Transcibers note: The letter "o" with a macron is rendered ō in this text, the letter "e" with a macron ē.
LITERATURE AND NATIONAL POLICY.
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VOL. V.—FEBRUARY, 1864—NO. II.
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THOMAS JEFFERSON, AS SEEN BY THE LIGHT OF 1863.
Mr. Jefferson, in his lifetime, underwent the extremes of abuse and of adulation. Daily, semi-weekly, or weekly did Fenno, Porcupine Cobbett, Dennie, Coleman, and the other Federal journalists, not content with proclaiming him an ambitious, cunning, and deceitful demagogue, ridicule his scientific theories, shudder at his irreligion, sneer at his courage, and allude coarsely to his private morals in a manner more discreditable to themselves than to him; crowning all their accusations and innuendoes with a reckless profusion of epithet. While at the same times and places the whole company of the Democratic press, led by Bache, Duane, Cheetham, Freneau, asserted with equal energy that he was the greatest statesman, the profoundest philosopher, the very sun of republicanism, the abstract of all that was glorious in democracy. And if Abraham Bishop, of New Haven, Connecticut, compared him with Christ, a great many New Englanders of more note than Bishop, pronounced him the man of sin, a malignant manifestation of Satan. On one or the other of these two scales he was placed by every man in the United States, according to each citizen's modicum of sense and temper. We say, every man—because in that war of the Democrats against the Federalists, no one sought to escape the service. Every able-tongued man was ready to fight with it, either for Jefferson or against him.
When Jefferson passed away triumphant, toleration set in. His enemies dropped him to turn upon living prey. They came to acquiesce in him, and even to quote him when he served their purpose. But the admiration of his followers did not abate. They canonized him as the apostle of American democracy, and gave his name to the peculiar form of the doctrine they professed. For many years the utterances of the master were conclusive to the common men of the party—better far than the arguments of any living leader. Of late we have heard less of him. The right wing of the democracy begin to doubt the expediency of the States' Rights theory; and with the wrong wing his standing has been injured by the famous passage on slavery in the 'Notes on Virginia.' The wrong wing of the Democratic party are the men who cry out for the 'Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was'—a cry full of sound and often of fury; but what does it signify? The first gun that was fired at Fort Sumter shattered the old Union. If peace men and abolitionists, secessionists and conservatives were to agree together to restore the old Union to the status quo ante bellum, they could not do it. 'When an epoch is finished,' as Armand Carrel once wrote, 'the mould is broken, it cannot be made again.' All that can be done is to gather up the fragments, and to use them wisely in a new construction. An Indian neophyte came one day to the mission, shouting: 'Moses, Isaiah, Abraham, Christ, John the Baptist!' When out of breath, the brethren asked him what he meant. 'I mean a glass of cider.' If the peace party were as frank as the Indian, they would tell us that their cry signifies place, power, self. The prodigal sons of the South are to be lured back by promises of pardon, indemnification, niggers ad libitum, before they have satiated themselves with the husks which seem to have fallen to their portion, and are willing to confess that they have sinned against heaven and against their country. The arms of the peace men are open; the best robe, the ring, the fatted calf are ready. All that is asked in return is a Union (as it was) of votes, influence, and contributions, to place the party in power and to keep it there.
These misguided Democrats owe to Jefferson the war cries they shout and the arms they are using against the Government. His works are an arsenal where these weapons of sedition are arranged ready for use, bright and in good order, and none of them as yet superseded by modern improvements. He first made excellent practice with the word 'unconstitutional,' an engine dangerous and terrible to the Administration against which it is worked; and of easy construction, for it can be prepared out of anything or nothing. Jefferson found it very effective in annoying and embarrassing the Government in his campaigns. But as he foresaw that the time must come when the Supreme Court of the United States would overpower this attack, he adapted, with great ingenuity, to party warfare the theory of States' Rights, which in 1787 had nearly smothered the Constitution in its cradle. This dangerous contrivance he used vigorously against the alien and sedition law, without considering that his blows were shaking the Union itself. Mr. Calhoun looked upon the Kentucky Resolutions (Jefferson's own work) as the bill of rights of nullification, and wrote for a copy of them in 1828 to use in preparing his manifesto of the grievances of South Carolina. It is unnecessary to allude to the triumph of these doctrines at the South under the name of secession.
As Jefferson soon perceived that a well-disciplined band of needy expectants was the only sure resort in elections, he hit upon rotation in office as the cheapest and most stimulating method of paying the regular soldiers of party for their services (if successful) on these critical occasions. But as a wise general not only prepares his attack, but carefully secures a retreat in case his men push too far in the heat of conflict, Jefferson suggested the plan of an elective judiciary, which he foresaw might prove of great advantage to those whose zeal should outrun the law. He even recommended rebellion in popular governments as a political safety valve; and talked about Shay's War and the Whiskey Insurrection in the same vein and almost the same language that was lately used to the rioters of New York by their friends and fellow voters. And he and his followers shouted then, as their descendants shout now, 'Liberty is in danger!' 'The last earthly hope of republican institutions resides in our ranks!' Jefferson is also entitled to the credit of naturalizing in the United States the phrases of the French Revolution: virtue of the people; reason of the people; natural rights of man, etc.—that Babylonish dialect, as John Adams called it, which in France meant something, but in this country was mere cant. Jefferson knew that here all were people, and that no set of men, whether because of riches or of poverty, had the right to arrogate to themselves this distinction. But he also knew that in Europe this distinction did exist, and that the emigrants who were coming in such numbers all belonged to the lower class, there called people. Of course these flattering phrases would win their ears and their votes for the people's ticket, against an imaginary aristocracy. Thus might be secured an army of obedient voters, knowing nothing but their orders, and thinking of nothing but the pleasing idea that they were the rulers.
