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"Organs of the Democracy"

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Organs of the Democracy.

It is useless to conceal the fact that the democratic party in New York labor under the disadvantage of having no publication really creditable to them, and really calculated to further their interests. At the present time, the Post,1 Standard,2 and New Era,3 are all at loggerheads. The rock on which they split is the school question; the Standard being plumply in favor of the existing system—the Post also evidently opposed to a change, yet fearful to come out openly–the Era violently arrayed on the side of Hughes and the Catholic priests.4

The plain truth of the matter is, it is only by the most strenuous exertions that the New Era has permission to keep out its flag as the organ of Tammany Hall.5 A large majority of the democratic leaders do not hesitate to express their contempt and dissatisfaction with the Era. They are openly in favor of lopping off from any connection with that stupid print. In this exigency the Era knows that by taking up cudgels for the defence of the Catholic interest, it will have that interest disciplined to its support, as a kind of forlorn hope. The Era undoubtedly thinks, too, that the Tammany leaders will not have the fearlessness decidedly to repudiate the move it has taken—for fear of losing the votes of those under the control of the priests. It remains to be seen whether the whole democratic party are to be led by the nose, by this manœuvre of a clique of jesuits, and a paper which thus stabs the vitals of the party for the chance of a little advantage to itself.

Not a word has yet been said by the Era, about the nomination of Robert H. Morris as Mayor.6 The Hughes faction, no doubt, are opposed to that nomination. For our own part, we do not think the city could select a more worthy man than he who at present occupies the mayoralty. He has all the qualifications of experience, ability, and character, that are necessary. As far as we have any preference, therefore, at present, we hope Morris will win the race.

It is wonderful that the democrats do not take summary steps in this business. It is an insult and a disgrace to the party, that a journal presuming to be their organ should thus barter away their honor, and marshall itself under the dictation of a selfish clique of foreigners.7

The Tammany party want, here in New York, a newspaper bold, manly, able, and American in its tenor; a newspaper vigorous and original and fresh. Until they have such a one, the organs at present recognised as theirs, will be no better than dead weight to them.


1. The Post was a New York newspaper that was founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton (1755/7–1804) as the New York Evening Post. The first editor-in-chief was William Coleman (1766–1829). The poet William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) took over in the 1830s, and was the editor-in-chief for nearly fifty years, including the time period in which Whitman wrote this editorial. For more information on William Cullen Bryant and the Evening Post, see: Allan Nevins, The Evening Post: A Century of Journalism (New York: Boni and Liverright, 1922), 141–142, 224. [back]

2. The Standard was a New York publication edited by John I. Mumford (1791–1863), a prominent Democratic merchant, politician, and publisher in New York. [back]

3. The New Era was a New York paper edited, in 1842, by Levi Slamm (1816–1862). Slamm was a Locofoco activist that helped return the Democratic Party to power in Tammany Hall in 1838. The Democratic Party candidates had been met with opposition from the Locofocos in the 1830s. For more information on Levi Slamm and the Locofocos, see: Peters Adams, The Bowery Boys: Street Corner Radicals and the Politics of Rebellion (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2005), 55–58, 71. For more on the newspapers of Whitman's era, see: Alfred Lee, The Daily Newspaper in America, Volume 1 (London: Rutledge, 2000), 212. [back]

4. In 1842, Bishop John Hughes (1791–1864) was the leading advocate for public funding for Catholic schools, and the issue drew great attention in the Aurora during Whitman's tenure as editor, with Whitman and the paper coming out in opposition to Hughes. For more on Hughes and the 1842 debate over school funding in New York, see: Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 499; Martin L. Meenagh, "Archbishop John Hughes and the New York Schools Controversy of 1840–43," American Nineteenth Century History 5, no. 1 (2004): 34–65. [back]

5. Tammany Hall was the Democratic political machine in New York from the late 18th century through the early part of the 20th century. For more information on Tammany Hall and the building of the modern Democratic Party in New York, see: Terry Golway, Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014). [back]

6. Robert H. Morris (1808–1855) was a New York judge that became a part of the Tammany Hall machine and served as the Democratic mayor of New York from 1841 to 1843. He won reelection in 1843. [back]

7. By foreigner, Whitman is referring to the Irish Catholic immigrants in New York City. [back]

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