Newspaper Accounts

Editorial Note: The most thorough coverage of the 1850 Worcester Convention appeared in the New-York Daily Tribune, edited by Horace Greeley. Greeley (1811-1872) was one of the most influential editors/publishers of the middle third of the nineteenth century and a long-time crusader for a variety of reforms, especially the abolition of slavery. The reports were written by Rev. J.G. Forman of West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, who took an active part in the Convention and was named to one of the Committees created to carry forward its work. This "insider" status gave Forman access to the leading figures who assembled in Worcester. As a result, his account is highly detailed and accurate. Because he recorded much of the substance of the extemporaneous remarks made from the floor and the give-and-take of the debate, Forman's articles provide an invaluable supplement to the published Proceedings. His standing as a member of the women's rights movement also led him to pull his journalistic punches in both minor matters (his description of speaker after speaker as "eloquent," for example) and major. He did not report the substance of Abby Kelley Foster's speech at the opening session but did recount Lucretia Mott's efforts to tone down her friend's rhetoric about women having the right to use "violence" and "bloodshed" to achieve justice. Greeley did not directly comment on the Convention until November 2, 1850 when an anonymous reader, "A," asked him to do so. "A's" letter and Greeley's editorial are both included here.

James Gordon Bennett's New York Herald, the Tribune's chief rival, also gave the Convention extensive coverage, particularly its first day. The Herald apparently lifted much of its coverage of the second day from the Tribune, a common journalistic practice. But, since Bennett was intensely hostile to the movement for women's rights, and intensely scornful of Greeley's support for a variety of reform movements, he appended a vituperative commentary to the Tribune's basically friendly account. Its editor's bias does not mean that the Herald's account, particularly of the first day, is untrustworthy. Its reporter made frequent sport of the speakers, but he also faithfully recorded much of what they said as with his recounting of the occasionally humorous discussion about the marriage vow of obedience during the evening session of the first day. And, where the Tribune hesitated to go into detail about Abby Kelley Foster's incendiary speech, the Herald was only too happy to do so.

The Boston press also gave the Convention extensive coverage. The Chronotype's editor-publisher, Elizur Wright, was an advocate of woman's rights and sent a letter which was read aloud at the Convention. Also strongly supportive was The Liberator, edited and published by William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison and his wife signed the "Call" to the Convention and both attended. In the weeks leading up to the convention The Liberator printed excerpted versions of the "Call" along with the full list of signers. Garrison also played an active role at the Convention itself and gave a brief speech at the close of the second day. The Liberator for November 15 devoted its entire front page to publishing the "Proceedings" of the Convention including the full texts of all resolutions, a list of speakers, and the names of all of the officers. Garrison published the text of Paulina Wright Davis's presidential address on the back page, though without attribution. The following week's issue, November 22, contained more Convention material in the form of letters read aloud during the meetings. All of this information is available in the Proceedings and so has not been reproduced here. Other related materials, such as an open letter to Paulina Wright Davis, are reproduced.

The Boston Daily Mail was, like the New York Herald, highly critical. Its coverage is nonetheless among the most thorough.

Only the Massachusetts Spy among the Worcester papers covered the Convention in detail. Its favorable view dated from before the opening session as an October 23, 1850 editorial demonstrated.

In creating hypertext versions of these newspaper accounts, I have corrected obvious typographical errors, inserted relevant information (such as first names where known) in brackets, and annotated Biblical and other quotations (where possible). I have also attempted to identify contemporary references. I have not corrected the spellings of proper names, such as the New York Herald's spelling of Abby Kelley Foster's name as Kelly or of Frederick Douglass's as Douglas, since some of these were deliberate (as when some papers referred to abolitionist Charles C. Burleigh as Burley). I have deleted material, such as Paulina Wright Davis's keynote address and the text of various resolutions, available in the Proceedings., instead inserting links to that document. Otherwise the materials below are verbatim transcriptions and are presented in their entirety.

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