Tag Archives: Vincennes Gazette

The Irrepressible Conflict in Play

The term Irrepressible Conflict originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting a socioeconomic collision between the institutions of the North and the South. This confrontation settle the question of whether America would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. Lincoln alluded to the same idea in his 1858 “House Divided” speech. In the late 1850s the use of the phrase did not expressly include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would be resolved through violence or armed conflict.

The Irrepressible Conflict doing its Work

“Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad,” is a trite saying, and one entirely applicable to the Democratic party, as is evinced unmistakably the last few years. Not looking for the remote causes that acted potentially to bring about the crisis in modern Democracy, we see it as it is, and find it in a state a distraction, and daily getting into “confusion worse confounded.” Not to go farther back into the past than a few months, we behold the once “harmonious Democracy” divided in the State conventions, held to select delegates to the national convention, and in many cases two antagonistical sets of delegates were the results of opposing conventions in the same State and of the same party.

Part IV of our Civil War collection, A Midwestern Perspective, consists of seven newspapers published in Indiana between the years of 1855 and 1869. These items provide pre-and post-Civil War information, in addition to coverage of the Civil War itself.



“All Quiet Along the Potomac”

The Civil War era is considered by many to be a watershed in American literary history. People on both sides of the conflict read the sensational news reports from the front lines, composed a variety of “patriotic” poems and songs, and fiction continued to be churned out by writers of the day. The literature of the war helped soldiers and civilians make sense of the conflict, particularly the death and destruction wrought by both sides.

Early in the war, Washington, D.C. feared Southern invasion following the disastrous Union route at the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas). One such poem that captured this fear and spoke of the seemingly senseless violence was released to the press on November 30, 1861 – “The Picket Guard,” also known as “All Quiet Along the Potomac.” Originally attributed to “E.B.”, this poem was written by an accomplished Unionist woman poet, Ethel Lynn Beers. Over the course of the next few months many newspapers in the North and the South reprinted the poem for their readers.

The poem was based on the newspaper reporting of General George McClellan’s official telegrams to the War Department stating “all is quiet tonight” and the brief notice of the death of a Union sentry by a Southern sharpshooter.



The Doctrine of the Irrepressible Conflict

Irrepressible Conflict, as a term, originated with William H. Seward in an 1858 speech predicting the collision of the socioeconomic institutions of the North and the South.

Seward maintained this collision would determine whether the nation would be dominated by a system of free labor or slave labor. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln proposed the same idea in his “House Divided” speech. At the time, the use of the phrase did not include the assumption that the “irrepressible conflict” would necessarily find expression in violence or armed conflict.

While the term “Irrepressible Conflict” is most connected to Seward, the actual ideas behind it can be traced back to Thomas Jefferson in 1821. The Vincennes Gazette included this article in the December 17, 1859 issue.

The Freeman’ s Catechism Concerning the Irrepressible Conflict

Question: Who first promulgated the doctrine of the irrepressible conflict?
Answer: Thomas Jefferson.

Q: When and how did he promulgate it?
A: In a letter written to a friend in 1821.

Q: What did he say?
A:Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people (negro slaves) are to be free; nor is it less certain that the two forms of society cannot be perpetuated under the same government.

Q: Who next promulgated it?
A: Henry Clay.

Q: When and how did he promulgate it?
A: In a speech delivered before the American Colonization Society in 1827.

Q: What did he say?
A:Until universal darkness and despair shall prevail it will be impossible to repress the sympathies and the efforts of the freemen in behalf of the unhappy portion of our race who are doomed to bondage.

Q: Who endorsed Mr. Clays remarks?
A: Daniel Webster.

Q: Who says so?
A: Edward Everett.

Q: Who next promulgated it?
A: The Richmond Enquirer, a Democratic newspaper.

Q: When did it promulgate it?
A: In the Presidential campaign of 1856.

