The years after the Civil War were marked by bitter political fights betwen the Democrats and Radical Republicans over how to reunite the country, and a deeply divided group of newspapers shouting down their opponents. All claimed to be acting on behalf of the better angels of our nature that Lincoln said should guide us as a people. Meanwhile, Washington was flooded with lobbyists spreading cash to buy influence and votes, and America's West was being opened by the construction of the transcontinental railroad. As a reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper, Benjamin Wright has a front-row seat to this period of transition in our history. He t only covers the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, which was sparked by disagreements over how to bring the Confederate states back to the Union, but then initiates investigation into the massive theft of government monies by the company building the railroad. His reporting both puts Benjamin into the middle of Horace Greeley's 1872 Presidential campaign and makes him the principal voice covering the Congressional hearings into what became kwn as the Credit Mobilier scandal. As dizzying as these experiences are, however, they come at an ermous personal cost. And, like so many of us who today are fed up with the intransigence of our elected officials and the media's relentless fanning of the partisan flames, Benjamin's disappointment with both the government and the newspaper business escalates the more closely he witnesses Washington's corrupt soul and the bias of the press.
Richard Smolev, a retired attorney and the author of Offerings, lived on a farm in Bucks County, PA. He passed away in early 2014.