Alexander Hamilton Papers

T. L. No. II, [28 July 1792]

T. L. No. II1

[Philadelphia, July 28, 1792]

For the Gazette of the United States.

Mr. Fenno,2

In your Gazette of last Wednesday, after observing that the Editor of the National Gazette receives a salary from government, I enquired “whether this salary is paid him for translations; or for publications, the design of which is to vilify those to whom the voice of the people has committed the administration of our public affairs.” In his paper of this day, he intimates that he “receives a small stipend for services rendered as French Translator to the Department of State, and, as Editor of a free newspaper.”3 This excites my curiosity still farther, and I shall hold myself obliged to any of your correspondents, or to the Editor of this really National Gazette (as it now appears to be) if either of them will inform me what inducement our rulers can have to hire a man to abuse them, and whether they do not hereby unnecessarily squander the public money. I have often heard that authors in England, or their booksellers for them, when they find their books do not sell according to their wishes, hire some garretteer to write against them—then publish a reply to his own lucubrations—and so go on, objecting and replying, until the attention of the public is drawn towards the book, and thus it is brought into demand. If there were as many pieces in the National Gazette in favor of government and public characters, as there are against them, I should be apt to conclude that Congress and their officers were playing us the same trick, in hopes of keeping their seats and places for life; but when all the publications are against them, and none in their favor—when this “free newspaper” is always

Free to defame, but never free to praise,

it does not appear easy to account for this branch of national expence. If none of your readers can do it, we must wait with patience ’till the treasury accounts are published, as the Constitution of the United States requires, and then, perhaps, the mystery will be explained.


[Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, August 1, 1792.

1The other “T. L.” letters are dated July 25 and August 11, 1792.

2John Fenno, editor of the Gazette of the United States.

3After quoting H’s “T. L.” letter of July 25, 1792, in full, Philip Freneau, editor of the [Philadelphia] National Gazette, wrote: “The above is beneath a reply. It might be queried, however, whether a man who receives a small stipend for services rendered as French translator to the department of state, and, as editor of a free newspaper, admits into his publication impartial strictures on the proceedings of government, is not more likely to act an honest and disinterested part towards the public, than a vile sycophant, who obtaining emoluments from government, far more lucrative than the salary alluded to (by undermining another who was in possession of the employ) finds his interest in attempting to poison the minds of the people by propagating and disseminating principles and sentiments utterly subversive of the true republican interests of this country, and by flattering and recommending every and any measure of government, however pernicious and destructive its tendency might be, to the great body of the people. The world is left to decide the motives of each” ([Philadelphia] National Gazette, July 28, 1792).

Fenno’s reply to Freneau, which is dated July 30, 1792, and which appeared in the following issue of the National Gazette, reads as follows:

“It is insinuated in the ‘National Gazette’ of last Saturday, that ‘by undermining another who was in possession of the employ,’ the subscriber obtained the work which he has executed for the government. This can refer only to printing the Journals of the Senate of the United States. With some persons it may be sufficient for me to say, the charge is wholly unfounded. Those who wish for further satisfaction, by calling on me, may be convinced that the insinuation is something more than a simple untruth.

“With respect to the principles and sentiments propagated by the Gazette of the United States, the Editor of that paper is willing to abide by the general opinion of the public—That public, whose essential republican interest he has sedulously attempted to promote for twenty years past—and to which he is now under additional and more forceable obligations of attachment; having as much at stake, as an individual, as the average of his fellow citizens, the freedom and happiness of a numerous family of children.” (National Gazette, August 1, 1792.)

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