Abraham Lincoln Shut Down Newspapers, Bigly

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jgoodguy

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jgoodguy

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1st 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.​
Stop the Presses: Lincoln Suppresses Journalism

Pending more information and suffering from insomnia. Looks like the Lincoln Administration in the Crisis of war took a strict view of that military necessary trumped freedom of the press. Pending SCOTUS ordering a President to Stop, there is no overt prohibition of shutting down the press in wartime in 1860.

In the wake of this tightened oversight, some Democratic war opponents tried arguing that constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press must remain absolute no matter what the danger of an armed revolt. Even Lincoln’s friend Edward Baker, in one of his final speeches in the U.S. Senate before accepting his fateful military commission, insisted that neither the eradication of slavery nor the preservation of the Union justified threats to “the liberty of the press.” Critics pointed out that the First Amendment unequivocally guaranteed: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” And Congress never did. This did not inhibit the administration from determining that in an unprecedented case of rebellion, and under the powers the president had claimed in order to crush it, military necessity superseded constitutional protection, and contingency trumped the organic assurances of freedom of expression within the Bill of Rights.

We have different suppressions. Some were for military secrets, some suppressed pro-secession sentiment from being published.

Based on this argument, the administration began conducting—or, when it occurred spontaneously, tolerating—repressive actions against opposition newspapers. At their most unobjectionable level, the safeguards were initially meant to keep secret military information off the telegraph wires and out of the press. But in other early cases censors also prevented the publication of prosecession sentiments that might encourage border states out of the Union. In an anonymous dispatch for the New York Examiner, presidential clerk William Stoddard probably spoke for the White House in complaining that, cut off from their usual sources, “the legion of daily newspaper reporters” roamed “the streets and camps…pouncing, with hawk-like avidity, upon every poor little stray item which, in their palmier days, they would have scorned to notice.” And some of those “items,” the administration believed, should remain secret.​
No written trail of Lincoln's suppression of the press exists, however, Lincoln did not muzzle those who did.

Eventually the military and the government began punishing editorial opposition to the war itself. Authorities banned pro-peace newspapers from the U.S. mails, shut down newspaper offices and confiscated printing materials. They intimidated, and sometimes imprisoned, re – porters, editors and publishers who sympathized with the South or objected to an armed struggle to restore the Union. For the first year of the war, Lincoln left no trail of documents attesting to any personal conviction that dissenting newspapers ought to be muzzled. But neither did he say anything to control or contradict such efforts when they were undertaken, however haphazardly, by his Cabinet officers or military commanders. Lincoln did not initiate press suppression, and remained ambivalent about its execution, but seldom intervened to prevent it.

No numbers yet, the 300 number show up in lots of spots, but no references.
 

jgoodguy

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Thread here.
Did the Lincoln Administration Really Imprison 13,000 Americans

Post of interest.
I see this thread died about a month ago. Anyway I have read Neely's book on Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Here are some notes I took...​
1) According to Neely, old historiography had the number of citizen (not POW) arrests at 48,000. Prior to Neely, another historian tracked this number through various footnotes and they all came to sources with no footnotes. So this historian counted the arrests from primary sources and came up with about 15,000. Neely re-tracked the sources and found the same number, give or take a few hundred. (see Ps.113-138 in The Fate of Liberty).
2) Neely maintained that 1/2 of the arrests occurred in the south, 1/4 in the border states, and 1/4 in the north. The large majority of all these arrests were for activities such as smuggling, spying, and sabotage. Political speech prisoners made up a "small percentage" of these arrests. So, if that "small percentage" was 25%, just less than 4,000 were arrested for criticizing the administration and that could make arrests of northerners about 1,000.​
3) Lincoln put Seward in charge of handling this until early 1862, sec of War Stanton took charge of it from then until the end of the war. Lincoln rarely got involved after Seward took charge. There is one story, however, where he did. When Brigadier General John M. Schofield arrested William McKee, editor of the Missouri Democrat, Lincoln wrote to Schofield:​
I regret to learn of the arrest of the Democratic editor. I fear this loses you the middle ground I desire you to occupy… You will only arrest individuals and suppress assemblies or newspapers when they may be working palpable injury to the military in your charge, and in no other case will you interfere with the expression of opinion in any form or allow it to be interfered with violently by others…​
By "palpable injury to the military" Lincoln meant encouraging or helping deserters and draft resisters (or in anyway interfering with the draft). Also note that Lincoln ordered Schofield to protect Democrats from Republican vigilantes.​
Lincoln also stepped in twice to deal with Burnside. The Valandigham case was discussed above. And when Burnside closed the Copperhead Chicago Times, Lincoln re-opened it within two days.​
Only the Valandigham case of the above involved a military tribunal. The supreme Court ruled in 1866 that while the government could suspend the writ of H.C, it could not try citizens by military tribunal if civil courts were operating (see ex-Parte Milligan).​
A popular topic because it showed up in another history forum.

