Dawson, Moses (1768-1844)
Autograph Manuscript Concerning the Trial of Dr. Tennent of the "Established Church of Belfast," and Sectarian Strife

folio, 4 pages, the manuscript is undated but is written on laid paper watermarked 1811, and mentions troubles caused on July 12, 1813, "Orangemen's Day" and clearly dates from his days in Belfast, Ireland. Dawson touches on sectarian strife and speaks highly critically, and in his typically combative style of the chief magistrate responsible for the expulsion of seven thousand Catholics from county Armagh and for those responsible for continuing the strife in the present case in Belfast. The manuscript is identified as being "The handwriting of Moses Dawson biographer of Harrison," on the last page. Comparison with other letters by Dawson bears this out.

The manuscript is headed: "The particular attention of the members of the Established church of the Parish of Belfast is particularly requested to the report of the Trial of Dr. Tennent at the quarter sessions last week - and in order to place the evidence given on that trial in as clear a point of view as possible particularly that part of it which went to convict the Doctor and that which was given in exculpation - it shall be given under particular heads as D. & C. "

Dawson relates an account of the trial for the course of 2  ½ pages before heading into a second section of a page and a half which begins "Now my friends here is a fair and impartial statement of this account laid before you..." 

Dawson continues:

"... there is one item on the debit side for which there is no credit given on the other - namely that part of Mr. Verner's evidence where he says a great crowd followed to the office hoping and hooting - this however  I am sure many of you can balance in your own minds by matter fact as it must be known to many of you that no such circumstance took place but that the indignation of the people was expressed by silent astonishment at seeing a respectable useful and inoffensive inhabitant dragged like a felon to the Black hole.

You must be sensible from the evidence of those respectable and worthy men who were called on the defence that the most simple assault was not intended - that no disrespect was meant to the judges of the Land and that so far from Dr. Tennet setting himself in opposition to the constitution of his country he was endevouring by Constitutional means to prevent the recurrence of murder in our streets - Who can be considered the best friend to the constitution of his country the man who would abet a lawless Banditti in murder in raiping and House burning or the man who would by every legal means endeavour to put a stop to such scenes - the question answers itself - "the notorious Verner and "the lamb of grace" aided by the infamous bench who presided at Antrim sessions are the real enemies of the Constitution and not the peaceable inhabitants of Belfast who wished to put an end to such disgraceful scenes as those of 12 July 1813.

Fellow Christians only think of the miserable situation you are reduced to - on the one hand a chief Magistrate whose youthful days have been passed in the raiping burning and murder of the unfortunate Catholics of Armagh and who is now come to spend his more mature years in promoting the same system in Belfast - and who has added perjury to the other list of crimes of which he has been ... guilty - and on the other a Pastor who from infancy has been innured to all the crimes committed in an infamous gaming house - who was begotten in adultery and nurtured in villainy - who has long since robbed the gallows of its dues - and whose ears for this last act of his richly deserves to be nailed to the Pillory - How can you without horror view these men in their respective situations in the church - how can you without abhorrence view such a man as Verner in the seat of justice with all his emblems about him - or how can you look upon him without picturing in your imagination the flames of the cabin and the shrieks of women and children - and lastly what you must think of the man who holds such a situation being guilty of such an assault upon a helpless man for you must in your own minds find him guilty of the attempt upon Mr. Barnes.

But above all how can you or with what feelings communicate in the supper of the Lord and take the Elements from the hands of such a wretch as may might ye not as well take them from the hands of Satan himself - O my fellow Christians but you are objects of pity to be obliged to submit to such degradation do one and all of you petition the Bishop that he will interdict this wretch from performing any of the holy ordinances of your Religion - the Bishop is a wise humane and benevolent man he is a true Christian and he will redress your grievances - he will at last order the wretch to suspend his function as a vicar - let the wretch enjoy the fruits of his wickedness and hypocrisy - but have him removed from exercising the sacred rites of your religion - I am a friend to true Christianity."

"Moses Dawson was born June 9, 1768 in Belfast, Ireland. He was a native of Carrickfergus, a small port on Belfast Lough. His ancestors were of English descent and removed into county Antrim, Ireland at the close of the seventeenth century. Dawson, the son of a linen draper, was educated in Belfast and spent his boyhood there. In his youth, Dawson became a member of the Society of United Irishmen, a political and social organization that rallied for Irish independence from Britain. He was an active and zealous member, and was arrested twice barely escaping conviction and a death sentence as a traitor and rebel, a fate suffered by many of his associates.

Dawson was married to Jane Phillips in 1796, the couple had seven children. A teetotaler, Dawson was known for his florid dinner toasts, his pugnacious manner, (on evidence in the present manuscript) and for his plainness of dress and manners.

Dawson remained a fervent partisan of Irish politics for many years, and strongly opposed the union bill approved January 1, 1801 which merged Ireland and Britain. He continued to live in Ireland and Scotland, working as a linen draper and continuing to participate in politics. During 1816 and 1817, Dawson lived in Glasgow and contributed to a newspaper called The Magic Lantern. His column, "The Show Box," was something of a political tabloid which got him into trouble with Scottish authorities. In May 1817, facing an arrest warrant, Dawson fled to America.

Dawson spent some time in Philadelphia and Lexington, Kentucky before settling in Cincinnati. By 1823 he was the sole editor and sole proprietor of the Cincinnati Advertiser newspaper. Through his partisan, inflammatory editorials in the Advertiser, extolling the virtues of the "voice of the people" and Jacksonian politics, he came to occupy a very prominent position in the public eye and was influential in developing and shaping public opinion about Jacksonian politicians across the country. In 1824 Dawson wrote a biography of William Henry Harrison, entitled: A Historical Narrative of the Civil and Military Services of Major General Harrison, (a classic of frontier literature) and in 1840 he published a biography of Martin Van Buren.

His voice was unparalleled in Ohio after the 1828 presidential election victory of General Jackson, an election that has been called his "grand obsession." Jackson became, to Dawson, the authoritative mouthpiece for the people and thus to him Jackson spoke the truth in all things. Dawson's own newspaper, as well as his monthly campaign periodical The Friend of Reform and Corruption's Adversary, regularly took issue with the views of Charles Hammond, the editor of a competing newspaper in Cincinnati, the Gazette, who was fiercely anti-Jackson. He was instrumental in securing Jackson's victory and the two men had a considerable correspondence.

Dawson continued to fight hard for Jacksonian ideals during the next twelve years, during the presidencies of Jackson and Van Buren, becoming known as the Democratic leader "out west" in Ohio.

At the age of seventy-two, in March 1841, Dawson sold his share of the newspaper and retired. His paper the Advertiser, became one of the direct predecessors of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which began publication April 10, 1841. Dawson died December 4, 1844, after which Jackson wrote a letter mourning the death of his friend, writing that he was so sick he was hardly able to hold a pen."