Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.
Jacksonian Miscellanies is a weekly (biweekly in the summer) email newsletter which presents short (typically chapter-length) documents from the United States' Jacksonian Era, with a minimum of commentary. Anyone can receive it for free by sending to email@example.com a message with
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Jacksonian Miscellanies can also be read at http://www.panix.com/~hal/jmisc. The WWW version is augmented with much biographical, bibliographical, and other information.
Please direct responses to email@example.com, even though you may receive Jacksonian Miscellanies by way of a mailing list. That way I am more certain to read them, and perhaps, with your permission, post useful excerpts in a later issue.
NOTE: Jacksonian Miscellanies will be bi-weekly until the end of summer. It will be weekly again starting in September.
Due to many schedule disruptions, I am making this and the next issue consist of a collection of excerpts from past issues.
I hope it is useful as a set of "highlights", or to serve as a guide to the archived back issues on the web page (http://www.panix.com/~/hal/jmisc, as noted above).
Issue #1: January 14, 1997 (God in New England: From Terror of the Innately Depraved to Kind Father).
A particularly Calvinistic hymn from Samuel M. Worcester's Watts and Select (1834), emphasizing human "vileness":
Lord I am vile, conceiv'd in sin
and born unholy and unclean;
sprung from the man, whose guilty fall
Corrupts the race, and taints us all.
Soon as we draw our infant breath,
The seeds of sin grow up for death;
Thy law demands a perfect heart,
But we're defil'd in every part.
is contrasted with a hymn, or poem, by an early Harvard Unitarian theologian, placing man amidst the sweetness of nature, under the eye of a kind God, with no hint of self-abasement.
While nature welcomes in the day,
My heart its earliest vows would pay
To him whose care hath kindly kept
My life from danger while I slept.
His genial rays the sun renews;
How bright the scene with glittering dews!
The blushing flowers more beauteous bloom,
And breathe more rich their sweet perfume.
Issue #2: January 21, 1997 (New York Reminiscences)
Selections from chapters 12 and 13 of:
(Harper & Brothers 1896), giving a first-hand account of the years 1828-1831 (the entire book is online at http://www.panix.com/~hal/octo/octo-toc.htm)
Issue #3: January 28, 1997 (Words are Deeds)
A riff on words and action in the decade around 1830:
Issue #4: February 4, 1997 (School Days)
On the elementary schools in Massachusetts, about 1826:
This is the only service, in which we venture to employ young, and often, ignorant persons, without some previous instruction in their appropriate duties. ... We would not buy a coat or a hat of one, who should undertake to make them without a previous apprenticeship. Nor would anyone have the hardihood to offer to us the result of his first essay in manufacturing either of these articles. ... Yet we commit our children to be educated to those, who know nothing, absolutely nothing, of the complicated and difficult duties assigned to them.
On college life at Amherst
A fresh admission of students takes place in the autumn of each year, consisting ordinarily of young men, from twenty years of age, down to thirteen. These students are united into one class, and commence one course of study, which extends through a period of four years. ...
In every class there is a large number of youthful members, whose parents'
situation in life is such, that they have been the objects of constant
attention from infancy, and have accordingly been early fitted for college,
and sent to the institution before their minds are sufficiently matured,
... Others are older and more mature. Many of these have prepared themselves
for college by their own exertions, and have entered under the influence
of strong desires to avail themselves of its privileges...
Issue #5: February 11, 1997 (A Southern Tariff-Nullifier Appeals to Western "Brothers in Affliction")
Highlights of a speech by Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, before the U.S. Senate. Thomas Hart Benton has accused the northeast of a heartless policy towards the west. Hayne's speech reflects an attempt to forge an alliance between south and west, in opposition to the urban industrializing northeast.
The west is divided. Some, like Benton, distrust economic innovations (like paper money), and active central government. Others see a need for an active agency to draw the nation closer together, so that the west's enormous resources can be traded for goods produced in the east; lack of interstate transportation is the principle impediment to this goal.
