Gamaliel Bailey and Antislavery Union

By Stanley Harrold | Go to book overview

chapter twelve
A Party of Freedom

When Franklin Pierce was inaugurated fourteenth president of the United States in March 1853, the sectional issues that had divided the country a few years earlier were quiescent. The popularity of Uncle Tom's Cabin and widespread resentment of the Fugitive Slave Act notwithstanding, there was general acceptance of the Compromise of 1850. The country was peaceful and prosperous as California gold brought rising prices. Manufacturing, agriculture, and commerce thrived as European immigrants provided cheap labor for eastern factories, as farmers sought fertile soil west of the Mississippi River, and as American vessels plied their trade on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was the time of clipper ships, river steamboats, and railroads. Many in all sections of the country favored a railroad to the Pacific Coast, and the Pierce administration, making a policy of expansion at home and abroad, lent its support by undertaking an extensive survey of routes to the Pacific under the direction of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Yet within a year eagerness for a Pacific railroad, westward migration, and the insecurity of Missouri slaveholders prompted the introduction into Congress of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, organizing those territories without restriction of slavery and bringing about the revival and expansion of the antislavery movement.

Shortly after Pierce took office Bailey traveled to New York City to see Harriet Beecher Stowe off on a voyage to Europe, and while he was in the city he made arrangements for a similar voyage for himself. At forty-five he was worn-out from his various labors and hoped to forestall a more serious threat to his health by taking a relaxing sea voyage and a leisurely European tour.1 After arranging for the board of his children with friends in New Hampshire and Ohio, and for the conduct of the Era by William Elder and

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