Benjamin Franklin Bache was the son of Sally Bache, Benjamin Franklin's daughter. Like his famous grandfather Franklin Bache was a writer, printer, and newspaper publisher. Benjamin Bache is regarded as one of the fathers of the American tradition of the ideological and partisan political press.
Bache was the editor and publisher of the Philadelphia newspaper the General Advertiser (also known as the Aurora), and was a fierce and constant opponent of the Federalist Party. So intense and long lasting were Bache's printed battles with the Federalist Party that the reputation of his grandfather suffered in the earliest years of the republic, as character attacks on Benjamin Franklin were employed in an attempt to silence and discredit Bache.
In 1776 at the age of seven, Benny—as his grandfather called him—journeyed to France with Benjamin Franklin on his diplomatic mission to persuade France to enter the Revolutionary War on the side of the Americans. In a scene that became famous in France, Benjamin Franklin met Voltaire at Paris' Masonic lodge. Franklin brought young Bache along and asked for Voltaire's benediction.
After the war and the ratification of the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin witnessed his grandson William Temple Franklin denied a governmental post. As a result, Franklin taught Bache the printer's trade. While Bache did enjoy modest success as a printer, it was as a newspaper man that he became famous.
George Washington, a good friend of Benjamin Franklin, was a frequent target of Bache's political editorialism. Bache saw Washington as too ready to accept accolades, which lead Bache to fear Washington was assuming aristocratic airs of acting in a tyrannical manner. He was also a major supporter of French-American relations, and criticized what he perceived as Washington's hostility to French diplomacy and his overtures towards reconciliation with England.
Washington wrote, in a July 21, 1793 letter to Henry Lee that he viewed Bache's press as "arrows of malevolence," and that "the publications in. . .Bache’s papers are outrages on common decency; and they progress in that style in proportion as their pieces are treated with contempt and are passed by in silence, by those at whom they are aimed."1
Bache was a supporter of Thomas Jefferson, and was one of the targets of the Federalists' Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The acts had a harsh impact on Bache, as the paper was threatened with postal boycotts, by mobs of federalists supporters threatened his family, and the Federalists sent "committees of surveillance" to spy on Bache's activities. The acts had a direct, harsh effect. Bache was arrested on June 26, 1798 for "libeling the President," however; he died in prison during a yellow fever epidemic before his trial was heard.
Frank D. Casale, Ph.D.
Morgan State University
1. "George Washington to Henry Lee, 21 July 1793," The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 33 ed. John C. Fitzpatrick (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office).
Brands, H. W. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Doubleday, 2000.
Van Doren, Carl. Benjamin Franklin. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Wood, Gordon. The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. New York: Penguin Press, 2004.
Benjamin Franklin, Writings. Ed J. A. Leo Lemay. New York: Library of American Press, 1987.
George Washington: Writings. Ed. John Rhodehamel. New York: Library of America press, 1997.