Published Works

Periodicals

About this Item

Title: We

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 9, 1842

Publication information: New York Aurora 9 April 1842: [2].

Source: Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00393

Contributors to digital file: Natalie Loless, Jason Stacy, and Kevin McMullen




image 1

image 2

image 3

image 4

cropped image 1

We.

During the past week, the Aurora has met with almost unprecedented success. Our regular edition has been completely exhausted by eight or nine o'clock every morning; and we have made arrangements to increase it next week to a thousand beyond what it has hitherto been.1

It is almost needless to add that our mind swells with gratitude to those inhabitants of our city, and elsewhere, who thus kindly evince that they like us and appreciate us. Editing a daily paper, to be sure, is an arduous employment. The consciousness that several thousand people will look for their Aurora as regularly as for their breakfasts, and that they expect to find in it an intellectual repast—something piquant, and something solid, and something sentimental, and something humorous—and all dished up in "our own peculiar way"—this consciousness, we say, implies no small responsibility upon a man. Yet it is delightful. Heavy as it weighs, we have no indisposition to "take the responsibility."

Every day that passes over our heads, encourages us more and more in our determination to render Aurora the paper of the city.2 Though we do not expect to set the North river on fire, we are free to confess, without vanity, that we have full confidence in our capacities to make Aurora the most readable journal in the republic. We are hourly accosted in the streets, in hotels, in places of mercantile resort, every where, with compliments, and praises of the boldness, beauty, and merit of our paper. And for the last fortnight hardly a day has arrived at its sundown without showing upon our subscription books a score or so more patrons than we had in the morning.3

Again, from our inmost hearts, we thank our countrymen. Our countrymen! the phrase rolls pleasantly from our tongue. We glory in being true Americans. And we profess to impress Aurora with the same spirit. We have taken high American ground—not the ground of exclusiveness, of partiality, of bigotted bias against those whose birth place is three thousand miles from our own—but based upon a desire to possess the republic of a proper respect for itself and its citizens, and of what is due to its own capacities, and its own dignity.4 There are a thousand dangerous influences operating among us—influences whose tendency is to assimilate this land, in thought, in social customs, and, to a degree, in government, with the moth eaten systems of the old world. Aurora is imbued with a deadly hatred to all these influences; she wages open, heavy, and incessant war against them.

We can assure our friends who, hereabout and at distant places, have kindly expressed their satisfaction at the course we have taken, that our paper will continue to be characterised by the same qualities of impartiality, fearlessness, and an unflinching determination to lay on the lash wherever it is deserved.

And so, with prospects cloudless and aspirations lofty, and evidences of public favor which, we proudly boast, were never before vouchsafed so extensively to any young newspaper in the land, we bid our readers God's benison! and next Monday, with beams new furbished, we shall be on hand like our old Olympian namesake, of the time of the Trojan wars, who,

"Fair daughter of the dawn,
Sprinkled with rosy light the dewy lawn."5

Notes:

1. The Aurora was published six days a week and extended to 5,000 readers, which was a respectable reader base for the time period (Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 55-56. [back]

2. News outlets in this period, as today, often defined themselves against their rivals to gin up circulation through heated rhetorical battles. In the spring of 1842, the Aurora distinguished itself against the New Era, which was a periodical that sympathized with Tammany Hall. Whitman was highly critical of Tammany Hall throughout his career at the Aurora and claimed that the Era was a shill that furthered the political agenda of Tammany, most recently by supporting Bishop John Hughes in his pursuit of public funding for Catholic education. For further reading, see: Jason Stacy, Walt Whitman's Multitudes: Labor Reform and Persona in Whitman's Journalism and The First Leaves of Grass, 1840-1855 (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008), 46. [back]

3. During this time period, newspapers could be sold in multiple ways. One way was on the street as a "penny paper." This included papers such as the Sun. In contrast, the Aurora was sold as a subscription, as was The Journal of Commerce. Whitman's statement underscores the success of the Aurora in gaining subscribers. For further reading, see: Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 131-135. [back]

4. Despite his profession of inclusivity here, throughout the spring of 1842 Whitman made many nativist statements. For example, see "The Mask Thrown Off," New York Aurora, April 7, 1842, Vol 1, No. 115, pg. 2, col 1. However, Whitman also opposed the Native American Party, which explicitly opposed Irish Catholic immigration. Some scholars believe that Whitman was pressured by the publishers of the Aurora to write Nativist screeds, while others see Whitman's nativist statements in the Aurora related specifically to the Maclay Bill debate within Tammany Hall in spring 1842. See: Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 63-66; David Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995), 99; and Stacy, 61-62. [back]

5. Two lines describing the goddess Aurora, from English poet Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Illiad, published between 1715 and 1720. [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.