York Town Square

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A Civil War Black Republican: ‘He robs birds’ nests … sucks hens’ eggs’

The York Gazette used heavy score lines to observe the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. This solemn and respectful treatment of Lincoln upon death contrasted with the newspapers unabating, often caustic criticism of his admininstration’s policies during the Civil War. A few days later, his funeral train stopped in York. Background posts: York’s Jeremiah Black, former U.S. attorney general, among Democrats resorting to racism, York County’s own Civil War and Civil war prompted strife in churches, too.

Think current presidential campaign rhetoric is vitriolic?

Nineteenth-century newspapers were filled with bitter and caustic speech.

The York Gazette, a Copperhead (anti-Abraham Lincoln) weekly newspaper, gives just one potent example in the Civil War era… .

It’s an 1863 reprint of an article from another newspaper and shows the potency of venom typical of political campaigns of its day.
Such discourse is not surprising. Political parties created and underwrote many papers of that day.
From the Jeffersonian:

The Black Republicans (proponents of racial equality), excessively fond of applying pet names to their opponents, are now very industriously applying the term “Copperheads” to the Democrats. We like it much.
The “Copperhead” is peculiar to this country: a fearless, independent snake that knows its power, and when disturbed or interfered with, uses it; it is a brave snake, and therefore, naturally tolerant, harmless and passive, but take care you do not trample on it, for it never runs except to attack its foe, and its bite, when once aroused, is awful.
Now the representative of the Republican, opposite to the Copperhead, is the Blacksnake. And here, too, the analogy is complete. The black snake is a cowardly, hissing, thieving reptile. He possesses somewhat the power to charm, but he always charges the innocent to destruction. He robs birds’ nests … sucks hens’ eggs, and will often be found curled around the legs of a cow sucking her milk, just as Black Republican contractors, jobbers and office holders are now doing with Uncle Samuel’s cow.”