Richmond 13: The Enquirer

Narrative History of this Lineage

The journal with the largest circulation and widest effect to be issued in early-Republic Virginia was the thirteenth paper published in Richmond before 1820. With an editor who was also part of the Commonwealth's Democratic Party leadership, this sheet successfully straddled the gap between states' rights and national union until the secession crisis of the 1850s. Then, as the voice of an independent South, it expired when the Confederacy did. The Richmond Enquirer is perhaps the most recognizable newspaper title in Virginia history, outside of the many early Virginia Gazettes. Its six-decade-long run was the result of a close association with the state's political leaders who championed the "principles of '98 & '99" as had been expressed by Jefferson and Madison in the Federalist era. Those principles proved malleable, slowly evolving from the Jeffersonian Republicanism of the paper's early days to the Jacksonian Democracy of its middle-age to the Southern Nationalism of its final years. In that evolution, the life of the Enquirer reflected the rise and fall of Virginia's supremacy in the republic established by the Federal Constitution of 1787. Beginnings For two-thirds of its existence, the name of the Richmond Enquirer was synonymous with that of its founder, Thomas Ritchie (360). He was a son of a colonial-era Scottish merchant who married into one of the Old Dominion's foremost families – the Roanes. As a result, Ritchie was a kinsman to Spencer Roane (1762-1822), the eminent Virginia justice, and John Brockenbrough, Jr. (1773-1852), long the president of the Bank of Virginia; both of those men were part of the ad hoc Virginia committee that managed Jefferson's 1800 presidential campaign, one that relied on publishing new papers to counter the dominance of Federalist journals in the country. In this environment, Ritchie gained an education that was heavy on Scottish Enlightenment classics and so the "republican" ideology that had helped to shape the Revolution. By 1799, he was an instructor in private schools in the lower Rappahannock River valley, a trade which brought him to Richmond in 1803 to conduct a school there. But once in the state capital, Ritchie was drawn to journalism instead. At that time, Richmond supported two major newspapers: The Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser of Federalist Augustine Davis (119), and the Virginia Argus of Jeffersonian Samuel Pleasants (331). There were also two lesser journals in town: The Examiner of Meriwether Jones (242) and The Recorder of Henry Pace (319); however, both of those sheets would soon to disappear. Pace's journal had been devastated legally by his choice to employ the disgraced polemicist James Thomson Callender (075) as his editorial partner; it would close in August 1803. Meanwhile, Jones was planning a change of his employment; he had served as the public printer since 1798, with his paper acting as the state's journal of record; Jones was now seeking a federal appointment that would allow him to withdraw from both his state post and his paper, meaning that the Examiner's office and subscriber list would soon be up for sale. Being then a schoolmaster who sold books on the side, Ritchie travelled to Baltimore that summer to build up his book-trade ties; there he met Thomas Burling (066), a New-York-trained printer then managing the press office of the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser, a Republican journal owned by William Pechin. Finding they were kindred spirits politically, as well as being of a similar age, Ritchie broached a plan to Burling for starting a new Jeffersonian paper in Richmond. Encouraged by the printer's response, he returned to Richmond and set about to acquire the assets of the Examiner. Jones retired from his Examiner in August 1803 – about the same time that Ritchie travelled to Baltimore – and divided his interest between his brother and editor, Skelton (243), and his shop foreman, William W. Worsley (462). Early in January 1804, Ritchie bought Skelton Jones's share in the venture; now partnered with Worsley, the two immediately closed the Examiner and planned for a successor once the press itself became available. Ten days later, Ritchie began circulating a prospectus for a new journal called The Enquirer. Describing the proposed paper as being a replacement for the Examiner, Ritchie made it clear that his new broadsheet would be a Republican one as well, though perhaps not as virulent as had been its predecessor. "The Editor who gives a currency to incidents and to reasonings, which please his own party only, or which advance his own system of opinions, widely mistakes the nature of his functions. What is it, but to assume to himself the conclusive powers of the Judge, when he ought to be contributing only the auxiliary experience of a Witness? What is it, but to assume to himself the privilege of deciding for others, when he ought only to be furnishing them the materials by which they may decide for themselves? Such is the duty which he owes to the public." Still, Ritchie argued for his point of view, asserting that the country's future depended on a balance between the rights of the individual states and those of the union itself. And to achieve that survival, political leaders and parties needed to forge compromises with their opponents. Making an implicit reference to Jefferson's avowal that "We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists," Ritchie went on to say that he had: "…devoted too little leisure to political researches; but as far as his reflections have extended, his political creed is congenial to the Constitution of his country and its present administration. He rejoices that his country is independent of foreign powers, and free from despotic institutions. He believes that those illustrious benefits would soon expire without the salutary operation of the representative and federal principles. He admires the character and conduct of Mr. Jefferson. He thinks that his Inauguration Speech is not unworthy of the author of the Declaration of Independence. He thinks that his official conduct has not disgraced the maxims of his inaugural speech." The pair expected that they would be able to beginning publishing their Enquirer "about the 1st or 15th of March." However, Meriwether Jones still served as the state's public printer and so retained ownership of the Examiner press, employing Worsley to produce the public work with his tools. It was not until March 31st that Jones resigned his public post to take up management of Virginia's federal Land Office, so making his press available for sale to the new firm of Ritchie & Worsley. Yet even before they were in possession of the press, it was clear that the type being used on it was not suitable for publishing the Enquirer; thus in mid-March, Worsley "proceeded to Philadelphia and New York, for the purpose of collecting a complete office" to accomplish the task before them. The partners thought that he would return to Richmond in time for the new paper "to appear, perhaps on the first, and certainly about the middle, of April." But that date slid further, as the refit took longer to effect than either partner ever anticipated. Yet when their office was finally ready, it was well supplied and manned, unlike many contemporaries at their starts; Worsley had retained the services of John L. Cook (105) and Seaton Grantland (186) from the old Examiner office, while Ritchie brought Burling from Baltimore to manage the new concern for them, as he had for Pechin. The first number of the Enquirer ultimately appeared on Wednesday, May 9, 