I do not know about the rest of you but I was having trouble with the dropbox link that Dr. Petrik emailed us. It is for that reason that I have decided to bore you with another long winded post. Assignment 3. In order to view it click on the link, entitled Assignment 3.
Thanks for all of your time.
During yesterday’s festivities, I found myself wandering back to the discussion in class on Tuesday about what exactly constitutes a hero. It seems that in today’s society the term hero is a word that gets bantered about a lot. This is especially true in the realm of television as nearly every day some news report refers to an individual, who has performed some type of good will towards their fellow-man as a hero. This is especially true in the sports world as countless number of athletes are praised for their heroics. These usually include striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth in a game against a heated rival, getting a key hit in an important game, or in the wake of the recent showing by the United States in the World Cup, or making the game winning score as time runs out in football. While these events could be considered heroic, does this make the individuals who perform them heroes? While these actions produce a strain on the emotional well-being of the fan, often producing euphoria and agony and misery in the same instance, I do not think that I would consider them heroic. Fortuitous? Absolutely. But they are not heroes.
What constitutes a hero? I believe that the most important definition for a hero is context. Anyone applying the label of hero to any individual needs to understand the context in which the events occurred.
For example, are the Founding Father’s heroes? They certainly took a great deal of risk in declaring themselves independent from, at that time, the most powerful nation in the world. They possessed the confidence in their convictions that what the British government was doing to them was wrong. Yes I know that some historians, Merril Jensen and Charles Beard for example, argue that the American Revolution sprang from economic reasons and that the sole reason for the Declaration of Independence was to protect the purses of the more wealthy colonists. There are also some that suggest that the Revolution was conservative in nature, fought to preserve what the colonists perceived as their rights under the British Constitution. As Bernard Baylin, Edmund Morgan, and others have argued the Revolution was not just about economics but was in fact centered around ideologies. While the signers of the Declaration of Independence argued, pretty much up until the eve of hostilities, that they sought the same rights as every other citizen living in Great Britain. Curiously, as Baylin clearly illustrates, the context of the British Constitution, as understood by both the colonists in North America and the populace in Great Britain, were dramatically different. This stems from the wider audience that many of the more radical publications, and those against the policies of the government, found in the colonies. Within Great Britain, many of these radical ideas were confined to a very small audience, that is when they are allowed to publish at all. If you couple this with the vast expanse, the Atlantic Ocean, which geographically separated the colonies from the motherland, and by doing so, forced many in the colonies to modify their ideas about government and its relation to the people. Thus the conditions were set for the eventually fruition of the concepts and ideologies that would form the bedrock of the dispute and eventual war with England. The fact that these individuals willingly signed, in a sense, their own death warrant serves as clear evidence of the belief of their convictions and the underlying ideological component of the Revolution. But does it make them heroes?
Or how about the Continental Army? Does the fact that some how this rather rag-tag group of individuals, facing nearly impossible odds, managed to defeat the most powerful army in the world make them heroes? To the British, certainly not. However, to the newly independent states on the North Eastern coast of the Atlantic, they quite possibly are. It is the context of the events and how they are viewed which determines whether a person is a hero or not.
Another example from this period. In 1770, John Adams, a lawyer and future revolutionary in Boston, is asked to defend the British soldiers charged with man slaughter, another crimes, in the wake of the “Boston Massacre.” Given the fevered state of Massachusetts in this period, this is a very risky venture. If he decides to take the case, his actions could be read as support for the Parliament and the British crown. On the other hand, if he decides not too, it is quite possible that innocent men will be convicted of crimes that he believes that they did not commit. Ultimately, Adams decides to take the case citing his belief that even in the charged atmosphere of 1770’s Boston an Englishman has the right to, and will receive, a fair trial. While there are no manuscripts of the trial in existence, the fact remains that Adams was able to get the charges dismissed against the soldiers. Given the tensions of this period, does this make Adams a hero? (Hero or not, I believe Adams deserves much more credit than he gets.)
