks Tyler Anbinder for providing the location of the original cartoon, and Jason Stacy for help in tracing the cartoon’s origins, particularly in identifying its hitherto unknown artist.
The so-called Know-Nothing Party produced virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric. Its supporters believed German and Irish immigrants were disrupting American democracy, as depicted in this ca. 1850s political cartoon, likely penned by political cartoonist John H. Goater. Original held at the New York Public Library. The author thanks Tyler Anbinder for providing the location of the original cartoon, and Jason Stacy for help in tracing the cartoon’s origins, particularly in identifying its hitherto unknown artist.

While there certainly exist eerie parallels between the politics of the 1850s and some of the developments of the 2016 presidential election, Maddow has it slightly backwards. The Know-Nothing Party did not emerge, as she claims, only after the Whig Party collapsed, but rather the other way around. As Michael F. Holt, author of the (1,248 page) book on the Whig Party (and in the interest of full disclosure, my dissertation advisor) has pointed out elsewhere, it was precisely the meteoric rise of the Know-Nothings that served, in part, to finish off the Whigs (rather than the collapse of the Whigs producing the rise of the Know-Nothings).[v] At the very same moment when nativism was emerging primarily in Northern cities as a grassroots social and political movement, some Whig leaders had been openly courting the support of immigrant voters—particularly Catholics who had traditionally voted Democratic. In response, native-born white voters registered their disgust by seeking political outlets outside of the two major parties. In sum, the emergence of political nativism helped destabilize the two-party system, rather than the breakdown of party politics giving rise to political nativism, as Maddow claims. I would argue that the same is true today: Donald Trump has not emerged because the Republican Party is weak and failing, but the other way around. Much like his Know-Nothing forbears, Trump’s success stems from a grassroots appeal. It is that appeal which has in turn created the perception that the Republican Party may be failing, thus drawing comparisons to the Whigs.

Moreover, while the politics of the 1850s provides an intriguing comparison to our current political moment, any serious discussion of the collapse of the Second Party System has to account for the role that slavery played, and on that point, there is simply no modern parallel. As the Whig Party crumbled between 1852 and 1856, Northern outrage at the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act fueled the subsequent rise of the Republican Party. It was only those developments, combined with the Know-Nothings, which led to the displacement of the Whigs. Maddow does briefly mention slavery at the outset of her editorial, though she brushes over the disappearance of the Know-Nothings, which also stemmed largely from the disagreement between its Northern and Southern wings over the issue of slavery extension.[vi] In other words, Maddow is correct that there is a link between nativism and the disruption of politics in the 1850s (even as she slightly mischaracterizes that link), but the real story was slavery extension.

It is certainly possible that we are in the midst of some sort of extended political realignment, though I am not sure the 1850s and the death of the Whigs provides the best historical example for comparison. In the years immediately following the Civil War, political observers regularly offered predictions that both political parties would soon disappear, commenting repeatedly on “The Reorganization of Parties” and offering forecasts and explanations as to “Why the Republican Party is Breaking up” (there were plenty of similar predictions for the Democrats, as well).[vii] One cannot overstate just how ubiquitous these predictions were. The assumption was that Republicans were essentially an ad hoc coalition that had come together to end slavery and stop secession, while others argued that the Democrats might never overcome the stigma of secession and treason. Informing these predictions was also the belief of many Americans in the mid-nineteenth century that political parties were fundamentally impermanent organizations—as evidenced by the disappearance of major parties like the Federalists and Whigs, not to mention a host of third parties along the way. The decade that followed witnessed several third parties come and go and produced a significant amount of shifting across party lines. Yet, even as the politics of Reconstruction evolved and some voters and politicians switched parties, both the Republican and Democratic organizations remained intact. That, I would argue, provides a more relevant historical parallel. The Republican Party may emerge from this election in a modified form, but the past would suggest that it is unlikely that it will go the way of the Whigs.

If you have thoughts, comments, or questions for the author, please discuss your ideas or pose questions in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you!


