To the Ministers and Elders of the German Reformed Congregations in the United States

A Treasure in the City Seminary Archives

The year was 1789, and the Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties were fully engaged over the proposed new “Constitution of the United States,” a document that would replace the beleaguered Articles of Confederation. Th e young country’s newspapers chose up sides,  and the battle was joined. Into the fray stepped John Fenno, a passionate Federalist chosen by his party’s leaders to defend the Federalist cause in print.

His newspaper, the Gazette of the United States, was launched in 1789 as a vehicle to
promote the new constitution and the Federalist cause. Th e paper became the voice of the
Federalists, with Alexander Hamilton occasionally writing anonymously in its pages.

On July 4, 1789—the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence—the agenda was a
bit more positive, the promotion of the newly elected President George Washington. While
this original newspaper (currently housed in the archives of City Seminary) is of historical
interest to all Americans, it is particularly so to the descendents of the German Reformed
Church.

On June 10, 1789, the “Ministers and Elders of the German Reformed Congregations in
the United States at their General Meeting, held in Philadelphia,” composed a letter to the
new President in which the delegates promise that “we shall continue in our public worship
and all our devotions before the throne of grace, to pray that it may please God to bless you in your person, your family and your government, with all temporal and spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.” Both the letter to President Washington and his response were printed in the pages of the Gazette.
Fenno would be rewarded for his Federalist loyalties, and become printer of the United States Senate, although his family life was marred by tragedy. None of Fenno’s 13 children lived beyond the age of 43. His youngest child died unnamed in 1798, and his wife succumbed to complications of childbirth two days later. Ten days after his wife’s death, Fenno himself would die from yellow fever, having played an enormously important role in the establishment of the Federalist cause.

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