December 6, 1852

 

cuba-1850

Havana Harbor, ca. 1851

Monday Dec 6th  This day have commenced fixing Oakes

Angiers clothes ready for him to go to Cuba

We were all in the other part of the 

house to dine likewise Oliver & wife

Went when dinner was ready and spent

the afternoon & evening probably the last time

we shall all be there together for months

 

The family had decided. Oakes Angier Ames, suffering from what everyone believed to be pulmonary tuberculosis, would leave home, his cold New England home, to try to recover his health in hot, humid Cuba. Twenty-three years old, he was about to travel farther than anyone in his immediate family had ever traveled, to seek not fortune, but well-being. Everyone in that family (and probably a few beyond it) felt a part of his journey. One of their own was leaving home.

Evelina was emotional about Oakes Angier’s pending departure. She had periods of barely being able to cope, but today she seems to appreciate how much time family members were spending together, dining, visiting and having tea, “probably for the last time we shall all be together for months.” Being separated for only “months” was putting the best possible spin on the situation, for every person in that family surely knew that Oakes Angier might never recover or return.

Cuba, meanwhile, must have been the topic of some of the family’s conversation. The political relationship between the United States and the island, which was then a colony of Spain, was uneasy because of a few recent episodes of the island’s Captain-General refusing to accept mail and passengers from the United States. That disagreeable situation was being resolved through an appeal to Spain.

But a larger consideration prevailed in the rhetoric of some southern politicians who were looking for a way to annex Cuba and reinforce the practice of slavery there. So far, their agitation had been unsuccessful. In his State of the Union address – delivered this day to Congress – President Millard Fillmore wrote clearly of his disinterest in acquiring Cuba:

[B]e assured that the United States entertain no designs against Cuba, but that, on the contrary, I should regard its incorporation into the Union at the present time as fraught with serious peril.

Were this island comparatively destitute of inhabitants or occupied by a kindred race, I should regard it, if voluntarily ceded by Spain, as a most desirable acquisition. But under existing circumstances I should look upon its incorporation into our Union as a very hazardous measure. It would bring into the Confederacy a population of a different national stock, speaking a different language, and not likely to harmonize with the other members. It would probably affect in a prejudicial manner the industrial interests of the South, and it might revive those conflicts of opinion between the different sections of the country which lately shook the Union to its center, and which have been so happily compromised.

Expressing the prevalent and unchallenged racism of the time, Fillmore wrote optimistically of the future of the United States. Cuba aside, Fillmore believed that the political division between the North and the South had been solved by the Missouri Compromise of 1850. He was certainly wrong. What did Oakes Angier Ames make of it all?

 

*Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, 1852

 

November 30, 1852

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Hanover Street, Boston, ca. 1872*

Tuesday Nov 30th  Oakes A Oliver & self went to

Boston to the Webster funeral.  Called at

Mr Orrs & Melinda went with me to see Selina

Selina & self saw the procession from A A Gilmores

room in Hanover St. We called on Pauline

and on Mrs Dorr  Spent the evening at

Mr Butlers his mother brother & sister there

 

After a false start the day before, Evelina rode into Boston today – she and thousands of others, evidently. The city was hosting an official memorial service for Daniel Webster, the great senator who had passed away a month earlier. It was “a fair good day for the season”* so Evelina, Oakes Angier, and Oliver (3) had easy traveling.

Senator Webster was eulogized at Faneuil Hall, with a prayer led by Reverend Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, the pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, and the main oration delivered by George Stillman Hillard. Hillard, an admirer of the late Webster, was a senator in the Massachusetts Legislature. Harvard-educated, he had been a law partner of Charles Sumner, had edited – for a time – the Unitarian publication, Christian Register, and eventually would became the first dean of Boston University Law School. He was well known for his oratory.

Hillard spoke at length about Daniel Webster, his speech published and distributed afterwards. Many in the nation were still feeling the loss of the great senator, whether or not they had agreed with him.  President Millard Fillmore, who was about to send his final State of the Union Address to Congress, included a brief lament of the man:

Within a few weeks the public mind has been deeply affected by the death of Daniel Webster, filling at his decease the office of Secretary of State. His associates in the executive government have sincerely sympathized with his family and the public generally on this mournful occasion. His commanding talents, his great political and professional eminence, his well-tried patriotism, and his long and faithful services in the most important public trusts have caused his death to be lamented throughout the country and have earned for him a lasting place in our history.***

Evelina and her sons didn’t attend today’s service, but they did observe the procession along Hanover Street, which is now part of the North End.

