“Fear is the foundation of most governments.”
~ John Adams
The other day I was talking with our town mayor concerning the present administration and the events unfolding in the United States. We both felt the lawless actions, supported and encouraged by the Obama cartel, portend very ominous times, but he was taken back when I mentioned that this country was headed for a break-up if not a civil war.
His expression of shock was accompanied by the declaration that anyone who has been in a war zone would not wish another civil war on this country. I agreed, but again shocked him when I noted that it wouldn’t be the everyday citizens of the America who would start the civil uprising leading to war, but rather it would be the present administration and the power elite.
He asked what I thought would be the catalyst for such a horrific event. I answered with a simple question: “Have you ever heard of the Philadelphia Aurora?”
The good mayor admitted he had not; just as I suspect that few in this country know of, or the history behind the Philadelphia Aurora newspaper; or the evil intent that has been demonstrated by the American Federal government since the late 1700’s.
The general media’s frequent glib use of the word “crisis” in their headlines in an attempt to scare the reader has all but rendered the word nonsensical; if not totally irrelevant. True, a crisis has come to mean another emergency or catastrophe, but this was not always the case.
The identification and clarification of a “crisis” has a far more threatening meaning when it is understood in its full context. Historically a crisis is “a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.” This has a direct relationship to what is probably the original meaning of the Greek word “krisis” with its medical implications: “the point in the course of a serious disease at which a decisive change occurs, leading either to recovery or to death.”
It was in the context of a turning point that a crisis occurred in the American experience and in which the Philadelphia Aurora plays a significant part.
The Philadelphia Aurora or the “Aurora” – as it came to be known – was originally founded in 1790 under the name “General Advertiser” by one Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin.
There seems to be little disagreement among historians that during the period between 1790 and 1793 the General Advertiser was one of, if not the, most important political journals in the fifteen states. That status was solidified with the closing, in 1793, of the National Gazette owned by Philip Freneau, leaving Bache and his newspaper as the chief source of criticism of the administration and policies of George Washington.
In 1794, B.F. Bache added the name of Aurora, and continued defending the ongoing French Revolution while acrimoniously chastising Washington’s administration for its “pro-British” predisposition, prejudices and sentiments.
It was the Aurora, in 1795, which leaked the text of Jay’s Treaty, then through the paper’s editorials and articles, generated well-known common protests against the tenets of the treaty.
Thomas Jefferson along with James Madison, were the leading opponents of the treaty. Adversaries of the treaty argued that any further economic ties with Britain would only strengthen the monarchists/Federalists here in the United States.
For the present it averted another war with Great Britain – which made both sides of the debate happy and surely had a great deal to do with the treaty’s ratification – but by 1803 the agreement was in tatters. The treaty’s failure was instrumental in causing renewed tensions between the United State and Britain, which ultimately resulted in the War of 1812.
It was also during 1795 that the Aurora began publicly increasing its attacks on the president by accusing George Washington of monarchical tendencies, financial malfeasance, an inferior military record and being “servile to Britain and hostile to France.”
The Aurora along with it supporters lost the battle over the Jay Treaty, but in the process this one newspaper emerged as the single greatest supporter of Thomas Jefferson’s campaign for the presidency, over the bid of John Adams, during the 1796 election. As such, the Aurora became the center of the Republican newspaper network disseminating its anti-federalist/pro-Jeffersonian message to the now sixteen states of the United States.
The election of 1796 was close, but in the end the final electoral vote was 71 for John Adams and 68 for Thomas Jefferson. (Bache and his paper had warned the American people of the deadly intentions of Adams who had no desire to be president, but rather sought to seize the reins of power as king. Those supporting Jefferson were not wrong! Adams had addressed this subject to Benjamin Rush on June 9, 1789 when Adams wrote: “America must resort (to) hereditary Monarchy or Aristocracy…as an asylum during discord, Seditions and Civil War.”)
The supporters of Thomas Jefferson had once again lost the argument, but the election of John Adams – who Bache identified as the “Old, querulous, Bald, blind, crippled, Toothless Adams,” – had made them some powerful, if not eternal, enemies.
