The last quarter of the eighteenth century was a time of great change for the United States. Symbolically, the period stretched from Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776, to his first inaugural address, delivered on March 4, 1801. Jefferson’s words framed the era both in reality and in his reflection of the issues and debates of the era. His Declaration of Independence discussed tyranny and liberty, issues that Americans debated as they fought for their freedom from Great Britain in the 1770s and 1780s. And his inaugural address discussed what it meant to live in a republic, the issue that had riveted many people’s attention through the 1780s and 1790s. In a nutshell, from 1776 to 1800, the United States went from being a fantastic dream to a stable reality. The process of national growth and maturation proved difficult in many ways, but most Americans of any influence seemed basically satisfied with the nation they saw as Thomas Jefferson became the third president in March 1801.
Newspapers reflected all of these issues in the materials they printed. Increasingly, newspapers became a major source of information about people and events outside the local community. Even before the Revolution, people took an avid interest in happenings in the other colonies and across the Atlantic in Europe. The war with Great Britain accelerated this interest as people sought to determine which side was winning and what impact that might have on their own future. Strong interest in national and international events continued and increased as the United States took shape in the 1780s and sought its place in the world in the 1790s.