The Last Thirty Years

Hi, my name is David Heard. I just turned twenty years old on February 4. I am a second generation American. My whole family is white and is originally from England. I have an older sister, Mary, who we do not see anymore, (I will get to that later), a younger brother, Adam, and both my parents. My parents and little brother live in a nice size house for the three of them. I plan to get married soon, but for now I live in a house near my parents by myself. They do not own that much land, but it is enough for my mom’s garden and for my little brother to play on. My father used to own a little ice cream and candy shop just on the outskirts of Boston. I took it over because my father does not want to work anymore. He feels that he is getting to old to be getting up before the sun rises to make candy.
Exactly one month after my birthday President Lincoln was inaugurated. At the end of his inauguration speech he said, “We (the North and the South) are not enemies, but friends”, (Out of Many, 444). As much as I respect President Lincoln for the great man that he is I do not believe this. Things in this country are going to get worse before they get better. The population of this country has dramatically increased and this is causing more violence to occur between classes. One cannot walk down the street without seeing a fight somewhere. The country is becoming much too violent. I just hope some big war does not erupt soon. Things have changed so much since I was born and even a few years before I was born.
I am a strong believer in human rights, such as humane treatment of Indians and slaves. I think that is was terrible how we, the white people, pushed the Indians off their land. My father told me that the Indian Removal Act of 1830 was a terrible time in our young country’s history. There were Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, the Chickasaws, the Creeks, the Choctaws and the Seminoles. In 1830 the tribes had moved in a direction to live with the whites and adopted the ways of the white man. The Indians resisted suggestions that they should remove themselves from their own land. So, President Jackson urged the Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act, which appropriated funds for relocation, by force if necessary. Jackson sent officials to try to negotiate treaties with the Indians. Some tribes reluctantly signed and prepared to move, but not the Cherokees, who took extensive steps to adopt white ways. The Cherokees fought back by using the law. At first, it appeared they won because the Supreme Court said that legally the Cherokees could not be removed from their land. But Jackson refused to follow the ruling of the Supreme Court. The Cherokees were then forced to leave their lands and go west to Oklahoma.This was called the “Trail of Tears” because along the journey to Oklahoma more than one-quarter of the Cherokees died. The Seminole tribe took a different route then the Cherokees and they fought back. The war lasted into the 1840’s and the government just decided to give up and let them stay. My father tells me that this was a time the government is already trying to ignore and not acknowledge it as a very brutal and pointless mistake.

Slavery is another event that did not exactly affect my family personally, but since I am a strong believer in human rights I hate slavery. Since we live just outside of Boston and a lot of slaves flee to Boston when they escape we used to see many ex-slaves up here. We even let some stay with us for a while when they first escaped. Then the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850. This act helped slave owners greatly because even if a slave had escaped he was not safe at all up North. People that harbored slaves could also get in trouble for housing them. Even though this was in effect my family took the risk and helped slaves that had escaped. All the slaves that we have had at our house, they were all very respectful, courteous and very grateful the whole time they were here. I can honestly say that I would have been friends with most of them if they lived by me.
One major case that greatly angered me was the case of Dred Scott in 1857. Dred Scott was a man that was born a slave and later sold to Dr. John Emerson, an Army physician from Missouri. Dr. Emerson had to travel and live in Illinois and Wisconsin. Abolitionists decided to sue on Dred Scott’s behalf for his freedom because he no longer lived in slave territory with his master. This case made it all the way to the Supreme Court. They ruled that Dred Scott could not sue because he was property and not a United States citizen. It was also stated by the Supreme Court that the government could not interfere with the personal arrangements of property. This is ridiculous that a living, breathing human being can be considered somebody else’s property and the government cannot interfere with this. After this point I started to realize that slavery was becoming nationalized and spreading over the entire country.

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My older sister Mary no longer lives around here. She lives in the Oneida Community in New York. I have heard some pretty interesting things about that place. It is a community that is comprised of around 200 people that think the framework of the world today is both unstable and inconsistent. The community is very open with one another. One of the things that make Oneida unique is that they have mutual criticism, which is when they sit a person down and tell them all the good and bad qualities about them. I guess it is supposed to make it so that nobody has any lasting problems with anybody else. They also have many sexual partners, which is called complex marriage. Everybody shares with everybody, even in the bedroom. It sounds like a very peaceful place there. She has been there since the beginning in 1848.

One man I greatly respect for all of his efforts is Fredrick Douglass. Frederick Douglass is an abolitionist. His main action as an abolitionist is speaking out against slavery and freedom for African-Americans. He goes on lecture tours and is known for his very inspirational speeches. I have been to one of his speeches in Boston and it really moved me. It made me realize how horrible slavery was and that no man should have to endure that kind of life. Douglass also was the editor and publisher of a newspaper called The North Star. The North Star was first published in 1847. The newspaper promoted freedom and equality. I try to read old newspapers whenever I have time. The North Star stopped publication in 1851. It was very interesting and insightful. I do not see how people can read The North Star and listen to Fredrick Douglass speak and still believe that slavery is perfectly fine.
The last thirty or so years in our great developing nation have been very hectic and exciting. Our nation is going to prosper, but I still fear something bad might happen before our country will truly prosper into a worldwide power. I hope and pray that our country can learn from its mistakes and move on to become a better nation because of them. Once people realize that our nation can be better off without slavery and the persecution of Indians, we will finally be able to treat people the way they should be treated and truly be the land of the free. No living, breathing human being should be recognized as a piece of property or pushed off of their property. As I begin to think about how our nation is developing I sometimes wonder why I have not joined my sister at the Oneida Community. They are a group of people that realizes the world is unstable and inconsistent and they are doing something about it to live a better life. I hope that in the next few years President Lincoln can change the direction that our country is going and turn us into the great country that we can be.
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