*Image courtesy of Boston Public LIbrary

**Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

***Millard Fillmore, State of the Union Address, Dec. 6, 1852, courtesy of http://www.infoplease.com

November 24, 1852

matthew_perry

Matthew C. Perry

Wedns Nov 24 Have heat the oven three times

to day and baked squash & apple pies brown

bread gingerbread & cake of sour cream and

it is very good  Miss Alger has given

her thirteenth lesson  Horatio & Gustavus

came in the stage  Augusta spent part 

of the evening here

The brick oven, heated up three times, would have helped warm the house on this day before Thanksgiving, as “it was the coldest day we have had yet.”* Evelina was pleased with a new recipe for sour cream cake, probably a pound cake that used sour instead of sweet cream. Many smart cooks had discovered that this kind of recipe was a good way to use up cream that had turned. It was very Yankee not to let the cream go to waste. And while Evelina was baking, the servants Catharine and Ann were working, too, setting the table, cutting up vegetables, trussing the turkey. The kitchens at the Ames compound  and across New England were busy, busy, busy.

While housewives focused on preparations for the Thanksgiving feast, a major diplomatic mission got underway. Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander of the East India Squadron, departed Norfolk, Virginia to sail to Japan. His mission was to secure a trade treaty, no easy task with the notoriously secluded island nation. President Millard Fillmore had authorized Perry to open the ports to American trade, by show of force – also known as gunboat diplomacy – if necessary. Despite the ill wishes of the Dutch, who were already trading there, Perry was ultimately successful.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

November 2, 1852

490px-William_Rufus_DeVane_King_1839_portrait

William R. King

(1786 – 1853)

Tuesday Nov 2d  Sewed on cambric sleeves for

Susan this forenoon very quietly with

Miss Alger  It has rained since Saturday

morn but this afternoon has cleared 

off Mrs Ames & self have been to Mr

Swains & called at Doct Wales & Augustus

Miss Alger & O Angier took tea in Olivers

 

Back from her quick day trip into Boston, Evelina spent the morning “very quietly” in her sitting room, sewing. The piano teacher, Miss Alger, was still visiting.  Outside, “it rain[ed] by spells […] wind north east it stormd all the forenoon and was cloudy about all day – there has bin one inch + a quarter of water fell since Sunday”*

After midday dinner, when the storm had stopped, Evelina and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, went out to check on Ann and John Swain, whose infant son had died on Saturday. Evelina would have taken with her the mourning accoutrements she had purchased for Ann in the city. No doubt the Ames women continued to comfort the forlorn parents. From the Swains they paid other calls in North Easton, to the home of Ephraim and Maria Wales and to see Evelina’s nephew, Alson “Augustus” Gilmore and his wife Hannah. Hannah had lost her infant son Willie back in the summer. The women would have had much to talk about.

On the national scene, the day was momentous. As we have read previously in this blog, General Franklin Pierce, a Democrat, was elected President of the United States, defeating Whig candidate General Winfield Scott (incumbent Whig Millard Fillmore hadn’t been renominated) and Free Soil candidate John P. Hale. Easton historian William Chaffin writes: “In 1852 the vote for President was one hundred and seventy-one for Winfield Scott, one hundred and forty-three for John P. Hale, forty-nine for Franklin Pierce, and four for Daniel Webster, who was dead. This vote shows the political complexion of the town, and confirms the statement of the adoption of the Free Soil position by many Democrats.”**

The vice-president-elect was William R. King, a senator from Alabama who believed strongly in the Union. He had helped draft the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, King was suffering from tuberculosis and would soon die in office, one of the shortest-termed vice-presidents and the only Alabaman. He was also the only vice-president to take the oath of office on foreign soil; he was in Cuba taking the cure when he was inaugurated.

 

*Oliver Ames, Journal, Stonehill College Archives, Arnold Tofias Collection

**William L. Chaffin, History of Easton Massachusetts, 1886, p. 630

 

October 4, 1852

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                       Roger B. Taney                                                                   Benjamin Robbins Curtis                

(1777 – 1864)                                                                       (1809 – 1874)

Oct 4th Monday  Catharine Middleton & C Murphy washed

Mrs Norris and all of us dined with Mrs Witherell

and staid there untill about four and then

Mrs Norris and self went to Augustus’ to tea and

passed the evening  Mrs Lincoln is there

intends spending the winter  I do but very

little sewing have made a pr of plain cambric sleeves to day

 

 

It was the first Monday in October which in North Easton meant another washday. At the Ames compound, the Irish servant girls, Catharine Middleton and Catharine Murphy, tied their aprons on, filled the wash tubs and went to work. The slight rain did not interfere.

In Washington D.C., on this first Monday in October, nine white male justices put on their black robes and also went to work. A new session of the U.S. Supreme Court got underway. Led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland, the 1852-1853 term would deal with, among others, the case of Cooley vs. Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia. That decision would confirm the right of states to regulate commerce within their own boundaries. We might imagine that this decision had an impact on businesses such as the shovel works that shipped merchandise.

