WorldMag.com WORLD Magazine / Central Ideas / Chapter Five
First Surge of the Oppression Story


CONTENTS

PART ONE:
Rise of the Corruption Story

PART TWO:
Macrostories in Conflict

The Establishment of American Press Liberty
First Surge of the Oppression Story
The Great Debates of Journalism

PART THREE:
Breakthrough of the Oppression Story

APPENDICES

 

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In the end, the patriots saw their victory as a victory of ideas, disseminated through newspapers. As the editor of the New York Journal noted in a letter to Adams, "It was by means of News papers that we receiv'd & spread the Notice of the tyrannical Designs formed against America, and kindled a Spirit that has been sufficient to repel them."[1] British officials had a different perspective: Admiral Howe's secretary Ambrose Serles complained,
Among other Engines, which have raised the present Commotion next to the indecent Harranges of the Prechers, none has a more extensive or stronger influence than the Newspapers of the respective Colonies.[2]
British leaders were appalled that Samuel Adams' central idea of corruption in leadership had defeated their official story of faith in King.

Yet, had the British better known their own country's history, the shock would have been less. Adams, continuing what John Foxe had begun two centuries ago, was merely showing once again that nations rose and fell primarily because of world views, often communicated through journalistic means. By the 1760s, 250 years had passed since Martin Luther first showed the potential power of journalism. During that time, the uses of sensationalism, investigation, and accurate exposure had become apparent, and principles of reforming but nonrevolutionary journalism and contextualized coverage had been established.

Those concepts formed the baseline for journalism in the new republic. Some historians call the last quarter of the 18th century a deistic period, and sentiment of that sort certainly was present and growing among societal elites at Harvard College and elsewhere. Yet, in reporting of both crime and political news, news ballads and newspapers of the 1780s and 1790s continued the corruption story emphasis, with its "good news" conclusion. Coverage of a New Hampshire execution, for example, emphasized the evil that had been done, but concluded "O may that God/ Who gave his only Son,/ Give you his grace, in Heaven a place,/ For Jesus' sakeAmen."[3]

Newspapers, rather than embracing deism, often portrayed it as containing the seeds of its own destruction. In 1782, for example, 6 days after a man had killed his wife and four children and then himself, the Connecticut Courant reported the news and then contextualized: The perpetrator had

rejected all Revelation as imposition, and (as he expresses himself) 'renouncing all the popular Religions of the world, intended to die a proper Deist.' Having discarded all ideas of moral good and evil, he considered himself, and all the human race, as mere machines; and that he had a right to dispose of his own and the lives of his family.[4]
The Courant related how the man gave opiates to his family and then went around slaughtering the sleepers with knife and axbut the incident really began when the man "adopted this new theoretic system which he now put in practice."[5] Ideas had consequences.

The most famous journalistic work of the 1780s was The Federalist, a collection of 95 columns published in New York newspapers during 1787 and 1788. The columns, written under the pen name of "Publius" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, and designed to convince New York voters to ratify the Constitution, showed a thoroughly biblical view of the effects of sin on political life. Madison argued that "faction"power-grabbing attempts by groups of citizens "united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, adverse to the rights of other citizens"was impossible to avoid because it grew out of "the nature of man."[6] Hamilton emphasized the "active and imperious control over human conduct" that "momentary passions and immediate interests" would "invariably" assume.[7]

Other pennamed columnists of the period also argued that the nature of man would lead to attempts at dictatorship, unless careful restraint was maintained. "Brutus" (probably Robert Yates, an Albany lawyer) wrote, "It is a truth confirmed by the unerring experience of ages that every man, and every body of mend invested with power, are ever disposed to increase it"; lust for power was "implanted in human nature."[8] The only way to fight the lust was to divide in order to avoid conquestto limit and decentralize governmental power and to allow private interests to check each other. As Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51,

The policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other; that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme power of the state.[9]
The press also had a vital role in this slow but freedompreserving system of checks and balances. John Adams, after noting that the Constitution stipulated the election of key leaders, asked "How are their characters and conduct to be known to their constituents but by the press? If the press is stopped and the people kept in Ignorance we had much better have the first magistrate and Senators hereditary."'[10] In Alexandria, Virginia, the Gazette also thought the press was vital in the plan to limit governmental power, for
Here too public men and measures are scrutinized. Should any man or body of men dare to form a system against our interests, by this means it will be unfolded to the great body of the people, and the alarm instantly spread through every part of the continent. In this way only, can we know how far our public servants perform the duties of their respective stations.[11]
Such ideas underlay the First Amendment's insistence that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Cromwellian restrictions on the press following the English Civil War showed how quickly a victorious government might clamp down on those trying to check its power; freedom needed to be maintained. Yet, the freedom was not to be absolute. As John Allen of Connecticut argued,
Because the Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press, am I at liberty to falsely call you a thief, a murderer, an atheist? The freedom of the press was never understood to give the right of publishing falsehoods and slanders, nor of exciting sedition, insurrection, and slaughter with impunity. A man was always answerable for the malicious publication of falsehood.[12]
John Adams put it succinctly: Journalism is to be free "within the bounds of truth."[13] Pennsylvania adopted the Zenger principle of truth as a defense in its libel law, and other states would follow.

The first major test of newly established press freedom in America grew out of the French Revolution. France, after turning aside opportunities for Reformation luring the 1500s, never had developed decentralized spheres of authority: king and church together continued to claim all power. France never had developed the mass literacy and movement toward independent journalism that animated English during the 1600s and its American colonies during the 1700s. When the monarchy fell in 1789 and church power also diminished, journalists untrained in selfrestraint leaped into the enormous vacuum. As historian James Billington has noted, "In revolutionary France journalism rapidly arrogated to itself the Church's former role as the propagator of values, models, and symbols for society at large."[14]

Those French journalistic values were very different from those of Samuel Adams or the Federalist authors. French journalists such as Marat were students of JeanJacques Rousseau, who demanded not a restrained state but a total state. Rousseau argued that man was essentially good and would, with a proper education, act virtuously. Education was too important to be trusted to parents or churches, so it would be up to the state to teach all children to become "social men by their natures and citizens by their inclinationsthey will be one, they will be good, they will be happy, and their happiness will be that of the Republic."[15]

As Paul Johnson has noted, Rousseau's ideas demanded total submission of all individuals to the state. The ideal constitution Rousseau drafted for Corsica required all citizens to swear, "I join myself, body, goods, will and all my powers, to the Corsican Nation, granting her ownership of me, of myself and all who depend on me." Statecontrolled citizens would be happy, because all would be trained to like their master and to find their personal significance in its grace: "For being nothing except by [the state], they will be nothing except for it. It will have all they have and will be all they are." State control of communication was thus a complement to state control of education, because "those who control a people's opinions control its actions."

Some of this may sound gruesome, but the goal was to create a new type of person by creating a new environment. Rousseau argued that "Everything is at root dependent on politics," because everything can change if only a new social system is created: "Vices belong less to man, than to man badly governed." Individuals had no rights when they stood against the "General Will." This was completely the opposite of the American pattern of a limited government designed to keep sinful men from gaining any more power than absolutely necessary. It also ran counter to the American concept of a limiting press, one designed not to rule but to report on wrongdoing and confront readers with the workings of Providence.

Ideas had consequences. Cromwell had executed a king and several others; the French revolutionaries executed 20,000 in 2 years, then turned on themselves. For a short time after 1789 all French journalists had some freedom. Then only the few in power did, and opponents risked their lives: In 1793 the French National Council decreed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of writing anything that promoted dissolution of the National Assembly or restoration of the monarchy. (Two journalists were executed, 56 more were arrested or exiled, 42 journals were suspended, and 11 presses were smashed.) Eventually, no journalists had freedom, as a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte, seized power.

