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Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

Steam at Harper’s Ferry has 5 editions of The National Intelligencer newpaper dating from April 10 through April 22, 1823. They are all addressed to “E.D. Howe Painesville via Pittsburg.”  This newspaper was a leading political publication and was founded in Washington, DC in 1800. The founder, Samuel Harrison Smith was married to Margaret Bayard Smith who wrote the book “The First Forty Years of Washington Society.”

E. D. (Eber Dudley) Howe was the founder and editor of the Painesville Telegraph which was published and edited by him in Painesville, Ohio from 1822 to 1835. The paper continued its publication until 1987. While living in Painesville, his wife, sister and niece converted to Mormonism. Howe became interested in the religion’s history, which was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the 1820s. His interest resulted in the 1834 publication of a book entitled “Mormonism Unvailed” (sic).

Howe was an abolitionist and his home was used as a station for the Underground Railroad. His wife was one of the first women in the region to join the anti-slavery movement.

Though it is most likely that Howe read the newspaper because of its political content, he may have been just as interested in the slave sales advertised within its pages. On the front page, for example, there is an advertisement for

“A NEGRO WOMAN, about 25 years of age. She is a good cook, washer, and ironer and can be recommended as strictly honest. Apply at the new City Auction and Commission Rooms, corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania avenue, Opposite the Centre Market. , P. Mauro, auctioneer.”

On the same page is an article about Major General La Fayette,:

“The President of the United States, in commemoration of the distinguished services of Major General La Fayette, during the Revolutionary War, has directed that the fortress recently erected at the Narrows, near New York, an hitherto called Fort Diamond, shall hereafter be known by the name of Fort La Fayette[Note:  Fort La Fayette was used for Confederate prisoners from 1861 – 1866]. The ceremony in conformity thereto, took place on Monday last, at 1 o’clock, P. M.”

[Fort Lafayette.]

Fort La Fayette was used for Confederate prisoners from 1861 – 1866.

Promoting revolution and slavery in the nation’s capital circa 1823.

These newspapers and others are available for purchase from Steam at Harper’s Ferry. Please contact us for prices and shipping fees.

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Another reason to love historical fiction!

The first work I read by Joyce Carol Oates was “The Poisoned Kiss and Other Stories from the Portuguese“. Then I read her Gothic novels, “Bellefleur,” “A Bloodsmore Romance,” and  “The Mysteries of Winterthurn.” I took a break from her work for a very long time, and recently picked up “The Accursed” which lead me to my post on Woodrow Wilson, who was a character in this story during the time when he was president of Princeton University (1902 – 1920).

This week, I finished reading the second book from an additional favorite  author, Lyndsay Faye, “Seven for a Secret,” the second of the Timothy Wilde series, the first being “Gods of Gotham“, both of which take place in 1840s New York.

Timothy Wilde, a “copper star,” learned about a particularly vile form of law enforcement, “blackbirders” who kidnapped free northern blacks and sold them into slavery. The book contains several quotes and, not surprisingly, quotes from “Twelve Years a Slave, Narrative of Solomon Northrup, a Citizen of New York, Kidnapped in Washington City and Rescued in 1853 from a Cotton Plantation near the Red River in Louisiana” which won a Golden Globe Award for Best Picture  – Drama and  has been nominated for nine Academy Awards.

A quote that Ms. Faye included in her book was one that struck me particularly. Here is the complete paragraph from pages 206 & 207 of the Narrative:

“There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones—there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as it is, or as it is not—may expatiate with owlish gravity upon the bliss of ignorance—discourse flippantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life; but let them toil with him in the field—sleep with him in the cabin—feed with him on husks; let them behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and they will come back with another story in their mouths. Let them know the heart of the poor slave—learn his secret thoughts—thoughts he dare not utter in the hearing of the white man; let them sit by him in the silent watches of the night—converse  in trustful confidence, of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and they will find that ninety-nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to understand their situation, and to cherish in their bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as themselves.” [emphasis added.]

