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[179] growing strongly against all legal restrictions, and in general the papers practised freedom, not to say license, of utterance.

With independence had come the consciousness of a great destiny. The collective spirit aroused by the war, though clouded by conflicting local difficulties, was intense, and the principal interest of the newspapers was to create a nation out of the loose confederation. Business and commerce were their next care; but in an effort to be all things to all men, the small page included a little of whatever might ‘interest, instruct, or amuse.’ Political intelligence occupied first place; news, in the modem sense, was subordinated. A new idea, quite as much as a fire, a murder, or a prodigy, was a matter of news moment. There were always a few items of local interest, usually placed with paragraphs of editorial miscellany. Correspondents, in return for the paper, sent items; private letters, often no doubt written with a view to such use, were a fruitful source of news; but the chief resource was the newspapers which every office received as exchanges, carried in the post free of charge, and the newspapers from abroad.

The newspaper continued to compete with the magazine by supplying moral, descriptive, and sentimental essays, poetry, anecdotes, reflections, and articles on trade, education, and conduct. Imitators of the English writers of periodical essays, the beginning of whose activities almost coincided with that of American newspapers,1 multiplied in numbers, until towards the close of the century it was a poor paper that did not maintain at least one series. The ‘Lay Preacher’ essays of Joseph Dennie2 gave The farmers' Museum of Walpole, New Hampshire, as wide a reputation as that of any paper in its day.

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

1 See Book I, Chap. VII, and Book II, Chap. II.

2 See Book II, Chap. III.

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