Saturday, April 01, 2006


"The journalists of the United States are generally in a very humble position, with a scanty education and a vulgar turn of mind." - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835

"With more than $10,000 of real property in my possession, I am in danger of prison for $100." - Andrew Marschalk, editor, 1822

Who were these editors, publishers and journalists who so faithfully filled the role of slave propagandists? What processes changed the nature of Natchez and the nature of the Natchez press in this period? What incidents and personalities can illuminate the forces that led so tragically, and perhaps so inevitably, to a bloody War Between the States? How did the press portray and manipulate politics, economics and culture to support and glorify the “covenant with death,” to ignore the reality of its brutishness, and to dress it up as an institution blessed by God?

A social system based on slavery must fashion every element in that society to support a system of bondage. In antebellum America, the developing republic came to rely on the press and its freedoms; and the southern slave society had to recognize the importance of the press, and the dangers of its freedoms. The publishers and editors of Natchez came from different backgrounds, but they all had to honor the needs and demands of southern society. We must understand who they were, what they were seeking, what changes and challenges they faced in the Old Southwest, what drove them to accept the rationalizations of a slave system, and why they aided and abetted the slave system through the power of their presses. Examining the lives of the printers and editors, in general and with a special focus on three individuals, may help us to understand how they came to be accomplices in supporting an economic and cultural system based on enslavement.

Aspiring journalists gravitated to Natchez for a number of reasons: business opportunities, presentation of a particular political view, a forum of expression, a temporary job, and/or a powerful attraction to the journalistic profession. Dozens of men (and a few women) operated as editors and publishers in the Natchez area before the Civil War. A group of people distinguished by many differences in personality, economic status, political leanings and educational accomplishments, they can nevertheless be examined as individuals who had much in common.

With the exceptions of Mary Patterson of the Concordia Intelligencer and Harriet Prewett of the Natchez Courier, only white men worked as editors and publishers in Natchez journalism. (1) Two major motives directed the efforts of these journalists: political and economic. A few editors actively sought political office, but most Natchez journalists used their newspapers to advocate the political views of a specific party or faction, attracting like-minded readers and patronage, as well as potential financial support, from party leaders. Many ambitious young men became newspapermen to take advantage of literary skills or previous experience as printers. Some seasoned businessmen got into the newspaper business to supplement their other business activities.

Few individuals — even in the 1840s and 1850s when journalism became a more stable profession — relied on the newspaper as a sole means of support. Young and ambitious editors started a career in the newspaper business but quickly began buying land in town and in the cotton lands, and many operated other businesses, practiced law, or went into politics. Established planters sometimes purchased newspapers as a political forum or as an extra business venture, not to reap a financial bonanza from journalism.

Most of the journalists have left precious little beyond the newspapers, debt cases, and official records as raw material for the scholar to use to provide insight into the lives of the Natchez printers and the operations of antebellum newspapers. Others, like William P. Mellen, have left considerably more in the way of records but only participated in journalism for a short time.

Fortunately, enough documentary evidence exists for some of these journalists that a useful if brief examination of their lives can be compiled. Because of the often transient nature of Natchez journalism (especially before 1835), the three editors chosen may not be generally representative of the editors of the period. Certainly, Andrew Marschalk’s thirty-five-year career in Natchez marks him as uncharacteristically persistent (as well as characteristically stubborn). Lorenzo Besançon worked as an editor, editorial writer, and publisher in a Natchez career that spanned five very eventful years at both of Natchez’s major newspapers during the Jacksonian era. Besançon’s penchant for controversy and his talent for dueling did not mix peacefully with the fiery, honor-drenched spirit of the South in the 1830s, and generated a series of events that Besançon likened to gladiatorial combat. Giles Hillyer stuck with the Courier for twelve years despite the collapse of all three parties supported by his paper — the Whigs, the Know Nothings and the Constitutional Union party — while the rival Mississippi Free Trader bounced from one owner to another as the Democratic organ for southern Mississippi.

These three individuals may be very different from each other and from their colleagues in the Natchez press, but these differences do not invalidate the utility of their stories for drawing a few conclusions about the lives of Natchez journalists. Marschalk, Besançon and Hillyer invested heavily in cotton land, like many other Natchez journalists. Journalism, they most likely hoped, would be a means to an end, a first step to success. However, journalism often proved to be a less than lucrative profession in the long run; debt cases for all three are found in large numbers in Natchez records. Political motivations and affiliations directed the actions of these three as well, just as they motivated most other editors. For example, Richard Elward purchased the Free Trader in May 1849, because he lost his government job in the wake of the Whig victory in the election of 1848. He sold the paper in September 1852, after almost four years as the editor of the main Democratic organ in Natchez.

Long after Natchez had lost much of its frontier character, violence and the defense of honor characterized the men of the Old Southwest, including journalists. Marschalk’s long career in the military may have prepared him for some of his later experiences, which included a beating by George Poindexter. Besançon was involved in numerous affairs of honor. Hillyer avoided dueling and fighting but he did not shrink from the rough world of Natchez politics, running against John Quitman in the election of 1855. After Fort Sumter in the spring of 1861, Hillyer enlisted in the Confederate Army, despite the strong Unionist stance he had adopted in the Courier. Other editors involved in dueling or other violent incidents include Milford Prewett, T.A.S. Doniphan and James McDonald.

Born in New York City in 1767, Andrew Marschalk led an interesting and adventurous life before he came to the Natchez area at the end of the 1790s. His ancestors had come from Holland and his father was said to have been a baker for Washington’s Revolutionary Army. A broadsheet from 1769, when the future editor of the Natchez Gazette was only two years old, indicates that the Marschalk family participated in the fractious politics of New York in the colonial period. (2)

Marschalk grew up in the days when British colonial policy generated dissent and revolution in the colonies, and he wrote about his experiences and memories of 1770s New York for the Natchez Free Trader in 1837. As a nine-year-old schoolboy, Marschalk recalled visiting the fort on Saturdays “to view the occasional drill and exercise of one or two companies of British troops, who then formed its garrison.” One day, Marschalk and his schoolmates found the fort deserted and examined the empty barracks and magazine. Returning home, Marschalk discovered that “‘all was not right’ between ‘king George’ and ‘the people.’” Two war ships, the Asia and the Phoenix, appeared and “commenced a cannonade on the fort and city, to the great terror of the inhabitants, who sought shelter in their respective cellars.” (3)

