Christ's Lutheran Church in 1820

Pastor Augustus Wackerhagen (also spelled Wacherhagen), 46 (stepson-in-law of founder and former pastor, Dr. Frederick Henry Quitman), conducting services at the first church building on the Sawkill about ¾ mile east of our present location (that is, north [or should it be south?] of present-day Route 212, across from the country club).(1)

From Moseman, Magda, and Anderson, Mark, eds., Perspectives and Patterns: Christ's Lutheran Church, 1806-1976 [Woodstock, NY: self-published monograph, 1976]. In 2006, Mark Anderson learned that the original church building was not up on the ledge and north of Route 212 but was actually south of 212, between the road and the Sawkill. "This is congruent with the reported statement of Allen Nash, who transferred into the church from Rhinebeck in the 1830s when he said that there was an old, unusable church building still standing half-way between the one on the Bonesteel lease (on the ledge) and the mill at the east end of town (present golf clubhouse). Interesting, eh?" Anderson concludes that the "Church on the Rocks" might really be the second church building (north of 212 and on the ledge), which would have been built after the second Wigram survey in 1822 (which shows the original, south of 212, location) and before Nash came in the 1830s. Therefore, at this date, the church the congregation worshipped at, the first church building, would not have been on the ledge north of 212. (Close)

In general, pastors and congregations belonging to the New York Ministerium (the synod) were not in favor of the evangelical revivals that were just beginning to be popular among American Christians--in particular, among the Methodists.

Since the Methodist movement grew out of Episcopal roots and shared much of the emphasis on "experimental religion" that dominated Lutheran piety, one might expect that Lutherans would cooperate with them fully.(2) From Anderson, Mark J., For All the Saints: Christ's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, New York, 1806-2006 [Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006], p. 33, citing Nelson, E. Clifford, ed., The Lutherans in North America [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1975], p. 92. (Close)
Such was not the case in the New York Ministerium, however, including the pastor in Woodstock. Reverend Wackerhagen reported
the principles of unostentatious piety seem to prevail among the generality of my people.(3) Here Anderson, p. 46, is citing Schalk, Carl, God's Song in a New Land: Lutheran Hymnals in America [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1995], p. 69, and Kreider, Harry J., History of the United Lutheran Synod of New York and New England, Volume I, 1786-1860 [Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1954], p. 181. (Close)
Christ's Lutheran's song leader Lewis Edson died at the age of 72. His son, Lewis Edson, Jr. (owner of a financially troubled sawmill in Mink Hollow that supplied the Bristol [Shady] glass factories nearby) continued the family tradition of leading the singing at the church.

The Woodstock Region in 1820

The congregation of the Woodstock Dutch Reformed Church, without a pastor for three years, prevented the sale of their church at auction.

The huge New York Tannery in the factory town of Edwardsville (present-day Hunter), run by Colonel William Edwards, 50, continued to convert the shipments of smelly hides sent from the colonel's financial backers in New York City into tanned (softened) leather (with its reddish color characteristic of hemlock tanning) to be shipped back to the city for finishing. Millions of hemlocks in the surrounding countryside were being skinned for their bark to be used in the tanning process, the rest of the naked trees left to die while standing. Edwards's operation was so successful that other enterprising men were copying it; scores of new tanneries nourished by the same New York City backers had been springing up all over the Catskills, including along the Sawkill, wherever there were hemlocks to slaughter.

[Long] lines of wagons laden with stinking hides [arrived at] mountain tanneries. Flies buzzed around the wagons and tortured horses and oxen as well as men.… [Vast] mountainsides and hollows covered [were now] with bleaching trunks which a long dry spell would convert into fire-blackened wastes.… The water became polluted with tannery wastes and ashes.(4) Excerpted from Evers, Alf, The Catskills: From Wilderness to Woodstock, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1972, p. 338, citing Richards, J. A., "The Catskills," in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 9, no, 1 (July 1854), p. 153. (Close)
Two such tanning entrepreneurs arrived about this year in the village of Schohariekill (present-day Prattsville) after escaping prosecution for murder and piracy on the high seas; according to the local legend about them, they used the loot they had buried on Coney Island to take over an old tannery at Devasego Falls and, with supplies and operating capital provided by the New York City leather firm of Cunningham and McCormick, they begin operation.

