Various other bills made successful progress through the two Houses. A retired list for the navy was provided; $7,750,000 were appropriated to meet the claims of the creditors of Texas who may hold bonds for the payment of which the revenues of the state were pledged; a bill to protect emigrant passengers was adopted; $25,000 were appropriated for statuary to be executed by Hiram Powers; etc. A joint resolution, approved on the 15th of February, authorized the president to confer the title of lieutenantgeneral by brevet, in a single instance, for eminent services. General Scott was the recipient of this well-merited and distinguished honor.*

Just at the close of the session President Pierce communicated to Congress a voluminous collection of diplomatic correspondence respecting the Ostend Conference, held in October of the preceding year. The substance of this meeting of the American ministers to England, France, and Spain, at the city of Ostend, may be briefly summed up. The point of it consisted in the value of Cuba to the United States, the almost necessity of getting possession of it, the taking measures to this end openly and fairly, the offering Spain $120,000,000 for the island, etc. Franklin Pierce

* During the months of January, February, and March, 1854, the Darien exploring expedition, consisting of twenty-seven men, under command of Lieut. Isaac Strain of the navy, attempted to ascertain the practicability of a rojte for a ship canal across the Isthmus. It was attended with dangers, and difficulties, and sufferings, almost passing belief. For a very interesting article, prepared from the journal of Lieut Strain and from other sources, by Mr. J. T. Headley, gee "Harper's Magazine" for the months of March, April, and May, 1855.


hesitating about following the course suggested by the minister to Spain, Mr. Soule, on the 17th of December, 1854, sent a letter resigning his post, under the impression that, unless his plana were to be carried out, he was of no furthor use in Spain. On the 3d of March, the thirty-third Congress closed its labors, and the members dispersed to their several homes and summer occupations.*

In various portions of the country, the elections of the present season indicated the progress of the "American" party, and to a large extent they were certainly unfavorable to Pierce's administration. Feelings of mutual dislike seemed to be growing in the community between "natives" and "foreigners," and riots and disturbances occurred here and there, indicating a very unhealthy state of a considerable part of the public mind on this topic. As we have hinted on a previous page (p. 508) the final settlement of so difficult and perplexing a dispute as this which has sprung up among us, in regard to native born and naturalized citizens, is yet in the future, and very naturally causes anxiety to those who desire peace and concord to prevail throughout our beloved country. It also deserves to be noted,

* President Pierce visited the White Sulphur Springs, in Virginia, on the 21st of August, where he was received by a committee, at the head of which was ex-president Tyler, who addressed the president, welcoming him to the state, and congratulating him on the prosperous condition of the country. The president, in reply, complimented Mr. Tyler for irhat he had done while in the executive chair, and :nade some seasonable remarks on the dangers threatening the peace of the country, especially in the growing spirit of resistance to law and order.

[ocr errors]

Ch. vm.i

that there was a strong disposition in several quarters to organize a new political party, upon the principle of restoring the Missouri compromise, and resisting what the northern states held to be the aggressions of the slave-holding sections of the Union. The whigs, it was said, favored this movement to a considerable extent.

The legislature of New York, earnestly desirous to place an effectual barrier against the further progress of intemperance, pauperism and crime, passed, at its present session, a very stringent law on the subject of

1S55. . . . .

selling intoxicating liquors. A long and animated debate was had in the legislature, and the whole subject, in all its details, was thoroughly discussed, the intention being to put a stop to the sale of ardent spirits for any purposes except medicinal or other legitimate ends. Penalties of a severe kind were incurred by violations of the law, which was to go into effect on the 4th of July. Considering the good intent of the legislature, and the importance of vigorous action to restrain the tempters to pauperism and crime, who expose for sale intoxicating drinks, and urge forward to speedy ruin thousands upon thousands every year; considering how hundreds of families are reduced to beggary and destitution, how many murders are committed, how large a portion of the community are degraded by drink, physically, morally, socially; we may, without impropriety, express here deep regret, that this effort to break down a monster evil has failed almost entirely. The law, so far as the city of New York is concerned, was


never carried out, and probably while things exist as they were some years ago, and are now (in 1865), such a law it will be found impossible to execute in the metropolis of the United States. It is a grave question, a very grave question, what shall be done? and we venture to submit it to the reader as one in which he has a vital interest, both as a philanthropist, a patriot, and a Christian.

