Daniel’s book confirms some familiar truths – some journalists are well connected [vide Benjamin Franklin’s nephew – Benjamin Franking Bache], some have a primarily ethnic connection [vide William Cobbett] and some are so inextricably linked to politics that it is hard to determine where the politician ends and the journalist begins [vide William Duane]. These things are constants in the last three hundred years of mass media regardless of where, or by whom, the news [sic] is published.
Illustration shows Uncle Sam and a female figure identified as Liberty strolling through a park among trees labeled “Equal Rights, Free Press, Free Schools, Free Speech, Free Ballot, Constitution, [and] Religious Liberty”; around the bases of the trees are many mushrooms labeled “Total Abstinence Fanatics, Monopoly, Socialist, Nihilist, Dynamiter, Communist, Anarchist, Demagogism, Bribery, [and] Corrupt”, and a vine labeled “Protection” is beginning to strangle a tree labeled “Unrestricted Commerce”. Puck, sitting on a tree branch, tells Uncle Sam that he needs to clear out the fungus before it destroys “Liberty’s” park. Some of the mushrooms have faces that might be identified.
What has made the American experiment in journalism even more interesting is the inclusion of the marketplace – both in terms of newspaper’s supporting themselves with advertising and the assumption of advertising techniques to sell ideas to the people. There is nothing new or never said before here but there is a good sampling of anecdotal history and if he did not assume such a high tone in defending the historical predecessors of today’s hacks it might be a much more enjoyable read.
Scandal & civility : journalism and the birth of American democracy Marcus Daniel Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. ix, 386 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 287-374) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Print shows William Cobbett riding on a large gridiron borne by a ragged troop of caricatured Irishmen in a procession following a man carrying a flag pole topped with a death’s head labeled “Tom Pain” and flying a banner labeled “Liberty.”
A new breed of journalists came to the fore in post-revolutionary America – fiercely partisan, highly ideological, and possessed of a bold sense of vocation and purpose as they entered the fray of political debate. Often condemned by latter-day historians and widely seen in their own time as a threat to public and personal civility, these colorful figures emerge in this provocative new book as the era’s most important agents of political democracy.
Cobbett surrounded by flames and beset by ghosts, starts back in his chair, overturning his writing-table and dropping his pen…
Through incisive portraits of the most influential journalists of the 1790s – William Cobbett, Benjamin Franklin Bache, Philip Freneau, Noah Webster, John Fenno, and William Duane – Scandal and Civility moves beyond the usual cast of “revolutionary brothers” and “founding fathers” to offer a fresh perspective on a seemingly familiar story.
Benjamin Franklin, Richard Bache, his wife Sarah, Franklin’s daughter, and her son Benjamin Franklin Bache at dockside in Philadelphia. Franklin is greeted by Judge Thomas McKean, who stands on the right. A sedan chair with two African American porters awaits Franklin on the left; large ship in the background.
Daniel demonstrates how partisan journalists, both Federalist and Democratic-Republican, were instrumental in igniting and expanding vital debates over the character of political leaders, the nature of representative government, and, ultimately, the role of the free press itself.
Andrew Jackson is roasted over the fires of “Public Opinion” by the figure of Justice in a cartoon relating to the controversy surrounding Jackson’s removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. Jackson, with the body of a pig, is prone on a gridiron over a stone barbecue oven. The fire is stoked by former Secretary of the Treasury William Duane, at lower right, while Jack Downing, lower left, splits kindling. Jack Downing: “I jest split a little kindleying wood, so Amos can jest make Broth for all hands &c.” Duane: “I am opposed to Removing the Deposits, as I was when I was Secretary, but prefer gently Stirring them up.” Five men, opponents of Jackson’s bank program, stand behind the barbecue. They are (from left to right) Senators Henry Clay, Daniel Webster (holding a knife), William B. Preston, Bank president Nicholas Biddle, and an unidentified fifth man. Vice-President Martin Van Buren, as an imp, flies off to the right with a sack of Treasury Notes over his shoulder. Clay: “Dan this is what they call in Kentuc our High Game to their Low Jack.” Webster: “In Massachusetts they call it Roasting.” Preston: “In South Carolina t’is called Barbecue only he wants a little more Basteing.” Biddle: “In Pennsylvania we find it difficult to find a home for the animal but have concluded to call him Nondescript pertaking of the General, Hog, Man and Devil.” Fifth man: “We think he pertakes strongly of the Rooter, for he has rooted our treasures all over the country and was squeeling for the Pension-fund when Clay caught him and put a ring in his nose, and we’ve all given it a twist.” Van Buren: “T’is my business to get folks in trouble and their business to get themselves out.”
