The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Thanksgiving in London

On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation, calling for November 26 of that year to be celebrated as a day of thanksgiving by the whole nation now independent and united under a new Constitution. Exactly 74 years later, President Abraham Lincoln, seeing the nation embroiled in a bitter, devastating, and deadly Civil War, recognized that there was still much to be grateful for as “the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Charles Francis Adams was one of those Americans sojourning in foreign lands as the United States minister to Great Britain. Invited by a group of Americans living in London to attend a Thanksgiving Day celebration and give a toast to President Lincoln, the dinner opened with a reading of Lincoln’s proclamation. No devotee of the president, Adams noted that the proclamation was “very good, and...therefore never emanated from Mr Lincoln’s pen.” In his diary, Adams summarized his toast and feelings on the honoree: 

“The press here had sneered at the notion of a thanksgiving in the midst of a desolating civil war. I thought it a good opportunity, whilst avoiding the topic of victories over our fellow countrymen which necessarily take a shade of sadness, to explain more exclusively the causes of rejoicing we had in the restoration of a healthy national solidity in the government since the announcement of the President’s term. I went over each particular in turn. The result is to give much credit to Mr Lincoln as an organizing mind, perhaps more than individually he may deserve. But with us the President as the responsible head takes the whole credit of successful efforts. It certainly looks now as if he would close his term with the honor of having raised up and confirmed the government, which at his accession had been shaken all to pieces. And this a raw, inexperienced hand has done in the face of difficulties that might well appall the most practised statesman! What a curious thing is History! The real men in this struggle have been Messr [William] Seward and [Salmon] Chase. Yet the will of the President has not been without its effect even though not always judiciously exerted.”

 

Shown here is the program for that Thanksgiving Day celebration. Since 1863, Americans around the world have stopped in late November each year for a day of joy and thanksgiving with friends and family, as we will tomorrow. Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

      

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 27 November, 2014, 1:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

Before the long holiday weekend ahead we have two events at the Society this week. On Monday, 24 November, join us for a Brown Bag lunch talk given by Nathan Jérémie-Brink, Loyola University Chicago. "'Gratuitous Distribution': Distributing African American Antislavery Texts, 1773-1850" is free and open to the public and begins at noon. And on Tuesday, 25 November, we have the next installment in our Immigration and Urban History Seminar series. Stop by at 5:15PM for "'Greetings from the Levee!': Labor and Leisure on the Streets and Docks of Postbellum New Orleans." This talk is presented by Theresa McCulla of Harvard University with Lynnell Thomas, UMass-Boston, providing comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

Please note that the Society is closed on Thursday, 27 November, for Thanksgiving. The library is also closed on Friday and Saturday, 28 and 29 November. The exhibition galleries are open on Friday and Saturday, 28 and 29 November. Take a break from battling the shopping crowds and come in for some history! There is also a free tour taking place on Saturday, 29 November, at 10:00AM. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 23 November, 2014, 12:00 PM

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch Diary, Post 38

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

Sunday, Nov. 6th

In public affairs, I record the startling discoveries of election fraud in New York, & of a conspiracy against the gov’t in Indiana. Next Tuesday decides the election of President; - & my preference is for Mr. Lincoln, alike from personal approval, - as he is identified with the cause I believe to be right, and as I think that a change of system now would delay, instead of advancing, the return of peace.

Wednesday Nov. 16th

The election decided by a very great majority in favor of Mr. Lincoln, & the magnanimous & Christian manner in which he has expressed himself thereon, - are makers of history. There was a very [-elty] illumination here in honor of the result. Last news is of Sherman’s leaving Atlanta, supposed for Savannah & Charleston. At present there is going on in Boston a great ‘Sailors’ Fair,’ for the establ. of a naval hospital; My girls have attended, - through kindness of Uncles T. & H. & we propose to see some more of its wonders.

