United States and American History: Early 1848

About the history of the United States in early 1848 as Harvard allows the first African-American, the Mexican-American War comes to an end and the Free Soil Party begins.


--Harvard president Edward Everett replied to protests over admission of a Negro: "If this boy passes the examination he will be admitted; and if the white students choose to withdraw, all the income of the college will be devoted to his education."

--Lincoln's views on the Mexican War expressed to his law partner, W. H. Herndon: ". . . the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President." And to the Rev. J. M. Peck: "It is a fact that the U.S. Army in marching to the Rio Grande, marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement and frightened the inhabitants away from their homes and their growing crops."

--Many enlisted men were shocked at the way the American soldiers treated Mexican peasants. Horrified by American desecration of Catholic churches in Mexico, some enlisted men, mostly Irish-Catholic immigrants, followed the lead of Sgt. John Riley of the 5th U.S. Infantry and joined the Mexican Army, forming a battalion called Los Patricios (for St. Patrick). They fought in several battles and were finally annihilated at the Battle of Churubusco when their ammunition ran out.

--The Free Soil party was organized which urged prohibition of slavery in new territories.

--Interest in spiritualism grew in the U.S., inspired by the experiences of 2 sisters, Margaret and Katherine Fox, of Hydesville, N. Y., who heard mysterious rappings at night "as though someone was knocking on the floor and moving chairs." The sisters regarded these rappings as communications from the spirit world. A gathering of medical men in Buffalo, N.Y., disagreed, insisting the rappings came from the sisters themselves when they cracked their knee joints. Despite this dissent, the Fox sisters were in demand everywhere, and audiences at their s├łances included such notables as James Fenimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant, and Horace Greeley.

--San Francisco's population was about 800, but within 2 years the number would jump to over 30,000.

Jan. 24 John Sutter's sawmill partner, James Marshall, thought by some to be a bit peculiar, approached Sutter nervously with news of the discovery of gold grains. The grains, found at Sutter's Coloma mill, had been compared by Marshall with a $5 half eagle gold piece. Marshall was sure about his discovery and wanted no one but Sutter to know. Sutter was skeptical at 1st, but checked an article on gold in an encyclopedia and then told Marshall he believed that the grains might possibly be the finest kind of gold.

Feb. 2 The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the war with Mexico.

Mar. 1 The College of Villanova was chartered in Pennsylvania.

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