Saturday, July 08, 2017

A President’s War on the Media : The Real Abe Lincoln

Professor Thomas DiLorenzo reports:
Lincoln was a tyrant and a dictator with regard to the media, shutting down over 300 opposition newspapers in the North during the War to Prevent Southern Independence and imprisoning their editors and owners without due process. No other president has ever come close to being as big an enemy of freedom of the press.

As historian Dean Sprague wrote in Freedom Under Lincoln, in a chapter entitled “The Policy of Repression,” the “first step” in Lincoln’s “program against the anti-war newspapers” in the Northern states “had to start with the muzzling of the New York press” (p. 142). The New York papers “dominated much of the nation,” meaning that many other newspapers followed their lead in reporting the news and editorializing on it. The Journal of Commerce was the most influential of the New York newspapers, and it published a list of over 100 other Northern newspapers that had editorialized against the war in early 1861.

Most newspapers at the time were delivered by mail, so the Lincoln administration ordered the Postal Service to cease delivering the opposition newspapers. Eventually, they began arresting (without due process, since Habeas Corpus had been illegally suspended) editors who persisted in selling their papers. The editor of the New York Freeman’s Journal, James McMasters, was especially heroic in his defense of his paper and of free speech. Consequently, Secretary of State William Seward (from New York) orderd federal marshals to “arrest [McMasters] and send him to Fort Lafayette.” Fort Lafayette in New York Harbor was at the time used as a gulag where political critics of the Lincoln administration were rounded up and imprisoned.

Such repression taught many of the other papers a lesson: criticize the Lincoln administration and you, too, will be dragged off to Fort Lafayette. Consequently, the New York newspapers “had been silenced by the end of September 1861,” writes Sprague (p. 149). But then there were other newspapers elsewhere in New York state, from Long Island to the Canadian border, that commenced criticism of the Lincoln regime. They soon received the same treatment from Seward, Lincoln’s media henchman, and were silenced. Then “the mania for arrests [of opposition newspaper editors] soon spread outside New York State. Pennsylvania suffered greatly” (p. 151).
You'll want to read the entire article.