Taney and three other members of the court – John McLean of Ohio (the longest-serving), James Moor Wayne of Georgia, and John Catron of Tennessee – had been appointed by Andrew Jackson in the 1830’s. Two other justices, John McKinley of Alabama and Peter Vivian Daniel of Virginia, had been appointed by Martin Van Buren and had served almost as long. Newer to the bench were Samuel Nelson of New York, appointed by John Tyler in 1845, and Benjamin Robbins Curtis of Massachusetts, appointed by Millard Fillmore the previous year, 1851.

Associate Justice Curtis was the first and only Whig ever to serve on the Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard, he was also the first justice to have a formal law degree. The justices up until that time had either “read law” as apprentices or attended law school without getting their degree.  Curtis would further distinguish himself in 1857 when the Taney Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott decision that determined that a black man had no rights of citizenship. Curtis and John McLean dissented from that majority decision, with Curtis so upset that he resigned from the court. He is the only justice to date to resign from the Supreme Court on a matter of principle.

 

 

December 2, 1851

 FillmorePresident Millard Fillmore

Dec 2d  Tuesday.  It has been cold to day but not near as

cold at yesterday or as windy  Mary has put

her clothes out.  Jane has ironed some shirts

for Mr Ames & I have ironed some collars

cuff & handkerchiefs &c for self  Mother & self

have passed the afternoon at Mr Whitwells

Mr & Mrs John R Howard were there.  Had

a pleasant visit

While the servant Mary – whose last name we never learn – put out most of yesterday’s wet laundry to dry, Jane McHanna rose from bed to iron some of Oakes Ames’s shirts.She had spent part of yesterday placing them in a tub of starch. Evelina took to ironing as well, looking after her own collars, cuffs and handkerchiefs. Ironing, which required a small fleet of flatirons being kept warm on a hot stove, was a welcome chore on a cold day. We don’t often read of Evelina doing the ironing herself.

In Washington, D. C., President Millard Fillmore’s State of the Union address was delivered in writing to Congress.  His speech was quite literal, full of specific details about foreign policy, exports, mining, gold in California, the acquisition of Texas and the surveying and improvements necessary for the territories and frontier.  He lauded the importance of agriculture, noting that “four fifths of our active population are employed in the cultivation of the soil,” and argued for a Bureau of Agriculture.

Fillmore also could not help but write of the growing differences between North and South and the 1850 legislation that was designed to address various aspects of the problem of slavery. He began his address optimistically, writing “the agitation which for a time threatened to disturb the fraternal relations which make us one people is fast subsiding…” but later admitted “that it is not to be disguised that a spirit exists, and has been actively at work, to rend asunder this Union which is our cherished inheritance from our Revolutionary fathers.”

In closing, Fillmore urged patience and reconciliation.  He counseled his countrymen to honor the Compromise of 1850.  “Wide differences and jarring opinions can only be reconciled by yielding something on both sides,” he cautioned.

September 17, 1851

Ruth_Morrill_wife_of_Justin_S._Morrill

 

*

Wednesday Sept 17th  Mrs Stevens left for Boston

this morning & sorry I am to have her go

Miss Eddy dined with Mrs Mitchell &

took tea at Olivers  I went in to tea but

went in but a few moments before as I have

been very busy all day.  Made about a dozen

Lbs of peach preserve & some grape jelly

Ruth Swan married to night Oakes A & Mrs H Mitchell

gone to the wedding

The Great Railroad and Steamship Jubilee kicked off in Boston today with the arrival of President Millard Fillmore and other dignitaries from the United States and Canada, all ready to express mutual congratulations over the new railroad and steamboat connection between their countries.

Evelina knew about the events in Boston but stayed focused on domestic responsibilities in North Easton. From fruit she had recently obtained, she made preserves and jelly, a day-long task that kept her “very busy”.

In the evening, her son Oakes Angier Ames and sister-in-law Harriett Ames Mitchell went to the wedding of Ruth Barrell Swan and Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont.  Ruth, a daughter of Dr. Caleb Swan and his first, late wife, was 28 years old and, in the culture of the day, was marrying late. Independent of the affection she must have felt for him, she may also have thought that he was worth the wait. Three years later, Justin Morrill was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served until 1867, when he became a U.S. Senator. He served the state of Vermont until his death in 1898. A founder of the Republican party, he was a leader in establishing the land-grant colleges with his Morrill Land Grant bill in 1862. That same year, he authored the Anti-Polygamy Act which was aimed at the Church of the Latter Day Saints. He was clearly a one-woman man, and that woman was from Easton.

Ruth Ballard Swan of Easton who married Justin Smith Morrill.