These useful inventions are enough to immortalize any man. His theory, that the rich only should be taxed, as an indirect form of agrarianism, ought not to be forgotten, for we see it daily carried out; and his darling doctrine, that no generation can bind its successors, will come to light again and life whenever a party may think the repudiation of our war debt likely to be a popular measure. Indeed, there is scarcely a form of disorganization and of disorder which Jefferson does not extract from some elementary principle or natural right. We do not mean to accuse him of doing wrong deliberately. Jefferson was an optimist. All was for the best—at least, all that he did; for he was naturally predisposed to object to any measure which did not originate with himself or had not been submitted to his judgment. His elementary principles were always at his call. They were based upon reason: how could they be wrong? His mind grasped quickly all upon the surface that suited his purpose; deeper he did not care to go. In deciding whether any political doctrine was consistent or inconsistent with natural reason, he generally judged of it by his reason—and this varied with his position, his interest, his feelings. He probably was not aware of the extent of his mutations; his mind was fixed on the results to be obtained—always the same: the gratification of his wishes. His was a Vicar-of-Bray kind of logic. The ultimate results of his dealings, as affecting others and the nation at large, he apparently was unable to consider, or put them aside for the time; taking it for granted, in a careless way, that all must come well.
Thus as times changed, he changed with them. Laws, measures, customs, men, that seemed useful and praiseworthy when he was a private individual, appeared pernicious and wicked to the Secretary of State or to the President. His life and writings are full of self-contradictions, or rather of self-refutations, for he seems to forget that he had ever thought differently. Men of sense modify their opinions as they advance in years and in wisdom, but very few men of sense have held diametrically different opinions on almost every important question that has come before them.
Jefferson satisfied himself early in life that slavery was wrong, morally and economically. On no subject has he expressed himself more decidedly. When a very young member of the Assembly of Virginia, he seconded Colonel Bland's motion to extend the protection of the laws to slaves. Bland was treated roughly, and the matter dropped. From Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence a long passage on the iniquity of slavery and the slave trade was stricken out by Congress. In 1778 he introduced a bill prohibiting the importation of slaves into Virginia. Two years later he wrote the well-known pages in the 'Notes.' In 1783 it was proposed to adopt a new constitution in Virginia; Jefferson drew one up, and inserted an article granting liberty to all persons born of slave parents after the year 1800. From that time his zeal began to cool. He perceived that his views were unpopular at the South. The 'Notes' had been printed for private circulation only; when Chastellux asked permission to publish them in France, Jefferson consented on the condition that all passages relating to slavery should be stricken out.[A] Although he adopted so heartily the most extravagant doctrines of the French Revolution on the natural rights of mankind, among which liberty, equality, fraternity certainly ranked first, he quietly ignored the claims of the American black to a share in the bright future that was promised to the human race. The act of Congress prohibiting the importation of slaves came into force in 1808. It was well received by slave owners, for it increased the value of the homemade 'article.' Jefferson could safely approve of it. He did so warmly. With that exception his silence on this great question was profound during the period of his power; but he had no language too theatrical for liberty in the abstract, nor too violent for despots who were three thousand miles away, and with whose oppressions the people of the United States had no concern whatever. When the debates on the admission of Missouri brought up this ever-recurring question again to the exclusion of all others, Jefferson spoke to sneer at the friends of freedom. The Federalists had found out that their cherished monarchical 'form' would get them no adherents, and so were trying to throw a new tub to the whale by appealing to the virtuous sentiments of the people. He was in favor of making Missouri a Slave State. To extend the area of slavery would increase the comfort of the slaves without adding one more to their number, and would improve their chances for emancipation. It would also relieve Virginia from the burden that was weighing her down—slaves being rather cheaper there than horses—and would enable her to export her surplus crop of negroes; perhaps eventually to dispose of them all. This last notion, by the way, gives us a pretty good idea of Jefferson's practical knowledge of political economy.
His chief objection to the new constitution, when he first saw it, was the omission in it of a bill of rights providing for the 'eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus act'—and for the freedom of the press. When Colonel Burr was arrested, Jefferson, who, by the way, showed a want of dignity and self-respect throughout the affair, was eager to suspend the habeas corpus act, and got a bill to that effect passed by one branch of Congress; it was lost in the other. This was the first instance in the history of the United States. The many fine things he had said on the integrity and independence of judges did not prevent him from finding bitter fault with Chief-Justice Marshall for not convicting Burr. He accused Marshall and the whole tribe of Federalists of complicity in Burr's conspiracy. Poor old Paine, then near his end, who was one of Jefferson's jackals of the press, informed the Chief-Justice, through the Public Advertiser, that he was 'a suspected character.' When Jefferson had felt the pricking of the Federal quills, he began to think differently of the freedom of the press. Once, in the safety of private station, he had got off this antithesis: if he had to choose between a government without newspapers, and newspapers without a government, he should prefer the latter. But when in his turn he felt the stings that previously, under his management, had goaded even Washington out of his self-control, Jefferson could not help saying that 'a suspension of the press would not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood.'
