Thomas Jefferson Papers

II. Prospectus for the National Gazette, [before 9 August 1791]

II. Prospectus for the National Gazette

To the Public

The Editor of the National Gazette having found his proposals for establishing a paper of that kind attended with all the success he could reasonably expect, considering the short time that has elapsed since his first acquainting the public with his design, takes this opportunity in his first number, briefly to remind his subscribers, and others, of the plan upon which he originally intended, and still proposes to proceed.

The National Gazette shall be published on the Monday and Thursday mornings of every week, in the city of Philadelphia, and sent to the more distant subscribers by the most ready and regular modes of conveyance. Such persons, resident in the city of Philadelphia, as incline to become subscribers, shall be supplied early on the mornings of publication, at their own houses. The price will be Three Dollars a year; the first half yearly payment to be made in three months from the time of subscribing, and future payments every six months.

The paper shall contain, among other interesting particulars, the most important foreign intelligence, collected not only from the British, French, and Dutch newspapers (a constant and punctual supply of which has been engaged) but also from original communications, letters, and other papers to which the Editor may have an opportunity of recurring for the most authentic information relative to the affairs of Europe.

The department for domestic news will be rendered as complete and satisfactory as possible, by inserting a judicious detail of such occurrences as shall appear worthy the notice of the public.

The most respectful attention shall be paid to all decent productions of entertainment in prose or verse that may be sent for insertion, as well as to such political essays as have a tendency to promote the general interests of the Union. There will also be inserted during the sessions of Congress, a brief History of the Debates and Proceedings of the Supreme Legislature of the United States, executed, it is hoped, in such a manner as to answer the expectations and gratify the curiosity of every reader.

Persons at a distance who may subscribe for fifteen papers, and will become responsible for the subscription money, shall receive with the packet a sixteenth, gratis.

Subscriptions are received at the Office, No. 239 High-street; also at the respective Bookstores of Mr. Francis Bailey, and Mr. Thomas Dobson.

From the National Gazette, Vol. 1, No. 1, 31 Oct. 1791. Freneau restated the plan and policy of his paper in the issues of 1 and 17 Nov. 1791. In variant form his statement of editorial policy appeared in the issue of 7 May 1792.

No manuscript text of the Proposals which Freneau refers to in the opening paragraph has been found. But Childs and Swaine’s Daily Advertiser, 25 Aug. 1791, announced that the paper would be established provided a sufficient number of subscribers could be procured. The text of the Proposals, however, was drawn up before 9 Aug. 1791, since Freneau promised to show it to TJ on that date (Freneau to TJ, 4 Aug. 1791; Document I). On 25 Aug. and again on 28 Oct. 1791, with slight variation, the Daily Advertiser announced “Proposals for publishing, in Philadelphia, On the Second Day of November next, The National Gazette, A Periodical Miscellany of News, Politics, History, and Polite Literature: by Philip Freneau.” This, presumably, was essentially the form in which the original text appeared when Freneau showed it to TJ early in August. The shift in the time of publication as announced in the Daily Advertiser from Wednesdays and Saturdays to Mondays and Thursdays as stated above may have been suggested by TJ so that the paper could more easily meet the southbound post from Philadelphia and the cross-post from Richmond. The second section of the Proposals, as printed in the Daily Advertiser, stated in substance if not in direct terms TJ’s original concept: “The proposed paper being … intended (as intimated in the title) to circulate throughout the United States, particular pains will be taken to convey the most authentic foreign and domestic information from the Seat of Government to every part of the Union.” The third section of the Proposals, including the direct quotation of a maxim which may possibly have been provided by TJ when the text of the Proposals was shown to him and which certainly expressed his views, also suggests his influence: “In all political essays, or such writings as relate to the governmental concerns of our country, the utmost freedom and latitude of discussion will be encouraged and invited: time and experience having rendered the maxim indubitable that ‘a patient and candid attention to a multiplicity of opinions, is the surest method of arriving at the truth of any question.’”

This text of the Proposals in broadside form was probably employed by Madison, TJ, and others in their efforts to solicit subscriptions for the National Gazette—an effort begun even before TJ received Freneau’s letter announcing his arrangement with Childs and Swaine to establish the paper.

The announcement to the public as printed above summarized the essential nature of the Proposals as printed in the Daily Advertiser. But there was one very important and revealing difference. The assurance that a constant and punctual supply of British, French, and Dutch newspapers had been engaged and also that original communications, letters, and other papers accessible to the editor for the most authentic information of affairs in Europe did not appear in the Proposals as announced by Childs and Swaine. This assurance described precisely what resulted from Freneau’s relationship to the Department of State. It was one that only TJ could have authorized.

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