Newspapering in Washington, D.C. in the 1870s was a make or break proposition. Sifting through the listings of papers in the Boyd’s City Directories for the decade between 1870 and 1880 there is a marked increase in the number of rags on the streets of Washington, D.C. but also a great fluctuation year to year with old papers dying and new ones emerging.
It was during the 1870s that The New National Era sprang to life and suffered a premature death. It was in 1877 that The Washington Post first appeared.
The range of city newspapers – dailies, weeklies, and monthlies — during this decade offer disparate editorials and reporting guided by the perspectives and ideologies of varying political parties, social reform causes, and in the case of The Washington Sentinel an ethnic-based constituency; German-Americans.
Aligning with the Democrats in advocating for a “non-intervention policy in the South by the President”, The Sentinel supported Frederick Douglass’ appointment as United States Marshal for the District of Columbia proclaiming to those who marginalized Douglass, “Down with your aristocratic notions, and up with the colored brother, who has always been so dear to you!”
From The Washington Sentinel, March 17, 1877…
The President has appointed Frederick Douglass, the well-known colored orator, and who stands at the head of his race in this country, Marshal of the District of Columbia. This position was lately occupied by Grant’s brother-in-law, Sharpe, and is considered the best in the District. Indeed, it is ranked immediately after that of a Cabinet officer, and for the last forty years the District Marshal has, at levees at the White House, been in the habit of exercising functions of a Grand Chamberlain, such as introducing visitors to the President, etc.
When it is considered that but for the colored people the Republican party would be nowhere, the appointment of Douglass must be regarded as a great stroke of policy. The intended non-intervention policy in the South by the President might have been considered by many – the New York Sun included – as inimical to the colored race. But Hayes certainly has by that appointment at one blow destroyed all such suppositions. He has out-done Grant entirely.
When Douglass returned as one of the St. Domingo Commissioners to Washington, Grant invited all the Commissioners to dinner — except him. For social equality has never as yet been accorded by the leading Radicals to the negroes, and to that fact Pinchback must ascribe to his non-conformation more than to anything else.
The National Republican says in regard to the appointment:
“The business men seem dissatisfied and the members of the bar are almost unanimously against it, and will send up a delegation before the Senate committee to show cause why Mr. Douglass should not be confirmed. * * * The claim that he is too theoretical. * * * Chief Justice Carrter remarked yesterday, “The Marshal of the District should be a man thoroughly practical and business-like.”
Well, was Mr. Sharpe, who during a whole year never was eight days present at the court-house, and entirely left matters to his deputy, more “practical and business like” than Douglass?
That will not do! Douglass is as good as any of you! And what becomes of your Civil Rights bill? Where is your love for the negro, without whose assistance none of you would be in office? Down with your aristocratic notions, and up with the colored brother, who has always been so dear to you!
The National Republican further says that “Mr. Douglass need to not necessarily be an adjunct for the receptions at the White House.”
Why, brother Murtagh? Is not Fred Douglass as good and respectable as you and your friends, Shepherd, Babcock, Belknap, etc Is that the language of a Republican organ?
Frederick Douglass was once a slave. So was the present Grand Vizier of Turkey, Edhem Pasha, whose biography we publish to-day in our foreign news column. The “former state of servitude” ought to have no weight with our Republican brethren!
In short we believe that President Hayes is sincere in “wiping out the color line, and the sooner the Radical aristocratic ladies and gentlemen acquiesce in that policy, the better will be for them. We hope that our Democratic Senators will not commit the blunder of voting against that appointment. If Mr. Hayes desires to put colored men into positions formerly occupied y Grant’s relatives and friend he will only have given another proof that he is earnestly in favor of civil service reform. Besides the President ought to have the privilege of selecting his own household – and the District Marshal almost belongs to it – independent of race, color and previous condition of servitude!”