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Jefferson, Adams, And The Press

May 20, 2017

Grand history.

Early American newspapers were unabashedly partisan, favoring either the conservative Federalists or the Republican opposition that Jefferson had launched in the seventeen-nineties. Take a look at the Philadelphia Aurora, an organ of Jefferson’s party, edited by William Duane (a printer whom Federalists had pursued, unsuccessfully, for sedition in 1799). The edition of October 14, 1800, tells you that your choice lies between “Things As They Have Been” (under Adams):

The principles and patriots of the Revolution condemned. . . .

The Nation in arms without a foe, and divided without a cause. . . .

The reign of terror created by false alarms, to promote domestic feud and foreign war.

A Sedition Law. . . .

An established church, a religious test, and an order of Priesthood.

And “Things As They Will Be” (if Jefferson is elected):

The Principles of the Revolution restored. . . .

The Nation at peace with the world and united in itself.

Republicanism allaying the fever of domestic feuds, and subduing the opposition by the force of reason and rectitude. . . .

The Liberty of the Press. . . .

Religious liberty, the rights of conscience, no priesthood, truth and Jefferson.

The same week, Philadelphia’s Federalist paper, the Gazette of the United States, offered a still more emphatic judgment:



At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is: “Shall I continue in allegiance to





Or impiously declare for



One Comment
  1. Solly permalink
    May 20, 2017 10:22 PM

    One of my favorite quotes from T.J., by the way, our first populist president and architect of Amexit: “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” –Thomas Jefferson

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