Over this past summer, I learned about Pennsylvania State University's digital collection of Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers. One of the newspapers in the collection is for Huntingdon County, which is the county where several of my ancestors lived. As I was searching for articles that included my ancestors, I stumbled across a political petition that had my ancestor and one of his sons listed on the petition. The petition was printed in the paper before the 1856 election, and the petitioners were calling upon their fellow Whigs to not join the Know-Nothing Party. Apparently, these petitioners believed that the Know-Nothing Party went against the democratic principles of the United States. (As a side note, when James Buchanan was elected President, the newspaper rejoiced in a large ad. The paper was overjoyed that sectionalism was defeated in that election, but in a sad, ironic twist, the U. S. would erupt into civil war only five years later.)
So what exactly was happening? The Whig party collapsed as a political party by the 1856 election, and the tension between the states was increasing. Sometimes I think it is hard to imagine what people were feeling during that time period. I believe newspaper articles help open windows into what people were thinking and feeling during the time period right before the civil war.
In case you want to read other Huntingdon County newspapers, here is a link to some of the other early papers: http://www.accesspadigital.org/ajunc/ajunc.htm
- Huntingdon Globe,"To the Whigs of Huntingdon County:," October 3, 1855, page 3, http://digitalnewspapers.libraries.psu.edu/default/client.asp?skin=civilwar
- Huntingdon Globe, "The Whigs and the Huntingdon Journal," September 26, 1855, page 3, http://digitalnewspapers.libraries.psu.edu/default/client.asp?skin=civilwar
- Huntingdon Globe, "Pennsylvania Nobly Redeems Her Pledges!," November 5, 1856, page 3, http://digitalnewspapers.libraries.psu.edu/default/client.asp?skin=civilwar