French journalists, demanding much, helped to create the conditions under which all could be lost. American journalists had grounded themselves in firmly established legal principles, but the French revolutionaries basked in illegality. The American Revolution was a defense of established rights, but the French revolution was an offensive for new entitlements. The American Revolution had fixed goals, but the French Revolution was a star trek"let's head out there."

Different goals created different reactions. Because the American Revolution was limited, resistance to it was limited. Because the French revolution was unlimited, resistance to it inevitably would grow. That was fine, believed the revolutionaries, because their goal was to break down everything; the current environment was one of oppression. Individual change was insufficient, and those who strove for it were selfish, but through total transformation of the oppressive environment mankind could be transformed. Faith that this could occur through governmental action, if vast power were put in the right hands, underlies what I call the oppression story. Journalists saw themselves as the transformers; for example, Nicholas Bonneville, editor of Le Tribun de Peuple, saw his journal as a "circle of light" whose writers were to be "simultaneously a centre of light and a body of resistance." They were to be "legislators of the universe," preparing a "vast plan of universal regeneration" based on belief in "the Infallibility of the People.[16] But, because the people were to act according to what journalists told them, for Bonneville that pledge essentially meant, "I believe in my own infallibility."

In the United States, a few writers heavily influenced by Rousseauian thought also took that pledge. The leader of the pack was Benjamin Franklin Bache, who had been educated in France while living there with his grandfather Ben Franklin. Bache demanded direct rule by "the people" who were coursing in the streets, and cursed those advocates of separation of power who pointed out the virtues of representative democracy. Typical of Bache's style was his labeling of George Washington as "the man who is the source of all the misfortune of our country."[17] He went on to charge Washington with having "debauched" and "deceived" Americans, and then left as his successor "bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams."[18]

Adams during his presidency also was regularly defamed by francophile editors such as James Callender, who falsely called Adams a traitor and charged that he had "proved faithful and serviceable to the British interest."[19] Adams was bald, but he could see, walk, and bite back. He opposed plans of Bache and others that "would lead in practice to a hidden despotism, concealed under the partycolored garment of democracy." He attacked those set on "contaminating the country with the foul abomination of the French revolution. "[20] Speaker of the House Jonathan Dayton warned of a Frenchstyle revolution in America, with assistance from the French navy and French troops invading from the former French territories of Canada and Louisiana. Lawyer Jonathan Hopkinson warned Americans that Bache and his supporters desire "the overthrow of your government and constitution. "[21]

Underlying the danger were the ideas; one congressman attacked philosophers who believed in "the perfectability of mankind" and thus became the "pioneers of revolution."[22] Yale University President Timothy Dwight warned of the danger of "the Bible cast into a bonfire . . . our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution . . . our sons become the disciples of Voltaire . . ."[23] Some leading journalists were seen as revolutionary moles; Bache, for example, was depicted as a French agent, a "dulledged, dulleyed, hagardlooking hireling of France," and Thomas Paine's radicalism and atheism was much decried.[24]

The controversy led to a lowering of selfrestraint on both sides. Supreme Court chief justice McKean in 1798 accurately described conditions when he noted "the envenomed scurrility that has raged in pamphlets and newspapers printed in Philadelphia for several years past, insomuch that libeling has become a national crime." He added:

the contest has been who could call names in the greatest variety of phrases; who could mangle the greatest number of characters, or who could excel in the magnitude of their lies; hence the honor of families has been stained, the highest posts rendered cheap and vile in the sight of the people, and the greatest services and virtue blasted.[25]
How easy it is to tear down, as editor John Dillingham had noted following the Cromwellian takeover in England.

