Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
There was no CNN or Internet to promote political opinions in the 1790s or any time during the American development stage. In fact, it has been noted that “one of the most important functions of the general-circulation newspaper -- a crucial function in a democracy -- is to provide citizens with information on government and politics.” As the best communication of the time was through newspapers, they developed a monopoly on the political communication process. Ironically, it became politics that controlled the message they communicated.
All parties involved in all levels of politics were part of the newspaper mechanism. Through newspapers, politicians attacked their enemies. They were not above using “rumor, innuendo, and personal denunciations” to sway the opinion of the citizens of the new country.
Sadly, the newspapers served a dual role. They were very successful in passing out information to the people. At the same time, they were playing a very dirty role in politics that only added fuel to the political fires. The focus of many were on reputations instead of the business at hand that they were elected to perform. The fire of the political soap opera turned into a raging blaze that ended up ruining many good men’s lives and even taking lives. Alexander Hamilton was just one of several who died due to rumors, obsession with reputation, and the dirty work of using newspapers to degrade and ruin others in the political arena.
It is thanks to the early newspapers that the public knew anything going on in the political arena. It is also thanks to the newspapers that more accomplishments were not achieved and priorities were skewed.
Carson, Jamie L. “The Effect of the Partisan Press on U.S. House Elections, 1800-1820.” University of Georgia. accessed February 2, 2012. http://www.polls.uga.edu/APD/Carson%26Hood.pdf.
Humphrey, Carol Sue. Revolutionary Era : Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed February 2, 2012).
Stephens, Mitchell. “History of Newspapers.” New York University. accessed February 1, 2012. http://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/Collier%27s%20page.htm.