Violence against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History

By John Nerone | Go to book overview

60 was later tried and acquitted of riot, while Clay suffered universal castigation in Kentucky as an incendiary. He resumed his True American temporarily from Cincinnati but abandoned it to fight in the Mexican War. A later attempt to start an emancipationist paper in Lexington ended after three issues in 1851 when his surrogate editor fled in fright. 146

Several less notorious papers were victims of mobs in the 1840s. In 1843 Samuel Davis suspended his Peoria Register under threat of mob action; in 1845 editor DePuy of the Indianapolis Indiana Freeman was attacked by a mob; in 1847 M. R. Hall's Cambridge, Ohio, Clarion of Freedom was mobbed. 147

In 1847 Gamaliel Bailey, late of the Philanthropist, managed through great tact to establish the antislavery National Era in Washington, D.C., without provoking a riot. For about a year the Era operated unmolested. Then on the night of 15 April two Yankee abolitionists led a daring escape attempt of about eighty slaves. Fleeing on a sloop up Chesapeake Bay, they were captured and returned to Washington and placed in jail. A crowd gathered and marched on the Era office but was turned away by police and federal marshals, apparently sent by President Polk through the intercession of Bailey's neighbor Mayor William Seaton. Again the next night a crowd gathered at the Era office but was turned away. An offshoot of the crowd then visited Bailey's home but was dissuaded from serious mischief. 148

In Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati, the Daily News, run by William S. Bailey, a machinist by trade, was burned down by a mob in 1851. Reestablished, it stayed in operation for years, changed its name to the Free South, but was again destroyed by a mob in 1859. 149


Conclusion

Continued violence against the antislavery press shows that the issue of free discussion of dangerous ideas was not settled in the 1830s. Under the pressures of political expediency and relentless intolerance, antislavery was driven from its proper place at the center of U.S. public discourse. But it refused to disappear. Instead, it continually reasserted itself in new form: not in the simple garb of abolitionism but in more elaborate costumes, as arguments over the organization of territories acquired during the Mexican War, or, in the Kansas territory, as violent disputes over popular sovereignty and electoral fraud. Politics as then practiced refused to deal in a straightforward fashion with slavery. It left that job to war.

-110-

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Violence against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - The Press and the American Revolution 18
  • Conclusion 50
  • 3 - Antipress Violence and Politics in the Early Republic 53
  • 4 - The Crusade Against Abolitionism 84
  • Conclusion 110
  • 5 - The Civil War and Civil Liberties 111
  • Conclusion 126
  • 6 - Violence and Minority Media 128
  • Conclusion 163
  • 7 - Labor-Related Violence 165
  • Conclusion 195
  • 8 - Recent Violence Against the Mainstream Press 196
  • Conclusion 211
  • 9 - Conclusion 213
  • Appendix A - Survey Questionnaire 219
  • Appendix B - The Flow of Antiabolitionist Violence 221
  • Notes 231
  • Index 293
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