September 18, 1858 – 4th Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Which Lincoln Clarifies His Position on Race

Approximately 12,000 people attended the 4th Lincoln-Douglas Debate, held in Charleston, Illinois.

Lincoln began by clarifying his views on race, in answer to charges Douglas made previously that Lincoln favored racial equality (anathema to the audience).

Lincoln and Douglas in 1858

Lincoln’s opening, in which he clarifies his position on race and slavery, cringe-worthy though it is, is worth quoting extensively. (And in fairness, it should be noted that Lincoln’s feelings about race evolved as time went on.)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

. . . I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.

And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied every thing.

I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes.

I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. . . . I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.]

I will add one further word, which is this: that I do not understand that there is any place where an alteration of the social and political relations of the negro and the white man can be made except in the State Legislature-not in the Congress of the United States-and as I do not really apprehend the approach of any such thing myself, and as Judge Douglas seems to be in constant horror that some such danger is rapidly approaching, I propose as the best means to prevent it that the Judge be kept at home and placed in the State Legislature to fight the measure. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] I do not propose dwelling longer at this time on this subject.”

You can read his entire remarks here.

Review of “I Am Not A Number” by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer Re Forced Re-Education of Native Canadian Children

In an afterword to this book for children by Jenny Kay Dupuis we learn:

I Am Not a Number is based on the true story of my granny, Irene Couchie Dupuis, an Anishinaabe woman who was born into a First Nation community that stretched along the shores of Lake Nipissing in Northern Ontario. Granny’s father was chief of the community, and her mother looked after their fourteen children.”

In 1928, when Irene was eight years old, an Indian agent came to their house and demanded that her father hand over the children for the residential school: “They are wards of the government, now. They belong to us.” When her father objected, he was told that otherwise he would be fined and sent to jail. It was the law, and they had to go.

The stories taken from Irene’s memories of the school are pretty horrific. She was given a number and not allowed to use her name. Irene became “759.” She was not permitted any regular contact with her parents. She was told to “scrub all the brown off” her body when she washed. The food was awful, and she and the other children were always hungry. They were beaten if they were heard using any words in their own language – “the devil’s language” according to the nuns.

When they attended mass (every morning and twice on Sundays) she recalled that she “secretly begged God to let me return to my family.”

After a year, she was allowed to return home for the summer. She loved being home, but had nightmares about the school every night. She begged her parents not to make her go back. Her parents decided to hide her and her brothers in the father’s taxidermy shop. The Indian agent searched everywhere, including the shop, but didn’t find them. Her father claimed they went up north and he didn’t know when they would be back. Finally the agent left, and they came out laughing and crying and shaking:

“We were safe. I was Irene Couchie, daughter of Ernest and Mary Ann Couchie. And I was home.”

An Author’s Note reports that Irene was among approximately 150,000 children – some as young as four – who were were removed from their homes and sent to live at residential schools across Canada. [There was a similar system in the United States.] She writes:

“Of the over 80,000 students who either returned home or relocated to cities and towns across Canada, many felt they didn’t belong anywhere and strugged all their lives.”

The last residential school did not close until 1996. In 2008, the Prime Minister of Canada issued a statement of apology.

There is an afterward by Jenny Kay Dupuis, the granddaughter of Irene Couchie Dupuis. She says her granny rarely would speak about what happened to her.

A photo of some of the Couchie children included in the book. Irene is standing at the far right.

Illustrator Gillian Newland, using watercolor, ink, and pencils, manages to convey the hurt and fear and sorrow of the children in the schools with her spare lines and colors.

Evaluation: This is a story children should know. In fact, adults should be aware of what happened to Native Americans as well, in both Canada and the United States. It is a sorrowful and shameful chapter of North American history. While the subject matter is difficult, it will help children develop empathy and understanding of the situation of others. Kids need alternate perspectives. There is no moralizing in the story; readers will have to think about what happened and draw their own conclusions.

In an interview, Jenny Kay Dupuis said:

“Co-writing I Am Not a Number with Kathy Kacer gave me the opportunity to reflect on the value of literature for young people and how educators and families can make use of picture books to start conversations about critical, real-world issues.”

Rating: 4/5

Published by Second Story Press, 2016

September 12, 1910 – Alice Stebbins Wells Becomes First Woman Police Officer with Arrest Powers in U.S.

