Is the United States perfect? Certainly not. Our forefathers did not sacrifice time, security, and in many cases, life or limb for the sake of a perfect system of government. Their hope was to establish a government for the people – which would provide the opportunity for all to pursue happiness in an environment free of governmental oppression and steeped with a host of inalienable rights. For some, “all” meant everyone. To others, “all” was defined quite narrowly. Still, even those who had a broader view understood the benefit of compromise – for the purpose of establishing a system which would have enough flexibility to adjust to their broader view of “all” over time. We know now the great advancement in this regards only came through a Civil War; however, it came. A perfect system? No. The best system ever constructed by man? Absolutely.
As we contemplate the great sacrifice paid by many to create and preserve this “best system” under God, the New York Tribune dated July 7, 1854 help us to capture the tension and need for growth that was evident to many in the 1850’s. Allow a negro to become a member of Congress? Could this be possible? Those who knew Frederick Douglass certainly thought so. Please enjoy:
Every now and then, while browsing through rare and early newspapers, an article is discovered which causes one to take a second look – or 2nd read. Such is the case with a report in the New York Semi-Weekly Tribune of January 30, 1855. As I was scanning through slavery and Mormon related coverage, I discovered an inside report which described how Ecuador tricked the United States into signing a treaty in which the U.S. would provide protection for Ecuador’s ports and the Galapagos Islands (owned by them) in exchange for access to the supposed endless supply (by the ton) of guano on the Galapagos Islands. Apparently, Ecuador had produced samples of highly potent bird and bat dung which motivated the U.S. to sign the treaty. Later, upon investigation, it was found out that the tons upon tons of guano was simply a pile of hooey – that is, nowhere to be found – but the treaty had already been signed. Who signs such an agreement sight unseen? I must admit, the nature of the agreement stirs all of the middle-school boy sarcasm which I thought I had long-since put to rest. However, such is not the case. He’s in there.
Today I traveled to New York City by the way of the New York Tribune (December 7, 1865). The headlines: “The Constitutional Amendment”, “It Is Adopted”, “The Twenty-Seventh State”, “Freemen To Be Protected” were all reporting: “The Constitutional Amendment has passed each branch of the Legislature. The House passed a resolution instructing the Judiciary Committee to report a bill to protect persons of African descent in their persons and property, and also to allow them to testify in cases in which they may be interested.”
This abolished slavery in the United States.
Major General Granger’s General Order #3, which appeared in the July 25, 1865 issue of Flake’s Daily Bulletin, provides contrasting news for the newly freed slaves. Good News: You are now free! Bad News: Get to work and don’t come crying for help! I wonder how we would handle this same situation if it were to happen today???
We had in our possession for a number of years an original issue of the Frederick Douglass’ Paper, dated March 17, 1854. It certainly was a grand paper – it being a continuation of Douglass’ North Star. However, while the notoriety of the title was well-established and the angst of slavery oozed throughout, it was a 21st century movie which infused new life into it’s weary 150+ year-old raglinen pages.
A collector recently went to see the theatrical adaptation of “Twelve Years a Slave – The Memoir of Solomon Northup“, and was moved to visit the Rare & Early Newspapers‘ website to see if we had newspapers with his mention. Searches for his name were unsuccessful – but this collector was not to be deterred. Having previously viewed the Frederick Douglass’ Paper in question, he took the next step and began to go over the corresponding images with a fine-tooth comb. Success. The newspaper was not only noteworthy for its editor and rarity, but it also had an article on the front page with mention of Solomon Northrup (see below). Fantastic.
Like I said, I love this collectible!
There is no doubt Abraham Lincoln is one of the most beloved historical figures of all time. Similar to how Robert E. Lee is respected by “Yankees”, as time goes by Abe Lincoln also seems to garner mutual appreciation. Once seen as polarizing, he is now credited with opposite – preserving unity. To what can we credit the change in how he was/is viewed? Perhaps it was his address at Gettysburg or our post-Civil War hindsight which appreciates (or at least acknowledges) the end result – that we remain a united nation. However, one danger in turning a flesh-and-blood human being into an icon is that we lose perspective on the conflicted realities the people of this era were facing. We also tend to eliminate anything about such individuals which may present them in a light which bristles against how we perceive them. Doing so marginalizes the issues they were grappling with and minimizes the complexities surrounding change. It is with this in mind we invite you to explore another side of Abraham Lincoln – as he discusses his views on what to do about the slave issue. The best way to take this journey is to read his thoughts via the images provided through the link to the Liberator of August 22, 1862: Abraham Lincoln on African Colonization
Every now and then we’ll come across an article which either illustrates a different side of a well-known historic figure, or provides a glimpse of someone whom we wonder why they have not received more recognition over time. Every now and then we’ll try to bring some of these to light. In this instance, our attention is drawn to Toussaint L’Ouverture. While he may be known to historians, the average person has most likely never heard of him. However, there was a time when this was not the case. In the mid-1800’s, his influence was known world-wide, and the ripple effects of his actions continue to be felt today. If you desire to know more, a lengthy biographical sketch by the often-verbose Wendell Phillips printed in the April 3, 1863 issue of The Liberator might be an excellent launching point. The entire article may be viewable at: The Liberator, April 3, 1863.
Wikipedia also does a pretty good job of providing additional details regarding his fascinating life. While most are no longer available, a few additional tidbits may be gleaned from other newspapers of the period: Toussaint L’Ouverture
Today I decided to travel back to the era of the Civil War through The New York Times of March 4, 1863. In this issue I found the Southern President Jeff Davis had appointed March 27th to be a Day of Fasting and Prayer. “…Under these circumstances it is my privilege to invite you once more to meet together and prostrate yourselves in humble supplication to Him who has been our constant and never-failing support in the past, and to whose protection and guidance we trust for the future. To this end I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Friday, the 27th day of March, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer…” This is also signed in type: JEFFERSON DAVIS.
Also under the “Important from Washington” are the new establishments of “The New Banking Law”; “Designs for Currency Notes” due to the recent passing of the National Currency Act; “A Branch Mint in Nevada”; as well as the establishing of “The Territory of Idahoe (Idaho)” from within the territory of Montano (Montana). “Slavery is forever prohibited within the limits of the new Territory”.
What an incredible time in history!
Slavery. The word itself stirs intense emotions for nearly all who hear it… even for those who have not been directly confronted with the institution. For some it brings feelings of guilt… “How could my forefathers have engaged in such activity?” For others it brings feelings of oppression… anger… and more. While many people groups have been subjected to this burdensome yoke of man through time, for Americans, none is quite as impacting as the enslavement of African Americans. In honor of Black History Month, Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers has created a Pinterest Board which takes a look back at a time in U.S. history when slavery was alive and (not so) well:
Additionally, we’ve arranged our available authentic newspapers related to Black Americana in chronological order (recent first) to provide a snapshot into the past for those interest in reviewing how slavery in general, and Black History more specifically, has been depicted in newspapers over the past few centuries. They may be viewed at: