Edwin Lawrence Godkin
|Edwin Lawrence Godkin|
October 2, 1831|
County Wicklow, Ireland
|Died||May 21, 1902
Edwin Lawrence Godkin (October 2, 1831 – May 21, 1902) was an Irish-born American journalist and newspaper editor. He founded The Nation, and was editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post 1883-1899.
Godkin was born in Moyne (a hamlet in Knockananna), County Wicklow, Ireland. His father, James Godkin, was a Congregationalist minister and a journalist. He studied law at Queen's College, Belfast, where he was the first president of the Literary and Scientific Society. After leaving Belfast in 1851 and studying law in London, he was the 1853-1855 Crimean War correspondent for the London Daily News in Turkey and Russia, being present at the Siege of Sevastopol.
In 1856, he emigrated to the United States and wrote letters to the News, giving his impressions of a tour on horseback he made of the southern states of the American Union. He studied law under David Dudley Field in New York City, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. Owing to impaired health, he travelled in Europe in 1860-1862. He wrote for the News and the New York Times in 1862-1865. In 1865, he founded The Nation in New York City, a weekly projected by him long before, for which Charles Eliot Norton gained friends in Boston and James Miller McKim in Philadelphia. In 1866, two others joined Godkin as proprietors, while he remained editor until the end of the year 1899. In 1881 he sold the Nation to the New York Evening Post, and became an associate editor of the Post, of which he was editor-in-chief in 1883-1899, succeeding Carl Schurz.
In the eighties he engaged in a controversy with Goldwin Smith over the Irish question. Under his leadership the Post broke with the Republican Party in the presidential campaign of 1884, when Godkin's opposition to nominee James G. Blaine did much to create the so-called Mugwump party, and his organ became thoroughly independent, as was seen when it attacked the Venezuelan policy of President Grover Cleveland, who had in so many ways approximated the ideal of the Post and Nation. He consistently advocated currency reform, the gold standard, a tariff for revenue only, and civil service reform, rendering the greatest aid to the last cause. His attacks on Tammany Hall were so frequent and so virulent that in 1894 he was sued for libel because of biographical sketches of certain leaders in that organization; cases which never came up for trial. In 1896, Godkin broke with the Democratic party after it nominated William Jennings Bryan. He supported the National Democratic Party (United States) third ticket because it championed a gold standard, limited government, and opposed protectionism. His opposition to the war with Spain and to imperialism was able and forcible.
He retired from his editorial duties on the December 30, 1899, and sketched his career in the Evening Post of that date. Although he recovered from a severe apoplectic stroke early in 1900, his health was shattered, and he died in Greenway, Devon, England, on the May 21, 1902.
Godkin shaped the lofty and independent policy of the Post and The Nation, which had a small but influential and intellectual class of readers. But as editor he had none of the personal magnetism of Greeley, for instance, and his superiority to the influence of popular feeling made Charles Dudley Warner style the Nation the weekly judgment day. He was an economist of the school of John Stuart Mill, urged the necessity of the abstraction called economic man, and insisted that socialism put in practice would not improve social and economic conditions in general. In politics, he was an enemy of sentimentalism and loose theories in government.
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