Academic journal article Journalism History

Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty

Academic journal article Journalism History

Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty

Article excerpt

Knudson, Jerry W. Jefferson and the Press: Crucible of Liberty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006. 248 pp. $34.95.

In Jefferson and the Press: Cruable of Liberty, Jerry W. Knudson presents a thoughtful description and analysis of the role and function of the press during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. He concludes that Americans learned how democracy works through the debates and arguments about the major political issues of the early 1800s that appeared in American newspapers.

Knudson begins with a discussion of the role of the press at the time and the editors who engaged in it. He discusses how the newspaper press grew and developed during the early 1800s and also reviews the careers of the men who guided the newspapers under study, concluding that they were strongly attached to their respective political parties and worked to use the pages of their papers to advance their party's ideas and programs. Editors such as William Duane and Benjamin Russell were strongly dedicated to their parties and used their newspapers to fight for the cause that they believed had to win in order for the United States to grow and thrive.

The bulk of Knudson's study is a review of the major political events of Jefferson's presidency. Included are discussions of the press coverage of the election of 1800, the return of Thomas Paine to the United States in 1802, the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the 1804 duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in 1804, and the growing problems with Great Britain and France that produced the 1807 Embargo. He ably presents the newspaper debates over these issues and the efforts of the partisan press to convince Americans to support their party's reaction to each event.

Knudson concludes that the partisan press was effective in a variety of ways during Jefferson's presidency. …

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