Region historian Alf Evers(5)

Excerpted from Evers, Alf, Woodstock: History of an American Town [Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1987], pp. 23ff, 41, 150ff. (Close) has described the Catskills as largely a region of absentee landlords and struggling tenants, in a manorial relationship more or less transplanted to upstate New York from medieval Europe. The principal landlord for tenant farmers and tavern keepers in the Town of Woodstock, and for all his other Catskills holdings of some 66,000 acres, was Robert L. Livingston, 45, dwelling in his Clermont estate on the other side of the Hudson.

The typical official arrangement under which the tenant held his land was the "three-life lease": A tenant would be permitted use of Livingston land for three generations, and after the grandson of the original tenant died, the lease "fell in"--that is, the land would revert to Livingston. (For this reason, a tenant typically build a wood frame house or a rough log house, rather than the stone houses like those found in the Hurley or Marbletown lowlands.)

Livingston expected the tenants to increase the value of the land by clearing it, cutting the trees to feed the sawmill he had built on the Sawkill near the present-day golf course, and hauling the resulting boards and planks to the Hudson to supply the manufacture of gunstocks, houses, and ships. Stipulated in the typical lease was an annual rent of fifteen to twenty bushels of wheat per hundred acres, plus three or four "good fat hens" and from one to three days' work with team on the common land. A tenant could sell his leasehold, but he had to pay the landlord one-sixth of the sale.

[ John Wigram ] Livingston--through his agent John Wigram, pictured here, the town supervisor who resided on Wigram Lane (Rock City Road) near the barn now known as Parnassus Square, and who farmed there with the help of his slaves--initiated several legal proceedings against recalcitrant tenants whom he considered scofflaws and trespassers, those who failed to pay rent and who cut the landlord's timber for sale as boards, shingles, and other uses. Livingston "regarded the tenants' own shiftlessness and dishonesty as responsible for most of their troubles."

The life of the tenant on Livingston land was not especially easy. The men worked at subsistence farming, they hunted, they logged, they produced maple sugar, they did part-time blacksmithing, and--with wood harvested from the still-large Woodstock forests (much of it belonging to the Livingston landlord, its harvesting thus constituting trespassing)--they produced charcoal and made such wood products as shingles and barrel and hogshead staves. In the late spring or early summer they peeled hemlock bark used for tanning, piling it in the woods and in the winter hauling it by sledge to smelly tanneries of John C. Ring or of Samuel, Philip A., or John Culver on the Tannery Brook in the heart of Woodstock hamlet. (A few Woodstock tenants were sawmill operators [on sites reserved by the Livingston landlord] or tavern owners.)

Women cooked and baked in fireplaces, washed on the rocks beside a stream, sewed and spun flax and wool, churned butter, gave birth to children and then cared for them, and helped with the farm work, especially at harvest and slaughtering times: They made soap from ashes and animal fats, they dried apples, they pickled and preserved.

Meanwhile, Livingston was having trouble managing the resources on his manor lands. Trees cut down on Livingston land were taken to non-Livingston sawmills, and the sawed boards taken to market with little attempt at concealment. As for the Livingston sawmills (the census of that year recorded twelve operating sawmills within the Town of Woodstock, consuming great parts of the forests that still covered more than 80 percent of the town's land), the operators apportioned inferior boards for the landlord's share, selling the better ones for their own profit.

The Ulster County Agricultural Society awarded agent Wigram a prize of $7.50 ($92 in 2006 dollars) for the

best piece of carpeting made in the county and submitted at their annual fair.
Certainly, the carpet had actually been woven by Wigram's wife, Maritje Schermerhorn Wigram (originally of Catskill), 70, and possibly by his three unmarried daughters as well, but according to the custom of the time, official credit was given to the man who headed the household.(6)

Excerpted from ibid., p. 154. (Close)

Two glass factories in Bristol (Shady)--the Woodstock Glass Manufacturing Company of William and John Mott and the Bristol Glass, Cotton and Clay Company of Stephen Stilwell, both just over the boundary from Livingston land--had been muddling through against dire financial conditions of the Panic of 1819, cutthroat competition from cheap British imports, and the dearth of good-quality sand. The two factories continued to produce window glass and bottles.(7)

The material on the glass factories is excerpted from ibid., pp. 131, 135. (Close) They shipped their wagons loaded with wooden boxes of window glass (and their clay, sand, and soda) down the Glasco Turnpike to the Hudson River landing in Glasco (from "Glass Company") and then by sloop on to New York City. Unfortunately, the glassmaking industry denuded the forests around Woodstock and, as a result of the deforestation, caused massive erosion of the mountainside soil.

