Sometimes things just don’t make sense. Every once in a while I come across a document or phrase that doesn’t jibe with what I know–or what I think I know. It’s happened to me again, and I’d love to have your help figuring it out.
The presidential election of 1856 was a crazy time. A new, upstart party (the Republicans); a highly contentious issue (slavery); a section of the country in turmoil (Bleeding Kansas); immigration on everyone’s minds (more Irish Catholics came to this country in the 1840s and first half of the 1850s than any other time); all these things worked together to create a highly volatile election.
People were mobilized to support ideas that were important to them. The campaign was unusually heated and vigorous. Slavery had a singular impact, with an estimated 83% of the electorate turning out in the free North to combat slavery’s advance in Kansas. Indiana saw particularly intense voting in 1856.
With all the issues being bantered about–from slavery to nativism to temperance–it’s hard to tell what compelled any one person to get out and vote. But there’s no question that a lot of people were very interested in casting their ballot and having their voice heard in 1856.
Wayne County, Indiana went Republican, even though the state as a whole chose James Buchanan, the Democratic candidate.
The question I have relates to my three-times-great uncle’s admission to the Indiana Hospital for the Insane. In October 1858, twenty-four-year-old Cornelius Harris was admitted for various reasons that had evolved over the previous couple of years. Several court documents detail certain aspects of Cornelius’ behavior (including “girl trouble”) that warranted a stay in the asylum. The one document I can’t figure out is an admission form that includes the following under the category of “remarks”:
“He lost his mother about the time of his trouble with the girl. His father, however, considers that his voting in Rush Co. election in 1856 while he was a citizen of Wayne Co. He was a witness before the legislature of session 1856-7.”
This is all it says. Even putting the questionable grammar aside, I’m not sure how to interpret these sentences.
If you have any ideas, feel free to leave a comment on the blog or on facebook. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.