United States and American History: 1842

About the history of the United States in 1842, worker's rights are helped, child labor laws enacted, Rhode Island's new constitution attempts to limit the vote.


--A landmark decision upholding workers' rights to organize was handed down by Chief Justice Shaw in the case of Massachusetts Commonwealth v. Hunt. Most State laws deemed it a conspiracy for men to join together for the purpose of securing wage increases and regulating the terms of the employment. Seven years earlier, workmen in New York were indicted for this reason. The New York judge hearing this case had ruled that the workmen had no right to demand wage increases that would cause the price of consumer goods to be raised.

--Connecticut established the 1st public education system in the U.S.

--John C. Fremont headed an expedition to the Rocky Mountains. Kit Carson was his guide.

--Charles Dickens visited America and traveled to Toledo and Sandusky, O., where he encountered "corduroy roads" which he described as being constructed by "... throwing trunks of trees into a marsh and leaving them to settle...."

--First artificial fertilizer was produced commercially.

--"Vote yourself a farm" was the slogan of the National Reform Association which advocated giving 160 acres to anyone who wanted them. The Association's founder, George Henry Evans, had this to say about banks:

Is not this fact enough to alarm the American people? A bank in the heart of the Republic with its branches, scattered over the Union; wielding $200 million of capital; owning an immense amount of real property; holding at its command a 100,000 debtors; buying up our newspapers, entering the field of politics; attempting to make Presidents and Vice-Presidents for the country.

Jan. A Rochester, N.Y., medical student, William E. Clarke, used ether as an anesthetic during a tooth extraction performed by Dr. Elijah Pope.

Mar. 3 First Massachusetts child labor law, limiting the workday to 10 hours for children under 12 in manufacturing establishments, was signed into law, but it did not prove effective.

Apr. Thomas Dorr was nominated for governor by the People's party of Rhode Island while the incumbent, Samuel W. King was chosen by the Freeman's party. Dorr, in May, unsuccessfully attempted to capture the Providence Armory.

In the fall, a new Constitution was adopted which found support among some of Dorr's former followers. This new Constitution granted the vote to those born in the U.S. who could pay the $1 poll tax or who owned at least $134 in real estate. Aliens and naturalized citizens could vote after living in the State for 2 years. Dorrites called this Constitution the Algerine Constitution after the Dey of Algiers, a tyrant.

After this Constitution was ratified, Dorr and some of his followers were arrested. Dorr was found guilty of high treason in 1844 and sentenced to solitary confinement and hard labor for life. The sentence was unpopular and Dorr was released a year later. His civil rights were restored in 1851, and 3 years after that the court judgment against him was dropped.

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