This week’s column “150 years ago…” features a set of articles found in the September 1, 1860 edition of the Arkansas True Democrat where the reader will be guided through a set of most-interesting and ironic passages in Arkansas history.

In 1860 Little Rock, when a new book was released and/or the local bookstore stocked their shelves with new arrivals, a notice would traditionally be sent to the local newspaper making the citizenry aware of the various choices of literature their local merchant had to offer. The first excerpt this week deals specifically with the timely procurement of certain various titles available to the public.

The reader must first be keenly away of the various rumors of slave insurrections bubbling up from around the South, specifically from the neighboring state of Texas. Starting in late June, 1860, reports of cities under attack by abolitionists perpetuated the fears of the common Southerner, and Arkansas was no exception. One cannot but help but speculate at the cause and effect regarding the new arrival of the following books in Little Rock, Arkansas in relation to the fervent rumors of slave insurrections in the South:

Hardee’s Infantry Tactics, prepared under the direction of the War Department, 2 vols. [this book later became the manual of instruction for the Confederate Army]

Cavalry Tactics—School of the trooper; of the platoon, and of the squadron, dismounted; prepared under the direction of the War Department.

The Militiaman’s Manual, containing the infantry drill of the U. S. Army; Infantry manual of percussion musket, and company drill of U. S. Cavalry; together with The Rapier and Broad Sword exercises copiously explained, and illustrated, enlarged, revised, and corrected by Capt. W. W. Merriman.

Just received at the bookstore of Jno. E. Reardon Sept. 1, 1860.

Traditionally the editor chooses only one primary source for this weekly column, but this week’s sources were very hard to choose, as there were several very interesting articles in the September 1, 1860 edition of The Arkansas True Democrat. As the rumors of the slave insurrections became known as just that: rumors, Arkansans were quick to find another enemy to battle: alcohol. Traditionally we think only of the Prohibition era of American history when discussing the evils of alcohol, or spirits, but there has always been a push to ban this “evil spirit” from the American experience.

As the following primary source unfolds, the reader should note that the “person” speaking in the article is a personification of the newest enemy under attack: alcohol. As a literature teacher, the editor finds the following both humorous and quite disturbing:


For the True Democrat.

Having on hand a small supply of liquid fire, weakened with sulphur water, we embrace this opportunity of informing our customers that we still continue the business of making drunkards, paupers and beggars for the sober and respectable part of the community to support. We shall deal in familiar spirits, which will excite men to deeds of riot, robbery and blood; and in so doing, augment the expenses, diminish the comforts, and endanger the welfare of the community. We will undertake, at short notice, for a small sum, and with great expedition, to prepare victims for the asylums, the poor-houses, the prisons and the gallows. We will furnish an article which will increase the number of fatal accidents, multiply the number of distressing diseases, and render those that are harmless incurable. We shall deal in drugs which will deprive some of life, many of reason, most of property, and all of peace; which will cause fathers to be fiends, wives widows, children orphans and beggars. We will cause the rising generation to grow up in ignorance, and prove a burden and nuisance to society. We will cause mothers to forget their suckling infants, and virgins their priceless innocence; we will corrupt the ministers of the gospel, obstruct the progress of religion, defile the purity of the church, and cause temporal, spiritual and eternal death; and if any should be so impertinent as to ask why we have the audacity to bring such accumulated misery upon the comparatively happy people, our honest reply, is money!!! The spirit trade is lucrative, and some professing christians give it their cheerful countenance. We have a license, and if we don’t bring these evils upon you, somebody else will.—We live in a land of liberty. We have purchased the right to demolish the character, destroy the health, shorten the lives and ruin the souls of those who may choose to honor us with their custom.

Those who wish any of the above specified evils brought upon themselves, or their dearest friends, are requested to meet at our grocery house, in Benton township, Conway county, Arkansas, where we will, for a few cents, furnish them with the certain means of doing so.

The Old Man & Son.