Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Early Press

It’s that time between Christmas and New Years when the mind can wander with impunity about thoughts from history or personal past experiences or expectations for the future. I’m thinking of a story I read a long time ago about Jefferson and Hamilton when our country was in its childhood.

Mistrust between the Press and authority has been around a long time.

The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton controlled their own newspaper. It was called the Gazette of the United States

So Thomas Jefferson, who was an anti-federalist, wanted a newspaper to express his views. Not only that, Jefferson knew whom he wanted for an editor. It was a guy named Philip Freneau, a writer known as the “poet of the revolution.”

There was one problem. Freneau did not want the job.

Jefferson persisted and when he offered Freneau a no-show government job, plus access to all foreign intelligence reports and a lucrative contract to print government documents, Freneau agreed to run Jefferson’s newspaper.

George Washington was president at the time and Jefferson was Sect. Of State and through his newspaper he criticized and editorially jabbed at Washington.

Old George would bitterly complain to his cabinet about that “rascal Freneau.” But Jefferson insisted he had no recollection of being told that his clerk for foreign languages ran a newspaper in his spare time.

When Jefferson became President, he took control. He spoke only to his own editors. Opponents and other reporters knew only what they read in the Jefferson controlled newspaper.

It did not matter that Jefferson was the author of our Bill of Rights. Freedom of the Press seemed to be a child forgotten by a busy President.

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