Informing a Nation
The Newspaper Presidency of Thomas Jefferson
How a dynamic, controversially elected president used the media to promote his image and policies
During his presidency, Thomas Jefferson both sponsored and wrote for his own newspaper, the National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser. The newspaper spoke on behalf of his policies and those of his Republican, anti-federalist party, the Democratic-Republicans, the precursor to today’s Democrats. Author Mel Laracey focuses on the newspaper’s message during Jefferson’s first term, showing how the third president used media to promote his administration and its goals against their political rivals, the Federalists. Informing a Nation shows how Jefferson and his allies dealt with political challenges, reveals hitherto unexamined aspects of the early presidency, and raises broad questions of the relationship between the presidency and media today.
Praise / Awards
“Laracey’s groundbreaking and superb study of the Jeffersonian years marks a particularly significant contribution to our understanding of public opinion and civic education during the early Republican era. This terrific book will have a reverberating influence on the scholarship of the American Founding for years to come. This is not only a contribution to the history of American politics and political thought, it is a substantial contribution to understanding deliberative republicanism in the modern world.”
—Colleen A. Sheehan, Director of Graduate Studies, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Arizona State University
“Mel Laracey’s Informing a Nation shows how Thomas Jefferson and editor Samuel Harrison Smith created a partisan political public and so transformed American political history in the wake of his ‘Revolution of 1800.’ While the new president remained discretely in the background, Smith’s National Intelligencer emerged as the administration’s authoritative voice, enabling Jefferson and the Republicans to exploit public opinion on a nationwide scale. Laracey’s perceptive and persuasive study is an important contribution to our understanding of Jefferson, party formation, and presidential leadership.”
—Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Professor of History (emeritus), University of Virginia, coauthor (with Annette Gordon-Reed), “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
“Informing a Nation presents an important and timely historical study of how Thomas Jefferson’s newspaper, the National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, influenced politics and policymaking throughout his presidency . . . With a thorough survey of the scholarly literature on the Jefferson presidency combined with careful analysis of primary newspaper sources from the period, Laracey makes an original and enduring scholarly contribution.”
—Meena Bose, Executive Dean for Public Policy and Public Service Programs and Director, Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency, Hofstra University
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