Glassworkers, by the way, with their lungs well developed from blowing glass, were typically good singers, and they have been credited with bringing an interest in music to the Woodstock area.

Dr. Ebenezer Hall, superintendent of Woodstock Glass Manufacturing Company, practiced medicine, as one of Woodstock's only resident doctors. Another doctor was Dr. Larry Gilbert Hall (no relation), who had much better academic training and a good medical library and who lived in the house later torn down to make room for the present Woodstock Library. A doctor in those days could pull teeth, bleed a sufferer, and lance a boil, as well as other medical duties. There was no hospital available to Woodstockers, but many women were skilled in nursing and midwifery. There were no drug stores, but the remedies most in demand were available at the general store, including opodeldoc, a soap-based liniment; camphor; spirits of hartshorn; castor oil; gum guaicum; syrup of squills; and opium and its derivatives, such as laudanum.

Dr. Jacob Brink of Lake Katrine, known in Woodstock and its environs as a "white witch" and "conjurer," was often called upon to deal with the black magic of reputed witches in the area.

In a drunken and entirely unjustified jealous rage, middle-aged John Van Debogart beat his much-younger very pregnant wife, Catherine, unconscious with with a stout elm stick. She regained consciousness momentarily and asked neighbors that the elm stick be buried in her coffin with her, praying that it might grow and become a tree to warn her husband and others against jealous rages. Soon after delivering a lifeless infant, she died and her wishes were honored: She was buried under the shadow of Overlook (known in those days as South Peak).

Then came the wonder, the miracle it was called by the simple country folks, who came in from the surrounding farms to gaze in open-mouthed astonishment at it, for out of the centre of the grave sprang a tiny sapling that grew from day to day and flourished until it became in time a stately elm, until now [1897] the great vine clad tree forces the stones that mark the grave apart.… The story given above is vouched for by an elderly lady living in the village who had it from her mother. We can only vouch for the tree, the grave and the inscription.(8) Cited in ibid., p. 221, quoting R. Lionel De Lisser, Picturesque Ulster. (Close)

The New York State Legislature enacted a House of Industry for each county, to house paupers and put them to work.

The legislature had 21 years earlier enacted a gradual emancipation of slaves in the state: Any child born to a slave mother after July 4, 1799, would be freed from bondage after serving the mother's master until age 25 if female or age 28 if male. Then, 3 years before, the legislature had provided that

any Negro, mulatto or mustee within this State born before the fourth of July, 1799, shall from and after the fourth day of July, 1827, be free.
New Paltz slave Isabella Bomefree, 23, originally of Hurley--now in a "marriage" after a fashion to fellow slave Thomas (in a relationship that could at any time be sundered by the sale of either of them)--had been bearing children, thereby increasing the property of her master, John J. Dumont, who could at least get some labor out of the children for a few years. Dumont boasted about Isabella (whom he called "Bell"):
That wench is better for me than a man--for she will do a good family's washing in the night, and be ready in the morning to go into the field, where she will do as much at raking and binding as my best hands.(9) This and the following quotations are from Gilbert, Olive, Narrative of Sojourner Truth (a transcription with commentary of Sojourner's own words), 1850 (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1997), pp. 14, 18. (Close)
Isabella had been born 2 years before the 1799 cutoff and so had to look ahead to another 7 years of bondage. But Dumont promised her that
if she would do well, and be faithful, he would give her "free papers," one year before she was legally free by statute.
So now lifelong slave Isabella was looking forward to freedom in 6 years.

Hudson attorney Elisha Williams had been an investor in some of the rugged Catskill land on the Schohariekill Road (approximately present-day Route 23A), land known as the "Pine Orchard," at the head of Kaaterskill Clove just a few minutes walk southeast of the twin lakes (North Lake and South Lake) and, with a little trimming, providing a dramatic view of the Hudson River and much of the entire region. As more and more nature pilgrims hiked into the wilderness, he had been biding his time on his investment, now held for the past 11 years, certain that one day it would become quite valuable.

Meanwhile, many Americans had become convinced that the fictional character Rip Van Winkle that author Washington Irving had created the year before had actually been a historical figure who had hunted and slept in the enchanting Catskill Mountains. A lot of them were interested in exploring where Rip had been. Already Hiram Comfort and Joseph Bigelow had set up a barroom and bunkhouse there for romantic pilgrims as well as hunters and business travelers. Williams was now to be rewarded for his long wait.