Critics of the press revived the common midcentury distinction between liberty and licenseand there was widespread concern that journalists were not using wisely the freedom they had gained. One of Benjamin Franklin's last statements about journalism was a complaint:

Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among themselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels, and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring states, and even on the conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences.[26]
Franklin proposed a combination: freedom of the press plus "liberty of the cudgel." Libel laws should be tougher, Franklin suggested, for government officials "at the same time that they secure the person of a citizen from assaults, they would likewise provide for the security of his reputation."[27]

Charles Lee was confident in 1798 that careful lines could be drawn between liberty and license: "The freedom of the press differs from the licentiousness of the press, and the laws which restrain the latter, will always be found to affirm and preserve the former. "[28] The Federalists, then the majority party in Congress, searched for the right formula and in 1798 passed the Sedition Act, which stated that "false, scandalous and malicious writing" aimed at the President and other officials was punishable "by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years."

The furor created by the Sedition Act was surprising in some ways. As Leonard Levy has noted, the act was

the very epitome of libertarian thought since the time of Zenger's case. The Sedition Act incorporated everything that the libertarians had demanded: a requirement that criminal intent be shown; the power of the jury to decide whether the accused's statement was libelous as a matter of law as well as of fact; and truth as a defense, an innovation not accepted in England until 1843.[29]
But in those charged times the Act was quickly turned into a political weapon not against disloyal revolutionists but against the loyal opposition, the Jeffersonians. The Sedition Act, on the books from July 14, 1798 appropriately, Bastille Dayto its expiration in 1801, led to 14 indictments, 11 trials, and 10 convictions. Four of the five major Republican papers, including the Boston Independent Chronicle, the New York Argus, and the Richmond Examiner were penalized.

Once some of the less scrupulous Federalists seized the opportunity to prosecute their opponents, the legal situation rapidly deteriorated. For example, Matthew (Spitting) Lyon, a Congressmaneditor from Vermont, was jailed for 4 months and fined $1,000 merely for charging John Adams with "unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice. "[30] Lyon was obnoxioushe gained his nickname for spitting in the face of a Congressional opponent during a debate in which words failed himbut opinions of that sort could be fought with scorn rather than suppression. When Lyon's constituents reelected him to the House of Representatives from jail, he became a hero."[31]

Local Federalist politicians overreached even more when a drunkard named Luther Baldwin was arrested while Adams was passing through Newark, New Jersey, on his way from the capital (then in Philadelphia) to his home in Quincy, Massachusetts. One barfly, noting that Adams had already passed by but the cannons for his 16 gun salute still were firing, commented, "There goes the president and they are firing at his ass." Baldwin, drunk, said, "I don't care if they fire through his ass." Arrested for that statement and jailed for several days, Baldwin also emerged a hero.

We might say that the law itself made sense indeed, was a great leap forward but its execution was poor. The trouble, however, is that laws of that type always tend to be passed in situations so heated that the execution is likely to be terrible. Armed with examples of abuses, proponents of absolute freedom for journalists went on the offensive. John Nicolas of Virginia denied that journalistic liberty could be distinguished from "licentiousness," or "truth" from "falsehood."[32] George Hay in Philadelphia published An Essay on the Liberty of the Press that argued for total freedom for even "false, scandalous, and malicious" comments; Hay's goal was that "A man may say every thing which his passions suggest . . ."[33] Others argued similarly.

The legal debate ended in a draw that lasted for over a century. The extreme views of Nicolas, Hay, and others were not embraced by the courts. The Sedition Act was allowed to expire in 1801; Congress enacted no other Sedition Act until World War 1. Instead of either absolute freedom of federal control, the formula for the nineteenth century became that proclaimed by the Massachusetts supreme court in Commonwealth v. Clap (1808). The court observed that critiques of government officials or candidates, if true, "are not a libel. For it would be unreasonable to conclude that the publication of truths, which it is in the interests of the people to know, should be an offense against their laws."[34] The court also added sternly, however, that

For the same reason, the publication of falsehood and calumny against public officers, or candidates for public offices, is an offense most dangerous to the people, and deserves punishment, because the people may be deceived, and reject the best citizens, to their great injury, and it may be to the loss of their liberties.[35]
Truth was a defense against prosecution for libel, but falsehood was no defense. The Zenger jury's faith was now law, and "license" still was excluded.

