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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 9 October 1848

Something that troubled Presidents Washington and Adams fifty years ago—an article called "Red Republicanism" now-a-days—has been paraded at Tammany Hall lately. I mean, of course, the meeting last Saturday night, to compliment Mr. Hecker,1 and listen to a speech from him and other ultra radicals. All day long the great folds of the flag of "gold, red and black," had been flaunting from the staff at the top of old Tammany, joined with our own "Star-Spangled;" and at night, the immense room was an absolute jam of human beings. The Socialists, National Reformers, and Free Soilers,2 gathered in great force; Old Hunkerism,3 and all sorts of Conservativism, looked on with a sour face, and retreated from the scene. It was a ga'a time for all the highest and most enthusiastic doctrines of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" I, too, caught the enthusiasm, and though I understand German about as much as Choctaw, found myself cheering the Herr as loudly as the rest. Ah! there is something in the breast that bursts all control, in responding on such occasions to high and lofty dreams of political perfection—the wish to stab all sorts of tyranny that have for so many ages enchained the physical and mental powers of the "lower orders" of human kind! The popular feeling in New York would, even now, receive such men as Rollin and Blanc4 with joy. We do not so much wish their doctrines tried here in America, for we are doing well enough; and every successive ten years shows an opening still wider of radicalism—about as fast and as far as the people can stand it. But there is a deadly hatred toward the oppression and misery which the continent of Europe has received as its black legacy from the past. Devastation and blood seem horrible enough, but folks think they are not much worse than the wretchedness of stagnation, poverty, and death, for the millions of the old world.

Theatrical goers here and falling into the Macready5 current with a looseness. It is singular—perhaps it might be called absurd—for Macready is little better than the "remains" of a good actor. The Literary World hits the truth of the thing in the following paragraph:

It seems to be a solemn engagement the American people have entered into with themselves, to fall into a frenzy or a furor, at certain periodical intervals. Whatever object may happen to catch the current at its flood, is pretty sure to be borne on to fortune. At one time it is the domesticity of Miss Bremer,6 then it is the diabolism of Sue,7 the drollery of Dickens;8 one day it is all nature, the next day it is all art. On the very heel of a successful engagement of that "natural actor," Forrest,9 we have the whirlwind raised to fill the sails of that great "artistic performer," Macready. Six months ago, Mr. Macready might have whistled for a hearing on the "merits"—six months hence his chances might be equally slender.

Highway robberies are now variegating the somewhat dull business at the police offices. A. Joseph White10 was nabbed yesterday for attacking a German, at 1 o'clock in the morning, and robbing him of a gold watch and chain. The robbers of the $8,500 from young Crommeline,11 at Paterson, have not yet been discovered.

An innovation has been attempted here, after the Southern fashion, in the self-nomination of Mr. Edwin Williams,12 of much fame in "Registers" and statistics, for the office of Register of the county. It would be a good choice....Phonography (writing according to sound) has made many disciples here, and new classes are continually forming. Really the science is founded on true principles; but the worst of it is, few of its pupils carry its study to perfection....Rev. Dr. Hawks,13 of your city, is in town. He preached yesterday at St. Thomas's, formerly the scene of his regular labors....Mrs. Bishop14 continues warbling at the Park. Her voice is sweet and clear as ever—if not "more so"....You have heard, doubtless, that Fashion was beaten at the Union Course, L.I., last Friday by the Virginia Bostona. Lots of cash changed hands on the occasion; and many were the disconsolate faces....McNulty's15 trial has been postponed on account of the illness of one of the jurors. It won't amount to any thing decisive....We are to have some entertainment in the way of balloon ascensions, the current week, of a Dr. Morrill.16 (I hope they will prove more authentic than those which, for several successive Sundays gathered all the New Orleans boys, negroes, and curious ones, last spring around the corner of Poydras and St. Charles streets....Yellow Jack17 having departed from Quarantine, intercourse by ferry with Staten Island has been renewed....I saw, on Saturday last, a specimen of the California gold18 that is creating such a "sensation." It is the pure stuff, and no mistake.



