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Chauncey L. Knapp and Elam Jewett published the State Journal, a Montpelier, Vermont weekly, from October 1831 to November 1836. It was one of several newspapers established in Vermont in the 1830s to promote the Anti-Masonic Party. Historian Andrew Barker describes Knapp, the paper’s editor, as “a committed activist in the service of religious revivalism, temperance reform, public education, labor reform, Anti-Masonry, public education and political abolitionism.” Knapp worked briefly for a reform paper in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and a religious revival paper in Boston before starting the State Journal. In addition to exposing the “corruption and wickedness” of Freemasonry and building support for the Anti-Masonic Party, Knapp printed editorials, articles from other papers, letters from correspondents, and reports that promoted various reform issues, particularly abolition of slavery. The paper also included foreign and domestic news and reports on the state legislature.
As a political movement, the anti-Masonic crusade in Vermont was remarkably successful in a short period of time. The party gained its first significant victory in 1831, when its candidate won the gubernatorial election, and by 1833 it was firmly established as the dominant party in the state. Newspapers contributed to the progress of anti-Masonry, often with stirring rhetoric. The State Journal became the leading movement paper and achieved a substantial statewide circulation of about 2,000. In 1834, Knapp and Jewett extended their sphere of influence when they became publishers of the Middlebury Free Press, another anti-Masonic newspaper. In 1834, in response to the overwhelming public mandate, Masonic lodges throughout Vermont closed and the anti-Masonic movement began to lose steam. Anti-Masons and the new Whig party joined forces with the same slate of candidates in the 1836 election, marking the end of political anti-Masonry in Vermont.
In November 1836, Knapp announced he was giving up the State Journal to devote time to other interests. He sold the printing business to E.P. Walton and Son, and their Whig paper, the Vermont Watchman and State Gazette, absorbed the State Journal under the new title of Vermont Watchman and State Journal. Knapp went on to serve as Vermont’s secretary of state from 1836 to 1843 and editor of the Voice of Freedom, an organ for the Vermont Anti-Slavery Society, before moving to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he continued to campaign against slavery as the editor of the Middlesex Standard.
Provided by: University of Vermont