The political debate also ended in a compromise. Some political fallout was immediate: The Sedition Act helped the Federalists lose the presidential election of 1800. But by 1800, the sails of American supporters of revolutionary ideas were droopingin large part because potential supporters had seen the consequences of those ideas played out in France. Some of the leading revolutionary journalists left the country (or were pushed out under the Alien Act). Other left this world; Benjamin Franklin Bache died of yellow fever as the Sedition Law was going into effect. But others, witnessing the brutality of the Revolution and its ending in Napoleon's dictatorship, turned away from revolution and the ideas that brought on revolution. On his deathbed, Thomas Paine retracted all the attacks on Christianity he had made in his last book, The Age of Reason. He said, "I would give worlds, if I had them, if The Age of Reason had never been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! Stay with me! It is hell to be left alone."[36]

Thus ended the first attempt to bring to American journalism the oppression story faith that if man's environment were changed through social revolution, man himself would change. But few Americans at that time, trained as they were in biblical ideas of original sin in human nature, were buying such a concept. Instead, the first three decades of the 19th century showed an increasing number of publications that were explicitly Christian in orientation. The total number of newspapers rose from 359 in 1810 to 851 in 1828 and 1,265 in 1834and, as one contemporary observer noted, "Of all the issues of the press threefourths are theological, ethical, and devotional."[37] The New York Christian Advocate became the largest circulation weekly in the country, with 25,000 subscribers in 1828 and 30,000 in 1830.[38]

With the centralizing attempts of the revolutionaries defeated, the United States was able to continue its decentralized development. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed of early 19th-century America,

It is in the township, the center of the ordinary business of life, that the desire for esteem [and] the pursuit of substantial interests . . . are concentrated; these passions, so often troublesome elements in society, take on a different character when exercised so close to home and, in a sense, within the family circle .... Daily duties performed or rights exercised keep municipal life constantly alive. There is a continual gentle political activity which keeps society on the move without turmoil.[39]
In many European countries, national newspapers emphasized politics above all else; in America, where the central institutions were family, church, and local organization, local newspapers thrived.

In this quiet period for American journalism hundreds of unsung editors went about their business of reporting both sinfulness and special providences. One typical editor, Nathaniel Willis, had at one time been impressed by the journalism of Benjamin Bache. Born in 1780, Willis from 1802 to 1807 edited a vitriolic Maine newspaper, the Portland Eastern Argus, and aspired to revolutionize society. During that period he was happy to "spend Sabbaths in roving about the fields and in reading newspapers"; one Sunday, however, he went to hear what he thought would be a political speech by a minister, and was surprised to hear instead a discussion of biblical basics.[40] Willis, "much interested," eventually came to believe "that the Bible is the Word of Godthat Christ is the only Saviour, and that it is by grace we are saved, through faith."[41]

Applying that understanding to his occupation, Willis decided that good journalism required analysis of issues and not just partisan political attacks. Local politicians who had backed his Maine newspaper did not care for his new scruples; Willis resigned, moved to Boston, and with coeditor Sidney Morse began putting out the Boston Recorder. Willis and Morse announced that they would show theological truth while putting out a concise weekly newspaper (including "the earliest information of all such events as mankind usually deem important").[42] The Recorder also promised accuracy-"Care will be taken to distinguish between rumor and well-authenticated fact"[43]-and promised, if necessary, a salute to government like that offered by John Stubbes:

When it be necessary to disapprove of public measures, that respect for Government, which lies at the very foundation of civil society, will be cautiously preserved; and in such cases, a tone of regret and sorrow will best comport with the feelings of the Christian patriot.[44]
Coverage of a major Syrian earthquake in 1822, "EARTHQUAKE AT ALEPPO," shows how the Recorder combined news and theological contextualization. Its firstperson account by missionary Benjamin Barker told how Barker was racing down the stairs of a crumbling house when another shock sent him flying through the air, his fall broken when he landed on a dead body. He saw:
men and women clinging to the ruined walls of their houses, holding their children in their trembling arms; mangled bodies lying under my feet, and piercing cries of half buried people assailing my ears; Christians, Jews, and Turks, were imploring the Almighty's mercy in their respective tongues, who a minute before did not perhaps acknowledge him.[45]
An overall report continued the theme of sudden destruction, with "hundreds of decrepit parents halfburied in the ruins, imploring the succor of their sons," and "distracted mothers frantically lifting heavy stones," looking for their children.[46] But the Recorder, describing how the earthquake led many to think about God and the brevity of life, then stressed the "triumphs of divine grace over the obduracy of the human heart, and over the prejudices of the unenlightened mind.[47]

