New York Courier and Enquirer
The New York Courier and Enquirer, properly called the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, was a daily broadsheet newspaper published in New York City from June 1829 until June 1861, when it was merged into the New York World. Throughout its life it was edited by newspaper publisher James Watson Webb (1802-1884). It was closely connected with the rise and fall of the Whig Party in the United States during the 1830s-1840s-1850s, and was noted for its careful coverage of New York Harbor shipping news and its close attention to speeches and events in the United States Congress.
|Publisher||James Watson Webb (1802-1884)|
|Political alignment||Whig Party|
|Ceased publication||June 1861|
The Courier and Enquirer was based upon the merger of two pre-existing newspapers, editor Webb's New York Morning Courier (1827) and another paper, Mordecai Noah's New-York Enquirer (1826). After Webb purchased the Enquirer in 1829, he merged the two Manhattan-based news sheets together to form what was initially titled, the Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, usually called simply the Courier and Enquirer. At that time a partisan supporter of newly elected Democratic Party nominee as seventh President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845, served 1829-1837), Webb ran his newspaper in the interest of what was becoming the newly revived and reorganized Democratic Party. He hired the enterprising young journalist (and future longtime newspaper owner/publisher/editor at the New York Herald, he would establish in May 1835), James Gordon Bennett, Sr. (1795-1872), to be his associate editor.
By the 1830s, Bennett's and Webb's Courier and Enquirer had developed a crack reportorial system for gathering news from New York-based ships and from the national capital at Washington, D.C.. The paper was able to compile the resources necessary to set up a pioneering pony express system to carry dispatches from the United States Capitol. In one 1830 coup, the Courier and Enquirer obtained the text of Jackson's annual message to Congress in only 27 and a half hours by utilizing horse express riders and steamboats going north along the East Coast from Washington to New York, but 15 years before the invention of the telegraph by Samuel F.B. Morse.
However, New York's growing business community felt increasing dislike for President Jackson's populism. As a member of this class and social network, Webb was pulled away from his old ties—and attracted towards the political circle around Webb's new friend, then United States Senator Henry Clay (1777-1852), of Kentucky. Clay, although he was from the West, however he was taking the lead in defense of New York's growing banking sector as the financial and business capital of the nation, against attacks from Jacksonians.
Newspaper competition played a role in the accelerating movement of the Courier and Enquirer away from Jacksonianism. One of its chief rival papers, the New York Evening Post (originally founded 1801 by the late Alexander Hamilton (1755/57-1804), first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury), was now being edited three decades later by Webb's rival William Leggett (1801-1839), Leggett, successor to the famous William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), who was allied with Jackson's New York political lieutenant Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), future Secretary of State, Vice President and eighth President, purposely edited his Evening Post to be hostile to banks and the New York financial sector. Webb and the Courier and Enquirer sensed an opportunity to create an anti-Jackson newspaper with a national reach. In a key sign of this split, in 1832, associate editor Bennett left the Courier and Enquirer to make several efforts to start his own Democratic paper, eventually succeeding in May 1835, with the New York Herald.
By 1834, Webb, Clay, and the East Coast financial industry (just beginning to be known and nicknamed "Wall Street") had joined hands to form a new, nationwide political party. While its party machinery was based on Clay's National Republican Party, the new name for the political gathering, the Whig Party, was coined by Webb, who became the young party's chief media proprietor. The Courier and Enquirer thus became a key element in the United States's Second Party System, in which the former Jeffersonian/Madisonian descendants of the antifederalist - "Republicans" of the late 18th and early 19th century had now reorganized and revived into a renamed Democratic Party, under the dominating populist influence of President Andrew Jackson, and now along with the Whigs confronted each other in developing the first of presidential nominating conventions of the political parties along with competing boisterous election campaigns with increased advertising and newspaper influences during the next three decades prior to the American Civil War (1861-1865). A standard history of New York states that during the 1830s, the Courier and Enquirer was "the largest and most powerful paper in the United States."
Democrats considered Webb to be a disloyal traitor to their side, and responded to the Courier and Enquirer's news coverage with great bitterness. In 1837-1838, Democrats in the bitterly divided 25th U.S. Congress made floor speeches that attacked the New York paper Courier and Enquirer with such ferocity that one of Clay's Kentucky allies, U.S. Representative (Congressman) William J. Graves, challenged another Representative critic of the Courier and Enquirer, Maine Democratic lawmaker Jonathan Cilley, to a duel. Their personal combat, which began with editorials in the Courier and Enquirer and speeches on the floor of the old chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at the Capitol ended with Congressman Cilley's death at a dueling ground in a Maryland suburb.
Like other United States newspapers of the era, the Courier and Enquirer was not founded as a provider of up-to-the-minute information. Its pages tended to be filled with the texts of letters written on paper and physically delivered to the editor from distant locations (from where we get our word for a newspaper reporter, "correspondent"), and partisan editorials.
The successful operation of an American electrical telegraph in 1844 created a paradigm shift in American newspapering. Soon the Morse lines reached New York City, and Webb's competitors, headed by rival Whig editor Horace Greeley, proved to be more adept in adapting to the new technology and publishing daily newspapers filled with fresh news. Webb grew increasingly uninterested in his journalistic duties, and began, starting in 1849, to trawl for appointment as a United States ambassador or to some other post that would grant him the social status he wanted.
As the Courier and Enquirer ceased to be a cutting-edge newspaper, the Whig Party also declined. In line with the ties of many New York merchants to the U.S. South and its slaveholding community, the Courier and Enquirer had always supported American slavery. The paper's coverage of African-Americans was extremely hostile, marked by prejudice and bigotry. While this kind of coverage was little problem for the newspaper in the 1830s and 1840s, the growth of free soil and even abolitionist sentiment throughout the Northern states in the 1850s made the Courier and Enquirer look archaic. Meanwhile, the Whigs, torn apart by the growing slavery crisis, could not field a candidate for the U.S. presidency in 1856. Many New York Whigs joined the new Republican Party.
In 1861, Webb's fellow former Whig, Abraham Lincoln, became U.S. President; but the new chief executive had little use for the aging newspaper. Lincoln appointed Webb first to be U.S. minister to Turkey, which he declined, and then minister to Brazil, an appointment that he accepted. Both countries were far away from New York City. The newly named diplomat consolidated the Courier and Enquirer into the new, rival newspaper, the New York World, which carried on the Courier and Enquirer's racist coverage. As the World was a Democratic paper, the partisan history of the Courier and Enquirer had revolved through a full circle. As former editor Webb sailed southward in 1861 to take on his new job, the Courier and Enquirer ceased publication forever.
The Courier and Enquirer's close coverage of three U.S. Senate opponents of Andrew Jackson, namely Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, is credited with enlarging the reputation of these three men into key figures of the Second Party System or antebellum period of U.S. history, and eventually to their reputation as members of the Great Triumvirate.
A microfilm file of the New York Courier and Enquirer from its June 16, 1829 startup until its June 29, 1861 dissolution can be found on the shelves of the New York State Library under the title Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer.
- Burrows, Edwin G., and Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (The History of New York City, vol. 1). New York City: Oxford University Press USA. 440–441, 556. ISBN 978-0-19-514049-1.
- "James Watson Webb (1802-1884)". Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
- "New York County (NY) newspapers on microfilm at NYSL". New York State Library. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
- "New York Newspapers" (PDF). New York Public Library. Retrieved 2011-02-10.
- Morning Courier archives at fultonhistory.com