Before September, 1791, Mr. Jefferson thought that our affairs were proceeding in a train of unparalleled prosperity, owing to the real improvements of the Government, and the unbounded confidence reposed in it by the people. Soon a jealousy of Hamilton came upon him, and the displeasure of playing a second part: he began to look for relief in the ranks of the malcontents. He then perceived monarchical longings in the Administration party, and prophesied corruption, despotism, and a loss of liberty forever, if they were to be allowed to interpret the Constitution in their way. Washington was the Atlas whose broad shoulders bore up the Federalists. Bache, of the Aurora, with whom Jefferson's word was law, and Freneau, of the Gazette, who had received from Jefferson a clerkship in the Department of State, accused the General of a desire to subvert the Constitution: the reserve of his manners was said to proceed from an affectation of royalty; they even ventured to charge him with perverting the public money. Jefferson refused to check these base attacks, and wrote in the same vein himself in the famous letter to Mazzei. But after the battle had been fought, he perceived that Washington had a hold stronger than party feelings on the affections of Americans. It would never do to leave his name and fame in the custody of Federalists. And so Mr. Jefferson turned about and denied that he had ever made any charges against General Washington. On the contrary, he felt certain that Washington did not harbor one principle of Federalism. He was neither an Angloman, a monarchist, nor a separatist. Bache he (Jefferson) knew nothing about; over Freneau he had no control; and the Mazzei letter had been misprinted and misinterpreted. In spite of his hatred of England, and his fears lest the English 'form' should be adopted in the United States, Jefferson, in 1788, had recommended the English form to Lafayette for the use of France. And in spite of the admiration for France, which with him and the Democrats was an essential article of the party faith, he took offence with the French Government because they sided with Spain in the dispute on the boundary line between Louisiana and Florida, and proposed to Madison an alliance with England against France and Spain. But Madison kept him steady. Six months later he accused John Randolph, who had abandoned the party, of entertaining the intolerable heresy of a league with England.
Mr. Jefferson once thought it necessary that the United States should possess a naval force. It would be less dangerous to our liberties than an army, and a cheaper and more effective weapon of offence. 'The sea is the field on which we should meet a European enemy.' 'We can always have a navy as strong as the weaker nations.' And he suggested that thirty ships, carrying 1,800 guns, and manned by 14,400 men, would be an adequate force. But the New Englanders, those bitter Federalists, loved the sea, lived by foreign trade, and wanted a fleet to protect their merchantmen. Mr. Jefferson's views became modified. He took a strong dislike to the naval service. He condemned the use of the navy by the late President, and wished to sell all the public armed vessels. Finding, however, that the maritime tastes of the nation were too strong for him, he hit upon the plan of a land navy as the nearest approximation to no navy at all. Gunboats were to be hauled out of the water, and kept in drydocks under sheds, in perfect preservation. A fleet of this kind only needed a corps of horse marines to complete its efficiency. The Federalists laughed at these 'mummy frigates,' and sang in a lullaby for Democratic babes this stanza:
'In a cornfield, high and dry, Sat gunboat Number One; Wiggle waggle went her tail, Pop went her gun.'
The pleasantry is feeble; but the inborn absurdity of this amphibious scheme was too great even for the Democrats. Mr. Jefferson was forced, in the teeth of theory, to send a squadron against the Barbary pirates. He consoled himself by ordering the commodore not to overstep the strict line of defence, and to make no captures. It was to be a display of latent force. Strange as it may seem, he once doubted the expediency of encouraging immigration. Emigrants from absolute monarchies, as they all were, they would either bring with them the principles of government imbibed in early youth, or exchange these for an unbounded licentiousness. 'It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty.' Would it not be better for the nation to grow more slowly, and have a more 'homogeneous, more peaceable, and more durable' government? But when it was found at a later day that the new comers placed themselves at once in opposition to the better classes and voted the Democratic ticket almost to a man, Jefferson proposed that the period of residence required by the naturalization laws to qualify a voter should be shortened. He had no objection to coercion before 1787. Speaking of the backwardness of some of the colonies in paying their quota of the Confederate expenses, he recommends sending a frigate to make them more punctual. 'The States must see the rod, perhaps some of them must be made to feel it.' His somersets of opinion and conduct are endless. Once he talked of opening a market in the neighboring colonies by force; at another time he advised his countrymen to abandon the sea and let other nations carry for us; in 1785 we find him going abroad to negotiate commercial treaties with all Europe. He objected to internal improvements, and he sanctioned the Cumberland road. He proclaimed all governments naturally hostile to the liberties of the people, until he himself became a government. He made the mission to Russia for Mr. Short, regardless of repeated declarations that the public business abroad could be done better with fewer and cheaper ambassadors. The unlucky sedition law was so unconstitutional in his judgment that he felt it to be his duty, as soon as he mounted the throne, to pardon all who had been convicted under it. But before he left the White House he attempted to put down Federal opposition in the same way. Judges were impeached; United States attorneys brought libel suits against editors, and even prosecuted such men as Judge Reeve and the Rev. Mr. Backus of Connecticut. It was a pet doctrine of Jefferson that one generation had no right to bind a succeeding one; hence every constitution and all laws should become null and every national debt void at the end of nineteen years, or of whatever period should be ascertained to be the average duration of human life after the age of twenty-one. He adhered to this notion through life, although Mr. Madison, when urged by him to expound it, gently pointed out its absurdity. When the news of the massacres of September reached the United States at an unfortunate moment for the Francoman party, Jefferson forgot this elementary principle and his logic. He professed that he deplored the bloody fate of the victims as much as any man, but they had perished for the sake of future generations, and that thought consoled him. Finally, the man who had announced in a public address, that he considered it a moral duty never to subscribe to a lottery, nor to engage in a game of chance, petitioned the Legislature of Virginia for permission to dispose of his house and lands in a raffle, and in his memorial recapitulated his services to the country to strengthen his claim upon their indulgence.