Issue #6: February 18, 1997 (Mississippi River Traffic, and "Boom and Bust" in 1836-7)
In the absence of other objects to attract his attention, the traveller can often find amusement in sitting on the guards and observing the varied character of the gorgeous old forests through which he is moving. A tree as hoary as time, its huge limbs gnarled and twisted into gigantic knots, its branches (themselves huge trunks in size) flinging their scathed and rugged forms into the air, will sometimes attract his eye, and if he is at all romantic, or a poet, or a sober lover of nature, will delight him and give him food for study, poetry or meditation. How many stories of past centuries may such an old forestking relate!
" Say, Druid Oak, canst thou the Story tell ?"
There is a young lady on board, intellectual, romantic and a beauty,
who is ready to go crazy with delight when an old tree, uglier, more gnarled
and more picturesque than another, happens to meet her eye: "Oh! what
a delightful good old patriarch for a foreground. See how that stern savage
monarch flings his arms to the sky, as if in defiance! What majesty in
the spread of those limbs; and how gracefully the grey coat of its huge
trunk is relieved by the folds of that grapevine!"
We have just passed several flatboats tied to the shore; the backwater of our paddles made a great commotion among them, and as usual, our deck hands began to laugh at them and they to shout back. "Hand that steamboat here" shouted a flatboatman in a red shirt and blue linseywolsey trowsers, " and I'll take it home for the old woman to make tea in.', "Hand me that handspike shouted a little squat fellow with red hair," and I'll pick my teeth with it. "Stop that boat and let me light my pipe." "Shovel away them niggers, pitch it in," yelled another to the firemen, "or the gentlemen passengers will go without supper." "Let off your steam or you'll all go to the Dickins together." "Shut up that flatboat and I'll give a pic' for it to keep my bacco' in," roared another. When we got too far off for words to be distinguished, the belligerents began to yell, shout, clap their hands, and make all sorts of hideous and unearthly noises; as the increasing distance rendered these indistinct, a pistol was fired in bravado from one of the flatboats and immediately answered by the sharp crack of a rifle from the forward part of our steamer, and then hostilities ceased.
Issue #7: February 25, 1997 (Veneration of Washington)
Excerpt # 1:
PREFACE (from a little book printed in 1844):
"The following anecdotes were principally selected by a youth of twelve years of age. Having had constant access to a library well supplied with books on History and Biography, he early acquired a taste for reading such works; and the present small volume is one of the results of such an attention to this species of literature. The selection was made at intervals between hours of devotion to elementary and classical study; and may hence be viewed as having been rather an amusement, than a labor of painful toil and research.
"... Potts [a Quaker in the vicinity of Valley Forge during the
winter of trials] now stopped, and soon perceived Gen. Washington, the
commander of the American army, returning from bending before the God of
Potts was a pious man, and no sooner had he reached his home, than he
broke forth to his wife
" All's well !-all's well! Yes-George Washington is sure to beat
the British- sure!"
"What's the matter with thee, Isaac?" replied the startled
Sarah. " Thee seems to be much moved about something."
" Well! what if I am moved? Who would not be moved at such a sight
as I have seen today?"
" And what hast thou seen, Isaac ?"
" Seen! I've seen a man at prayer !-in the woods !-George Washington himself! And now I say-just what I said before-All's well ! George Washington is sure to beat the British ! sure !"
Excerpt # 2:
The following is from The Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster ed. Edwin P. Whipple, Boston, Little Brown and Company 1910.
THE CHARACTER OF WASHINGTON.
SPEECH DELIVERED AT A PUBLIC DINNER IN THE CITY OF WASHINGTON
ON THE 22D OF FEBRUARY, 1832, THE CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY OF WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY.
I RISE, Gentlemen, to propose to you the name of that great man, in commemoration of whose birth, and in honor of whose character and services, we are here assembled.
I am sure that I express a sentiment common to every one present, when I say that there is something more than ordinarily solemn and affecting in this occasion.
We perform this grateful duty, Gentlemen, at the expiration of a hundred years from his birth, near the place, so cherished and beloved by him, where his dust now reposes, and in the capital which bears his own immortal name.