1804. Ritchie used that occasion to apologize for the delays, promising to devote all of his energies to the success of his journal: "On the extent of his own resources, the Editor is not prepared to advance any pretensions, however small, or to disclaim any however exorbitant. His inattention to those practical subjects, which interest the feelings of others, & his ignorance, even in the ways of the world, may perhaps be compensated by some little profici-ency in theoretical researches. But on the strength of his zeal, he is willing to indulge the most encouraging hopes. Should his constitution experience no material change from the sedentary life which is too long past, and which his present pursuits will force them to continue, he thinks he has little reason to dread many deviations from the plan or much diminution in the zeal with which he commences his editorial labours." Still, the survival of the Enquirer was anything but certain. The proven Republican journal of Samuel Pleasants, the Virginia Argus, was now the state's journal-of-record, in consequence of its proprietor being named to succeed Jones as public printer; while that situation helped enlarge patronage for the Argus, it could also have easily drawn Republican patrons away from the Enquirer. Such uncertainty seems a decisive factor in Worsley's commitment to the project. In the fall of 1802, he had joined with Jones to publish a new Republican newspaper in Norfolk – The Commercial Register – only to find that he was the only contributor to that project; consequently, he quit the less-than-profitable project after less than six months. To prevent a recurrence of that unhappy experience, Worsley evidently committed to Ritchie and his Enquirer for just a year. When that arrangement expired in 1805, Worsley removed to Lexington, Kentucky, where he set up a new job-printing shop and bookstore adjacent to the law office of Henry Clay (1777-1852), apparently at Clay's invitation; two years later, he began publishing the Kentucky Reporter, a paper that served as Clay's chief political outlet for the next decade. Ritchie reported the dissolution of the firm of Ritchie & Worsley in the Enquirer issue of July 30, 1805; this was an unusual announcement in that he not only restated his partisan views, but provided a remarkable account of the journal's immediate success: "When I first came forth in the character of an Editor, I was unknown and almost unsupported. I assumed my functions with every doubt and apprehension, which a scene of so much novelty and so much importance was calculated to inspire. … The patronage of your purse has allayed those anxious apprehensions, which are incident to almost every man who does not feel himself independent of the world. Instead of a few more than 500 subscribers, who first volunteered their names for our encouragement, I can now say with a modest exultation that there are not less than 1150 names on the subscription book of the Enquirer, and among them are the names of the most respectable and meritorious men in the state." Ritchie went on to report that only about 10% of those subscriptions were then in arrears, and that he expected two-thirds of those to be redeemed. That state of affairs induced him to make a promise to his readers: "It has been a subject of considerable regret to thinking men and a frequent com-plaint among subscribers, that every paper, however valuable it may be at first from its extent of useful information, is gradually injured by the increasing encroach-ments of its advertising custom. I am now convinced, if the friends of this paper will as punctually discharge their subscription dues as they have hitherto done, that I can afford to limit the extent of the advertisements. I have determined to limit them to five columns more or less … there will always be 15 columns for the amusement or information of its patrons." Yet, Ritchie also offered a more uncompromising tone regarding his newspaper's political perspective than he had previously, apparently evincing a new self-confidence attained by his contact with those well-regarded supporters: "So long as I continue the firm friend of American Independence so long shall I think myself bound to oppose Tory men and Tory measures. So long as I contemplate with discussed and indignation the privileged governments of Europe, so long must I hold the same sentiments toward those Apostates and imposters among ourselves who attack with parricidal hands the Republican institutions of our country. So long as Mr. Jefferson shall continue to shape the measures of his administration by the maxims of his inaugural speech so long must I continue to be the enemy of his enemies. These opinions it would be the pride and pleasure of my life to propagate throughout the world: how then is it to be expected that any transitory considera-tion of interest, that either threats, suspicions, or reward can induce me to abandon them for a moment?" This address indicates that the dissolution of the original firm of Ritchie & Worsley marked a realization of Ritchie's hopes for public prominence for himself and his paper alike. But the years immediately following the first were the ones that brought the Enquirer to maturity. Contested Transitions During its first decade, the Enquirer gradually developed into a vehicle promoting Virginia's commerce as the means for maintaining the state's economic independence. This emphasis was consistent with the views of the leadership of the Republican Party in the state, which gave Ritchie entrée into that circle. Known later as the Richmond Junto, he became part of a group that included lawyers Spencer Roane, Wilson Cary Nicholas, Alexander McRae (299), and William Wirt; publisher Samuel Pleasants; and physicians John Brockenbrough Jr. and William Foushee (later his father-in-law), among others. Yet that association came at the price of being linked to one side of an emerging rift among state's Republicans that came to the fore with the question of who should succeed Jefferson as president – James Madison or James Monroe, both former Virginia governors. Initially, Ritchie backed several efforts to heal the rift; as a result, Ritchie's journalistic adversaries saw inconsistencies and hypocrisy in his essays whenever he tried to advance compromise solutions in his Enquirer. However, the events of 1807 – the trial of Aaron Burr and the Chesapeake-Leopard affair – brought an end to his efforts; thereafter Ritchie saw the Monroe faction as being self-interested rather than Virginia-interested. As a result, he and the other members of the Richmond Junto vigorously backed Madison's candidacy. In braving the party's dissidents, Ritchie was eventually faced by a competing Republican paper in the city: The Spirt of Seventy-Six, published by editor Edward Carter Stanard (399) and printer John M. Carter (084), with the aid of John Randolph of Roanoke, among others. As with most of the published assaults launched against Ritchie, Stanard's critiques focused on perceived "inconsistencies" in his positions, ones generally resulting from his attempts at compromise. In October 1808, when Madison's victory seemed assured, Stanard offered an analysis of a "tedious and fulsome commentary on the inconsistency of others" that Ritchie had recently published. "It is worthy of remark … that the Editor of the Enquirer not long previous to the Caucus being held at Washington last winter [which had nominated Madison], was a warm advocate of Col. Monroe's. Whose advocate he is now, is well known. But whose he may be some months hence, is very doubtful. We can exclaim with him, how changed are the times!!!" But Ritchie was not shaken by such criticism; indeed, the