Jefferson professed great faith in human nature; but he meant the human nature of the uneducated and the poor. Kings, rulers, nobles, rich persons, and generally all of the party opposed to him, were hopelessly wrong. The errors of the people, when they committed any, were accidental and momentary; but in the other class, they were proofs of an ineradicable perversity. His faith in human reason as the only power for good government must have been shaken by the students of his university in Virginia. Their lawless conduct seemed to indicate that the time had hardly yet come when the old and vulgar method of authority and force could be dispensed with. The University of Virginia was a favorite project of Jefferson and an honorable memorial of his love of education and of letters. Although it may be considered a failure, it has failed from no fault of his. But we may judge of the real extent of Jefferson's toleration, when we read in a letter written about this university: 'In the selection of our law professor we must be rigorously attentive to his political principles.'
It is easy to know what would be Jefferson's position if by some miracle of nature he were living in these times. If at the South, he would be a man of brave words—showing it to be a natural right of the white man to own and to chastise his negro—and proving, from elementary principles, that slavery is the result of the supremacy of reason and the corner stone of civilized society. Had the advantages of the North led him to desert Monticello for the banks of the Hudson, he would have opposed the Administration, acting and talking much like a certain high official, 'letting I dare not wait upon I would'—for Jefferson was not a bold man, was master of the art of insinuating his opinions instead of stating them manfully, and never advanced so far as to make retreat impossible.
The truth is that there was nothing great nor even imposing in Jefferson's mental nor in his moral qualities. He expressed himself well in conversation and on paper, although a little pedagogical in manner, and too much given to epithet in style. The literary claims of the author of the Declaration of Independence cannot be passed over lightly. His mind was active; catching quickly the outlines of a subject, he jumped at the conclusion which pleased his fancy, without looking beneath the surface.[B] He was curious in all matters of art, literature, and science, but his curiosity was easily appeased. He raves about Ossian, gazes for hours on the Maison Carree at Nismes, writes letters to Paine on arcs and catenaries, busies himself with vocabularies, natural history, geology, discourses magisterially about Newton and Lavoisier, and studies nothing thoroughly. One can see by the way in which he handles his technical terms that he does not know the use of them. He was a smatterer of that most dangerous kind, who feel certain they have arrived at truth. Like so many other children of the eighteenth century, he rejected the past with disdain, but was blindly credulous of the future; and was ready to embrace an absurdity if it came in a new and scientific shape. The marquises and abbes he met in France had dreamed over elementary principles of society and government, until they had lost themselves in wandering mazes like Milton's speculative and erring angels. He believed that those gay philosophes had discovered the magical stone of social science, and that misery and sin would be transmuted into virtue and happiness. It was only necessary to kill all the kings and to confide in the reason and virtue of the people, and the thing was done. The scenes of 1789 stimulated Jefferson's natural tendency beyond the bounds of common sense. He asserted that Indians without a government were better off than Europeans with one, and that half the world a desert with only an Adam and Eve left in each country to repopulate it would be an improvement in the condition of Europe. He became a bigot of liberalism. Luckily he had his American blood and practical education to restrain him, or he might have been as foolish as Brissot and as rabid as Marat. As it was, he could not help perceiving in his calmer moments that this new path to the glorious future which the philosophes were pointing out to their countrymen, had been for many years in America the well-worn high road of the nation.
On most subjects, Jefferson's opinions were dictated by his feelings. He takes so little pains to conceal this weakness, that we can hardly suppose he was aware of it. Contradiction he could not bear. Opposition of any kind produced a bitter feeling. Vanity, latent perhaps, but acrid, corroded his judgment of his adversaries. In France Governeur Morris remarked that he was too fond of calling fools those who did not agree with him; a sure sign of want of strength. Great minds are essentially tolerant of the opinions of others. They know how easy it is to err. There was a good deal, too, of the Pharisee about Jefferson. 'He was of no party, nor yet a trimmer between parties. If he could not go to heaven but with a party, he would not go there at all.' But he thanked God he was not as the Federalists were: Anglomen, monarchists, workers of corruption! nor even as this Washington! He boasted, too, that he had never written a line for the public press; his method was to suggest his views to others, and employ them to put them into print.
Careful not to speak out too boldly when it was not altogether safe to do so, and wanting rather in moral courage, he was a persevering man, pursuing his plans with the eagerness of women, who always have a thousand excellent reasons, however illogical and inconsistent they may be, for doing as they please—and like women, he was not over scrupulous as to the means he employed to reach his object.
The same envious vanity and inability to resist his feelings which warped his judgment into so many contradictions, led him into actions that have damaged his character as a gentleman. For instance, his behavior to Washington. When a member of Washington's cabinet, protesting the warmest friendship to him, his confidential adviser by virtue of the office he held, he permitted, not to say encouraged, those attacks in Freneau's paper which were outrages on common decency. His intimacy with the President enabled him to judge of the effect of the blows. He noticed, with the cool precision of an experimental observer, the symptoms of pain and annoyance which Washington could not always conceal. Freneau was Jefferson's clerk; a word would have stopped him. 'But I will not do it,' Jefferson says; 'his paper has saved our Constitution, which was galloping forth into monarchy.' Jefferson's underhand attack upon Vice-President Adams, in the note he wrote by way of preface to the American publisher of Paine's 'Rights of Man,' is a domestic treachery of the same kind, though very much less in degree. That note might have been written on the impulse of the moment; but what shall we say of his practice of committing to paper Hamilton's sayings in the freedom of after-dinner conversation—a time when open-hearted men are apt to forget that there may be a Judas at table—and of saving them up to be used against him in the future? Jefferson explains away these and other dubious passages in his life with great ingenuity. He had to make such explanations too often. An apology implies a mistake, wilful or accidental. Too many indicate, to say the least, a lack of discretion. What a difference between these explanations, evasions, excuses, denials, and the majestic manliness of Washington, who never did or wrote or said anything which he hesitated to avow openly and without qualification!