Issue # 8: March 4, 1997 (From the Roanoke to the Cumberland; Reuben Ross and Family Go West)
Other emigrant families soon joined us... Among these families was that
of a man named Long, with his wife and three or four children. .. . We
soon learned they were Methodists, a kind of people we young Predestinarians
knew but little about.
The first night we encamped together the Long children joined us in
our plays; and after things began to grow a little dull the oldest daughter,
a lively girl ten or twelve years old, proposed that we should have a campmeeting,
and all get happy. Then she began to sing a lively song, in which her little
sisters joined her, clapping their hands, shouting "glory! glory!"
and swaying their little bodies backward and forward in a way that astonished
the rest of us greatly. Their parents did not seem to think this at all
improper; but ours looked grave and shook their heads, thinking it a kind
One evening the little Long girl and another got up a discussion about
religion, in which the former remarked that her papa said everybody had
a spark of grace in his soul, which, if he would blow and fan it, would
kindle into a bright flame, and make him a good Christian. To this it was
replied, "If one was not of the elect he might blow and fan a long
time, before he would see any bright flame make its appearance." This
subject was discussed more or less frequently for several days, among the
larger children and indicated the hardshell and soft shell elements
After journeying with us for several days, the Longs took another road and left us, very much to our regret. We missed the campmeetings and songs, especially at night, after they were gone. I do not remember where they were to settle, if I ever heard.
* * *
After the pass had been reconnoitered the ascent began. A wagon was
lightened by having a part of its load taken out. Then as much team, from
other wagons, added to it as could be conveniently managed. After which,
one man would be placed at each wheel to assist in turning it, and two
behind it, each with a large stone in his hand. It was the business of
the scotchers, as they were called, to save every inch of ground in the
ascent, by placing their stones, or scotchers, behind the wheels, to prevent
the wagon from rolling back and dragging the team after it.
All things being ready, the driver would throw himself into the saddle,
crack his whip, yell at the horses, in which he would be joined by others,
and if your grandfather were not too near, perhaps some bad words would
be heard after a hard pull, the driver would ascend probably eight or ten
yards, and then make his team stop just as he perceived they were about
to do so themselves. The scotchers quickly placed their stones behind the
wheels, to save all the ground gained. Then resting a minute, the word
would be given again and a similar feat performed. In this way all the
wagons finally reached the summit of the mountain, and a shout of triumph
was heard by those below.
While this was going on the boys had a sort of sideshow which made them nearly frantic with delight. They persuaded a stout lad to play wagon for them. He got down on allfours, with a string around his neck, which was held by another boy, whip in hand, and scotchers were behind with stones to prevent his rolling back; in this way they carried him up the mountain too. They enjoyed every part of the show in a high degree; but when the boy would balk, as he sometimes did, and kick up his hind legs like a horse, the mountain fairly echoed with their yells of delight.
Issue #9: March 11, 1997 (Calvinism in Frontier Tennessee and Kentucky)
It was customary in those times for the preachers while arguing their
points to call on a brother, or sister even, to say if what they affirmed
was not true. They would do so many times during a sermon after becoming
heated by the argument, and the brother appealed to would sanction with
great energy. After piling text upon text, and argument upon argument,
and making his position seemingly impregnable, he would say:
"Tell me now, Brother Todevine, is not this doctrine true ?"
"Yes, Brother Moore, it is true, and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it."
"Sister Owens, is this doctrine true?"
"Yes, brother, and bless the Lord for it."
"And yet," he would continue," there are men in the world,
and not a few of them either, who deny the truth of this glorious doctrine
of election that has made glad the hearts of God's people for thousands
of years. They say, forsooth, it is partial and unjust, and does not give
every one an equal chance to be saved. Now just reflect. We are all miserable
sinners, conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity; and if we had
our just deserts would every one be sent to hell, and that speedily, but
God in his infinite goodness and mercy has condescended to elect and save
a few of us. And instead of adoring his holy name because all are not lost,
they are raising a great clamor because all are not saved. A. has money
and chooses to give B. a part of it. The money is his own and he can use
it as he pleases. But it is no sooner known that he has bestowed a portion
of it on B. than every vagabond in the country denounces him as partial
and unjust, because he does not give him some, too. Who is injured by this?