[i] Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, “Why I Support Donald Trump: He’s The New Roosevelt,” Forbes, December 15, 2015 <http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2015/12/15/donald-trump-teddy-roosevelt/#4607493d349c>; Matthew Mason, “The Disturbing Parallels Between Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson,” History News Network, March 20, 2016 <http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162259>; Steve Inskeep, “Donald Trump’s Secret? Channeling Andrew Jackson,” New York Times, February 17, 2016 <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/17/opinion/campaign-stops/donald-trumps-secret-channelling-andrew-jackson.html?_r=1>.

[ii] “The Worst Convention in U.S. History?” Politico Magazine, July 22, 2016 <http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/rnc-2016-worst-convention-historians-214091>.

[iii] “Trump anti-immigrant speech follows dark pattern of US history,” The Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC), September 1, 2016 <http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/trump-nativist-speech-follows-dark-us-pattern-755626563851>.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Michael F. Holt, “Are the Republicans Going the Way of the Whigs?” Sabato’s Crystal Ball, University of Virginia Center for Politics, March 10, 2016 <http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/going-the-way-of-the-whigs/>. See also Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 956–957.

[vi] On this point, see Tyler Anbinder, Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know-Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 162–193.

[vii] Baltimore Sun, August 31, 1865; Mount Vernon (Ohio) Banner, July 7, 1865.

 

Erik B. Alexander

Erik B. Alexander is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Historical Studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, where he teaches classes on American history, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and Abraham Lincoln. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He was an Assistant Editor on volume 9 (1831) of the Papers of Andrew Jackson (University of Tennessee Press, 2013). He is currently finishing his first book manuscript, a study of Northern Democrats after the Civil War, titled Revolution Forestalled: Northern Democrats and the Politics of Reconstruction, 1865–1877. He can be reached at eralexa@siue.edu.

Of Presidential Campaigns and Partisan Press: Journalism in the Elections of 1848 and 2016

In this presidential election year, some political observers have lamented the disappearance of a non-partisan press. Today, Republicans watch Fox News and read the Wall Street Journal; Democrats prefer MSNBC and the New York Times. The Internet has further fragmented journalism, putting the mass in mass media. For the Republican who suspects that the establishment has corrupted the Wall Street Journal, there is the Drudge Report. A progressive Democrat who sees the Times as too centrist might turn to the Huffington Post. Indeed, after recent coverage of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ongoing problems with her emails, her associate Lanny Davis penned an angry defense in The Hill, lambasting the Times and the Associated Press, once considered a guardian of objective journalism, for fixating on Clinton’s alleged ethical violations while ignoring the troubles of Republican nominee Donald Trump.[1]

Students of the Civil War era know well the partisanship of nineteenth-century media and the public fascination with news as entertainment. We can look to another rollicking presidential election—the 1848 contest—for insight into how Americans interacted in a hyper-partisan era where the idea of a non-partisan press would have provoked laughter from the press corps. Though different in a number of ways, the election of 1848 bears interesting similarities to our current contest. James K. Polk, a youthful Democrat who beat the presumptive nominee, Martin Van Buren, for the nomination in 1844, prepared to leave office after a term beset by controversy over his signature policy, the conquest of foreign lands and westward expansion. Van Buren lost again in 1848, this time to the sixty-five-year old political veteran Lewis Cass of Michigan. The Whigs nominated a man who had never voted in a presidential election, Zachary Taylor of Louisiana. Both Democrats and Whigs had courted Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War, but the sixty-three-year old candidate declared himself a Whig and beat the party’s establishment candidates, including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, for the nomination. Meanwhile, a bruised Van Buren left his political home of a quarter century to ally with a third party—the Free Soilers—on a platform that opposed slavery in the territories on moral grounds.

