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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

XXI. Newspapers, 1775–1860

§ 5. Reporters Admitted to the Debates in Congress

The editor, usually reflecting the sentiment of a group or a faction, began to emerge as a distinct power. He closely followed the drift of events and expressed vigorous opinions. But as yet the principal discussions were contributed not by the editors but by “the master minds of the country.” The growing importance of the newspaper was shown in the discussions preceding the Federal Convention, and notably in the countrywide debate on the adoption of the Constitution, in which the newspaper largely displaced the pamphlet. When Hamilton, Madison, and Jay united to produce the Federalist essays, they chose to publish them in The Independent Journal and The Daily Advertiser, from which they were copied by practically every paper in America long before they were made into a book. When the first Congress assembled 4 March, 1789, the administration felt the need of a paper, and, under the influence of Hamilton, John Fenno issued at New York, 15 April, the first number of The Gazette of the United States, the earliest of a series of administration organs. The seat of government became the journalistic centre of the country, and as long as party politics remained the staple news interest the administration organs and their opponents were the chief sources of news for the papers of the country.

One question of great importance to the press was early raised and settled. Reports of state legislative proceedings had always been permitted in the colonies, though in Massachusetts the reporters had been denied the use of the chaplain’s pulpit as a desk. As soon as the first Congress assembled, the newspapers began to print the proceedings and debates, where-upon, in September, a Mr. Burke moved that representatives of the press should be excluded from the sessions. After a warm debate the resolution was withdrawn, never again to be revived, at a time when the taking of notes in the British Parliament was still forbidden.