Alice Stebbins Wells, born on June 13, 1873, was the nation’s first sworn policewoman with arrest powers, joining the Los Angeles Police Department in 1910. (The LAPD notes that In 1905, Lola Baldwin of the Portland, Oregon Police Department was authorized with police authority and oversaw a group of social workers. Unlike LAPD Officer Wells, however, Baldwin was not specifically designated a police officer.)

Alice, who was a graduate theology student and social worker, had petitioned the Los Angeles mayor and the city council to allow for women on the police force. Although many California cities had employed women as “matrons” or “workers” since 1890, these women took care of female prisoners and/or worked in city and county prisons and other penal institutions.

LAPD Online reports that Mrs. Wells was furnished with a man’s badge, but after being accused of misusing her husband’s identity, she was issued “Policewoman’s Badge Number One.”

Mrs. Wells was assigned to work with Officer Leo W. Marden, the Department’s first juvenile officer. Subsequent to her appointment, the following order was issued:

No young girl can be questioned by a male officer. Such work is delegated solely to policewomen, who, by their womanly sympathy and intuition, are able to gain the confidence of their younger sisters.”

Her first duties included supervision and enforcement of laws concerning “dance halls, skating rinks, penny arcades, picture shows, and other similar places of public recreation.” Among her activities were the “suppression of unwholesome billboard displays, searches for missing persons, and the maintenance of a general information bureau for women seeking advice on matters within the scope of police departments.”

Mrs. Wells felt strongly that women could make a contribution to policing. As the LAPD recounts, she argued that women were particularly well-qualified to perform protective and preventive work among juveniles and female criminals. She toured more than 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada to promote the cause of female officers.

In 1911, the position of women police officers in Los Angeles was placed under Civil Service control. By October 1912, there were three policewomen and three police matrons in the Department.

In 1915, Mrs. Wells was instrumental in organizing the International Policewomen’s Association. She also persuaded the University of California, Southern Division (now UCLA) in 1918 to offer the first course specifically focused on the work of women police officers.

Mrs. Wells was named the first president of the Women’s Peace Officers Association of California in 1928, a group she helped to create. In July 1934, she was appointed the Los Angeles Police Department historian, a post she held until her retirement on November 1, 1940. Wells died in 1957, and her funeral was attended by high-ranking officers from the LAPD, and a ten-woman honor guard.

September 9, 1776 – The Second Continental Congress Made the Term “United States” Official Replacing “United Colonies”

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress chose a new name for what had been called the “United Colonies,” changing it to “United States of America.”

The Constitution Daily reports that Thomas Jefferson is credited as being the first person to come up with the name, which he used while drafting the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration begins with the statement: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” The final paragraph includes both names, ending:

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale

The Christian Science Monitor notes that the use of the moniker “United States of America” by Thomas Jefferson and others credited for the name was predated by a recently discovered example of the phrase in the Revolutionary-era Virginia Gazette.

Beginning in March 1776, a series of anonymously written articles began appearing in The Virginia Gazette – one of three different Virginia Gazettes being published in Williamsburg at that time. Addressed to the “Inhabitants of Virginia,” the essays argued for independence versus reconciliation with Great Britain. The author claimed that the colonies were losing money, writing:

What a prodigious sum for the united states of America to give up for the sake of a peace, that, very probably, itself would be one of the greatest misfortunes! –

A PLANTER”

Historian Byron DeLear speculates that “A Planter” could have been Jefferson, other well-known Virginians like Patrick Henry, or northerners like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Regardless, the use of the name in the Declaration of Independence resonated with Congress, and the name was officially adopted on this day in history, when the Congress moved to approve several resolutions. The fifth resolution read as follows:

That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the “United States.”

September 7, 1783 – George Washington Advocates Peaceful Resolution of Indian Affairs

James Duane (1733-1797) was a member of the Continental Congress from New York, representing Congress as an Indian Commissioner.

On this day in history, George Washington sent a letter to Duane in response to papers submitted by Duane to Washington relating to Indian Affairs.

James Duane

Washington made a number of points. First, he castigated the “speculators” and “avaricious Men” among the colonists who wanted to take land from Native Americans, especially combined with their reluctance to contribute monetarily in support of the Government. (Washington, it should be noted, had been one of these land grabbers earlier in his life.)

He also noted with displeasure that many Native Americans supported the British in the war for independence.