Another rather interesting example, yesterday, aside from being the 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the 151st anniversary of the surrender of Vicksburg in 1863, is the 75th anniversary of the speech given by Lou Gehrig in 1939. Given between the games of a double-header, this speech is considered by some to be baseball’s version of the Gettysburg address. Over come with the out pouring of emotion and admiration from the fans, Gehrig, at one point actually begins to cry. Too weak to hold the gifts that both his former, and current teammates have given, the notoriously shy ballplayer is implored by the fans to speak. At first the doomed Gehrig resist, but over come with emotion he eventually relents. The words that he spoke, briefly excerpted from the YouTube video below, have echoed through the years.
Regrettably it’s not the whole speech but the clip illustrates the gist of it. I admit that when I first heard the speech many years ago, I was teary eyed. Heck I still feel a punch in the heart listening to it. How can a man who knows that he is dying, in a most horrific way, be that humble and that thankful? Class? Absolutely. Does he deserve a place in the pantheon of heroes? There are a very small handful of athletes that I would place in the pantheon of heroes. Gehrig, Jessie Owens and Jackie Robinson serving as two prime examples.
Above I mentioned the Continental Army and whether or not they, and the Founding Fathers should be considered heroes. (Given the circumstances, they should.) But this leads to another question. Many heroes throughout history a members of the armed forces, as they should be. However, does the nature of your enlistment relate to hero status? Should heroes be limited to just those who volunteered for military status instead of including both those who are drafted and those who volunteered? Should enlistment status give your actions on the battlefield more or less weight? Given the way that Americans have treated their soldiers over the years this is a pertinent question.
Or does the nature of ones cause preclude hero status? In the American Civil War both sides proclaimed that they were fighting for just cause. Who is right and who is wrong? Are those willing to risk their lives for a cause, regardless of the rightness or wrongness of it, deserving of hero status? What about those who give, to quote Lincoln, “the last full measure of devotion” to their country? Are they not worthy of hero status?
As these examples illustrate, I believe that context is important in deciding whether some one is a hero or not. Moreover, it may not be the same context with which you are viewing the same set of events. For example, in class there was some discussion as to whether or not a fireman who enters a burning building to rescue some one is a hero or just an individual doing their job. I will tell you this, perhaps to you and I that person is not a hero. They are just doing their job. However, for the person being rescued, that fireman will always be a hero.
Lastly, I leave you with a personal example. Recently, my mother emailed me some pictures of my relatives. Being an avid lover of history, and an aspiring historian, I was enthralled by all of the images, but one of them intrigued me more than most. When I asked her about it, she told me that it was a picture of my great-grandparents and their first son, my great-uncle. I should probably make it unequivocally clear that I admire these three, and my grandfather who came later, a lot. Given the circumstances in their lives I consider them to be heroes and people who I can look up to and admire. It is not easy to take your entire family, uproot it and move to a new country. Yet that is exactly what my great-grandparents did. Being outsiders in a country that has a history of treating immigrants rough, is similar to the way I feel in terms of society in general, and my family in particular. I feel like them the outsider looking in.
In any event, while it is a simple picture, and although it contains two people who I never met, I can sense a connection to the image. These are not just pictures of people, they are my ancestors. People who had guts to seek a better life for their children. Moreover, what is especially intriguing about the image is that in the picture you have a veteran of WWI, my great-grandfather, who fought for the Italians, and my great-uncle who was killed during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. It is just a staggering image to ponder. The sacrifices that my great-grandfather and my great-uncle made for their adoptive homeland is incredible. If it’s not heroic, it is, at the very least pretty close. They are my heroes.
Here is the picture that my mother sent to me:
This above picture is of my great-grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-uncle.
In this picture, we have my great-great-grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-uncle, and his brother, my grandfather. Although I only ever met one person in this photo, I still feel, as I iterated above, a connection to them.
My last picture, and I promise that I am done being incoherent after this, for I appreciate you reading through this rather long-winded post and putting up with my tangents and relatively unfocused nature relating to this post, is a picture of their headstone, taken at the Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton, Pa. No, I am not mentally ill, but I do admit that sometimes going and visiting the grave is a great way to relax. There is a peace and serenity that accompanies the surroundings. Sometimes I have little conversations with them. They do not answer back, but it is nice to know that they are listening.
Anyways here is the picture:
I know that it is hard to see the words on it. I wish I had the opportunity to take another shot. I have similar ones of the gravesite next to it. The reason that I took those was due to the way the sun was positioned over the area. It looked like a really cool shot.
