"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Baltimore Riots of 1812 - Mob Rule in American Politics

Baltimore "War Dance" Riots
Maryland Historical Society

Free Speech is "Treason"
Baltimore mobs of Jeffersonian Democrat-Republicans 
riot and attack anti-war Federalists.

Mass law breaking and mob riots are a staple of American political life from the Tea Party to the New York Draft riots to 1992 Los Angeles.

The Baltimore Riots of 1812 were a particularly gruesome example of the opposition to the war and of the conflicts of interest among the American people. 

Many didn’t approve of “Mr. Madison’s War,” as it was often referred to. This opposition paralleled the political division between the Federalist and the Democratic-Republican parties. The tension between the two parties had only grown in the wake of the war declaration and the upcoming national elections.

The rabid Democrat-Republican War Hawks based in the South and West screamed for war in order to steal land for the expansion of Southern slavery or to give "free" land to Northern and Western voters . . . I mean farmers.  It would be wrong to say that politicians might vote for war just to re-distribute someone else's wealth to their voter base.

The Maryland legislature was sharply divided – in Annapolis the State Senate passed resolutions approving the war; the House disapproved them.

Finally on June 18, 1812 a bitterly divided Congress declared war on Great Britain.  The vote was far from unanimous:  79-49 in the House and 19-13 in the Senate.

Even with war declared opposition to the fight continued throughout American society.  But free speech often comes with a price.

Jeffersonians Shutting Down a Free Press
The anti-war Baltimore Federalist Party newspaper
the Federal Republican is attacked by mobs.

Many members of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party viewed opposition as treasonous or near-treasonous once war was declared. The Washington National Intelligencer wrote that, "WAR IS DECLARED, and every patriot heart must unite in its support... or die without due cause." The Augusta Chronicle wrote that, "he who is not for us is against us."

This sentiment was especially strong in Baltimore, at the time a boomtown with a large population of recent French, Irish, and German immigrants who especially hated Britain. In early 1812, several riots took place, centering around the anti-war Federalist newspaper the Federal Republican. Its offices were destroyed by a mob. 

Alexander Hanson
A pro-war Jeffersonian mob destroyed his
Federalist newspaper, beat him and left him for
dead. Voters reacted by electing Hanson to
Congress and then the U.S. Senate.
Local and city officials, all war hawks, expressed disapproval of the violence, but did little to stop it. When the editors of Federal Republican tried to return, they were removed from protective custody in a jail by a mob, on the night of July 27, and tortured; one Revolutionary War veteran, James Lingan, died of his injuries. Opponents of the war then largely ceased to openly express their opposition in Baltimore.

Riots in Baltimore

The attack in June 1812 on the offices of The Federal Republican, a Baltimore newspaper with anti-war sentiments.

Federalists who opposed the war, like editor Alexander C. Hanson, were seen by the mob as unpatriotic towards the new government, already experiencing the tension of the upcoming presidential election. 

When Madison officially declared war on England on June 18, 1812, Hanson used “all the eloquence at his command”and publish in the paper the following statement on June 20: “Thou has done a deed whereat valour will weep.” The statement enraged war supporters in Baltimore, those Democratic-Republicans in favor of Madison. A mere two days later "the printing office occupied by the editors of that paper was pulled down, and their press destroyed” by a violent mob of protesters.

Hanson refused to back down and bend to the will of the mob, so he elevated his efforts to continue publishing and printing. He took refuge in a house on Charles Street, loaned to him by a co-worker, and operated a press there. He continued in relative peace for about a month, but soon the mob rallied against Hanson again. This time, however, Hanson tried to prepare for an encounter. 

Expecting some retaliation, he wrote to a number of Federalist friends, seeking aid. A number of them, including “General James M. Lingan … General Harry Lee, Captain Richard Crabb, Dr. P Warfield, Charles J Kilgour, Otho Sprig, Ephraim Gaither, & John Howard Payne,” came to Baltimore and took up residence with Hanson. These men were present on Monday night, July 27, when the mob struck once again.

General “Light-Horse Harry” Lee
The hero of the American Revolution was tortured
by the pro-war Jeffersonian mob.