recurring focus on the editor gave his Enquirer credibility as the voice of the succession of Virginians who held the presidency for the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Consequently, those papers that challenged Ritchie and the Junto soon found their viability in Virginia compromised; in the case of The Spirt of Seventy-Six, Stanard and Carter decided that their interests were better served by relocating their journal to Washington in late 1809, in order to find a national audience for their anti-Madisonian perspective. Such credibility made the Enquirer a paper that was frequently quoted beyond Virginia; but it was not supported financially at such distances. So for much of its life, the sheet required subsidies from Republican coffers within the state, whether as patronage, as subscriptions, or as advertisements. At least twice in the 1810s, Ritchie made extraordinary attempts to control expenses by determining where and why the Enquirer went undelivered at post offices distant from Richmond. In a circular asking postmasters to report any copies "lying dead" in their offices, he appealed to their sense of fairness for services rendered: "I have nothing else to offer you, sir, for any attention you may pay me in this way, than a sincere thanks of one who works hard for the bread which he eats, and who is therefore unwilling to throw away any of his work! I am encouraged to hope for success in this application, by the recollection that three years ago I made a similar experiment, whose results were as pleasing to me at the time as they have since been profitable. I have now on file more than 100 very obliging letters, in reply to mine; and the information thus kindly communicated saved me from 50 to 100 papers annually, which had otherwise been wasted 'upon the desert air.'" The widespread reprinting of this appeal, with like requests from those editors appended to the piece, confirms that the "dead letter" issue was a significant problem for all newspaper publishers in the early-Republic era. Yet Ritchie's approach to the issue was only partially successful in curing his financial ills. Shortfalls in such revenues made Ritchie dependent on loans – from both banks and individuals – for nearly all of his career. While such loans came from friendly sources, they required regular repayment from his irregular revenues. Nor did it help that he was "ignorant in matters of domestic and business economy," which left many of those accounts uncollected for years. Thus, the Enquirer was always on the edge of financial disaster despite its notoriety and influence. Even with such adversity lurking in the background, the Enquirer attained both maturity and stability with the War of 1812. After Madison's inauguration, Ritchie became an ever-more strident voice for war with Britain in the face of their multiplying affronts to both the state and the union. Once war was declared, his Enquirer championed the military and diplomatic initiatives advanced in both Washington and Richmond, while Ritchie acted as a role model by serving briefly in a Richmond militia unit. By war's end, he had become a vocal advocate for western expansion, though still in a context of preserving Virginia's authority in national political and economic affairs. This approach made Ritchie a supporter of state banks over national ones, of state incentives for improving transportation and industry over national programs, and of expanding the domestic slave trade as a way to utilize the state's growing number of enslaved laborers for the greater national good. Yet the most significant long-term event the effected Ritchie and his journal during the war years had nothing to do with that conflict. In October 1814, public printer Samuel Pleasants died; as printer to the Virginia Senate, Ritchie was the logical choice to succeed his friend, particularly given his connection to the state's Republican leadership; so at the end of the 1814-15 Assembly, Ritchie took on the post of printer to the Commonwealth with Burling replacing him as printer to the Senate. It was this public office that drew Ritchie the most criticism over the ensuing years: many thought that he could not serve two masters – the state and the party – at the same time without injuring one or the other. So for the next thirty years, he had to fend off annual attempts in the Assembly to replace him with one of his competitors in the capital. Ritchie's election meant that his Enquirer now became the state's journal-of-record, just as Pleasants's Virginia Argus had been. In that new role, the Enquirer's self-limited advertising space was now at the government's beck and call. While this obligation guaranteed funding for Ritchie's newspaper, it potentially shunted his existing advertisers to his competitors. So Ritchie moved to satisfy those patrons' needs by adding an adjunct to the Enquirer; in May 1816, he acquired editorial control of Richmond's first successful daily, The Compiler; over the next seventeen years, he was the unnamed "& Company" in a series of partnerships with trained printers who produced the daily. Throughout this period, The Compiler focused on developing consensus among Virginians on the state's economic development, while The Enquirer addressed more openly political themes. Remarkably, by so dividing the functions of his papers, Ritchie achieved a more active role in the national political arena, particularly from 1824 onward. In the shorter term, however, Ritchie needed to mend fences within the state after the war ended. As an energetic advocate of democratic principles, he had supported the call issuing from the state's western counties in 1816 (via the Staunton Convention) to expand suffrage and reapportion representation in the legislature by amending Virginia's 1776 constitution; in doing so, he had angered conservatives in eastern Virginia, who then began searching for journalists willing to challenge Ritchie's Enquirer. So in March 1820, he took on a partner for the first time since Worsley left in 1805, someone who was a favorite of those conservative Republicans. His choice was Claiborne W. Gooch (182), then the state's adjutant general and a hero of the War of 1812; it did not hurt that he was married to Ritchie's aunt, Lucy Roane, as well. Still, the new partnership startled some observers. Anne Royall, the notorious travel writer and social critic, reported that Ritchie's addition of Gooch had subverted the free-thinking, democratic quality of his Enquirer to the service of her reviled "blue-backs," men who would force open public discourse into a set of prescribed religious restraints. Together, Ritchie & Gooch employed the Enquirer to lead a national campaign to place yet another native Virginian, William Harris Crawford of Georgia, in the presidency as Monroe's successor in 1824. However, their efforts came to naught as that divisive election split the state as much as it did the country at large; Ritchie supported Crawford to the bitter end in the House of Representatives in early 1825, arguing that Andrew Jackson, the leading vote-getter, would be a disastrous choice for the country; he was willing to accept Henry Clay, another transplanted Virginian, as an alternative, but was angered by the horse-trading Clay orchestrated that brought John Quincy Adams into the White House that March; as a result, Ritchie broke off relations with Clay, a friend of two decades by then, for nearly thirty years. More importantly though, the editor was now clearly out of step with the vast majority of Virginians who had voted for either Adams or Jackson. It was a turn that opened the door for a determined foe who would dog his heals for