What the Americans had after the election of 1796 was not a new president but a haughty and fault-finding scholar; a narcissistic Harvard graduate and Massachusetts lawyer; an argumentative, ugly, short, belligerent bully who wanted more than anything to be king.
Those who knew John Adams have said of him: “in some things (he is) absolutely out of his senses” – Benjamin Franklin; “sometimes (he is) absolutely mad” – Thomas Jefferson; “sometimes wholly out of his senses” – James Madison; “(He is) liable to paroxysms of anger, which deprive him of self command” – Alexander Hamilton; “a brute in manners and a bully in his family” – John Adams’ nephew Thomas.
On July 6, 1798, just a little over a year after taking the oath of office (March 4, 1797), the U.S. Congress under the leadership of John Adams enacted two pieces of legislation which were the very mirror of the president’s personality:An Act Respecting Alien Enemies which has become known as the Alien Act of 1798. Then eight days later on July 14, 1798 an addendum labeled: An Act in Addition to the Act, Entitled “An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes Against the United States” which is commonly called the Sedition Act of 1798. Today we refer to these two pieces of legislation as the “The Alien and Sedition Act of 1798.“
Historians always give an altruistic reason for the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 by referring to the XYZ affair along with the Quasi War with France and the need to “increase military preparations,” or to “enact a series of internal security measures.” I prefer to accept these acts for what they were and as defined by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to Stephens Thompson Mason dated October 11, 1798:
“…I consider those laws as merely an experiment on the American mind, to see how far it will bear an avowed violation of the Constitution. If this goes down, we shall immediately see attempted another act of Congress, declaring that the President shall continue in office during life, reserving to another occasion the transfer of the succession to his heirs, and the establishment of the Senate for life… (Emphasis mine) That these things are in contemplation, I have no doubt; nor can I be confident of their failure, after the dupery of which our countrymen have shown themselves susceptible…”
Then in November of 1798 Vice-President Jefferson writes to John Taylor:
“…It is a singular phenomenon, that while our State governments are the very best in the world, without exception or comparison, our General Government has, in the rapid course of nine or ten years, become more arbitrary, and has swallowed more of the public liberty than even that of England. (Emphasis mine) I enclose you a column, cut out of a London paper, to show you that the English, though charmed with our making their enemies our enemies, yet blush and weep over our sedition law…”
No, the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 was the result of a conscious, premeditated attempt on the part of the Monarchists/Federalists to destroy the Constitution, purge the states of the Irish using racial hatred, while at the same time silencing by prosecuting, beating, murdering, or deporting any critics, and the Aurora’s owner B.F. Bache, was at the head of the list.
This attempt rested on a fabricated, undeclared war, and the delusion (Jefferson’s word) called the XYZ Affair. It was in the words of Thomas Jefferson the “reign of witches”; an organized, orchestrated reign of terror on the part of the Federal government!
As soon as Adams had signed the Sedition Act into law the Aurora continued its attacks, condemning the Federalists, represented by the Adams regime, with this shot over the administration’s bow.
“‘Advertisement Extraordinary!!!’ (Philadelphia) Aurora 14 July 1798
Orator Mum takes this very orderly method of announcing to his fellow citizens that a THINKING CLUB will be established in a few days at the sign of the Muzzle in Gag Street. The first subject for cogitation will be:
“Ought a Free People to obey laws which violate the constitution they have sworn to support?”
N.B. (nota bene means “note well”) No member will be permitted to think longer than fifteen minutes.”
Over the years Benjamin Franklin Bache had suffered beatings, financial hardship due to Federalist boycotts, political woes, and fears of criminal prosecution, but it all came to an end on September 10, 1798 when he died having became one of the “ONE HUNDRED and TWENTY SEVEN new cases” of yellow fever reported every 24 hours in the city of Philadelphia.