Construction (begun in 1817) continued on the Erie Canal to connect the Great Lakes with the Hudson River (and, thus, the Atlantic Ocean). It was to be 4 feet deep, 40 feet wide, with 10-foot-wide towpaths on either side. Stretching for 363 miles, it was to have 83 locks, since Lake Erie was 570 feet higher than the Hudson. A horse-drawn crane lifted rock debris out of the cut, and an "endless screw" attached to a roller, cable, and crank pulled down tall trees. A stump-pulling machine could extract 40 tree stumps per day. Most of the workers were Irish immigrants earning 37.5 cents ($4.60 in 2006 dollars) and about a quart of whiskey per day; snakebite, malaria, and pneumonia killed thousands of them. Critics referred to the slow-progressing canal as "Clinton's Ditch," doubting that it would ever be completed.

The United States in 1820

[ James Monroe ]

James Monroe (Democratic Republican), 62, was President. The 16th Congress was in session. A dollar in that year would be worth $12.26 in 2006 for most consumable products.

Patriotism among the Americans of every section was strong. Americans did not pay much attention to social differences (except as regards to blacks and Indians). It seemed that everyone was focused on the future progress and prosperity of the United States. People worked hard, pampered their children, honored their womenfolk, and were very welcoming to strangers. Everyone seemed eager to make money, but people donated generously to charities. At once vain and eager to please, tough fighters but sentimental, bullish about America but sedulous apers of European "culture."

Sydney Smith, a Scots minister visiting the U.S., deplored the lack of culture he saw:

In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book? Or goes to an American play? Or looks at an American picture or statue? What does the world yet owe to America?
He said that the best America could offer was "a galaxy… of newspaper scribblers.(10)

Quoted in Davidson, James West, and Stoff, Michael B., The American Nation, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986, 1995, p. 428; Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., and Cohen, Lizabeth, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, p. 416. (Close)

There were 9.6 million people in the United States. New York State had 1,372,812 inhabitants, more than any other state. New York City was the largest city (124,000), followed by Philadelphia (113,000), Baltimore (63,000), Boston (43,000), and New Orleans (27,000). More than 2.2 million people lived west of the Appalachians--Pittsburgh had 7,248 people, Cincinnati nearly 10,000, Lexington, KY, the supposed "Athens of the West," more than 5,000. Fewer than 700,000 people resided in centers of more than 2,500; about 85 percent of Americans lived and worked on farms. More than half of all Americans were under the age of 30. Only half of the children born in the United States reached the age of 5.

Some 22,000 tons of iron were produced in the United States.

The economic depression caused by the Panic of 1819 continued. Crops rotted in the fields, businesses and banks continued to fail, and unemployment rose. The depression was particularly hard in the West. A good many farmers in the Mississippi Valley began to make plans for emigrating westward.

Nonetheless, trade was flourishing between the U.S. and the U.K. British Prime Minister Lord Liverpool told the House of Lords that the prosperity of Britain was tied to that of America.

Large numbers of Irish immigrants came to the United States.

[ Senator Daniel Webster ] Massachusetts, in a constitutional convention, extended the franchise to all men who paid state and county taxes--in other words, those with property to be taxed. Senator Daniel Webster, 38, remarked

Power naturally and necessarily follows property.… A republican form of government rests not more on political constitutions than on those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property.(11) Quoted in Wellman, Paul I., The House Divides: The Age of Jackson and Lincoln, from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966, p. 75. (Close)
American colleges began playing football, as a form of hazing at Harvard and Yale.

The built-up part of Manhattan extended to 14th Street; everything north of that was countryside.

The New York Eye Infirmary opened.

Pennsylvania extended the franchise to all men who paid state and county taxes.

The Presidential campaign of 1820

President Monroe was reelected as President (231 electoral votes out of 232), and Daniel D. Tompkins was reelected as Vice President--both on the Democratic-Republican (or, simply "Republican") ticket. The single electoral vote against Monroe was cast for Secretary of State John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, 53, possibly out of the conviction that only George Washington ought to have the honor of being elected unanimously. People were too satisfied to vote; in Richmond, VA, for example, only 17 people voted for Presidential electors. The basically uncontested election was evidence of the "Era of Good Feelings" (relative lack of party strife) in American politics.

The 17th Congress was elected also, to begin serving the following year.

