From Publishers Weekly
At the center of this overwrought Civil War account is the tiny town of West Chester, Pa., where John Hodgson ran a pro-Southern Democratic newspaper, the Jeffersonian
. In August 1861, a mob destroyed his printing press and subscription lists, and tossed his printing type out a window. A few days later, two federal marshals came to finish the job—under the Confiscation Act, these marshals could seize the property of any citizen who supported the Confederacy. Manber and Dahlstrom speculate that the mobs may have been acting under the aegis of Lincoln's cabinet, and perhaps with the knowledge of Lincoln himself. The second half of the book is largely devoted to the ensuing court case, which in 1863 resulted in Hodgson recovering just over $500 in damages from the government. The authors are given to breathless prose ("It was John Hodgson's fight, and he stood alone"). The questions this book raises couldn't be more timely: how does one criticize a president in wartime, and how can we ensure the freedom of the press at those moments when we need it most? (Nov.)
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In All the Laws but One
(1998), the late William Rehnquist examined the legal propriety of Lincoln's suspension of various constitutional liberties. This book tells the story of one such instance, the suppression of a Copperhead newspaper whose proprietor fought back in court. He was Pennsylvanian John Hodgson, whose Jeffersonian
expounded on states' rights, white supremacy, and abominations of the Lincoln administration. Discoursing on the eastern Pennsylvania political players incensed by the Jeffersonian
's secessionist sympathies, the authors introduce the local congressional representative who engineered the confiscation law under which Hodgson was muzzled. After vandals destroyed his press in 1861 and marshals barred him from the premises, Hodgson had his day in court, where federal officials testified they had acted on Lincoln's order. Vindicated by the jury, Hodgson impresses the authors--setting his views aside--with his irascible indomitability, and their animated recovery of this forgotten character will mesh with the great interest in Civil War journalism. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved