Liberty's First Crisis

Thanks for today's post go to John L. Moore, author, freelance writer, and storyteller. Moore is also a member of the board of the Friends of Joseph Priestley House. His non-fiction Frontier Pennsylvania Series is available from Sunbury Press, Inc. The June program listings include author Charles Slack's program at Joseph Priestley House this Sunday (June 28) at 2 pm.

In his new book, Liberty's First Crisis, author Charles Slack chronicles the prosecution of newspaper editors who published articles critical of President John Adams. Among them was Thomas Cooper, editor of the Sunbury and Northumberland Gazette. Cooper was a close friend of Dr. Joseph Priestley and even lived in Priestley House following his release from prison in Philadelphia in late 1800. Slack visited Northumberland and Priestley House in 2012 while researching his subject.

Joseph Priestley's Northumberland home, completed in 1798 (photo Janice Mullin)
In 1798, President John Adams won passage of a number of federal laws known in U.S. history as The Alien and Sedition Acts. The laws spelled out stiff penalties for people who criticized the government. In addition to Cooper, others targeted by the Adams administration included Benjamin Franklin Bache, a grandson of Benjamin Franklin. Bache’s newspaper, the Philadelphia Aurora, frequently attacked President Adams.

A newspaper reporter before becoming an author, Slack said that he had long been curious about the enactment of the 1798 laws, “when the United States government decided to make criticizing elected leaders a crime. What were they so afraid of? Weren’t these the same men who, seven years earlier, had enshrined free speech as the first right in the glorious Bill of Rights? What were they thinking? And, who were the victims of this law?”

Slack will return to Priestley House this Sunday, June 28, at 2 pm to talk about Liberty's First Crisis. His other books include Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear, Thomas Hancock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest Industrial Secret of the Nineteenth Century and Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America’s First Female Tycoon (about financier Hetty Green, 1834-1916).


Post a Comment