Jane McManus Storms: Letters from
the Mexican War, 1846-1848
EARLY IN THE SUMMER OF 1846, WITH THE MEXICAN WAR JUST
under way, Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft received a long,
outspoken letter, pointedly telling him how to reform the U.S. navy
and fight the war. The signature at the end of the letter read, simply,
"Storms." "Who is Storms?" the perplexed secretary of the navy asked
in a note to Secretary of War William L. Marcy. In reply Marcy ex-
plained, "She is an outrageously smooth and keen writer for the news-
papers in [New York]."'
George Bancroft was not the first political figure to feel the sting of
Storms's writing. Jane McManus Storms was a well known, if some-
what politically controversial, Washington letter-writer during the
1840s and 1850s.2 The Baltimore Sun's Washington correspondent
described her as "a very able writer."3 But Missouri's powerful sena-
tor, Thomas Hart Benton, complained of her "masculine stomach for
war and politics."4 The influential Louisville Courier-Journal editor,
*Tom Reilly is professor of journalism at California State University, Northridge, and
editor of Journalism History. Research for this study was supported in part by an insti-
tutional grant from his university.
1Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History (New York, 1963),
200 n.-201 n.
2For biographical information on Jane McManus Storms see Edward T. James (ed.),
Notable American Women, 16o7-195o (3 vols.; Cambridge, Mass., 1971), I, 315-317; Walter
P. Webb, H. Bailey Carroll, and Eldon Stephen Branda (eds.), The Handbook of Texas
(3 vols.; Austin, 1952, 1976), II, 122; Edward S. Wallace, Destiny and Glory (New York,
1957), 244-275; obituaries in New York Tribune, Dec. 31, 1878, Sun (New York), Jan. 2,
1879. Also see Anna Kasten Nelson, "Mission to Mexico--Moses Y. Beach, Secret Agent,"
New York State Historical Society Quarterly, LIX (July, 1975) , 227-245.
The style and practices of the Washington letter writers during this period are discussed
in F. B. Marbut, News from the Capital (Carbondale, Ill., 1971), 31-32.
3Sun (Baltimore), June 7, 1847.
4James (ed.), Notable American Women, I, 316. Benton may have been cooled by occa-
sional critical remarks about him in her articles. Referring to President Polk's proposal
that Benton replace Scott as head of the army in Mexico and that he seek a peace settle-
ment there, Storms wrote, "If I can rely on the full and well supported opinions of my
friends at [Mexico City], the appointment of Mr. Benton to a special money-distributing
mission to this distracted country will not prove a judicious one .... The announcement
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed July 10, 2014.