Saturday, November 8, 2014

more on Lincoln and the press

I've now finished Harold Holzer's excellent book on Lincoln and the press. It merits the favorable reviews seen earlier. Lincoln was canny and the press in those years pretty crazy.

Holzer details how Lincoln deftly signaled his plans for the Emancipation Proclamation while trying to limit the political damage. He met with a delegation of free blacks and proposed voluntary emigration of former slaves to Africa or Central America. He wrote and widely released a letter to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley in which he put saving the Union as more important than ending slavery. But he cleverly slipped in what he actually planned to do: "if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

The best line in the book about the press is this message to his reporters from Wilbur Storey, editor of the anti-Lincoln Chicago Times, early in the war: "Telegraph fully all news you can get, and when there is no news send rumors."   How times have changed?

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