Content warning: politics and discussion of slavery
To Clara’s understanding, there was a lot riding on the United States election. From what she knew, the election was going to be the next in a long line of bloody conflicts over slavery that had been happening practically since the United States was formed, but had especially come to a head in the last few years. Monica had made her up to date on all the politics over the days before November sixth – election day – and reiterated all of what she had said on election day itself. She was jittery and nervous, and her attitude had spread to Clara, who could not focus on the family history Enoch was trying to explain to her.
“My sister has you all worked up over the election, doesn’t she?” Enoch said.
When Clara nodded, he sighed and said, “I can’t stand politics.”
“I don’t usually participate,” said Clara. “But Monica makes it sound like-”
“Like this is going to be the end of the world, yes, I know. She’s very passionate about the issue, as is Father, and as was Grandfather, supposedly. We’ve harbored slaves in our basement before. I’ve harbored slaves in my basement as well, in Boston, but not as often. Apparently, this makes me a part of the Underground Railroad.”
“That’s good,” Clara said.
Enoch shrugged. “But Monica has you all up to date, I would assume. You know all about slavery and Bleeding Kansas and Lincoln, don’t you?”
“I do. I don’t have the ballot memorized, or anything, though. I don’t even really know who’s running for president.”
“Lincoln is the spindly, honest lawyer from Illinois. He’s a senator, I think. Maybe. I might be wrong. Either way, he’s a Republican, which means he’s forward-thinking in terms of abolition. There’s also Stephen Douglass, the Democratic nominee, who works for the South and wants slavery there to continue. There’s also John Breckinridge, the current Vice President, the Southern Democratic nominee. He’s pro-slavery and supported by James Buchanan, our good current president. There’s John Bell, a Tennessee senator who’s for the Constitutional Union party, which is essentially the old Whig party under a new name, and he’s avoiding the issue of slavery. Lastly, there’s Gerrit Smith, who claims to be in ill health, and is for the Liberty party, also known as the extremely radical abolitionist party.” Enoch closed the big family book and put it back on the shelf.
“And, who’s Monica voting for?”
“Lincoln. She says he’s not too radical, but also anti-slavery.” Enoch picked a duster and started dusting one of the higher bookshelves. “Monica’s always been rather critical of politicians. According to her, thinking a politician will do what they say when they’re elected is like thinking the prostitute actually loves you.”
“No, really,” Enoch said. “Anyhow, it’s election day. We’ll wait and see who gets elected. I suppose we’ll know in,” he checked his watch, “approximately twenty minutes. I suspect we’ll know right away, because Father – your brother, actually – has, or had, friends in the government.”
Enoch quietly dusted the shelves of his library, before going into the kitchen to wash the dishes. Clara followed him, unsure why he was doing this if he had servants, but she realized a second later when she thought about how he, who claimed to not like politics, could rattle off details about each of the presidential candidates out of nowhere. He probably just wanted to keep his hands busy.
Clara had nothing else to do but follow him downstairs to watch him make the beds in the servants’ quarters. She had started to help, when the door burst open and footsteps that were unmistakably Monica’s pounded across the floor upstairs.
“Enoch-Clara-Howard-Ambrose!” Monica shouted.
Two people who were presumably Howard and Ambrose pounded down the stairs. Enoch’s hands were badly shaking. Even Clara felt nervous, even though she had never given a second thought to American elections before today and probably wasn’t even an American citizen, either.
Monica was standing in the foyer, grinning. Was it good news, then? Had Lincoln won?
“Well?” Enoch asked.
Ambrose whooped and threw himself at Howard for a hug.
Outside, people were partying. Clara heard them singing through the windows, and even though the Carter household seemed pleased, Nantucket Island was partying, and even Enoch was in better spirits, something nagged at Clara and told her that the issue of slavery would not be so easily solved by a Republican president.
Apologies that today’s chapter is so short! Also, for anyone who isn’t American: the two current major political parties are the democrats and republicans. In 1860, there was also the whig party, though it was drawing to an end. Most of the background on the American Civil War (which I never actually intended to write a story about, but here we are) is explained later on in the story, so you don’t exactly need to be a history buff to understand where this story is going.