the ensuing twenty years: John Hampden Pleasants (330), editor of the Lynchburg Virginian and then of the Constitutional Whig in Richmond, and a leader in the Adams faction that became the Whig party in Virginia. Despite Ritchie's antipathy for Jackson, the Enquirer became ever more supportive of the Tennessean over the following four years, largely from his friendship with Martin Van Buren and the New Yorker's editorial alter ego, Edwin Croswell of the Albany Argus. It was a shift that brought recurring critiques from Pleasants and the Whigs. In 1826, they attempted to remove Ritchie from his public-printing post, once again, noting that he had to hire printers to complete the work and so exploited them. "They say that I employ a printer to do the work at most inadequate wages, and skim the cream myself; when it is a fact that [Samuel] Shepherd, the best printer in the Commonwealth, and equal to any in the Union, receives a salary of $850, besides being as much interested in the profits as I am, that is just one third. When I proposed three years ago to resign, Shepherd would not let me. He was pleased to say such had been my liberality he could not consent to lose me." While unsuccessful then, the ploy was repeated by the Whigs over the ensuing decade, before finally succeeding briefly for the 1834-35 Assembly session. Yet for all the bluster, Pleasants and his friends could not prove what they so frequently charged. Partisan Adjustments With the introduction of the rival Constitutional Whig, Ritchie was compelled to refortify his office. In the midst of the 1824 campaign, he called John L. Cook, one of his first craftsmen, back to Richmond from Washington to take charge of the Enquirer office. Ritchie had been hard pressed to find a reliable foreman since the departure (and death) of Thomas Burling in 1817; Cook was a part of the Examiner office he bought it in 1804, and so had been a part of the Enquirer's initial operation. Cook came willingly to Richmond, having to support, as Ritchie reported, "a numerous family dependent upon his efforts." His new situation was a relief for editor and printer alike. Ritchie's opposition to Clay's American System and Adams's tariff policy pushed him into the Jackson camp in 1828, despite Van Buren's displacement from the ticket by John C. Calhoun. Calhoun's presence evidently convinced Gooch to allow Ritchie to promote Jackson in their Enquirer that election year, as the South Carolinian was a favorite of Virginia's eastern elite. But with the presidency won for the peoples' champion, the partners saw problems on the horizon. The two disagreed about the need for a state constitutional convention to consider changes in the suffrage and representation clauses, as had been debated since 1816; Gooch opposed such changes, while Ritchie advocated liberalizing both of them. So Gooch retired from the business, with Ritchie signing promissory notes in excess of $10,000 to buy him out, encumbering the business as it never had been before. This was perhaps the greatest crisis Ritchie faced with his Enquirer, with Gooch then being approached by some of Ritchie's oldest supporters to conduct a new journal to oppose both the Enquirer and the convention. Ritchie now turned to Cook for help again; the week after Gooch departed, Cook became Ritchie's partner, reinforcing his role as the production side of the business, while allowing Ritchie free rein to editorialize in favor of the convention. The plan succeeded, at least in part, as a convention was called for the winter of 1829-30, one which did liberalize suffrage but did not alter elected representation in Virginia, thus leaving the perpetual tension between the stagnating eastern and the expanding western sections of the state unresolved for another twenty years. Cook's loyal and steady hand on the Enquirer's press during this critical period was something that the editor never forgot. So when Cook died in 1836, Ritchie he was among the most bereft. Ritchie and his Enquirer would support Jackson for the duration of his presidency, drawing enmity from conservatives supporting Calhoun and his nullification views and from Whigs advocating the designs of Henry Clay. Both sides termed Ritchie a spoils-man, even as he was never named to a federal post, forcing him to refute the accusations repeatedly: "How frequently have we said and repeated in this paper, that we had no favors to ask of Andrew Jackson – that we would accept none – not a pin's fee for our family, or friends? – That we refused even to recommend the dearest friend we had for the slightest preferment? We have said this so often, that it is irksome for us to repeat it, or for others to read it." Rather, Ritchie was more interested in boosting Virginia's fortunes than his own, though few beyond his circle of friends and allies understood his devotion to the Old Dominion. As a result, the regular rumors that Ritchie was about to start a new pro-administration paper in Washington after the Democratic victories in the 1828, 1832, and 1836 elections proved to all be unfounded. The rise and fall of the Van Buren administration marked the apex of Ritchie's influence. When his old friend was denied a second term in 1840 – the result of a determined Whig newspaper campaign – the editor blamed the defeat on public ignorance, particularly in western Virginia. But his commentaries induced opposition editors to suggest Ritchie was out of step with current realities, and began using age-demeaning terms, such as "dotage," to describe "Father Ritchie." Ritchie responded by bringing in two of his five sons – William Foushee and Thomas Jr. – as his partners in March 1843 to introduce a younger face to the venerable Enquirer. It proved a fateful decision, as the editorial war between the Enquirer and John Hampden Pleasants escalated thereafter, with the Ritchie brothers applying the same age-demeaning terms formerly aimed at their father to the Whig editor. The ongoing conflict ended in the notorious duel between Thomas Jr. and Pleasants in February 1846 that left Pleasants mortally wounded. That duel marks a generational change in the partisan outlook of the Richmond Enquirer, as well as a retreat from the conciliatory approach of the founding father. In bringing his sons in as partners, Ritchie was planning an expansion in the reach of his Enquirer, as much as he was altering its aging face. In September 1844, the Ritchies made their long-standing twice-weekly paper over into a daily, matching the frequency that the Whig had maintained since 1828; they also began publishing a twice-weekly country edition. Such increased production required more editorial hands and his thirty-something sons were clearly suited to the task, having essentially been brought up in the Enquirer office. Their presence allowed the father to retire from the Enquirer in May 1845 to take up a new national paper in Washington. The senior Ritchie had been a key figure in the 1844 presidential election; the sudden death of President William Henry Harrison made Virginian John Tyler an "accidental president" in April 1841; Tyler's administration was one where Whigs stymied his "Democratic" policies in anticipation of a subsequent Henry Clay administration. But when Texas sought annexation in 1844, and Whigs opposed the proposal, they handed the presidency to the Democrats in the person of an expansionist from Tennessee, James Knox Polk. Despite having supported Lewis Cass, "a northern man with southern principles," Ritchie and his Enquirer were among Polk's earliest supporters once he became the compromise candidate of party loyalists; the turn propelled the Enquirer into advocating for the expansion of