Effects of the American Revolution: Newspaper Wars


This Page Describes the Newspaper Wars between the Federalists and Republicans in the 1790s.


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Philip Freneau

Philip Freneau

Political differences between the two political parties were exacerbated in the newspapers, which at the time, were wholly partisan, controlled by powerful politicians (including Jefferson and Hamilton) and vicious in nature. Republican newspaper editors Philip Freneau and Benjamin Franklin Bache continually ripped Washington’s Federalist administration and even disparaged Washington himself, which at one time would have been considered political heresy. One of Thomas Jefferson’s “pamphleteers,” James Callendar, published History of the United States for 1796 which happily exposed the marital affair carried on by Alexander Hamilton with Maria Reynolds. While Hamilton admitted the affair, the indiscretion may have contributed to his eventual political demise. While Jefferson himself rarely wrote editorials for the newspaper, he often urged his supporters to. In a 1793 letter to James Madison, he entreats him to disparage Hamilton:

“for god’s sake, my dear Sir, take up your pen, select the most striking heresies, and cut him to peices [sic] in the face of the public.”

Federalists would prove no less vituperative in their writings about Republican virtue. Thomas Jefferson was often referred to as an atheist, coward, and Jacobin (French Revolutionary) Noah Webster, the eventual founder of Webster’s Dictionary, was first a Federalist newspaper editor. Alexander Hamilton, the undisputed leader of the Federalist Party, financed the newspapers and frequently wrote anonymous commentaries defending himself or his party, or, condemning the Republicans. Hamilton even started his first Federalist newspaper, the New York Evening Post, in 1801.