In any event, I tried to provide examples of how context can and should be a determining factor in determining hero status. I apologize for the length of the post. I hope that you enjoy.
Mike Goldfein suggested I post this to the blog. He thought that it was quite good. It is my attempt at coloring the fruit that we did in class the other day. While the colorized photo of the woman did not turn out exactly as a I hoped, the fruit picture is a little better, albeit not entirely complete. In any event, here it is:
It is one of the few times in my life where something that I did, art related, that someone thought was good. Anyways, enjoy.
I do not know if anybody else has seen this but the Atlantic Monthly Magazine has compiled, over a ten-week period, photos relating to World War I. I think that they are quite pertinent to the class because they illustrate a way in which images can be used to tell history. The images are organized into 10 subsets, each dealing with a particular aspect of this great tragedy. Compiled as a means of celebrating the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, these images indicate that this conflict of the early twentieth century is still very much with us. Moreover, they provide a method for historians is to explore this enormous catastrophe. One of the major values of photography is that they freeze a moment in time, preserving it for future generations. For historians, they provide a rather unique perspective on the past, offering as many questions as answers. Perhaps they raise more questions than answers. If this is the case then they certainly prove there worth. After all, isn’t that the basis of all historical inquiry: to discover how the present became, well the present, through an exploration of the past. Usually the best historical scholarship begins with a question. These images in this essay certainly provoke, along with an emotional response, more questions than answers, providing many future historians with questions to begin their research and exploration of the past.
The images are thought-provoking and timeless. As some one who is interested in the late eighteenth century to the end of the antebellum period, including the Civil War, I still find these photos most intriguing. They capture a moment when innocence is lost, never to be regained. Moreover they describe in graphic detail both the horrors of war and its tragic legacy, one that still haunts us to this day. I must confess that many of these photos I have never seen before, including one that captures German soldiers in the middle of a gas attack. In any event I encourage you to check them out. You will not be disappointed.
Here is the link:
If you cannot click on the link simply retype the address in the browser window. Enjoy.
Before I begin I feel that I must apologize to my fellow classmates for posting this so late. Due to a family emergency, I spent most of last night and nearly all of this morning in the emergency room. Fortunately everything turned out ok.
The process of restoring and matting a photograph is a rather laborious process. The rewards, when the task is complete are well worth the effort. With that aside I present to you my rather pathetic attempt to emulate photographic restorers of lore. (I am guessing that I shot for the stars but never made it off the ground.)
The photograph that I chose to restore and add some color to, I found in the online archives of the Library of Congress. Admittedly she was not my first, nor my second choice. I had originally planned to do the daguerreotype of Mary Todd Lincoln which is in their holdings. The reason I did not do so was that I got into the process of trying to restore it, many of the corrections that I made ended up making the picture worse. There were a lot of scratches and trying to rid them from the photograph seriously compromised the image. In any event, here is the image that I chose:
The image is of a women, possibly in her thirties of forties, sitting for a photograph. My first reaction when I caught a glimpse of this photograph is that she is probably an immigrant or, at the very least, born in the United States the daughter of immigrants. IN some ways she reminds me of the wedding picture that my mother has of my great-grandparents. They emigrated to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century from Italy. There is something very captivating about her.
Upon examine the photograph the first thing that is readily apparent, aside from the detail of the image, for example, the woman’s knuckles are clearly visible, is that it needs to be cropped. One of the reasons for cropping the image is it becomes much easier to work with. Once this is done, the next task at hand is to balance out the monochrome color scheme. In the image there is a great abundance of white. This is alleviated by the Photoshop feature called Curves. This allows the reader to adjust the white balance within the photograph. By doing so allows for a sharper and more detailed photograph. In this particular photo, the white balance is not that off kilter and with a relatively small adjustment of the balance in the photograph, utilizing the Curves graph, I was able to adult the levels and produce a clearer and more detailed appearance.
If you look in the photograph above you will see standing behind her, and off to the right, her left, a large shadow. I tried using the Drop Shadow feature in Photoshop to try to rid the image of it, but to no avail. Later on, when I was adding color to the image, I tried to alter the appearance of the background, but it ended up looking rather cartoonish, well more cartoonish and grotesque than after I added color to the rest of the image, so I decided to just leave it as is.
