George N. Sanders

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George Nicholas Sanders
George Nicholas Sanders.jpg
Former United States Consul to London
From: 1853–1854
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Anna Johnson Reid[1]

George Nicholas Sanders (February 22, 1812 – August 13, 1873) was a leading activist for the radical-liberal flank of the Democratic Party in the mid–19th century known for spearheading the "Young America" movement[2] advocating Manifest Destiny, free trade, white supremacy,[3] and various proto-progressive reforms in accordance with Jacksonian tradition. American history textbooks, however, mention next-to-nothing about his role as an entrenched Democratic leader.

Sanders was known for acting as a proxy agent between Democratic president Franklin Pierce and Italian radicalist leader Giuseppe Mazzini, facilitating deep-seated political schemes between the interests of the white supremacist Democrats in the U.S. and European revolutionary efforts to overthrow governments.

Early life

Sanders was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on February 22, 1812, the son of Lewis Sanders and the former Ann Nicholas, being second-oldest out of five children.[1] His father worked as a horse breeder.[4]

Political career

Sanders supported President James K. Polk's effort to annex Texas.

Sanders "spent most of his life on the political fringes as a fixer, lobbyist, go-between, and financial promoter."[4] In the 1840s, he worked as a Democratic operative in strong support of the annexation of Texas amidst the Mexican–American War, and also as a negotiating agent for Hudson's Bay Company concerning Oregon territory, and faced accusations of cheating "a vast sum of money" out of the company.[4]

Young America movement

The wing of the national Democratic Party Sanders represented was an insurgent branch of progressive Jacksonianism denouncing the "old fogey" faction[5] led by the aging Lewis Cass. Historian Merle Curti described the movement as "a crusade for European republicanism would divert attention from sectional controversies, open European markets to American surplus, and fulfill the American mission of furthering the cause of democracy and freedom throughout the world."[5]

He told Democrats in 1852:[3]

This continent is for white people, and not only the continent, but the islands adjacent, and the negro must be kept in slavery at Cuba and [Haiti], under white republican masters.

—George Sanders, Democratic Review, 1952

Foreign policy endeavors (1853–54)

In fighting for President Pierce's agenda, G. N. Sanders proved to be a vital lackey.

In 1853 under the new Pierce Administration, Sanders was appointed U.S. consul to London via recess appointment,[5] evidently due to unlikelihood of Senate approval. He then established a London residence which became a meeting location for revolutionaries, namely Lajos Kossuth of Hungray in addition to Italian leaders Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini.[5] Sanders's influence gained American passports for Mazzini and the latter's friend Aurelio Saffi.[6] Despite hard-fought efforts to gain financial backing for the European revolutionary leaders, such support was never obtained.

Mazzini's revolutionary efforts were supported by the Pierce Administration as a radical outgrowth of "republicanism."[6] Although the Young America movement's support for slavery expansion ran contrary to the abolitionist activism by supporters of William Lloyd Garrison, who Mazzini conferred with, their support was welcomed by the Italian revolutionary purportedly due to desperation, according to author Enrico Dal Lago. Dal Lago argues that an ultimate split between Mazziniites and Garrisonians over slavery was genuine,[6] while researcher Anton Chaitkin contends that both forces served along a dichotomous scheme for an ultimate shared goal: secession and breakup of the United States.[3]

The following year, after returning to the U.S. where much of the federal legislative body held considerable skepticism of Sanders's activities, the United States Senate thwarted his confirmation sought by President Pierce.[5] Despite this setback, however, Sanders found extensive connections within the Democratic Party due to both his domestic and diplomatic initiatives.

Election interference?

According to Chaitkin, the radicalist European revolutionary leaders supported Pierce for reelection. Mazzini wrote in a 1853 letter:[3]

Kossuth [Hungarian radical] and I are working with the very numerous Germanic element in the United States for his [Pierce's] election, and under certain conditions which he has accepted. Of these conditions he has already fulfilled enough to give us security that he will carry out the rest. He was to appoint American representatives in Europe who would be favorable to us and would help us; and almost all his nominations are such as we desired. He was to give to all battleship commanders instructions opposed to Austria and the despotic governments: he has done it . . . He had promised to give orders to all his diplomatic agents to recognize immediately whatever insurrectionary republican government should be established in an Italian or Hungarian province, and he states that he has done so.

The election of Franklin Pierce, indeed, gave the signal for the revolution to begin. We will restrict our treatment here, due to space limitations, to two, intimately connected objectives of this revolutionary project:

  • The destruction of the liberties of the emerging republics of Latin America, and their colonial reconquest; and
  • the breakup of the United States and the overthrow of its republican government.

These two objectives had been combined in the plans of America's enemies since the mercenary army of Aaron Burr sailed from Ohio to the Gulf South, and remain so in the twentieth century.

—Mazzini, 1853

Sanders fights for the Confederacy

During the Civil War, Sanders supported the Confederate States of America over the Union, serving as an operative for the South.[5] He was involved in diplomacy between the Confederacy and England, attempting to construct vessels as a means of blockading Union forces.

Lincoln assassination involvement?

For a more detailed treatment, see Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

According to the Library of Congress:[5]

Although not charged in the conspiracy, Sanders went into exile for several years after the Civil War. Sanders’s sons Reid and Lewis also undertook secret missions for the Confederacy, and Reid’s imprisonment in 1863 by Union authorities at Fort Warren in Boston, Massachusetts, led to his death in 1864.

—George Nicholas Sanders papers, p. 4

See also

  • Aaron Burr, another leading American politician guilty of treason


  1. 1.0 1.1 George Nicholas Sanders (1812–1873). Find a Grave. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  2. July 20, 1998. Young America Movement. Britannica. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Chaitkin, Anton (1984). Treason in America: From Aaron Burr To Averell Harriman, ch. 12. Google Books. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mayers, Adam (2003). Dixie & the Dominion: Canada, the Confederacy, and the War for the Union, pp. 65–66a. Google Books. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Bickel, Richard; Krowl, Michelle. George Nicholas Sanders Family Papers. Library of Congress. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Dal Lago, Enrico (November 11, 2013). William Lloyd Garrison and Giuseppe Mazzini: Abolition, Democracy, and Radical Reform, pp. 150–51. Google Books .Retrieved September 28, 2023.

External links