Coverage of politics showed an emphasis on individual responsibility rather than grand societal solutions. Recorder essays argued that civil government has strictly limited jurisdiction, and should be turned to only for defense or punishment of crime; family, church, and voluntary association were to take leadership in dealing with social problems.[48] Other newspapers also emphasized the moral questions involved in both personal and governmental actions. The Lexington Western Monitor, a Kentucky newspaper, was typical in its summary of one major role of the press: "To strengthen the hands of virtue and to rebuke vice."[49] The New York American viewed "the Press as the great instrument of Liberty," as long as there was a "FREE and INDEPENDENT PRESS, FREE from all controls but that of religion and morality, INDEPENDENT of any influence but the good of our country and mankind."[50]

Newspapers like the Recorder covered international news in line with their theological concerns. Missionary activities received great coverage, with many publications complaining that the British East India Companyagent for the British government in Indiawas restricting the activities of missionaries for fear that Christian development would "prove fatal to the British government in India."[51] The Columbian Phoenix complained that British leaders thought "the Religion of the Most High God must not be suffered to interfere with the arrangements of the British government.[52]

Sensational stories about India's "Juggernaut festival"in which people prepared for sacrifice to local gods were "crushed to death by the wheels" of a moving tower while onlookers shouted with joy[53]-led into reports that British agents were collecting a "Juggernaut tax." The New Hampshire Patriot complained that British leaders

take a premium from the poor ignorant Asiatic idolater to indulge him in falling down and worshipping the moulten image, Juggernaut.By this piece of religious fraud, they raise a handsome revenue to the British government.[54]
Great Britain's peaceful coexistence with human sacrifice, wife burning, and infanticide was attacked by Niles' Weekly Register, which reported that two American missionaries were evicted from India because "the revenues of Juggernaut must not be unhinged."[55] A Rhode Island newspaper argued that the British government would sponsor the worship of Beelzebub if the state could make money off of it.[56]

Many editors emphasized scandals in the royal family and argued that British evangelical societies were "mere political engines" organized for "pretendedly pious purposes . . . With England religion is merely a political engine. Of what profession it is, is scarcely thought of, so it pays a tribute in cash or in service or pretences."[57] The Boston Yankee called England "this modern Babylon . . . We abhor the deep and abominable depravity of her state religion, which is no better than popery."[58] One editor ran this pointed reminder: "What has Britain done for the Protestant cause? Why, she has persecuted a large majority of her own Protestant subjects, dissenting from the dogmas of her national church, with inquisitorial cruelty."[59]

The most articulate journalistic writer on politics and morality during the 1830s was William Leggett of the New York Evening Post. Leggett's major political principle was support for "equal rights," by which he meant that law should not discriminate among citizens, benefiting some at the expense of others. He believed it unfair for government to be "offering encouragements and granting privileges" to those with political clout. He set about to expose any governmental redistribution of income, whether through taxes, tariffs, or government aid to individuals, businesses, or labor groups.

