The Year Was 1838

budapest-resize.bmpThe year was 1838, and in the Hungarian city of Pest and Obuda–“Old Buda”–(which would both form part of Budapest in 1873) the month of March brought devastating flooding of the Danube. Churches and synagogues gave shelter and aid to the flood victims, and Franz Liszt the famous composer and pianist returned to Hungary to give concerts to raise money for the victims.

In the U.K. Chartism was born with the publication of the People’s Charter, drawn up to give the working class better representation in government. It asked for universal suffrage for males, secret ballots, general elections to be held annually, and reorganized electoral districts to be of equal size. It also asked for the removal of the requirement for members of Parliament to own property and asked for them to be paid a salary. Although the Chartist movement eventually failed, many of the reforms in the People’s Charter eventually came to pass through later legislation.

Across the ocean, the northern border of Maine was under dispute and the “Aroostook War” (which was more of a stand-off than a war) began in 1838. Canadian loggers from New Brunswick ventured into the disputed land along the Aroostook River and Canadians captured a Maine expedition sent to remove the loggers. Militias from both sides were sent to the border, but it’s rumored that only the only casualty was a pig that wandered into the area from Canada, and a cow that found itself in a similar circumstance. A temporary truce was reached in 1839 and the matter was settled for good in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.

In 1830 the removal of Native Americans to territory west of the Mississippi had been signed into law by President Andrew Jackson with the “Indian Removal Act.” While Cherokees still in Georgia got a temporary reprieve by the Supreme Court, ruling that it was a sovereign nation, that victory was short-lived and the fate of the Cherokee Nation was sealed with the Treaty of Echota. In 1838, 7,000 troops under the leadership of General Winfield Scott began leading the Cherokee on a thousand-mile march that would result in the loss of 4,000 lives along the “Trail of Tears.”

While a system of aiding slaves from southern U.S. states escape to the North seems to have begun as early as the late 18th century, in 1834, the National Antislavery Society enlisted the help of both white and black abolitionists to create the Underground Railroad. In 1838 the group was formally organized, led by Robert Purvis. It is estimated that more than 100,000 slaves found their way to freedom through this network of agents who guided them to safe “stations” along the railroad. This website has more on some of the signs and signals that were used by “conductors” to guide their “passengers” along the Underground Railroad.”

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