John Taylor of Caroline: Pamphlets and the Press in the 1790s
- American Periodicals: A Journal of History & Criticism
- The Ohio State University Press
- Volume 27, Number 1, 2017
- pp. 53-72
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The widespread availability of political pamphlets in the early United States reveals that many Americans were more politically astute and literate than previously assumed. During the 1790s, when the national parties emerged, American politicians considered pamphlets to be a better way of reaching a large readership than newspapers. This article uses as a case study John Taylor of Caroline, a Virginia political philosopher of states’ rights and US senator from 1792 to 1794, who wrote several pamphlets attacking Federalist Party fiscal policies. Taylor preferred the pamphlet form over newspapers for his essay An Enquiry into the Principles and Tendency of Certain Public Measures (1794). Seeking widespread influence and appeal, Taylor was aware that a cheaply priced pamphlet would be within easier reach of the average literate citizen than a more expensive yearlong newspaper subscription. In addition, unlike a newspaper, with its distracting array of articles, essays, news reports, and advertisements, a pamphlet would better command a reader’s complete attention while being read.