My next task, in restoring this photo, is to try to rid the image of the many dust, scratches, and debris that have accumulated on the photograph over the years. Opening another layer, nearly every task in Photoshop requires one and creating a new one is quite prudent, I decided to use the Spot Healing Brush for this. After zooming in on the image I went to work. While it worked well on most of the scratches, I was not able to completely rid the photograph of the ravages of time and ill care.
The image below is how the photograph appeared after I was finished cleaning and repairing some of it:
My next, rather Herculean task, was to try to remove the frame that the image was in and try to mat it onto another background. To do this, I first needed to crop the image again, this time so as close to the actual photograph as I could get. Once I accomplished this, I next used the rectangular selection tool and used it to highlight the image. Then, using the keyboard shortcuts, I was able to copy my selected portion of the image and open it in a new Photoshop window. Once this was done I noticed that the tone and contrast of the image appeared a bit off, so I adjusted both the brightness and the contrast until they were relatively balanced.
Next I opened a new layer and placed it below my current one. My reasoning for this is so that the new layer that I just opened could contain my background color underneath the photograph. Next, I chose, for some unknown reason, Red as the color for the background layer. Once this was done, after opening a new layer, I took the Eraser Tool and after zooming in on the image and selecting the smallest possible size I began to patiently rub the remaining frame away from the image. Once this was complete, the image was now mounted on a red colored frame. I decide, however, that I needed to add even more color to this picture. I have no idea why I chose some of the colors that I did, especially when you consider that they seem to clash with the red in some spots. As I went through and applied my imagination to the image, I tried using the Magnetic Selection Tool. This item proved rather unwieldy in some of the spots and I ended up actually using the brush to color in items such as her dress and her skin etc. Anyways I will leave you to judge the results for yourselves, as for me well they just seem to make a photograph rather grotesque:
As you can see, the colors make this photograph rather bizarre, I mean she does not even appear as if she is the same person.
My next task for this assignment, and one that I had a much better result with, was the task of turning this poor woman into a vignette. while I am not particularly fond of the way in which the colorization process turned out I am rather pleased with results.
Here is the picture that I started out with:
Once again, I proceeded to crop the image thereby ridding it of as much of the frame as possible. Next I proceeded to enlarge the image so that it is easier to vignette. One the image is enlarged, I then use my rulers to construct a set of guides around a particularly interesting part of the image, in this case her face. The guides are arranged so that they resemble a box around the desired portion of the photograph to be vignetted. Next I use my Rectangular Selection Tool to select a portion of the image. Once the selection is highlighted I modify the selected portion by using the Feathering feature. In this case I selected a Feathering level of 40. Once this is complete I next copied the image and then opened a new window in Photoshop. Once I paste the new image in the window my next task is to expand the canvas upon which my image rests. Then, after highlighting the image, I use the inverse feature to color in the area surrounding my image. As I said earlier the results are pretty nifty:
Lastly, here is one more of the vignetting and matting process. It is a little different from the process used in that rather ridiculously colored picture. In any event, one of the major differences is that when you use the vignetting process, you need to expand the canvas, which I have done after pasting the image in a new window. Again I used the feathering feature, however, this time after I expanded the canvas and used the inverse feature to fill in my border, I used the crop tool to shrink them down into a manageable size. Oh, and the only other really subtle change is that in the first image I used the rectangle selection tool and in the image below I used the elliptical.
As stated earlier this can be a rather laborious and time-consuming endeavor, That being said, as some of these images illustrate, I shudder at the colorized one, which I must say under normal circumstances would under no shape or form be colorized, to protect the historical integrity of the image, the time invested in restoring photographs is a worthy investment. Moreover it is one that can reap huge rewards.
I have not finished the book yet, but these are some preliminary thoughts relating to the reading that is due this week in class:
In the essay “Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday: Comic art in the 1880’s” historian Peter Bailey uses cartoons as the primary focus of his research. Moreover, fro Bailey, these images formulate the basis of his argument. While he does use written documents, these are mostly employed as means of supporting the overall argument that he is trying to make.
