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Philip Freneau

Philip Freneau
Champion of Democracy

A detailed biography of this pensman of the American Revolution and early Republic.

January 1967
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
492 pages | 6 x 9 |

Philip Freneau was a poet, editor, and mariner. A graduate of Princeton, he was the roommate of James Madison and a classmate of Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Aaron Burr. When the colonies rebelled against England, he supported his newly born nation as a privateer, spending some time in a British prison as a result. He also served, more effectively, as “the poet of the Revolution.” Later he became the journalistic voice of the democrats.

Ardently devoted to liberty, he believed himself to be a defender of the common man, for whom he fought selflessly and often vitriolicly throughout his life. In newspapers such as The Freeman’s Journal, The New York Daily Advertiser, The National Gazette, The Jersey Chronicle, and The Time-Piece, he published articles, letters, and poems, instructing the citizens of the new Republic about their rights, and attacking those who, he believed, were infringing on those rights. In the midst of the controversy in which he was so often involved, he also found time to write a small body of poetry whose sensitivity and beauty mark him as the poetic equal of his European contemporaries, and, in fact, as a precursor of the new Romantic movement

In Philip Freneau: Champion of Democracy Jacob Axelrad provides a detailed biography of this pensman of the Revolution and early Republic. He gives a sympathetic, imaginative, perceptive, yet objective interpretation of Freneau and his place in history, and at the same time he presents a delightfully readable and clear picture of the period during which the poet lived.

These pages not only re-create the battles between Whig and Tory, federalist and democrat, but they also are alive with the activities and philosophies of the men who made American history. James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Adams, James Monroe go about the business of creating and shaping a new country, and as they do, they move into and out of the life of the poet of Monmouth, influencing him in a variety of ways.

Above all, Axelrad brings to life for the reader the man Freneau: simple, direct, often uncritical in his devotion to the cause he believed in; courageous in sustaining his stand against strong opposition; disillusioned and pessimistic about human nature, yet boldly optimistic about the future of humanity and of his country. And always behind the furor the reader is aware of the man struggling to provide a living for himself and his family, and never quite succeeding.

  • Preface
  • 1. In the Beginning
  • 2. Father and Son
  • 3. A Poet at Princeton
  • 4. Echoes in the Wind
  • 5. The Law of Nature
  • 6. The Muse of Liberty
  • 7. The Study of Nothing
  • 8. Revolt into Revolution
  • 9. What Is a Rebel?
  • 10. The Mask of Beauty
  • 11. Soldier and Seaman
  • 12. A Prisoner of the British
  • 13. God-Attending Star
  • 14. The Fruits of Victory
  • 15. The Poet as Postal Clerk
  • 16. Captain Philip Freneau
  • 17. Honeysuckle and Other Delusions
  • 18. Neptune and Clio
  • 19. Silken Bands—and Others
  • 20. Triumvirate
  • 21. The National Gazette
  • 22. The Issue of Democracy
  • 23. Open Up the Doors!
  • 24. Old Friends and New Foes
  • 25. Fever and Failure
  • 26. Treaties and Traitors
  • 27. The Time-Piece
  • 28. Men and Porcupines
  • 29. The Reign of Terror
  • 30. The Turning of the Tide
  • 31. Poets Are Paupers
  • 32. Man Shall Be Free
  • 33. Reap the Harvest
  • 34. Way of All Flesh
  • 35. The Old—and the New
  • 36. The Book Is Finished
  • Appendices
    • Appendix A. Records of Deeds and Mortgages in the Hall of Records, Monmouth County, Freehold, New Jersey
    • Appendix B. Legal Dockets of Action for Debts
  • Bibliography
  • Published Sources
  • Books and Articles
  • Newspapers
  • Manuscripts, Typescripts, and Miscellaneous Collections
  • Index

Jacob Axelrad (1889–1977), a resident of Connecticut, also wrote Anatole France: A Life without Illusions (1944), and Patrick Henry: The Voice of Freedom (1947). In addition to writing, he taught English and practiced law.