Did Lincoln shut down 300 newspapers and arrest 14,000 political prisoners?
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I'm not sure we can use these events as a. precedent and b. absolute proof Lincoln violated free speech. We were never at war inside this country before or since. I'm sure not crazy it happened but a country at war literally with itself, with so military many lives hanging in the balance was a whole, new dynamic.

Thanks, @jgoodguy , for the breakdown. Removing the shock-horror elements does bring it into focus and lets the air out of use as another tool with which to bludgeon Lincoln. Really do not mean this as snarky, honest, I can never figure out the Lincoln bashing anyway. Like if it can be proven he somehow cheated, we'll all meet back up in Manassas and there'll be a do-over of the entire war.
 

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#10
1st 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.​
Pending more information and suffering from insomnia. Looks like the Lincoln Administration in the Crisis of war took a strict view of that military necessary trumped freedom of the press. Pending SCOTUS ordering a President to Stop, there is no overt prohibition of shutting down the press in wartime in 1860.
Hmmmm..... reads an awful lot like another discussion here.

So, it's your position that, because there is no explicit prohibition, it was then legal, & NOT a constitutional violation...??? :whistling:
 

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Kennedy of the New York Police saw the merits of using arrests without hearing to make newspaper editors more cautious about what they wrote. Kennedy mentioned to Seward in 1861 the the best way to hurt uncooperative newspapers was not to seize the printing offices or restrict circulation by denying mailing privileges. Better, he believed, to arrest the editors and publishers without advancing them to trial. Such a ploy "would lead to a modification" of the newspaper's tone. pp 47

Much more common was the tendency for the federal courts to leave the indicted prisoners in legal limbo, sometimes for the entire war. pp53

The State Department had neither the staff nor the administrative mission to continue to monitor treason as the war expanded geographically and soldiers penetrated deeper into the states conducting the insurrection. pp54

The military was certainly not new to combating treason through arrests under martial law. Soldiers had done so from virtually the opening of the conflict. pp55

It is also clear that public speech was viewed as dangerous, whether in newspapers, in the pulpit, or in someone's yard. As in the military commissions, most involved similar matters of speech: professions of support for the Confederacy, prayers for the South, newspaper columns sympathetic to secession, or failures to declare an oath of allegiance to the United States. Four citizens of Maryland were arrested in 1863 for cheering for Jefferson Davis. Military officers were often adamant in their instructions to noncombatants in their charge to withhold criticism of the Union. In April 1862, orders issued in the Union-occupied areas of North Carolina warned that anyone who uttered "one word against the government of these United States, will be at once arrested and closely confined. It mist be distinctly understood that this department is under martial law, and treason, expressed or implied, will meet with speedy punishment. Similarly, General Orders No. 1 for the military department of Utah in 1862 urged all commanders to promptly arrest all persons who from this date shall be guilty of uttering treasonable sentiments against the Government." It added: "Traitors shall not utter treasonable sentiments in this district with impunity, but must seek a more genial soil, or receive the punishment they so richly merit. Freedom of speech was not so free, after all, as a civil war exacerbated the public's fear of the power of words. pp58

In February 1863 an estimated seventy five convalescing in a hospital in Keokuk Iowa, mustered enough energy to rise from their sickbeds so they could wreck havoc on an allegedly disloyal newspaper office. About three o'clock in the afternoon the soldiers marched to the office of the Daily Constitution, led by three or four persons wielding sledgehammers. Their comrades spread out along the street to guard them. The men with hammers demolished a printing press on the first floor. The crowd then went to the second floor, cleaned out the type and destroyed another press. On the third floor, it encountered yet another press and threw it out the window in a obvious fit of pique. One imagines cheer or unrepeatable oaths greeting the fall of one of the tools of a free press in a democracy.. . .

It is not known what triggered these men to shake off their various ailments to attack a mechanism essential to a free society, but it was not uncommon to have such runs on presses or to have the government arrest editors whose columns appeared to aid the rebellion. One study of Pennsylvania notes that, wince the first months of the war, "Republican crowds had acted as informal enforcers of loyalty in urban communities."Popular crowd actions against papers occurred in Philadelphia, but they also appeared in the lumber region, Kittanning, Carlisle and Huntingdon. Soldiers vandalized the press of the Monroe Democrat in Stroudsburg. One study had suggest that throughout the Union 111 newspapers were damaged by angry citizens. More often, however, editors who published unpopular opinions faced suppression of their papers, the loss of mailing privileges, or imprisonment. For the most part, the jail time was brief, mirroring the usual practice in political arrests to gain a public pledge of loyalty and sometimes a statement of contrition. Often, the reason for such assaults, and suppression of newspapers by the government, was rather flimsy and represented an attack on political speech. pp59 With Malice Toward Some by Blair

