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The Louisiana Democrat
The Louisiana Democrat was founded as the Western Democrat in 1845 in Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, a cotton- and timber-producing parish in central Louisiana. Its first editor was David Martin. Although no early copies survive, as a partisan newspaper the Louisiana Democrat would have opposed the Whig Party and its leader, Henry Clay, whose attempts to block the acquisition of Texas angered many Louisianans. The earliest extant copies, dated 1859, continue to discuss westward expansion, with particular attention given to the activities of the Free Soil Party and abolitionists.
By 1859, Edmund W. Halsey (ca. 1823-1891), a New Yorker educated in Kentucky, had become the paper’s editor. He was succeeded in 1860 by Mercer Canfield (1828-1864), who remained editor for only a few months, and then by Eugene Rene Biossat (1819-1880). Few copies of the Louisiana Democrat survive from the Civil War era, but publication appears to have continued without interruption until 1864 when Alexandria was occupied and burned by Union forces during the Red River campaign. At least two issues from this period were printed on ledger paper or wallpaper.
Regular publication had resumed by June 1865. Biossat changed the four-page weekly (and briefly biweekly and triweekly) paper’s motto from “The Love of Country is the Love of God” to “The World is Governed too Much.” He frequently reported on the Louisiana State Seminary (the forerunner of Louisiana State University), which was located at Pineville, near Alexandria, from 1860 to 1869. A regular “Letter from New Orleans” reported on various topics, including fashion, art, and industry, as well as town gossip. Politics, however, was Biossat’s chief focus. He supported the disenfranchisement of black voters and strongly opposed President Ulysses S. Grant’s Reconstruction agenda. In the election of 1872, the Louisiana Democrat endorsed Horace Greeley, a turncoat Republican who called for the end of Radical Reconstruction. Biossat also reported on the postwar activities of former Confederate leaders, the education of freedmen, and race riots such as the 1873 Colfax Massacre, in which many white citizens of Rapides Parish took part.
Biossat retired as editor in 1880 and was succeeded by James R. Waters, who promptly announced that the Louisiana Democrat, the official journal of Rapides Parish, would expand its coverage of non-political topics. The paper began carrying a “Town and Vicinity” column and reported news of schools, social organizations, churches, the local Jewish community, and Alexandria’s growth as a railroad hub and timber processing center. Waters left the paper after just a few months, turning it over to the former editor’s son, Henry L. Biossat. Agricultural, personal and sports columns appeared around 1882, followed by serialized novels, a “youth’s department,” and an increasing number of sensationalist news items from around the world. Warren Guice Mobley (1842-1921) and his son Henry Hoover Mobley (1871-1941) purchased the Louisiana Democrat in 1891. The elder Mobley served as its editor from 1895 to 1915. Unable to compete with the popular Alexandria Town Talk , H. H. Mobley sold the paper in 1918.
Provided by: Louisiana State University; Baton Rouge, LA