Action on Forged Proclamation

May 23, 1864

Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “The author of the forged proclamation has been detected. His name is [Joseph] Howard, and he has been long connected with the New York press, but especially with the Times. [Howard was city editor of the Brooklyn Eagle.]   If I am not mistaken, he has been one of the my assailants and a defamer of the Department. He is of a pestiferous class of reckless sensation-writers for an unscrupulous set of journalists who misinform the public mind. Scarcely one of them has regard for truth, and nearly all make use of their positions to subserve self, mercenary ends. This forger and falsifier Howard is a specimen of the miserable tribe.

The seizure of the office of the World and Journal of Commerce for publishing this forger was hasty, rash, inconsiderate, and wrong, and cannot be defended. They are mischievous and pernicious, working assiduously against the Union and the Government and giving countenance and encouragement to the Rebellion, but were in this instance the dupes, perhaps the willing dupes, of a knave and wretch. The at of suspending these journals, and the whole arbitrary and oppressive proceedings, had its origin with the Secretary of State. Stanton, I have no doubt, was willing to act on Seward’s promptings, and the President, in deference to Seward, yielded to it.

These things are to be regretted. They weaken the Administration and strengthen its enemies. Yet the Administration ought not to be concerned for the misdeeds of one, or at most two, of its members. They would not be if the President was less influenced by them.

Robert S. Harper writes in Lincoln and the Press “Manton Marble spent his time during his enforced idleness in writing a letter to President Lincoln, several columns long, which he published in The World. While the Journal of Commerce merely sobbed on the public shoulder, Marble addressed Lincoln in terms of cold anger, studded with personal insult. He accepted full blame for publishing the fake proclamation but said, ‘No newspaper in the country but would have been deceived as we were.’

“‘That proclamation was a forgery,’ wrote Marble, ‘written by a person who, ever since your departure from Springfield for Washington in 1861, has enjoyed private as well as public opportunities for learning to counterfeit the peculiarities of your speech and style, and whose service for years as a city editor of the New York Times and the New York Tribune acquainted him with the entire newspaper machinery of the city, and enabled him to insert his clever forgery into the regular channels by which we receive news.’

“He charged that the troops occupying The World office damaged the property and stole some of the equipment, then said:

Not until today has The World been free to speak. But to those who have ears to hear, its absence has been eloquent than its columns could ever be….Had the Tribune and the Times published the forgery…would you, Sir, have suppressed the Tribune and the Times as you suppressed The World and the Journal of Commerce? You know you would not. If not, why not? Is there a different law for your opponents and for your supporters? Can you, whose eyes discern equality under every complexion, be blinded by the hue of partisanship?


Published in: on May 23, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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