The book, Picturing The Past Illustrated Histories and the American Imagination, 1840-1900 by Gregory Pfitzer is another example of a historian using images as the main focus of his argument. The primary focus of Pfitzer’s research are the pictorial books that appear in the United States during the latter half of the twentieth century. Much like Bailey’s work on the Sloper cartoons, Pfitzer is trying to argue that these books are a vital part of the historical record. Viewing these images can tell a historian much about the intended audience the publishers of these materials were aiming for. For example, Pfitzer suggests that many of these images were aimed at immigrants arriving from over seas, individuals whose minds are particularly vulnerable to the use of print material. Many of these people could not read, yet they were still able, through the use of pictures, to participate in the nation building process. Similar to what Benedict Anderson argues in the book Imagined Communities, relating to newsprint and the creation of a print culture, the publishers of these pictorials were molding a culture of their own, inculcating these people with an American sense of nationalism. Although there was a stress on literacy during this period, the inability to read was still fairly common. The use of pictures enabled publishers to get their message to a wider audience.
As I stated above, I have not finished reading the book yet. This does not mean that I can not formulate questions relating to its subject matter. For example, one of the questions that I have, in relation to this book is what type of audience were the publishers trying to address? I know that one of their intended targets were poor immigrants arriving from Europe, but were there others? Moreover, one of the interesting things that comes out of Bailey’s work with Ally Sloper is that there are mixed messages within the cartoons. For example, Ally Sloper’s images convey several meanings to its audience. The poor and laboring classes interpreted the adventures depicted by the images in one way, while those of the middle and upper classes viewed the cartoons in a much different light. What I am curious is, is the same thing going on in relation to the pictorials published in the United States? What is exactly was the message that these individuals were trying to convey?
I am hoping that as I continue to read some of these questions will be addressed. If they are not, well than it just means that I will need to do more digging. In any event, the one definite that can be taken from Pfitzer’s book is the value of cartoons as a subject of historical inquiry. A valuable tool long used by historians as a means of supporting the primary source documents they have employed in their research, they can also be valuable as a primary means of research and argument.
One of the things that I am looking forward to is when I begin my research for my Graduate Thesis and this class as certainly taught me that when I begin my research I may need to think out of the box a bit. Using cartoons as a primary focus of research is most certainly, one of the ways to do so.
First Assignment: Image Hunt: Historians Using Images: James M. McPherson’s The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era (Theme: Rapid Expansion, Slavery, and the Coming of the War)
Visuals are a very valuable tool for a historian. Not only do they help illustrate the overall argument of a historical work, but they serve as a reminder that for the people living in the period of discussion the issues and events were very real and affected their everyday lives. The images that follow were chosen in some ways because they effected real people living in the period before the Civil War. Moreover I tried to select the images so that they constructed an overall theme. The theme that I try to present is slavery agitation between the North and the South. I begin with a little discussion of McPherson’s main argument and a couple of images describing the United States territorial growth by mid-century before plunging into slavery. What I tried to illustrate, using images that many have perhaps not seen before is the complex relationship between territorial expansion, slavery, and the North and the South. Lastly, I also tried to illustrate how images can be used to help illustrate a historians argument as well make a particular discussion or point much more poignant and valid.
Ever since the cacophony of guns and artillery were silenced in April of 1865, many historians, and some of the war’s participants, have tried to explain how tensions between rival sections, North and South, led to the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands of American citizens. In the years since this enormous tragedy, much has been written about the causes of the Civil War. Many theories abound as to why they war occurred. These include abject differences between North and South, the inability of the politicians of the antebellum era to be able to work out a compromise between the two sections, suggesting that it is the unwillingness of politicians in both sections to put the country ahead of their own selfish interests. Some historians have argued that the acrimony between North and South was directly linked to the ideology of free labor versus the ideology of slavery. Some have stressed the idea that the South warranted its own country because it developed its own rather unique culture. These ideas all have merit and in many ways reflect the changing approaches within the historical profession. These theories also have inherent weaknesses that cannot truly be delved upon. In this rather short amount of space. Suffice to say that if anyone of these theories proved satisfactory there would really be no need to keep looking for a satisfactory explanation. (Smith, Republicanism and the Civil War: A Historiographical Foray, 1)
The common consensus among today’s historians is that the main impetus for the Civil War was the differences between the North and the South over the institution of slavery. Concurring with this argument, historian James M. McPherson, in The Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era, takes it a bit further, arguing that it is the caustic combination of slavery, territorial expansion, and rapid population growth, that lit the powder keg that erupted in 1860 into civil war. (McPherson, first paperback edition The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civl War Era, 8) McPherson employs a large plethora of both primary and secondary sources to support this contention.
