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The Tyranny of Printers

Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic
Jeffrey L. Pasley

BUY Paper · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813921778 · $47.50 · Nov 2002
BUY Ebook · ISBN 9780813921891 · $47.50 · Nov 2002

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.


The Tyranny of Printers essential journey for those who care about the history of our nation's early years, and the emergence of ordinary artisans as extraordinary leaders, sounding and heeding the call to freedom.

Washington Post Book World

This liberal critique should be read by many of the great number who are now exposed to the conservative biography of Adams by David McCullough.... [The Tyranny of Printers] is a sprightly and provocative history, written with far more flair than the usual scholarly treatise.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Pasley's book is the best ever written about journalism in the early republic and one of the best about the broader political culture of that era.... For the first time, we can see, brightly and clearly, the vital importance of that era in the history of journalism.

American Historical Review

The most comprehensive and important work on the partisan printer-editors of the early republic.... [I]t is the first work students and general readers should consult on the subject.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

This is a tremendously valuable work.... Anyone interested in journalism, the rise of political parties, or early America should read The Tyranny of Printers at least twice.

Southern Historian

This is an important book not just for historians of the press, but for students of the early republic generally. Highly recommended.


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