The Richmond Daily Dispatch is a newspaper out of Richmond, Virgina in print before the American Civil War. The newspaper published information in support of slavery and demonstrates the political and social environment during this time. The earliest print for this newspaper is 1860. It provides insight into the thoughts, ideas, and characters that played a role in the break of the Union. On topics of slavery, the newspaper detailed events of the criminal justice system and how it dealt with slaves. One slave was given 30 lashes for stealing shoes another was coerced to kill his master by his mistress and sentenced to hang. Other articles detail the how abolitionist were treated in slave states while another listed men imprisoned for violating the laws of the slave trade. After reading a collection of articles that included search words such as “slave”, “slavery”, “nigger”, “abolition”, and “abolitionist”, most articles were in support of slavery.
Although there were many reports on slaves, abolitionist, and the political climate, no article detailed the condition of the slaves. Instead, articles focused on speeches and rallies held by Southerners in support of the system. This proved to be expected for The Richmond Daily Dispatch, considering that Virginia was a state participating in the system of African enslavement. In addition, the articles listed criminal activity conducted by slaves and free blacks at the time. One article even cited that a free black was found guilty of a felony and committed to slavery for the remainder of his life. During this time, Virginia was not describing or providing detail of the condition of slaves except incidents of criminal activities and capital punishment.
The articles presented were a prelude to the 1860 presidential election. Many of the details leading to the election were politically oriented. This includes rallies and speeches by Southerners in support of slavery. One article cites the State’s strong conviction in their interest in slavery. The reporter proudly reports that more than one-quarter of Virginia residents are slave owners. This is used as evidence to defend slavery and their support of the system of free labor. Another article encourages Virginians to remember who they should vote in the election. The November 3rd 1860 article cites: “the question is to be decided is whether this Union shall remain unimpaired in all its glory or whether it shall be destroyed and universally ruin usurp the place of peace, harmony, and brotherly love”, (Richmond, 1860). In another article, the writer slanders Yankees and Germans calling them “born and bred abolitionist incendiaries”, (Richmond, 1860). It becomes ever apparent that the Richmond Daily Dispatch is unabashed at racial rhetoric.
The editor of the Richmond Daily Dispatch is Mr. Cowardin & Mr. Hammersley of Richmond Virginia. By reading the articles it is clear they support slavery. They remind Virginia voters that slavery is on the presidency ballot and they must vote in favor. They promote supportive themes such as rally’s and parades backing slavery. The perspective the editors asserted can also be observed in their readers. Articles also mention the opinions and comments of the Northern Journals. Some articles appear to be talking back to Northern Journal’s in opposition to a stance or view on the topic of slavery. Therefore, the writers and editors are a clear opinion of the people. This includes documenting upcoming events in support of slavery including important Politians of the South.
Reporters of the Richmond Daily Dispatch documented the activities of abolitionist. Many focused on the activities of the abolitionist throughout the South. One article appeared to be aimed at abolitionist in the attempt to discourage their movement. The article testified to an abolitionist who was caught in Tennessee “tampering with the slaves”, (Richmond, 1860). Although the article made it clear that he was a reverend, the writer continued to refer to him as Mr. Smith. As a result of Mr. Smith’s abolitionist activities, he was “under penalty of receiving a coat of tar and feathers”, (Richmond, 1860). This article, among many others, further demonstrates the opinion and ideas of Virginians throughout the slavery debate.
Slavery. (1860, November). Richmond Daily Dispatch. Retrieved from