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About this Item

Title: Police Insolence

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: March 30, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00452

Source: New York Aurora 30 March 1842: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Aurora when this editorial was written, and Herbert Bergman identified him as its author in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Gabrielle K. Engstrom, and Kevin McMullen

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We are pleased to see that our criticism upon the kidnapping move in Broadway has met with very extensive favor.1 Having nothing against the justices and the constables, personally, we venture to hope that we shall never be called upon to record a proceeding of this kind again.


1. This is in reference to an event that occurred on March 23, 1842, in which two police constables (George Matsell and Ephraim Stevens) arrested around 50 women they suspected to be prostitutes, or "evening belles." Matsell (1811–1877) became a police magistrate in 1840 and was later promoted to police chief. Stevens (birth and death dates unknown) was also a police magistrate at the time, but it is unknown when he was appointed. Whitman first reported on the incident the following morning in the Aurora issue of March 24, under the headline "The Great Haul." On March 26, in an untitled editorial, the Aurora clarified their original message and stated that while they believe the police magistrates to be good people, they denounced their "scoundrelly" and "outrageous" actions in arresting and imprisoning the women. [back]


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