This Narrative was published in 1853, one year after the publication of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,  or Life Among the Lowly.” Theodore Weld wrote “American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of A Thousand Witnesses” and it was published in 1839.  I can’t help but think that Solomon Northrup was directing this comment toward Harriet Beecher Stowe and Theodore Weld followers. These two authors fell from different branches on the abolitionist tree. Harriett Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist along the lines of gradual emancipation and “returning” the slaves to Africa, otherwise known as colonization. Theodore Weld, who attended Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father, Lyman Beecher’s school, the Lane Theological Seminary School located in Cincinnati, Ohio, was of the immediate emancipation branch. Weld broke away from the school in 1834 when the school’s trustees prohibited the discussion of slavery, and Weld held debates anyway for 14 days in February 1834, while Lyman Beecher was out of town. When Weld was kicked out of Lane, he took the financial backing of the Tappan brothers. Lewis and Arthur, with him to Oberlin College.

In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act, part of the Compromise Act, was passed to strengthen the existing Fugitive Slave Act of 1783, which was also passed to enforce Article 4, Clause 3  of the United States, which stated:

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

This was the foundation upon which fugitive slaves were to be returned to their owners. Article 4 on the whole is fundamentally an article outlining the relationship between the states and the federal government. On the up side, it requires the states to recognize the laws of public acts, records and court proceedings of other states. This article is extremely important to civil rights in the United States, starting with slavery, to inter-racial marriage, violence against women and same-sex marriage.

Harriet Beecher Stowe often stated that it was the Fugitive Slave Act which compelled her to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that the federal government used slave labor (and was sometimes sued for non-payment for services), so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that congressional representatives at the time would, more likely than not, reflect the sentiments of that government. In the newspaper, Radical Abolitionist, dated July 1856, Dr. James C. Jackson, of Glen Haven, NY said:

What new thing is it with us, that a man like Charles Sumner is knocked down?

And if you don’t recall, Charles Sumner was nearly killed on the  Senate floor two days after giving his speech, The Crime Against Kansas: The Apologies for the Crime; The True Remedy, in May 1856, the same month John Brown and his volunteers killed five men associated with the pro-slavery Law and Order Party  in Pottawatomie, Kansas. So much for the other parts of the Constitution – the Second Amendment.

It was in this same  publication that the Radical Abolitionists nominated Gerrit Smith (one of John Brown’s Secret Six) for President of the United States. It was also reported that at the Republican Convention, Mr. Lincoln of Illinois received 110 votes for Vice President, second to Mr. William Dayton of New Jersey who received 259 votes in the informal ballot.

Dr. Beriah  Green, a close associate of Gerrit Smith, who made a speech at the Radical Abolitionist convention,  made what I think sums up the federal government’s complicity in slavery correctly.

It has been affirmed, more than once, by names making a prominent figure in the sphere of politics, and enjoying a large amount of the general confidence, that slavery, from the very commencement of our political history, has been especially,  prominently, and constantly, a cherished and petted  “institution” of what bears the name of Government.  … The thing has not only been endured by the Government – it has not only been cherished by the Government, but it has been regarded as pre-eminently, controllingly, the object to which, in the measures they might devise, they have been devoted. … I know it  is claimed that the people at large are deceived and devoted to freedom ; … There will always be found a striking correspondence between those who grant office and those who hold office. We have therefore to refer this to a majority of those who wield power in this republic. …. If we look a little more earnestly, we shall be constrained to admit, that slavery without us, has its origin in slavery within us. A man will give expression to his own appropriate character. What he may be, within himself, he will be … in the objects he may pursue. … The fetters, the chains and the whips – whatever belongs to slavery, as it presents itself to they eye, has its origin within the depths of the human spirit.

Readers are reminded that the Republican Party platform at the time did not propose the suppression of the slave trade between the states, it did not propose the prohibition of slavery in the District of Columbia (which was, and continues to be, in many ways, under the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress), and failed to propose a repeal of the Fugitive Slave bill.

