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Newspaper Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal (Knoxville, Tenn.) 1849-1855 Knoxville Whig and independent journal / Brownlow's Whig

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About Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal (Knoxville, Tenn.) 1849-1855

Parson William Gannaway Brownlow established the Tennessee Whig in Elizabethton, Tennessee, in 1839. The paper was published in Jonesborough between 1840 and 1849 under a variety of titles: the Whig, the Jonesborough Whig, and the Jonesborough Whig, and Independent Journal. Brownlow moved his newspaper to Knoxville in May 1849, where it became the Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal, with “Brownlow’s Whig” on the nameplate.

Seemingly never in doubt about his own rectitude, Brownlow regarded anyone who disagreed with him about religion or politics as an enemy. The circuit-riding Methodist parson turned to the press to spread his harsh anti-Presbyterian, anti-Calvinist, anti-Baptist rhetoric, and to branch out into politics. Brownlow’s speeches and publications drew both attention and anger. Founded in 1855, Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig expressed its owner’s fervently held views on the inferiority of blacks and his unalterable opposition to secession. In 1861, Brownlow’s criticism of the Confederacy led the government to shut down the Brownlow’s Weekly Whig for two years. On December 6 of that year, Brownlow was arrested on a charge of high treason against the Confederacy. Brownlow spent much of 1862 touring the North, giving pro-Union, invective-spiced lectures. When he returned to Knoxville in the fall of 1863, the federal government provided him with a press, some type, $1,500, and a government printing contract. On November 11, 1863, the first issue of the weekly Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig, and Rebel Ventilator rolled off the press.

Brownlow used the paper to attack the secessionists as “the negro-worshipping aristocracy [and] the cotton and tobacco-planting lords.” He declared that the “halter” (noose) should be used against the rebellion’s leaders, and he backed Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation. Thus, the political trajectory of Brownlow’s editorials had changed from southern Whig in the 1840s to radical Republican by the mid-1860s. In 1864, Brownlow was a force in the convention that abolished slavery in Tennessee and that led to the creation of a new state government. The Unionists won control of the Tennessee legislature, and Brownlow was elected governor in April 1865. Hatred of Brownlow and the Unionists became more intense as laws were passed to disenfranchise those who supported the Confederacy and to give blacks the vote.

When Brownlow became governor, he turned over the editorship of the Whig to his son, John Bell Brownlow. In February 1866, the title reverted to Brownlow’s Knoxville Whig. In 1869, the paper was sold, and Thomas H. Pearne became editor. It was renamed the Weekly Knoxville Whig, but after only one edition the owners changed the name again to the Knoxville Weekly Whig. After resigning as governor in 1869 and despite his fragile health, Brownlow served a six-year term in the United States Senate. He returned to Knoxville in 1875 and joined William Rule’s weekly Knoxville Whig and Chronicle as editor-in-chief. William Gannaway Brownlow died on April 29, 1877. 

Brownlow’s pugnacious editorial stances and willingness to meet violence with violence made him famous and earned him the nickname, “The Fighting Parson.”  In the 1830s, before he started newspapering, he was sued for libel and shot in a religious dispute. In the years that followed, Brownlow was shot at through a window in his home, shot in the leg during a fistfight, beaten at a camp meeting after his derringer misfired, and severely injured by two attacks with clubs. One of his newspaper’s slogans sums up both his journalism and his life, “Independent in all things—Neutral in nothing.” 

Provided By: University of Tennessee

About this Newspaper


  • Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal (Knoxville, Tenn.) 1849-1855

Other Title

  • Knoxville Whig and independent journal
  • Brownlow's Whig


  • Brownlow, William Gannaway, 1805-1877.

Dates of Publication

  • 1849-1855

Created / Published

  • Knoxville, Tenn. : W.G. Brownlow & J.W. O'Brien, 1849-1855.


  • -  Knoxville (Tenn.)--Newspapers
  • -  Knox County (Tenn.)--Newspapers
  • -  Tennessee--Knox County
  • -  Tennessee--Knoxville
  • -  United States--Tennessee--Knox--Knoxville


  • Newspapers


  • -  Weekly
  • -  Vol. 1, no. 1 (May 19, 1849)-v. 6, no. 37 (Apr. 7, 1855).
  • -  Editor: W.G. Brownlow.
  • -  Suspended between Jan. 28 and Oct. 7, 1854.
  • -  Issues for Oct. 7, 1854-Apr. 7, 1855 also called old ser., v. 16.
  • -  Available on microfilm from the Public Library of Knoxville and Knox County.
  • -  Archived issues are available in digital format as part of the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • -  Brownlow's Knoxville Whig (Knoxville, Tenn. : 1855 : Weekly) 2165-8609 (DLC)sn 83045628 (OCoLC)9574177


  • 6 volumes : illustrations (chiefly advertisements) ; 72 cm

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Newspaper
  • AN

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn83045627

OCLC Number

  • 9547719

ISSN Number

  • 2331-2858

Preceding Titles

Succeeding Titles

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Rights & Access

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal Knoxville, Tenn. -1855. (Knoxville, TN), Jan. 1 1849.

APA citation style:

(1849, January 1) Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal Knoxville, Tenn. -1855. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal Knoxville, Tenn. -1855. (Knoxville, TN) 1 Jan. 1849. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,