Leggett foresaw problems whenever "government assumes the functions which belong alone to an overruling Providence, and affects to become the universal dispenser of good and evil. "[60] He did not want government to become:

the greater regulator of the profits of every species of industry, and reduces men from a dependence on their own exertions, to a dependence on the caprices of their Government.[61]
Leggett complained that some already were beginning to argue "that because our government has been instituted for the benefit of the people, it must therefore have the power to do whatever may seem to conduce to the public good."[62] Yet "under the sanction of such a principle, a government can do any thing on pretense of acting for the public good," and the effect would be erratic,
not unlike that of weak and vacillating parents over their children, and with about the same degree of impartiality. One child becomes a favourite because he has made a fortune, and another because he has failed in the pursuit of that object; one because of its beauty, and another because of its deformity.[63]
Presciently, Leggett argued that the growth of "this power of regulatingof increasing or diminishing the profits of labour and the value of property of all kinds and degrees, by direct legislation"would lead to a growth of governmental power and citizen desire to grab some of that power. As Leggett wrote, government was in danger of becoming
the mere creature of designing politicians, interested speculators, or crackbrained enthusiasts. It will gradually concentrate to itself all the reserved rights of the people; it will become the great arbiter of individual prosperity; and thus, before we know it, we shall become the victims of a new species of despotism, that of a system of laws made by ourselves. It will then remain to be seen whether our chains will be the lighter from having been forged by our own hands.[64]
Once such a system were established, Leggett pointed out, changing it would be difficult:
One of the greatest supports of an erroneous system of legislation, is the very evil it produces. When it is proposed to remedy the mischief by adopting a new system, every abuse which has been the result of the old one becomes an obstacle to reformations. Every political change, however salutary, must be injurious to the interests of some, and it will be found that those who profit by abuses are always more clamourous for their continuance than those who are only opposing them from motives of justice of patriotism, are for their abandonment.[65]
Yet, if change did not occur, citizens would be left enslaved:
A government administered on such a system of policy may be called a Government of Equal Rights, but it is in its nature and essence a disguised despotism. It is the capricious dispenser of good and evil, without any restraint, except its own sovereign will. It holds in its hand the distribution of the goods of this world, and is consequently the uncontrolled master of the people.
Leggett died of yellow fever in 1839, at age 38, but other journalists continued to develop similar ideas over the next decade. A common theme was evident on many editorial pages: The world is filled with tyranny; journalists by embracing power have contributed to that pattern; America remains a land in which state governments and local newspapers are their own masters.[66]

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CHAPTER 5 First Surge of the Oppression Story Notes

1. Quoted in Schlesinger, p. 284.

2. Ibid., pp. 2845.

3. A brief account of the Execution of Elisha Thomas (Portsmouth, N.H.: 1788).

4. Connecticut Courant, December 17, 1782.

5. Ibid.

6. The Federalist no. 10, available in many editions including Clinton Rossiter, ed., The Federalist Papers (New York, 1961), pp. 77-84.

7. Ibid., No. 6, pp. 53-60.

8. "Essays of Brutus" in Herbert J. Storing, ed., The AntiFederalist (Chicago, 1985), pp. 112-113.

9. The Federalist Papers, op. cit., pp. 320-325.

10. Quoted in Leonard Levy, Emergence of a Free Press (New York, 1985), p. 200.

11. Gazette, January 14, 1790, quoted in Levy, p. 291.

12. Quoted in Louis Ingelhart, Press Freedoms (Westport, CT, 1987), p. 131.

13. Quoted in Levy, loc. cit.

14. James Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men (Princeton, 1980), p. 33: "Indeed, the emergence of dedicated, ideological revolutionaries in a traditional society (in Russia of the 1860s no less than in France of the 1790s) depended heavily on literate priests and seminarians becoming revolutionary journalists .… Journalism was the only incomeproducing profession practiced by Marx, Lenin, and many other leading revolutionaries during their long years of powerlessness and exile."

15. These and subsequent Rousseau quotations are from Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (London, 1988).

16. Billington, pp. 35, 62.

17. The General Advertiser, March 6, 1797.

18. Aurora, December 21 and 23, 1796.

19. Quoted in Walter Brasch and Dana Ulloth, The Press and the State (Lanham, Md., 1986), p. 104.

20. Hart, Faith and Freedom, pp. 307-308.

21. For an account sympathetic to Bache and his beliefs, see Bernard Fay, The Two Franklins (Boston, 1933), particularly pp. 264-361.