Frederick Douglass was present at the convention and was reported to have made two speeches. The second one was directed at the Republican Party attendees who sympathized with the abolitionist cause:

You are called Black Republicans. What right have you to that name? Among all the Candidates you have selected, or talked of, I have not seen or heard of a single black one. (Laughter.) Nor have I seen one mentioned with any prospect of success, who is friendly to the black man in his sympathies, or an advocate for the restoration of is rights. … And then there is the man who was struck down in the Senate; and he is the man you would be  first to elevate, if acting on the tactics of Napoleon. … If you want to give us an example of your Black Republicanism – of your determination to resist and defy the Slave power, take Charles Sumner, and make him master at Washington.

to be continued …

The Radical Abolitionist, July 1856, Volume I, Number 12, edited by William Goodell, is available for purchase at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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Steam at Harper’s Ferry prides itself in its original newspaper collection, which includes titles such as Scientific American, Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated and The New York Herald. Perhaps some will appeal to historians you know as you consider Christmas gifts! Here are some samples.

Harper’s WEEKLY, New York, November 26, 1859 (only 1)

Frontpage illustrations from Wilkie Collins’ “The Woman in White.”  Interior and backpage sketches by Porte Crayon about the “late outbreak.” Doublepage centerfold illustrations “Fall Games” being “The Elephant” and “The Apple-bee” The issue is complete in 16 pages, in good condition, containing additional illustrations and text.

En Route to Harpers Ferry Nov 26 1859

$41.95 plus shipping and handling.

Frank Leslie’s ILLUSTRATED Newspaper, December 17, 1864 (only 1)

Frontpage full-page illustration of Consecration of the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Philadelphia. Doublepage centerfold illustrations “The Hotels of New York City that were set on Fire by Rebel Incendiaries on the Evening of November 25.” Including the Tamany Hotel, Barnum’s American Museum, Lovejoy’s Hotel, St. Nicholas Hotel. The issue is complete in 16 pages, in good condition (some earmarks), containing additional illustrations and text.

 

$31.95 plus shipping and handling

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View from Hill Top House April 2013

View from Hill Top House April 2013

On the Occasion of West Virginia’s Sesquicentennial

West Virginia is nothing if not a dual-natured state. On one hand, it was during the “War between the States” that a dedicated, wily few decided to finally wrest unsuspecting Eastern Panhandle slavery-leaning counties from the Old Dominion by hook or by crook to secure the railroads heading west and form a new free-leaning state. On the other, it is the state where, in 1898, an African American attorney, J.R. Clifford, successfully argued before the West Virginia Supreme Court on behalf of an African American teacher,  Carrie Williams, that racial discrimination was illegal – the first such ruling in United States’ history.

There are bucolic pastures and leisurely flowing rivers along with sharply descending and precipitous cliffs. Even its name, “West Virginia” is somewhat duplicitous. The word “west” suggests a forward thinking state, yet its name retains the colonial heritage of Virginia.

The state’s motto “Montani semper liberi” or “Mountaineers Are Always Free” could also indicate duel meaning. Upon the state’s formation, were mountaineers free from something or free to do something?  I prefer the latter. You may fight to become free from something, yet find yourself in a predicament you didn’t anticipate. Aspiring to be free to do something opens up possibilities. That aspiration, the dream to do something other than what had come before, to break with comfortable traditions and a way of life, the jump into the future in the midst of a civil war, speaks volumes about the state.

From my front porch I can hear those lonesome trains, and reflect upon what they represent. A state cut within and from the mountains, forging a future for itself that is still being realized. Many made sacrifices for the state – the price for which is lost in the mists of time. One only needs to take a deep breath in the mountain air, in that mist, to be fortified by the little known, and the renowned, who leapt feet first onto a path of their own choosing in hopes of building a new life for themselves as well as everyone else who has come to call West Virginia home.

Steam at Harper’s Ferry is selling paper and fabric commemorative flags. See this and other celebratory memories here.

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It was recently brought to my attention that there is a 150th anniversary of something around here – and  not just the Civil War! Was it the establishment of Harper’s Ferry? No. John Brown’s Raid? No.

It is the 150th anniversary of the formation of West Virginia! It was the only state created during the Civil War and its creation may not have been but for the War which exacerbated Virginia’s already difficult governance of the region.

There are quite a few websites dedicated to the 150th Anniversary of West Virginia and they are generally very good. There is even a website featuring our own Chief Historian Dennis Frye discussing, of course, Harper’s Ferry and the Eastern Panhandle!