Another dissimilarity between these two worth heeding, is Jefferson's want of that thrift which produces independence, comfort, and self-respect. He lived beyond his means, and died literally a beggar.
Jefferson was deficient in that happy combination of courage, energy, judgment, and probity, which mankind call character, for want of a more distinctive word—but which, in fact, in its highest expression, is genius on the moral side. It commands the respect of mankind more than the most brilliant faculties—and it accomplishes more. We have only to look at Washington's life to see what can be done by it.
When Governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War, Jefferson showed a want of spirit and of action; the same deficiency was more painfully conspicuous in his dealings with the Barbary pirates and in the affair of the Leopard and Chesapeake. The insults and spoliations of the English and French under the orders in council and the Berlin and Milan decrees were borne with equal meekness. He was for peace at all hazards, and economy at any price. When at last he found he had exhausted his favorite method, and that neither 'time, reason, justice, nor a truer sense of their own interests' produced any effect upon the obstinate aggressors, he could desire no better means of checking their depredations upon our trade than to order our merchants to lay up their ships and shut up their shops. It was a Japanese stroke of policy—to revenge an insult by disembowelling oneself—hari kari applied to a nation.
His was indeed a brilliant theory of government, if we take him at his word. At home, freedom was to be invigorated by occasional rebellions, not to be put down too sharply, for fear of discouraging the people—the tree of liberty was to be watered with blood. Abroad, custom-house regulations would keep the peace of the seas. Embargo and non-intercourse must bring France and England to their good behavior.
Mr. Jefferson had his political panacea: all disorders would infallibly be cured by it. He puffed it in his journals and extolled its virtues in his state papers. He congratulated his countrymen upon his election; he called it the revolution of 1800. Now at length they could try the panacea. What wonders did it work? The Federalists can point to the results of their twelve years of power: credit created out of bankruptcy; prosperity out of union; a great nation made out of thirteen small ones—an achievement far beyond that Themistocles could boast of. Jefferson added the Louisiana Territory to the Union; but this, the only solid result of his Administration, was totally inconsistent with his principles. Did he render any other service to the country? We know of none. His 'Quaker' theories and 'terrapin' policy increased the contempt of our enemies, cost the nation millions of money to no purpose, and made the war of 1812 inevitable.
No one can deny that Jefferson was a monster of party tactics and strategy. He knew well how to get up a cry, to excite the odium vulgare against his antagonists, to play skilfully upon the class feeling of poor against rich, and to turn to profit every popular weakness and meanness. He drilled and organized his followers, and led them well disciplined to victory. But on the grander field of statesmanship he was wanting. He was what Bonaparte called an ideologist. A principle, however true, may fail in its application, because other principles, equally true, may then come into action and vitiate the result. These collateral principles Jefferson never deigned to consider. He had no conception of expediency, of which a wise statesman never loses sight. Results he thought must be advantageous, provided processes were according to his principles. His object appears to have been rather a government after his theories than a good government. And in this respect he is the type of the impracticable and mischief-making class of reformers numerous in this country.
Jefferson seems to have been unable to grasp the real political character of the American people, the path they were destined to tread, the shape their institutions must necessarily take. He was possessed with the idea that liberty was in danger, and that the attempt was made to change the republic into a monarchy, perhaps a despotism. This delirious fancy beset him by day and was a terror by night. He was haunted by the likeness of a kingly crown. Hamilton and Adams were writing and planning to place it upon somebody's head. Federalist senators, congressmen, Revolutionary soldiers, were transformed into monarchists and Anglomen. Grave judges appeared to his distempered vision in the guise of court lawyers and would-be ambassadors. The Cincinnati lowered over the Constitution eternally. The Supreme Court of the United States was the stronghold in which the principle of tyrannical power, elsewhere only militant, was triumphant. Hamilton's funding system was a scheme to corrupt the country. Even the stately form of Washington rose before him in the shape of Samson shorn by the harlot England. Strange as it may seem, Jefferson persisted in his delusion to the end. A man in his position ought to have seen that in spite of the old connection with the British crown, the States were and always had been essentially republican in feelings, manners, and forms. Nowhere in the world had local self-government been carried to such extent and perfection. To build up a monarchy out of the thirteen colonies was impracticable. Washington, more clear sighted, said that any government but a republic was impossible: there were not ten men in the United States whose opinions were worth attention who entertained the thought of a monarchy. In his judgment the danger lay in the other direction. The weakness of the Government, not its strength, might lead to despotism through license and anarchy. He desired to keep the rising tide of democracy within bounds by every legitimate barrier that could be erected, lest it should overflow the country and sweep away all government. Jefferson was for throwing open the floodgates to admit it. He thought himself justified in combating the monarchists of his hallucinations by every means, however illegal and unconstitutional. Washington warned him and his followers that they were 'systematically pursuing measures which must eventually dissolve the Union or produce coercion.' Jefferson, deaf to the admonition, pressed on, and, like Diomede at the siege of Troy, wounded a divinity when he thought he was contending only with fellow men. With his Kentucky Resolutions he gave the first stab to the Union and the Constitution. What were Burr's childish schemes, which would have fallen to the ground from their own weakness, compared with that? From Jefferson through Calhoun to Jefferson Davis the diabolic succession of conspirators is complete.
THE ENGLISH PRESS.
