Skip to main content

"Claims of Partisans"

image 1image 2image 3image 4cropped image 1

Claims of Partisans.

Our worthy contemporaries, the Sun and the Tribune,1 are out against each other with a perfect looseness in reference to the corporation printing. The Sun accuses Greeley of hankering after the flesh pots of profit,2 and he of Ann street3 retorts with a whole broadside about "heartless malignity," "thunder and turf," and so on.4

It seems, according to the belief of these sage, grave men,5 the public is no more than a goose, to be plucked by whoever may. Assuredly the Tribune's warlike demonstrations for the past few days in respect to the contested ward elections, show that it feels deeply interested some how.6 And that the Sun people seldom lose sight of their breeches pockets, it would be unparalleled slander to assert.

Both factions in this city have a very mistaken idea about its being to their advantage to feed with their patronage some one or two violent partisan newspapers. In the long run, they lose by it. What gain, for instance, has accrued to Tammany7 from it taking under its protection that coarse, blustering, lying concern, the New Era,8 and fostering it, and identifying democracy here with it? We question whether any other one manœuvre has resulted in such discredit and loss to "the party."9

The time is rapidly approaching when a new and balancing force will come into play—a force composed of men really entertaining the professed principles of Jeffersonian democrats, and digusted​ with the corruption and selfishness that mark the leaders of each of the great rival cabals. And perhaps there never existed a better time than the present, to start a new party on the principles we allude to.

As to the city printing, men of sense cannot but consider it disgraceful, that our constituted authorities openly countenance the principle of rewarding brawlers and loud mouthed political bullies, for what they have done in placing those constituted authorities in power. It is worse than disgraceful—it is setting a precedent in high places, and making elections a mere battle as to who may obtain the loaves and fishes. We would remind people imbued with the doctrine against which we argue, that there are such things as official dignity and public good, to be taken into consideration.

The fact that a man is a known and fierce partisan, or that a newspaper is such, ought to exclude that man or that newspaper from any participation in the appointments annually bestowed by the mayor and common council.


1. The Sun was a New York City based daily newspaper that was founded in 1833 and initially edited by Benjamin Day (1810–1889). Day developed many journalistic techniques such as using reporters and including stories about ordinary people. The Sun aimed to attract the increasingly literate populations of the working class. Even though it featured many sensationalized stories that were discredited, The Sun persisted in some form until 1950 (William Huntzicker, The Popular Press, 1833-1865 [Westport, CT:Greenwood Press, 1999], 1–11). The New-York Daily Tribune, as it was known from 1842–1866, was a daily newspaper founded by Horace Greeley in 1841. The Tribune focused on national news stories, although it also featured some local news, and sympathized with Whig Party political beliefs and aimed to tell the news truthfully rather than use sensationalized accounts to build sales. Even though Greeley intended for the paper to tell unbiased news, his social views associated with abolitionism were often prominent. For further reading, see: Adam Tuchinsky, Horace Greeley's New-York Tribune: Civil War-Era Socialism and the Crisis of Free Labor (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009). [back]

2. The term "flesh pots" was first used in the sixteenth century to refer to a location dominated by sin and hedonism. There is also a reference to "the flesh pots of Egypt" in Exodus 16:3, but the use of the term in the Bible referred to a literal pot of boiled meat. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the mid-nineteenth the term was used to describe "luxuries or advantages regarded with regret or envy." [back]

3. At the time that this editorial was written, Ann Street housed several of New York's popular newspapers, including Greeley's Tribune. [back]

4. The phrase "heartless malignity" probably stems from Johann Casper Lavater's Aphorisms on Man (1794): "A sneer is often the sign of heartless malignity." "Thunder and turf" likely refers to a contemporary stereotypical statement by the Irish. See, for example: "Larry Crow" to "Paddy Kiley", etc., in The Melodist, and Mirthful Olio; An Elegant Collection of the Most Popular Songs, Recitations, Glees, Duets (London: H. Arliss, 1829), 241; "Dermot O'Dwyer" in S. C. Hall, Light and Shadows of Irish Life (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1838), 141; "Patrick," William B. Fowle, Familiar Dialogues and Popular Discussions, for Exhibition in Schools and Academies of Either Sex, and for the Amusement of Social Parties (Boston: Tappan and Dennet, 1841), 57. [back]

5. The phrase "sage, grave men" comes from a line in William Shakespeare's Richard III, Act 3, Scene 7. Whitman's sarcasm here is used to show his disapproval of the editors who used their influential newspapers to push their political views to a wider audience. [back]

6. Whitman is likely referring to the 6th ward alderman elections that were shaped by political debates over the Maclay Bill, which ultimately led to the secularization of New York's public schools, but satisfied neither the Catholic or the Prostestant sides of the debate. For more information on this struggle, see: Diane Ravitch, The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973; a History of the Public Schools As Battlefield of Social Change (New York: Basic Books, 1974); and Tyler Anbinder, Five Points: The 19th-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum (New York: Free Press, 2010). Whitman was critical of Irish Catholics during this conflict, and felt that Catholics were ruining the public school system by insisting that they should be able to control the curriculum in schools that educated Catholic children. A discussion of Whitman's views on Irish immigrants can be found in: 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, 2008), 59-67; David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 98-99; Jerome Loving, Walt Whitman: The Song of Himself (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 62-66; and Joann Krieg, Whitman and the Irish (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000). [back]

7. Tammany Hall was a political association that dominated the Democratic Party in New York City from 1789 to the 1950s. The organization originally worked to elect Jeffersonian Republicans and to extend the right to vote to non-property owning white men. By the 1830s, now representing Jacksonian Democracy, immigrants and poor men were allowed into the organization, which caused it to further extend its political power. For additional information on the history of Tammany Hall, see: Terry Golway, American Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2014). [back]

8. The New Era was a New York newspaper that sympathized with Tammany Hall in the spring of 1842. [back]

9. This is a reference to the New York City Democratic Party. [back]

Back to top