slavery into the American west. But even as Ritchie took that course, he remained loyal to his ideal of forging and effecting compromise between competing state concerns in the interest of preserving the union; thus he became Polk's choice for editor of a new pro-administration journal that would promote such compromises. In May 1845, after refusing three offers in as many months, Ritchie removed to Washington to take up Polk's mandate. He severed his ties to the Enquirer on the forty-first anniversary of its founding, doing so "…with feelings similar to those with which the veteran soldier surrenders his arms, but I have the consolation of reflecting, that I not only leave my political associates in the proud possession of the field of battle, but that I transfer my sword to my own sons. I give to them in charge, to defend the post which their father has attempted to guard for forty-one years—to maintain your principles, and to uphold the chara-cter of Virginia." With the sons now in control of the Enquirer, the paper took on less compromising tone in the state capital, even as the father pursued compromise in the national capital. Once Texas was admitted to the Union, and war broke out with Mexico over that admission, the Ritchie brothers took special exception to any journalist opposing either the war or the territorial expansion of slavery; Pleasants became a particular target for his alleged, though unproved, antislavery sentiments; their persistent vitriol meant that over the course of just five weeks in early 1846, the dispute went from sarcastic jibes to a deadly duel. After he was acquitted of murder in the death of Pleasants, Thomas Ritchie Jr. became ever less an active contributor to the Enquirer, a withdrawal that was hastened by his declining health. So over the next fifteen years, the name of William F. Ritchie became that regularly associated with his father's venerable paper, even as he included new, non-family editorial voices after Ritchie Sr.'s death in 1854. In the 1848 election cycle, the brothers offered a short-lived weekly variant of their paper – The Campaign Enquirer – in support of candidacy of Democrat Lewis Cass, who their father had favored four years earlier and who was now supported by his Washington Union. This election split the Democratic Party along sectional lines, foreshadowing the future, with the Enquirer both leading and following Southern interests. Cass advocated a "local option" approach to the expansion of slavery into the new western territories gained in the Mexican War, an approach that later became the "popular sovereignty" idea of Stephen A. Douglas; this angered anti-slavery Northern Democrats, who defected to a new Free Soil Party represented by former president Martin Van Buren; this split effectively denied Cass the presidency when Zachary Taylor, the Whig candidate, refused to take a stand on the slavery issue and benefitted by public confusion over his opinions on the subject. In the wake of this election, William F. Ritchie assumed the public role held for many years by his father. The new Democratic-controlled Assembly of 1848-49 set out to remove the Whig-backed public printer, Samuel Shepherd (379), from the office that he had held since those same Whigs discharged Thomas Ritchie Sr. from that office in the 1839-40 Assembly. A despondent Shepherd committed suicide over the insults he experienced in this debate, leaving the office vacant before an election could take place. In this vacuum, the Assembly turned to Enquirer office once again, making William F. Ritchie the new public printer and his newspaper the state's journal-of-record for a second time. The younger Ritchie held this public office until 1864, when he finally retired from the print-trade entirely. Still, the return to an earlier mode of operation reintroduced the tension over the paper and its proprietor serving two masters – the public and the party – with the potential conflict of interest it posed. And this came just at the moment that the national party found itself divided along sectional lines. Zachary Taylor's sudden death in July 1850 brought Millard Fillmore into the presidency, where he sanctioned the so-called "Compromise of 1850" that seemed to calm the sectional tensions that had shaped the 1848 election. The Enquirer approved of the legislation, particularly the Fugitive Slave Act, which gave precedence to courts in Southern states, like Virginia, in any legal proceedings concerning runaway slaves, so short-circuiting attempts to use Northern courts to emancipate those fugitives. But as abolitionist sentiment grew in the North, the Ritchie brothers editorialized against attempts to circumvent the law, such as the Underground Railroad. Still, those regenerated tensions had not yet appeared by 1852, so allowing a relatively unknown Northern Democrat, Franklin Pierce, to reunite the sectional wings of the national party – with the vital help of the Enquirer in the South – and so defeat Winfield Scott in a contest that proved the undoing of the doggedly non-committal Whigs as a national party. Intraparty Conflicts Growing divisions within the state party became the primary influence on the course and content of the Richmond Enquirer in the 1850s, even as the daily remained a leading voice in national politics. The so-called "Reform Convention" of 1850-51 helped set that course by hardening differences in the state between conservative and radical Democrats, with each vying for control of the party apparatus in Richmond, especially after the death of Thomas Ritchie Sr. in 1854, which ended the sway of the Richmond Junto. In 1851, the new constitution came into effect in an election where Virginia's governor was chosen for the first time by popular vote for a single four-year term, as opposed to the old practice of election by an annual Assembly vote, with a limit of three consecutive one-year terms. The alteration was part of the democratization of the state's electoral processes initiated by that contentious convention, so making Virginia's newspapers an even greater factor in driving political discourse thereafter. As a result, new Democratic papers with a decidedly populist perspective were founded all across the state. As regards the Enquirer, the most significant intraparty challenge came from the Richmond Examiner, begun in November 1847 by Bennett M. DeWitt (1815-63), founding editor of the Lynchburg Republican, and J. W. Wright; in choosing the same title as Meriwether Jones's long-dead journal, the partners implied that the state's established Democratic sheets, like the Enquirer, had lost the ability to counter Northern efforts to suppress Southern rights, just as the Federalists had attempted once before. From the start, the Examiner employed the talents of John M. Daniel (1825-65), who supplanted Wright as DeWitt's partner in 1848. Consequently, these two Democratic newspapers found themselves on opposing sides of the "basis question" at the center of the 1850-51 Convention; the Enquirer favored a "white-basis" for allotting representation in the Assembly – i.e. counting the white population only – in keeping with Ritchie Sr.'s long-standing "democratic" beliefs on that subject; conversely, the Examiner favored a "mixed-basis" for apportionment, a plan which would preserve the power of eastern slaveholders in the reformed Assembly by counting slaves. These conservatives were led by Robert M. T. Hunter (1809-87) of Fredericksburg, a former States-Rights Whig who now represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate as a Democrat; the opposition "radicals" were led by Henry Alexander Wise (1806-76) of Accomack County, another former Whig