Despite the bombardment, Marschalk and his classmates attended school at the Dutch Reformed Church the next day, only to be sent home by the instructor. “We rushed to the Bowling Green (at the foot of Broad Way) to give the king’s statue a pelting ... our missiles rebounded from the lofty sides of the magnificent gilt horse and his rider — with a reverberating sound — and he who succeeded in hitting the head of either king or steed was a captain of the day.” Marschalk described the military preparations of the frenzied New Yorkers: “Companies of militia were daily parading and drilling in all directions. Batteries were erected at several points on the banks of the Hudson ... daily assemblages of excited and enraged people were held; and several persons who had rendered themselves obnoxious by an open avowal of opposition to the measures of the citizens, and who were stigmatized as tories were rode on rails — and some of them tarred and feathered, and expelled from the city.” A group of twenty-five or thirty men destroyed the printing office of the royal printer. And the “young warriors of the stone and sling were deprived of our sport of battering the royal statue” when New Yorkers pulled it from its pedestal and hacked it into pieces “to be cast into bullets for the use of the numerous troops daily arriving in the city.” Marschalk described the following battle, the retreat of the American troops, and the burning of New York City, “generally attributed to the vile incendiary act of the infuriated soldiery for not being permitted to plunder the city.” Marschalk also recalled a chance childhood meeting with General Israel Putnam during the defense of the city. (4)

Marschalk’s 1838 obituary in the Mississippi Free Trader said he fought in the American Revolution at the age of 14 but, except for an article written by Marschalk for the Free Trader describing George Washington’s triumphant return to New York City after the British evacuation late in 1783, few records exist to reveal what Marschalk did for the cause at such a young age. (5) Evidence suggests Marschalk began his education in the printing trade as an apprentice in New York but ran away from the establishment in 1787. (6) Marschalk lived in England at the end of the 1780s where he probably continued learning the printing trade because he brought a press with him when he returned to the United States in 1790. (7) While in England, Marschalk nearly suffered impressment aboard the frigate Enterprise. However, the captain of the Enterprise had been the commander of the Asia during the shelling of New York City in 1776 and Marschalk’s memories of the battle convinced the captain that Marschalk told the truth when he claimed he was an American. Combined with the intercession of a friend from New York, the captain allowed Marschalk his freedom and he soon departed for Philadelphia on the Pigeon. (8)

For most of the 1790s, Marschalk served in the U.S. military on the frontier of the Northwest Territory, fighting Indians under the commands of Anthony Wayne and Arthur St. Clair. During the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, Marschalk, by now a captain, served as commandant at Fort Miamis. (9) The following year, Capt. Marschalk, acting as quartermaster, distributed liquor rations to the soldiers at Fort Jefferson near present-day Greenville, Ohio. In this capacity, he reported that he had “taken from a certain John Anderson two kegs of adulterated whiskey which he was endeavoring to pass as Fine Brandy.” Marschalk later reported that he “stop’d ... three keggs of cordial, the property of W. Cribbs ... this stuff is not fit for any use.” Marschalk agreed not to compensate the suttlers for bad liquor and to continue patrolling for adulterated whiskey. (10) In 1798, while stationed at Walnut Hills (later Vicksburg), Marschalk printed the words to a ballad titled “The Galley Slave,” the first work printed in Mississippi. (11) The following year, Winthrop Sargent, the governor of the newly formed Mississippi Territory, encouraged Marschalk to print the laws for the new territorial government. (12) Marschalk printed some of this work in Natchez.

After finishing his military service, Marschalk returned to Natchez and started the Mississippi Herald in 1802. Three other newspapers had been started during the interim, and Marschalk’s paper merged with the Mississippi Gazette to become the Mississippi Herald and Natchez Gazette, which lasted until 1808. The other papers lasted two years or less. (13) Marschalk published newspapers in Natchez and nearby Washington almost continuously until 1833. Several gaps of two years or less illustrate the difficulties of the newspaper business in this period. He moved back and forth between Washington and Natchez, merged with other struggling newspapers, and worked for others in the 1820s. To make ends meet, he supplemented his newspaper activities with numerous outside ventures, buying land, taking in boarders, operating a drug store and a reading room, as well as serving as territorial printer, county clerk and justice of the peace at one time or another. (14)

Marschalk may have given up an adventurous military life of fighting Indians and confiscating liquor on the frontier but he had hardly given up controversy and conflict. The practitioners of the southern press became targets for hotheads of the political opposition. Natchez often hosted competing news organs and some lively newspaper feuds. If the political scene provided little in the way of controversy, angry individuals could express their frustration with contrary opinions by physically accosting publishers. One story claims that James Bowie challenged Marschalk to a duel because of some dispute. (15) The tale is unlikely but it points out the rough nature of the city and the violence that journalists could face from the excitable citizens.

In November 1818, Anthony Campbell “violently and furiously enter[ed] the office of [Marschalk] and did assault and threaten to strike him.” The jury found Campbell guilty and fined him sixty dollars. (16) Less violently, Marschalk used the courts to protect his interests. In 1818, he pursued a libel suit against his rival and fellow editor Richard C. Langdon, who succeeded Peter Isler on the Mississippi Herald, for printing a handbill critical of Marschalk’s performance as justice of the peace. In a separate libel suit, Marschalk accused a man named James Hackett of distributing the handbill “to scandalize, traduce, and villify Andrew Marschalk, Esq., one of the Justices of the Peace and to represent [Marschalk] as a corrupt + unjust magistrate, regardless of his duty and unfit to be entrusted with the administration of publick justice.”

The text of the handbill is quoted in the court documents. Hackett’s handbill said that Marschalk had falsely accused him of theft and degraded his character in the eyes of the citizens of Natchez without evidence. He said of Marschalk that “the head of a respectable family was not to have been expected to stimulate a stranger for the sake of fees” and that “the publick are now told that [Marschalk] was capable of such baseness.” The jury found Hackett guilty and fined him $50 and court costs, which brought the total to $93. The results of the case against Langdon are not included among the documents. (17)

Langdon continued to print handbills. The 1822 case of The State of Mississippi v. Langdon illustrates that publishers could get into trouble for printing and distributing libelous material even if it was not printed in the newspaper medium. John B. Nevitt, who would later be sued by Marschalk for not paying his bills, pursued a libel suit against Richard Langdon because he “maliciously and wickedly printed and published a certain scandalous and malicious libel in a certain handbill directed ‘To John B. Nevitt the Hero of Tripoli, Knight of the Murky Countenance + c. + c.’ and signed ‘One of the People’ ... in which the character and fame of [Nevitt] is exposed to shame, detestation, and infamy, tending to inflame the minds of the good people, and breach the peace of the State.” Langdon’s partner Francis Baker testified that “the libel in question was printed in the office of the Mississippian owned by the defendant and himself in partnership.” Baker claimed he was not present. (18)

Marschalk mellowed in later years, merging his Natchez Gazette with the Mississippi Statesman in the 1820s. The Statesman, started by several supporters of Andrew Jackson a few years earlier, needed a more experienced editor. By this time, Marschalk seemed to be content to provide the most basic description of events, run the ads, and print the laws. Marschalk soon left the Statesman to publish the Natchez Gazette in partnership with William P. Wood, a business relationship that lasted only a few months. Financial difficulties forced him to give up his press in 1833 and he died in 1838 at the age of 71. (19)