Nevertheless, he said:

. . . as we prefer Peace to a state of Warfare, as we consider them as a deluded People; as we perswade ourselves that they are convinced, from experience, of their error in taking up the Hatchet against us, and that their true Interest and safety must now depend upon our friendship. As the Country, is large enough to contain us all; and as we are disposed to be kind to them and to partake of their Trade, we will from these considerations and from motives of Compn, draw a veil over what is past and establish a boundary line between them and us beyond which we will endeavor to restrain our People from Hunting or Settling, and within which they shall not come, but for the purposes of Trading, Treating, or other business unexceptionable in its nature.”

He added that [non-Native] Americans should:

. . . endeavor to impress the Indians with an idea of the generosity of our disposition to accommodate them, and with the necessity we are under, of providing for our Warriors, our Young People who are growing up, and strangers who are coming from other Countries to live among us. and if they should make a point of it, or appear dissatisfied at the line we may find it necessary to establish, compensation should be made them for their claims within it.”

In other words, the new Americans were being more than generous regarding the people whose land they stole, and we should only compensate them if they make an issue of it.

George Washington

He makes clear that his main concern is to avoid another war by trying to expel Native Americans from what they saw as their own country. But he didn’t think that situation would arise: “That they would compromise for a part of it I have very little doubt, and that it would be the cheapest way of coming at it, I have no doubt at all.”

He suggested that New York make it a felony for any person to breach the boundary “between them and us.” Washington explained his concern:

. . . that the settling, or rather overspreading the Western Country will take place, by a parcel of Banditti, who will bid defiance to all Authority while they are skimming and disposing of the Cream of the Country at the expence of many suffering Officers and Soldiers who have fought and bled to obtain it, and are now waiting the decision of Congress to point them to the promised reward of their past dangers and toils, or a renewal of Hostilities with the Indians, brought about more than probably, by this very means.”

That is, those who fought for American Independence had a right to the land, as opposed to random “Banditti,” and certainly as opposed to Indians. (Calling them “Native Americans” would be acknowledging an unwelcome truth. Rather, Washington contends they are savages comparable to wolves, as seen in the close of his letter):

. . . .for I repeat it, again, and I am clear in my opinion, that policy and oeconomy point very strongly to the expediency of being upon good terms with the Indians, and the propriety of purchasing their Lands in preference to attempting to drive them by force of arms out of their Country; which as we have already experienced is like driving the Wild Beasts of the Forest which will return us soon as the pursuit is at an end and fall perhaps on those that are left there; when the gradual extension of our Settlements will as certainly cause the Savage as the Wolf to retire; both being beasts of prey tho’ they differ in shape. In a word there is nothing to be obtained by an Indian War but the Soil they live on and this can be had by purchase at less expence, and without that bloodshed, and those distresses which helpless Women and Children are made partakers of in all kinds of disputes with them.”

You can read the entire letter here.

September 5, 1781 – Battle of the Chesapeake & Review of “In the Hurricane’s Eye” by Nathaniel Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick delivers yet another different perspective on the American Revolution in a very entertaining and readable manner.

When most Americans think of the Revolutionary War, they think of George Washington and his troops slogging through the snow or over the frozen Hudson River to defeat the British in land battles. Philbrick argues that it was a naval battle in which Washington was not even involved that enabled the Americans to prevail against Cornwallis at Yorktown.

By 1781, Philbrick informs us, the Revolutionary Army was on the verge of collapse. The soldiers were starving, underfunded, and mutinous. Washington wrote his former aide-de-camp, “We are at the end of our tether and … now or never our deliverance must come.” Thus, Philbrick claims, the Battle of the Chesapeake between the British and the French navies (the French acting on the side of the Americans) was one of the most important naval engagements in the history of the world. The reason is that the defeat of a British fleet by a French fleet enabled the Revolutionary Army to prevail on land. The French in turn were aided by the Spanish in Cuba, thanks to a Spanish government envoy and “fixer” in Cuba named Francisco Saavedra de Sangrois, who obtained money both to sustain the French fleet and to pay Washington’s mutinous soldiers. Philbrick writes:

“…it cannot be denied that the Spanish residents of Cuba provided what one commentator has called, ‘the bottom dollars upon which the edifice of American independence was raised.’”

But it might have been the weather that played the largest role. Three large hurricanes in 1780 ripped through the Caribbean, sending the French fleet up north at the Chesapeake to ride out the 1781 hurricane season. This move proved pivotal for both sides in the war.