“Grand, national, democratic banner. Press onward,” 1848. A campaign banner for Democratic presidential candidate Lewis Cass and William O. Butler, produced by Nathaniel Currier, 1848. People often displayed these banners at home. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
“Grand, national, democratic banner. Press onward,” 1848. A campaign banner for Democratic presidential candidate Lewis Cass and William O. Butler, produced by Nathaniel Currier, 1848. People often displayed these banners at home. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Cass strived mightily to steer a middle course on the issue of slavery and its extension in the West, and he enlisted his allies in the Democratic press for assistance. Obtaining the Mexican Cession, a territory that today encompasses part or all of seven states, as the spoils of war had reintroduced the slavery issue into politics. He proposed to let the people in the territories determine the future of slavery, an idea that became known as popular sovereignty. Cass unveiled his policy via a common practice in the era: he sent a letter to a political associate, who promptly arranged for its publication in the Washington Union, the Democratic Party’s mouthpiece. Cass knew that popular sovereignty would work, and win him the presidency, only if Northerners believed it would prevent the spread of slavery and southerners thought it would allow slaves to enter the cession. Cass’s campaign managers allegedly produced two versions of his campaign biography, one for the North and one for the South, that glossed the slavery issue to suit each section’s preferences. Democratic party editors could scorn Taylor as the “friend of Southern institutions” while maintaining that “Gen. Cass is presented to the whole Union the same in the North as in the South,” while never elaborating on what exactly Cass believed on the issue.[2]

Democrats and Whigs alike used the partisan press to campaign for their candidates. “Documents of the right sort must be made to pass like hotcakes,” one Democratic newspaper noted, “going into every hole and corner where there is the least possibility of making a convert to our faith.”[3] Establishing newspapers specifically for the campaign season constituted a major expenditure for the Democratic National Committee and the Whig Executive Committee. These papers, like the Recruit for the Democrats and the Grape Shot for the Whigs, supplemented the traditional party organs from cities like Washington and New York. Editors made sure to print political propaganda in other languages, especially German, to reach voters who did not speak English.

The press acted as a campaign apparatus for the candidates. Most towns of any consequential size had newspapers that represented the major political parties, and during a presidential election year they worked feverishly to promote their respective party’s candidate. Most often, they reprinted articles from the major party organs. Newspapers displayed large mastheads on their papers with the slate of candidates they supported.

Masthead from the Sunbury (PA) American, June 3, 1848. The masthead from the Sunbury American, a Democratic newspaper in Pennsylvania. Editors proudly displayed their party’s candidates on the masthead during election contests. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Masthead from the Sunbury (PA) American, June 3, 1848. The masthead from the Sunbury American, a Democratic newspaper in Pennsylvania. Editors proudly displayed their party’s candidates on the masthead during election contests. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

An Ohio newspaper sought to illustrate the vacuity of the Taylor campaign by offering a fifty-dollar reward to anyone who could find a Whig principle not contained in this curious stanza:

“Sound the kewgag, strike the tonjon

Beat the Fuzguzzy, wake the gonqong

Let the loud hozanna ring,

Bum tum fuzzlegum dingo bim.”

A Whig poet penned this rebuttal:

“Poor Cass they did interrogate,

His silence has revenged us,

“Confusion” seized the candidate

The “noise,” it was tremendous.”[4]

3.Free soil song, 1848. Not to be outdone in song making, the Free Soilers issued the song, excerpted here, sung to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
3. Free soil song, 1848. Not to be outdone in song making, the Free Soilers issued the song, excerpted here, sung to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The election of 1848 shows how the partisan press often acted as a part of the campaign apparatus, a facet of politics that most Americans accepted as standard practice. Candidates used partisan newspapers to promote themselves and their platform without worrying about anything resembling the objective journalism that modern political observers claim we have lost. From the vantage point of the nineteenth century, the non-partisan media seems the anomaly. Imagine the task of a voter in 1848 trying to make an objective choice for president by poring over Democratic, Whig and Free Soil newspapers, sorting rhetoric from fact, seeking to make a decision. Our hypothetical, however, applied to relatively few voters in 1848, as most Americans held strong allegiances to one of the established parties. The scenario mirrors the present age in politics, with the “astonishing decline of the American swing voter,” as the Washington Post put it.[5] We can infer that most voters have already made up their minds and will seek media that support their conclusions. The antebellum press thrived with a captive partisan readership and perhaps we see a similar pattern today. Seeing the ways in which antebellum media served the candidates rather than the people, and reflecting on the parallels to the present, can lead us to question what kind of journalism we want for our current age.