who had emerged as an insistent voice for democratization as a way to build pro-Southern unity within the state; each of these men found a defender in one of Richmond's two Democratic papers, with the Enquirer supporting Wise and the Examiner backing Hunter; this alignment created a contest between the papers for the primacy of the pro-Southern or pro-slavery perspectives that each championed. Still, the 1851 gubernatorial election did not pose a problem for either journal in the choice of a Democratic candidate; they agreed on Joseph Johnson (1785-1877) of Harrison County, who chaired the Committee on Suffrage that forged the compromise on the basis question now a part of the new state constitution during the late convention; he then easily defeated the Whig candidate, George W. Summers (1804-68) of Alexandria, in that fall's election. Rather, the debate that consumed the Enquirer and the Examiner was one over which Virginia Democrat should be the state's candidate for the presidential nomination at the Baltimore Convention of June 1852 – Wise or Hunter. Neither prevailed, with a deeply-divided party finally nominating Franklin Pierce on its 49th ballot, from among fourteen other candidates. After the 1852 election, the decline in Ritchie Jr.'s health accelerated. By September 1853, William F. Ritchie needed help in editing the Enquirer, and so brought in a young lawyer from Petersburg as the brothers' new editorial partner. Roger Atkinson Pryor (1828-1919) began publishing the Southside Democrat there in 1849, as a counter to the Whig paper of John W. Syme – the Petersburg Intelligencer; that service brought him an invitation to succeeded Ritchie Sr. as the editor of the Washington Union when "Father Ritchie" finally retired from journalism in April 1851. Still, adding Pryor was a diplomatic choice as well; his father was a life-long friend of R.M.T Hunter, and Pryor shared many of Hunter's views; thus, by adding Pryor to the journal, the Ritchies were making an overt attempt to close the divide between the two factions of the state party; it likely did not hurt that the move also posed a challenge to the authority of the Examiner among Democratic conservatives (as had the father's 1820 addition of Gooch) with that paper now more profitable than the Enquirer. Adding Pryor to the Enquirer proved to be a prudent move as Thomas Ritchie Jr. died in May 1854. That October, his interest in the paper was sold to printer William W. Dunnavant (d. 1865), younger brother of the one-time Petersburg publisher Marvel W. Dunnavant (154). Under this new regime, the Enquirer was continued in its daily and twice-weekly editions, with a new weekly edition designed for national circulation added to their production mix in March 1855. But more importantly, the partners offered a new version of The Campaign Enquirer in 1856 in support of the presidential candidacy of yet another relatively unknown Democrat, James Buchanan – a vehicle that helped the Pennsylvanian carry the South. Remarkably, the 1856 election did not see the active service of either R. A. Pryor or J. M. Daniel, both of whom were then in Europe, meaning that there was little dispute between the Enquirer and Examiner during the campaign. This situation apparently resulted from the machinations of Henry A. Wise, who was campaigning for governor all through 1855. In July 1855, President Pierce named Pryor as his special envoy to Greece in order to negotiate a settlement of an American commercial claim; he did not return to Virginia until late 1856. Pierce had already dispatched Daniel to Europe in the summer of 1853 by making him the "minister resident at the court of Victor Emanuel, King of Sardinia," later the first king of a unified Italy; this was an assignment that was intended to run for the duration of Pierce's presidency; so Daniel sold his interest in the Examiner to his new partner, Robert W. Hughes (d. 1901) – DeWitt had sold out in August 1853 – with a proviso that he could buy it back at any time during the next five years. Reportedly, both appointments were induced by Wise's friends in Pierce's administration, and subsequent events support such a suggestion. In early 1857, Daniel was informed that Hughes was negotiating the merger of the Examiner with the Enquirer, with Hughes then editing the combined journal and W.F. Ritchie being sent to Turin in Daniel's stead. It turned out that after becoming governor in January 1856, Wise had decided to construct a single Democratic paper in Richmond that would support both his administration and his "radical" faction of the state party, and the absence of the two most ardent editorial supporters of R.M.T Hunter, his long-time foe, emboldened him to effect that end starting in September 1856. Once merged, the reconstructed paper would support Wise's subsequent attempt to take Hunter's Senate seat, as well as the election of John B. Floyd, Hughes's maternal uncle, as Wise's successor as the governor. Infuriated, Daniel made it known that he would not relinquish his rights to the Examiner and intended to return to Richmond to exercise them when the term of his appointment ended with Pierce's retirement. In the meantime, Daniel employed the services of William Lloyd and Bennett DeWitt to rescue the Examiner from Hughes's grasp; thus Hughes was forced out in November 1857, with Lloyd and DeWitt then surrendering control to Daniel on his return to Virginia in late 1858. While this drama played out, Pryor returned to Richmond to resume his chair as editor of the Enquirer. But faced with Wise's determination that this Democratic journal validate his views and policies, Pryor was hurriedly forced out of the Enquirer, just as Hughes had been pushed out of the Examiner. He parted company with Ritchie and Dunnavant with the issue of February 17, 1857 and five weeks later began publishing another daily in the capital – The South – a paper reflecting the increasingly secessionist views of Virginia's most conservative Democrats. Pryor conducted the paper until November 1858 when he was asked to join The States in Washington, the successor to Thomas Ritchie Sr.'s Washington Union. Needless to say, Wise's merger plan died an ignominious, although not widely known death. Rather the firm of Ritchie & Dunnavant continued the Enquirer without any openly-credited editorial help until April 1858. Their unnamed editors continued to pay their respects to the Constitution, but suggested that it was the only thing that bound the country together, rather than the "mystic chords of memory" of which Lincoln would later speak: "Neither the slave States, nor the free States, are connected together by any other bond than that of sympathy in a cause altogether irrelevant to the legitimate duties, powers, and workings of the federal government, in obedience to the rightful man-agement of which they all profess to act. There is no strictly political connection between the States of the North or of the South, except that which binds them both and all together in a common confederacy." But eventually the fiction that the Enquirer was an independent actor was revealed when the partners added two new editorial voices who were clearly associated with Wise and his pro-Southern ideology; the first was an experienced journalist named Nathaniel Tyler (1828-1917), who had conducted the Warrenton Flag of '98 with Richard M. Smith (1819-72), the soon-to-be the publisher of the Alexandria Sentinel; the second was Wise's oldest surviving son, Obadiah Jennings Wise (1831-62), an rabble-rousing orator and inveterate duelist. With this change, the Enquirer quickly earned the reputation of being a "fire-eater" journal, rather than being the moderating