Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Enclosure: Thomas L. McKenney’s Prospectus for the Washington Republican and Congressional Examiner, [by 11 June 1822]


Thomas L. McKenney’s Prospectus for the Washington Republican and Congressional Examiner

[by 11 June 1822]


of the



Congressional Examiner.

A new paper, under the above title, will be published in the City of Washington, on the evening of Wednesday the seventh day of August next, and will be continued as an evening paper, twice a week.

Fifty years have not yet passed away, since the patriarchs of the Revolution affixed their names to that “Declaration,” which assigned the United States a conspicuous and independent position in the map of nations; and their subsequent progress exhibits a chequered infancy of difficulty and danger. Political collisions have threatened the very existence of that liberty whose cry caused our swords to leap from their scabbards, and to sever the mightiest link in the chain which had heretofore bound the two hemispheres together. The question of political independence disposed of, the public mind gradually settled down into tranquillity; but the weakness and effects of a system of government established amidst the perils and difficulties of the Revolution, soon startled it from its momentary repose. The principles of legislation then became subjects of discussion, and their application to the character and circumstances of the new Union was directed by the sound, steady, and forcible impetus of public opinion. The value of the Constitution developed itself in the rapid and extensive diffusion of protection and prosperity. Public confidence, the natural effect of that mutual security which flows from a recognized and established system of government, superseded terror and indecision by industry and enterprise.

Scarcely, however, had the Constitution gone into operation, before the spirit and views of Federalism began to develope themselves, and to cause violent political contentions. A long and doubtful struggle followed; but Republican principles ultimately gained the ascendency. The arduous conflict in the late war, an event which severely tested the capacity of the people for self-government, and irrevocably decided the question in the affirmative, completed their triumph. The motives of the Federal party we impeach not. That they acted under the influence of mistaken principles, public opinion has long since determined. The war, and the events of the preceding twenty years, lessened the number of its advocates. Party dissentions had subsided, and were rapidly floating down the tide of oblivion, when a new opposition, assuming to itself a name foreign to our institutions, suddenly appeared, and attempts to scatter the seeds of fresh discords. Under specious and popular pretexts, this new and audacious enemy aims, with the overthrow of the present administration, at the prostration of those establishments which have been reared by wisdom, and sanctioned by experience. The character of this spirit, though it professes to be that of reformation, may be estimated by the tone of its principles, and by the palpable means on which it relies for success. By false charges, and highly-wrought misrepresentations, it levels obloquy against the President, and those Members of the Executive who have evinced the most enlightened and disinterested zeal in upholding the true interests of the country. It would cover the last of that “patriot band” which gave the country political being, with popular odium, and drive him from the presidential chair, suspected and dishonoured. It would even pursue him into his retirement, and plant thorns of anguish in the pillow which shall receive the last impress of his venerable head.

The great charm of the American Constitution is the harmonious construction of its general and local governments, and their associated operation for the extension and preservation of an equal share of liberty to each integral part of the Union. By this means the diffusion of freedom is not only individually greater, but embraces a vaster extent of territory than political philosophy has ever yet considered practicable. The contempt with which the union of these States was originally marked by the sceptics of Europe, soon gave way to more sober doubts as to the possibility of its duration. Reason and prophecy were both enlisted to antedate its destruction; precedents were marshalled against it; the arrogant foretold its catastrophe; and the ignorant believed it. Time has partially removed the film of error;—doubt is rapidly brightening into conviction;—expectation into wonder;—hope into admiration;—and the arrogance of pride and folly seeks a refuge from universal scorn, by skulking behind the weak and worn-out subterfuges of the frailty of human judgment, and the uncontrollable chances of futurity.

