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WILLIAM DUANE & SON
Printers of the original edition
William Duane, the most versatile and interesting printer of the early Congressional Journals, was born of Irish parentage near Lake Champlain, New York on May 17, 1760. When five years old his father died, and his motherdescendant of Patrick Sarsfield,one of the most distinguished names in Irish history-decided that her boy should grow up in her native Ireland. There he learned the printing business and married Catherine Corcoran who bore him a son, William John. His son later helped him in his journalistic and publishing activities and went on to become Secretary of the Treasury (1833-35) in the Jackson administration.
William Duane worked briefly as a printer in London, and in 1787 moved to India where he established the Indian World in Calcutta. Controversial and hot-tempered by nature, Duane became a force to be reckoned with in British India. He acquired both wealth and prestige-and the enmity of the East India Company, whose operations he castigated in his paper. The Company had him deported without trial and had his property confiscated. He then settled in London and became a parliamentary correspondent for the General Advertiser. Apart from reporting, he pressured members of Parliament to have the government compensate him for the confiscation of his property in India. To no avail. So, Duane in bitterness emigrated to America, and settled in Philadelphia in 1796 where he became associated with Benjamin Franklin Bache, and joined the staff of the Aurora, the anti-administration organ. Bache, the grandson of Benjamin Franklin, died while awaiting trial for political libel, at the age of 29, on September 10, 1798. Shortly thereafter, after the death of his wife, Duane married Bache's widow, who bore him five children.
Under Duane's editorship the Aurora became the most powerful organ of the Jeffersonians. His flair for controversy and his scathing pen made him the most effective journalist of his time. Various legal efforts and physical threats were made to restrain and intimidate him. Adams and Pickering, resenting his fierce journalistic onslaughts on them, even
considered having him deported under the Alien Law. But Duane was undeterred and his wrath fell not only on the Federalists but on anyone who didn't share his views. His exposure of the notorious Ross Act, designed to prevent the election of Jefferson, was the high-point of his journalistic career. He discredited the projected war with France over the X.Y.Z. affair and he cogently attacked the injustices of the Alien and Sedition Law. Duane was read widely; and few, if any, did as much to insure the election of Jefferson.
Paradoxically the triumph of Jefferson in 1800 marked the beginning of the decline of Duane. Jefferson and Gallatin persuaded him to move to Washington where he expected to be handsomely rewarded for past services. He was sorely disappointed. Yet his work in Washington even though constantly distracted by his Philadelphia operations, which he continued was significant. In April 1802 he printed the first catalog of Library of Congress, Catalogue of Books,... belonging to the two Houses of Congress. The following month he established the Apollo, of which only one issue appeared. Thereafter William Duane published under the imprint of Apollo Press, which remained active until 1807.
While remaining a political power in Pennsylvania, the influence of the Aurora waned. Duane made his dissatisfaction known, and even Gallatin, whom he had virulently attacked, sympathized with the disappointed Duane. Jefferson, his idol, who felt that Duane's enthusiasm often outstripped his prudence, sought in numerous ways to help him, appointed him lieutenant-colonel of rifles in July 1808 and sought help to alleviate his financial crisis in 1811. Duane served as adjutant general through the War of 1812. The Aurora continued in declining fortunes until 1822. Duane devoted his remaining years to writing one travel book and a series of military works, none of which is of significance.
In the winter of his life when holding a minor court post in Pennsylvania, he tried to revive the Aurora. But Duane was a spent man and his ideas were out of tune with the temper of the times. When he died on November 24, 1835 a voice of principle and courage was stilled.