Lorenzo Besançon edited the Mississippi Free Trader from 1835 to 1839 and left a deliciously full account of duels, fights, labor disputes and other conflicts in which he participated. His 1853 obituary displays a life of variety and adventure equal to that of Marschalk, but few details remain of his life outside of Natchez. (20) The outline of the obituary is intriguing enough. Only in his late twenties when he departed Natchez in 1839, Besançon subsequently served as a captain in the army in the War with Mexico and later immigrated to California to look for gold. He later worked as a reporter and editor for the New Orleans Southern Democrat. Other sources indicate an interest in the filibustering expeditions of the late 1840s and early 1850s as he arrived in Corpus Christi, Texas, at the head of a group of men prepared to invade Mexico. The organizers canceled the project and the group disbanded. (21)

By 1835, the early period of journalistic instability had almost come to an end in Natchez and two newspapers began to emerge as dominant: William Mellen’s Courier and Journal and Besançon’s Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette. The rivalry would continue through the Civil War, long after both editors had given up Natchez journalism. The first years of the rivalry displayed the conflicts well known to Natchez journalism, including a libel suit arising from a labor dispute. Mellen pursued a lawsuit against Lorenzo Besançon, Thomas J. Holliday, William H. Ewing, John Mastin and William Holliday, the editorial board of the Free Trader, in 1835.

In August 1835, Mellen sued the proprietors of the Free Trader for conspiring to intimidate journeymen printers and scaring them away from working for Mellen’s paper, the Courier and Journal, causing Mellen financial hardship. An advertisement insulting to Mellen had been published in the Free Trader. Purporting to be from the “Journeymen Printers Price Current,” the notice proclaimed: “Live Stock — or Rats! In consequence of the late turnout of the regular journeymen printers, Rats are in fresh demand; the house of mellen + Co. having advertised for a fresh supply and as the Stock on hand is limited, a cargo of the Long Tailed Species will be taken up immediately. No advance prices.” Mellen claimed that the ad had so negatively influenced journeymen printers against him that he was unable to conduct his business and had lost several thousand dollars. He sued the defendants for $10,000. (22) The case was soon dismissed. Mellen and Besançon left Natchez journalism within a few years, but the rivalry of the two papers continued.

Besançon’s anti-Whig editorials accused the opposition of attempting to intimidate the opposition press, and the Free Trader frequently reported violence committed by Whigs against Democratic political gatherings. On November 2, 1835, the Free Trader published a warning “TO MECHANICS” that “monopolists” were threatening the livelihoods of some of the city’s laborers. “We have been credibly informed that several mechanics at the last election, who were themselves democrats, were distinctly told by their whig employees, that they must vote the whig ticket or be discharged.” An angry mob, riled by the implications of the article, accosted the proprietor of the Free Trader and demanded to know who had written the offensive material. The proprietor persuaded the men to disperse as Besançon agreed to meet with a single member of the group to discuss the matter. That afternoon, Besançon passed a large crowd that recognized him and began shouting that he should be lynched. The crowd chased a surprised Besançon into the Free Trader office, shouting that “not an inch of the hide of the editor, nor two types of the establishment shall be left.” (23)

After some negotiating and several attempts to persuade the crowd to disperse, an informal tribunal escorted Besançon to the courthouse for a meeting. Besançon later condemned the assemblage as an illegal proceeding and an insult to the Constitution. The Whigs denied Besançon any fair chance of defending himself, and he agreed to print a retraction saying that he had been misinformed about the original incident. Besançon printed the retraction the next day, but on November 13 he published an article titled “A History of the Outrage of Monday Night, November 2,” repudiating his apology and detailing the incidents of the evening and the threats to himself. He called the courthouse proceedings “as despotic and arbitrary as any order ever issued by the Dey of Algiers.” (24)

Besançon found 1837 to be an especially memorable year as he took part in several affairs of honor and a fight with General John Quitman. Four challengers sought to share the field of honor with Besançon. He killed one man in a duel and two other challengers backed off. In May, Besançon accused the lawyer Thomas Armat of being the writer of an article in the Courier titled “Rules,” and a copious flurry of notes passed between Armat and Besançon and their representatives over the affair. Besançon eventually admitted that he had been mistaken and settled the affair without bloodshed. All this correspondence Besançon published in the Free Trader for the enlightenment of the public. (25)

In his time in Mississippi, Besançon had accumulated 2300 acres in Mississippi, as well as 7500 acres in Texas. His income had increased from $2000 a year to $8000 a year, and he had represented Tunica County in the Mississippi legislature. Besançon had also served as quartermaster general for the Mississippi militia. (26)

Besançon’s life remained adventurous after he left Natchez. “Amid the fortunes of the Mexican war, he held the post of Captain in a company of Mounted Rangers, between Vera Cruz and the City of Mexico, which duty we believe he discharged with the full confidence of his comrades in arms. Soon after the close of the war, he emigrated to California, where, for several years, he participated in the scenes of the life of a miner. On his return to New Orleans, he again resumed the editorial profession, by conducting a Pierce and King paper, entitled ‘The Southern Democrat.’” Besançon also fought in the Yucatan Peninsula after the War with Mexico, as second-in-command to George White’s mercenaries, hired by the Mexican government to put down the Mayan uprising. (27) He died in January 1853 in Louisiana at the age of 41.

Giles Hillyer arrived in Mississippi in the late 1840s and purchased the Natchez Courier, the state’s major Whig journal, in 1850. As tensions heightened between North and South during the 1850s, Hillyer operated the Courier as a strong Union voice for a decade, strongly opposed to secession right up to the outbreak of war in the spring of 1861. Hillyer, despite his strong and often barbed criticisms of the Democratic Party in general and secessionist views in particular, also supported southern culture and political ideals and did not refrain from fiery critiques of abolitionism and other northern views threatening to the South.

Born in Connecticut (28) about 1820, Hillyer lived in New York during his formative years. His 1871 obituary claimed Hillyer “was a lawyer by profession, a man of education, possessing fine powers as a public speaker, a handsome person and pleasing manners ...” (29) By 1848, he had relocated to Mississippi with his wife Elizabeth, a native of New York, and a young daughter. After two years as editor of the Aberdeen Independent in Mississippi’s Monroe County, Hillyer purchased the Natchez Courier in the spring of 1850. Hillyer’s stint on the Aberdeen Independent, a Whig paper in northeastern Mississippi, seems to have prepared him for the aggressive nature of Mississippi party politics; as the new editor of the Courier, Hillyer eagerly waded into the secession crisis of 1850, forcefully and successfully defending Whig positions from Democratic organ attacks, beginning with his earliest issues in the spring of 1850.

In his first notice to Courier subscribers, Hillyer declared that he would honor all contracts and agreements made by the previous owner. But he added: “Another, and still higher obligation, due alike to himself, to the friends of the administration and to the public, is to devote all his energies to maintain for the Courier a high reputation, as a useful and influential political and family journal — one which its opponents will respect, while its friends shall never blush for.” (30)

A few days later, the Courier published a longer and more complete mission statement:

“His opinions are honestly held and will be fearlessly avowed. No stranger to the Mississippi press, nor entirely ignorant of the political condition of the State and the Union, he comes before the patrons of the Courier and the public at large, with the same political statements he has contended for in another field with the same ardent attachment to the South that he believes he has already made manifest elsewhere, and with an anxious wish to make the enunciation of these sentiments and expression of that attachment an effective on for the great causes in which he would labor.