influence it had been in finding compromise among the sectional factions of the national Democratic Party. That repute was no doubt reinforced by the proclivity for dueling evinced by "Obie" Wise. In 1858 alone, Wise was involved in at least five "affairs of honor," all stemming from articles published in Richmond newspapers, two with editors who differed with the Enquirer. The first was with Robert Ridgway (1823-70), editor of the Richmond Whig, who challenged Wise in January after he was beaten by the agitator while working in his own office; cooler heads prevailed here before a duel could actually be staged. But the second did come to harm that July; Wise took exception to an article in the Examiner on Congressional powers written by Patrick Henry Aylett (1825-70), one of Daniel's contributing editors; the two met in North Carolina, south of Danville, with Aylett suffering a debilitating leg wound on the fourth exchange. After that event, there are numerous published accounts of public meetings being disrupted by Wise threatening to kill anyone who disagreed with his opinions in those meetings. The shattering of the national Democratic Party embodied in the three conventions held in the summer of 1860 led Ritchie and Dunnavant to withdraw from daily participation in the Enquirer that August. The pair evidently continued in the print-trade, as Ritchie retained his post as Virginia's public printer until 1864, and their business would be named as printers to the Confederate government the following spring. But that August, editors Tyler and Wise were faced with the loss of their trade-partner in the departure of the sixty-five-year-old Dunnavant; they immediately replaced him with William B. Allegre (1813-77), the son of an early Richmond printer, William Allegre (005). Allegre was apparently already at work in the Enquirer office, after returning to the city from Petersburg in 1843, where he had published a short-lived Jacksonian paper, The American Statesman; he had also been a part of a vain attempt in 1852 by journeyman-printers in the capital to prohibit work on the Sabbath, a role that made him a well-respected figure among his contemporaries, though someone unknown beyond the city's limits. This reshuffling of the Enquirer's ownership ended the Ritchie family's connection to the journal founded by its pater familias fifty-six years before. Following the 1860 restructuring, the new ownership ceased publishing the Enquirer's long-running twice-weekly edition, while adding a new monthly advertising broadsheet to its customary daily and weekly productions. They also attempted to broaden the Enquirer's sociocultural reach by absorbing the dying, German-language journal of Hermann Schuricht (1831-99): the Virginische Zeitung; hence, for five weeks in January and February 1861, the Enquirer was published partially in German, with Schuricht editing that part for them. But once military action began in April 1861, the paper's course and conduct changed quickly. Voice of the Confederacy Despite the pro-Southern perspective that Tyler and Wise championed, the Enquirer did not immediately advocate secession as had Pryor's South. Rather, they argued such a resolution to the ongoing sectional crisis was legal and constitutional under the "principles of '98" only if the North finally achieved its goal of subverting Virginia's rights as a sovereign state. This opinion was the same advanced by the Southern Democratic ticket of John C. Breckinridge and Joseph Lane after their nomination in June 1860. Thus, the Enquirer found itself on the middle ground between staunch Unionists and radical Secessionists in Virginia when a flurry of secession conventions swept through the Deep South after Lincoln was elected that fall; as conditional Unionists, the Wise faction followed Breckenridge's lead that winter and supported the compromise offered by U.S. Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky of adding "unamendable" amendments to the Constitution to guarantee Southern rights and preserve "slave property." However, the prospect of ratification was slim, given that seven Southern states had seceded from the Union by February 1861. Accordingly, all of Richmond's papers turned against Unionism during March and April 1861, even as the state convention called to decide the secession question evinced a clear majority for remaining in the Union. Lincoln's militaristic response to the shelling and capture of Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, immediately turned the delegates in favor of disunion however. On April 17, 1861, just two days after Lincoln's call for troops to suppress the rebellion, the convention enacted an ordinance of secession; conventions in Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee would follow suit in the ensuing five weeks, all acting before a statewide referendum on convention's ordinance was held in Virginia on May 23rd. As that crucial day approached, the Enquirer called for its approval: "Men of Virginia! You were not wont to count the cost when honor pointed out your course. You have not lost the ‘breed of noble bloods.’ The instincts of honor and patriotism burn as brightly within your bosoms now, as when your ancestors threw down the gage of battle at the feet of the British Lion. Come out, then, from your shops and your farms, and leave your daily pursuits to give one day to a solemn expression of your hatred of tyranny and your undying love for your rights as freemen." While 78% of those voting that day approved the ordinance, the referendum unleashed its own secession movement in the Virginia's northwestern counties. The Enquirer belittled the movement, calling the region nothing but a "petty, feeble, helpless, renegade community, on the border of two great Confederacies." Still, Unionists there drew up a plan for the new state of West Virginia that August, and the U.S. Congress agreed to that plan in 1862. With Southern independence declared, the Enquirer became the Confederacy's most vocal supporter. Just a week after the secession ordinance was adopted by Virginia's convention, Jefferson Davis, the new president of the Confederate States of America, took up residence in Richmond, so making the city the unofficial capital of this newly-born nation. And after having served as the official record of the Virginia convention – with a supplement to the daily issuing whenever the convention gathered – the Enquirer became the logical choice for Davis to use as his semi-official voice; both the Whig and Examiner were openly critical of him and the Confederate Congress, while the newer Richmond Dispatch claimed a non-partisan role in the secession debate, raising concerns about its loyalty; Davis's relationship with the Enquirer endured until 1863. Yet the secession vote also meant that the Enquirer was faced an unprecedented crisis of its own in very short order. In a demonstration of their commitment to Southern nationalism, all three of the paper's editors – Tyler, Wise, and Schuricht – enlisted in Virginia regiments raised to defend the state from Northern invasion, leaving the Enquirer office in the hands of Allegre alone. Consequently, the Enquirer was edited by a series of hired hands over the course of the war years, many of them vetted by Davis. Bennett DeWitt was the first to step into this role; he had conducted a campaign paper in support of Douglas during the 1860 election – the Virginia Index – one that issued concurrently in Richmond and Petersburg; Lincoln's victory brought the venture to an abrupt end, leaving the journalist unemployed, though clearly a loyal Southerner from his prior association with the Examiner. DeWitt was joined