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"NOW ONLY THE ???? IS ON OUR SIDE": THE LONDON ???£ AND AMERICA BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR Richard D. Fulton Clark College This short paper will attempt to reconcile two seemingly diametrically opposed perceptions: first, that the Times was the United States' chief foreign critic before and during the Civil War (by United States, I mean the Federal Government); second, that to contemporaries like Benjamin Moran, secretary to American ambassador to the Court of St. James, George Dallas, the Times was on "our" (i.e. the Federal Government's) side. Two other issues also will be briefly addressed here: that because of its influence it made a difference what position the Times took, and that although the newspaper was often inconsistent on American issues, on this topic—the being on "our" side—it was the model of consistency. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Times had established itself as the most important newspaper in Great Britain, and perhaps the world. Its contemporary newspapers and periodicals regularly referred to it as "the leading journal." It was courted by anxious politicians; even in the United States, Abraham Lincoln acknowledged it as "one of the greatest powers in the world" (Brogan xiii). Nearly all of the historians of the newspaper emphasize that it both reflected and influenced public opinion. Most would agree with Hugh Brogan, who claims that "to look at history through the Times can ... be to see what political England believed, or what the British government thought that they believed" (Brogan x). J.T. Delane, the great mid-century editor, believed himself to be the voice of Britain. In many ways he was. He had almost unlimited access to Prime Minister Palmerston and a direct line into his cabinet.1 He had correspondents throughout England and all over the globe, and his correspondents were among the leading thinkers of the day. His 60,000 readers included among them virtually the entire English ruling elite. As Colin Bell put it, 'It was the newspaper in which [the ruling class] Victorian Review 16.1 (Summer 1990). Richard D. Fulton49 addressed themselves to their peers on any subject which seemed to them important. They drew their information about the world from the Times" (Bell x). Besides feeding the ruling elite its information, and thus, in a way, leading its opinion, Delane also reflected that class's attitudes.2 He was somewhat conservative, prejudiced toward all things English and against those things foreign, smug, and often outspokenly ignorant. He tended to oversimplify issues, seeing complex problems in simple moral terms of black or white. He was convinced of the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race, in particular the English branch of it. He was sentimental in his love of liberty, the church, English political customs, and the toughness of the common Englishman. He was hardheaded in his approach to business and the necessity for a ruling class. In other words, he and his newspaper epitomized what Walter Houghton called The Victorian Frame of Mind. From the outset of the Civil War in America, the Times adopted a violently anti-federal stance, the reasons for which have been discussed in any number of works on the war and the newspaper (Stephen, Brogan, Crawford, Crook 'Portents," Times Reports). The fact is, the Times was none too friendly even before the shelling of Fort Sumter. It threatened war several times in 1859 and 1860 over the San Juan Islands; it regularly savaged American politics when it suited the paper's purpose, that is, when the paper needed a convenient target to reinforce attacks on Reformers or supporters of the Six Pound Franchise, or Mr. Bright; it attacked American hypocrisy because of lukewarm Yankee support of the suppression of the slave trade. Yet Benjamin Moran could still say, in July of 1858, that the Times was virtually the only newspaper of influence in England on "our" side (Moran 376). What was "our" side? For Moran, it was the Buchanan administration's position on slavery: that slavery was a states' rights issue, and the Federal government had no legal right or responsibility to declare the practice either lawful or not. Each state, and each territory seeking statehood, had the responsibility...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 48-58
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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