In the spring of the present year, the president gave notice to the Danish government, in respect to the dues levied on all vessels passing the Sound, that the treaty of commerce which recognized the right to levy these dues, would be terminated at the expiration of a year; and also, that the right would no longer be recognized by the United States. The Danish government, in reply to this notification, complained that so sudden a notice should be given, and that the termination of the treaty would take away the revenues of which, in the present condition of Europe, Denmark professed to feel greatly in need.

On a previous page (p. 490) we have spoken of the expedition undertaken for the purpose of searching for Sir John Franklin and his missing company. Dr. Kane, who had gone with the first expedition, and who was loth to believe that Franklin and all his men had perished, was placed, through the liberality of Mr. Grinnell and the favor of the government, in command of a Becond expedition to proceed upon the same almost hopeless search. On the 30th of May, 1853, Dr. Kane, with seventeen hardy and brave men unu^r his command, sailed from New York in the Advance, a strongly built her'jaaphrodite brig of 144 tons burden, and well provided with every thing which experience or judgment could suggest. On the 10th of September they were frozen in on the coast of Greenland, at the most northerly point ever reached. Here the party passed their first Arctic winter. The following summer was spent in exploring in every direction that was practicable, in endeavors to ascertain something through the Esquimaux, in hunting, etc. The second winter, that of 1854-55, was intensely severe and trying, and their stock of fuel became quite exhausted. The search having been prosecuted two years, with no result, and Dr. Kane deeming it impossible to spend a third winter amid the ice, the Advance was reluctantly abandoned, on the 20th of May, 1855. With sledges and in open boats, this brave party set out on their return home; and having gone thro*ugh sufferings of the most bitter and severe character, they reached the Danish settlements at Upernavik at the beginning of August, completely worn down with a journey of one thousand three hundred miles in eighty-one days. Apprehensions had some time previously begun to be entertained respecting the fate of Dr. Kane and his party; and acting upon these, Lieutenant Hartstene was dispatched in May, 1855, with the bark Release and the steamer Arctic, to seek for Dr. Kane and the Advance. Early in July they reached Upernavik, and fortunately not long after fell in with the brave Arctic explorers, i. e.,


all who survived, three of the number having died; they were gladly received on board, at Disco, about the middle of September, and on the 11th of October the expedition was welcomed back again to New York*

The still youthful navigator (for he was born in February, 1820) made his official report to the secretary of the navy, and it was hoped that he might live to render many years of service to the interests of humanity and for the honor of his country; but the rigors of the Arctic winter had taxed his health and strength with unwonted severity, and he himself was called upon ere long to follow his three lost companions to the grave. Every thing that affectionate solicitude of friends and relatives could suggest was done; but his health sank beyond possibility of arresting the inroads of the fell destroyer; and on the 16th of February, 1857, at Havana, in the Island of Cuba, the spirit of Elisha Kent Kane passed away from earth to his final account Dr. Wm. Elder, we may here state, has since published a biography of Dr. Kane, in which the reader will find various matters of interest respecting the early life and training of our distinguished countryman.

In connection with the loss of Sir John Franklin and his party, we may mention, that an overland exploring party, dispatched by the Hudson's Bay Company, discovered on Montreal Is

* For volumes of unsurpassed interest and attrao tiveness, we may refer the reader to the "Arctic Explorations; the Second Grinnell Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, 1853, 4, 6." By Elisha Kent Kane, \L D., U. S. N. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1857.

Ch. VIII.]

land, a snow shoe of English make, a part of a ship's boat, with the word Terror distinctly visible on it, and other articles of less moment. Fresh interest was excited in this subject also, by the interesting circumstance that at the close of 1855, a New London whaler lighted upon the British relief bark Resolute, which had been abandoned in the Arctic ice by Captain Kellett, of the expedition under Sir Edward Belcher. The Resolute, with her armament and stores complete, as at the time when she was abandoned, had drifted a thousand miles from the place where she had been frozen in; and the hardy whalemen of New London took her in charge, and brought her safely into port. Congress subsequently voted $40,000 for the purchase and refitting of the Resolute, and on the 12 th of December, 1856, she arrived at Spithead. Lieutenant Harstene was in command, and he was charged with the duty of presenting the Resolute to the English government. We may well believe, that the queen and the people of England received this mark of American good feeling and courtesy with especial satisfaction.