George Washington

As Philbrick observes, France joined the War not so much out of a desire to aid America but to strike a blow against Great Britain. But France could have easily chosen to challenge Great Britain in Europe by sending warships into the Channel between the two countries, and Britain would have had to divert military resources from its fight in America. However, it was the islands of the Caribbean that attracted the fleets of both France and England. The “sugar islands” of the Caribbean accounted for more than a third of France’s overseas trade. Britain too saw these islands as a priority. Philbrick writes:

“…when the war for American independence broke out, Britain’s possessions in the Caribbean were worth much more to her than all thirteen of her colonies in North America.”

Thus both countries were concentrating on the Caribbean; Britain had 33 percent of her total navy in that area compared to just 9 percent in the coastal waters of North America.

By the fall of 1780, Philbrick writes, “it seemed as if France’s preoccupation wit the Caribbean might prevent a significant-sized fleet from ever making its way to the shores of the United States to aid the Continental army.”

Then, amazingly enough, not one, but three huge hurricanes hit the Caribbean. These were some of the deadliest hurricanes in recorded history, with one estimate putting the total death count at 22,000 just from the second hurricane alone. (The hurricanes hit on October 3, October 10, and October 18.) Both the English and French took their surviving ships and fled the area, heading north.

Estimated Tracks of October 1780 Hurricanes
(After David M. Ludlum, Early American Hurricanes 1492-1870, 1963)

They had a fateful meeting in the Chesapeake Bay on September 5, 1781, in an exciting battle that changed everything for the combatants on land. Philbrick shows how the defeat of the British navy in the Chesapeake led inexorably to the surrender of British General Charles Cornwallis to George Washington in Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781.

Discussion: Philbrick is great at describing the intricacies of battles both on sea and land without being ponderous; on the contrary, he is consistently interesting, and explains every aspect of what occurred in a way not only to educate the reader but in a manner highlighting the most fascinating aspects of the battles. For example:

  • Benjamin Franklin wrote about the significance of the Gulf Stream and where to find it, but the British refused to pay attention to “simple American fishermen” and ignored what he had to say. Thus their trips back and forth across the Atlantic took longer than necessary;
  • Just a single typical battleship at that time, called “the 74” (because the ship had 74 cannons arranged on two decks), took 2,000 oak trees to make, or fifty-seven acres of forest;
  • The best way to destroy those wooden ships? “Hotshot” – or cannonballs heated in a furnace until they were red-hot and could start fires;
  • British ships had bottoms sheathed in plates of copper, which gave them a significant speed advantage;
  • The British fired low, to inflict more casualties, but the French fired high to disable the ships, which proved to be a more efficacious tactic;
  • Washington, who knew much of his mail was being intercepted and the contents reported to Britain, regularly wrote misinformation, as we might say today, to keep his actual plans a secret;
  • England also received misinformation about the course of the war from its own people, because the British generals over in America wanted to make themselves look better than they were;
  • Benedict Arnold’s treason and bad behavior continued to motivate the Patriot Army throughout the War to avenge those he had betrayed;
  • During the Siege of Yorktown, there were more than 6,000 British and German soldiers, along with thousands of escaped slaves, cooped up in a space just 500 yards wide and 1200 yards long;
  • No portion of the U.S. suffered more deaths in the War of Independence than New York.

Storming of a redoubt at Yorktown, via U. S. Army Center of Mlitary History

Philbrick also describes the power struggles between the French and the Americans, and how deftly Washington tried to assuage the sensibilities of the French, even while he was often furious at them. Power struggles within each army affected the fate of the armies as well, as did weaknesses for luxury and gambling, and even health issues, which came to play a major role.

The book ends with an Epilogue that reminded me of the end of the movie “American Graffiti.” Philbrick devotes a few paragraphs to each of the major players in this history, telling what happened to them after the American Revolution was over.

Evaluation: Philbrick does an excellent job of making history exciting. He also provides welcome explanations of necessary nautical details that add to the color and atmosphere of the story, such as the ways in which naval battles are fought, and how ships were constructed at the time. So much of military history is devoted to armies on land; this engrossing book helps balance that coverage.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2018

September 3, 1838 – Frederick Douglass Escapes From Slavery

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey on approximately February 14, 1818. He did not know the exact date, but according to the Library of Congress, he celebrated his birthday on February 14 in memory of his mother, who had brought him a heart-shaped cake on the night that he last saw her.

He was determined to make a better life for himself.

