Book Review, Lincoln's Wrath by Jeffrey Manber and Neil Dahlstrom
I was never taught there were any attempts by President Abraham Lincoln or his political party to hinder or prevent any newspapers from opposing Lincoln's views about the issues that triggered the Civil War.
But this book for 316 pages details those allegations, including the full statement by a court judge siding with a victim of the Republican Party's physical attack on one newspaper to close it down for opposing Lincoln's views.
Because this book was so different, I went to the site of the publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc., P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, IL 60567-4410 to see what type of publisher they appeared to be. I saw no indication that this was other than a "regular" publishing company, not an author-paid publisher. Reading this 2005 publication, priced on the cover at $14.95, will give you an idea of my concern that this book may have been self-published. There is no indication of that, so I assume the publisher bought it as a legitimate report of a not-ever-mentioned black mark on Lincoln's administration and political party.
From the site's "sourcebook story," I took, "It all started in 1987 when a determined Dominique Raccah left a promising career with advertising giant Leo Burnett, cashed in $17,000 from her 401K plan and launched a publishing house from her upstairs bedroom in Naperville, Illinois. She called it Sourcebooks.
"Over the years, Sourcebooks has grown and flourished by following its independent vision, and by publishing extraordinary authors and unique books with readers in mind. Noted for its strong publicity and marketing efforts on behalf of its authors and retailer partners, Sourcebooks stands today as one of the leading and largest independent publishers in North America.
"Founded with one title, Financial Sourcebooks Sources, Sourcebooks initially focused on publishing professional finance titles and books for bankers. In the early 1990s, Sourcebooks had its initial success in bookstores with business titles like The Small Business Survival Guide and The Complete Book of Business Plans, titles that continued to thrive for the company for two decades."
The "Acknowledgements" of the book in part states, "This book is the culmination of more than fifteen years or research, and included the assistance or many historians, archivists, librarians, and scholars in both at the United States and England."
The shocking apparently true story took place in 1861 through 1863 and focuses on the Jeffersonian, a West Chester, PA weekly that dared to oppose Lincoln's views and expressed some support for the views of the seceding South, one view being that the South should be permitted to secede from the Union.
John and William Hodgson, the publishers of the Jeffersonian, saw their newspaper broken into, vandalized, and the paper closed by a mob. The court found no direct evidence linking Abraham Lincoln to the action, which was carried out by local officials. But the inference was that he or someone in his administration knew of or instigated the crime, which the court called it.
Newspapers were the way thoughts were conveyed to the public during the Civil War, and politicians were heavily involved with them, according to the book. About Lincoln's interest in newspapers, the book states, "Lincoln, though, controlled the medium like no one before him, immersing himself in the politics of the newspaper business from the earliest stages of his career."
Ninety-four newspapers as far north as Maine were intimidated or closed by the Republicans, the party to which Lincoln belonged, during the Civil War, the book states. West Chester, southern Pennsylvania, and Maryland were areas in which many were afraid the South would invade and prevail. Many of the citizens were undecided about where they stood on the issues, including slavery, of the Civil War.
I was raised near West Chester and was educated in both public school and two colleges between there and Philadelphia. Never was this topic raised, which led to my shock in reading this book. As a teacher, none of the information stated in this book was ever presented to me, which makes me wonder about the honesty and accuracy of the American education system concerning any parts of history not popular by those who lead the field.
The Jeffersonian's publishers, John and William Hodgsdon, saw their newspaper ransacked and closed by a mob. Some 94 newspapers as far north as Maine were also intimidated to closed during the Civil War, because those publications disagreed with the Republican views about the South and the Civil War. Some of these publications, and a fair number of the public, felt the South should be able to secede and that slavery should be permitted.
Three years after the attack on the Jeffersonian, a judge sided with the victims, the Hodgsdons, and called the attack and closing a crime. He stated there was no direct evidence, connecting the crime to the Lincoln administration but limited his decision to those who carried it out.
I'm not sure if I view myself as simply uneducated by those whose role that was or gullible in never learning of the story this book tackles, but if you have any interest in reading this for yourself, I'd find a copy.
I call Lincoln's Wrath a very important part of the American story.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013