The original edition of Battle Cry of Freedom, first published as a paperback in 1988, contained some maps, scattered throughout the text, and two separate inserts containing various photographs and images relating to the period under discussion. These were important, especially the maps, for explaining the slide into civil war as well as the various campaigns throughout the conflict. In the latest edition of McPherson’s study, The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom The Civil War Era, the historian utilizes a variety of imagery to further illustrate how tensions between North and South, as a result of rapid expansion in the west, over slavery grew to such a point that Americans were slaughtering each other by the hundreds of thousands.
One of the first images utilized by McPherson is a painting that depicts the territorial expansion of the United States across the continent.
This painting, Figure 1, depicts the rapid expansion westward of the United States. The dominant figure in the painting is Columbia, the female representation of the United States. Angelic in her image, Columbia, as depicted here represents Americans’ belief that it was their destiny to populate the entire expanse of North America, commonly referred to as Manifest Destiny. In her hands she carries a book and some wires. According to McPherson, the book is a school textbook, presumably illustrates the spread of American ideologies and customs throughout the land. The wires in her other hand are telegraph wires which serves a means of uniting the East Coast with the West. The left upper and mid panels of the painting, as well as the left fore ground, illustrate some of the methods employed by individuals and families moving west. As they do, many of the various native tribes flee from the encroaching Americans. Following in the path of the migrants are farmers, using various agricultural implements to till the soil and make it useful for planting. Lastly, the painting also depicts to more modern, for the nineteenth century, means of moving west. On the canvas the artist has painted a stagecoach and the railroad. Both of these images illustrate the rapidity with which Americans can move to the west. In the case of the railroad, the vast transportation network necessitated by the use of the rails serves a means of further binding the East Coast with the West. Furthermore, the advent of the railroads helped improve transportation costs for goods shipped throughout the land. For McPherson this painting is an primary illustration of many of the symbols commonly associated with the rise of Manifest Destiny and the desire of the citizens of the United States to spread their culture, political and social institutions, and westward from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. (McPherson 44)
Figure 1 illustrates the process and means through which Americans moved West. Figure 2 illustrates the results of this movement by depicting the various territorial gains past the Mississippi River since 1800.
The rapid expansion of the United States after 1800 is clearly illustrated by this map. Perhaps the most striking feature is that by 1848 the territorial boarders of the United States are quite similar to the ones that exist today. The rapid expanse of territory is further illustrated by the states both to the left and to the right of the Mississippi River. Those to the right, Florida being the exception, entered the United States from territory that was acquired in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The territory to the right represents land acquired by the United States after 1800 through various means, including war with Mexico. This map is important for it further illustrates the rapid growth of the United States. It corroborates part of McPherson’s argument by illustrating the extent through which the United States expanded through the first half of the nineteenth century.
Many Southerners around mid-century were staunch defenders of the institution declaring it beneficial to the slave for it removed him from his heathen state and began to civilize him. McPherson illustrates this Southern interpretation of slavery through various images including Figure 3.
In this lithograph from Currier and Ives,we see a very picturesque and tranquil scene as slaves tend to the fields of cotton looking happy and content. Moreover, they are well dressed and it appears well fed, suggesting that they are well cared for. As slaves, they are happy, content, and civilized, basking in the glow of their Master’s paternal benevolence. McPherson employs this image, not only as an illustration of how Southerners viewed themselves and slavery but also as a way to provide a startling contrast to the harsh realities commonly associated with the institution.
One of the more inhumane cruelties, in an institution riddled with them, is the slave auction.What makes the slave auction a tragedy, aside from the very inhumane nature of the event itself, is that it often broke up families, placing the various members great distances from each other. In Figure 4 McPherson uses a rather colorful image to illustrate this harrowing ordeal. Tame compared to other images associated with slavery, this particular image, wrought with emotion, still manages to get its point across.
