Book Description from University of Virginia Press 
Although frequently attacked for their partisanship and undue political influence, the American media of today are objective and relatively ineffectual compared to their counterparts of two hundred years ago. From the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century, newspapers were the republic's central political institutions, working components of the party system rather than commentators on it.

The Tyranny of Printers narrates the rise of this newspaper-based politics, in which editors became the chief party spokesmen and newspaper offices often served as local party headquarters. Beginning when Thomas Jefferson enlisted a Philadelphia editor to carry out his battle with Alexander Hamilton for the soul of the new republic (and got caught trying to cover it up), the centrality of newspapers in political life gained momentum after Jefferson's victory in 1800, which was widely credited to a superior network of papers. Jeffrey L. Pasley tells the rich story of this political culture and its culmination in Jacksonian democracy, enlivening his narrative with accounts of the colorful but often tragic careers of individual editors.

About the Author
Jeffrey L. Pasley, a former staff writer for the New Republic, is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Missouri.


bulletLatest review: Carolyn Eastman (University of Texas), interactive review on H-SHEARauthor's response.
bullet"Should be read by many of the great number who are now exposed to the conservative biography of Adams by David McCullough. . . . This is a sprightly and provocative history, written with far more flair than the usual scholarly treatise." -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch  (click to read full review)

"A provocative account of the central role of newspapers in political life of the American republic through the late 19th century." -- Richard Rosenfeld, Washington Post Book World, 15 July 2001 


"Convincing and wonderfully readable." -- Larry Kramer (New York University Law School),  H-LAW


"Especially compelling . . . fresh and full of compassion. . . . It is personal quality of [Pasley's] narrative that brings new life to these figures and . . . may appeal to a wider reading audience." 
"With increasingly popular histories of founding fathers like Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson urging readers to feel the pain of prominent early Federalists or Republicans, Pasley's account from the perspective of the printing rabble seems a reasonable corrective. " -- Rosalind Remer (Moravian College), Reviews in American History


"By far the best book I've seen on the role of newspapers in the making of democracy in America from the Revolution to the age of Jackson. Pasley brings to life a host of obscure but fascinating figures--the party 'hacks' through whose labors Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe ousted the Federalists from power and set America on a democratic course. Pasley sets forward their efforts in engaging narrative, rich in vignettes of leading editors, full of lively anecdotes, ever attentive to the larger implications of the story." -- Robert A. Gross, College of William and Mary


"The Tyranny of Printers will be the book every serious person will consult before they generalize about journalists in the age of Jefferson." --Thomas C. Leonard, University of California, Berkeley

Full Table of Contents


1. The Newspaper-based Political System of the Antebellum United States

bulletThe Partisan Press Reconsidered
bulletUneven Political Development and the Origins of the Newspaper Role
bulletNewspaper Editors in Nineteenth-Century Politics
bulletThemes and Implications

2. The Printing Trade in Early American Politics

bulletArtisans with Bookish Inclinations: The Colonial Printers
bulletPrint, Printers, and Political Elites in Colonial America
bulletThe American Revolution and the Beginnings of Partisanship
bulletServing the Founders: Printers and Newspapers After the Revolution

3. The Two National Gazettes and the Beginnings of Newspaper Politics

bulletDefending the State and Imagining the Nation: John Fenno's Gazette of the United States
bulletThe Failure of Fenno's "National Plan"
bulletThe Statesmen and Their Surrogate: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the Origins of the National Gazette
bulletEmbodying the Opposition: The National Gazette in Action
bulletA Path Not Taken: The Fall of the National Gazette and the Failure of Centralized Newspaper Politics

4. Benjamin Franklin Bache and the Price of Partisanship

bulletCelebrity Grandson and Young Socialite
bulletTurning Partisan
bulletDownward Mobility, Radical Politics, and the Birth of the Aurora
bullet"Surgo Ut Prosim": Benjamin Franklin Bache as Professional Politician

5. The Background and Failure of the Sedition Act

bulletSlouching Towards Partisanship: The Republican Press before the Sedition Act
bulletPrecocious Partisans: Matthew Lyon and John Israel
bulletFashioning the Weapon
bulletWhy did the Sedition Act Fail?