Most Americans, including businessmen, associated corporations with monopoly, with corruption, and with the undermining of individual enterprise. Economist Daniel Raymond commented:

The very object… of the act of incorporation is to produce inequality, either in rights, or in the division of property. Prima facie, therefore all money corporations are detrimental to national wealth. They are always created for the benefit of the rich.… The rich have money, and not being satisfied with the power which money itself gives them, in their private individual capacities, they seek for an artificial combination… that its force may be augmented.(12) Quoted in Garraty, John A., The American Nation: A History of the United States, New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p. 216. (Close)

[ Circuit rider ]

The American Tract Society circulated with "circuit riders" (pictured here) religious literature to outlying settlements and isolated farms in the frontier.

Schools there were scarce and their quality was poor. Most of the colleges, sponsored by this or that Protestant sect and devoted to producing devout adherents, had pitiful intellectual standards. Methodist and Baptist preachers brought the fear of hell to their congregations. James McGready, it was said,

could so array hell before the wicked that they would tremble and quake, imagining a lake of fire and brimstone yawning to overwhelm them.
The fiery sermons of these preachers were against drinking, gambling, lack of faith, and other sins; their remedy was repentance and church membership. Religious camp meetings lasted for days, and the throngs there were swept with mass hysteria: men barked like animals, sobbed, shrieked, and jerked in spasms. One preacher, Finis Ewing, traveled throughout the West, bringing the Gospel to isolated farms and converting thousands. Reformed gambler Peter Cartwright, a Methodist exhorter, also traveled widely:
His self-reliance, his readiness with tongue and fist, his quick sense of humor, all made him dear to the hearts of the frontier.… If, as not infrequently happened, intruders attempted to break up his meetings, he was quick to meet force with force and seems to have been uniformly victorious in these physical encounters.(13) Quoted in ibid., p. 250. (Close)
Joseph Smith, 15, a farmer in backwoods New York State (just outside Palmyra, NY), claimed theophany--that is, that he was receiving visits from heavenly messengers, telling him that he was God's Prophet.

Pregnant Stockbridge Indian Rachel Konkapot, 26, her husband, and other members of her tribe were dissatisfied with the tribe's new home in Indiana, where they had been "removed" to, so they returned home to New York State in Licking County. Two white men, J. M'Lean and James Hughes, shot Rachel through the thigh bone. She gave birth to a daughter 2 hours later, who survived, but Rachel, a Christian who asked that her murderers be forgiven, died 2 months later. M'Lean and Hughes were indicted for the crime.

John Chapman, 45, known as "Johnny Appleseed," continued distributing Swedenborgian religious tracts and apple seeds to settlers in the Ohio Valley. A small, wiry man with "eyes that sparkled with a peculiar brightness," he had a reputation for loving children and all living creatures, even mosquitoes. He made friends with all the Indians he encountered. He traveled barefoot, dressed in cast-offs or a coffee sack. He liked to read to settlers from the New Testament, calling it "news right fresh from heaven."

Indianapolis was founded on the White River in Indiana.

Some 120,000 Indians still lived east of the Mississippi River.

[ Andrew Jackson ] When Spain proved dilatory in ratifying the previous year's Adams-Onís Treaty, or "Transcontinental Treaty," General Andrew Jackson ("Old Hickory"), 53, then official Governor of Florida Territory, offered

with the smiles of heaven [to] endeavor to place once more the american Eagle upon the ramparts [of western Florida forts], and then beg leave to retire if I survive.(14) Quoted in Wellman, op. cit., p. 56. (Close)
The Spanish minister, Luis de Onís y Gonzales, hastened to deliver a ratified treaty. But the Spanish governor of West Florida, Don José Callavala, refused to give up his post. Jackson had him arrested and seized the documents. Once released, Callavala hurried to Washington with excited complaints, which were ignored.

The Missouri Compromise

As citizens of Missouri Territory petitioned the 16th Congress to enter the union as a slaveholding state, an ugly debate over whether slavery should be allowed to extend into new states being carved out of the Louisiana Purchase territory erupted in Congress. Slaveholding states wanted no restrictions on slavery, whereas many Northern states wanted to keep the "peculiar institution" in the South. There were at that time 11 "free states" (where slavery was prohibited) and 11 "slave states" (where slavery was allowed); 22 Senators from each side. Missouri would upset this balance, and the free states in the North wanted to prevent this. In state legislatures, newspapers, and mass meetings, the issue was debated furiously--not so much over the morality of slavery as over regional power and prestige. Both sides uttered threats of secession.

