Devoted primarily to partisan politics, the highly influential Weekly Register was one of the most widely circulated magazines in the United States.
"Never since the days of the Goths was such a war carried on." Hezekiah Niles
A printer, writer and editor, Hezekiah Niles began publishing the highly popular and influential Weekly Register in Baltimore shortly before the War of 1812.
Devoted primarily to political issues, the highly partisan paper earned notoriety as a spirited pro-war mouthpiece for President Madison and his Republican followers.
Niles wrote with a poisoned pen. His principal targets ranged far and wide, from opponents of the war, to followers of the Federalist Party, self-serving smugglers, and any military leader he deemed inept or disloyal.
An unwavering Anglophobe, Niles reserved his most harsh invective for the British, who he termed a “new race of Goths.” The British, Niles wrote, had an ingrained hatred and bitterness toward Americans tied to resentment over “our commerce, manufactures, enterprise… rising population… and exploits of our seamen.”
Niles spared no pains to represent Britain as a crooked bully, “with whom power is always law; and everything is right that corruption or force can accomplish.”
Of all his numerous grievances, Niles regarded the “wretched business” of British impressment the most contemptible. He repeatedly took aim at Federalists for defending British actions on the high seas, demanding such traitors “be cast out from civilized life, a prey to kindred hyenas and wolves.”
Niles was particularly imaginative in characterizing the war against Canada as a defensive struggle, one forced upon the Americans only after years of national “forbearance.” It is the “law of the land,” he declared, “that we defend ourselves from British aggressions: it is the legal authority of the country that we shall retaliate our wrongs as the only means to defend them.”
Finally, Niles hoped war might bring the nation’s political foes together. Both political parties, he declared, “have a common object in repulsing the enemy. A little time and patience” he lavishly predicted shortly after President Madison’s war declaration, “will bring about a perfect union.”
Last updated: May 24, 2016