An active and zealous advocate of the election of Zachary Taylor, and as ardent a supporter of his administration — a firm believer in the integrity of his intentions, the wisdom of his counsels, and the purity of his patriotism — all the influence that can be brought to bear from the editorial columns of this paper shall be exerted to sustain the administration, … as long as that administration is true to itself, to the constitution and the country.”

It was another manifestation of the Whig-Democratic rivalry that the Free Trader and the Courier fought so tenaciously for twenty-five years. Hillyer declared that the Courier would be the standard bearer for the Whigs of Adams Country, proudly supporting the presidency of Zachary Taylor.

The Mississippi Free Trader, the Democratic party organ in Natchez and one of the major newspapers of the state, wasted little time in challenging the Courier’s devotion to Whig principles. On May 15, the Free Trader claimed that “the old hostility of this journal [the Courier] to Governor Quitman was sold to the new editor along with the old types and office accounts. His hostility to the governor, as exhibited in Friday’s Courier, ‘Outvenoms all the worms of Nile.’” The Courier had attacked Mississippi icon John Quitman’s speech at Raymond, a performance that the Free Trader had described as “masterful.”

The Courier defended itself particularly well, quoting Quitman’s intemperate words at Raymond:

“The Free Trader avers that the hostility of the Courier to Gov. Quitman was sold to the new proprietor with its types. If we paid any consideration for that article, we regret it, because even if we had none previously, the mere reading of the Governor’s late Raymond speech would have given us gratis much political hostility to that gentleman as we care about entertaining. ... What necessity was there for Gov. Quitman to condescend, at a meeting ostensibly held without distinction of party, to accuse those who differ with him of being ‘interested office-seekers,’ ‘old federalists,’ (!) ‘selfish landholders,’ ‘timid men, ‘men whose minds have become tinctured with free-soilism,’ ‘pedlars of curious notions in politics, morals and government, as well as in wooden and tin wares’? Is the executive honored by descending to the level of the brawling politician, and by the utterances of charges as gross in their language, as they are unwarranted in the intended application?”” (31)

The secession crisis was heating up, and Quitman had nothing conciliatory to offer to the state’s moderate voters. The Courier noted his inflammatory language and insults, and this editorial also pointed out that the Free Trader accused the new editor of an unreasonable, knee-jerk hatred of Quitman. The Courier very ably defended itself for criticizing Quitman with a few words from his recent speech. If the Courier was hostile to Quitman, perhaps they had good reason.

In June, the Free Trader reprinted a short item from the Holly Springs Jacksonian — a newspaper from northern Mississippi — accusing Hillyer of being “tinctured with Free Soilism.” The Courier responded:

“The charge made by the Jacksonian in its last sentence is simply a falsehood, manufactured out of whole cloth. It deserves a sharper epithet, but one which never ought to soil the columns of a newspaper. The Jacksonian is known to be so far led away by its unbridled prejudices, as to be the common vehicle of foul calumny. The Free Trader is only excusable for its republication, on the ground of its entire ignorance of our opinion.” (32)

In July 1850, the Courier accused the Democrats of hypocrisy following the death of the Whig president Zachary Taylor, a southerner, and the ascension of northerner Millard Fillmore to the nation’s highest office:


We have a word to say to those alluded to above, who after having denounced Taylor’s as an abolition administration, are regretting his death, because Fillmore has become President. If they have been sincere in their denunciation of the former — if they have spoken the truth — then they should not regret the change. If Taylor’s was an abolition administration, Fillmore’s can not be worse. Taylor they have assured us was for the Wilmot proviso, would not veto a bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, and would do a hundred other unrighteous acts. Fillmore can do no more! Their regrets therefore only stamp their hypocrisy with an extensive folly.” (33)

In the months before Taylor’s death, the Free Trader had mercilessly scorched Hillyer’s views on slavery. Taylor, a slaveholder himself, opposed extension of slavery into the new territories, a stance that enraged many southerners who had previously looked upon Taylor as a slaveholding president who would protect the institution. His premature death had encouraged numerous glowing eulogies from the political opponents who had vilified him for months. The Free Trader, like Democrat newspapers across the nation, then turned their editorial guns toward Taylor’s successor, Millard Fillmore.

The secession crisis of 1850 eventually lost its momentum for most southerners. Secessionist leaders in South Carolina and Mississippi discovered that the other states stepped back from the abyss of disunion, and the secessionists in these cautious states did not measure up to the rhetoric of the most ardent fire-eaters. By the time of the Nashville Convention in June, only nine of fifteen slave states participated, and many of the participating states sent only token delegations. (34) Many diehard secessionists — called “bitter-enders” by the Courier and other Whig newspapers — railed over the Compromise of 1850 and the South’s alleged submission to the North, but cooler heads realized that the North had indeed made important concessions, and the dangers of secession blew over, despite a Democratic press that often remained shrill and divisive throughout the decade.

Right up to the outbreak of the War Between the States, Hillyer’s Courier criticized the belligerence of the Democratic press, and often challenged the disunionist stance of rival newspapers, the Free Trader in particular. The Courier would admit that the South had been wronged in certain cases, such as California’s admission as a free state, which excluded the southerners who felt they had earned the right to colonize the Golden State and to export their “peculiar institution.” However, the Courier also advocated a temperate attitude and continually warned of the dangers of secession. “Union Rhapsodies,” a typical 1858 editorial, mocked the Free Trader’s attitude:

““We like rhapsodies; but we like arguments better,” says the Free Trader. We have given that paper both facts and arguments, and to neither has it responded ... Has the South retrograded in influence or in position since [the secession crisis of 1850]? Let us see. Has not the Supreme Court decided the question of slavery fully in her favor, and that prohibitions of our domestic institutions were beyond the power of Congress or the General Government? Is there any longer on legislative record a Congressional prohibition of slavery in our Territories? You claim the Democratic party as the great friend, the ally of the South. Fourteen of the fifteen Southern States support that party. Well, are not eight of the nine Judges of the United States Supreme Court, Democrats, and four of them from the South; and in the natural course of events will it not be many years before the personal complexion of that Court can, under any phase of politics, be at all changed? Have we not a Democratic Senate, almost two to one? Are not Buchanan and Breckenridge in (and very sorry are we for it,) for three years more? Is not the House, last year Black Republican, this year Democratic by twenty majority? Is not the Kansas bill the law of the land, and the Cincinnati platform the great chart of the Democracy is administering the Government? ... If we are not better off than then, Buchanan had better give up his seat to our leader, and you surrender your power to the millions of free men who voted in 1856 for Millard Fillmore ...” (35)

In the view of Hillyer and many other slave-owning southerners, the North had acted responsibly to protect slavery in the states where it existed. As the editorial pointed out, the Democratic Party, the “ally of the South,” controlled all three branches of government, yet the Free Trader persisted in its extremist stance and its attacks on the North. Was Hillyer playing politics with the Courier’s attacks on the inflammatory tone of the Free Trader? Or did he see the dangers of secession and Civil War in the near future if the southern extremists persisted?

