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1798 Newspaper Reports Napoleon Invasion of Egypt

Lord Nelson Destroys French Fleet

Congressman Matthew Lyon in Prison Under Sedition Act

This 1798 newspaper with a nice masthead reports on Napoleon Bonaparte's successful invasion of Egypt and on Lord Nelson's equally successful naval victory over the French fleet. It provides extensive reports on both of these historic events from a British and French perspective. Among the interesting details provided in the newspaper is the complete text of Napoleon's address to his troops before the invasion (pictured below)  in which he counsels respect for the Muslim religion, their mosques and religious leaders, enjoins against plundering and makes reference to the victories of Roman legions and Alexander the great to inspire his troops. Also shown below is a report of Napoleon's taking of both Alexandria and Cairo.


The other great historic event that took place at the same time was the victory of Admiral Horatio Nelson, later Lord Nelson, over the French fleet off the coast of Egypt. The newspaper provides a front page first person account from a French officer who witnessed it from at Rosetta, Egypt and there are British accounts of the battle and its aftermath as well. The newspaper reports, for instance, that "Bonaparte had cut off the heads of 250 Turks, for rejoicing at the victory over the French fleet."


Nor is this newspaper without interesting domestic news. One of the more interesting incidents in the new Republic involved the threats to freedom of the press as a result of the enactment of the infamous Sedition Act, which was first applied to a Vermont newspaper publisher who also happened to be a Revolutionary War hero and current Congressman, Mathew Lyon. The newspaper contains the full text of a letter from General Mason of Virginia to Colonel Lyons, "now prisoner in the goal [jail] of Vergennes." The history of the Matthew Lyon and his imprisonment was recently set out in a Congressional concurrent resolution requesting that a commemorative postage stamp be issued honoring Lyons.

Mason's letter to Lyon is a brief for freedom of press and records the reaction to Lyon's imprisonment:

"People had been told that the Sedition Bill was harmless, was only meant as a bugbear, and would not be enforced. But when they see it so speedily carried into execution, and its first victim one of the representatives of the people, every considerate man shudders at the danger with which civil liberty is threatened and considers you as a martyr in its cause."

Mason also discusses some Constitutional history and the fact that the Virginia ratification convention was told that a Bill of Rights was not needed because the federal powers were so limited.

The passage and use of the Sedition act to go after critics of President John Adams and curtail press freedoms is one of the reasons Adams lost reelection as President two years later. The newspaper excerpt introducing the letter of Mason to Lyons is shown below.

Below is a picture of the full front page. The newspaper is in nice shape and is composed of very sturdy high rag content newsprint. There is a stain to the left top, as shown below and some assorted foxing and there is some reinforcement of the folds with tape that is removable (we have done so in the past from newspapers that came in the same lot) and a past collector marked the most historic articles with an arrow stamp, which is shown both in the picture below and most prominently in the French account of Nelson's naval victory pictured above.

This newspaper has a wonderful blend of stirring news of great figures from the past in the exploits of Napoleon Bonaparte and Admiral Nelson in Egypt as well as bringing us to one of the important fronts in America for freedom of the press.