22. Quoted in Levy, p. 298.

23. Timothy Dwight, The Nature, and Danger, of Infidel Philosophy (Hartford, 1798), p. 9.

24. Thomas Paine became famous for his timely pamphlet Common Sense (1776), but by the 1790s Paine seemed a believer in his own infallibility; Paine's friend Etienne Dumont said of him, "He believed his book on the Rights of Man could take the place of all the books in the world and he said to me if it were in his power to demolish all the libraries in existence, he would do it so as to destroy all the errors of which they were the depository and with the Rights of Man begin a new chain of ideas and principles. He knew by heart all his writings and knew nothing else."

25. Quoted in James M. Lee, History of American Journalism (Boston, 1917), p. 101.

26. Ibid., p. 102.

27. Franklin made a perhaps jocular suggestions as to what specifically the offended party should do: If a writer attacks your reputation, "break his head." If you cannot find him immediately, "waylay him in the night, attack him from behind, and give him a drubbing."

28. Ingelhart, p. 138.

29. Levy, p. 297.

30. See Aleine Austin, Matthew Lyon (University Park, Pa., 1981), pp. 108-109.

31. Lyon took his seat in the House on February 20, 1799. The Federalists obtained a 49-45 vote for expulsion, but that fell far short of the necessary twothirds majority.

32. Speech of July 10, 1798, quoted in Levy, pp. 301-302.

33. George Hay, An Essay on the Liberty of the Press (Philadelphia, 1799; reprinted in Richmond, 1803), p. 25 (Richmond edition).

34. Harold Nelson, ed., Freedom of the Press from Hamilton to the Warren Court (Indianapolis, 1967), p. 119.

35. Ibid.

36. Quoted in Hart, p. 309.

37. Quoted in Howard Kenberry, The Rise of Religious Journalism in the United States (unpublished dissertation, University of Chicago, 1920), p. 20. Statistics are from the American Almanac, 1835.

38. Roberta Moore, Development of Protestant Journalism in the United States,17431850 (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1968), p. 237. There had been 37 newspapers in the 13 colonies in 1775. According to the 1835 American Almanac, the number of daily newspapers increased from 27 in 1810 to 90 in 1834.

39. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence (New York, 1969), p. 69.

40. Sketch of Willis' life in the Boston Recorder, October 21, 1858, p. 167.

41. Ibid., loc. cit.

42. Ibid., January 3, 1816.

43. Ibid.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid., March 29, 1822.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid., December 23, 1817.

48. Ibid., August 18, 1826. In this the Recorder anticipated de Tocqueville's observation that "Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations . . . . If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society .... what political power could ever [do what Americans voluntarily] perform every day with the assistance of the principle of association" (book 2, chapter 5).

49. Lexington Western Monitor, August 3, 1814.

50. New York American, March 3, 1819.

51. Christian Disciple and Theological Review, February, 1814, pp. 6162. This quotation and others from the War of 1812 era are found in William Gribbin, The Churches Militant (New Haven, 1973).

52. Ibid., August 21, 1813.

53. Claudius Buchanan, Christian Researchers in Asia: with notices of the translation of the Scriptures into the Oriental languages (Boston, 1811), p. 34.

54. New Hampshire Patriot, March 2, 1813.

55. Niles' Weekly Register, January 30, 1813.

56. Columbian Phoenix, November 28, 1812.

57. Baltimore Patriot, April 28, 1813.

58. Boston Yankee, January 23, 1815.

59. Niles' Weekly Register, October 30, 1813.

60. Leggett's columns are most readily accessible in William Leggett, Democratick Editorials (Indianapolis, 1984); here, p. 3.

61. Ibid., loc. cit.

62. Ibid., p. 11.

63. Ibid., loc. cit.

64. Ibid., loc. cit.

65. Ibid., p. 13.

66. See, for example, pages of the Boston Recorder throughout the 1830s and 1840s.