MHS Painting Featured in Missouri Classroom
By Anna J. Cook, Reader Services
Last semester, students in Professor Norton Wheeler’s Age of Jefferson and Jackson course at Missouri Southern State University (Joplin, Missouri) read a critical edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Blithedale Romance (1852) alongside nonfiction works such as Sean Wilentz’s The Rise of American Democracy (2006). Hawthorne’s novel draws heavily on his own experience at Brook Farm, a short lived utopian community established in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he lived in 1841. Wheeler observed to me by email:
My students enjoyed the novel, along with documents detailing connections of Hawthorne, George Ripley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and others to the historical Brook Farm. They found the social and cultural history embedded in these texts to be a helpful complement to the political history they had been reading.
To help his students visualize the setting of the novel, Professor Wheeler contacted us to obtain a digital image of one of our two paintings of Brook Farm by Josiah Wollcott, Brook Farm with Rainbow, painted by the artist in 1845 and pictured above (his second rendering can be viewed here).
Wheeler sent us a photograph of his students in class, with the painting hung on the wall (right corner of bulletin board), for us to share with you here at The Beehive.
In addition to Wollcott’s two paintings, the Massachusetts Historical Society holds a collection of Brook Farm records and the papers of founder George Ripley, as well as memoirs, pamphlets, and other materials related to the West Roxbury utopian experiment. We also hold several early editions of The Blithedale Romance, the full text of which can be read online through Project Gutenberg, or downloaded in a variety of formats from the Internet Archive.
| Published: Friday, 15 February, 2013, 8:00 AM
Lincoln’s Early Views on Slavery
By Emilie Haertsch, Publications
Today is President Abraham Lincoln’s 204th birthday. In honor of the occasion, we examine his early, often guarded, views on slavery. In a letter to his close friend Joshua Fry Speed, Lincoln reveals his personal beliefs prior to his presidency and the Civil War.
Speed and Lincoln met in 1837 when they became roommates, living above the store that Speed co-owned in Springfield, Illinois. Both men were from Kentucky, and they worked together to grow the Whig Party in the Springfield area.
Lincoln wrote this letter to Speed on 24 August 1855. At the time, the North and South were reaching a crisis over the issue of slavery in the United States. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois had introduced the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, which proposed allowing the new territories to determine the legality of slavery within their borders by popular sovereignty. This undermined the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and created the potential for an unbalanced relationship between the number of free and slave states.
In reference to his feelings about slavery, Lincoln mentions a river trip he and Speed took in 1841. They encountered a group of slaves on the boat, and it made a lasting impression on Lincoln. He writes:
You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border.
Speed and Lincoln did not agree about the Kansas-Nebraska Bill or slavery in general, but Lincoln felt no qualms about addressing their differing viewpoints. He continues:
It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution of the Union. I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligation to the contrary. If for this you and I must differ, differ we must.
Despite their divergent views, Lincoln signed the letter, “Your friend forever A. Lincoln.” And they did remain friends – even through the divisive Civil War.
Want to learn more about birthday boy Lincoln? Two exhibitions currently on display at the MHS explore his life and work: “Lincoln in Manuscript and Artifact” and “Forever Free: Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation.” In addition, this online gallery features Lincoln-related artifacts from the Society’s collections.
| Published: Tuesday, 12 February, 2013, 1:00 AM
A Blizzard of Memories
By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers
New England winters have often inspired memorable descriptions as the amazing power and beauty of the storms unite. As we remember the Blizzard of ’78, and dig out from Winter Storm Nemo, in March 1820, John Adams wrote to his daughter-in-law, Louisa Catherine Adams, describing the scene he encountered upon waking, following an overnight snowstorm:
If Nature in scattering her bounties had bestowed upon me the genius of a Poet or a Painter I would entertain you with a description of a scene of sublimity, beauty, and novelty, such as eighty four winters never before presented to my sight: when I arose in the morning, the Sun was rising, the heavens were not of Brass but the Sky was a vast concave of clear blue marble and the earth was of burnished silver and the trees bending under the weight of millions of millions of Diamonds. the splendor and glory of the scene was too dazzling for mortal eyes to behold for any long time. A violent rain had descended warm and liquid from a height in the atmosphere into the region below then as cold as Russia, every drop had frozen as it fell, and clung to the trees, and then descending in icicles hung upon every bough and sprig. So much for the bright ride of the picture; now, for the dark side the trees every where bending under the immense load of ice which encumbered them; the trunks in some places splitting; the limbs every where breaking and falling; the elms, the button wood’s, the balm of Gilead’s, stript of many of their branches; the fruit trees, the shrubbery’s, especially the evergreens, very much injured. in short, the havoc and destruction is estimated by many to be greater than in either of the two great storms which have spread such desolation within fifteen years past.