It has become the fashion to sneer at the Long Parliament: but for all this it cannot be denied that that assemblage rendered services of incalculable importance to the state. Extreme old age forms at all times an object of pity, and, with the thoughtless and inconsiderate, it is but too often an object of ridicule and contempt. Many a great man has, ere now, survived to reach this sad stage in his career; but it does not therefore follow that the glorious deeds of his prime are to be ignored or forgotten. As it has been with the distinguished warrior or statesman or author, so it is with the Long Parliament. England owes it a great debt of gratitude on many accounts, but the one with which we have more especially to do on the present occasion is, that with it originated the custom of making public proceedings in Parliament. By this act was the supremacy of the people over the Parliament acknowledged, for the very publication of its transactions was an appeal to the people for approval and support. This printed record of parliamentary affairs came out in 1641, and was entitled The Diurnal Occurrences, or Daily Proceedings of both Houses in this great and happy Parliament, from the 3d of November, 1640, to the 3d of November, 1641. The speeches delivered from the first date down to the following June were also published in two volumes, and in 1642 weekly instalments appeared under various titles, such as The Heads of all the Proceedings of both Houses of Parliament—Account of Proceedings of both Houses of Parliament—A perfect Diurnal of the Passages in Parliament, etc., etc. There was no reporter's gallery in those days, and the Parliament only printed what they pleased; still this was a step in the right direction. After Parliaments occasionally evinced bitter hostility toward the press, but that which boasted Sawyer Lenthal for its speaker was its friend (at all events, at first, though afterward, as we shall notice by and by, it displayed some animosity against its early protege), and from this meagre beginning took its rise that which is beyond doubt one of the most important domestic functions of the press at the present day.
The abolition of the great bugbear and tyrant of printers—that infamous mockery of a legal tribunal, the Star Chamber—was another gigantic obstacle cleared away from the path of journalism. The Newes Bookes, which, in spite of all difficulties, had already become abundant, now issued forth in swarms. They treated de rebus omnibus et quibusdam aliis. Most of them were political or polemical pamphlets, and boasted extraordinary titles. There is a splendid collection of these in the British Museum, collected by the Rev. W. Thomason, and presented to the nation by King George III. We will mention a few of them. A controversial religious tract rejoices in the title of A fresh bit of Mutton for those fleshy-minded Cannibals that cannot endure Pottage. A political skit upon Prince Rupert is styled An exact Description of Prince Rupert's malignant She-Monkey, a great Delinquent, and has a comical woodcut upon the title page of the animal, in a cap and petticoat and with a sword by its side. This pamphlet is printed partly in ordinary modern type and partly in black letter. Another pamphlet in the form of dialogue is directed against the abuses of the laws, especially at one of the infamous 'comptoirs' of the time. It is called Wonderfull Strange Newes from Wood Street Countor—yet not so Strange as True, being proved by lamentable Experience, the relation of which
'Will make you laugh, 'twill make you cry; 'Twill make you mad, 'twill make you try.'
Another is Newes, true Newes, laudable Newes, Citie Newes, Countrie Newes, the World is Mad or it is a Mad World, my Masters, especially in the Antipodes, these Things are come to passe. This is a satirical description of manners and customs on 'the other side of the world,' the writer asserting that in those regions everything is the exact opposite of what takes place among us, so that there beggars ride in carriages and are highly esteemed, men of title are of no account, lawyers take no fees, and bailiffs decline to arrest debtors, etc., etc. There is also a very quaint woodcut of the world and the heavens, the four winds, etc., with an astrologer and other persons looking at them. Very many of these pamphlets are actual relations of occurrences in different parts of the kingdom and in foreign countries. Thus we find, Victorious Newes from Waterford; The joyfullest Newes from Hull that ever came to London of the Proceedings of the Earl of Warwick's Shipps; The best and happiest Newes from Ireland, from the Army before Kildare; Newes from Blackheath concerning the Meeting of the Kentish Men; Exceedingly joyfull Newes from Holland; The best Newes that ever was Printed, consists of, 1. Prince Rupert's Resolution to bee gone to his Mother, who hath sent for him; 2. His Majestie's royall Intentions declared to joyne with the Parliament in a treaty of Peace; 3. The Particulars of the High Court of Parliament drawn up to be sent to his Majesty for Peace; 4. Directions from the Lords and Commons directed to the Commanders for the ordering of the Army. One quaint title presents a very odd association: Newes from Hell and Rome and the Innes of Court. The contending parties appear to have suited their titles to the substance of the Newes they chronicled accordingly as it affected their interests. Thus, while many pamphlets bore the titles of Glorious, Joyful, Victorious, etc., others were dubbed Horrible Newes, Terrible News, and so forth. By far the greater number of these were issued by the partisans of the Parliament; but the Royalists were by no means idle, and the king carried about a travelling printing press, as is evidenced by several proclamations, manifestoes, etc., issued at Oxford, Worcester, York, and other places, sometimes in ordinary type, sometimes in black letter, by 'Robert Barker, his Majestie's Printer.' All the emanations of the press were not, however, mere isolated pamphlets, but there was a large crop of periodicals, such as The Kingdom's Weekly Intelligencer—The Royal Diurnall, etc. About this time the name Mercurius began to be very freely adopted for these periodicals. It had been already, for a long time, assumed as a nom de plume by writers and printers, but the title was now assigned to the publications themselves. One of the earliest of these was Mercurius Aulicus, a scurrilous print in the interest of the court party—as its name imports—which first appeared in 1642. Others were entitled respectively Mercurius Britannicus—Mercurius Anti-Britannicus—Mercurius Fumigosus, a Smoaking Nocturnal—Mercurius Pragmaticus—Mercurius Anti-Pragmaticus—Mercurius Mercuriorum Stultissimus—Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus—Mercurius Diabolicus—Mercurius Mastix, faithfully lashing all Scouts, Mercuries, Posts, Spyes, and others—Mercurius Radamanthus, the Chief Judge of Hell, his Circuits through all the Courts of Law in England, etc., etc. Other newspapers bore such quaint titles as the following: The Dutch Spye—The Scots Dove—The Parliament Kite—The Secret Owle—The Parliament Screech Owle, and other ornithological monstrosities. Party spirit ran high, and the contending scribes carried on a most foul and savage warfare, and demolished their adversaries, both political and literary, without the slightest compunction or mercy. Some of these brochures were solely directed against the utterances of one particular rival scribe, as is shown by one or two of the titles above quoted. Doctor Johnson says:
'When any title grew popular, it was stolen by the antagonist, who by this stratagem conveyed his notions to those who would not have received him had he not worn the appearance of a friend.'