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History has a website entitled: “Child of the Rebellion: An Archives and History Sesquicentennial Project.” Here you can find:

  1. Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
  2. Biographies of Statehood Leaders
  3. Biographies of Members of the First West Virginia Legislature Biographies of Western
  4. Virginia Delegates to the Richmond Convention
  5. West Virginia and the Civil War: Annotated Bibliography
  6. Timeline Trivia Question
  7. Sesquicentennial Moments
  8. West Virginia Union Militia Letters
  9. Civil War and Statehood Photographs
  10. “Military Events in West Virginia During the Civil War, 1861-1865,” by Allen W. Jones
  11. List, African American Soldiers from West Virginia
  12. List, Recruiting Officers in West Virginia
  13. Reminiscences, by T.B.A. David, 1908
  14. Election Precincts in West Virginia Counties

What a  wonderful resource!

 

 


					

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John Brown Wax Museum

April 2012 Art Walk participant, the John Brown Wax Museum, is offering a special.

This November is 2 for the Price of 1 Days at the John Brown Wax Museum!

Download From the Following Coupon Link:


Print and Bring it With You to the Museum Between Nov. 1 – Nov. 30
Details on the coupon!


Harpers Ferry Historic Town Foundation*

On November 9, 2012 at 7 pm, there will be an annual business meeting. Foundation Members and interested parties are all invited to attend.The meeting is open to the public. Please contact the Foundation for further information.

Art Show and Sale – Potomac River Artists Guild**

Gadgets, Guns and Gears artist, Sue Parker, will be exhibiting at this event being held from November 9 – 12, 2012. For further information, click here.


Harpers Ferry Civil War Roundtable**

DATE:               Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
TIME:               Dinner 7:00 PM; Program 8:00
PLACE:             Camp Hill Methodist Church, Harpers Ferry, WV
SPEAKER:        James Rosebrock
SUBJECT:         From West Point to Antietam

The Speaker:  James Rosebrock was born in Buffalo, New York. He received his  undergraduate history degree from Niagara University in 1976 and was commissioned in  the U.S. Army after graduation.  While on active duty, he served in the United States  and Germany. Among his assignments was command of a company in the 82nd  Airborne Division.  He is a graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College,  and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.  He is a National Park Service certified Antietam Battlefield Guide and  has been chief of the guide service since 2011.

The Subject: This is the story of the 205 West Point graduates who served in the  Union and Confederate armies during the Maryland Campaign. The Civil War is the only  one in history where the major antagonists were students together at West Point. They  run from Joseph Mansfield, a graduate of the Class of 1822, who was mortally wounded at Antietam, to young Peter Hains of the Class of 1861, who commanded an  artillery battery at the Middle Bridge and would go on to serve well into the  20th century, finally retiring at the close of the first World War.

The Meal:  A family-style meal will be served at 7:00 PM prior to the program. The  cost of the meal is $15.00 per person. Reservations for the meal must be phoned in no  later than Sunday, November 11th, to Kyle Wichtendahl at 301-639-8855, or you can  email him at   kfwichtendahl@gmail.com. The meal will consist of: Sliced Roast Pork,  Mashed Potatoes, Gravy,Sauerkraut, Iced Tea, Coffee, Rolls, Butter, & Dessert

The Old Opera House Annual Auction and Dinner

Steam at Harper’s Ferry has a special place in its heart for theater. We donated a woodblock print entitled “Silhouette of a Girl” – so please bid on it!

Going Once, Going Twice– SOLD

What:     The Old Opera House’s Annual Auction and Dinner
When:     Saturday evening, November 17, 2012,starti ng at 5:30 pm – dinner at 7:00 pm
Where:     Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Shepherdstown The Old Opera House built in 1911 is located in Charles Town and is West Virginia’s oldest theatre and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Every autumn the Old Opera House hosts the Annual Auction which provides a significant portion of our operating revenue.  Funds from this effort help to defray the cost of royalties, costumes, sets and otherexpenses associated with mounting stage productions, as well as the cost of maintaining the 1911 historic opera house. This year the Annual Autumn Auction and Dinner is being held on Saturday evening, November 17.