Sunday, Nov. 27th

Public attention is now fixed on the daring march of Sherman through the interior of Georgia - & the recent capture of the Florida in the waters of Brazil, with the danger of misunderstanding with that power. Hope dawns, but we fear lest we hope too much.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 21 November, 2014, 1:00 AM

“For We Are Brother and Sister”: Luis and Isabel Emilio

One of the highlights of the Luis F. Emilio papers at the MHS is his correspondence with his younger sister Isabel. The siblings were obviously very close, but their relationship suffered a serious blow in 1862 as the result of a misunderstanding involving one of Luis' best friends, Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham.

First, our cast of characters: Luis and Isabel were the two oldest children of Manuel and Isabel (Fenollosa) Emilio of Salem, Mass. Luis had enlisted in the Union Army and, in the fall of 1862, at just 17 years old, was serving as an officer in the 23rd Regiment at New Bern, N.C. Luis's friend Oliver Wendell Holmes Upham, a.k.a. Wendell, had enlisted with him but was discharged due to illness and sent back to Salem. Naturally, while there, he visited his friend's family, which included Isabel, then 15.

Opinion seems to have been divided on Wendell. Luis described him as “a good boy, rather odd, but in every respect a gentleman[...] He is my most faithful friend.” A mutual friend complained of Wendell's laziness. At any rate, Wendell was warmly welcomed and liked by the Emilio family, particularly Isabel and her four younger siblings, who ranged in age from 11 to 4. As Luis' mother wrote, Wendell “was delighted to meet the children[...] He played with them as if one of their age.” She called him a “good affectionate boy.” Wendell also enjoyed his visits immensely and wrote to Luis with effusive praise for his family.

However, just 2-3 weeks after his first visit, Luis' mother started to express some reservations to Luis.

Wendell comes in often. He is very fond of fun and quite fond of kissing which I do not like as I have to be present when he [is] in the room or else he would be I fear too wild. Isa seems to like to have him come. I hardly know what to think of him. Can you explain[?]

 Isabel also wrote to Luis about this time, joking about one of Wendell's visits. That letter is missing, but Luis' reply is filled with consternation.

I must confess I am ashamed to hear of such actions as you write. He has made a perfect fool of himself[...] I must pray you not to humor him in the least thing, and if he attempts to act so again to leave the room, and let him know his company is not wanted; sometimes he acts in the most foolish manner, so that I have been ashamed of being with him.

After some digging, I discovered that Wendell's primary offense had been to kiss Isabel. As an old friend, he was in the habit of kissing all the members of the family, including the younger children and Mr. and Mrs. Emilio, but Luis felt it was inappropriate for him to kiss the 15-year-old Isabel. It was not the first time he had advised his younger sister in this big-brotherly vein. It was also, apparently, not the first time he'd been embarrassed by Wendell's behavior. He wrote angrily to his friend, and while his letter is not included in the collection, we can infer its contents from Wendell's hurt reply.

On 2 Nov. 1862, Wendell scrawled an emotional 8-page letter in which he argued that the kiss had been intended innocently and that neither Isabel nor her parents, who witnessed it, had objected. He resented that Luis assumed the worst and dredged up past offenses, and was heart-broken by the reprimand. After all, their families had always been close.

I am sorry to think that you can’t allow the same friendship to exist between Isabel and myself, without jealousy, that I have always seen with pleasure existed between yourself and my sister Sarah. I never rebuked you for kissing her nor never will, nor do I claim a right to interfere. That is her business.

He paid another call on the Emilios to address the issue and to apologize, if necessary. The family assured him he had caused no offense.

Wendell's distress greatly affected young Isabel, who is by far my favorite player in this drama. Her compassion and confidence are impressive. While she respected her older brother's advice and appreciated his protectiveness, she passionately and articulately defended Wendell against the unjust accusations. In her 8-page letter about the “unpleasant affair,” written the same day as Wendell’s, she told Luis he had misunderstood the entire situation and that his friend’s behavior had been merely “playful.” Luis' interference was unnecessary, and worse still, he had “implicated” her in the whole mess.

