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Name:  Henry Jarvis Raymond

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Born:  January 24, 1820
Died:  June 18, 1869
 
Complete HarpWeek Biography:
Henry Raymond was the first and long-time editor of the New York Times and a Republican politician.

Henry Raymond was born in Lima, New York, to Lavinia Brockway Raymond and Jarvis Raymond, who were farmers. A precocious child, young Raymond was reading at age three and reciting speeches at age five. He studied at a local Methodist prep school, then at the University of Vermont, where he was a standout speaker and a contributing writer for the New Yorker, edited by Horace Greeley. Raymond graduated summa cum laude in 1840. That same year he entered politics by campaigning for William Henry Harrison, the Whig presidential candidate.

Raymond moved to New York City hoping to gain full-time employment with the New Yorker. After a brief apprenticeship, he was made an editorial assistant, but had to augment his low salary by writing items for out-of-state newspapers and ad copy for patent medicines. In 1841 Greeley launched the New York Tribune, a penny paper that served as the organ of the Whig party, and Raymond followed the editor as his chief assistant. Although both men were Whigs, Raymond disagreed with his bossís affinity for reform schemes, especially socialism. In 1843 he left the Tribune for a better-paying position as associate editor for the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, published by James Watson Webb. In 1848 Raymond joined forces with representatives from five other New York newspapers to form a cooperative news-gathering service, the Associated Press.

In 1844 and 1848 Raymond campaigned for the Whig presidential candidates Henry Clay and Zachary Taylor, respectively. He also ran for public office himself, gaining election to the New York state legislature in 1849. Reelected in 1850, his Whig colleagues in the majority selected him to serve as speaker. In that same year he also began a six-year stint as the first managing editor of Harperís Monthly. At this time he began to speak and write against the immorality of slavery and its expansion into the western territories. When Webb censored one of Raymondís Courier and Enquirer editorials, he quit. In 1851 Raymond and George Jones founded the New York Times, with Raymond serving as its first editor. It quickly enjoyed high circulation and became one of the nationís leading newspapers.

In 1852 Raymond was a major force behind the Whig nomination of Winfield Scott for president. The editor gained renown for an anti-slavery speech he delivered at the convention, even though the delegates crafted a platform that waffled on the issue. In 1854 New York Whigs nominated Raymond for lieutenant governor. During the campaign he spoke against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territory. He and the Whig candidate for governor, Myron Clark, were elected by a slim margin.

The days of the Whig party were numbered, though, and like many northern Whigs, Raymond gravitated to the new Republican party. In fact, he was one of the founders of the Republican party in New York and helped draft its original charter. He transformed the Times into a solidly Republican newspaper, although it was officially independent of the party apparatus. In 1857 the Times moved into a new five-story building on the corner of Nassau Street and Park Row. In 1859 he personally covered the Franco-Austrian War for the paper, sending back realistic battle reports.

Raymond traveled to the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago as a delegate for fellow-New Yorker, Senator William Henry Seward, but loyally endorsed the partyís eventual nominee, Abraham Lincoln. During the campaign Raymond published a series of open letters to former Representative William Yancey, a southern fire-eater who was traveling through the North arguing for the constitutionality of secession. The Times editor countered with the theory that the constitution created a perpetual union that could not be dissolved, and that secession would provoke war.

During the Civil War the Times was a staunchly pro-Union paper, and it shifted from its prewar anti-slavery-expansion stance to endorse abolition as a war aim. Raymond attended some of the battles himself, including First Bull Run (Manassas) at which he prematurely telegrammed of Union victory. For protection during the Draft Riots in New York City, he installed Gatling guns on the roof of the Times building. Under his direction, the Times expanded its circulation and influence and was barely able to keep up with the demand for its papers.

Raymond was elected to the state legislature in 1861 and was again chosen as speaker. In early 1863 he hoped to take Preston Kingís vacated seat in the U.S. Senate, but Edwin Morgan was selected, instead. Raymond was in accord with Lincolnís policies and authored a campaign biography of the president in 1864 and drafted the National Union platform. That same year the Times editor was elected to Congress by a margin of less than 500 votes. He strongly supported Lincoln and, initially, his successor, Andrew Johnson, against the Radical Republicans. After voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1866, though, he voted for the 14th Amendment that granted citizenship and federal civil rights protection to black Americans. Critics accused him of inconsistency.

In 1866 Raymond organized a National Union convention, which Radicals condemned for its control by Democrats. His involvement cost the Times readership and, therefore, revenue. Within a few months he concluded that the Radicals were correct about the National Union party, and the Times endorsed the Radical Republican candidate for New York governor and began criticizing President Johnson. In Congress, however, Raymond voted against both the impeachment resolution and the Radicalsí military Reconstruction bills. After Raymondís term ended, Johnson nominated him to be minister to Austria, but the Senate tabled the nomination indefinitely. He remained as the editor of the Times until his death in 1869.

Sources consulted:American National Biography; Dictionary of Literary Biography.

 

 


 

 
 

 

     
 

 
     
 

 
     
 

 

 

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