Hillyer thrived in Natchez in the 1850s. He owned real estate worth $3000 in 1850. By 1860, his real estate was worth $40,000. He experienced a cash-flow problem despite his real estate holdings, as is displayed by frequent debt cases and mortgages. One interesting case reveals that Hillyer received $1000 in 1855 by mortgaging the slave Sam and Sam’s family. Sam is described as “a press boy working for the Courier office, purchased ... in 1850 at the Forks of the Road,” the notorious slave market just outside of Natchez. (36) Hillyer paid off this debt but was forced to mortgage Sam and his family just a year later.

Hillyer became a Know Nothing after the dissolution of the Whigs and ran unsuccessfully against John Quitman for a seat in the House of Representatives in 1855. (This election will be covered in more detail in the next chapter.) Hillyer’s desire for office may help to explain some of his cash-flow problem. A receipt in the Alexander Farrar Papers shows that Farrar advanced Hillyer more than $1200 between 1852 and 1856, with the first loan noted on “the 29th April 1852 a few days before starting a Whig National Convention.” (37)

In the 1860 election, the Courier supported the Constitutional Union candidate, John Bell. (The Free Trader, like four out of seven of Mississippi’s major newspapers, supported John C. Breckinridge, who won the electoral contest in Mississippi and much of the rest of the South.) His determined pro-Union stance did not deter Hillyer from serving in the Confederate Army when the war began. Hillyer had joined the 16th Mississippi Infantry by June 1861. By February of 1862, he had been promoted to major, and General G.B. Crittenden commended his “untiring energy and marked ability” in supplying his division in Tennessee. Hillyer served in Tennessee through 1862 and 1863. In May 1863, General Braxton Bragg promoted Hillyer to acting chief commissary. In August of that year, Hillyer reported unenthusiastically to Bragg that supplying beef and bacon to the Army of Tennessee would be difficult: “The prospects for a supply beyond October 1 are not merely uncertain but gloomy indeed ... local resources are insufficient.” Hillyer expressed “regret at such a gloomy account.” In January of 1864, Hillyer requested relief from duty as chief of subsistence. (38)

In his absence, the Courier appeared sporadically, and the Union Army took over publication for a time after Natchez was occupied in 1863. Hillyer returned to the Courier at the end of 1865 and edited it through the early years of Reconstruction. When Mississippi convened to formulate a new state constitution after the Civil War, Hillyer was chosen as a representative from Adams County. Hillyer strongly supported the Black Codes, and justified the prohibition against black land ownership by warning that “nests of negro colonies would at once be formed around every city, town and village, whose occupants would alone be supported by theft or other crime.” (39) Hillyer had plenty to write about during Reconstruction, and he did not hesitate to heap stinging criticism on the mismanagement of the state government after Congressional Reconstruction became the law of the land. In 1868, he called the Mississippi legislature “a collection of wild and imported animals,” “the Jackson monstrosity,” and “the Black and Tan Menagerie.” (40) Later, he lamented the condition of his adopted state: “the evil is terrible. We are without law, without courts, without officers of justice; the whole country judicial system is paralyzed; the whole municipal system is stopped.”(41)

In 1868 the Courier office and materials were destroyed by fire, and Hillyer sold the newspaper he had operated for so long. He moved to Vicksburg and edited the Vicksburg Daily Times from March to July of 1869. His death in Vicksburg on April 22, 1871, is recorded in the Natchez Weekly Democrat, which states that Hillyer died “after a long and painful illness.”(42)

With marriage records, census records, land records, court cases and the use of a few select secondary sources, we can examine many aspects of the lives of other Natchez journalists, editors and scribblers we know little about, as well as the reasonably well-documented careers of Marschalk, Besançon and Hillyer.

Newspaper proprietors often experienced considerable difficulties in collecting subscription fees, advertising costs, and other money owed for printing work. The newspapers of the era contain many pleas from editors imploring them to pay their bills. One especially impassioned and eloquent lament from the editor of the Free Trader appeared on May 26, 1842:


“READ THIS IF YOU PLEASE. — I am out of money, out of materials, out of means to pledge, by which money might be raised. None can be borrowed. The weekly expenses of this paper are necessarily heavy. The force required to print it must be paid. They are not machines, but men — toiling, laboring men. They cannot work for nothing. I have a family; I owe just debts; my sole means are invested in this establishment; every hour of my time is devoted to it; there are thousands that enjoy daily and weekly the products of my labor and my capital, but there are many who do not pay me. Is this right? Is it just? I put it to the conscience of every delinquent subscriber, is it honest? What is the difference between subscribing for and receiving a paper, upon the condition of paying for it and failing to do so, and violently robbing a man of the same amount? In both cases you are taking, without authority, your neighbor’s goods ... The Free Trader has certainly a large circulation, but then its outlays are heavy and the expense of collecting its debts (seldom over from five to thirty dollars) swallows up most of the profits, and few men ever grew rich on a newspaper. Most men sink under the expenses and are utterly ruined. Whether this shall be my fate depends on the success of this appeal.”

The item goes on for most of a column and is signed by T.A.S. Doniphan, who would operate the Free Trader until 1848, six years after this notice appeared. Either a lot of deadbeat readers felt guilty and rushed to the Free Trader with cash in hand, or Doniphan was bluffing.

Subscribers would not pay their fees. It was a common lament of the editors of the early republic. Why didn’t editors merely strike the deadbeats from the delivery list instead of providing news for free to dozens, maybe hundreds, of readers who would not pay? Editors filled the papers with threats toward nonpaying subscribers, they hired collection agents, but they shied away from the most obvious solution — stopping delivery of the newspaper. Not surprisingly, longer subscription lists boosted advertising rates, and an editor who could boast of a large circulation (even if many or most of them did not pay) enjoyed more enthusiastic political support. Editors definitely had good reasons to tolerate subscribers who did not pay, as well as the many citizens who stole or temporarily borrowed newspapers from their neighbors. (43)

Sometimes, however, editors did try to collect delinquent subscriptions and other fees through the courts. Between 1804 and 1820, Marschalk carried his grievances to the Adams County court more than twenty times. He sued Anthony Campbell for almost $60 in 1819, seeking $200 in damages. Marschalk sought more than $200 from Richard May in 1826 “for value received.” In the same year, he sought $142.50 from John Munce for advertisements that were not paid for.(44)

Marschalk also had problems with John Forsyth. In 1828, Forsyth owed $833 for “the insertion of and publication before that time, of divers advertisements and paragraphs in a certain newspaper called ‘The Natchez Gazette,’ printed and published by the said Andrew Marschalk ... and in a certain other newspaper called the ‘Mississippi Statesman and Natchez Gazette’ ... and a certain other newspaper called the ‘Statesman and Gazette.’” Forsyth said he would pay the debt but died soon after. Marschalk received less than $300 from the estate. (45)

In a debt case that lasted from 1833 to 1835, the court awarded Marschalk the sum of $241.40 from John B. Nevitt, planter, politician, and the town’s leading advocate of the Catholic Church. Nevitt had not paid for two subscriptions to the Gazette (one of these was for his son George) “for certain advertisements inserted in [the Gazette] over a long span of time,” and for unspecified goods and services. (46)

In 1856, Giles Hillyer collected “... the chairs scenery and stage paraphernalia of [the] Clinton Thespians,” a traveling theater troupe that proved unable to pay for $215 for printing work, presumably advertising in the Courier or handbills and posters. (47) The record does not state what Hillyer did with these items.

