Last time: After a young nation issued a firm statement or two on international affairs, i.e. victory in the War of 1812-15 and issuance of the Monroe Doctrine, and forged the 1820 Missouri Compromise intended for a measure of domestic tranquility, the lives and times of Cambridge and across America were sketched through the 1820s and ‘30s.
May 3, 2012 – The Eagle Newspaper
Bias and Prejudice
To the Editor,
I am writing in response to Tom Raymond’s article, "Cambridge History Lives: Chapter 15. (Ed: Actually Ch. 16; earlier typo.) While I generally enjoy reading any and all histories, I was disappointed by Mr. Raymond’s article. It is interesting to note that the early American emigrants to Texas were invited by the Mexican government. Problems developed when larger numbers of uninvited guests began to arrive from the U.S. with their slaves. That would make some of those Americans illegal immigrants.
Mr. Raymond is quick with a knee jerk reaction (or is that only used for liberals?) that displays his bias and prejudice. If Mr. Raymond wants to continue to write history, he should stick to history. Some of us are not interested in his politics.
As a social studies teacher, New York State requires me to teach students to distinguish facts from opinions and bias. I want to thank Mr. Raymond for providing such a great example of an article, with some facts, some opinions, and some bias that I can use in class.
Andy LukanCambridge, NY
Chapter 17: Early-Mid Nineteenth Century, Forty Festering Years – 1820s-1850s, Part II
Beginning with Martin Van Buren’s inauguration in 1837, the United States was saddled over the next two decades with a string of eight rather uninspiring Chief Execs who let the nation slide toward civil war: W.H. Harrison (1841), Tyler (’41), Polk (‘45), Taylor (‘49), Fillmore (‘50), Pierce (‘53), and Buchanan (‘57). But the period also featured the birth of the American Renaissance. In a speech at Harvard University in 1837 entitled The American Scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson, leading philosopher and essayist of the day, gave rise to America’s first period of rich thought and literature that also included the ink quills and furrowed brows of Thoreau, Whitman, Melville and Hawthorne. Oliver Wendell Holmes called Emerson’s oration our intellectual "Declaration of Independence". A chapter in this awakening was centered in 1848 a couple of hundred miles west of Cambridge at Seneca Falls, NY, when leading female voices gathered to issue a "Declaration of Sentiments." Their words, lifted from our celebrated 1776 parchment, addressed women’s injustices suffered in a then male dominated social landscape, basically the first public political rally for feminism. The American woman, of course, has come a long way, baby. She got out of the kitchen, got the vote, got educated. In fact, a recent study determined that American women today are generally more articulate and well-spoken than men. Well, duh! In 1852 human values in America got another lift when Harriet Beecher Stowe, sister of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, published Life Among the Lowly (you know it as Uncle Tom’s Cabin), our first great novel of social import.
By 1843 mass migration was carving miles of wagon ruts across mid-America and the West. The Oregon Trail from Independence, MO, reached over the Cascades into the fertile valley of the Willamette (rhymes with "dammit!") Place names were taken west: Salem, Albany, Portland, to name a few, to remind the folks of home. The stagecoach and the wagon train, the ocean packet and Yankee Clipper, could take weeks, months for parcels of family news and government orders to travel coast to coast. So by 1844 electrons began to link far off communities in the blink of an eye, the original text messaging: Dash-dash-dash, dash-dash, dash-dash-dot – OMG! Samuel Morse’s newfangled electrical gizmo, telegraphy and code, was embraced and laced the land. As the new Troy and Rutland tracks were laid up the Owlkill in 1851, wires were strung into Cambridge for the first time, used for scheduling freight and passenger traffic. Construction into southern Washington Co. extended the valley’s reach across the North and around the nation, into the Deep South and west to Omaha, the end of the line those years. Also advancing the quality of life in Cambridge, a new process for producing steel in high volume was discovered by William Kelly about 1850 in Kentucky (patented independently in 1855 by Brit Sir Henry Bessemer.) The RR industry was a major benefactor of the alloy which yielded more reliable rails and safer travel. Steam powered the locomotives until slowly replaced by petrol engines after oil was discovered and tapped from underground for the first time in 1859 in western PA. Greenies have been grumpy about it ever since.
In the 1850s quarries of Granville slate – that sidewalk you just strolled down - and Rutland marble filled material manifests of builders around upstate NY and across the region. Other events of note in the Cambridge District during the period included addition to the Cambridge Washington Academy in 1844, and in ’45 the Presbyterian and Reformed congregations (today’s UP) raised a new church building in town. By 1851 Catholic Mass was being said in an old brick school house on North Park Street, then from 1853-1855 Saint Patrick’s was built on South Park (see photo). A venerable old structure that forever-young Cambridge citizens recall fondly from well before WWII, from first communions and weddings to funerals, it was razed in the early 1980s for the present edifice. In 1858 Woodlands Cemetery (see illustration) was laid out to the north of the village proper, "a common ground where all can meet in a spirit of forgiveness and agreement, undisturbed by the contentions and controversies of the world". And that year yet another important covered bridge in the Cambridge area was constructed over the Batten Kill at Shushan.
