Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Even the Sources Say "Consider the Source"

Newspapers are a common source for information or ideas about past events, such as the Civil War, even though they made no pretense of the sort of objectivity that audiences expect (or hope for) from modern papers. Scholars, students, and others who read period newspapers know this, of course, so it is no surprise when they question the validity of a report or look for other sources.

The story I post today, however, shows that even the various papers of the Civil War era were not above questioning each other's credibility. That is no surprise given that many of these publications served as mouthpieces of political parties, and that different entrants in the same business may develop negative feelings toward rivals, but I still found this article interesting as one Southern newspaper criticized the reliability of another, and this article was reprinted in a border state newspaper that favored the Southern viewpoint.

It also is interesting that this occurred early in Confederate history when images of "unity" and "harmony of spirit" (see a previous story that mentioned such traits) were among those Confederate supporters tried to portray.

This is from the Covington Journal of March 9, 1861.

The Charleston Mercury is frequently quoted in the North as a representative of Southern opinion. The following, from the Mobile Register, will remove this false impression.
No man who has more than the merest superficial knowledge of current politics, or who does not deliberately intend to misled will quote the Charleston Mercury as the leader or even the organ of the prevailing sentiment of South Carolina, much less the Cotton States at large.

Always discontented and grumbling, arrogant in tone, flippant in judgment, intolerant in any opinion but its own, intensely self-sufficient and supercilious, I should, indeed, regret to be compelled to accept it as the exponent or type of South Carolina character. So far from the Mercury representing the policy of its State, the South Carolina deputation here has taken an active and prominent part in the very action of the Congress with which it finds fault. It may be added that at no steps which this Congress has taken has the influence of South Carolina failed to the side of moderation, prudence and wise statesmanship.

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