This image, included by McPherson, provides a great illustration of the cruelties associated with such an auction. First there is the heart rending scene taking place on the auction block. A mother and daughter are hugging for, what appears to be, the last time. According to McPherson, these two individuals being sold separately and thusly breaking up their family in the process. Sitting on the ground, next to the podium is another mother who nurses her child while she too awaits for her turn upon the auction block. These two images alone illustrate the barbarity and cruelty associated with the slave auction. There is, however, much in this photograph that commends its usage by McPherson as a good illustration of the barbarity and cruelty commonly associated with slavery itself. One example of barbarity lies in the subject of the image itself. The breaking up of families is not the only barbarity associated with the slave auction. The auction itself, the fact that there are several individuals bidding on a person as if they were a mere object, a piece of property to be bought and sold at their owners whim. This is not all. The white man in the foreground, with his arms crossed, is holding a whip of some sort, perhaps he is an overseer, intent on ensuring that the slaves up for sale do not misbehave. Barely discernible in the background, unfortunately it is really difficult to see in the image as it is reproduced here, is a man whipping a male slave either for an infraction or to try and get him to work harder and faster. Its not exactly clear. But the curious thing sis that it does not have to be. The mere image of a man whipping another for no other infraction than the color of his skin is quite unsettling on its own. The importance of this image, and McPherson’s rationale for its inclusion not only stems for the auction that it depicts but also the cruelties of slavery itself that lie just beneath the surface.
In the decade before the Civil War, despite the professions of many politicians about the healing powers of a compromise, designed to ease sectional tensions in wake of the late war with Mexico, passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Fillmore, the dispute over slavery grew much more contentious and acrimonious. The first point of contention lies in one of the major provisions of this compromise. One of the reasons Southerners, at least on the surface, accepted a compromise between the two sections is because the bill provided for a much stronger Fugitive Slave Law. This new law allowed Southerners to travel North in the hopes of recapturing their property. More importantly, this law shifted the burden of proof from one of ownership (i.e. Southerners would need to prove that an individual belonged to them) to one of freedom (Free blacks needed to prove, through the possession of certain papers, their freedom). Moreover, it enlisted the federal government as an aid to Southerners trying to recapture their property. Federal officials were ordered to aid Southerners and required to pay a rather hefty fine of $1000 dollars if they refused. Moreover, a Southerner could, if he chose, to bring a suspected fugitive before a federal commissioner who was given the task of determining whether the suspected fugitive was an escaped slave or not. If he decided that the man in question was not a fugitive but a free black, the Southerner who brought the individual before the commissioner would receive a $5 dollars. If the commissioner decides that the individual in question was in fact an escaped slave, the person who brought the man before the court receives $10 dollars. The expenses incurred in the implementation and execution of this new law were paid through the auspices of the United States Treasury. Additionally, the law posed stiff fines and penalties for aiding and abetting anyone suspected of being an escaped fugitive. Many free blacks, as well as escaped slaves were captured and sent South into slavery. (McPherson, 65-67)
To illustrate the barbarity of this law as well as the horrors that could result from its passage, McPherson has included in his text a Lithograph produced by antislavery forces in 1850. (Figure 5.)
This image contains four black men, presumably free blacks, out for a walk. They are accosted by a group of white Southern vigilantes intent on capturing them and selling them back into slavery. As the four blacks flee their pursuers they are unmercifully gunned down by their assailants. (McPherson 67) Moreover, this image is designed to reach across the Northern states intent on both illustrating the horrors of the law and, through the violent imagery it contains, rally people, both white and black, to the antislavery cause. Moreover, by using a print, instead of a pamphlet or editorial, the creator of this image is also trying to reach those in the North who cannot read, both white and black, making the presumed effects of the law clearly understood. McPherson uses it here as a means of bringing the past forward to the present. He uses it to illustrate the feeling that many antislavery individuals had regarding the law’s passage. The sentiment expressed in antislavery circles is clearly and unmistakably expressed in this image. Moreover, McPherson includes this image because it humanizes the individuals who the law pertains. The law applies to real people and its effects are tragically devastating. The use of the image, in this case makes the effect of the law more personal, more real.