Representative Charles Pinckney of South Carolina defended the institution of slavery:

Is there a single line in the Old or New Testament either censuring or forbidding it? I answer without hesitation, no. But there are hundreds speaking of and recognizing it.… Hagar, from whom millions sprang, was an African slave, brought out of Egypt by Abraham, the father of the faithful and the beloved servant of the Most High; and he had besides, 318 male slaves.(15) Quoted in Wallechinsky, David, and Wallace, Irving, The People's Almanac, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975, p. 156. (Close)
[ Thomas Jefferson ] Former President Thomas Jefferson, 77, commented on the dangerous rancor:
The Missouri question… is the most portentious one which ever yet threatened our Union. In the gloomiest moment of the revolutionary war, I never had any apprehensions equal to what I feel from this source.… [The] momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.… [With slavery] we have a wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go.(16) Quoted in Davidson et al., op. cit., p. 245. (Close)
Jefferson continued:
I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves by the generation of 1776, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons.(17) Quoted in William Strauss and Neil Howe, Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1991), pp. 179-80, citing Peter Charles Hoffer, Revolution and Regeneration: Life Cycle and the Historical Vision of the Generation of 1776 (1983), p. 123. (Close)
[ Henry Clay of Kentucky ] Ultimately, Henry Clay of Kentucky, 43, persuaded the 16th Congress to pass the Missouri Compromise, whereby slavery was prohibited in the Louisiana Territory north of latitude 36°30' N (a stipulation proposed by Senator Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois, 43), the southern boundary of Missouri and very close to the latitude of the mouth of the Ohio River, the former boundary of slavery. Maine, formerly a district of Massachusetts, was admitted to the Union as a free state (state number 23). Missouri was scheduled to become a slave state the following year. Extremists on both sides referred to the compromise as a "dirty bargain."(18) Quoted in Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 405. (Close)

[ John Quincy Adams ] Sooner or later, Jefferson predicted, the controversy over slavery will "burst on us as a tornado." Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commented in his diary:
I take it for granted that the present question is a mere preamble--a title page to a great, tragic volume.(19) Quoted in ibid. (Close)
Connecticut's Hartford Courant and several other newspapers published a "Black List" of members of Congress from free states who had voted for the Missouri Compromise (or who had vacated their seats during the vote).

The 16th Congress ruled that the African slave trade was a form of piracy, punishable by death. Nonetheless, the United States refused to subscribe to any international agreement for joint suppression. Meanwhile, some Americans were trying to send freed black slaves to Africa.

Slaves were put on display and sometimes stripped to facilitate the examination of their bodies. A robust male between eighteen and twenty-five could be sold for as high as $1,800 ($22,068 in 2006 dollars) at these auctions, although the typical purchase price was far less. Babies, for example, were simply sold by the pound. Often for little more than the price of a cheap buggy, wives, husbands, sons, and daughters were cruelly separated, never to see one another again.(20)

Quoted in McCutcheon, Marc, Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians (Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books, 1993), pp. 26, 211-12, citing Missouri Intelligencer (August 5, 1823). (Close)

With the Land Act, the federal government offered land to settlers at $1.25 per acre ($15.33 per acre in 2006 dollars), reduced the minimum purchase to 80 acres, and abolished credit provisions. (The previous Land Act of 1804 had stipulated a $1.64 minimum per-acre charge [$20.11 per acre] and a 160-acre minimum purchase.) Now a man could now buy a farm with $100 outright ($1,226), but such farmers were angry about farmers who have taken over public lands with only an $80 down payment ($981). With the suffering from the Panic of 1819, however, many settlers still could not afford the new terms. Speculators benefited.

New Hampshire explorer Stephen Harriman Long, 35, an Army officer, referred to Nebraska Territory as "a great American desert" when he completed his two-year expedition to the Rocky Mountains.

Science and technology in America: Specifics

Connecticut architect Ithiel Town, 36, patented a truss bridge; engineer Canvass White patented "hydraulic lime" cement (modern concrete) for use in the construction of the Erie Canal; New York ironmaster Henry Burden, 29, devised an improved plow and cultivator; Massachusetts inventor Daniel Treadwell, 29, constructed a horse-powered printing press; English-American industrialist William Underwood, 33, established a canning factory in Boston; an improved machine for cutting ice was invented (reducing the cost by over 50 percent), impacting eating habits in America; and granite was mined in Quincy, MA.