I would like to know. Some are benefited, but does that defraud any one
else ? One man makes a feast, and invites his friends to come and partake
with him. Those who have not been invited raise a howl as if victuals had
been taken out of their own mouths. Alas! for the folly and presumption
of human beings! It is really past finding out."
"But let me tell you, my friends, what is really the matter. I
am sorry to say it, but the truth is the Almighty don't properly understand
his business. That is clear from the mistakes he is constantly making.
Would it not be a blessed thing if he could have some of our wise men to
assist him? Some that have studied Latin Greek, and Hebrew in the colleges
and high schools, to help him govern the world? Or might it not be better
still as the poet has said to
"Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod; Rejudge his justice;
be the god of God."
Then would follow one of his perorations, or conclusions, which I used to think very fine.
Issue #10: March 18, 1997 (Baptist Preachers on the Early Frontier)
From JM editor's introduction:
The eccentric Elder Todeville kept dressing in the 18th century manner, lived in an isolated cabin, had involved conversations with his horse, and drew affection from his neighbors, who sewed for him or secretly filled up his corncrib. The author, casually racist as always, tells how the elder was on bad terms with "darkies" whom he endeavored to convince that "they ought to be very thankful they had some one to whip them when they needed it".
The writer treats Elder Sugg Fort (quite a name!) less as a "character", but uses him to describe his experience as a young boy, following his father and Elder Fort on the meeting trail. He also respectfully describes Fort's "spiritualizing" preaching style.
Daniel Parker is notable for propagating the "two seed" doctrine,
"which heresy shook the churches of the Old Order to their foundations
long after the Bethel Association had been formed."
It seems that when Elder Parker in reading his Bible found such expressions
as, "Your father, the devil," or "Child of the devil,"
it set him to thinking, as did the falling of that famous apple Sir Isaac
Newton,-which was, in his case, too, attended with important results.
He decided ... that without any figure of speech Satan had a host of lineal descendants in the world. And when we look around us and see how enormously wicked people sometimes become, this fancy of Elder Parker does not seem so absurd after all.
Finally, in the sketch of Elder Garner McConnico, we get the story of a man who at first (back in Virginia) tried to be a preacher; felt humiliated as a failure, and gave it up until he had a sort of rebirth in the wilderness, and was found to have "talents of the first order", and "a voice like a trumpet".
Issue #11: March 25, 1997 (Frances Wright and Nashoba)
Begins with a biographical sketch (the longest piece of my own writing to appear in Jacksonian Miscellanies), from which the following is taken, and then a substantial passage from the 3-part series in the New Harmony Gazette defending Nashoba.
Frances Wright was a British-born radical reformer/adventurer who became an American citizen, and considered the United States her home after 1824.
Wright's childhood was spent in the early days of industrialization, during which the landless poor were also being deprived of the use of common lands, and the French Revolution followed by the Napoleonic wars helped generate a violent reaction against liberal ideas by the party in power, which made the U.S.' Alien and Sedition Laws look very pale by comparison.
In this period, America looked to her like the Promised Land, and as soon as she came of age, in 1818, she sailed for New York.... During these first years in America, she wrote a very successful play, which flattered the American self-image....
Back in England, Frances Wright published Views of Society and Manners in America, which most Americans welcomed as fair and accurate, and which William Fenimore Cooper called "nauseous flattery". She became something of a disciple of the radical-thinking Jeremy Bentham, and then on a visit to France sought out Lafayette, and became his passionate friend for life...
Fanny Wright had always abhored American slavery, though it took her a long time to see just how deeply embedded it was in the nation's life. In late 1825, she decided on a scheme to demonstrate just how the U.S. could extricate itself from the "misfortune" of slavery. She would gather a group of slaves (purchase them, in fact), and with them she would break a tract of virgin land on the Wolf River in the wilds of south-western Tennessee. Meanwhile she would educate them morally and intellectually in preparation for freedom. The slaves, understanding her good intent, would work much harder than slaves normally worked. Out of the procedes their purchase cost would be defrayed, with a nicely growing profit so that the venture could not only continue, but expand rapidly. Others, seeing that this sort of enterprise was more profitable than slavery itself, would copy it, which would lead, before very long to the end of slavery in America.
