Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1861-1863: Belvidere's Newspaper War (Part Two)

On August 16, 1861, Franklin Pierce Sellers, Republican owner/editor of The Belvidere Intelligencer, published an attack on John Simerson, the Democrat owner/editor of The Warren Journal.  Sellers accused the anti-war Simerson of being "a most miserable tool" and a "most willful perverter of the truth."  [See 1861-1863: Belvidere's Newspaper War (Part One).]

Simerson wrote in response, "'Peace, Peace, Peace' is the language of all democratic papers in the country, and peace meetings are a good deal thicker now than war meetings were eight weeks ago."
Sellers replied in his next edition, "Yes, if you would have peace 'at the price of chains and slavery.'  In the language of the eloquent Patrick Henry, 'Gentlemen may cry peace, peace, but there is no peace,' nor there never will be, or should be, until either the rebels now in arms against the government lay down their arms and become loyal, or 'until the last armed foe expires.'  As well might the authorities of this town or county make peace with the prowling midnight thief or assassin, or with a band who premeditated the murder of their fellow men in our midst.  Be it ever remembered that the present rebellion against this Government has been long premeditated by bad men...We admit the laws allow of Free Speech, and of Free Press, when it does not amount to treason, but we ask the question -- Is not that man who wishes success to rebel arms, who extols their acts, and who condemns the whole course of the authorized powers that be to suppress rebellion, a guilty man in point of the letter of the law, as if found in arms against the Government?  We are willing to let a virtuous and free people set their seal of condemnation upon the author of such traitorous articles as appear from week to week in The Journal.  In the very last issue of that paper may be found a 'puff' in favor of the New York Day Book, an acknowledged traitor paper.  It seems not a little strange that such daring traitorism should be tolerated in Warren County, whose inhabitants, as a quite general thing, are intelligent and loyal."
In September 1861, Simerson, tiring of the public attacks by Sellers, challenged Sellers to prove The Warren Journal was a secessionist newspaper and "have us arrested."
Sellers replied, "The Journal calls upon us to make it out a Secessionist paper.  We have done this to our own satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of all persons outside of its own kind.  The secessionists here and elsewhere claim it is 'our paper' --this is evidence enough if there were none other.  'Have us arrested,' says The Journal.  We profess to be loyal, but we have more decent business on hand than to undertake so dirty a job as that.  It is all folly for The Journal to attempt to make it appear that it is anything but a disloyal paper.  It has gone so far in that, that people really laugh at its attempts to make a show of decency.  The Journal is a fit subject for the consideration of the Grand Jury. The Jury will find no trouble in obtaining evidence that the paper is a treasonable institution.  We therefore hand it over to the jury now about to enter upon its duties.  'Let justice be done though The Journal should fall'."
In addition to his vituperative attacks on Simerson, Sellers is known for his use of the phrases "Shamocracy" and "Shamocrats."  Here is an example of Sellers' use of the words in an article dated September 6, 1861: "ANOTHER HOWL!  John Dean, a Republican, has been appointed Post Master at Stewartsville, in this county, and a tremendous howl is set up by the Shamocracy, in which, of course, the filthy organ of the party, The Journal, joins most heartily.  It is a most dreadful matter with the Shamocracy that they are being debarred from further share in the emoluments of public office!  Mr. Fulmer, who has been ordered to make place for Mr. Dean, it appears, has held the office for forty years, yet the howl is created because of his removal.  What makes the removal of Shamocrats from office more sore now than formerly is the fact that they know they will never again be suffered to have the ascendancy.  They know this and feel it.  We hope Mr. Dean will not feel bad because a man having held the office for forty years has been removed to make place for him.  Such things happen - especially when men are not of the 'right stripe'."
Sellers attacks on The Warren Journal and on "Shamocrats" continued until his death in 1863.   The Belvidere Intelligencer continued to be the favorite newspaper of Warren County soldiers throughout the war.   The Belvidere Intelligencer was the oldest Warren County newspaper. It was originally created as The Belvidere Apollo in the 1825 by George G. Sickles, father of General Daniel E. Sickles - who commanded many Warren County soldiers in the Third Corps. After the war, the newspaper reverted to its original name.
Copyright 1997-2012: Jay C. Richards

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