Their rejection of civility and self-restraint – not even icons like George Washington were spared their satirical skewerings – earned these men the label “peddlers of scurrility.” Yet, as Daniel shows, by breaking with earlier conceptions of “impartial” journalism, they challenged the elite dominance of political discourse and helped fuel the enormous political creativity of the early republic.
A crudely-drawn, anonymous satire on the Jackson Administration, alleging political intrigue behind Jackson’s September 1833 decision to remove federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. The cartoon adapts the nursery rhyme “The House that Jack built,” portraying the Kitchen Cabinet (the derisive name given Jackson’s informal circle of influential advisors) as rats “that eat the malt that lay in the house that Jack built” — the malt being “The public Deposits.” (For an earlier use of the same rhyme see “Parody. 605,000 Sour Grapes,” no. 1820-1.) The view is framed by a colonnade, with the columns of the Bank visible at left. Between each pair of columns is a character from the nursery rhyme. Treasury Secretary William J. Duane is the cat “That caught the rats,” possibly referring to Duane’s opposition to Jackson’s plan for removal of the deposits. Jackson, the dog “That worried the Cat,” sits on a strong box with a key hanging from his neck. (Jackson dismissed Duane from his post for his intransigence on the Bank issue on September 23, 1833). The Senate is the cow “with the crumpled horn that tossed the dog” referring the stiff opposition Jackson’s measures later met from the Senate. “The honorable ******” (possibly Silas Wright, Van Buren ally and staunch advocate of Jackson’s bank policies in Congress, or Richard M. Johnson, Van Buren’s 1836 vice-presidential running-mate) as the maiden “all forlorn, That milked the Cow” and was kissed by “the man all tattered and torn,” Vice-President Martin Van Buren. Van Buren stands before a grandfather clock with a figure of Pan holding a fiddle, symbolizing chaos and turmoil. Newspaper editor and Jackson supporter Francis Preston Blair is the priest “That married the man, all tattered and torn, unto the Maiden all forlorn.” Major Jack Downing, portrayed as a soldier with the head of a rooster and holding a flag reading “Jackson & Glory,” is the cock “That crowed in the morn, and soured the priest…” In the foreground left, below the Jackson/dog figure, a boar tears apart the Constitution. The artist here echoes charges that Jackson exceeded his legitimate presidential authority in his removal order. The print was probably issued late in 1833, after Duane’s dismissal by Jackson, and before the former sank from national visibility altogether. It may date from as late as the first half of 1834, when public debate about Jackson’s removal action raged in the Senate.
Daniel’s attempts to capture this key period of American history in all its contentious complexity. And in today’s climate, when many decry media “excesses” and the relentlessly partisan and personal character of political debate, his book is a timely reminder that discord and difference were essential to the very creation of our political culture.
A pro-Jackson satire applauding the President’s September 1833 order for the removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States. The combined opposition to this move from Bank president Nicholas Biddle, Senate Whigs led by Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, and the pro-Bank press are ridiculed. On the right, Jackson, cheered on by Major Jack Downing, holds aloft an “Order for the Removal of Public Money.” Jackson: “Major Jack Downing. I must act in this case with energy and decision, you see the downfall of the party engine and corrupt monopoly!!” Downing: “Hurrah! General! if this don’t beat skunkin, I’m a nigger, only see that varmint Nick how spry he is, he runs along like a Weatherfield Hog with an onion in his mouth.” From the document emanate lightning bolts which topple the columns and pediment of the Bank, which crash down amidst fleeing public figures and Whig editors. Around them are strewn various newspapers and sheets with “Salary $6,000” and “Printing expenses “$80,000” printed on them. Henry Clay (at left, fallen): “Help me up! Webster! or I shall lose my stakes.” Daniel Webster (far left): “There is a tide in the affairs of men, as Shakespeare says, so my dear CLay, look out for yourself.” Nicholas Biddle, with the head and hoofs of an ass or demon, runs to the left: “It is time for me to resign my presidency.” Two men flee with sacks of “fees.” These fugitives may be newspaper editors Mordecai Manuel Noah and James Watson Webb, advocates of the Bank accused of being in the employ of Biddle.