April 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of Confederate batteries firing on Fort Sumter; April also was the 191st anniversary of James A. McMaster's birth (1820-1886). One of the most renowned converts to Catholicism in nineteenth-century America, McMaster was a formidable apologist for the Catholic religion - as he understood it in his ultramontane thinking - editor of the New York Freeman's Journal (hereafter Freeman's Journal) for almost forty years, an eloquent man of letters, and a bold, if antagonistic, theological and political controversialist. From late 1861, he was one of the first Catholic journalists to bitterly oppose Lincoln and the war effort, and has to be counted among the leading Copperheads in the Northeast who had a national audience. This article explores and documents the "pre-Copperhead McMaster" in the final hours of the antebellum period, from the nomination and election of Abraham Lincoln to his suspension of habeas corpus. McMaster's editorials from this period provide us with a base-line to measure just how far from his pre-war thinking he would travel after May 1861, and also serve to remind us of a McMaster who once was more in line with the majority of his Catholic coreligionists in the North during the early war years: pro-Lincoln, pro-Union, and anti-abolition. After a telescoped biography, the article will present: a) the context of the period, particularly the various Catholic opinions on slavery and abolition; b) an examination of the Freeman's Journal's editorials dealing with Lincoln's nomination, election, inaugural, and response to the firing on Fort Sumter, placing his positions relative to other Catholic journalists of his time; and c) a conclusion tracing the trajectory of McMaster's career for the remaining wartime years.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1-29
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.