Massachusetts physician John Gorham, 37, published the 2-volume standard manual Elements of Chemical Science; and New York physician Lyman Spalding, 45, published The U.S. Pharmacopoeia, listing all approved drugs and their preparation.

Arts and culture in America: Specifics

English actor Edmund Kean, 33, appeared on the New York stage as Richard III. American actor Edwin Forrest, 14, from Philadelphia, made his debut, playing in theaters in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and other towns along the Ohio River.

The Roman emperor look continued to be fashionable for men.

Popular periodicals included Niles' Weekly Register, American Journal of Science, American Farmer, and the Christian Herald.

Aristotle's Masterpiece, an anonymous sex education book, illustrated with explicit woodcuts and describing sexual mechanics, was popular among young men, who read it behind the barn.

The World at Large in 1820

French Canadian politicians in the Assembly of Lower Canada (Québec) made vehement speeches and refused to vote money for the salaries of royal judges and British-appointed officials. New arrivals from the British Isles into Upper Canada (Ontario) struggled with the older inhabitants, mostly former Loyalists who had been driven out of the U.S. after the American Revolution, and their descendants. Lower Canada and Upper Canada were quarreling with each other, too: Upper Canada's external trade had to pass through Lower Canada, where it was heavily taxed, and they disliked each other's religion.

American banker, mine owner, and merchant Moses Austin, 59, who had lost his fortune in the Panic of 1819, applied to the Governor of Spanish Mexico to be allowed to settle 300 families into Tejas (Texas) along the Brazos River. At first, the Spanish authorities were reluctant, after having repeatedly stamped out bands of American horse thieves and squatters in Spanish territory, but ultimately the Governor agreed, hoping that the "right sort" of Americans might be a buffer against Indians and American ruffians. Each of Austin's colonists was to receive 640 acres of land, with 320 acres additional for their wives, 100 acres apiece for each child, and 80 acres for each slave. All colonists were supposed to be Catholics, or become Catholics before entering the territory. Everyone was supposed to swear an oath of allegiance to the King of Spain.

Jamaica had 340,000 slaves. Infant mortality was 1 for every 2 live births.

Struggles for Latin American independence

[ José de San Martín ] José de San Martín, 42, moved his forces to Peru by sea. The Spanish Viceroy fled Lima. Spain refused to acknowledge the independence of Greater Colombia.

Argentina asserted a claim on the Falkland Islands and appointed Lousi Vernet as Governor. Vernet imported cattle and gauchos, establishing a flourishing ranch, coming into conflict with American seal hunters from Stonington, CT.

The Cato Street Plot, fostered by police agent-provocateurs, to murder all the British Cabinet members at a dinner party and seize the Bank of England, was discovered; the leaders were executed.

Whig leaders demanded an inquiry into the previous year's "Peterloo massacre" but they were outvoted in Parliament. The wealthy called for military rule and looked to Sir Arthur Wellesley, 51, Duke of Wellington, to impose it; the poor and downtrodden prepared for revolution. The Whigs were cowed into acquiescence. England seemed to be on the brink of civil war. Only a scandal and, especially, an economic recovery prevented it.

Princess Caroline, the 51-year-old wife of the newly crowned Prince Regent and now King George IV of the United Kingdom, who had been spurned by and separated from her royal spouse, sought to be recognized as Queen. King George insisted that she was adulterous, that her name be struck from the Church of England liturgy; he continued to seek a divorce with her. The Princess, now Queen, put an open letter in the London Press, recounting her woes, thereby winning public sympathy. She already had considerable Whig and radical support. Whig leader Earl Grey was convinced of the Queen's innocence. The Tory majority in Parliament and the Cabinet considered for a few months a Bill of Pains and Penalties against Queen Caroline but, in defiance of the King, dropped the Bill as well as all efforts to deprive her of her titles. The London mob rioted in joy and broke the windows of the Cabinet ministers. Queen Caroline was granted an annuity of £50,000, and one of her chief supporters, George Canning, 50, President of the Board of Control (supervising affairs in India), resigned from the government. A Tory Lord, enemy of Canning, declared with relish:

Now we have got rid of those confounded men of genius.(21) Quoted in Churchill, Winston S., The Great Democracies, vol. 4 of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1957, p. 25. (Close)
Tory M.P. Robert Peel, 32, recommended a return to the gold standard and saw to it that his bill passed through Parliament.

English Quaker minister Elizabeth Gurney, 40, married Joseph Fry, heir to a chocolate manufacturer, and began her work to improve prison conditions in England.

