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1839: Exploration and settlement; wars; government; civil rights; statistics.

An unusual incident involving a mutiny on a slave ship added to the tension between North and South. A Spanish ship, the Amistad, sailed from Havana, Cuba, in June 1839 with 54 black slaves aboard. An uprising by the slaves on July 1, in which two men were killed, gave them control of the ship and they attempted to sail to Africa. However, the vessel was captured by a U.S. Navy ship off Long Island. Slave interests, led by Sec. of State John Forsyth, attempted to turn the slaves over to Spain. Abolitionists brought suit to prevent this, and the case reached the Supreme Court, which in Mar. 9, 1841, found that the slaves had been illegally kidnaped and set them free. Former Pres. John Quincy Adams defended the blacks.

Theodore Dwight Weld, Massachusetts abolitionist, issued American Slavery as It Is, a report on the evils of slavery culled from southern newspapers and the eyewitness testimony of former slaves and Southern abolitionists. In this important work he was assisted by Angelina Grimke, daughter of a South Carolina slaveholder, whom he married in 1839. Weld is credited with gaining important converts to the abolitionist cause. Harriet Beecher Stowe credited Weld's book with inspiring her Uncle Tom's Cabin.

In Albany County, N.Y., the Antirent War, also known as the Helderberg War after the mountain group in the area, broke out when tenant farmers resisted the attempts of the descendants of Stephen Van Rensselaer to collect back rent. Sporadic conflicts continued until 1846, when Gov. Silas Wright moved to solve the crisis through legislation. The result was the New York State constitution of 1846, which outlawed the practice of perpetual leases on the old Dutch patroonships, and provided for a just settlement of the conflict.

Feb. 12

The Aroostock War began with the seizure of Rufus McIntire, a U.S. land agent sent to the Aroostock region between New Brunswick, Canada, and Maine, to expel Canadian lumberjacks who had entered the disputed area. The boundary question had been an Anglo-American issue since 1783 and had never been satisfactorily settled. After McIntire's arrest, Maine and New Brunswick called out their militias, and the Nova Scotia legislature appropriated war funds. Congress authorized a conscription of 50,000 men and voted $10,000,000 toward the prosecution of this action. Calmer voices prevailed: Gen. Winfield Scott arranged a truce, and both parties agreed to refer the dispute to a boundary commission. The issue was settled in 1842 by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

Nov. 13

The Liberty Party, an antislavery party, held its first national convention at Warsaw, N.Y. It nominated James G. Birney of New York for president. Birney, a former Kentuckian and slaveholder, wielded strong political influence in western New York and the Ohio R. Valley. Francis J. Lemoyne was nominated for vice president.

Dec. 4-7

The Whig National Convention nominated William Henry Harrison for the presidency. John Tyler of Virginia was nominated for the vice presidency.

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Author:Carruth, Gorton
Publication:Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates, 9th ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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