RICHMOND WHIG NEWSPAPER, DATED APRIL 20, 1865 – LINCOLN ASSASSINATION

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Vol. 1—no. 15. 8 pp., 4 columns. Exhibits fold-marks, and small center fold-line chip; lightly soiled and yellowed, but entirely legible; completely intact but semi- fragile, and should be handled with care. In protective sleeve, w/white card backing.

The Richmond Whig was one of the Confederate capitol’s four war-time newspaper. Established in in 1833, the paper was an organ of the Whig political party, and retained its Whig [upper class] bias even after the party collapsed in the 1850s. Like other Richmond newspapers—[the Enquirer, the Examiner, and the Sentinel]—the Whig vigorously supported the Confederate cause, while joining the Examiner in bitter criticism of Jefferson Davis and his administration and cabinet officers. [For example, the Whig and the Examiner both detested Secretary of War/State Judah P. Benjamin and supported Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in his feud with the President.]

The entire front page treats with the recent Lincoln assassination, under the following headlines; “THE GREAT TRAGEDY!”, “ADDITIONAL PARTICULARS OF THE MURDER”, THE PRESIDENT’S LAST MOMENTS”, ESCAPE OF THE ASSASSIN!! “PRESIDENT JOHNSON’S POLICY” “HORACE GREELEY’S VIEWS”. These cover stories, however, are reprinted from New York papers. Of greater interest is the Whig paper editorial efforts to calm the city—[now under Federal occupations]—and account for the lack demonstrations of grief for the fallen president in defeated Richmond.

“”Let no misdirected suspicions, no rankling animosities, no ungenerous suggestions of complicity scorch and wither the green and tender ligaments of confidence and kindness with which the people of the two sections were beginning to approach each other…..There has been no public expression of grief by the citizens of Richmond at the calamity which has convulsed the nation, because is the desire of the military authorities that there shall be no assemblage of the people in this city for the present……We know that several prominent citizens proposed to convene a public meeting, at which resolutions could be adopted expressive of this community’s abhorrence of the terrible crime, of profound regret at the death of the President…..but in the present transition state of the community it is perhaps best that the meeting did not take place….”

Of equal interest is a note on the opposite page announcing the founding of a new morning paper—The Richmond Times—under the exclusive editorial charge of Mr. H. Rives Pollard, a journalist associated the southern fire-eating Richmond Examiner. This paper would commence the following Friday, but with no editorial comment, for these reasons:

“The Times will be devoted to the honor and interest of Virginia….For the present at least—until Virginia shall from the existing chaos—the Times will studiously refrain from all editorial comment….It must be obvious to every reflecting mind that the present is no time for editorial comment or stricture, and that it would only serve to fan the flame of excitement.” In other words, the die-hard Richmond Times editor realizes that late April 1865, in the wake of assassination, is a time to keep silent. For now.

An extraordinary collectible. Complete war-time Richmond newspapers are scarce. Richmond papers reporting the Lincoln Assassination are extremely rare.

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