[1] “Lanny Davis: The media’s undisputed bias against Hillary Clinton,” The Hill, September 7, 2016, http://thehill.com/opinion/lanny-davis/294754-lanny-davis-the-medias-undisputed-bias-against-hillary-clinton.

[2] For the Nicholson letter, see Washington Union, December 30, 1847; Christopher Childers, The Failure of Popular Sovereignty: Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and the Radicalization of Southern Politics (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 155-156; Democratic Banner (Louisiana, MO), July 24, 1848.

[3] The Recruit, October 3, 1848, quoted in Joel H. Silbey, Party over Section: The Rough and Ready Presidential Election of 1848 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009), 90.

[4] Quoted in Willard Carl Klunder, Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation (Kent, OH: Kent State University Pres, 1996), 197, 211.

[5] John Sides, “The astonishing decline of the American swing voter,” Washington Post, November 3, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/11/03/the-astonishing-decline-of-the-american-swing-voter/

Christopher Childers

Christopher Childers is an assistant professor of history at Pittsburg State University. He is the author of "The Failure of Popular Sovereignty: Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and the Radicalization of Southern Politics" (University Press of Kansas, 2012) and is completing a book titled "The Webster-Hayne Debate: Defining Nationhood in the Early American Republic."

Fraud, Violence, and ‘Rigged’ Elections: A Warning from Bleeding Kansas

Democracy is fragile. One whiff of dishonesty, real or imagined, can undermine our dedication to democratic procedures. Even the wildest accusations about an opponent’s unethical or illegal behavior can help us justify rewriting the rules, or ignoring them altogether, in the name of victory. Allegations of electoral trickery are not uncommon in American politics, but they have cast a dark shadow over the ferocious presidential contest of 2016. Talk of voter fraud and rigged elections has proliferated in both the primary and general campaigns and will probably echo long after November. Still, the United States has weathered similar storms before: the “Corrupt Bargain” which allegedly ripped victory from Andrew Jackson’s hands in 1824; the disputed 1876 election, which raised fears of renewed civil war; and Bush v. Gore in 2000.

Outside of presidential politics, America’s record of peaceful, democratic decision-making gets even spottier. Just ask Kansas. In the mid-to-late 1850s, political strife in Kansas Territory captivated national attention and hastened the coming of the Civil War. From a bird’s-eye view, “Bleeding Kansas” represented a titanic struggle between two civilizations, with the fate of the republic hanging in the balance. The authors of an “Appeal to the South” warned that if abolitionists won, they would continue their “war upon the institutions of the South…until slavery shall cease to exist in any of the States, or the Union is dissolved.”[1] William H. Seward, a leading antislavery senator, agreed that the stakes were enormous. Either Kansas would be a free state, or slaveholders would win “at the cost of the sacrifice of all the existing liberties of the American people.”[2] Up close, however, the conflict looked grittier.

Within Kansas, the issues were equally substantial but the action unfolded as a series of sometimes violent clashes over voter qualifications, the validity of election returns, and the legitimacy of the territorial government. It was not supposed to be this way. Organized in 1854 under the principle of popular sovereignty, whereby local white voters would establish their own “domestic institutions” – and decide the fate of slavery – Kansas was meant to be a model of democracy. Popular dissatisfaction with a dysfunctional Congress made popular sovereignty appealing. Convinced that gridlocked antislavery and proslavery legislators could never compromise on the issue of slavery’s expansion, popular sovereignty’s supporters insisted that territorial voters choose for themselves. In practice, however, Kansas revealed democracy’s Achilles heel: if both sides are not willing to accept defeat, the system breaks down. And in Kansas, just as in Washington, D.C., slavery seemed too important to be left up to the whim of a majority.

A nineteenth-century etching entitled “Voting in Kickapoo,” from Albert D. Richardson, Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1869; GoogleBooks), 101.