As the Aurora’s presses fell silent there must have been unbridled joy, if not relief, among those of the Adams administration. Adams certainly exhibited a strong hatred for Bache in his letter to Benjamin Rush years later. “[T]he yellow fever arrested [this] malicious libeler,” Adams wrote, “[in his] detestable career and sent him to his grandfather, from whom he inherited a dirty, envious, jealous, and revengeful spite against me.”
The Adams administration armed with the Sedition Act now seemed to be in full command, giving the anti-Federalists more than enough reason to fear that their fate was sealed along with that of the Constitution and the new republic.
Then in October, 1798 the state of Kentucky drafted a resolution of nullification declaring The Alien and Sedition Acts are “void, and of no force, and will…take measures…for providing that neither these acts, nor any others of the General Government not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution, shall be exercised…”
Any relief the Federalists had felt in September must have been brought under temporary suspension when on November 1, 1798, Margaret Bach with the help of her assistant and future husband, William Duane, resumed publication of the Aurora.
On December 24, 1798 the “Virginia Resolution – Alien and Sedition Acts” nullified the law in the Common Wealth of Virginia, it showing the tide was turning against Adams.
By March 1799 the tide was fast approaching a flood. Thomas Jefferson writing to Thomas Lomax on March 12, 1799 outlines the problem now facing the Federalists.
“The spirit of 1776 is not dead. It has only been slumbering. The body of the American people is substantially republican. But their virtuous feelings have been played on by some fact with more fiction; they have been the dupes of artful maneuvers, & made for a moment to be willing instruments in forging chains for themselves. But time & truth have dissipated the delusion, & opened their eyes. …Pennsylvania, Jersey & New York are coming majestically round to the true principles. In Pennsylvania, 13 out of 22 counties had already petitioned on the alien & sedition laws. Jersey & N Y had begun the same movement, and tho’ the rising of Congress stops that channel for the expression of their sentiment, the sentiment is going on rapidly, & before their next meeting those three States will be solidly embodied in sentiment with the six Southern & Western ones.”
If Thomas Jefferson was aware of the erosion of support among Adams’ strongholds then there is no doubt that Adams and his cohorts were also conscious they were loosing the support of their followers.
It is no coincidence then that on March 12, 1799 Adams ordered “federal troops” commanded by the infamous William McPherson of the McPherson Blues and the Whiskey Rebellion to arrest those deemed “subversive of the just authority of the Government, by misrepresentations, to render the laws odious… certain acts which I am advised amount to treason, being overt acts of levying war against the United States…[and] to suppress such combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed…”
All this amounted to was the arrest or murder of those opposed to Adams’ war taxes and the Alien and Sedition Acts among the Pennsylvania farmers of Northampton, Bucks and Montgomery counties.
The troops that Adams was sending to subdue those opposed to him were not “federal troops” in the sense we think of them. They were the most virulent members of street gangs calling themselves the militias, and being accepted as such by Adams because of their fervent deadly support. These militias were described by William Duane of theAurora, this way:
“Their rise was at a season of alarm and political ferment… [M]en of sound republican principles but weak minds were seen enrolling themselves in ranks under the apprehension of their growing power and the consequent danger; and men…were seen disgracing the memories of their fathers and the independence of their country by the elevation of the black British cockade!… This corps, sanctioned by the President… gave a species of law to the public of this city. Weak men feared them… The theatre, the public streets and even the domestic sanctuary was infested with their folly or their violence…”
It wasn’t long before America’s Democrats and anti-Federalists were also arming themselves then forming their own private militias to protect against Federalist violence. As early as May 9, 1798, Adams’ militias had clashed with Democratic-Republican militias in Philadelphia. As one would guess none of Adams’ militia members were arrested.
This is the “militia” that Adams released into the Pennsylvania countryside with a “do whatever is necessary” order. Twelve hundred violent “friends of the President” were on the loose to “subdue” one hundred “subversives” and as might be expected the results where horrific. Reports of the “troop’s” activities returning to Pennsylvania recounted acts of extreme violence, crudeness, private homes being invaded; men, women, and children terrorized, private property destroyed, and political symbols (“liberty poles”) torn down.
In May of 1799 the Aurora published a story of how Adams’ militia, in violation of the 3rd Amendment, had invaded people’s homes and without the owners permission had remained “at free quarters.” In the same issue appeared an article by Tench Coxe, a former Adams supporter and administration official who had been “dismissed” for his growing support of Jefferson and his “Republican” ideals.
Coxe, like many Americans, was more than alarmed by the actions of Adams’ militia. He addressed his article “To the Republican Citizens of Pennsylvania,” expressly reminding the readership of the principles on which their freedom rested:
“But as men intent upon hostility have associated themselves in military corps, it becomes your duty to associate likewise ? Arm and organize yourselves immediately….
“Do you wish to preserve your rights? Arm yourselves. Do you desire to secure your dwellings? Arm yourselves. Do you wish your wives and daughters protected? Arm yourselves. Do you wish to be defended against assassins or the Bully Rocks of faction? Arm yourselves. Do you desire to assemble in security to consult for your own good or the good of your country? Arm yourselves. To arms, to arms, and you may then sit down contented, each man under his own vine and his own fig-tree and have no one to make him afraid….
“If you are desirous to counteract a design pregnant with misery and ruin, then arm yourselves; for in a firm, imposing and dignified attitude, will consist your own security and that of your families. To arms, then to arms.”
Duane’s article concerning Adams’ militia violating the 3rd Amendment, struck a cord because on Wednesday, May 15, 1799 some thirty “officers” of the militia lead by the son of Judge Thomas M’Kean assaulted the Aurorademanding, of Duane, to know where he had received the information, the name of the informant and an apology.
When Duane refused to give them any information or an apology he was forcibly dragged from his office taken into Philadelphia’s Market Street then unmercifully beaten before being humiliated by being whipped in front of his 16-year-old son.
Immediately after the assault Duane penned the following:
“If any circumstance could more deeply impress on his mind . . . to guard, with vigilance of republican jealousy, against the artifices, the intrigues and injustice of arbitrary men; – this conduct would only more and more attack him to his principles – but he has never slackened since he has had the honor to hold his present situation – and while he holds it, his hand must perish or his vital principles must be suspended by the hand of some of those assassins before he will shrink from exposing villains and crimes to public obloquy.”
Duane’s resolve to fight the injustice of Adam’s criminals had reached a fevered pitch with the citizens of Philadelphia. Vice-President Jefferson recounts what occurred next.
“[T]hese friends of order, these enemies of disorganization, assemble a second time to pull down the printing office of the young and amiable widow of the grandson of Benjamin Franklin. On the other hand, a body of real republicans, of men who are real friends of order, assemble in arms, and… mounted guard to protect the office of this widow, the person of the Editor, of his journeymen, his apprentices and his son. “
The presses further reported that during the next two weeks, “the streets of Philadelphia were filled with crowds of people who wanted nothing but the firing of the first musket to precipitate Pennsylvania, and perhaps the continent, into the horrors of civil war.”
It is impossible in a short article like this one to portray all the events that encompassed the four years of the Adams administration. Nor, can one artfully depict the horror and brutality people experienced during the reign of terror. Spies were everywhere, lamented Jefferson.
Those early Americans faced much the same tribulations as we do today: impending war; national debt; higher taxes; and a government that identified the citizens of the United State who opposed Federal policies as potential terrorists.
What had occurred was not a single isolated event. Instead those four years are the foundational norm for the actions of the Federal government in domestic and international policy to the present day. This was the crisis point for the American constitutional experience.
The Federalists lost the election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson, but Federalism wasn’t defeated; it simply morphed into another form, raising it ugly head most notably in 1861, 1913, 1933, and 2009. Federalism, by any title, is never far from the surface and always working even when not openly visible.
How can I be sure that this nation will be faced with either a civil war or be broken into independent parts?
The answer resides in the fact that the nature of government is so damnably predicable. What can’t be quantified is when. That depends on how long and how many economic, social and physical beatings those who are productive are willing to take from a chimerical, desultory, and deceptive central government.