This annual event is the ideal way to kick off the holiday season and to support the work of the Old Opera House.If you are looking for a special gift, want to finish or start your holiday shopping, or just love a great bargain, this auction is theplace to be. Fine arts, antiques, gift certificates, collectibles, furniture, and a variety of other items will be available. Tickets are only $45.00 per person for an evening that includes a  delicious buffet dinner, cash bar and loads of fun.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and can be purchased through the Old Opera House box-office at (304) 725-4420 or from any OOH Board member listed on the OOH website http://www.oldoperahouse.org

Don’t hesitate … get your tickets now!

We are currently accepting donations of goods and/or services for the silent or live auction and there are still sponsorship opportunities available.

If you happen to be moving or know someonewho is moving, this can be the perfect time to donate. For more information,please do not hesitate to contact Steven Brewer at the Old Opera House officeat (304) 725-4420 or Ray Bolyard at (304) 728-7418.

*Courtesy of Harpers Ferry Historic Town Foundation
* *Courtesy of Curt Mason, Jefferson County Historical Society

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When: Friday, August 17, 6 – 8 pm
What: Birthday Party to commemorate the 200th birthday of Charles Town native 
son Martin Robison Delany.
RAIN OR SHINE
In honor of Dr. Delany’s interest in health, there will be hula hoop demonstrations, 
Zumba classes, African infused tap and free jump ropes will be available. People of 
all ages are invited to join in!
Where: Downtown Charles Town, 124 E. Washington Street, across the street from the 
Charles Town Library.
 
When:  Fri Aug 17, 2012 to Sun Aug 19, 2012
What:  African-American Culture and Heritage Festival. The festival is being 
dedicated in honor to Delany. Descendants are invited to participate in the 
annual parade that will take place on Saturday at 12 noon which take place 
down the main street in Charles Town. Educational, health, vendors, food, 
festive and other activities will take place at the festival ground located at 
301 South Lawrence St. Charles Town.
Where: Festival Grounds Charles Town, WV

When: Sat Aug 18, 2012 to Sun Aug 19, 2012
What:  Cannon firing demonstrations Sat 11 am, 1, 3 pm and Sun 11 am, 1 pm 
Learn about Civil War artillery and the important role it played in the Battle 
of South Mountain.
Where:  Gathland State Park Burkittsville, MD

When:  Sat Aug 18, 2012 to Sun Aug 19, 2012 *11 am - 4 pm*
What:  Bringing In the Harvest: 19th Century Summer Foods <http://www.nps.gov/hafe>
Join 19th-century Historic Foodways Expert Carol Anderson for this in depth look 
at how summer time harvest foods were preserved for winter consumption.  Demonstrations 
include, pickling, drying, potting, and canning.
Where:  Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Harpers Ferry, WV

When: Sun Aug 19, 2012 *8 am*
What:  1906 Niagara Movement Commemorative Pilgrimage to John Brown’sFort <http://www.nps.gov/hafe>
Retrace the 1906 footsteps of the men and women of Niagara during this commemorative walk to the site of the 
John Brown’s Fort in 1906. A 10:00 a.m. memorial service will follow at the Curtis Freewill Baptist Church 
Where:  Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Murphy Farm & Curtis Freewill Baptist Church Harpers Ferry, WV
If you come into the Lower Town, be sure to check out the African American 
Exhibits. The articles below were copied from the Afro-American newspaper based in Baltimore, MD. The first one is dated July 21, 1906, the second, August 18, 1906 and the third August 25, 1906.

 
 

When:  Sun Aug 19, 2012 to Sat Aug 25, 2012
What:  60th Annual Jefferson County Fair <http://www.jeffersoncountyfairwv.org/>
Where:  Jefferson County Fairgrounds Jefferson Co, WV

 

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When I was younger, I thought I would be a diplomat. When I graduated, I took the Foreign Service exam and later worked for former diplomats who were then consultants. Since I didn’t really know what skills I needed to become a diplomat, and realized quickly that my meagre bachelor’s degree in international affairs was not enough for such a position, I figured I needed to find out what exactly diplomats did and how they were able to achieve their goals. So I paid attention to how they spent their time, what they did with their money, and how they fit in the world.