The trouble began in the winter of 1854 to 1855, when Kansas held a pair of elections to select a delegate to Congress and a territorial legislature. Hearing that hordes of Yankees were en route to Kansas, and fearful of being surrounded on three sides by antislavery neighbors, proslavery Missourians resolved to control the outcome by any means necessary. Declaring that northern migrants had no more right to rule the territory than they did, Missourians crossed into Kansas just before both elections and voted by the thousands. One later testified that, while en route to Kansas, he met three hundred like-minded men whose travel expenses had been paid by slaveholders determined to protect their western flank. They planned to vote at least fifteen hundred times.[3] Many proslavery partisans voted early and often; in the March 1855 election for delegates to the territorial legislature, more than 6,000 ballots were cast in a territory which had only 2,905 legal voters. An overwhelming majority – 5,427 – were for proslavery candidates.[4]

People on both sides denounced their foes. Northern migrants reported armed voter intimidation, theft of ballot boxes, and thousands of ballots cast by Missouri “Border Ruffians” who had no intention of staying in Kansas. Well-armed Missourians surrounded an antislavery candidate, grabbed him by the collar, and mocked him as a “damned abolitionist.”[5] But Missourians insisted that their lives, property, and security were at risk and declared that settlers just arrived from Massachusetts had no more valid right to vote than they did.

Border ruffians with swords
“Two Unidentified Border Ruffians with Swords,” ca. 1854-1860. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Given that many of the earliest bona fide migrants to Kansas were from Missouri, proslavery candidates might have won both elections honestly. But their partisans’ unwillingness to risk defeat unleashed a cycle of protest, deceit, and violence that plagued Kansas for years and undermined many inhabitants’ faith in local governance. Rejecting the proslavery territorial government as a sham, antislavery residents established a rival (and federally unsanctioned) government in Topeka and applied for admission into the Union as a free state. By 1856, guerrilla warfare raged across much of the territory, claiming dozens of lives, including Frederick Brown, a son of soon-to-be-infamous abolitionist John Brown. The bloodletting spilled over into Congress when Preston Brooks (D-SC) assaulted Charles Sumner (R-MA) for a speech denouncing efforts to force slavery into Kansas. Outside observers recognized that the escalation of blame and retaliation threatened the whole country. The nation’s proslavery and antislavery factions, wrote one concerned bystander, grew “more repulsive every year….Kansas, in fact, is already the literal battle-ground of this unquenchable contest, where streams of blood have flowed on both sides.”[6]

In our own superheated political climate, Bleeding Kansas might seem disturbingly familiar. Born out of disillusionment and desperation, the struggle in Kansas Territory bred a self-righteous refusal to accept the legitimacy of political rivals – and ultimately released a wave of violence. Whether they fought to protect property, preserve racial privilege, or promote an ideology, participants justified fraud, intimidation, and murder by demonizing their foes. History offers few clear-cut lessons, but it is apparent that democracy cannot thrive amid violence, hectoring, and intolerance. It is precisely when our confidence in “politics as usual” has been shaken that we must shun the temptation to take shortcuts to victory. It is precisely in the high-stakes elections, the ones we are most loath to lose, that we must reaffirm our dedication to democracy as a process. When the process breaks down, everyone loses.


[1] W.H. Russell et al., “Kansas Matters – Appeal to the South,” DeBow’s Review 20, no. 5 (May 1856), 636.

[2] Congressional Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., appendix, p. 405 (April 9, 1856).

[3] E.P. Vaughn testimony in U.S. House of Representatives, Report of the Special Committee Appointed to Investigate the Troubles in Kansas; With the Views of the Minority of Said Committee, Report No. 200, 34th Cong., 1st Sess. (Washington: Cornelius Wendell, Printer, 1856), 130.

[4] Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004), 59.

[5] John A. Wakefield testimony in Report of the Special Committee, Report No. 200, 2.

[6] Samuel Gilman to My Dear Children, August 1856, Samuel Gilman Papers, South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, SC.

Michael E. Woods

Michael E. Woods is Assistant Professor of History at Marshall University. He is the author of Bleeding Kansas: Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border (Routledge, 2016) and Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which received the 2015 James A. Rawley Award from the Southern Historical Association. He is currently at work on a book entitled Arguing until Doomsday: Stephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy.