The town of Lucasville Ohio was platted in 1819, two hundred years ago. The Bicentennial of Lucasville in 2019 will commemorate the history of the village with fitting pomp and circumstance. As Honest Abe once said of another very famous proclamation, “It is altogether fitting and proper” to do this.
However, it occurred to me that I (And, I assume most others.) have no conception of life in 1819 other than a few factually descriptive words found in the local journals and histories of the time. In other words, I know nothing about what was going on in 1819 in the country and how the events of the year affected the residents of the town. This article will address that issue.
What I discovered attests to the importance of 1819 in the scope of American history. The town of Lucasville, the state of Ohio, the United States of America – all were in the youthful throes of establishing identity. This time, after the wars of the Revolution and 1812, was a period of peace, yet the days were filled with uncertainty. The times of discovery in the Scioto Valley had passed, and now residents turned to settlement and to dealing with all the changes brought about by recent events.
In 1819, James Monroe (DR) was president of the United States. His presidency offers some key insights into the beginnings of the town. The Virginian took office in 1817 following the first election after the War of 1812 – a war directly connected to the Lucas lineage.
Of course, most people know John Lucas, the founder of Lucasville, had volunteered for service and commanded a regiment during the War of 1812. Captain Lucas returned from the war after he was released, as he and his company had been part of the forces surrendered by General William Hull. Robert Lucas, John's brother, was a Brigadier General and a key figure in the war. Both the Lucases had served with great distinction.
In particular, Robert Lucas (Who by 1819 resided in nearby Piketon.) had become famous for his resourcefulness and calm in an increasingly chaotic 1812 campaign. As one of his contemporaries stated, "As a spy he was productive and brave — as a soldier he had no superior." Lucas actually rose to national prominence during the court-martial trial of General Hull. Hull was accused of incompetence in the loss of Detroit and the Michigan Territory to the British in June 1812, and the journals Lucas kept during the campaign were used as evidence to convict Hull. Thus, the popular Lucas springboarded into Ohio politics and eventually became governor of the state.
In 1792, James Monroe had joined forces with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to found the Democratic-Republican Party, which opposed Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists who were fighting for increased federal power at the cost of state and individual rights. The election of 1816 was the last in which the Federalist Party fielded a presidential candidate.
The previous four years of American politics had been dominated by the effects of the War of 1812. While the war had not ended in victory, the peace concluded in 1815 was satisfactory to the American people, and the Democratic-Republicans received the credit for its conclusion. The Federalists found themselves discredited by their opposition to the war. To his advantage, Monroe was popular because of his status as one of the Founding Fathers.
Monroe was of the planter class, and he fought in the American Revolutionary War. He was wounded in the Battle of Trenton with a musket ball to the shoulder. After studying law under Thomas Jefferson from 1780 to 1783, he served as a delegate in the Continental Congress.
Monroe was elected the fifth president of the United States with 68.2% of the popular vote. He was the last president of the Virginia dynasty. His presidency ushered in what is known as the Era of Good Feelings – a period in the political history of the United States that reflected a sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans. These were grand ideals whose attainment continued to vex the nation. The nation was growing quickly and offering new opportunities to its citizens, citizens like those in Southern Ohio who were then settling into westward expansion.
Monroe had helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S. And, as president, he acquired Florida in 1819. President Monroe also dealt with the contentious issue of slavery in new states joining the Union with the 1820 Missouri Compromise. With John Quincy Adams’ assistance, Monroe addressed Congress in 1823 with what became known as his Monroe Doctrine opposing European colonialism in the Americas. The doctrine was conceived to meet major concerns of the moment, but it soon became a watchword of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.
Monroe’s predecessors rarely traveled. However, he embarked on a tour of the northern United States in late May, 1817. Monroe's theme was “In the Spirit of the People.” His goal was to travel as a private citizen to examine the fortifications of the country. This was shortly after the conclusion of the War of 1812, and he was concerned about ongoing British animosity.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania reports:
"Americans came out by the thousands, thrilled by the opportunity to see the president, and newspapers across the country gave day-by-day accounts of his progress. Political differences were forgotten as Americans of both parties joined together in grand celebrations marked by parades, speeches, dinners, balls, receptions, and concerts. A Boston newspaper coined the phrase 'Era of Good Feelings' to describe the national unity created by Monroe’s tour. The term became the catch-phrase of his presidency.”
During his tour, Monroe expressed interest in visiting Ohio because of its “exposed and important frontier.” The Ohio leg lasted about 15 days and took him through Sandusky Bay, Delaware, Worthington, Columbus, Circleville, Chillicothe, and Zanesville.
During the stop in Chillicothe on August 27-28, President James Monroe was greeted with great zeal. A full account of Chillicothe's reception is included in the “Narrative of the President's Tour.” Here is a partial account:
“On Tuesday evening, the 26th, he (the President) reached the boundary line between the counties of Franklin and Pickaway, and lodged at Holmes's tavern. At eight o'clock on the following morning, he was conducted to Circleville, the county town of Pickaway, by a deputation of citizens and a troop of horses, and thence to the boundary of the county of Ross. There he was met by a deputation from the corporation of Chillicothe, and a number of citizens on horseback, who escorted him to the residence of Governor Worthington at Prospect Hill, in whose mansion he lodged.
“On the 28th, he entered Chillicothe, preceded by the same escort, and followed by a train of citizens from the neighbouring counties. At Watson's hotel, the mayor and corporation presented him the address which follows, and received an appropriate but verbal reply.”
(“President Monroe Visits Chillicothe.” Chillicothana Broadsheet,
No. 8. Chillicothe, Ohio. Five Cents.)
People in Lucasville in 1819 were surely acquainted with the policies and politics of President James Monroe. His actions affected life even in places like small-town Ohio.
A Virginia lady who once shook his hand said this of Monroe: “He is tall and well formed. His dress plain and in the old style…. His manner was quiet and dignified. From the frank, honest expression of his eye … I think he well deserves the encomium passed upon him by the great Jefferson, who said, ‘Monroe was so honest that if you turned his soul inside out there would not be a spot on it.’ ” Yes, friends, I understand this professed naivete of a national politician seems incredible. Perhaps my lady was overcome by her affection for the man.
It is of interest to note, like his fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson, Monroe owned slaves. Monroe had sold his small inherited Virginia plantation in 1783 to enter law and politics. He later fulfilled his youthful dream of becoming the owner of a large plantation and wielding great political power, but his plantation was never profitable. Although he owned much more land and many more slaves, and speculated in property, he was rarely on-site to oversee the operations.
In the end, Monroe's ambition and energy, together with the backing of President Madison, made him the Republican choice for the Presidency in 1816. With little Federalist opposition, he easily won re-election in 1820 – the first full year of Lucasville's existence. What was life like then? Perhaps this brief report about the man in charge will add light to that question.
Here is how President Monroe described the State of the Union in December 1819:
“Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
“The public buildings being advanced to a stage to afford accommodation for Congress, I offer you my sincere congratulations on the recommencement of your duties in the Capitol.
“In bringing you to view the incidents most deserving attention which have occurred since your last session, I regret to have to state that several of our principal cities have suffered by sickness, that an unusual drought has prevailed in the Middle and Western States, and that a derangement has been felt in some of our moneyed institutions which has proportionally affected their credit.
“I am happy, however, to have it in my power to assure you that the health of our cities is now completely restored; that the produce of the year, though less abundant than usual, will not only be amply sufficient for home consumption, but afford a large surplus for the supply of the wants of other nations, and that the derangement in the circulating paper medium, by being left to those remedies which its obvious causes suggested and the good sense and virtue of our fellow citizens supplied, has diminished.”
The Panic of 1819
Without a doubt, the most important event of the year was a major panic that rocked the entire country. It marked the end of the economic expansion that had followed the War of 1812. The panic affected the entire nation.
The Panic of 1819 began in January and became the first major peacetime financial crisis in the United States. It was followed by a general collapse of the American economy that persisted through 1821.
The country at that time was young and unstable, and the economy was constantly changing. The Panic announced the transition of the nation from its colonial commercial status with Europe toward an independent economy, increasingly characterized by the financial and industrial imperatives of central bank monetary policy, which made it susceptible to boom and bust cycles.
The downturn was driven by global market adjustments in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and its severity was compounded by excessive speculation in public lands, fueled by the unrestrained issue of paper money from banks and business concerns. Falling prices impaired agriculture and manufacturing, triggering widespread unemployment.
Those in the new town of Lucasville surely felt the strain. In fact, the Panic and the banking crisis reportedly left many Ohioans destitute. Thousands of people lost their land due to their inability to pay off their mortgages. United States factory owners also had a difficult time competing with earlier established factories in Europe.
Thus, the Panic had a significant effect on the political and social scape of America. The experience convinced a large number of Americans that the banking industry was untrustworthy. They believed the government had dropped the ball, and they came to see the Bank (all banks, really) as a symbol of incompetence and greed. Americans, many for the first time, became politically engaged so as to defend their local economic interests. Future president William Henry Harrison, then an Ohio state congressman, declared at the time: "I hate all banks..."
Ohio implemented its own tax against the Bank of the United States in 1819. In that year, there were two branches of the Bank of the United States in Ohio, one at Cincinnati and the other at Chillicothe. The tax law authorized the State of Ohio to seize fifty thousand dollars from each branch.
The Panic greatly changed the American South and king cotton production. Less cotton meant fewer cotton products to be made. Fewer cotton products meant fewer people needed in manufacturing, so a lot of Northerners lost their jobs.
As the value of land and slaves dropped dramatically in the South, many people had to sell or were even forced off of their land. So, during this time wealthy planters took advantage of the devaluation of farmland/slaves and bought out the bankrupt small farmers.
This became a turning point for the rest of the century. The South became the most unbalanced area of the country in terms of distribution of wealth, and money was concentrated in the hands of the lucky few. More and more, cotton became a rich man’s game. The Panic intensified sectionalism in the U.S. Ohio felt this division as much as any other state in the Union.
