“Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, precious relics of former history, must not be construed too largely.” – William T. Sherman
The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In these times, we see blatant, unapologetic levels of censorship and propaganda. For example, some libertarian-minded individuals liken CNN, MSNBC, al.com, etc., to be American equivalents of the former U.S.S.R.’s Pravda. Despite the modern versions of censorship and information control, the phenomenon is not new in America.
Under Abe Lincoln’s Administration, the level of suppression was staggering. Since the South was attempting to establish independence and escape the grasp of Lincoln’s corporate/government alliance, this suppression was largely directed at citizens of the Northern and Border States. Examples include:
Kentucky: Newspapers that were neutral or sympathetic to the South were suppressed. This included The Louisville Courier, The Louisville Democrat, and The Kentucky Yeoman. It was also in Kentucky where U.S. General Grant issued General Order #11 on December 17, 1862, calling for Jews to be expelled from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
Indiana: Union Brigadier General Milo Hascall issued Order No. 9 on April 25, 1863. This led to the arrests of several newspaper editors, including Daniel E. Valkenburg of the Plymouth Weekly Democrat and Rufus Magee of the Pulaski Democrat.
Ohio: Ohioan Clement Vallandigham’s unique case will be covered in a future article. The Chicago Times was suppressed in Ohio. Attacks were leveled at the McConnelsville Enquirer, Zanesville’s Citizen’s Press, and Marietta Republican. The Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry attacked the Columbus Crises in March 1863.
Illinois: Several newspapers were temporarily suppressed, including the Jonesborogh Gazette and the Chicago Times. On June 1, 1863, Union General Ambrose Burnside issued General Order No. 84 that led to the suppression of the Times and other papers.
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania was a strong Democratic State. Lincoln’s Administration accused some Pennsylvania newspapers of providing “aid and comfort” to the South. This led to the suppression of Philadelphia’s Christian Observer and Evening Journal as well as Eaton’s Sentinel and West Chester’s Jeffersonian.
New York: New York’s Jeffersonian Governor Horatio Seymour believed the South had a right to self-government and the anti-war New York Draft Riots were among the most violent of the era. New York was the news center of the country in the 1860s. Horace Greely, originally a supporter of the South’s independence effort eventually supported Lincoln and his war. Greeley’s newspaper, the New York Tribune, reflected that support. The papers that opposed the war were attacked or suppressed. They included the New York Herald, The New York Daily News, the Journal of Commerce, The Daybrook, Brooklyn Eagle, Freeman’s Journal, and others.
Iowa: Sympathy for Southern Independence existed in Iowa. Many Iowans were anti-war and supporters of voluntary government. Iowa Catholics were particularly leery of the Republican Party’s antipathy toward them. The wrath of Lincoln’s Administration was felt by the Dubuque Herald, the Iowa City Press and the Keokuk Constitution (Union soldiers literally destroyed their office).
Wisconsin: A strong anti-war element existed in Wisconsin. Marcus Pomeroy, editor of the La Crosse Democrat was physically attacked for his anti-war/anti-Lincoln stance. The Prairie Du Chein Courier was threatened but not actually suppressed.
Connecticut: Pro-Southern Independence elements existed in Connecticut. The Bridgeport Advertiser & Farmer was suppressed after taking an anti-Lincoln stance. Their office was destroyed and the paper put out of business; no arrests were made. Pro-Union P.T. Barnum led a mob’s interruption of a Democrat Peace Meeting in Stepney.
Other censored or suppressed newspapers included: Dayton Empire, Maryland News Sheet, Baltimore Gazette, Daily Baltimore Republican, Baltimore Bulletin, New Orleans Advocate, New Orleans Courier, Baltimore Transcript, Thibodaux (Louisiana) Sentinel, Cambridge Democrat (Maryland), Wheeling Register, Memphis News, Baltimore Loyalist, and Louisville True Presbyterian. Also, the editor of Haverhill, Massachusetts’ Essex County Democrat was tarred and feather by a Union mob and the printing equipment was destroyed.
This is just a glimpse of the attacks on the press and speech carried out during Lincoln’s regime. Anyone who seriously studies Lincoln and has not been duped by the “cartoon-version” of this very power-hungry individual knows these truths. There may have never been a greater enemy to American constitutional government than Lincoln. However, those who created the Lincoln myth after his death and those who continue to propagate it have done a masterful job in creating a fairy tale that millions have bought into.
Sources: Union At All Costs: From Confederation to Consolidation, John M. Taylor; The Real Lincoln, Thomas DiLorenzo; The Real Lincoln, Charles L.C. Minor