As the Oxford African American Studies Center tells the story:

Despite his situation, Frederick managed to learn to read and write, sometimes by bribing white boys into teaching him in exchange for bits of bread. At the age of about twelve, he acquired a copy of the Columbian Orator, a book of famous speeches that formed the basis for his later skills as an outstanding public lecturer. After he gained basic literacy, Frederick began to reach out to others, assisting his fellow slaves to read and operating a forbidden Sunday school. As he gained more knowledge of the world at large, he could no longer passively submit to a life of slavery. In September 1838, he borrowed the identification papers of a free black sailor and boarded a train for the North.”

Portrait of Frederick Douglass, Frontispiece. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Written by Himself.

He later explained that he posed as a free sailor wearing a red shirt, a tarpaulin hat, and a black scarf tied loosely around his neck. He boarded a train bound for Philadelphia. When the conductor came around and examined his papers he recalled in a later autobiography, Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895: Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time, 1881, online here:

My knowledge of ships and sailor’s talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk sailor like an ‘old salt.’”

Upon reaching New York City, he was given assistance by free black abolitionist and activist David Ruggles.

Soon after, Douglass married Anna Murray, a free black woman whom he had met in Baltimore. He settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where his experience as a ship caulker enabled him to find work on the docks. The Library of Congress explains that in New Bedford, Frederick asked a friend to help him choose a new name, since he might be sought under the old name as a runaway:

I gave Mr. Johnson the privilege of choosing me a name, but told him he must not take from me the name of ‘Frederick.’ I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the Lady of the Lake, and at once suggested that my name be “Douglass.”

He began to travel throughout the United States and Britain lecturing on civil rights and social justice topics.

Douglass circa 1847–52, around his early 30s

After returning to the U.S. in 1847, Douglass started publishing an abolitionist newspaper, the North Star, from the basement of the Memorial AME Zion Church in Rochester, New York. The North Star’s motto was “Right is of no Sex – Truth is of no Color – God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.” The AME Church and North Star vigorously opposed the mostly white American Colonization Society and its proposal to send blacks back to Africa.

In 1848, Douglass wrote Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, online here, in part to refute charges that it was impossible that someone of his accomplishments could have been a slave.

Douglass continued to travel throughout the United States and Britain lecturing on civil rights and social justice topics, including women’s suffrage. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, Douglass was twice invited to the White House to see President Abraham Lincoln, and then acted as a recruiter for African American troops.

After Lincoln’s assassination, a bronze statue was commissioned featuring President Abraham Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation in his right hand and holding his left hand over the head of a liberated slave kneeling at his feet. It was dedicated in 1876 on the 11th anniversary of Lincoln’s death. Frederick Douglass delivered the keynote address to President Ulysses S. Grant and more than 25,000 people in attendance. After Douglass spoke, he received a standing ovation, as well as a gift from Mary Todd Lincoln of Lincoln’s favorite walking stick.

Frederick Douglass in later life

Frederick Douglass in later life

Following the war, Douglass resumed speaking, writing, advising presidents, and encouraging civil rights movements. Douglass died of a heart attack at Cedar Hill on February 20, 1895, having just returned from a rally for women’s suffrage. He was buried in Rochester, NY, where many members of his family still lived.

Douglass’s three autobiographies are still read and respected: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845); My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, 1892). His famous speeches make him one of the most quoted men of the nineteenth century.

September 1, 1807 – Chief Justice John Marshall Acquits Aaron Burr of Treason

Thomas Jefferson bore a grudge against Aaron Burr for running against him in the 1800 presidential election as well as opposing him on other matters. Jefferson also feared Burr might challenge Jefferson’s chosen successor, James Madison. He decided to get Burr out of the way and settle his scores against him at the same time. The charge of treason was a convenient method for Jefferson to get rid of Burr (in a definitive way, since the punishment for treason was death by hanging). Accusations against Burr were provided by General James Wilkinson, who even Jefferson knew was “notoriously unreliable” and who was a spy on the payroll of Spain. Nevertheless, Jefferson addressed Congress in January of 1807 declaring Burr “guilty of treason” by virtue of Wilkinson’s allegations and ordering his arrest.

The case of United States v. Aaron Burr commenced that summer in Richmond, with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall presiding.

Portrait of Burr, undated (early 1800s)

Joel Richard Paul, in his history Without Precedent: John Marshall and His Times, noted that Jefferson “was not interested in the truth about Burr.” Jefferson not only publicly voiced his confidence that Burr was guilty but sent instructions to the prosecutors on how to conduct the trial. He also included a stack of signed pardons for anyone willing to testify against Burr.

