Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Forney, John Weiss

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FORNEY, John Weiss, journalist, b. in Lancaster, Pa., 30 Sept., 1817; d. in Philadelphia, 9 Dec., 1881. He began life as a shop-boy in a village store, but, being ambitious, gave up the work and at the age of sixteen entered the printing-office of the Lancaster, Pa., “Journal.” In his twentieth year he purchased the Lancaster “Intelligencer,” a strongly Democratic journal, and in 1840 he published the paper in whose office he had entered as apprentice seven years before, in connection with his previous purchase, under the name of the “Intelligencer and Journal.” His journal attained a wide reputation, and in 1845 President Polk appointed him deputy surveyor of the port of Philadelphia. He then disposed of his paper, bought a half share in the “Pennsylvania,” one of the most decided of the Democratic journals in the state, and conducted it editorially until 1851. In that year he was chosen clerk of the house of representatives and re-elected two years later, serving until 1855. During this term of office he continued to write for the “Pennsylvania,” and edited the Washington “Union,” the foremost Democratic paper at the capital. While clerk of the house of representatives it became Mr. Forney's duty to preside during the protracted struggle for the speakership in 1855, which resulted in the election of Nathaniel P. Banks, when, by his tact as presiding officer, he won the applause of all parties. In 1856 he returned to Pennsylvania and was chosen chairman of the Democratic state committee. In January, 1857, he was the Democratic candidate for U. S. senator, but was defeated by Simon Cameron. In August, 1857, he began the publication of the “Press,” an independent Democratic journal in Philadelphia. Having exhausted his fund in the political campaign, he purchased the type on credit, and the paper was printed for months in the office of the “Sunday Dispatch.” The “Press” ardently espoused the opinions of Stephen A. Douglas, and supported Buchanan's administration up to the adoption of the Lecompton constitution, and the effort to secure the admission of Kansas into the Union under it. Mr. Forney resolutely opposed that measure, and his action caused a disruption of the friendly relations which had previously existed between the president and himself. Few men in the country contributed more than Mr. Forney to strengthen the Republican party, and to prepare it for the contest of 1860. In December, 1859, he was again elected clerk of the house of representatives, and soon afterward started in Washington the. “Sunday Morning Chronicle,” which was afterward, in October, 1862, converted into a daily. He was elected secretary of the U. S. senate in 1861, and for six years was one of the most influential supporters of the administration. On the death of Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Forney supported Andrew Johnson for a short time, but afterward became one of the foremost in the struggle which resulted in the president's impeachment. He sold the “Chronicle” in 1870, and in March, 1871, became collector of the port of Philadelphia. He held the office but one year, but during that time perfected the system of direct transportation of imports in bond without appraisement and examination at the port of original entry. When the Centennial exhibition was proposed, he was one of its most active promoters, and went to Europe in its interests in 1875. On his return he sold his interest in the “Press,” and in 1879 established “The Progress,” a weekly paper, in Philadelphia. In 1880 he supported Winfield S. Hancock for the presidency. He was the author of “Letters from Europe” (Philadelphia, 1869); “What I saw in Texas” (1872); “Anecdotes of Public Men” (2 vols., New York, 1873); “A Centennial Commissioner in Europe” (Philadelphia, 1876); “Forty Years of American Journalism” (1877); and “The New Nobility” (New York, 1882).