  • 1. Friedrich Franz Kark Hecker (1811–1881), a native of Baden, attempted to lead an armed uprising to overthrow the monarchy and establish Baden as a Republic. After the move failed, Hecker fled to Switzerland and then emigrated to the United States, where he would later serve as a Colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War. [back]
  • 2. Formed during the 1848 election, the Free Soil Party opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories of the western United States, which included the territory that Mexico had ceded to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican-American War. When neither the Democratic nor the Republican party presidential nominees would rule out the expansion of slavery into these territories, the Free Soil Party was formed in response. The Free Soil Party was active for six years, from 1848 to 1854. [back]
  • 3. Barnburners and Hunkers were terms used to describe opposing sides of the fracturing Democratic party in New York during the mid-nineteenth century. The Barnburners held radical anti-slavery views and were willing to destroy banks and corporations to end corruption and abuses. The Hunkers were pro-government; they favored state banks and minimized the issue of slavery. The divisions between these factions in New York reflected the national divisions that would lead to the American Civil War (1861–1865). [back]
  • 4. Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (1807–1874) was one of the leaders of the French Revolution of 1848. Louis Jean Joseph Charles Blanc (1811–1882) was a French politician who encouraged the development of socialism in France. [back]
  • 5. William Macready (1793–1873) was a British stage actor, who played Shakespearean roles, including Richard III. He performed in London, New York, and Paris. [back]
  • 6. Frederika Bremer (1801–1865) was a Swedish writer known for her realist fiction. Her work Sketches of Everyday Life (1844) was popular in Britain and the United States. [back]
  • 7. Marie-Joseph "Eugène" Sue (1804–1857) was a French novelist and the author of the popular serial newspaper novel The Mysteries of Paris (1842–1843). [back]
  • 8. The English novelist and social critic Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was the author of such popular works as The Pickwick Papers (1836), Oliver Twist (1838), and A Christmas Carol (1843). [back]
  • 9. Edwin Forrest (1806–1872) was an American stage actor, well known for his Shakespearean roles. He was also notorious for his feud with William Macready, a British actor, which ended in an 1849 nativist riot at New York's Astor Opera House that left twenty-five dead. [back]
  • 10. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 11. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]
  • 12. Edwin Williams was a member of the American Institute; serving for several years as Recording Secretary, Williams prepared numerous reports for the Institute. [back]
  • 13. Francis Lister Hawkes (1798–1866) was an Episcopal priest who preached in New York, New Orleans, and numerous other cities. He was also known as a writer and a historian. [back]
  • 14. Anna Bishop (1810–1884) was a London-born operatic soprano who traveled and perfomed extensively, touring in the United States, Europe, and Australia. [back]
  • 15. Whitman may be referring to the trial of Marvin Mcnulty who stood accused of embezzling money from New York merchants. [back]
  • 16. Dr. Morrill was an aeronaut who made ascensions and journeys in his balloon. Inflating the balloon required hyrdrogen gas, sulphuric acid, iron, and water ("The Balloon Ascension," The Evening Post, October 11, 1848, 2). [back]
  • 17. "Yellow Jack" is a reference to Yellow Fever, a viral disease that can be spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. In the nineteenth-century, Yellow fever epidemics occurred in the late summer months in the Southern United States, particularly under humid conditions and in densely populated cities. Yellow fever outbreaks occurred on an annual basis in New Orleans and resulted in thousands of deaths each year. [back]
  • 18. In 1848, James W. Marshall was employed by John A. Sutter to build a sawmill in what is today Coloma, California. Marshall found several pieces of gold, and the news of Marshall's discovery was the beginning of the California Gold Rush (1848–1855). The Gold Rush brought hundreds of thousands of people to California in search of gold. As a result of the rapid growth, California was able to enter the Union as a free state as part of the Compromise of 1850, while Native Californians and indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by those seeking their fortunes in gold. [back]
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