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National gazette. [volume] : (Philadelphia [Pa.]) 1791-1793
Place of publication:
Philadelphia [Pa.]
Geographic coverage:
  • Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
P. Freneau
Dates of publication:
  • Vol. 1, no. 1 (Oct. 31, 1791)-v. 2, no. 104 (Oct. 26, 1793) = -total no. 208.
  • English
  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia County.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01217128
  • Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01204170
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Newspapers.
  • Philadelphia County (Pa.)--Newspapers.
  • Also issued on microfilm and microopaque from Readex Microprint Corp., and on microfilm from the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service.
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Oct. 31, 1791-Oct. 27, 1792 constitutes v. 1, no. 1-104; Oct. 31, 1792-<Mar. 6, 1793> constitutes v. 2, no. 1-<37>, total no. 105-<141>.
sn 83025887
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National gazette. [volume] October 31, 1791 , Image 1


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National Gazette

Though it only lasted for 208 issues over two years, Philadelphia's National Gazette is still considered one of the most influential newspapers in the early years of the United States. Created by Philip Freneau at the request of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, the National Gazette helped to solidify the creation of the Republican Party, serving as its official press organ.

Philip Freneau was already well known before the establishment of the National Gazette. His writing had earned him the name "poet of the American Revolution," and he had since gone on to serve as editor of the New York Daily Advertiser, until the national capital moved from New York to Philadelphia. Strongly Anti-Federalist, Freneau used wit, ridicule, and irony in his poetry and his prose to attack his opponents, although he would at times use sheer blunt force in his writing as well.

Faced with the formidable Federalist newspaper, the Gazette of the United States, Anti-Federalists (also known as the Democratic Republicans or simply Republicans) were convinced that they needed a newspaper of their own. James Madison, then a congressman for Virginia, approached Freneau and offered to contribute a series of 18 pieces critical of the government, to be published anonymously (as was the standard practice of the time).

The person most commonly associated with the National Gazette was Thomas Jefferson, who as Secretary of State was quickly becoming the national leader of the Republicans. Jefferson strongly denied ever writing or dictating anything for the National Gazette (though there was speculation both at the time of publication and later that he had in fact contributed pieces). Jefferson did, however, ensure that the National Gazette had priority in receiving State Department news dispatches, and he provided news from the Dutch newspaper, the Leyton Gazette, to counter what the Republicans saw as British domination of foreign news in American newspapers. Jefferson leaked information to Freneau by leaving items out in his office, which Freneau was then able to access with his key; Jefferson also provided financial support to the National Gazette by giving Freneau State Department printing contracts and urging others to subscribe to the newspaper. He even hired Freneau for a time as a translator.

The National Gazette supported Republican interests and attacked the Federalists with gusto. Freneau targeted in particular the leaders of the party: the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton; President George Washington; and Vice President John Adams. The National Gazette championed the idea that the Federalists wanted to create a monarchy and aristocracy in the United States, something that seemed plausible as the new nation was just being established. The National Gazette's scathing attacks on Hamilton and his fiscal policies and its personal attacks on Washington made Freneau unpopular in government circles and stoked bitter partisan rivalries.

The National Gazette was read widely, with leading Republicans such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams promoting it in Massachusetts, while others ensured that copies of the newspaper were delivered to the frontier. Articles from the National Gazette were reproduced in other Republican newspapers around the country. Hamilton tried to silence the National Gazette through a letter published on August 4, 1792, in the Gazette of the United States, in which he criticized Freneau for attacking the government while receiving a government salary and called on Jefferson to resign.

Jefferson stood by Freneau through this incident, although the latter was forced to surrender his position as government translator. Freneau's loss of salary, in conjunction with unpaid subscriptions to the newspaper and the economic dislocation caused by the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia, was more than the stretched finances of the National Gazette could handle. The newspaper that had roared so loudly for the Republican cause ended quietly with an article on October 26, 1793, stating that it was going on hiatus until the next congressional sitting, to take place in December. In fact, this was the last issue of the National Gazette. During its brief existence, the National Gazette set the tone of political debate in American newspapers, promoted Republic interests, and served as an important bulwark against the Federalist policies.

Provided by: Library of Congress, Washington, DC