In 1845, down in the Chesapeake at Annapolis, MD, the U.S. Naval Academy was chartered. The American Navy was establishing itself as one of the world’s premier fleets for national defense. Also that year, the first set of formal baseball rules was drafted by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of Manhattan, launching America’s Pastime, so called by historians and purists who stitch red, white, and blue bunting and human interest stories into the tapestry of American culture. Who replied, "It beats rooming with Joe Page", when interviewed by a baseball beat writer? Joe DiMaggio, of course, speaking of marriage to Miss Monroe. The game is also parsed by countless statisticians who extract minutia from reams of raw data to make a CPA blush, everything from At Bats to Zeros Thrown. Consider such trivia: Who has the most lifetime extra base hits to right field at away games, on grass, at night, against left-handed relief pitchers named Wally? "You could look it up", said Casey Stengel. But it wouldn’t be until after the Civil War that our modern pro teams and leagues were formed beginning with the Cincinnati Red Stockings Base Ball Club of c.1869, and the National League formally chartered in 1876, while the American League was born at the turn of the century. Today every hometown across the USA has a field of dreams, from city centers to the outskirts shared with rows of corn, including our own Little League Park and the CCS Indians’ varsity diamond. The Cambridge legacy of base hits and championships, fashioned between white lines of chalk in the mid-20th century, includes the names of Ray Luke, Carson Fuller, and Bob Burlingame.
After years of tension along the Rio Grande, in 1846 war was finally declared by Congress on Mexico ostensibly to protect American interests in the new State of Texas. The U.S. Army was victorious two years later in its first campaign fought entirely beyond our borders. The Mexican Army was routed on its northern plains with mobile artillery tactics developed by West Pointers. Down the East Coast at Vera Cruz the Navy landed an Expeditionary Force which planted the Stars-and-Stripes for the first time on foreign soil in a time of war. The Army captured Chapultepec Fortress and the capital of Mexico City where, ironically, a battalion of a few hundred largely American Irish—who couldn’t train their guns on fellow Catholics and had defected to the Mexican Army—were hanged for sedition. Today Mexico celebrates San Patricio Day in their honor. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ensued, aka Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic. So how’s it working out? For one thing, the U.S. Navy makes no liberty calls in any Mexican port, period. Other details are seen every night at 11 (e.g. the present administration’s embarrassment "Fast and Furious".) Ulysses S. Grant was a young army lieutenant serving in Mexico under General Taylor (both later president) and would recall in his Memoirs (1885): "Generally, the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory." Grant would go on to write that the war against Mexico had brought punishment on America through the Civil War: "The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times."
Through the 1840s, however, the North-South balance in the halls of Congress was tenuously maintained as six new states joined the Union—Arkansas (‘36), Michigan (’37), Florida (’45), Texas (’45), Iowa (’46) and Wisconsin (’48)—placing 30 white stars on Old Glory’s canton of blue. In 1849 the gold fields of California, then a two-year old U.S. territory, were flooded by fortune-seekers. Thus began the unraveling of the free-slave stability with the admissions of the resource-rich, slavery-banned Western and Northern states of California (’50), Minnesota (’58) and Oregon (’59), and fence-sitter Kansas (early ‘61). Northern abolitionists clashed with Southern sympathizers throughout the 1850s as deadly scorched-earth violence erupted and blood spilled across Missouri and Kansas. Back east in Maryland John Brown’s raiders hoped to inspire a slave revolt, but they were killed or captured and hanged by U.S. Marines led by experienced West Pointer Col. Robert E. Lee (whose career would soon take a dramatic turn.)
On the national political scene, in 1854 the Whig Party dissolved and was reborn as the Republican Party from the "Free Soilers" and other nationalistic factions. Abraham Lincoln became the Grand Old Party’s first great champion. In 1858, the legendary Lincoln-Douglas Debates were seven fiery exchanges in Illinois during that year’s U.S. Senate race, run with no moderators (thankfully unlike today’s mainstream media who are too often anything but objective, pitching softballs to favored candidates, curveballs to opponents; you could look it up.) The points and counterpoints put Lincoln on the map as he deftly out-dueled his challenger’s stance on slavery and positioned himself for a run for the high office in two years. In November 1860 he was elected the 16th President by slender popular and electoral votes. That was too much for the secessionists and in December South Carolina quit the Union. "Can they do that?!" SC was just the first as ten more Southern states followed suit. The rest is history, wrought with terrible swift swords yet ever marching onward through the wisdom and virtue of a unified federal republic.
Closing out the antebellum decade, closer to home on September 7, 1860, Anna Mary Robertson was born in the Town of Jackson. In adulthood she was a regular Ma, but late in life became an extraordinary Grandma Moses (RIP 1961) and national icon. She fashioned, of course, her genre of art form, a folksy style that abandons x-y-z fidelity for the gaiety and charm, flavor and color of life in the American countryside. And she’s claimed as "cousin" by half the residents of Washington County!
The Civil War itself? We’ve been down that road (Chapter V, May 26, 2011.) Besides, these days the topic is faithfully recaptured and presented near and far, so we’ll just skip ahead.
Next time: Chapter 18, Post-Civil War, The Gilded Age, Part I, 1865-1880.
Sources: A History of the Cambridge Area (R. Raymond, T. Raymond 2010); photo Ken Gottry Jr. archives; illustration by Robert W. Raymond (1940-1995); public domain.
Note: The historical analyses, interpretations and opinions—political "bias and prejudice", if you must—expressed herein are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle Newspaper, the Village of Cambridge, or the area Towns. That this material may be considered for classroom instruction in one or more area secondary schools is flattering and highly appreciated. One hopes this includes the historical (and contemporary) facts of voter fraud and party preference of Hispanics, as well as the obvious bias and prejudice of the nation’s major city dailies, network newsrooms, and the more obscure cable news outlets. For example, see the work of the once highly regarded Dan Rather whose own knee-jerk standards and ethics justly cast him into cable Siberia while his target, President 43, remains an American hero to American patriots.
(Please contact the author at email@example.com.)
CAMBRIDGE HISTORY LIVES © 2011