Sunday, April 27, 2008

February 13th, 1861

My apologies for not posting in several days. Tomorrow, I'm taking an exam important to my profession and have used my spare time for studying. During study breaks I've indulged myself with the New York Times online archives. Sadly, the corporatist sensibilities that regulate so much of the media today also heavily influences the New York Times.

Nevertheless, one benefit to maintaining a subscription is free online access to their historical archives. Previously, subscribers could only access those archives dating back to 1980. However, in recent days the New York Times have made available online archives dating back to 1851! Below is an excerpt from their February 13th, 1861 coverage of the U.S. Congress officially certifying Abraham Lincoln's election as President by the Electoral College:
"The scene in the House was very impressive. Thousands of people were present filling every available spot. As many more left, being quite unable to reach the galleries. The arrangements for keeping the peace at the Capitol, and avoiding obstruction of the passage from one House to the other were perfect.

When the Senate entered the Hall of the House of Representatives, Vice-President Breckinridge took a seat with the speaker, and assumed the Chair. Senators Seward, Douglas and Lane occupied the centre seats of the front front row of Senators. From the moment the Senators took their seat and throughout the proceedings, the audience looked on with almost breathless interest and silence, appreciating fully the grave solemnity of the occasion, and the decorum belonging thereto. There were no manifestations of applause, disapprobation or uneasiness in the audience, and when the Vice-President had announced the result, and that Lincoln and Hamlin were elected, the vast audience, satisfied that the interesting event was consummated in peace arose silently and withdrew in an orderly manner from the chamber. Vice-President Breckinridge bore himself in the proceedings with marked dignity and courtesy."
The scene described in 1861 reads rather anti-climatic considering all the tumult to soon follow with the Civil War, Lincoln's assassination and Reconstruction. I would gladly copy and past the entire article for all of you but copyright law doesn't permit me. If you're a subscriber click here to read it all in PDF format. The article also contains other interesting dispatches nationwide including a Supreme Court case in which Kansas sought compensations for losses sustained during a pro-slavery demonstration.

To this point I'm especially engrossed by the Times coverage of Abraham Lincoln, slavery, the Abolitionist movement and the Civil War. Reading coverage from that period reinforces how far we've come. Indeed, Barack Obama is the likely nominee of the Democratic Party. And yet as the recent verdict in my home state regarding the Sean Bell shooting illustrates, we haven't come far enough.

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