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Month: July 2018

Visit to Belmont

Enjoyed my visit to the historic Belmont estate in Elkridge, where Alexander Hanson and his wife Priscilla lived from 1815 on. After changing hands a few times the property is now managed by the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department and has been nicely restored. It’s really a stunning site (and great spot for functions!) There is a small cemetery in the back with graves for some of the Hanson/Dorsey family members, though no one is quite sure where Hanson himself is buried. His son Charles Grosvenor Hanson, and brother-in-law, Thomas Grosvenor, the congressman from New York are also here. Local historians have conducted tests, including using ground-penetrating radar, to see what other graves might be buried on site, but the evidence is mostly inconclusive. I’m still hoping to track down more information about that. It was also cool to see the inscription from the original owners Caleb and Priscilla Dorsey in 1738 (Hanson’s wife’s grandparents.) The folks at the Manor, including manage Catherine Allen were super-friendly and eager to share in the history of the estate. More info is available on their website:

When the Press Really Was Under Attack: Alexander Hanson and the 1812 ‘Mobtown’ Massacre

Published in New England Journal of History, Spring 2018

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”
—Thomas Jefferson

Terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts” may be relatively recent additions to the political lexicon, but attacks on the media are nothing new. Elected officials have been criticizing the journalists who cover them long before Thomas Jefferson, that putative champion of the free press, wrote the statement above in 1807.

Today, as throughout much of the nation’s history, “attacks” on the press are usually presumed to be figurative. Even at a time of heightened tension with the media, incidents of actual violence against journalists in this country are rare. That is not necessarily the case in countries where the institutions of democracy are less robust, and the freedom of the press less ingrained. Neither was it always the case in the United States.


Alexander Hanson and the Mobtown Massacre by Josh S. Cutler