Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chapter 5/6 Assignments - (Due Feb. 20)

Assignment 1: Chapter 5 discussed "The Party Press" and Chapter 6 covered "Freedom of the Press." This was an era in American politics and journalism where newspapers chose sides. They would "support" and "sponsor" certain political parties. It would come to be known as "The Partisan Press." Along with that, some very treacherous legislation was filed that would impact the development of our nation and the role of the press in our nation.

The Alien and Section Acts - A discussion

Late in the 18th Century, under the threat of war with France, the United States Congress in 1798 passed four laws in an effort to strengthen the Federal government. Known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts, the legislation sponsored by the Federalists was also intended to quell any political opposition from the Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson.

The first of the laws was the Naturalization Act, passed by Congress on June 18. This act required that aliens be residents for 14 years instead of 5 years before they became eligible for U.S. citizenship.

Congress then passed the Alien Act on June 25, authorizing the President to deport aliens "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" during peacetime.

The third law, the Alien Enemies Act, was enacted by Congress on July 6. This act allowed the wartime arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien subject to an enemy power.

The last of the laws, the Sedition Act, passed on July 14 declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of "any false, scandalous and malicious writing," was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment. By virtue of this legislation twenty-five men, most of them editors of Republican newspapers, were arrested and their newspapers forced to shut down.

One of the men arrested was Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, editor of the Philadelphia Democrat-Republican Aurora. Charged with libeling President Adams, Bache's arrest erupted in a public outcry against all of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Many Americans questioned the constitutionality of these laws. Indeed, public opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts was so great that they were in part responsible for the election of Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, to the presidency in 1800. Once in office, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under the Sedition Act, while Congress restored all fines paid with interest.

To gain a more understanding of the events surrounding this era, please answer the following question. Answers can be found in Chapter 5/6 readings.

(1) What were the Alien and Sedition Acts and how did they threaten press freedom and the development of the American character?
(2) During the American Revolution, colonists learned that public opinion would be very important in forging an American character. Discuss the statement by Alexander Addison on New Year's Day 1799 and detail if it is still applicable. The statement is found on page 69 and starts by saying: "Give any set of men the command of the press, and you give them the command of the country, for you give them command of public opinion, which commands everything."
(3) A set of articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay help forge the future of the constitutional convention of our new country. What were these papers called? Where were they published? This work is considered to be one of most important and incisive works ever produced by the American political system.
(4) Read the section on "A Nation of Newspaper Readers" on page 71 and discuss the growth of the press and how different parties controlled the press.
(5) On page 74, the section "Objectivity vs. Partisanship" has some interesting quotes from a Federalist editor. Review his quote and talk about how this compares to today's journalistic standard.
(6) The term "gerrymandering" gained political popularity in the 19th and 20th century. It has its origins in American journalism. Discuss how this term started and how it was first introduced to the American public.
(7) Review the "Duel" between then U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr and the first U.S. secretary of the treasurer Alexander Hamilton (find details on the web or on page 79). What journalistic standard that we now practice was being challenged?
(8) According to your text, what was the name of the first American daily newspaper, who published it and where was it published?
(9) According to your text, when did the Partisan Press start to decline? Which government agency replaced the "patronage" system of printing that had assisted for political parties to keep the partisan press active?

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