During the autumn, apprehensions began to be felt of approaching difficulties with England. Some of the London journals, it appears, talked in a very belligerent tone, and it was said that the English government had sent several vessels of war to reinforce the West India squadron, with a view to restrain "filibustering" and privateering expeditions from the ports of the United States. Probably, in part, this exhibition of hostility was Vol. III.—05


due to the fact, that the proceedings of various British consuls in enlisting recruits for the Crimean war were severely reprobated in the instructions written by Mr. Cushing, the attorney-general, to the district attorney at Philadelphia, concerning the trials had in that city for violations of the United States neutrality laws. We are glad, however, to be able to say, that the British government disavowed all hostile intentions in the course they were pursuing; and so the threatened difficulty, as on many another occasion, passed away without further notice.*

On the 3d of December, the thirtyfourth Congress began its first session. In the House, on the question of who should be the speaker, a contest immediately sprang up. Messrs. Banks, Richardson, Campbell, and two or three others, were prominent candidates. Ballot after ballot was had, day after day, and it was not till two months of the public time had been wasted, and the plurality rule had been adopted, that Mr. N. P. Banks, on the 2d of February, 1856, received one hundred and three votes for speaker, while one hundred were cast for Mr. Aiken, of South Carolina,

* Late in August, some of the directors of the New York, Newfoundland, and London Submarine Telegraph Company, went out to witness the laying down the telegraphic cable between Cape Ray and Capo North, a distance of sixty miles. One end of the cable was fastened on the shore at Capo Ray, and the paying out began; it was continued successfully for more than thirty hours, when the weather became too stormy to proceed further in the attempt, and the cable was reluctantly cut o8J after some forty miles length had been sunk in the sea. The party returned to New York, on the 5th of September, purposing to renew the undertaking at as early a day as practicable.


and eleven were scattering. President Pierce, wearied out with waiting for the organization of the House, adopted an unusual course, and, on the 31st of December, sent his message to the Senate. In this document the president brought to the notice of the legislature the various questions of interest and importance which at the time required their attentive consideration. He spoke of the views of the British government as to the interpretation of the treaty of 1850, in regard to Central American affairs; the recruiting for the Crimean war carried on by English agents in the United States; the question of the Danish Sound dues; our relations with Spain; etc. In regard to finances, it was stated, that the balance in the treasury, July 1st, was $18,931,976; estimated receipts for the year, $67,918,073; making available resources of nearly $87,000,000. Expenditures for the year were estimated at a little over $71,000,000, which would leave a balance in the treasury, July 1st, 1856, of nearly $16,000,000. The recommendations in the message were principally on the subjeet of the army and the navy, the appointing a commissioner to survey the line between Washington territory and the British possessions, etc. The president devoted considerable space to the existing difficulties in Kansas; the state-rights question, with particular reference to the fugitive slave law; the history of this topic; and such like; and gave it as his opinion, that the south had not "persistently asserted claims and obtained advantages over the north in the practical administration of the general government." He

also defended the principles of the Kansas-Nebraska bill.

This Kansas question, a very vexatious one as it has proved, we may properly notice here. From the nature of the case, difficulty was likely to spring out of the position of affairs, when the Missouri compromise had been repealed; and almost immediately it became a matter of contest, whether the influence of southern or northern men should predominate in forming and moulding the institutions and principles of the territory, and the state soon to grow up and demand admission into the Union. In March, an election was held for members of the territorial legislature, and the candidates in favor of introducing slavery into the territory received a decided majority. It was alleged, however, on the other side, that the election was carried by illegal voters having come into the territory from Missouri, and interfered with those who had a right to vote, viz., the bona fide residents. Governor Reeder, not long after, was on a visit to the eastern states, and in a speech which he made he said, "Kansas had been invaded, conquered, subjugated, by an armed force from beyond her borders, led on by a fanatical spirit, trampling under foot the principle of the Kansas bill and the right of suffrage."

The violence of party spirit increased, and riot and even blood-shed were the consequences. The settlers opposed to slavery-introduction complained, in a memorial to Congress, c f the Missourians having entered the territory and deprived them of their rights; the proslavery men denounced any attempt to

« 上一頁繼續 »