ARKANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY,
Volume 1 (March-Dec 1942), p. 124
THE YEAR 1856 AS VIEWED BY AN
BY HORACE ADAMS,
Professor of History,
Arkansas A. and M. College, Monticello.
- The sensational events of 1856 afford the historian ample material
with which to write a brilliant account of the period. A two-months battle
in Congress over the speakership, the Brooks-Summer assault, the sack of
Lawrence, the massacre on the Pottawatomie, and finally the election of
Buchanan provided scenes for a spectacular panorama. Demoniac diatribes,
pyrotechnical oratory, marching men, and guerilla warfare produce an exciting
scene. Mere contemplation of such harrowing happenings tends to heighten
blood pressure. Compression of the tumultuous occurrences into a few pages
of any general history creates an impression upon the reader that Americans
led a hectic existence during the year 1856.
However, many citizens, probably the vast majority, were largely unmoved
by these historic events. At least one American, John William Brown of Camden,
Arkansas, left a daily account of his life in 1856 which was almost entirely
devoid of excitement. Entries dealt with local items such as the weather,
family ailments, and financial difficulties. They only event of national
significance which merited Brown's attention, aside from two very brief
references to "Bleeding Kansas", was the presidential election.
- The diarist's failure to comment on the exciting occurrences during
the first six months of 1856 cannot be ascribed to inarticulateness on
the part of Brown. The Arkansan was, as a matter of fact, peculiarly qualified
to survey the passing scene witha critical eye.