1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Godkin, Edwin Lawrence
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Godkin, Edwin Lawrence
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GODKIN, EDWIN LAWRENCE (1831-1902), American publicist, was born in Moyne, county Wicklow, Ireland, on the 2nd of October 1831. His father, James Godkin, was a Presbyterian minister and a journalist, and the son, after graduating in 1851 at Queen's College, Belfast, and studying law in London, was in 1853-1855 war correspondent for the London Daily News in Turkey and Russia, being present at the capture of Sevastopol, and late in 1856 went to America and wrote letters to the same journal, giving his impressions of a tour of the southern states of the American Union. He studied law in New York City, was admitted to the bar in 1859, travelled in Europe in 1860-1862, wrote for the London News and the New York Times in 1862-1865, and in 1865 founded in New York City the Nation, a weekly projected by him long before, for which Charles Eliot Norton gained friends in Boston and James Miller McKim (1810-1874) in Philadelphia, and which Godkin edited until the end of the year 1899. In 1881 he sold the Nation to the New York Evening Post, and became an associate editor of the Post, of which he was editor-in-chief in 1883-1899, succeeding Carl Schurz. In the 'eighties he engaged in a controversy with Goldwin Smith over the Irish question. Under his leadership the Post broke with the Republican party in the presidential campaign of 1884, when Godkin's opposition to Blaine did much to create the so-called Mugwump party (see Mugwump), and his organ became thoroughly independent, as was seen when it attacked the Venezuelan policy of President Cleveland, who had in so many ways approximated the ideal of the Post and Nation. He consistently advocated currency reform, the gold basis, a tariff for revenue only, and civil service reform, rendering the greatest aid to the last cause. His attacks on Tammany Hall were so frequent and so virulent that in 1894 he was sued for libel because of biographical sketches of certain leaders in that organization — cases which never came up for trial. His opposition to the war with Spain and to imperialism was able and forcible. He retired from his editorial duties on the 3oth of December 1899, and sketched his career in the Evening Post of that date. Although he recovered from a severe apoplectic stroke early in 1900, his health was shattered, and he died in Greenway, Devonshire, England, on the 2ist of May 1902. Godkin shaped the lofty and independent policy of the Post and the Nation, which had a small but influential and intellectual class of readers. But as editor he had none of the personal magnetism of Greeley, for instance, and his superiority to the influence of popular feeling made Charles Dudley Warner style the Nation the “weekly judgment day.” He was an economist of the school of Mill, urged the necessity of the abstraction called “economic man,” and insisted that socialism put in practice would not improve social and economic conditions in general. In politics he was an enemy of sentimentalism and loose theories in government. He published A History of Hungary, A.D. 300-1850 (1856), Government (1871, in the American Science Series), Reflections and Comments (1895), Problems of Modern Democracy (1896) and Unforeseen Tendencies of Democracy (1898).
See Life and Letters of E. L. Godkin, edited by Rollo Ogden (2 vols., New York, 1907).