These diplomats ranged along the political scale from liberal to conservative, yet, they were able to work together and achieve personal and professional success after their service with the government. I learned much from them.

Fast forward to today. At Steam at Harper’s Ferry I have a copy of an original Harper’s Weekly, dated November 26, 1859. There are comic illustrations in the back depicting John Brown holding a rifle and handing a now infamous pike to a black man who apparently wasn’t willing to go with Brown to fight. Another shows two black men discussing the ridiculousness of Brown’s actions by suggesting that Brown was not acquainted with the neighborhood of Harper’s Ferry, implying that blacks were relatively well-off and owned property and therefore didn’t need what Brown was offering. It is true that there were quite a few free blacks in Jefferson County in 1860.

Elsewhere in the paper is an article about Gerrit Smith, one of the soon to be named, Secret Six, and his apparent insanity, a theme which runs throughout narratives about Brown and his supporters.

“Some thirty years ago – then a young man of great promise, bouyant in spirits, and looking at the bright side of all the scenery of life, he was an unsuccesful candidate for the State Senate. That disappointment disturbed the heretofore ‘even tenor of his way,’ and tinged the future of his whole life. … From an ardent Colonizationist, he became an ultra Abolitionist; and his persuasive zeal for Temperance changed to coercive measures in favor of Prohibition. Of his ample fortune, he dispensed in aid of Abolitionism and Temperance with more liberality than wisdom. Both his perverted talents and his misapplied money injured the objects he sought to promote.

Mr. Smith has lived for nearly thirty years in a state of political hallucination. The delusion culminated last year, when, greatly excited, he devoted his time and money to a canvas which he believed was to result in his election as Governor, while every other person in the state knew that he was wasting his strength and means. …

The Harper’s Ferry insurrection was an attempt to carry the teachings of prominent Abolitionists into practical effect. It was foreshadowed in a letter from Mr. Smith to the ‘Jerry Rescuers.’ That he ever really intended slaves should rise, rob, and murder, we do not believe; but in speeches and letters heindulged in language which bears no other construction. Unfortunately, ‘Osawattomie Brown,’ driven to madness by Slavery oppression and outrage, was too ready to carry into practice the principles which others were only reckless enough to teach.”

Then in the very same issue, there is a small article about how important it is to exercise the voting franchise:

” ‘In good old colony times’ there was a law which compelled every body to vote. The recusants were roundly fined – upon principle that a citizen had no more right to be recreant to one social duty than another, and that least of all should he be excused for indifference to the most fundamental of the whole list.

It is very easy to ask, Why should a man vote if he don’t want to? But it is just as easy to ask, Why should he serve on juries, or do military duty, or to be taxed for schools, if he does not want to? And the answer is, that it is a common venture, and the voice of all is necessary for the moral weight and prestige, without which skepicism may endanger success. … Where men work with conscious sympathy, they work with a will, and produce results worth someting; and in a country of popular institutions, in which the welfare of the whole depends upon the proper administration of the government, it is the duty of every man to insist that his neighbor shall not shirk his share of the responsibility.

If a man have no opinion about men and measures – if he betray so little interest in the means by which personal liberty is secured and the ends of the government fulfilled – as to pride himself upon knowing nothing about the matter, then he is just the person to be bribed by interest or prejudice, and is so much bad material in the State.

An actual compulsory law to vote would be rather despotic, and the object sought might better be achieved in another way. But every young man in the country ought to understand that there is nothing more ludicrous and contemptible than the idea that it is ‘gentlemanly’ not to use the rights and fulfill the duties of a free man.”