Q: What did it say?
A:Two opposite and conflicting forms of society cannot, among civilized men, coexist and endure. The one must give way and cease to exist – the other become universal. If free society be unnatural immoral and unchristian, it must fall and give way to slave society—a social system as old as the world, as universal as man.

Q: Who next re-stated the fact?
A: William H. Seward.

Q: When, where, and how?
A: In a speech delivered in Rochester in 1858.

Q: What did he say?
A: Whilst referring to the collision which had occurred between the two systems of labor in the United States, he said: “It (the collision) is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces; and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation or entirely a free labor nation.

Q: Did he intimate the process by which they will ultimately become so?
A: He did; he said: “Whilst I confidently believe and hope my country will yet become a land of universal Freedom, I do not expect that it will be made so otherwise than through the action of the several States co-operating with the Federal Government, and all acting in strict conformity with their respective Constitutions.

Q: Is there any treason in this?
A: Not unless Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and the editor of the Richmond Enquirer were traitors.

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.


Collection: The Civil War
Publication: Vincennes Gazette
Date: December 17, 1859
Title: The Freeman’ s Catechism Concerning the Irrepressible Conflict.
Location: Vincennes, Ind.

Printing Presses

Notes on Editing a Newspaper in 1863

Our A Midwestern Perspective section of our Civil War collection consists of seven newspapers published in Indiana between the years of 1855 and 1869.

These items provide pre-and post-Civil War information, in addition to coverage of the Civil War itself.

Ownership of the newspapers included Democrats, Republicans and the Know-Nothings.

In addition to the Civil War coverage, these papers include ads and other news stories that help researchers gain a broader view of life in the 1860s in the American midwest.

This item appeared in the Weekly Vincennes Gazette on September 12, 1863.

Editing a Paper is a very unpleasant business.

  • If it contains too much political matter, people won’t have it.
  • If it contains too little they won’t have it.
  • If the type is small the can’t read it.
  • If we publish telegraph reports folks say they are nothing but lies.
  • If we omit them they say we have no enterprise or suppress them for political effect.
  • If we publish original matter they damn us for not giving selections.
  • If we publish selections folks say we are lazy for not writing more and giving them what they have not read in some other paper.
  • If we have in a few jokes, folks say we are nothing but a rattle head.
  • If we give a man complimentary notices,we are censured for being partial.
  • If we do not, all hands say we are a greedy hog.
  • If we insert an article which pleases the ladies men become jealous.
  • If we do not cater to their wishes the paper is not fit to have in the house.
  • If we attend church they say it is only for effect.
  • If we do not they denounce us as deceitful and desperately wicked.
  • If we speak well of any act of the President,folks say we dare not do otherwise.
  • If we censure they call us traitor.
  • If we remain in the office and attend to business, folks say we are too proud to mingle with our fellow-men.
  • If we go out, they say we never attend to business.
  • If we do not pay all bills promptly, folks say we are not to be trusted.
  • If we do pay promptly they say we stole the money.
  • If we wear poor clothes they say business is poor.
  • If we wear good ones they say we are a spend thrift.

Now what is a poor fellow to do?


Collection: The Civil War
Publication: Weekly Vincennes Gazette
Date: September 12, 1863
Title: Editing a Paper
Location: Vincennes, Indiana

Prang's Valentines Cards

St. Valentine’s Day is Coming!

St. Valentine’s day is coming. It will arrive on Tuesday next, February 14th. If you are not armed with “Cupid’s Missiles,” go and arm yourself at once.

Remember the good old motto: “Business before pleasure,” and invest your loose change in a little embossed note, with colored designs set off with ribbons.

If you are an old bachelor afraid to “pop the question,” send your desires couched in ambush. Roguish chaps will embrace this occasion to send comic articles to friends and foes.

Sentimental young ladies who have fallen in love with a pair of bright eyes or a “love of a moustache,” will be seen hurrying to the Postoffice at least a dozen times a day or more.


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