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Essay on Human Life and Happiness - April 5, 1774

Essay on Human Life and Happiness

This essay ran in The South Carolina Gazette & Country Journal.  This publication was heavily pro-American and nearly always included scandalous stories of European royalty. While it tended to be “stuffy,” it was the only paper to discuss citizens who would not be considered among the elite in society.

“What is life but a circulation of little mean actions? We lie down and rise again, dress and undress, feed and wax hungry, work or play, and are weary, and then we lie down again, and the circle returns. We spend the day in trifles, and, when the night comes, we throw ourselves into the bed of folly, amongst dreams and broken thought, and wild imaginations. Our reason lies asleep by us, and we are, for the time, as arrant brutes as those that sleep in the stalls or in a field. Are not the capacities of man higher than these? And ought not his ambition and expectations to be greater? Let us be adventurers for another world! It is at least a fair and noble chance, and there is nothing in this worth our thoughts, or our passions, If we should be disappointed, we are still no worse than the rest of our fellow mortals, and if we succeed in our expectations, we are eternally happy.” –Thomas Burnet (1635-1715)

No possession or enjoyment, within the round of mortal affairs, is commensurate to the desires, or adequate to the capacities of the mind. The most envied condition has its abatements, the happiest conjuncture of fortune leaves behind it many wishes; and after the highest gratifications, the mind is carried forward in pursuit of new ones ad infinitum . The love of virtue, of one’s friends and country, the generous sympathy with mankind, and the heroic zeal of doing good, which are all so natural to great and noble minds, (and some traces of which are found even in the lowest) are seldom united with proportioned means or opportunities of exercising them; so that the moral spring, the noble energies and impulses of the mind, can hardly find proper scope, even in the most fortunate condition; but are much depressed in some, and almost entirely restrained in others, in the generality, by the numerous clogs of an indigent, sickly or embarrassed life.

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George Eliot's Death Coverage2

George Eliot Dead – December 22, 1880

Mary Anne Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880; alternatively “Mary Ann” or “Marian”), known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She is the author of seven novels, including Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876), most of which are set in provincial England and known for their realism and psychological insight.

She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure that her works would be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot’s lifetime, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women’s writing being limited to lighthearted romances. She also wanted to have her fiction judged separately from her already extensive and widely known work as an editor and critic.

Her death was shared in the January 1881 issue of the National Citizen and Ballot Box, a leading Suffrage newspaper in the United States:

George Eliot Dead

The unlooked for tidings that this grand woman, the greatest novelist of the century, has suddenly finished her career on earth, will bring deep sorrow, to a large circle of her readers, and untold bereavement to many a heart.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

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John Jay

John Jay, Founding Father and Abolitionist

John Jay was born into a wealthy family of merchants and government officials in New York City. He became a lawyer and joined the New York Committee of Correspondence, organizing opposition to British polices in the time preceding the American Revolution.

Jay was a slaveholder, as were many wealthy New Yorkers during the time period. However, in 1774 Jay drafted the Address to the People of Great Britain https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Address_to_the_People_of_Great_Britain, which draws upon the image of slavery and compares the British treatment of blacks to the British treatment of all colonists.

Friends and Fellow-Subjects: When a Nation, lead to greatness by the hand of Liberty, and possessed of all the Glory that heroism, munificence, and humanity can bestow, descends to the ungrateful task of forging chains for her friends and children, and instead of giving support to Freedom, turns advocate for Slavery and Oppression, there is reason to suspect she has either ceased to be virtuous, or been extremely negligent in the appointment of her Rulers.

After 1777, Jay took a more active leadership role in the movement to abolish slavery. Between 1777 and 1785, two laws abolition laws he drafted failed to pass. Almost every member of the New York legislature had voted for some form of emancipation in 1785, but they were unable to agree on which rights to give the newly free black New Yorkers.

Aaron Burr also called for immediate abolition, and numerous slaveholders independently freed their slaves after the Revolution, but thousands were held in New York City alone.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
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charleston

The Progress of the Southern Revolt

(The Charleston Mercury – January 3, 1861) Every effort of the General Government to avert its dissolution, only hastens on its fate. Major Anderson abandons Fort Moultrie and garrisons Fort Sumter. The President approves and the Northern press praises the achievement. The New York Evening Post even declares that this step to coercion raises the price of Stocks in New York. But what follows in the South, where the great game of disunion is going on?

The people of South Carolina are made more resolute in their determination to throw off the Government. Our city is like an armed camp. Martial music fills the air. Offers of assistance come by thousands from the neighboring States. Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, Fort Johnson, and the United States Arsenal, are occupied with our troops. Disciplined companies are arriving by the railroad from the interior of the State.

Part I of our Civil War collection, A Newspaper Perspective, contains articles gleaned from over 2,500 issues of The New York Herald, The Charleston Mercury and the Richmond Enquirer, published between November 1, 1860 and April 15, 1865.
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new-years-eve

Old Time New Year’s Customs (1901)

This appeared in The Christian Recorder on December 26, 1901.

“Setting Up” In Years Gone By. The Dutch And Their Calls

“Goin’ to sit up tonight?” “I reckon – yes, I reckon I will. Nothin’ in it, y’ know, but lots o’ fun and fresh cider.”

Such a conversation might have been heard in any rural region of the central west some forty years ago on any New Year’s eve. And the “setting up” was the one and only point in which New Year’s observances differed from those of Christmas. The Knickerbockers have so far impressed themselves upon American life that most of the present generation think “calls and congratulations” have always been the great feature of New Years.

Know then, innocent youth, that as late as fifty years ago “New Year’s calls” were an unknown institution in three-fourths of the United States. But in the border states, especially the southern sections of the states just north of the Ohio, the practice of “watching the old year out and the new year in” was the one thing peculiar to New Year’s. Wonderful tidings were to be seen at that hour. Cows fell upon their knees, fowls went through a sort of reverential performance, the wild animals lost their fear of man, and certain plants of a mysterious nature sprang up in the door-yard.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.
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