It is very humiliating to your friend to be told he acted like a fool, and I am also placed in a very unpleasant position, as it must appear to him, as if I had told you, if not in those words, in words equivalent to them that, he had acted so, which was far from my intention to say.[...] Wendell had a funny fit on, as we all have at times, and acted just as he felt, nothing more.[...]

I don’t like the idea of my letters to a brother, making hard feelings between friends, and neither do I wish to be called upon to state what I say in my letters to my brother. I feel provoked to think that Wendell should have the impression that I am in the habit of informing or complaining to you of his conduct here, for he will not feel at home and at ease when he comes to visit us but will be entirely unlike himself.[...]

I have not written a very elegant letter. It is rather disconnected and ungrammatical, I have no doubt, but I don’t care one snap for that. I have tried to tell you what I think, and how badly I feel about the whole thing.[...]

You know, Wendell, is very peculiar, but he thought as he was in the house of an old friend who would not mind his way, and he thought rightly. I think on the whole he is a very good boy, and we all make mistakes and sometimes very gross ones, and therefore should not judge others too harshly when they commit them.

Isabel argued, as Wendell had, that if she or her parents had objected to his familiarity, they would have put a stop to it. After expressing her regret at being “the one who has done all the mischief,” she finished with this wonderfully snarky parting shot:

When you write to Dave Sawyer please remember me to him and tell him I should so much love to see him once again. You might give him my love, if it would not be improper for me to send love to such an old friend as Dave.

Now it was Luis' turn to be hurt. He insisted he'd only been thinking of Isabel's welfare and maintained he “had a perfect right” to admonish Wendell, but admitted he'd been “rather hasty” in his letter and was sorry for the trouble it caused. All the fuss was soon smoothed over. Luis wrote a conciliatory letter to Wendell, whom he called an “esteemed” friend. Everyone apologized, and the relationships between all parties were as close as ever. Isabel wrote to Luis on 17 Nov. 1862:

I had no wish to pain you and would not for all the world, on any account, for we are brother and sister, Luis, and both of us are quick-tempered and hasty when provoked or excited, are we not?[...] Our lives are short and uncertain; we cannot tell how long we may remain in this world of sin and sorrow. So while we may, let us forgive, and be forgiven by others, any injuries we may have done or received.

 Unfortunately, Isabel Maria Emilio did not live long. She died of typhoid fever at the age of 32. Wendell Upham lived until 1905, and Luis Emilio until 1918.

 

 

Image: Daguerreotype of Luis and Isabel Emilio, ca. 1852-1853, Photo. 1.574

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 1:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

We are kicking things off this week with a rare Sunday event, an MHS blue moon, if you will. Beginning at 1:30PM on Sunday, 16 November, is a special screening of The Better Angels, a film about Abraham Lincoln's childhood.The screening is followed by a discussion led by Professor John Stauffer of Harvard University, current long-term research fellow at the Society. This event takes place at Landmark Theaters in Kendall Square (355 Binney Street, One Kendal Square, Cambridge, MA 02139).

On Monday, 17  November, join us at 6:00PM for an author talk given by Lindford D. Fisher of Brown University and J. Stanley Lemons of Rhode Island College. Decoding Roger Williams: The Lost Essay of Rhode Island's Founding Father documents the interdisciplinary approach to cracking Williams' handwritten code. There is a $10 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or click here to register.

And on Tuesday, 18 November, come by for an Environmental History Seminar given by Derek Lee Nelson, University of New Hampshire. "The Ravages of Teredo: The Historical Impacts of Marine Wood-boring Worms on American Society, Geography, and Culture, 1865-1930" begins at 5:15PM and is free and open to the public. Robert Martello of Olin College of Engineering provides comment. Please RSVP if you plan to attend. Also, you can subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

Last but not least, on Saturday, 22 November, there is another free tour at the Society. "The History and Collections of the MHS" is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please first contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.orgWhile you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibitions, "Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I" and "The Father of His Country Returns to Boston, October 24, 1789."

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 15 November, 2014, 10:04 AM

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