In a letter to his grandson-in-law, John P. De Windt, two days later, Adams summed up the awe-inspiring and sublime moment: “I have seen a Queen of France with eighteen Millions of Livers of diamonds upon her person—and I declare that all the charms of her face and figure added to All the glitter of her jewels did not make an impression upon me equal to that presented by every Shrub—”
While large snowstorms often prove troublesome and destructive, we would do well to, like John Adams, stop for a moment and experience the sheer splendor of nature’s power.
| Published: Saturday, 9 February, 2013, 8:00 AM
"Preeminently a Good Hater": Lucius Manlius Sargent
By Dan Hinchen, Reader Services
The MHS is celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, signed into law 150 years ago last month, through two exhibitions, “Forever Free: Lincoln & the Emancipation Proclamation,” and “Lincoln in Manuscript & Artifact.” While myriad considerations were taken into account during the planning and passage, it is also important to not lose sight of the many people that staunchly opposed the action for an equal number of reasons. Not just the southern slaveholders but also their northern counterparts who worked to justify and maintain institutional slavery, often belittling those against it. It is important to remember this other side of the debate, not to revile them through the polished lens and brilliant clarity of hindsight, but to see how even such a seemingly sensible and morally upright idea can carry such fierce opposition by so many well-educated people.
One such person was Lucius Manlius Sargent, author, antiquary, temperance advocate, and member of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Born in Boston in 1786, the youngest of seven children, Sargent attended Phillips Exeter Academy until 1804 when he moved on to Harvard. At Harvard he produced one of his first publications, No. 1 of the New Milk Cheese, or, The Comi-heroic Thunderclap: a Semi-globular Publication Without Beginning and Without End. Quite a title! This work heaped scorn on a college official for a dispute Sargent had with him about the quality of the food served at the commons table. The backlash prevented Sargent from completing his course at Harvard. Harvard would eventually grant him a degree, in 1842, acknowledging his public services and excusing his earlier behavior.
Sargent studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1811. He never practiced the profession to any extent, though, thanks in part to an inheritance and some conservative speculation. Instead, he turned to literature and published translations of Virgil into English verse, produced a volume of poems, and even penned an ode, “Wreaths for the Chieftain,” sung at the Boston peace celebration in 1815. Later, he took up the temperance banner and produced dozens of writings on the issue, including a series of 21 Temperance Tales created between 1833 and 1843. His writings and speeches on the topic were so vigorous that he became one of the most conspicuous leaders in the fight against liquor.
In the 1850s he leveled his criticism at prominent Bostonians who favored abolition. In August and September 1857 Sargent, writing under the pen name Sigma, sparred with William Lloyd Garrison in a series of newspaper columns. Published in the Boston Transcript, Sargent attacked abolitionist Parker Pillsbury, accusing him of, among other things, baptizing dogs. He also slammed ‘the infidel Garrison’ as a ‘brazen-faced blasphemer and slanderer,’ stating that Garrison was ‘slimy and slippery’ and seemed ‘to have an almost congenital diathesis towards falsehood and prevarication.’ When Garrison tried to respond the Transcript would not publish his comments so he resorted to publishing the retorts in his own Liberator.
Sargent carried his contempt with him publishing an item titled Ballad of the Abolition Blunder-buss (1861), again as Sigma. The pamphlet was a criticism of Govenor John A. Andrew, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the entire Massachusetts legislature, for a ‘high love-feast’ they held in January of that year and, more generally, for their anti-slavery views.