Gerrit Smith must have been insane, for in 1846, he called upon his friends to help him identify poor people to whom he could give away about 3,000 acres of land. He chose specifically amongst the poor to give the land to poor blacks because:

I could not put a bounty on color. I shrank from the least appearance of doing so: and if I know my heart, it was equally compassionate toward such white and black men as are equal sufferers. In the end, however, I concluded to confine my gifts to colored people. I had not come to this conclusion had the land I have to give away been several times as much as it is. I had not come to it, were not the colored people the poorest of the poor, and the most deeply wronged class of our citizens. That they are so, is evident, if only from the fact, that the cruel, killing, heaven-defying prejudice of which they are the victims, has closed against them the avenues to riches and respectability—to happiness and usefulness. That they are so, is also evident from the fact, that, whilst white men in this State, however destitute of property, are allowed to vote for Civil Rulers, every colored man in it, who does not own landed estate to the value of two hundred and fifty dollars, is excluded from the exercise of this natural and indispensably protective right. I confess, that this mean and wicked exclusion has had no little effect in producing my preference, in this case. I confess, too, that I was influenced by the consideration, that there is great encouragement to improve the condition of our free colored brethren, because that every improvement in it contributes to loosen the bands of the enslaved portion of their outraged and afflicted race.

What is the connection? If you pay attention to what is important by those who have some measure of power, or in my example, have positions you want to attain, purposes reveal themselves.

In 2012, there are voter identification laws winding their way through the country. By some counts, more than 30 states are introducing such legislation.

Let’s look at the spending. Another indication of how important voting is. No one would put up the kind of money being spent if that person did not take seriously that he or she had an obligation to “use the rights and fulfill the duties of a free man” or woman.

In 1859, perhaps the editors didn’t see the irony in this single edition of their newspaper. On one hand, ardent, fevrent advocacy supporting a man’s duty to vote, and on the other the apparent lunacy of those among them who were working to secure for others the same opportunity.

During my undergraduate days, I read both Ayn Rand and W.E.B. du Bois. At the time, I didn’t find it strange.

Ayn Rand (thanks to workingminds.com):  “The right to vote is a consequence, not a primary cause, of a free social system – and its value depends on the constitutional structure implementing and strictly delimiting the voters’ power; unlimited majority rule is an instance of the principle of tyranny.”

W.E.B. du Bois at Harper’s Ferry, August 1906:  “First, we would vote; with the right to vote goes everything: Freedom, manhood, the honor of your wives, the chastity of your daughters, the right to work, and the chance to rise, and let no man listen to those who deny this. We want full manhood suffrage, and we want it now, henceforth and forever.”

Wherever you fall on the political spectrum with regard to voter identification issues, it is pretty clear that those currently in a position to make decisions about the country’s future are spending a lot of money to get your votes and some are working to change existing voting laws.

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

The November 26, 1859 issue of Harper’s Weekly is available for sale at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.

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I love warm rainy days in Harper’s Ferry. Maybe because folks are hesitant to go back into the elements, they are willing to chat more about why they are visiting Harper’s Ferry on a particular day.

Today was such a day. I spoke to no fewer than three couples and a few individuals who were here commemorating an honeymoon, engagement or birthday here in Harper’s Ferry.

And we talked about Hill Top House.

On another hilltop, near Lake Placid, New York, lies John Brown’s grave.

On this day, July 21, 1896, three things happened at this site:

1.  Raising of the United States flag presented by State Excise Commissioner Lyman;

2.  The unveiling of a monument erected by the John Brown Association; and

3.  The formal acceptance by the State of the John Brown farm of 245 acres, recently deeded to New York by the association.

New York Herald Tribune 1896 JUL 22

Do you have any memories to share?

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This weekend is the Mountain Heritage Festival – June edition. I went today to get my twice a year kettle corn and check out the new vendors. I was pleasantly surprised with the new additions and would recommend checking it out. What are your thoughts on the new logo for the Festival? I was looking for the Mountain Man dollar off advertisements in the local newspapers – and he wasn’t there! Mountain Man can be seen wielding his hammer in the parking lot, thank goodness.

Earlier this evening (June 8), I attended a book signing with local historian and author Bob O’Connor at the Bolivar-Harper’s Ferry Public Library. I visited Winchester, Virginia for the first time on Wednesday, which was fortunate for me so that I could better understand some of the episodes Mr. O’Connor discussed during his presentation about his newest book, “A House Divided Against Itself”.

Steam at Harper’s Ferry will be having a new exhibit opening at the end of June – Gadgets, Guns & Gears. Looking forward to this one! Some really nice work has come our way.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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