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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War, riots and the trial of the century.See more details below


War, riots and the trial of the century.

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.

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