General Henry Lee, or “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, was directly involved with the War of 1812, but not for any reason one might expect from the Revolutionary War hero. A “die-hard Federalist,”i “Light-Horse Harry” was among the group of men who spoke up against the war and President Madison. Harry had been given a commission as major-general for the war and planned on fighting, but his plans to leave for the frontier fell through after the dreadful events of the Baltimore riots.

General Henry Lee was pulled into the unfortunate circumstances of the Baltimore Riots through his friendship with Mr. Hanson. In a deposition, John Howard Wayne, another one of Hanson’s friends present in the Charles Street house during the riots, stated that General Lee’s presence had been much desired by Hanson, for he came with previous military experience of protecting a house: “He [Hanson] adduced the case of Gen. Lee, who, during the revolutionary war, Took possession of a house in which he repelled with only ten men a large body of British Regulars.” 
However Hanson may have convinced Gen. Lee to attend him in Baltimore, Lee’s replying letter makes it apparent that Hanson was seeking out military advice for protection. Lee wrote that he fully supported Hanson’s cause of protecting the freedom of the press and offered many specific tips as to help fortify the house on Charles Street:
     “Put in the most retired room in the upper story cartridge made of the best powder, with ball and swan shot – these with a number of spare flints chosen with care, reserve for the hour of trial, if that hour should come. Prepare also cartridges with small shot to apply wherever it can be done without encouraging the mob by their experience of their innocence–collect a ton or two of large stones in your cellar, placing some of them close to the windows over the outer doors of the house, to be rolled down on the assailants when forced forward through the pressure of those behind–water and biscuit be sure to have in abundance.”
After the arrival of “Light-Horse Harry” Lee at the house, the gentlemen make good use of Lee’s suggestions, for in Wayne’s deposition, he mentioned that Gen. Lee had written a list of names of those responsible for defending each of the different rooms in the house.
The General’s military fortitude did not end up saving Hanson and his friends from their situation. When the newspaper was distributed on Monday, July 27, 1812, that evening the mob formed outside the Charles Street house and grew increasingly dangerous. Hanson and his house guests prepared to defend their stations within the house, but held off in hopes that the police force would arrive on the scene.
     “They thought rather of their rights than of the prudence of a further effort to assert them, and resolved still to defend the house, indulging the hope too that no further violence would be attempted after this experience.”
This assumption was wrong, and, eventually, Hanson, Lee, and the other men in the house agreed to be escorted out by Mayor Johnson and General Stricker. They were assured that they would be kept in the public jail as a safe house, away from the mob should it return for revenge.
What occurred that night at the jail would become an infamous example of the horrors caused by the Baltimore riots. Hanson came up with the plan to put out the lights and rush the mob in the hope that the confusion would allow them enough time to escape.
The result was total chaos as the mob beat the group of Federalists senseless and murdered General Lingan. The mob tortured the men, “sticking penknives into their faces and hands, and opening their eyes and dropping hot candle grease into them."
Maryland Governor Levin Winder
Maryland voters reacted harshly to the riots and
elected Federalist Levin Winder as Governor
that November. He was the first of three
Federalist Governors elected in a row. 
There was no mistaking the mob’s intentions – they left the men for dead, piled up the unconscious bodies and planned to return the next morning to hang them as public examples of Federalist aggression.
General Lee suffered from a long list of injuries after the mob attack:
     “While Gen. Lee’s mangled body lay exposed upon the bare earth, one of the [attackers] attempted to cut off his nose but missed his aim, though he thereby gave him a bad wound in the nose. Either the same person or another attempted to thrust a knife into the eye of Gen. Lee, who had again raised himself up. The knife glanced on the cheek bone.”
Harry Lee never fully recovered from his wounds after the riot. He quelled the rampant rumors of his supposed death by the mob and re-asserted his political stance as a Federalist by writing up his own Correct Account of the Conduct of the Baltimore Mob once he had recovered enough. In the account, Harry Lee proclaimed his intentions were to
call to the knowledge of our citizens generally, as much accurate information respecting the hideous and diabolical struggle of the leaders of the dominant party, as will contribute to guard well the public mind, against any and every future attempt, to trample upon the rights of private citizens.”
To try and recover from his injuries “Light-Horse Harry” Lee set sail for the West Indies.  Lee only lived five more years after the start of the war and the Baltimore incident, still suffering from health issues until his death in 1818.

The Presidential election of 1812.

