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The Feliciana Democrat

East Feliciana Parish

Located about 30 miles north of Baton Rouge, the town of Clinton, Louisiana, was founded in 1824 and named after New York governor DeWitt Clinton. It is the seat of East Feliciana Parish, a rural, farming parish that was settled in the late 18th century as part of the colony of British West Florida and then governed by Spain (1783-1810). In the early 19th century, the region attracted predominantly Anglo-American settlers and was one of the few areas in south Louisiana where French culture never took root. Its economy was based on cotton in the antebellum period, and Clinton developed into a commercial and legal center of some note at that time. The parish was the site of two important early educational institutions: Centenary College in Jackson, which in 1845 took over the campus of the defunct College of Louisiana, and Clinton’s Silliman Collegiate Institute, a girls’ school, founded in 1852.

Published at the height of the sectional crisis of the 1850s, the Feliciana Democrat was owned and edited by George Wilson Reese (b. 1817), a native of Pennsylvania. Bearing the motto “The Constitution—State Rights,” it supported the Democratic Party and spoke out strongly against Know-Nothings and abolitionists. In the presidential campaign of 1856, the paper endorsed Stephen A. Douglas but threw its support behind James Buchanan when he received the Democratic nomination. Douglas, however, continued to be a popular subject of discussion. Other topics reported included the Kansas-Nebraska controversy and the Dred Scott decision. In 1858-59, Reese ran a series of editorials in support of slavery and the slave trade.

Initially published twice a week, the four-page paper soon became a weekly. Although chiefly of interest for political commentary, it contains advertisements of local businesses, a small number of obituaries and marriage notices, and occasional news items related to Centenary College and the Silliman Collegiate Institute. In 1865, the Feliciana Democrat was renamed the East Feliciana Democrat and as such was published until 1872, when it was consolidated with the East Feliciana Patriot to form the Semi-Weekly Patriot-Democrat.