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BOOK REVIEWS Abraham Lincoln: A Press Portrait. Edited by Herbert Mitgang. (Chicago : Quadrangle Books, 1971. Pp. xix, 519. $9.00.) Spectator of America. By Edward Dicey. Edited by Herbert Mitgang. (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971. Pp. xviii, 318. $7.95.) Washington, DC, in Lincoln's Time. By Noah Brooks. Edited by Herbert Mitgang. (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971. Pp. viii, 309. $7.00.) These are attractive reprint editions of three invaluable contemporary accounts of Lincoln and Civil War America. Brooks' celebrated volume and Mitgang's press portrait were first published in 1895 and 1956 respectively . But Dieey's superb travel account, originally brought out in England in 1863 (under the title of Six Months in the Federal States), until now has never been published in the United States. All three volumes are fascinating to read; together they provide a vivid, eye-witness view of war-torn America and of Abraham Lincoln, who emerges as a beleaguered, complex, richly human individual who suffered one of the worst presses of any President in American history. In truth, those with a repugnance for journalism will find plenty in Abraham Lincoln, A Press Portrait, to vindicate their feelings. A compendium of press clippings by and about Lincoln, the volume contains editorials from seven magazines and seventy-eight newspapers, including ten foreign ones. All are arranged chronologically from Lincoln's early years down to his assassination, with italicized introductions to facilitate transitions. The result is not so much a portrait of Lincoln as a commentary on nineteenth-century American journalism—a journalism that was intemperate, pugnacious, and fanatically partisan. Some editorials gathered here are reasonable enough, but much of the rest—whether for Lincoln or against him—are mindlessly abusive, intended less to inform than to agitate their readers. The most savage editorials are from southern journals like the Charleston Mercury and The Daily Picayune of New Orleans: they deliberately distorted Lincoln's views and ripped his remarks out of context in order to whip southerners into a frenzy of anti-northern, anti-Republican hatred; by turns, they castigated Lincoln as "an Ourang-Outang" with "an eye for a pretty girl," as "Jackson the Deuce," as "a black-hearted fanatic," "a low-born despicable tyrant" who lusted for southern blood and wanted to mongrelize the white race. Similar anti-Lincoln invective inhabited the pages of the Chicago Times, the Neic York Herald, and the New 251 252CIVIL WAR HISTORY York Daybook, which inveighed against Lincoln's "Negro Republican Administration" because of its "abolitionism" and "slaughterous policies ." The most shocking statement, however, appeared in the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph after the assassination: "From now until God's judgment day, the minds of men will not cease to thrill at the killing of Abraham Lincoln." If English traveler Edward Dicey was right, il "the American must be defined as a newspaper-reading animal," then the American press, with all its petulance and vitriol, deserves some ol the blame for the violent passions which divided Americans in Lincoln's time. In sharp contrast to the acrimony which pervades Abraham Lincoln, A Press Portrait, Dicey's own reportage is open-minded and gracefully written. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, Dicey was a young writer for The Spectator and Macmillan s Magazine; in 1862, he visited America to find out for himself what the Civil War was about. For six months he rode slow, rattling trains from New York out to St. Louis and back East again, and then went home to publish his impressions. His book is a brilliant work of art, alive with the people—the sights, sounds, and smells—of Civil War America. Here are trenchant observations about American journalism and American manners and mores. Here are graphic descriptions of cities like New York and Chicago, of battle-front scenes, of railroad travel through the North, of the Illinois prairie, and of the German influences on St. Louis. Here, too, is a critical , yet restrained assessment of Lincoln himself—a "shrewd, hardheaded , self-educated man" who "united a painful sense of responsibility to a still more painful sense, perhaps, that his work is too great for him to grapple with." Above all, Dicey perceived that the central issues in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 251-254
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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