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Civil War newspapers fan the flames of partisanship


Passions were running high that spring and summer of 1863. The York Gazette was strongly Democratic in politics, very anti-abolitionist and anti-Lincoln. The destruction by a mob of another Democratic paper in Pennsylvania, the Huntingdon Monitor, didn’t intimidate the Gazette and other Democratic papers into toning down their rhetoric.

Instead, the article excerpted below, reprinted in the June 2 Gazette from the Carlisle Volunteer, another Democratic paper, seems to come close to advocating rioting and violence.

Another Newspaper Destroyed!

The Monitor, a Democratic newspaper of Huntingdon, this State, was entirely destroyed by an Abolition mob on the 20th ult. The material of the office, valued at $2,000, was thrown into the street, and utterly ruined.

We have always advised against a mob spirit–we have urged Democrats to violate no law, even in self-defense. We have been convinced for some time that we are living under the meanest despotism that was ever established on the face of God’s green earth and we deemed it better to bear the yoke meekly during the balance of the term for which the people, in an evil hour, elected Abraham Lincoln. We have always deprecated the doings of the vile mob, and we hope we ever shall be actuated by this feeling. But, really, forbearance has ceased to be a virtue and as the Abolitionized Republicans appear determined to rule by violence, and at their pleasure destroy Democratic printing offices and the property of Democrats, it is time we met them on their own ground, and give them a taste of their own medicine. The Democrats of Huntingdon County, in retaliation for the outrage committed upon them, could not be censured it they meet together and destroy the two Abolition papers of the county.

We must in future practice the precept “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Let the Democrats of the various counties swear in their hearts that for every Democratic printing office that is injured or destroyed, two Republican offices shall be razed to the ground, and perhaps our Abolition assailants may learn wisdom. Let Democrats never be the aggressors, but let them determine that hereafter force shall be met by force and mob by mob. The Abolitionists appear anxious for anarchy and bloodshed, and Democrats can no longer evade the issue. Our advice to Democrats to be loyal, law-abiding and even forgiving in spirit has been construed by the Republicans to mean cowardice.

We must change our tactics, and give blow to blow, always waiting to receive the first blow ourselves. These Abolition outrages should not and will not be longer tolerated, and if the Jacobin friends of the administration consider it fine fun to destroy property belonging to Democrats, we must let them know that two parties can work at the same game. We dislike violence, but if we cannot protect ourselves in any other way, we will be forced, in self-defense, to use the strength and power God has given us. “An eye for an eye,” we repeat, and two Republican printing offices for every Democratic office destroyed, must be the watchwords hereafter. If there is no chance for legal redress, let the lex talionis be appealed to.–Carlisle Volunteer.

The June 9 issue reports that: “The Democracy of Huntingdon Society held an immense mass meeting” shortly thereafter and raised nearly $1,000 so the Monitor’s owner, Mr. Owen, could purchase new equipment and soon start publishing the paper again.


Click here for my previous posts on the Civil War.

Less than two weeks: The Fiery Trial: York County’s Civil War Experience opening June 29 at York County Heritage Trust.