According to Mr. Nichols' the printer's list, there were no less than three hundred and fifty of these Mercuries and Newes Bookes published between 1642 and 1665, a list that would no doubt be largely swollen could the titles of all that have perished and left no trace behind be ascertained. These Mercuries appeared at different intervals, but none oftener than three times a week, and their price was generally one penny, but sometimes twopence.
Many of the writers were nothing but venal hirelings, and changed sides readily enough when their own private interests seemed to render it desirable. One of the most famous—or infamous, according to Anthony a Wood, who describes him as 'a most seditious, mutable, and railing writer, siding with the rout and scum of the people, making them weekly sport by railing at all that was noble,' etc.—was Marchmont Nedham. In 1643 he brought out the Mercurius Britannicus, one of the ablest periodicals on the Parliamentary side, whatever honest old Anthony may say to the contrary. But, being imprisoned for libel, he thought it best to change his politics, and for two years appeared as an ultra-virulent Royalist partisan in the Mercurius Pragmaticus. After the execution of Charles the First, however, he returned to his old party, and advocated their cause in the Mercurius Politicus, which purported to be published 'in defence of the commonwealth and for information of the people.' After some years he fell into temporary disgrace, but was soon received again into favor by the House of Commons, which passed a vote in August, 1659, 'that Marchmont Nedham, gentleman, be and hereby is restored to be writer of the Publick Intelligence as formerly.' At the Restoration he was discharged from his office, but contrived to make his peace with the party in power, and, true to his instincts, changed his political creed once more for that of the winning side, but without succeeding in being reinstated in his old post. The other most noteworthy writers of Mercuries were John Birkenhead, author of the Mercurius Aulicus, Peter Heylin, Bruno Ryves—all parsons—and John Taylor, the Water Poet, author of the Mercurius Aquaticus.
Nothing was too great or too small for the writers of these Mercuries, nothing too exalted or too mean. Nothing was sacred in their eyes; the most private affairs were dragged into the political arena, and family and domestic matters, that had nothing whatever to do with public life, were paraded before the world. Bitter personalities and invective seem to be inseparable concomitants of the early stage of journalism in all countries. This was the case in France and Germany; it is the case in Russia at the present day. That it was the case in America, let the following extract from Franklin's private correspondence testify:
'The inconsistency that strikes me the most is that between the name of your city, Philadelphia, and the spirit of rancor, malice, and hatred that breathes in the newspapers. For I learn from those papers that State is divided into parties, that each party ascribes all the public operations of the other to vicious motives, that they do not even suspect one another of the smallest degree of honesty, that the anti-Federalists are such merely from the fear of losing power, places, or emoluments, which they have in possession or expectation; that the Federalists are a set of conspirators, who aim at establishing a tyranny over the persons and property of their countrymen and who live in splendor on the plunder of the people. I learn, too, that your justices of the peace, though chosen by their neighbors, make a villanous trade of their offices, and promote discord to augment fees, and fleece their electors; and that this would not be mended were the choice in the Executive Council, who, with interested or party aims, are continually making as improper appointments, witness a 'petty fiddler, sycophant, and scoundrel' appointed judge of the admiralty, an 'old woman and fomentor of sedition' to be another of the judges, and 'a Jeffreys' chief justice, etc., etc., with 'harpies,' the comptroller and naval officers, to prey upon the merchants, and deprive them of their property by force of arms, etc. I am informed, also, by these papers, that your General Assembly, though the annual choice of the people, shows no regard to their rights, but from sinister views or ignorance makes laws in direct violation of the Constitution, to divest the inhabitants of their property, and give it to strangers and intruders, and that the Council, either fearing the resentment of their constituents or plotting to enslave them, had projected to disarm them, and given orders for that purpose; and, finally, that your President, the unanimous joint choice of the Council and Assembly, is 'an old rogue, who gave his assent to the Federal Constitution merely to avoid refunding money he had purloined from the United States.' There is, indeed, a good deal of man's inconsistency in all this, and yet a stranger, seeing it in our own prints, though he does not believe it all, may probably believe enough of it to conclude that Pennsylvania is peopled by a set of the most unprincipled, wicked, rascally, and quarrelsome scoundrels upon the face of the globe. I have sometimes, indeed, suspected that those papers are the manufacture of foreigners among you, who write with the view of disgracing your country, and making you appear contemptible and detestable all the world over; but then I wonder at the indiscretion of your printers in publishing such writings. There is, however, one of your inconsistencies that consoles me a little, which is that though, living, you give one another the character of devils, dead, you are all angels. It is delightful, when any of you die, to read what good husbands, good fathers, good friends, good citizens, and good Christians you were, concluding with a scrap of poetry that places you with certainty in heaven. So that I think Pennsylvania a good country to die in, though a very bad one to live in.'
These remarks, which Franklin makes with such powerful irony, might apply with equal force to a similar period in the newspaper history of any country, and most of all to that of England.