In 1854 Congress passed a law that further pushed the United States towards war. The brain child of Senator Stephen Douglas from Illinois and a host of Southern Congressmen from both the Democratic Party and theWhigs, the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise line, which allowed for the entrance of Missouri as a slave state but left the rest of the Louisiana Purchase free territory, and replaced it with popular sovereignty, essentially allowing the citizens living in a territory to decide for themselves whether or not the territory shall be free or slave. One of the more tragic results of this law is the flood of individuals, from both the North and the South who flooded into Kansas intent on making it either a free or a slave state. In many ways the machinations in this region made a mockery of republican and democratic government. Moreover, the two sides violently opposed each other and the resulting bloodshed only further escalated the violence in the area.
The most important result stemming from the passage of Kansas-Nebraska is the eventual rise of a new political party, the Republican party, wholly sectional and dedicated to ending the institution of slavery by preventing its further spread into the territories.McPherson, 95-102, 113-131)
One of the images that McPherson uses to illustrate the fervor in the North against the Kansas Nebraska Act, is a broadside printed and distributed in the town of Leominster. (Figure 6)
Here McPherson uses this image to illustrate the level of protest in the North regarding the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Moreover, he also uses this image to illustrate why such protests eventually resulted in the creation of a new political party in the North. Looking at the poster, under the word Leominster, printed in bold face, is the words “…without distinction of party,…” For McPherson, the inclusion of these words illustrates the bipartisan nature of the rallies against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Furthermore, the poster itself indicates the distrust that many in the North had towards both political parties and the need to create a new political institution to protect the political rights of the North from the encroachment of the South.
Further exacerbating the differences between the North and the South, and the last images that I will dwell upon for this post as I can imagine that you are exhausted from reading my rather incoherent scribblings, are images associated with the Supreme Court Case Scott v. Sanford, or more commonly referred to as the Dred Scott Case.
Scott was a slave who brought a civil suit in the courts of Missouri suing for his freedom. The grounds for his suit rested on the belief that his residency for a number of years in a free state, living with his master at the time, meant that he was free and no longer a slave. Southerners argued that in spite of Scott’s residency in a free state, he was a slave before he arrived there and he was still a slave after he left. His residency had nothing to do with his status as a slave. After winding its way through the Missouri Courts, the case appeared before the Supreme Court in 1857. In one of the more infamous rulings the court has ever made, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared Scott still a slave and that his residency in a free state did not affect his status as a slave. Moreover, Taney declared that there is no grounds for a lawsuit because slaves and free blacks do not have rights recognizable in the courts. Lastly, Taney gave a ruling in the power of Congress in the territories. By declaring the Missouri Compromise line, repealed in 1854 by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Taney implied that Congress had no power to legislate on slavery in the territories. (McPherson 133-131)
During his discussion of Dred Scott, McPherson utilizes a plethora of images to further illustrate the importance of the case and its relevance in American history. Of these, one of the most important are images of both Scott and his wife Harriet. (Figure 7)
As we saw with the antislavery cartoon, McPherson’s inclusion of both Scott and his wife humanizes the court cases. Looking back with hindsight we can see that the eventual outcome of the case would be one more event pushing the United States towards war, the inclusion of these two images reminds us that this was not just a case that had political implications, but that it contained personal ones as well. The decision proffered by the Taney court directly effected both of them. Although both of their reactions have been lost to history, the inclusion of their images reminds us that Taney’s decision had a profound affect on the lives of two individuals. The figure also illustrates the two individuals, who, through no fault of their own, found themselves the subject of rallying cries for political action throughout the North.
Another important image utilized by McPherson in his discussion of the Dred Scott Case is another broadside printed in the North. (Figure 8)
Printed and distributed throughout the city of Philadelphia, this particular broadside provides more evidence of the galvanizing effect that the actions of the South had upon the North. Further this broadside indicates that the attack upon slavery is no longer constrained to just a small handful of abolitionists and their ilk. According to McPherson, this image and the meeting it advertises are representative of several similar public rallies held throughout the North to protest the Supreme Court’s decision. Furthermore, this broadside indicates the continued decline of Democratic power in the Northern States. McPherson’s inclusion of the broadside illustrates the importance that many attached to the decision and grasped the issues at stake.
For McPherson then, the inclusion of images throughout the text provide scope and depth to his argument. Moreover, the inclusion of images, such as the ones discussed here, indicate that the issues between both the North and the South over slavery were not some abstract political arguments, but instead affected real people. The use of images allows for the issues and sentiments discussed in the text to come alive, breathing life into them, making them just as important now as they were at the time.