It is the determination of the proprietor of “The Washington Republican,” to defend that Constitution which has already given so many incontrovertible proofs of its peculiar consonance to the opinions and interests of the people. His scheme also embraces a vigorous and consistent support of the existing administration, so long as it shall continue to discharge the high duties intrusted to it with fidelity and economy. An enemy to waste and extravagance on the one hand, the proprietor avows an equal hostility against parsimony and injustice on the other. Disposed—determined to watch over the disbursements of the public money, his vigilance will ever be as sensibly alive to the fiscal operations of the government, as it will to the lawless and anarchical march of those desperate principles which, in the madness of retrenchment, would destroy the executive and the constitution together. His economy implies a correct and judicious distribution of labour and recompense—a watchful supervisorship of the legislative appropriations—skill and decision in making and enforcing the fulfilment of contracts—and a careful superintendence of those officers to whom the charge of the public accounts is committed. The economy of the Radicals embraces a desolating, all-sweeping retrenchment—the rejection of all the claims of present labour for reward—and the striking off all securities for labour to come. Grasping at a sordid and momentary popularity, it looks neither to the means nor the consequences of its operations; but violently attempts to throw open the flood-gates of prejudice, and, on the inundation of all that is honourable and beautiful and constitutional, to float its promoters into the deserted seats of power. In resisting such a spirit, and in strongly marking the distinction between the economy of Republicans, and the mere amputation of the Radicals, which would leave the government a limbless and desolate trunk, the proprietor feels that the sovereignty of public opinion will be enlisted on his side. By that opinion,—the natural and only legitimate source of all power,—he is confident that his motives will be correctly appreciated, and his exertions generously rewarded.—By that opinion he is content to stand or fall.

The department appropriated to the “Congressional Examiner” will be filled with energy, and directed by an undeviating regard to truth and justice. Not only will the legislative proceedings be given with accuracy, and, where their importance may require it, with copiousness; but the qualifications of every prominent member of Congress for the high station he occupies, will be examined in a series of political portraits, drawn with equal truth and intrepidity. The strictures which will be called forth in the execution of this duty, shall never descend to personal invective, nor private slander. The education, the intellect, the judgment of every public character, belong to the public, and are the legitimate subjects of public discussion. To these we shall principally confine ourselves. Engrafting our hopes on the interests of the Commonwealth, we shall make these interests the compass of our course; and wherever we find them endangered by the clamours of an ignorant faction, or the schemes of unprincipled artifice, we shall not hesitate to drag the delinquents before the tribunal of the public,—and, placing ourselves by their sides, the accuser and the accused together, await, without trembling, the judgment of public opinion.

The other arrangements of the Washington Republican, literary as well as mechanical, may be given in a few words, as it is considered better to allow the paper itself, which will so speedily be placed in the hands of the public, to assert its own claims to support, than to swell out this prospectus by elaborate promises, and a thousand-times-told professions. A portion of the paper will be appropriated to select literature, which will include interesting extracts from the most valuable new publications, and such critical notices of American and English literature, as may be warranted by the character and importance of the works under review. The paper will be of the first quality, the type new, and the workmanship of approved skill and correctness. Advertisements will be inserted; and the paper itself published twice a week at five dollars per annum, payable in one month after the commencement of the paper, by those who may have subscribed previous to the publication of the first number, and by all others on entering their names as subscribers, and all subsequent years in advance. For the accommodation, however, of those who may desire a daily report of the proceedings of Congress, it will be published every evening during the session, should a sufficient number of subscribers to justify the additional expense indicate their desire to that effect, before the commencement of the session; and, for this daily paper an extra charge of three dollars will be made.

Subscriptions and communications for the above paper, may be forwarded (post paid) to the proprietor, to the care of Anderson & Meehan, printers, Washington City.


SUBSCRIBERS’ NAMES. RESIDENCE. no. of semi-weekly papers. no. of daily during congress.

Broadside (MoSHi: TJC-BC); undated. Printed in Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 14 June 1822, and elsewhere.

On 11 June 1822 McKenney sent James Madison a copy of this prospectus (Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:533).

Index Entries

  • Anderson & Meehan (Washington firm) search
  • Congress, U.S.; members of search
  • Congress, U.S.; publication of proceedings of search
  • Constitution, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Declaration of Independence; mentioned search
  • Federalist party; principles of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Declaration of Independence search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); works sent to search
  • McKenney, Thomas Loraine; andWashington Republican and Congressional Examiner search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); opposition to search
  • newspapers; advertisements in search
  • newspapers; Washington Republican and Congressional Examiner search
  • subscriptions, for publications; newspapers search
  • War of1812; and politics search
  • Washington Republican and Congressional Examiner (newspaper) search