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The Pen Makes a Good Sword, The Pen Makes a Good Sword, 0817315241, 0-8173-1524-1, 978-0-8173-1524-5, 9780817315245, , , The Pen Makes a Good Sword, 0817381740, 0-8173-8174-0, 978-0-8173-8174-5, 9780817381745, , , The Pen Makes a Good Sword, 0817357602, 0-8173-5760-2, 978-0-8173-5760-3, 9780817357603,

The Pen Makes a Good Sword
John Forsyth of the Mobile Register
Lonnie A. Burnett

E Book
2009. 248 pp.
9 illus
Price:  $29.95 d
Quality Paper
2013. 248 pp.
9 illus
Price:  $29.95 s

This book is a biography of Alabama native John Forsyth Jr. and documents his career as a southern newspaper editor during the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods. From 1837 to 1877 Forsyth wrote about many of the most important events of the 19th century. He used his various positions as an editor, Civil War field correspondent, and Reconstruction critic at the MobileRegister to advocate on behalf of both the South and the Democratic Party.
In addition, Forsyth played an active role in the events taking place around him through his political career, as United States Minister to Mexico, state legislator, Confederate Peace Commissioner to the Lincoln administration, staff officer to Braxton Bragg, and twice mayor of the city of Mobile.


Lonnie A. Burnett is Associate Professor of History at the University of Mobile.

"John Forsyth was a newspaper editor in a time when editors were powerful and important figures in US politics. Burnett (Univ. of Mobile) analyzes Forsyth's career during the tumultuous middle decades of the 19th century. The son of John Forsyth, Sr., governor of Georgia and secretary of state under Jackson and Van Buren, Forsyth held a number of political offices, but was best known as editor of The Mobile Register. He played significant roles in Alabama and national politics, particularly in the presidential election of 1860, where he strongly supported Stephen Douglas. Although Forsyth was a zealous advocate of the Confederacy, he initially called for Southerners to accept the changes that defeat brought to their region. However, when it became clear that those changes meant greater equality for African Americans, he rejected Reconstruction and fought for the return of white rule. While there is much to commend this work, one would hope that a biography of a journalist would include at least a few complete editorials. Instead, readers never get more than five or six uninterrupted sentences. That criticism aside, the book should be purchased by all libraries with collections on southern history. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries."

“Fans of political history will savor this model biography. Well written, balanced, succinct, yet comprehensive, it rescues from obscurity the son of a more famous father. . . . This fine study of a major journalist is a solid contribution to southern history and our understanding of nineteenth-century American politics including such topics as the Know-Nothings, the collapse of the Whigs, the secession crisis, and the failure of Reconstruction.” —Journal of American History

“Burnett provides an insightful picture of Forsyth in his biography of the outspoken and contentious editor. . . . [This] outstanding biography of Forsyth is valuable for understanding the critically important role that newspaper editors played as spokesmen and leaders of the region.”—Civil War History

“The most important Democratic editor of the South.” —New York Times, 1877

“Burnett explores the intersection between Forsyth’s work as a journalist and a politician. To that end, he examines the development of the two-party system in Alabama in the 1830s and 1840s. He also dissects the motivations and rationale that led southern unionists like Forsyth to support succession after the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln.”—Michael Fitzgerald, author of Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile

“I enjoyed this book and believe it will be a useful addition to the literature. I especially liked the effort the author made to relate Forsyth to his forebears and show how some of the characteristics he exhibited were also evident in the careers of his father and grandfather.”—Michael Thomason, editor of Mobile:The New History of Alabama’s First City