Lincoln's Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels and a President's Mission to Destroy the Press

Lincoln's Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels and a President's Mission to Destroy the Press

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by Jeffrey Manber, Neil Dahlstrom
     
 

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In the blistering summer of 1861, President Lincoln began pressuring and ordering the physical shutdown of any Northern newspaper that voiced opposition to the war. These attacks were sometimes carried out by soldiers, sometimes by angry mobs under cover of darkness. Either way, the effect was a complete dismantling of the free press.

In the midst stood

Overview

In the blistering summer of 1861, President Lincoln began pressuring and ordering the physical shutdown of any Northern newspaper that voiced opposition to the war. These attacks were sometimes carried out by soldiers, sometimes by angry mobs under cover of darkness. Either way, the effect was a complete dismantling of the free press.

In the midst stood publisher John Hodgson, an angry bigot so hated that a local newspaper gleefully reported his defeat in a bar fight. He was also firmly against Lincoln and the war--an opinion he expressed loudly through his newspaper.

When his press was destroyed, first by a mob, then by U.S. Marshals "upon authority of the President of the United States," Hodgson decided to take on the entire United States. Thus began a trial in which one small-town publisher risked imprisonment or worse, and the future of free speech hung in the balance.

Based on 10 years of original research, Lincoln's Wrath brings to life one of the most gripping, dramatic and unknown stories of U.S. history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the center of this overwrought Civil War account is the tiny town of West Chester, Pa., where John Hodgson ran a pro-Southern Democratic newspaper, the Jeffersonian. In August 1861, a mob destroyed his printing press and subscription lists, and tossed his printing type out a window. A few days later, two federal marshals came to finish the job-under the Confiscation Act, these marshals could seize the property of any citizen who supported the Confederacy. Manber and Dahlstrom speculate that the mobs may have been acting under the aegis of Lincoln's cabinet, and perhaps with the knowledge of Lincoln himself. The second half of the book is largely devoted to the ensuing court case, which in 1863 resulted in Hodgson recovering just over $500 in damages from the government. The authors are given to breathless prose ("It was John Hodgson's fight, and he stood alone"). The questions this book raises couldn't be more timely: how does one criticize a president in wartime, and how can we ensure the freedom of the press at those moments when we need it most? (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
That Abe Lincoln. First he crushes states' rights, then suspends the writ of habeas corpus. Next thing you know, he'll want to demolish the First Amendment. The subtitle of Manber and Dahlstrom's expose is overheated, but, as they hold, the media-savvy Lincoln had no fondness for the opposition Democratic newspapers that every Northern city harbored. In early August 1861, Lincoln signed a bill that authorized the confiscation of property used for "insurrectionary purposes," though he considered the bill a bit premature. A couple of weeks later, vigilantes broke into the offices of a Pennsylvania newspaper published by a fierce Lincoln-hater named John Hodgson, broke up its type and destroyed the subscription lists. In their characteristically ham-fisted way, Manber and Dahlstrom consider this "one of the most calculated attacks on American liberty since the exploding cannon and dull thud of Revolutionary muskets ceased." Though it seems a milk run for Watergate, with cunning Republicans gunning for antiwar Democrats, to consider the attack a sweeping assault on freedom of the press may be a little overstated, despite Hodgson's-and the authors'-protestations. Still, it's clear that persons higher up, including Lincoln's secretary of war, knew of and approved the attack on Hodgson's property; that much is evident by the fact that afterward, government marshals ordered the paper shut down permanently. The attack brought forth a storm of dissent from editors, who issued a resolution "that the Republican Party has proved that all its pretensions of devotion to freedom, free speech, and free discussions were simply cloaks to conceal their real enmity to liberty." Hodgson sued, charging thegovernment officials who shut him down with illegal trespass; eventually, he recovered $512 in damages, and he continued to publish anti-Lincoln and antiwar pieces all through the Civil War. A minor footnote to journalistic and Civil War history.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402241635
Publisher:
Sourcebooks
Publication date:
11/01/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Neil Dahlstrom is a noted historian and scholar and has written on many topics of nineteenth-century America, including the Civil War. He lives in Moline, Illinois.

Jeffrey Manber has published more than 50 articles in publications such as the New York Times and has been interviewed on CNN and other networks. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

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Lincoln's Wrath: Fierce Mobs, Brilliant Scoundrels and a President's Mission to Destroy the Press 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone is on the Lincoln bandwagon. But, few cast a critical eye to investigate the cunning and manipulative side of Lincoln that few of us know. Lincoln's Wrath illuminates one President's brillance in dealing with the media ... censoring opposition press at the cost of civil liberties. While this is a strategic approach, it's not always the right one. (John Hodgson, the guy that Lincoln loathes, is not a likable character. But because he champions free speech, you might find that what he represents is exactly why you're drawn into the story.) Lincoln was a master at wielding and controlling power. And thank God for the Constitution. Otherwise, history would have written a very different story if Lincoln got his way. This is a good read. And timely, regardless of your political view.