But the prosecutors had little to work with: the “witnesses” they presented gave muddled and contradictory testimony, and Wilkinson’s “evidence” was proven to have been fabricated. Moreover, there was the small matter that the Constitution required that treason be defined by an “overt act” by the accused. Alas, there wasn’t any.

General James Wilkinson

Chief Justice Marshall didn’t have to intervene much to protect the defendant, since the case against Burr was so obviously without merit. Nevertheless, when he directed the jury to acquit Burr of treason in September 1, 1807, the press launched vicious attacks on Marshall. Enraged Republicans accused Marshall of playing party politics and siding with a traitor against the U.S. President. Marshall knew this risk was inherent in his verdict, writing in his opinion:

That this court dares not usurp power is most true. That this court dares not shrink from its duty is not less true. No man is desirous of placing himself in a disagreeable situation. No man is desirous of becoming the peculiar subject of calumny. . . . But if he have no choice in the case, if there be no alternative presented to him but a dereliction of duty or the opprobrium of those who are denominated the world, he merits the contempt as well as the indignation of his country who can hesitate which to embrace. That gentlemen, in a case the most interesting, in the zeal with which they advocate particular opinions, and under the conviction in some measure produced by that zeal, should, on each side, press their arguments too far, should be impatient at any deliberation in the court, and should suspect or fear the operation of motives to which alone they can ascribe that deliberation, is, perhaps, a frailty incident to human nature; but if any conduct on the part of the court could warrant a sentiment that it would deviate to the one side or the other from the line prescribed by duty and by law, that conduct would be viewed by the judges themselves with an eye of extreme severity, and would long be recollected with deep and serious regret.”

Jefferson fumed for years over Marshall’s “twistifications” in Burr’s trial. (Paul, op cit., p. 295)

August 30, 1861 – Civil War Union General John C. Frémont Issues an Emancipation Proclamation for Missouri; Lincoln Rescinds It

The U.S. Senate passed the First Confiscation Act on August 5, 1861 allowing the federal government to seize property, including slaves, being used to support the Confederate rebellion. Although President Lincoln feared that the act might push the border states to secede, he signed the act into law the next day. When, however, Union General John C. Frémont took the additional step, on his own initiative, to issue a proclamation freeing all slaves in Missouri that belonged to secessionists, Lincoln drew the line. In a letter dated September 11 (text here), Lincoln ordered Fremont to change his proclamation to conform to the First Confiscation Act.

“Maj. Genl. John C. Fremont, 1861” via Missouri History Museum

As the site “Mr. Lincoln and Freedom” points out:

At the beginning of the Civil War, emancipation was not a popular sentiment among Union Army officers.” Moreover, as indicated above, Lincoln considered it essential not to alienate the border states in any way that would drive them from the Union.”

In May of the following year, Union General David Hunter issued a similar proclamation freeing slaves in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Again, Lincoln was forced to issue a public statement revoking the proclamation. As in the previous instance he disavowed advance knowledge of the measure, declaring:

I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, proclaim and declare, that the government of the United States, had no knowledge, information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the document is genuine–  And further, that neither General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether genuine or false, is altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.”

Lincoln, February 9, 1861

He concluded his statement, however, by urging the slave-holding border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri to “‘adopt a gradual abolishment of slavery,'” as encouraged by Congress’s Joint Resolution of March 1862:

You can not if you would, be blind to the signs of the times — I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partizan politics — This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproach upon any — It acts not the pharisee. The change it contemplates would come gently as the dews of heaven, not rending or wrecking anything — Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as, in the providence of God, it is now your high previlege [sic] to do — May the vast future not have to lament that you have neglected it.”

August 28, 1833 – Slavery Abolition Act of British Parliament Given Royal Assent

The “Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted Slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Services of such Slaves” was given assent by the British Royalty on this day in history, and came into force the following August 1, 1834.

By this act, more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa as well as a small number in Canada were freed. The Act specifically excluded, however, territories in the possession of the East India Company, or the Islands of Ceylon [Sri Lanka] and Saint Helena.

A bronze sculpture representing an African couple and their child in Rock Hall Freedom Village in Barbados. CreditGina Francesca for The New York Times

Because the act made Canada a free territory, thousands of fugitive American slaves headed for Canada. A PBS online history reports that some thirty thousand (a conservative estimate) reached Canada between 1800 and 1860.

In 1998, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was repealed. Slavery was still illegal of course but the prohibition was incorporated into the Human Rights Act of 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights both of which prohibit the holding of any person as a slave.

You can read the full text of the 1833 act here.