A Nation Divided by "Mr. Madison's War"
In 1808 James Madison racked up 64.7% of the popular vote for President.  But only four months after declaring war on Britain in June of 1812 angry voters dropped his percentage down to only 50.4% with a fusion Federalist Party ticket amassing 47.6% of the vote.
In Maryland a resurgent Federalist Party swept the elections for the state legislature, elected a Federalist Governor, five Federalist Congressmen (including newspaper published Hanson) and Federalist Robert Goldsborough to the U.S. Senate. 

Read More:  Stratford Hall.org  and Opposition to the War of 1812

Early America.com    Baltimore Riot pamphlet    William Jay Baltimore riots of 1812.


The Federalist eagle prevents Jefferson from burning the Constitution 
on the alter of despotism and mob rule.

Life, Liberty and Property.

“Citizens choose your sides. You who are for French notions of government; for the tempestuous sea of anarchy and misrule; for arming the poor against the rich; for fraternizing with the foes of God and man; go to the left and support the leaders, or the dupes, of the anti-federal junto. But you that are sober, industrious, thriving, and happy, give your votes for those men who mean to preserve the union of the states, the purity and vigor of our excellent Constitution, the sacred majesty of the laws, and the holy ordinances of religion.” - -
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - A New York Federalist Newspaper (Spring of 1800)

The Federalist Party was the first American political party. In Presidential politics the Federalists operated from the early 1790s to 1816, the era of the First Party System. Remnants of the Party lasted until 1830. The Federalists totally controlled the Federal government until 1801. 

The party was formed by Alexander Hamilton, who, during George Washington's first term, built a network of supporters, largely urban bankers and businessmen, to support his Conservative fiscal policies. These supporters grew into the Federalist Party committed to a fiscally sound and nationalistic government. The United States' only Federalist President was John Adams; although George Washington was broadly sympathetic to the Federalist program, he remained an independent his entire presidency.

Read some profiles of the great Federalist leaders who helped build a free United States.

THE FEDERALIST - The 1816 Presidential Election in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire
THE FEDERALIST - James Buchanan - Our Last Federalist Party President
THE FEDERALIST - John Eager Howard - Revolutionary War Patriot

THE FEDERALIST - Jonathan Dayton - Founding Father 

The Revolution of American Conservatism - The Federalist Party in the Era of Jeffersonian Democracy

THE FEDERALIST - General Philip Schuyler - Revolutionary War Patriot

THE FEDERALIST - Founding Father Jared Ingersoll 

THE FEDERALIST - General William Richardson Davie

THE FEDERALIST - General Thomas Pinckney

THE FEDERALIST - Josiah Quincy III - Federalist Patriot 
THE FEDERALIST - Robert Goodloe Harper - "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute." 

THE FEDERALIST - Edmund Randolph - Founding Father

THE FEDERALIST - Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge - George Washington's Spy

THE FEDERALIST - Colonel John Hoskins Stone

THE FEDERALIST - Revolutionary War General Henry Lee

THE FEDERALIST - John Quincy Adams

THE FEDERALIST - Thomas Jefferson and political attack ads


Chuck said...

Mass law breaking and mob riots are a staple of American political life

You lead off with a stupid lie and then expect someone to read the rest? A staple? You need to learn English.

Gary said...

Chuckie, long time to hear from you. I see you are still in need of information.

Might I suggest that you Google "List of incidents of civil unrest in the United States."

The Wikipedia page provides a staggeringly long list of riots and civil unrest events in our history. Riots have been popular over the years. Samples:

--- 1788 – Doctors Mob Riot, New York City

--- 1835 – Baltimore bank riot

--- 1853 – Cincinnati Riot

--- 1877 – San Francisco Riot

--- 1901 – New York Race Riots

--- 1919 – Knoxville Race riot

--- 1935 – Harlem Riot, New York City

--- 1943 – Zoot Suit Riots, Los Angeles

--- 1964 – Philadelphia race riot

You get the idea Chuckie. The list goes on and on.

mosered said...

Terrible violence.

But remember the Federalists were more willing to turn a blind eye to the violence on the frontier instigated by Britain, and to Britain's mass impression or kidnapping of US sailors on the high seas. Many in the port city of Baltimore must have had kidnapped relatives.


Gary said...

Good points