Secession Era Editorials Project

Furman University Department of History


About the Project.

Few Americans were more involved with the coming of the Civil War than the newspaper editors whose words have been collected here. Circulation-hungry and fiercely devoted to the political parties that sustained them, these writers were passionate and nearly inflexible in their views. The editorials they wrote remind us that the people of the era experienced events not with the comprehensive hindsight and revealed secrets of the historian but rather through the disconnected and opinionated fragments supplied by these journalists.

We selected three of the events for this project (the Nebraska bill debates, Dred Scott, and John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry) because of their universal prominence in historical writing. A fourth incident, the attack on Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner by South Carolina representative Preston Brooks, was included because of special importance to South Carolina history and because of the ways that the Sumner incident shocked politics in the Northern states away from Know-Nothingism, the so-called "immigrant question," and liquor prohibition to a new emphasis on slavery and sectionalism.

When complete the project will have at least one complete run of editorials from each major political party in each state of the Union. There will also be text search and text analysis capabilities, vocabulary mapping, and statistical tools for placing the editorials into their analytical context.