For a lengthier look at the life of Lucius Manlius Sargent, a man who “was preeminently a good hater, but ... a conspicuous man in his day ... making rather valuable contributions to local history.” see John Sheppard’s reminiscence of him in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and Antiquarian Journal, Vol. XXV, No. 3 (July 1871).
 Sidney Gunn, “Sargent, Lucius Manlius,” Dictionary of American Biography, XVI (1937): 367.
| Published: Friday, 8 February, 2013, 8:00 AM
The Diary of Ann Powell, 1789
By Susan Martin, Collection Services
The MHS has just acquired a manuscript copy of the fascinating 18th-century diary of a young woman named Ann Powell. In it, Ann describes a trip down the Saint Lawrence River, 11 May-June 1789, with her brother William Dummer Powell and his family. The Powells were United Empire Loyalists who had emigrated to Canada ten years earlier. Now William, newly appointed first judge of the Court of Common Pleas of the Hesse District, Province of Quebec, was relocating his entire household from Montreal to Detroit, Michigan.
Along the way, the party had the good fortune to witness a council of the Six Nations at which about 200 chiefs were assembled. Ann was impressed:
I was very much struck with the figures of these Indians as they approached us. They are remarkably tall and finely made and walk with a grace and dignity you can have no idea of. I declare our beaux looked quite insignificant by them – one man called to my mind some of Homer’s finest heroes.
She documented, in great detail, the dress and manners of the tribal people. She heaped praises on Mohawk Chief David Hill (Karonghyontye), and Seneca Chief Red Jacket (Sagoyewatha) amused her, but she was “by no means pleased” with Mohawk Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea). Another interesting passage relates to the social position of elderly Indian women in the Great Lakes region:
In England, when a man grows infirm and his talents are obscured by age, the wits decide upon his character by calling him an old woman. On the banks of Lake Erie, a woman becomes respectable as she grows old, and I suppose the greatest compliment you can pay a young hero, is that he is as wise as an old woman, a good trait of savage understanding. These ladies preserve a modest silence in the debates (I fear they are not like women of other countries) but nothing is determined without their advice and approbation.
The diary is a 19th-century copy, written mostly in an unknown hand, but it was compiled and annotated between 1863 and 1870 by Boston’s own Eliza Susan Quincy. Eliza, a historian and writer in her own right, took an interest in the manuscript and the Powell family, to which she was distantly related through her grandmother Abigail Phillips Quincy. She researched Ann’s story and added footnotes to the manuscript, presumably in preparation for its publication.
As far as I can tell, the diary has been published just twice in the 224 years since it was written, but never in its complete form. The first printed version—Eliza’s—appeared in the July 1880 issue of The Magazine of American History, pp. 37-47. Not only were whole paragraphs and the names of some individuals redacted, but most of Eliza’s notes didn’t make the cut.
This juicy story was among those excluded, probably for obvious reasons:
We spent one night at the house of a Captain Duncan, whose wife I had heard often mentioned by my sisters….She is now only nineteen, and has been five years married to a man who is old, disagreeable and vicious. But he was supposed to be rich and her friends absolutely forced her to marry him….I never heard of such a series of cruelties being practised on any poor creature in my life….I felt very much interested by this sweet young woman, and should feel great pleasure in hearing her tyrant was dead; the only means by which she can be released.
Forty years later, Ann’s diary was published again in William Renwick Riddell’s Old Province Tales: Upper Canada, pp. 64-95. Riddell’s version includes some of the previously redacted passages, but is still incomplete, and differs from the MHS copy in many ways.
Although Eliza Susan Quincy’s copy of the diary is only one of many, it does include a substantial section (about half of the volume) entitled “Letters and incidents relative to an accidental acquaintance with the family of Miss Powell. 1833, to 1844.” This section consists of transcripts of Eliza’s correspondence with descendants of Ann Powell. The letters were not printed in 1880 or 1920 and contain a good deal of contextual information about the diary and the Powell family.
Ann Powell married merchant and fellow Loyalist Isaac Winslow Clarke and died in 1792. Her original diary is probably still in private hands.
For more information on Eliza Susan Quincy, search at our website or in our online catalog ABIGAIL.
| Published: Wednesday, 6 February, 2013, 8:00 AM