What happened to Nashoba? It was a well-intended and in some ways ingenious plan, but revealed Wright's problem dealing with or even perceiving human factors, and her lack of grasp of the fragility of human processes.
Issue #12: April 1, 1997 (Hoaxes, Cons, and Shaggy Dog Tales)
from Reminiscences of and Octogenarian (New York 1815-60) by Charles Haswell, which I now have online in its entirity, except for the index and illustrations.
From Ch IV, 1817-18
In November the soidisant Baron von Hoffman, last from St. Thomas, landed in New York, having crossed the North River from Paulus Hook (Jersey City) in a rowboat, and in explanation of his want of a Wardrobe, letters of introduction, etc., he alleged that his trunks were lost in transit on the river.
In July the soidisant Baron von Hoffman, before referred to, essayed, or affected, to stab himself. The operations of this man filled for more than a year so general and so conspicuous a place in the eyes of the public, and in the interest and communications of society, that they are worthy of a reference. Landing upon a pier in the city, without baggage (alleged to have been lost in transit of the river, as before mentioned), he announced himself as Baron von Hoffman, and being accredited and received as such, he soon displayed himself as a gentleman of connections and fortunes. His turnout, a tilbury, with a horse laden with gilded harness, was daily seen in Broadway. As it became indispensably necessary for him to meet the expenses of his establishment, repay borrowed moneys, and retain his position, he paid his addresses to a lady of this city and was well received and welcomed; but, unfortunately for him, a friend of the lady's accidentally discovered in a jeweller's shop on Broadway the rejected corner of a piece of parchment, which, appearing to him to have its inner lines alike to that of a seal he had just seen on a patent of nobility of the baron's, he took possession and compared it, and thus closed the career in this country of one of the most pretentious swindlers that ever appeared here. Much more in connection with this affair might be written, but insomuch as there are relations and descendants of the persons that figured in it, it is proper to omit further mention. The man had been a valet and a courier.
Ch VI (1822)In August of this year ... John C. Symmes first published his theory of the existence of a passage at the North Pole leading to the centre of the earth. The views of Symmes were very severely and also jocosely referred to by all the public prints, and the alleged opening was termed Symmes's Hole.
Ch VII (1823) Tomatoes were about this time first essayed as edibles, for they had been grown in gardens only for the beauty of their fruit, termed "Love apples," or tomatoe figs, universally held to be poisonous It was not until 1826 that I overcame the fear of being poisoned should I have the temerity to eat of them; and for a long period after they were only served stewed, and not canned until very many years after.
Ch VII (1824) January 8, the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, there was a great military ball given at the Park Theatre ... The design was that it should be as exclusive an affair as was practicable. It occurred, however, that a Mr. Oliver, a wellknown barber ... became the happy possessor of a ticket -- how it was not known ... and when the fact was made public, Oliver was offered various sums in excess of the cost of the ticket, but he resolutely refused to part with it. The papers of the city referred to the matter, public curiosity became interested, and on the evening of the ball, every man who was set down from a carriage in front of the Theatre, and was not recognized by some one or more present, was hailed as "That's him!", "There he goes!", etc. Mr. Oliver in the meanwhile quietly and unobservedly walked in from the rear of the Theatre.
Ch VII (1824)It was from a party of young men who were in the habit of meeting at Castle Garden that the "Toe Club" was formed, one of the first social clubs that was organized in New York, the members of which were designated "Toes," and their place of meeting was termed their "Shoe." Subsequently they met at Stoneall's, corner Fulton and Nassau streets.
Issue #13: April 8, 1997 (Frances Wright and Nashoba - Part 2)
This in one of Frances Wright's most radical statements. The first half (of this, part 2) is mostly an attack on the current state of the marriage institution; to excerpt a few passages:
Finally, in the second part, after describing the racial problem in America, she makes the claim (often attributed, incorrectly to abolitionists in general) that "racial amalgamation" is the best way out of the di