Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion

By Harold Holzer

“Lincoln believed that ‘with public sentiment not anything can fail; with no it, not anything can succeed.’ Harold Holzer makes an important contribution to our figuring out of Lincoln’s management by way of exhibiting us how deftly he controlled his kin with the clicking of his day to maneuver public opinion ahead to maintain the Union and abolish slavery.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin

From his earliest days, Lincoln gobbled newspapers. As he began in politics he wrote editorials and letters to argue his case. He spoke to the general public at once during the press. He even received a German-language newspaper to attract that transforming into voters in his country. Lincoln alternately pampered, battled, and manipulated the 3 strongest publishers of the day: Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, and Henry Raymond of the New York Times.

When struggle broke out and the country used to be tearing itself aside, Lincoln licensed the main frequent censorship within the nation’s historical past, ultimate down papers that have been “disloyal” or even jailing or exiling editors who hostile enlistment or sympathized with secession. The telegraph, the recent invention that made quick reporting attainable, used to be moved to the place of work of Secretary of conflict Stanton to disclaim it to unfriendly newsmen.

Holzer exhibits us an activist Lincoln via newshounds who lined him from his commence via to the evening of his assassination—when one reporter ran to the field the place Lincoln was once shot and emerged to jot down the tale coated with blood. In a unconditionally unique manner, Holzer indicates us politicized newspaper editors combating for strength, and a masterly president utilizing the click to talk on to the folk and form the nation.

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Constantly depending on busy election campaigns to get him previous the tilt years, by way of the tip of 1840 his outdated Soldier was once attaining extra Illinois readers than the magazine itself: 8 thousand statewide. 29 “We have the numbers,” Lincoln boasted, “and if appropriately prepared and exerted, with the gallant HARRISON at our head, we will meet our foes, and overcome them in all components of the Union. ”30 during this prediction Lincoln proved mistaken. The disagreement one of the rival crusade extras, let alone the overtly partisan Springfield dailies, ended triumphantly for the Democrats, now not the Whigs—at least statewide. A slim 51–49 percentage majority gave Van Buren Illinois’s 5 electoral votes. yet Harrison prevailed nationally, and headed to Washington to imagine the presidency the subsequent March. slightly a month after his inauguration, even if, he disproved the recognized adage that outdated infantrymen by no means die. After braving the March wind to carry his record-long inaugural deal with with out advantage of a topcoat or hat, William Henry Harrison succumbed to bilious pleurisy, the 1st president to perish whereas in place of work, on April four, 1841. Harrison’s successor, vp John Tyler, was once a former states’ rights Democrat with susceptible ties to the Whig association. If Tyler used to be a guy with out a occasion, the professional Whig newspapers now looked themselves as a celebration and not using a guy. years later, notwithstanding, magazine editor Simeon Francis proven that Tyler’s unforeseen ascendancy had sapped none of his (or his readers’) enthusiasm for the motor vehicle of the crusade additional as a way of restoring occasion supremacy. For a trifling off-year congressional election within the spring of 1843, Francis brought yet one more new, four-page additional magazine, delivering subscriptions at thirty-seven and a part cents apiece. 31 besides unending studies of alleged violence directed opposed to Whig papers upstate, its pages featured assaults not just at the Democrats, yet at the rival sign up, which it accused of “Falsehood and Ignorance,” evaluating its editors, William Walters and Charles Lanphier, to “sellers of ‘ready-made garments. ’ ”32 right here was once one other political press venture that Lincoln, through then a typical customer to the magazine place of work close to Capitol sq., let alone a common, uncredited contributor to its pages, definitely knew approximately and counseled. Lincoln had by no means relatively relinquished his hid position as a contributor of rancorous editorial reproduction to the magazine. in fact, many buddies and political allies knew of his moment “career” as an nameless editorial author. In William Herndon’s phrases, “Whatever he wrote, or had written, went into the editorial web page with out query. ”33 In public he may stay the “good” Lincoln—advocating reverence for the legislation. In print, with out attribution, he may well think the function of “bad” Lincoln, excoriating Democrats in his recognizable sarcastic writing variety. in a single such example, Lincoln got here perilously with reference to the type of violence he had mocked while Stephen Douglas was once a protagonist many years prior.

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