Most Oppression was local and involved the Military and Provost Marshals. North had their Mob Mentality. Some of these actions mirrored actions against Abolitionist in the 30s and 40s. Mobs had a new focus, perceived disloyal Neighbors
 

O' Be Joyful

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A chapter by chapter summary is available @jstor w/o membership.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9781469614069_blair

Looks interesting. A sample from chap. 2

2 TREASON EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED (pp. 36-65)​


As the war came, the United States confronted the reality of a vastly deficient system for protecting what we now call national security. In fact, to call it a “system” gives it a stature that did not exist. Other than customs collectors, whose focus remained on trade along the borders of the country, no agency monitored internal affairs. There was no Federal Bureau of Investigation or Department of Homeland Security—not even a Department of Justice. At the same time that the North dealt with the problems of mobilizing massive amounts of troops—more than ever in the country’s history—...


APPENDIX A. COURTS-MARTIAL FOR TREASON (pp. 311-315)​
APPENDIX B. COURTS-MARTIAL FOR DISLOYALTY (pp. 316-319)​

APPENDIX C. POLITICAL ARRESTS REPORTED IN NEWSPAPERS, BY CHARGE/CAUSE (pp. 320-346)​

 
#16
Linccoln- The very likable and worshiped American President was the first to break the U.S. Constitution that he swore to protect,
the 1st Amendment. HORRORS!!! that just couldn't be!! :cautious:
Actually not. Up until 1919 there were no United States Supreme Court cases involving censorship and not until 1931 involving freedom of the press. In both cases the Majority opinion sided with the government. AFAIK,the only Federal case prior to these was an 1800 Federal Circuit case known as United States v. Thomas Cooper where Federal Justice Samuel Chase found Thomas Copper guilty of violating the 1798 Sedition Act and sentenced him to a fine and 6 months in jail. Two excerpts from Justice Chase in that case:
"Gentlemen of the jury: When men are found rash enough to commit an offence such as the traverser is charged with, it becomes the duty of the government to take care that they should not pass with impunity. It is my duty to state to you the law on which this indictment is preferred, and the substance of the accusation and defence. Thomas Cooper, the traverser, stands charged with having published a false, scandalous and malicious libel against the president of the United States, in his official character as president. There is no civilized country that I know of, that does not punish such offences; and it is necessary to the peace and welfare of this country, that these offences should meet with their proper punishment, since ours is a government founded on the opinions and confidence of the people."

"All governments which I have ever read or heard of punish libels against themselves. If a man attempts to destroy the confidence of the people in their officers, their supreme magistrate, and their legislature, he effectually saps the foundation of the government. A republican government can only be destroyed in two ways: the introduction of luxury, or the licentiousness of the press."

You are welcome to refute this by providing any post-1860 Federal or Supreme Court cases that ruled against the Lincoln Administration's closure of any newspapers.
 

jgoodguy

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Hmmmm..... reads an awful lot like another discussion here.

So, it's your position that, because there is no explicit prohibition, it was then legal, & NOT a constitutional violation...??? :whistling:
I could reply that like secession, it is not expressly forbidden in the Constitution, but I won't. :D
 

Viper21

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You are welcome to refute this by providing any post-1860 Federal or Supreme Court cases that ruled against the Lincoln Administration's closure of any newspapers.
While I appreciate your argument here, I often scratch my head at the thought something as simple as the 1st amendment requires additional opinion, or court rulings to interpret. The text is pretty simple, & easy to understand in my opinion.

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, & freedom of the press, sure seem like hallmark traits of our form of government. The founding fathers, even while loathing the press, considered this protection SO important, they made it the VERY FIRST amendment to our Constitution. First, & foremost, above all others. Seems simple to me...
 

Viper21

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I could reply that like secession, it is not expressly forbidden in the Constitution, but I won't. :D
So..... Is that your position..? Because there is no explicit prohibition, it was then legal, & NOT a constitutional violation...???

"there is no overt prohibition of shutting down the press in wartime in 1860."
 

jgoodguy

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I'm not sure we can use these events as a. precedent and b. absolute proof Lincoln violated free speech. We were never at war inside this country before or since. I'm sure not crazy it happened but a country at war literally with itself, with so military many lives hanging in the balance was a whole, new dynamic.

Thanks, @jgoodguy , for the breakdown. Removing the shock-horror elements does bring it into focus and lets the air out of use as another tool with which to bludgeon Lincoln. Really do not mean this as snarky, honest, I can never figure out the Lincoln bashing anyway. Like if it can be proven he somehow cheated, we'll all meet back up in Manassas and there'll be a do-over of the entire war.
I can never figure out the Lincoln bashing anyway.
It is a combination of bashing the umpire after losing 'the game', a quaint hobby and a ritual to summon absent members.
 
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