In a cash-poor economy, everyone, including businessmen, depended on credit for business transactions, expecting projected future profits to pay for the purchase of goods and services. Publishers went into debt to buy printing supplies, to increase land holdings and to invest in other business ventures. Publishers and editors could also be creditors, extending credit to subscribers and for services and supplies. When debts were not paid, journalists could be plaintiffs or defendants in civil court. Some examples of the problems of debt have already been mentioned. Court records from Adams County contain dozens of debt cases involving publishers and editors trying to recover money owed them or being pursued for debt.

James White, another Marschalk creditor, sued the firm of Marschalk and Evens for the sum of $49.99 “for the work and labor, care and diligence.”(48) Like many of the debt cases, the official papers do not give any details on the nature of the debt. In 1814, The Bank of Mississippi sought $67.50 from Marschalk for a promissory note to Thomas Winn. In 1820, the Bank again sued Marschalk for an unpaid promissory note, this time for the sum of $170. William Allinder worked for Marschalk from February to November 1823 as a “compositor and pressman in and about the printing [office] of a certain newspaper ... printed and published in [Adams County] called ‘the Mississippi State Gazette’” for $33 a month. In May 1824, Allinder sued Marschalk for $287.10 for unpaid wages and a further $187.10 for “divers sums of money” that Allinder loaned to Marschalk. However, an itemized list among the documents shows that Allinder frequently borrowed small sums of cash from Marschalk to buy, among other things, a $27 coat, a pair of pantaloons ($2.50), a blank book of fine paper with a Morocco cover (made to order for $5), and several tickets to the theatre ($1 to $1.50 each). The total of these amounts reached over $140. The court dismissed the case in November 1824, but the details of the agreement reached by the parties are not given. (49)

The estate of William Murray sought $400 from Marschalk in 1827 for unidentified services. (50) The records for Mississippi Territory show that Marschalk was sued for debt twenty times between 1805 and 1814. In an 1822 letter to a friend, Marschalk remarked that “with more than $10,000 of real property in my possession, I am in danger of prison for $100.”(51)

In 1820, D. Knox and T. Nixon sought payment on a $75 promissory note made out by James K. Cook “for value received.” In 1828, during Cook’s stint at the Ariel, Thomas Ronalds sued Cook for $153.45 for not paying for twenty reams of imperial printing paper. (52)

Southern businessmen often invested in numerous ventures and the Natchez journalists commonly dabbled in various occupations and schemes, sometimes leaving the newspaper business entirely. Newspaper offices sometimes doubled as bookbinderies or reading rooms, and printers produced private handbills for customers. Like everyone else with money and ambition, journalists acquired land for planting or speculation. They sought official printing contracts and jobs in the city or county government.

Almost all Natchez journalists accumulated land when possible. Between 1802 and 1820, Marschalk purchased at least six plots of land, ranging from lots in the cities of Natchez and nearby Washington to a forty-acre farm near the intersection of St. Catherine’s Creek and Kitchen’s Mill Creek (53) and “100 French acres” located seven miles from Natchez. (54) Marschalk sold some of these parcels of land within a few years but he retained some for as long as twenty years. Marschalk mortgaged several of these plots more than once when he needed money. In the last years of his life, Marschalk used the land to provide for the care of his wife Sydney and his young daughter Ana Maria. (55)

William Mellen, publisher of the Courier and Journal from 1835 to 1836, purchased a lot in the southeast corner of Natchez (56) in 1835 and lived there in a house that still stands until his death in 1864. Mellen mortgaged the land in 1841 but paid it off the following year and later bought the adjoining lot. (57) Mellen purchased five other lots in the city of Natchez, and his wife Sarah purchased the 300-acre Locust Grove plantation for $9880 in 1850. (58) The sale included at least ten slaves, 1000 bushels of corn, seventy-five hogs, twenty-five cattle, eighteen sheep, two wagons and a farm house. The Mellens sold Locust Grove in 1859.

Phineas Merrick, proprietor of the Ariel in the late 1820s, bought five parcels of land in and around Natchez between 1823 and his death in 1831. In 1830, William Grissam mortgaged a lot and several buildings in the city of Natchez to Merrick. The agreement also included four slaves and “press-types, implements and furniture complete of the printing establishment of the Southern Galaxy in [Natchez] consisting of two presses about ten stands and about 2500 lbs of type.” (59) The land, slaves, and the printing equipment became the property of Merrick when Grissam proved unable to pay. (The firm of Grissam and Hotchkiss was over $25,000 in debt in 1830.)

Andrew Marschalk held the printing contract for the territorial government in his earliest days in the Natchez area. Journalists often found their way into government positions following or concurrent with their newspaper careers. Court papers show that James K. Cook, who had to mortgage the Ariel to Merrick though he stayed on as editor, served as court clerk in Natchez for many years. Both Andrew Marschalk and Samuel H.B. Black of the Natchez Daily Courier served as justices of the peace.

Court cases also reveal that the newspaper proprietors supplemented their income by printing handbills for customers. Several publishers sued a man named John Forsyth in the late 1820s for not paying his printing bills. James K. Cook, acting for Merrick, sued to recover the sum of $136.50 “for divers advertisements in the Ariel newspaper and other printing jobs, handbills, and c.” (60) Also acting for Merrick, Langdon sued Forsyth for $208.50 for services, described in the same words. In both cases, the plaintiffs won. (61)

Aside from taking in boarders and speculating in land, Marschalk also published The Tablet, a literary newspaper, and tried to establish a newspaper called The Watchman in Port Gibson in partnership with Thomas H. Ewing in the 1830s. The latter venture does not seem to have been successful as Marschalk and Ewing were sued in 1833 by Mary T. Defrance for nearly $500 for not paying for room and board, liquor, the care of horses and other services. (62) For a time, Marschalk also operated a drugstore. Near the end of his life, Marschalk mortgaged his apothecary to John Quitman for $3000. (63)

In begging for the payment of subscription fees and by trying out various business propositions in addition to journalism, a major motive for the Natchez editor was providing for his family. According to the 1820 census, Andrew Marschalk’s household contained seventeen people, including four slaves. Before 1850, the census did not name the persons marked except for the head of the household, but many scraps of information in various kinds of records provide clues to the identities of many of the people in Marschalk’s extended family. The census does provide age group, gender, and race.

