The Press Was the Enemy of the People in John Adams’s Era

Roundup
tags: First Amendment, John Adams, Trump



Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning author of Damnatio Memoriae, among other several works of history, investigative journalism and theatre, including Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, In the Sierra Madre, The United States of Appalachia, and State Out of the Union. His website is: www.jeffbiggers.com

While the infamous “Reynolds Pamphlet” on Alexander Hamilton’s sex scandal takes center stage in the Broadway musical phenomenon “Hamilton,” the assault on the free press and the First Amendment in its bitter aftermath might be the most chilling cautionary tale for our times.

Move on Alexander Hamilton. Meet Benjamin Franklin Bache, the first journalist “enemy of the people.”

Politics were bitterly divided in 1798, too. 

Noah Webster, whose hallowed dictionary we all cherish now, employed a few choice words against the Democratic Republicans and journalists in opposition to the Federalists: “The refuse, the sweepings of the most depraved part of mankind from the most corrupt nations on earth.”

An inordinate fear and fearmongering over a growing immigrant population took place among politicians in those times, too.

President John Adams touted an Aliens Friends Act to deport anyone he deemed dangerous.  But an alien invasion from France was the least of his concerns. 

Adam was a thin-skinned president, vaguely reminiscent of present-day office holders. He brisked at the giggles over his moniker as “His Rotundity,” and railed against what he considered deceptive and false characterizations of his administration by certain journalists.   Fake news, in today’s parlance. ...




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