English chemistry professor (at Surrey Institution) Frederick Accum, in his Adulteration of Foods and Culinary Poisons, exposed a scandal in the food industry (pepper adulterated with mustard husks, juniper berries, pea flour, and floor sweepings; pickles dyed green by means of copper treatments; and "China tea" made from dried thorn leaves and colored with poisonous verdigris) and was forced by vested interests to flee to Berlin.

The Sutherland clearances

George Granville Leveson-Gower, 62, Duke of Sutherland, married to the Countess of Sutherlandshire, continued destroying homes of Scottish Highlanders in Sutherlandshire, driving nearly 10,000 people off to make way for sheep. Many of the Highlanders emigrated to Nova Scotia.

The heir presumptive of the French throne, the duc de Berry, Charles Ferdinand de Bourbon, 41, was assassinated. His posthumous son, the comte de Chambord, became the new heir to the throne.

French Minister of Police Joseph Fouché died at the age of 57.

Spanish civil strife

Colonel Rafael Riego led an insurgency to force King Ferdinand VII to restore the Constitution of 1812. The King ended the 342-year-old Spanish Inquisition.

Portuguese civil strife

Turmoil spread from Oporto to Lisbon, with people discontented with a regency ruling with British influence while King João VI resided in Brazil. The regency was overthrown and a liberal constitution was drafted.

Italian civil strife

Secret societies in the Kingdom of Naples that included the Carbonari instigated a revolt that forced King Ferdinand IV to promise a constitution.

Jesuits were driven out of Rome.

German repression

The Holy Alliance of Austria, Prussia, and Russia passed its Final Act. At Troppau in Silesia, reactionary leaders conferred to determine how to discourage revolutionary tendencies in Europe.

Rich deposits of platinum were discovered in the Ural region of Russia.

The American Society for the Return of Negroes to Africa, founded in 1817, had been sending blacks to Sierra Leone, but now bought and established, through the efforts of Matthew Calbraith Perry, 26, a neighboring region, called Liberia.

Former slave "Capt." Sebor wrote to his former owner that he and other "people of color" had landed the ship Elizabeth at the Sherbo River on the coast of West Africa and had moved to the settlement Campellar, 25 miles inland. He reported little sickness and foresaw no problems with the climate or the natives there.

The effort to colonize West Africa with freed American slaves remained popular with several people in the United States.

Some 4,000 British settlers immigrated to Grahamstown in eastern South Africa (the "Cape Colony"), where they were subjected to the autocratic rule of a British governor. The British administration in South Africa began to replace Dutch Afrikaans with English as the national language.

Cholera killed thousands in the Philippines and in China.

Russian explorer F. G. Bellinghausen, 42, discovered land within the Antarctic Circle.

Edward Bransfield of the British Royal Navy surveyed New South Shetland in Antarctica at 64° 30' S.

American seal hunter Nathaniel B. Palmer, 21, discovered an archipelago at 64° 30' S (later to be called Palmer Peninsula) while looking for seal rookeries.

World science and technology

French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel, 32, invented a special lens for lighthouses.

English chemist and meterologist John Frederic Daniell, 30, invented the dew point hygrometer; French chemist M. H. Braconnot isolated the amino acids glycine (from gelatin) and leucine (from muscle tissue); French physicist André Ampère, 45, published Laws of Electrodynamic Action; English astronomer John Herschel, 28, and English mathematician Charles Babbage, 28, helped to establish the Royal Astronomical Society.

World philosophy and religion

English parson Thomas Malthus, 54, published Principles of Political Economy.

Arts and culture in the British Isles

Landscape painter John Constable, 44, painted Harwich Lighthouse; poet William Blake, 63, published his illustrated The Book of Job; poet John Keats, 25, published a volume including "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; Scots poet Sir Walter Scott, 49, published Ivanhoe; and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, 28, published his dramatic Prometheus Unbound. American-born painter Benjamin West died at the age of 81.

World arts and culture

Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, 52, created The Lion of Lucerne; French vaudeville dramatist Augustin Eugène Scribe, 28, with help from Xavier Saintine, produced L'ours et le Pacha ("The Bear and the Pasha"); French poet Alphonse de Lamartine, 30, published Méditations Poétiques; and Russian poet Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, 21, published Ruslan and Ludmila and Ode to Liberty and was promptly exiled to south Russia.

The classical Greek statue Venus de Milo, carved 150 B.C., was discovered in Melos by the peasant Yorgos.


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