Political Agenda Setting in Early America: The Barbary Wars

This thesis explores the extent to which the first four presidents of the United States – Federalists George Washington and John Adams and the Republicans, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison - relied on political agenda setting. The thesis demonstrates that each president used his relationship with early American media to set his presidential agenda. One of the more important yet understudied examples of American foreign relations in the early Republic is the nation’s conflict with the Barbary States from 1783 to 1817. The Barbary Wars thus serve as an excellent case study for assessing political agenda setting in early America. Despite widespread agreement about the principle of popular sovereignty, early American political leaders disagreed about the role that the people should play in government after delegating their authority to their elected representatives. Although agenda setting was not recognized as a political term until the 1960’s, there is significant evidence to indicate that it was employed as early as the 1790s with regard to the Barbary States.