6. Charles Holt's Generation: From Commercial Printers to Political Professionals

bulletHolt and the Bee: A Case Study from the Land of Steady Habits
bulletEscape from Connecticut (to Political Professionalism on the Hudson)
bulletFederalist Repression, Popular Rights-Consciousness, and the Radicalization of Young Printers

7. The Expansion of the Republican Newspaper Network, 1798-1800

bulletThe Limits of Elite Sponsorship
bulletPrinters of the Republic: The New Partisan Press of the Late 1790s
bulletFederalist Repression and the Forging of the Network

8. A Presence in the Public Sphere: William Duane and the Triumph of Newspaper Politics

bulletThe Making of a Transoceanic Radical
bulletExile on Market Street: Duane and the Aurora
bulletThe Editor as Leader and Lightning Rod
bulletWilliam Duane's American Dream

9. The New Conventional Wisdom: Consolidating and Expanding a Newspaper-based Political System

bulletThe Lessons of 1800
bulletInvading the Federalist Homeland
bulletTramp Politicians: The Emergence of Political Editing as an Occupation

10. The Federalists Strike Back

bulletRenovating the Federalist Press
bulletTalents, Virtue, and Wealth: Real and Imagined Federalist Advantages in the Journalistic Arms Race
bulletAlexander Contee Hanson versus "The Rules of Arithmetick"
bulletThe Limits of Federalist Newspaper Politics

11. Improving on the Sedition Act: Press Freedom and Political Culture after 1800

bulletThe Gentrification of the Southern Partisan Press
bulletPrinters and Other Politicians: Differing Perspectives and Emerging Tensions
bulletThe Federalists and Civil Liberties: The Even Darker Side

12. The "Tyranny of Printers" in Jeffersonian Philadelphia

bulletWilliam Duane and the Morning After
bulletOrigins of the Republican Schism
bulletEditors, Lawyers, and the Pennsylvania Legal Reform Movement
bulletA Gentleman's Rebellion against the "Tyranny of Printers"
bulletThe Decline of Duane, but Not the Editors

13. Ordinary Editors and Everyday Politics: How the System Worked

bulletThe Wages of Mobility: The Rise and Fall of James J. Wilson
bulletSenator Roberts and the Editors
bulletMerino Rams and Mutton Soup: To Congress and Back with Thomas J. Rogers

14. Newspaper Editors and the Reconstruction of Party Politics

bullet"An Army of Printers": The War of 1812 Era and the Origins of Jacksonian Newspaper Politics
bulletNewspaper Editors and the War on Good Feelings
bulletJohn Milton Niles and the Democratization of Connecticut
bulletThe Election of Andrew Jackson and the Coming of the Editorial "Millennium"

Appendix 1. Charts on the Growth of the American Press

bulletNewspaper Growth during the Pre-Revolutionary Crisis
bulletExpansion of the Newspaper Press, 1700-1820
bulletThe Pace of Newspaper Creation, 1780-1820
bulletNewspaper and Population Expansion Rates, 1730s-1810s
bulletRepublican vs. Federalist Newspaper Expansion

Appendix 2. The Sedition Act and the Expansion of the Republican Press



bulletThe War on the Jay Treaty: Opposition Newspapers, 1795
bulletEve of Sedition: Opposition Newspapers, Spring 1798
bullet Editorial Revolution: Republican Newspapers Published between June 1798 and December 1800
bulletInvading the Federalist Homeland: Republican Newspapers, 1801-1806
bulletThe Federalists Strike Back: Partisan Federalist Newspapers, 1800-1806
bulletThe Political Wars of 1812: Republican & Federalist Newspapers Founded 1807-1814


bulletPhiladelphia Aurora, front page, 1795
bulletNew London Bee masthead
bulletGoshen, N.Y. Orange Patrol masthead
bulletPittsburgh Tree of Liberty masthead
bulletWilliam Duane
bulletWorcester National Aegis masthead
bulletHudson Wasp, front page, 1802
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