Marschalk’s large number of children make up most of the 1820 census listing. The census lists the oldest white female in the Marschalk household in the 16-26 years of age category. There are two listed. Clearly, Marschalk’s first wife Susannah no longer lived in the household but there is no information about her death. The two women in this category are probably Marschalk’s last wife Sydney and his recently-married daughter Ana Maria Evens. She married William Evens in 1818. Another of Marschalk’s daughters, named Susannah like her mother, married Robert Stewart the same year. The 1820 census lists the Robert Stewart household separately, a total of four people and no slaves. (64)

Because the 1820 census does not contain a separate listing for Ana Maria Evens and her husband, it is likely they lived with Marschalk because he formed a business with Evens under the name of Marschalk and Evens. An 1819 lawsuit describes Marschalk and Evens as printers. (65) William and Ana Maria Evens and their young son Charles died in the fall of 1825, possibly in one of the frequent yellow fever epidemics. (66)

Jane Eleonora Marschalk married Miller Stewart, Robert’s brother, in 1824 and still lived in the Marschalk household in 1820. One other white female under the age of ten cannot be identified and may be a daughter or granddaughter of Marschalk who died in infancy without being mentioned in any other records. (Death records show the demise of Catherine Ann Marschalk, “the infant daughter of Andrew Marschalk” on January 2, 1821 of “anomolous diseases.” As the child’s age is listed as “days,” it seems unlikely that Catherine Ann is the same daughter under five years old from the 1820 census.)

Eight white males below the age of 26 lived in the Marschalk household, including three between 18 and 26. William Evens has already been identified. Three of Marschalk’s sons, James T., George, and Andrew, probably lived with their father at this time.

Adams County records indicate that, in 1817, Marschalk acquired an apprentice named John Mason “from the Orphan’s Court.” Marschalk would provide “meat, drink, clothing, lodging and everything necessary” for Mason until he reached the age of 21. Mason would “learn the art, trade and mystery of a printer” and how to read, write and cypher. By the terms of the agreement, Marschalk would provide Mason with a suit of clothing at the end of the indenture period. (67) It is likely that Mason is one of the male children listed as he would only have been 13 at the time of the census. The white males not identified could be children (or possibly grandchildren) of Andrew Marschalk who were never identified in any of the other records. Marschalk might have had another apprentice that was not recorded in the deed book.

Andrew Marschalk took in boarders as well. In the 1818 civil case Marschalk v. Champlin, he sued George Champlin for $200 for money borrowed from Marschalk “and also for meat drink washing lodging and other necessaries.” (68) The 1820 census might include some boarders among the unidentified persons.

Of the four slaves, only two correspond to persons mentioned in the other records. A single female slave aged 26-45 might be the same unnamed “negro woman 60 years of age (old and infirm)” sold among many other items to cover an unpaid promissory note in March 1834. The same sale included “a slave named Robert (lame) 30 years” (69) who may be one of three male slaves aged 14 or younger in the 1820 census.

According to the 1830 census, the Marschalk household consisted of fifteen persons. In 1833, he transferred the deeds of some of his land to provide for his wife Sydney, his infant daughter Ana Maria Marschalk (named for his deceased daughter of the same name), two grandchildren and his sons Andrew, Francis and Abel. All of them must be in the household of the 1830 census. The presence of three men aged 25-30 and one man aged 40-50 imply that Marschalk continued to take in boarders. The 1830 census lists only two slaves, probably Robert and the unnamed woman from the previous census.

The censuses of Adams County from 1820 to 1840 indicate that large households constituted the normal situation for all classes and journalists were not exempt. The 1820 census listed ten people in the household of Richard C. Langdon, of the Mississippi Republican and the Ariel. Phineas F. Merrick, a large landholder who dabbled in insurance as well as publishing the Ariel for a few years, was the head of a household of fourteen, including seven slaves, in 1830. William Grissam, of the Southern Galaxy, lived with nine other people, including four slaves, according to the same census. In the 1840 census, the Mississippi Free Trader’s T.A.S. Doniphan headed a household of nine. James K. Cook, also of the Ariel, lived by himself in the 1830 census, a rarity among Natchez residents.

Whether they were career journalists like Andrew Marschalk or political dabblers like Thomas Reed or Phineas Merrick, Natchez journalists of the early republic lived through exciting times and suffered through unstable periods as newspapers came and went in the first third of the nineteenth century. They lived in the same way as other ambitious southern gentlemen, in large households with at least a few slaves, acquiring land when they could and dabbling in every business opportunity that looked good as they fought off their creditors by going after their debtors.

With so many newspapers in Natchez and so many Mississippi gentlemen getting involved in one journalistic enterprise or another, categorizing any of them as journalists seems almost pointless. Every man wore a dozen hats in his lifetime and some of them wore the hat of the newspaperman at some point and some of them didn’t. Andrew Marschalk wore it for over thirty years whereas other men wore it for a few years or months.


(1) It is possible that other women worked in Natchez journalism in a capacity that prevented their work from being recognized. Harriet Prewett was never credited for her work on the Natchez Courier, but she took over the Yazoo City Whig and was listed as editor. Her Natchez work was noted much later.

(2) Alford, Prince Among Slaves, pp. 86-88.

(3) Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, December 7, 1837.

(4) Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, December 7, 1837.

(5) Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, November 30, 1837.

(6) Alford, Prince Among Slaves, p. 86.

(7) Sydnor, “The Beginning of Printing in Mississippi,” pp. 49-55.

(8) Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, December 7, 1837. The article says the impressment incident took place in August 1799, but this is clearly erroneous because letters to and from Winthrop Sargent show that Marschalk was printing the territorial laws of Mississippi at that time. It may be a typographical error for 1789, a date which fits very well for this vague period of Marschalk’s life.

(9) Marschalk is said to have served with Meriwether Lewis at Chickasaw Bluffs. He may also have known William Clark and future president William Henry Harrison, both of whom are listed on the officer roster for the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

(10) Letters to Captain John Miller. Andrew Marschalk Papers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.

(11) Dunbar Rowland, History of Mississippi: Heart of the South, Volume II, L-Z (Chicago, 1925), entry on Andrew Marschalk. Alford, in Prince Among Slaves, speculates that Marschalk’s close call with impressment inspired the subject matter of “The Galley Slave.” William Reeve, composer, and J.C. Cross, lyricist, wrote a musical comedy titled The Purse, or Benevolent Tar, in London in 1794. “The Galley Slave” was one of the songs in The Purse, which was performed in Philadelphia in 1795 and in Boston by 1797. “The Galley Slave” was one of the top ten songs in 1790s America. Almost every secondary source refers to The Purse as an opera. However, examining the work shows that is actually a musical comedy in one act with several songs. Ellen Koskoff, editor, The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 3: The United States and Canada (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001), p. 180; Douglas C. McMurtrie, A Bibliography of Mississippi Imprints, 1798-1830 (Beouvoir Community, Mississippi: The Book Farm, 1945), p. 19; Stanley Sadie, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Volume 21, Recitative to Russian Federation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 75-76; and O.G. Sonneck, Bibliography of Early Secular Music (Washington, D.C.; H.L. McQueen, 1905), p. 122. (See Appendix for the text of “The Galley Slave.”)

