Conference Archives

1996 Abstracts

Jim Bis, Ohio State University, “Samuel Medary and the Crisis: The Right to Dissent”

The Democratic party of Ohio was as divided as the rest of the nation on the eve of the War Between the States. The Democrats split into ttceeds the maximum allowable number of NOTs (10).[Data file ehree factions, consisting of the the war Democrats, who supported the war to save the Union and but not abolition or non-military policies of the Lincoln administration, the Unionist-Democrats who deserted the party to support the administration in all of its policies, and the peace Democrats or “Copperheads” who branded the war a failure, demanded an armistice, and berated the Lincoln administration for its abuses of civil liberties. It was the last group, the peace Democrats who gave Lincoln the most difficulty during the war, and as a result of their opposition the peace Democrats were often accused of obstructionism and treason. By the summer of 1863, they nevertheless had considerable influence in Ohio. One reason for their strength was the work of Samuel Medary, widely admired as the “Wheelhorse of the Ohio Democracy,” and the editor of the Crisis.


Medary had been a distinguished career as stalwart member of the party of Andrew Jackson. He published a number of papers in the state before the war and each one was a Democratic party organ. Medary held patronage positions in Democratic administrations before his founding of the Crisis in Columbus, Ohio, in January of 1861. In the years before the war he supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and at the National Democratic convention in 1856 he worked for the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas. President Buchanan appointed him governor of Minnesota Territory (1857-1858) and of the Kansas Territory during the upheavals of 1858-1860, where he allied himself with the pro-slavery faction. In December of 1860 he returned to Columbus where he published the first issue of the Crisis on January 31, 1861.


The Crisis was a “scissors and paste pot” compilation of peace Democrat papers across the nation. Medary wrote few articles, but he did editorialize on a regular basis. He outlined his opposition to the war on three assumptions. First, the war would not achieve its aims by armed force because the nation bases it s policies on public opinion and persuasion. Second, it would create a national debt and bring misery on the Northern people. Finally, the war would probably result in perpetual armed struggle.


Medary caused much rancor and controversy much rancor and controversy in not only Columbus and Ohio, but in much of the middle west. He was not above race baiting and often his statements in regard to Union policy bordered on what many viewed as treason. He was arrested and scheduled for trial at the time of his death in November, 7 1861.

I will attempt to build on Reed Smith’s recent biography of Medary, Samuel Medary and the Crisis : Testing the Limits of Press Freedom (Columbus, 1995). The primary source materials used in the research are the Samuel Medary and Clement Vallandigham Papers located as the Ohio Historical Society and a bound volume of the Crisis.

Judith Knelman, “Trollope on the Civil War”

In February 1865, Anthony Trollope, a senior civil servant and highly successful novelist, embarked on a third career as a permanent part-time newspaperman, having arranged with George Smith, owner of the newly established Pall Mall Gazette, for the publication of opinion pieces on, among other things, the American Civil War. 

Trollope had by this time, in a book on the West Indies, discussed the effects of emancipation in the British colonies, and in another, on North America, his hope that the Union would win the American war.  He had been in the United States twice, briefly in 1858, on his way home from the West Indies, and for nine months in 1861-62 to research North America.  Well before the end of the Civil War, probably not long after the publication of this book in May 1862, he gave a public lecture, "The Present Condition of the Northern States of the American Union,"  defending the cause of the North. 

Despite his taste for exotic travel Trollope was no less racist than most other members of his generation.  Iva Jones is quite right to depict him as hopelessly enmeshed in his own racial bias (185).  He marvelled at the ability of black plantation workers in the West Indies to put in long hours at backbreaking labor but criticized them for needing the discipline of coercion to work (North America, 349).  He remarked on their low self-esteem and reasoning ability, never making the cause-effect connection with exploitation and abuse.  One can understand how from this limited perspective it could be considered perfectly appropriate for whites to dominate blacks but quite unnatural for the reverse situation to obtain. 

Nan Fairley, “Constantine Rea:  An Antebellum Editor”

Constantine (Con) Rea of Lauderdale County, Mississippi, carved out a colorful life as an antebellum lawyer, politician, and civic leader who eventually lost his life as a Confederate Army officer.  Rea's contributions to the county he served as a politician, civic leader, and editor are evident in the pages of The Lauderdale Republican, one of the earliest newspapers published in east central Mississippi. Through an examination of the life and times of Con Rea, a profile emerges that sheds light on nineteenth century journalism in the antebellum South. This brief overview will touch on the content of Rea's newspaper, The Lauderdale Republican, his political activity, problems he shared with other frontier editors, his colorful personality, and his role as a community booster. By examining Rea's role as an antebellum editor, it becomes clear that he shared common traits with Southern country editors and pioneer editors in other regions. 

For instance, all overcame harsh conditions in their attempt to give birth to and nourish weeklies under less than ideal conditions.   The examination of Rea’s work could be significant because Rea was a Southern country editor whose efforts to promote his community and newspaper failed.  While many of Mississippi's antebellum editors chronicled not only the survival but the growth of their respective communities, Con Rea and others were not so fortunate. 

Because Rea's newspaper gives us glimpses into the life and death of the now extinct Old Marion, the study of The Republican  could help expand efforts suggested by Gene Burd, who noted that "autopsies" of ghost town newspapers can reveal valuable information about frontier communication and history. (1)  The profile of Con Rea uncovers clues about the death of at least one antebellum village and reveals details about an important man in that village.

Regina M. Canty,  “Popular Women’s Magazines During the Civil War: Their Value as Evidence”

In this essay I examine two uses of women’s popular magazines as evidence for exploring Northern experience of the Civil War.  This evidence is best discussed in conjunction with the work of  historians J. Matthew Gallman and Kathleen Endres. Gallman’s book The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front describes the experience of the Civil War for those living in the Northern States.  Gallman discusses the social, economic and political climate.  The main argument which serves this essay is Gallman’s thesis that while the Civil War raged to the South, the North experienced a certain degree of prosperity and predictability in its everyday life.  Never does Gallman deny that Northern people were deeply emotionally, physically, and politically involved with the war, but he does make the point that after the initial shock, the rhythm of war became part of daily life which continued almost normally. The North’s wealth actually increased and continued to grow throughout the war years.