The Year Without Summer and the Panic of 1819

We have previously talked about the major changes to the world that happened around the major planetary configurations of 1820-1825, as is illustrated in the chart below.  We see Uranus conjunct Neptune square Pluto with all three planets on the cardinal axis. This was the time that the Industrial Revolution started to effect the world outside England.  The were major changes in the United States that are grouped under the such terms as the Age of Jackson, the Communication Revolution, the Transportation Revolution.  This was discussed previously.  America had became aware of itself as a separate and exceptional nation.  Photography was invented by Nicéphore Niépce in this period.  The Romantic period in the arts flourished.




1816 marked the beginning of the “Era of Good Feeling” that occurred in the United States after the end of the War of 1812.  Europe saw the end of the Napoleonic Wars, that had ravaged the continent since the turn of the Century, with  the Conference of Vienna the previous year.  There was an economic boom in both the United States, Great Britain, and Europe after all the wars ended.  The population of the West of the United States, such as Ohio, rapidly increased as more and more people moved there.  By 1820, Ohio had more people than Massachusetts, one of the original thirteen colonies.  Also in 1816 the second Bank of the United States (BUS) was chartered.

But  now I want to discuss a warm up  to the period when the configuration was exact.  This started with what was called (at least in Europe)  The Year Without Summer, and in the Eastern states of the United States as Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.  The events all had a common source the effect of which reverberated through the Nineteenth Century  and was an early example of climate change.

The primary cause of all this was the explosion of the bulk of the volcano Tambora in the Indonesian archipelago.  This happened on April 10, 1815 at about 7 in the evening, local time.  The volcano had first exploded a few days earlier, but this eruption was tremendous and sent ashes into the atmosphere.  The Tambora eruption was twice as powerful as the more well-known explosion of Krakatoa (also in Indonesia) in 1883, and more than twice as powerful as the fairly recent Mount Saint Helens explosion in the State of Washington; this volcano sent its debris horizontally rather than vertically into the atmosphere as the other two did  so it caused much less climate disruption.  About 90,000 people were killed directly by this eruption, and it is considered the largest volcanic explosion in recorded history.




This is a chart for the major eruption of the volcano, which sent clouds of volcanic dust around the world, causing a climate change for the next three years.  We are fortunate that we have an actual time for this eruption.  We see  that Mars with Saturn squares the Ascendant, and Mars is opposite the Midheaven.  Pluto makes a sesquiquadrate to the Ascendant.  There is a closing square between Neptune and Pluto; the following conjunction of those two planets would occur in 1890 and mark the end of an almost 500 year cycle and the opening of the Twentieth Century.  There are many other aspects, but  not as tight as these.  But if we look at the fourth harmonic chart of the same event, we see how strong these aspects are.  While the Mars opposite the Midheaven — conjunction in the fourth harmonic  chart — appears very wide — orbs  are also magnified by a factor of four in the fourth harmonic chart — we see that Mars-Ascendant-Pluto aspects are almost exact.  Jupiter is mediating this aspect complex with hard aspects that are not visible in the first harmonic chart.  Pluto is the most likely choice for a planet to represent a volcanic eruption, and its connection with the Ascendant just attests to that eruption happening at this time and place.  Mars’ involvement just makes destruction more likely, and many people were killed and villages destroyed in the immediate aftermath of the eruption.  Jupiter attests to the volume of the explosion.



Tambora Fourth Harmonic


The smoke caused by this volcanic explosion had an effect over much of the globe.  In Europe, the following year was known as The Year Without a Summer, since it was cold all summer long.  This caused many hardships at a time when most people grew their own food and could not run down to the local grocery store for provisions.  In Ireland, for example, their main crop of potatoes turned bad, and many people starved.  This was a forerunner of the famous potato famine 30 years later that sent many Irish to America.  `The climate in Switzerland was foreboding when the Romantic poets Byron and Shelly took a vacation at Lake Geneva, along with the wife of Shelly, Mary;  in a contest that summer Mary wrote the book Frankenstein, whose tenor was influenced by the dire weather.

In America, on the East Coast, this year was known as Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.  The most extreme example of this happened on June 6, 1816. While it was 90 in Boston, in upstate New York they had a surprise snow storm. Children at a local school almost died because they could not make it home and were not prepared for the cold weather.  In Germany 1817 was known as The Year of the Beggar.  There was a weather-caused cholera epidemic in India which resulted in a rout of the occupying British troops.  The cold climate restricted the growing seasons in China, also resulting in hardships and famine.  In fact, this climate crisis of these years was the most significant weather event of  the Nineteenth Century.



Eighteen Hundred and Froze To Death

To me, the most appropriate aspect in this chart  is transiting Saturn conjunct the US Moon.  And indeed it was a depressing time with the unusually cold weather over what was still the main part of the country.  And to reinforce that idea the transiting Sun, representing the day, was in aspect to natal Saturn.

However, in the western part of the United States — and remember in the early Nineteenth Century “West” included everything west of the Appalachian Mountains — there were no  problems with cold weather.  Many  people immigrated from the east, and crops were plentiful.   As  a result of this and the lack of food in Europe, much food from America was  sold in Europe, allowing Europeans to survive and causing a  boom economy for the farmers in the Western United States,  This overall helped the prosperity of the young country.

But as the old saying has it, what goes up must come down.  When weather recovered in Europe, by 1819, there was no longer a need for food from America, so sales fell off drastically. As a result, the first widespread depression happened to America, the Panic of 1819. The elderly Thomas  Jefferson felt much depression because he had to sell his beloved home, Monticello. He was shocked that it would not fetch the price he thought it should.  This panic, which effected people rather than banks, cast a dark pall on what had been the sunny optimism of citizens of the young country.  Of  course, many other factors played a part in this first depression, such as the Bank of the United States and the problems citizens were having with it.  Restrictions on the BUS by some states and some deflationary moves by the BUS also helped pave the way for the Panic of 1819.  The depression was also felt in Europe, though not as severe as in the United States.


Panic of 1819

The  best I can find out the Panic of 1819 started in January of that year.  Here is a chart for the Middle of January.  Of course, the Uranus-Neptune conjunction is present, if not tight, and square Pluto.  Pluto is also opposite Neptune — speculation.  The most obvious aspect is the tight Jupiter Sun conjunction, conjunct the natal Pluto, sesquiquadrate natal Uranus, and opposite natal Mercury.  And even though the transiting Sun-Jupiter conjunction would not last long, the aspects from Jupiter will.  And Jupiter is the planet of expansion, of capitalism.  And this was indeed the first crisis of capitalism in the new country, a country which was about to accept laissez-faire capitalism with the boom of the Age of Jackson.


While there are many books on this crisis, my main source was Tambora by Gillen D’Arcy Wood, 2014 Princeton.

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