Thursday, April 26, 2007

Abraham Lincoln's Corrupt Bargain

James Gordon Bennett, was the founder, editor and publisher of the New York Herald from 1835 until 1866 when the reigns were handed to his son.

Though Bennett will tell you that his newspaper was officially independent, he made it well known that he opposed Abraham Lincoln.

Consider this excerpt from an 1864 Herald, editorial:

President Lincoln is a joke incarnated. His election was a very sorry joke. The idea that such a man as he should be President of such a country as this is a very ridiculous joke. . . His inaugural address was a joke, since it was full of promises which he has never performed. His Cabinet is and always has been a standing joke. All his State papers are jokes. . . His intrigues to secure a renomination and the hopes he appears to entertain of a re-election are, however, the most laughable jokes of all.

Surely, first amendment rights take precedent, but allowing this in the paper is hardly the act of an 'independent' newspaper.

To win the 1864 nomination, Lincoln needed to win New York and needed support from Bennett and the Herald in order to do that. So Lincoln did what any good politician would do... he asked Bennett to name his price. Bribery? From Lincoln? This can't be...

Bennett, a newspaper tycoon, didn't need the money and simply wanted "attention" and "recognition".

A newspaperman before anything else, Bennett agreed to give Lincoln's administration "a thorough exposition in the columns of the Herald," provided that Lincoln and his advisers "occasionally... make known to him [their] plans."

It's important to note that the Herald was known for lacking in morals and respectability and Bennett was barred from polite New York society because he was "too pitchy to touch".

Lincoln, needing the votes, appointed the totally unqualified Bennett as minister to France. Bennett, who wanted the social recognition, accepted the position.

The bargain was done. The Herald no longer criticized the President, and New York's 33 Electoral Votes went to Lincoln.

Donald, David. Lincoln Reconsidered. 2nd ed. New York: Alfred a. Knopf, Inc., 1956. 74-75.

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1 comment:

Geoff Elliott said...

Highly informative. Lincoln was indeed a brilliant politician and it shows that he wasn't above some "horse-trading" to achieve his goals. Thanks for the post.

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