Lincoln Censor


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David W. Bulla’s first book, Lincoln’s Censor, from Purdue University Press, tells the story of Brigadier General Milo S. Hascall and newspaper editors like Daniel E. “Ed” VanValkenburgh of the Plymouth Weekly Democrat in northern Indiana in 1863. On an early May morning of that year, Hascall had VanValkenburgh arrested and sent to Cincinnati to his superior officer, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, who had been the commander of the Army of the Potomac but had been demoted after the disaster at Fredericksburg, Virginia, to serve as the leader of the Department of the Ohio. Hascall bristled when VanValkenburgh criticized the general in defiance of the general’s Order No. 9, which prohibited seditious libel in Indiana, including published words that discouraged enlistments. In the middle of the country during the nation’s bloodiest war, while the union and the freedom of the slaves hung in the balance, President Abraham Lincoln and his military subordinates interpreted the primary constitutional right of freedom of the press as being subject to extra-legal constraints. Based on Burnside’s General Order No. 38, Hascall suppressed newspapers in Indiana by invoking the president’s privilege to suspend the writ of habeas corpus during times of extreme political emergency.

First Amendment law expert Jeffery A. Smith of the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee on Lincoln's Censor (in Journalism History): "Lincoln's Censor includes a useful bibliographic essay on the topic [of Lincoln and suppression] that indicates some of the differing interpretations by scholars. Bulla finds a temporary 'chiling effect' in Indiana but concludes that the tradition of press freedom 'survived' the many episodes of intimidation, violence, and suppression that occurred during the Civil War. Still, even if the assaults on civil liberties were fleeting and happened in a time of excrutiating turmoil, dangerous precedents were set for censorship in later conflicts."

An overview of how journalism worked in the Civil War from David W. Bulla and Gregory A. Borchard: Journalism in the Civil War Era (Peter Lang. 2010). ISBN: 978-1-4331-0722-1. LOC Number: E609.B83.

Check out David Sachsman and David W. Bulla's Sensationalism (from Transaction Publishers). ISBN: 978-1-4128-5171-8

Now available in 2016: David W. Bulla and Gregory A. Borchard's Lincoln Mediated: The President and the Press through Nineteenth-Century Media (from Transaction Publishers). ISBN: 978-1-4128-5570-9.

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Abraham Lincoln
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Major General Ambrose E. Burnside
Abraham Lincoln
Oliver P. Morton
Edwin M. Stanton
Ambrose E. Burnside

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