The worst features, perhaps, of these writers of Mercuries, were the readiness with which they apostatized, and the systematic and unblushing manner in which they sold their pens to the highest bidder, and prostituted the press to serve the purposes of their patrons. Mrs. Hutchinson, in the memoirs of her husband, Colonel Hutchinson, gives a curious instance of their venality:
'Sir John Gell, of Derbyshire, kept the diurnall makers in pension, soe that whatever was done in the neighboring counties against the enemy, was attributed to him, and thus he hath indirectly purchased himself a name in story which he never merited. That which made his courage the more questioned was the care he tooke and the expense he was att to get it weekly mentioned in the diurnalls, so that when they had nothing else to renoune him for, they once put it that the troops of that valiant commander Sir John Gell tooke a dragoon with a plush doublet.... Mr. Hutchinson, on the other side, that did well for virtue's sake, and not for the vaine glory of it, never would give aniething to buy the flatteries of those scribblers; and, when one of them once, while he was in towne, made mention of something done at Nottingham, with falsehood, and had given Gell the glory of an action in which he was not concerned, Mr. Hutchinson rebuked him for it; whereupon the man begged his pardon, and told him he would write as much for him the next weeke; but Mr. Hutchinson told him he scorned his mercenary pen, and warned him not to dare to be in any of his concernments; whereupon the fellow was awed, and he had no more abuse of that kind.'
The Mercuries, however, were not allowed to have everything their own way without any interference on the part of the powers that were. In 1647, Sir Thomas Fairfax called the attention of the House of Lords, by letter, to the great number of unlicensed newspapers, with a view to their suppression; but he adds, in mitigation of his attack:
'That the kingdom's expectation may be satisfied in relation to intelligence till a firm peace be settled, considering the mischiefs that will happen by the poisonous writings of evil men sent abroad daily to abuse and deceive the people, that if the House shall see it fit, some two or three sheets may be permitted to come forth weekly, which may be licensed, and have some stamp of authoritie with them, and in respect of the former licenser, Mr. Mabbot, hath approved himself faithful in that service of licensing, and likewise in the service of the House and of this army, I humbly desire that he may be restored and continued in the same place of licenser.'
The result of this letter—which is remarkable, by the way, for its mention of the licenser—was that the House of Lords issued an edict to forbid any such publications except with the license of one or both Houses of Parliament, and with the name of the author, printer, and licenser attached. The penalties for any evasion of this enactment were, for the writer, a fine of forty shillings or imprisonment for forty days; for the printer, half that punishment, and the destruction of his press and plant as well, and for the vendor a sound whipping and the confiscation of his wares. A second instance of parliamentary interference took place in the same year, when a committee was appointed for the purpose of discovering and punishing every one connected with the publication of certain Mercuries. The licensing system continued in force, but was not made much use of, although the scurrilities of the press roused the Parliament every now and then into spasmodic efforts of repression. In addition to measures of this kind, Nedham's paper, from its official character, was doubtless looked upon by the legislature as a sort of antidote to the poison diffused by other journalists. This came out twice a week, on Mondays under the name of The Public Intelligencer, and on Thursdays under that of Mercurius Politicus. When Nedham fell into disgrace at the Restoration, his paper was placed by Parliament in other hands, and the Monday title changed to that of The Parliamentary Intelligencer, though that of the Thursday's issue remained unaltered. The powers of the licenser were now much more strictly exercised, and the Mercuries gave up the ghost in shoals. In 1662 an act was passed 'for preventing the frequent abuses in printing seditious, treasonable, and unlicensed books and pamphlets, and for regulating of printing and printing presses.' It also divided the duties of the licenser, and the supervision of newspapers passed into the hands of the Secretary of State. Ireland was not slow to follow England's example, for, in Lord Mountmorris's 'History of the Irish Parliament,' mention is made in 1662 'of a very extraordinary question' which 'arose about preventing the publication of the debates of the Irish Parliament in an English newspaper called The Intelligencer, and a letter was written from the Speaker to Sir Edward Nicholas, the English Secretary of State, to prevent these publications in those diurnalls, as they call them.' In 1661, The Parliamentary Intelligencer was turned into The Kingdom's Intelligencer, and this last appellation was again changed for that of The Public Intelligencer in 1663. The celebrated Roger L'Estrange, who was then the public licenser, was the editor of this paper, as also of an extra Thursday issue called The News. In the first number of this old friend with a new face, he says, among other pros and cons as to the desirability of a newspaper:
'Supposing the press in order, the people in their right wits, and news or no news to be the question, a public Mercury should never have my vote, because I think it makes the multitude too familiar with the actions and counsels of their superiors, too pragmatical and censorious, and gives them not only an itch, but a kind of colorable right and license.... A gazette is none of the worst ways of address to the genius and humor of the common people, whose affections are much more capable of being turned and wrought upon by convenient hints and touches in the shape and air of a pamphlet than by the strongest reason and best notions imaginable under any other and more sober form whatsoever.... So that upon the main I perceive the thing requisite (for aught I can see yet). Once a week may do the business, for I intend to utter my news by weight, not by measure. Yet if I shall find, when my hand is in, and after the planting and securing of my correspondents, that the matter will fairly furnish more, without either uncertainty, repetition, or impertinence, I shall keep myself free to double at pleasure. One book a week may be expected, however, to be published every Thursday, and finished upon the Tuesday night, leaving Wednesday entire for the printing of it.'
The Newspaper was evidently developing itself—correspondents were a new feature—but still it was very tardy and very far from being free. Fancy a newspaper in the present day with no news more recent than that of the day before yesterday! In 1663 the title of Public Intelligencer was exchanged for that of The Oxford Gazette, so called because the court had gone to Oxford on account of the plague. After the court's return to the metropolis, London was substituted, in 1666, for Oxford, and from that date to the present this, the first official or semi-official organ, has gone by the name of The London Gazette. The king caused an edition of it to be published in French, for the convenience, probably, of his accommodating banker, