The Sedition of Benjamin Franklin Bache

The Sedition of Benjamin Franklin Bache

It is easy to forget just how much older Benjamin Franklin was than many of his contemporaries.

The best way to put this into perspective is by noting that his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, could also be considered a Founder.

Benjamin Franklin Bache is a fascinating Founder, as he was in many respects quite the opposite of his famous grandfather. While the older man was an extremely successful publisher who won the admiration of even his most ardent political rivals, Bache had a successful (if not extremely lucrative) paper while driving enemies to the point of physical attacks.

Benjamin Franklin Bache

Born in the years between the Stamp Act and First Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin Bache was named for his maternal grandfather, Benjamin Franklin.

Bache was just 6 when his famous grandfather returned to America after a lengthy stay in London. Less than two years later he would travel to Europe with the older man for a more thorough education.

He would not see his parents for almost a decade.

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Bache returned to the United States with a full understanding of the working of the few republics in Europe.

He worked as his grandfather’s assistant through the end of the old man’s life (which included his time in the Continental Congress). When Benjamin Franklin died, he left his print shop to Bache.

The grandson would still see wide readership, if not universal appeal.

Bashing Washington

Bache began printing his own paper, which would come to be known as the Philadelphia Aurora.

Though the paper started with the ambition of being unbiased, it quickly became a propaganda machine for the Democratic-Republicans. Bache viciously attacked the Federalists, and was one of the few outlets to directly criticize President Washington.

Benjamin actually received an early copy of the Jay Treaty and was the first person to publish it.

Additionally, he spoke often against slavery at a time when such a topic was extremely taboo.


When John Adams took over the presidency, Bache continued his assault. These men had known each other for decades, as Benjamin was a classmate in France of his son, John Quincy Adams.

When President Adams began arresting people under the Alien and Sedition Acts, Bache was one of the first to be taken into custody.

After being released on bail, and still awaiting trial, Benjamin was caught in a wave of smallpox that plagued Philadelphia in 1798 and died shortly thereafter. He was not yet 30 years old.

Benjamin Franklin Bache is looked back on today as one of the first important proponents of Freedom of Speech in the young republic.

There were many important Founders who ran print shops during the Revolution.

Here are a few you might like:

Mary Katherine Goddard Reveals the Signers of the Declaration

John Dunlap Announces American Independence

William Bradford Burns Fort Billingsport

Benjamin Franklin Bache was the rare third generation Founder.

James Tagg’s biography of Bache covers his peculiar life as a Freedom of Speech fighter and grandson of the First American.

If you’d like a copy you can pick one up through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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