In the North, businessmen promoted higher tariffs to protect and stimulate domestic business. Higher tariffs meant that people were more likely to buy goods from within the country, which would prevent foreign products from flooding the markets again.
And, Southerners, most of whom were farmers, depended on their more industrially developed counterparts in the North for all their manufactured goods. If tariffs were raised, they couldn’t turn to European suppliers if things got pricey in the states. This led to increased resentment, mostly from the South directed at the North.
In time this resentment would peak, and the Civil War would rip the nation apart. So many Lucasville residents served to save the Union and to end the evils of slavery. The events of 1819 held a direct correlation to the future of the community in future antebellum and war days. Anti-slavery sentiments grew in the North as the South drew ever closer to secession.
In Washington, D.C. in 1819, Congress passed an act that dramatically changed the regulation of the slave trade. First, it authorized the president to send "armed vessels of the United States, to be employed to cruise on any of the coasts of the United States ... or the coast of Africa" to interdict slave traders. This was the beginning of what became known as the African Squadron, which patrolled the waters off the coast of Africa in an attempt to stop the slave trade at its source.
The law also provided that the slaves be returned to Africa, rather than being sold in the United States. This provision was directly tied to the creation of the African Squadron. The act authorized the president to appoint agents to receive rescued Africans and return them to the continent of their birth. The United States would use Liberia as a destination for Africans taken off intercepted ships.
American ships could not seize slavers off the coast of Africa and immediately return the people on board to their point of origin. The law provided an economic incentive for sailors on these ships: a $25 bounty, to be shared by the crew of the interdicting vessel, for every individual rescued from traders. The act also provided a bounty of $50 per person to any informant whose information led to the recovery of illegally introduced Africans.
Lucasville in 1819 had to be a unique place. The Scioto River Valley was one of most fertile regions in the country. It was a magnet for European immigration. Close enough to the slavery plantations of Kentucky and situated on what would become an important freedom trail for runaways escaping to Canada, the town began its existence in a time of great national hope after a bloody war and during an acute financial disturbance. The settlers faced their challenges with spirit and determination. And, the town they built is still growing 200 years later.
Other Significant Events of 1819
January 25 – Thomas Jefferson founds the University of Virginia.
February 15 – The United States House of Representatives agrees to the Tallmadge Amendment barring slaves from the new state of Missouri (the opening vote in a controversy that leads to the Missouri Compromise).
February 17 – After several days of sharp debate the House passes the Missouri statehood bill including both parts of the Tallmadge Amendment, marking the first legislation demanding the abolition of slavery. The act is sent to the Senate where the bill is never voted on.
February 22 – Spain cedes Florida to the United States in exchange for the American renunciation of any claims on Texas that it might have from the Louisiana Purchase, and $5 million. Under the Onís-Adams Treaty of 1819 (also called the Transcontinental Treaty and ratified in 1821) the United States and Spain defined the western limits of the Louisiana Purchase and Spain surrendered its claims to the Pacific Northwest. In return, the United States recognized Spanish sovereignty over Texas.
March 2 – Arkansas Territory is created.
March 6 – McCulloch v. Maryland: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Bank of the United States is constitutional.
May 22 – The SS Savannah leaves port at Savannah, Georgia on a voyage to become the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The ship arrives at Liverpool, England on June 20, although only a fraction of the trip was made under steam.
June 23 – First editions of "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent." by Washington Irving released, featuring the story "Rip Van Winkle."
July 1– German astronomer Johann Georg Tralles discovers what will be called the Great Comet of 1819. Poet John Keats noted how he and his wife Fanny had stared at the comet. Historian Nathaniel Philbrick writes about the great comet seen in July 1819 by the people on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts in his work, In the Heart of the Sea.
July 4 – Arkansas Territory is effective.
November 3 – The USS Congress, commanded by Captain John D. Henley, becomes the first American warship to visit China, landing at Lintin Island, off of the coast of Canton.
December 14 – Alabama is admitted as the 22nd U.S. state.
Some Famous Births of 1819
May 27 – Julia Ward Howe, poet and abolitionist (died 1910)
May 31 – Walt Whitman, poet, essayist and journalist (died 1892)
August 1 – Herman Melville, novelist, short story writer and poet (died 1891)
May 24 – Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (died 1901)
August 25 – Allan Pinkerton, American detective (died 1884)
What states represented the nation in 1819? The United States flag featured 20 stars. In 1818, five stars were added, bringing the total number of stars to 20. Congress proclaimed that one star for each new state would be added on the 4th of July following the state's admission to the union and there would be a return to thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
This flag flew from July 4, 1818 to July 3, 1819. States 16 through 20 admitted to the Union were in sequential order – Tennessee 16, Ohio 17, Louisiana 18, Indiana 19, and Mississippi 20.
In 1819, one star was added, representing Illinois, bringing the total number of stars to 21. There were thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies.
This flag flew from July 4, 1819 to July 3, 1820.