later in the summer by Richard M. Smith, the publisher of Alexandria's Sentinel; his paper had been suppressed by Federal authorities for its Confederate sympathies in May, with Smith then slipping through the skirmish lines outside Alexandria in June to join with his Southern-nationalist colleagues in Richmond; he was promptly elected as printer to the Confederate Congress. DeWitt and Smith were soon joined in the Enquirer office by John Mitchel (1815-75), a fugitive Irish revolutionary who equated Northern supremacy over the South with England's domination of Ireland, bringing an understanding of the international context of Southern independence to the paper. Jointly, the trio edited the Enquirer for Allegre until early 1863, when the war altered the situation markedly. In late 1862, Nathaniel Tyler's regiment was disbanded as a result of its ineffectiveness, and Tyler returned to Richmond, recognized (unfittingly) as a war hero, and resumed his role as the Enquirer's senior editor. On his return, Mitchel became the lead writer for the paper, so allowing Tyler to lobby the Confederate government to his own ends. At about that same time, DeWitt either reduced his role in the paper or withdrew completely as a consequence of his declining health; he died on March 19, 1863. Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis persuaded Smith to resume publishing his suppressed Sentinel in Richmond as his new semi-official journal; Smith issued the first number of his resurrected paper on March 11, 1863, barely a week before DeWitt's death. The withdrawals of these individuals made Tyler dependent on Mitchel's assistance alone, especially as "Obie" Wise was not as fortunate as Tyler to survive a military debacle; he died in the Battle of Roanoke Island in February 1862; then as the departures of Smith and DeWitt played out in February 1863, Tyler and Allegre were obliged to buy Wise's interest in the Enquirer from his estate, burdening their venture with sizeable debt in the hyper-inflationary environment of the Civil War South. The Enquirer's precarious finances required that the editors remain in the good graces of the Davis administration, but whatever good will they had accumulated was dissipated by Mitchel in the fall of 1863. His three sons had all joined the army of the Confederate States on the family's arrival in Virginia, providing the editor an unusual source of information on the conduct of the war from an enlisted man's perspective; after his youngest son, Willy, was killed at Gettysburg that July, the father's editorials became ever more critical of Davis's conduct of the war, and ever more abusive of particular officers in the Confederate forces. In October, Mitchel wrote a series of editorials critical of Braxton Bragg's use of the Army of the Tennessee in the bloody Chattanooga campaign, and so of Davis's unwavering support of his general; Tyler apparently stepped in to support Davis and Bragg, forcing Mitchel out of the Enquirer office early in November. Mitchel proved discerning in his censures, as Bragg was defeated at the Battle of Missionary Ridge just days after Tyler had dismissed him, so forcing his resignation; Mitchel immediately found work with J. M. Daniel at the Examiner, then Davis's most persistent and lucid journalistic critic. For the remainder of the war, the Enquirer appears to have been the production of Tyler and Allegre alone. Paper supplies proved problematic, which forced the partners to issue the Enquirer on a half-sheet from May 7, 1862 onward; meanwhile, their typeface became decidedly worn, a result of the sole type-foundry in the South being converted to military work in the summer of 1861. Still, Tyler & Allegre continued to publish both the daily and weekly editions of the Enquirer for the war's duration, though with ever declining quality. Dénouement The collapse of the defense of Petersburg in the early morning of April 2, 1865, instigated a hurried evacuation of the Confederate government from Richmond that evening. As the train carrying the government's functionaries and documents left the city around midnight, the troops charged with defending Richmond set fire to the warehouses that might provide supplies to the Federal forces expected to soon occupy the capital. That fire quickly spread to nearly all of the city's buildings between Capitol Hill and the James, west of the Shockoe Creek to the Tredegar Iron Works, some fifty-four blocks in all. By dawn on April 3rd, the conflagration had consumed all of Richmond's newspaper offices, except for that of Smith's Sentinel. Even as the fire raged, almost all of the proprietors and editors of the city's papers fled before being faced by the Federals, who arrived later that morning and extinguished the fires. A report published in the New York Times on April 11th gave a full account of the journalistic catastrophe: Smith was the only proprietor still in the city "but says he will not take the oath" of loyalty to the Union; the Examiner office was destroyed and Mitchel had fled, although its type had been carried off by its new owners, Daniels having died four days before the evacuation; the offices and presses of both the Enquirer and the Dispatch were completely destroyed; yet the Whig had found a suitable press and resumed publication on April 4th as "a loyal paper," produced by a "Mr. Graham, one of the assistant editors" under the prior regime, despite the loss of the Whig building. Among the absent journalists were Nathaniel Tyler and William B. Allegre. By July, the U. S. Marshal for the District of Virginia had issued an order impounding the property of both men under the provisions of the Confiscation Acts of 1861 & 1862; those laws required the seizure of any private property used or acquired in the service of the Confederacy, in which the Enquirer had certainly been employed. So, despite opinions to the contrary, it should be said that the evacuation fire and this ensuing confiscation brought the long life and storied of the Richmond Enquirer to an ignominious end. Many bibliographic authorities, however, report that the Enquirer was simply in suspension until October 30, 1865, when it reappeared as a thrice-weekly journal under the control of Richard M. Smith. Nevertheless, the legal problems faced by Tyler and Allegre after the fire, and their subsequent abandonment of journalism as a trade as a result, means that Smith's Enquirer was an entirely new broadsheet that had appropriated the recognizable name and respected reputation of the daily that he had left in early 1863. Indeed, he did not resume publication of his lesser-known Sentinel until a month later, and then the content of the two papers was largely identical. Thus, Smith's post-war Enquirer is much better described as a replacement for the old journal, just as the Enquirer replaced the Examiner in 1804. Sources: LCCN nos. 84-024736, 84-024735, 85-026447, 84-024728, 84-024729, 95-079572, & 94-060086; Brigham II: 1138-39 & II: 1912; Cappon 1262; Hubbard on Richmond; U.S. Newspaper Directory, Library of Congress; authority files at Library of Virginia and Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; Genealogies of Virginia Families; Mordecai, By-Gone Days; Christian, Richmond; Ambler, Thomas Ritchie and Sectionalism in Virginia; Shade, Democratizing the Old Dominion; Link, Roots of Secession; Bridges, Pen of Fire: J. M. Daniel; article in New York Times, April 11, 1865; notices in Richmond (Enquirer, Spirit of Seventy-Six, Whig, Dispatch, Examiner), Alexandria (Gazette), and Washington (National Intelligencer, Union, Congressional Globe) newspapers from 1803 to 1865.

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