(12) Hamilton, editor, “Notes and Documents: The Printing of the 1799 Territorial Laws of the Mississippi Territory,” pp. 90-91.

(13) Sydnor, “The Beginning of Printing in Mississippi,” pp. 49-55.

(14) Deed records, Book E-X, 1802-1835, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi. Marschalk v. Champlin, 1818; Marschalk v. Langdon, 1818; Marschalk v. Hackett, 1818; Defrance v. Marschalk and Ewing, 1834, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi. Marschalk’s many different business ventures will be discussed in more detail throughout this chapter.

(15) William C. Davis, Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), p. 645.

(16) The State v. Anthony Campbell, 1818, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi. Campbell, a shopkeeper and militia captain, later entered the newspaper business and became one of the town’s leading journalists. James, Antebellum Natchez, p. 95.

(17) Marschalk v. Langdon, 1818; Marschalk v. Hackett, 1818, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(18) The State of Mississippi v. Langdon, 1822, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi. Nevitt was a large planter and a leading Catholic of the region.

(19) Miles, “The Mississippi Press in the Jackson Era, 1824-1841,” pp. 2-5.

(20) Natchez Courier, January 25, 1853.

(21) Robert E. May, Manifest Destiny’s Underworld (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2002), p. 17.

(22) Mellen v. Besançon,, 1835, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(23) Mississippi Free Trader, November 13, 1835.

(24) Mississippi Free Trader, November 13, 1835.

(25) Miles, “The Mississippi Press in the Jackson Era, 1824-1841.” pp. 14-15. The affair with Armat is covered in more detail in a later chapter. Unfortunately, there is very little information on the other affairs of honor that Besançon was involved in. Miles says, without offering any details, that the challenges were all related to his appointment as bank commissioner. The identity of the man he killed is unknown, although Miles quotes a letter written by one of Besançon’s New York family members that says that Lorenzo Besançon “shot his adversary above the hip, he died in 36 hours. The principals in [the other duels] backed out, and the whole was thus disposed of.”

(26) Ibid., p. 14. There are many gaps in the record of Besançon’s life in Natchez. Active for only a few years in the life of Natchez, he does not appear on any of the censuses. He may not have had his primary residence in Natchez as he represented a different part of Mississippi in the legislature.

(27) The Natchez Courier, February 7, 1853.

(28) Some sources say Hillyer was born in New York, but the 1850 Mississippi census gives his birthplace as Connecticut.

(29) Natchez Democrat, April 29, 1871.

(30) Natchez Semi-Weekly Courier, April 30, 1850.

(31) Natchez Semi-Weekly Courier, May 17, 1850. Most articles in the newspapers of this period are anonymous or pseudonymous. Since the Unionist tone of the Courier remains similar throughout the many years of Hillyer’s editorship, it is likely that he wrote most, if not all, of the editorial content. However, authorship can not be known with absolute certainty. Because Hillyer’s name is prominent in every issue of the Courier from 1850 to 1861, he was certainly prepared to take responsibility for the tone of these articles even if he did not write every one.

(32) Natchez Semi-Weekly Courier, June 4, 1850.

(33) Natchez Courier, July 18, 1850.

(34) Because of concerns about the admission of California as a free state and other issues related to the balance of power between North and South, slave state leaders called for a convention to be held in Nashville, Tennessee, so that the South could make plans to counter any threat to southern power. By the time of the Nashville Convention in the summer of 1850, most southerners agreed that northern compromises were sufficient to keep the peace. Extremists in several states, particularly Mississippi and South Carolina, advocated more state and regional conventions to coordinate southern actions against any threats to slavery. Most southerners rejected the extremists, and the secession controversy died out by the end of 1851. For more information on the secession crisis of 1850, see Cleo Hearon, Mississippi and the Compromise and 1850 (Jackson, MS: Mississippi Historical Society, 1914); and William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 475-535.

(35) Natchez Courier, March 6, 1858.

(36) Deed Records, Book KK, 1854, p. 279, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(37) Alexander Farrar Papers, Louisiana State University, Department of Archives and Manuscripts, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

(38) The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901). See Volume 20, p. 671; Vol. 23, pp. 854, 858; Vol. 30, pp. 547, 549, 674, 714; and others.

(39) William C. Harris, Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), p. 131.

(40) William C. Harris, The Day of the Carpetbagger (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1979), p. 131, quoting the Natchez Courier, January 10, 13 and 31, 1868.

(41) Ibid., p. 35.

(42) Natchez Daily Democrat, April 29, 1871.

(43) Steffen, “Newspapers for Free: The Economies of Newspaper Circulation in the Early Republic,” p. 385.

(44) Marschalk v. Campbell, 1819; Marschalk v. May, 1826; Marschalk v. Munce, 1826, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(45) Marschalk v. Forsyth, 1829, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(46) Marschalk v. Nevitt, 1835, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(47) Deed Records, Book LL, 1854, p. 25, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(48) White v. Marschalk and Evens, 1819, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(49) The Bank of the State of Mississippi v. Marschalk, 1814, 1820; Allinder v. Marschalk, 1824, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(50) Murray v. Marschalk, 1827, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(51) Davis, A Way Through the Wilderness, pp. 67-68.

(52) Knox and Nixon v. Cook, 1820; Ronalds v. Cook, 1828, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(53) Deed records, Book F, 1809. p. 81, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(54) Deed records, Book F, 1810, p. 321, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(55) Deed records, Book O, 1824, p. 29; Book U, 1833, pp. 243, 247, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(56) Deed records, Book W, 1835, p. 370, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(57) Deed records, Book DD, 1841, p. 1; Book KK, 1854, p. 474, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(58) Deed records, Book HH, 1850, p. 360, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(59) Deed records, Book S, 1830, p. 47, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(60) Cook, for use of Merrick v. Forsyth, 1828, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(61) Langdon, for use of Merrick v. Forsyth, 1828, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(62) Defrance v. Marschalk and Ewing, 1833, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(63) Deed records, Book X, 1837, p. 197, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(64) Stewart was a prosperous cabinet maker. For Robert Stewart, the 1840 census shows a household of 42 people, including 19 slaves. The 1850 census lists the value of Stewarts’s real estate at $4000.

(65) White v. Marschalk and Evens, 1819, Historical Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(66) Ariel, October 31, 1825.

(67) Deed records, Book I, 1817, p. 351, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.

(68) Marschalk v. Champlin, 1818, Historic Natchez Foundation, Natchez, Mississippi.

(69) Deed records, Book U, 1833, p. 147, Hall of Records, Adams County, Natchez, Mississippi.


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