The Press of the Young Republic, 1783-1833

By Carol Sue Humphrey | Go to book overview
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A New Era Begins: The Confederation, 1783-1789

On November 25, 1783, the withdrawal of the British army from New York marked the end of almost 200 years of colonial rule that had begun at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. As the last troops sailed away, the newspapers of the United States rejoiced at the end of British domination and looked forward to a bright and glorious future. The editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette in Philadelphia reflected the feelings of most Americans when he exulted: "We congratulate our fellow-citizens on this important day!--It loudly demands LAUS DEO from the United States. . . . May it not be the language of their lips only, but may it be engraven on their hearts, and expressed in their future lives!"1

Printers also took time to praise those who had helped win the war. Included in this group were the newspapers themselves because the printers believed strongly, and rightly so, that their small productions had helped rally Americans to the cause of independence and thus to the achievement of final victory.

The road to victory, however, had been paved with many difficulties and losses for everyone, and the press had joined in the suffering. Those who managed to overcome the difficulties, through luck or hard work or both, faced the uncertain future with hope and optimism. For them, the war had served as a testing ground to toughen not only the press, but also all Americans to face the future together. Newspaper printers came out of the Revolution believing that their weekly sheets had played an essential role in the conflict, and they planned to continue that role in the future. The possibilities were almost endless, since newspapers would provide information and encouragement for the new nation as it developed and grew.

In many ways, these hopes for the future proved to be true. The decade of the 1780s marked the beginning of a new era in American journalism because fresh faces appeared among the printers and publishers throughout the country. Having come of age and learned their trade during the Revolution, these younger newspa

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