Edwin Lawrence Godkin

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Edwin Lawrence Godkin
Edwin Godkin.jpg
Born (1831-10-02)October 2, 1831
County Wicklow, Ireland
Died May 21, 1902(1902-05-21) (aged 70)
Devon, England
Occupation Journalist, editor

Signature

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.[1] [2] [3]

Biography[edit]

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.[2] In 1865, Godkin was asked by a group of abolitionists led by the architect Frederic Law Olmstead to found a new weekly political magazine. Godkin, who had been considering starting such a magazine for some time, agreed and became the first editor of The Nation when it began publishing in New York City in 1865.[2] Charles Eliot Norton gained supporters for the magazine 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. Under Godkin's tenure, The Nation supported free trade and was anti-imperialist, but opposed socialism and granting American women suffrage.[3]

Godkin was interested in Irish politics, and often wrote about the Irish Question. Godkin was initially hostile to Irish nationalism, identifying it with the violence of Fenianism. [4] However, in the 1880s Godkin became a supporter of Irish Home Rule and endorsed the position of Charles Stewart Parnell.[4] [5] This resulted in Godkin becoming engaged in a controversy with Goldwin Smith, who opposed Home Rule.[5] Under Godkin's leadership the Post[6] 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. [2]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.[7][8]

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. He was buried at Saint Michael's Church in Haselbech, Daventry District, Northamptonshire, England, near the home of the friend with whom he had been staying.[9][10][11]

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.

After Godkin's death, William James wrote of him that Godkin "was certainly the towering influence in all thought concerning public affairs, and ... his influence has certainly been more pervasive than that of any other writer of the generation." [2] [3]

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Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Edwin Lawrence Godkin," Literary Digest, May 31, 1902.
  2. ^ a b c d e Eric Fettman, "Godkin, E.L." in Stephen L. Vaughn, (ed.) Encyclopedia of American Journalism. London : Routledge, 2009. ISBN 9780415969505 (p.200)
  3. ^ a b c Victor Navasky, "Afterword", in Katrina Vanden Heuvel, The Nation, 1865-1990 : Selections From The Independent Magazine of Politics and Culture.New York : Thunder's Mouth Press, 1990.ISBN 9781560250012 (pp. 513-17)
  4. ^ a b William M. Armstrong, E. L. Godkin and American Foreign Policy: 1865-1900. Bookman Associates, 1957. p.107-9)
  5. ^ a b Leslie Butler, Critical Americans: Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform. Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2007. ISBN 9780807857922 (p.236-8)
  6. ^ "The Evening Post Hundredth Anniversary," The Evening Post Publishing Co., 1902.
  7. ^ David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75
  8. ^ Raico, Ralph (2011-03-29) Neither-the-Wars-Nor-the-Leaders-Were-Great Neither the Wars Nor the Leaders Were Great, Mises Institute
  9. ^ Edwin Lawrence Godkin at Find a Grave
  10. ^ New York Times, Burial of E. L. Godkin; Ambassador Choate One of Those Present at the Ceremony, May 29, 1902
  11. ^ Martin Nicholson's Cemetery Project, St. Michael, Haselbech, Northamptonshire, August 5, 2010

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