Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion

In This Review

Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion
By Harold Holzer
Simon & Schuster, 2014
832 pp. $35.00
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The party system and the mass-circulation daily newspaper grew up together in the United States of the mid-nineteenth century, and the fraught relationship between politicians and press titans that emerged in those years established patterns that persist today. In Holzer’s remarkably readable and entertaining book, readers see a young Abraham Lincoln scheming to get his name in the New York press; working with friendly editors to orchestrate favorable press coverage of his 1860 campaign for the presidency; and then, once in office, trying to manipulate and at times to censor and control the press during the Civil War. Many of today’s Internet-era journalists are weary of constant technological upheaval and yearn for simpler times; their Civil War–era counterparts would sympathize. During the nineteenth century, revolutions in printing and communications technology, such as the development of the telegraph, repeatedly upended the news business. Journalism and politics, it seems, have never been pursuits for the faint-hearted.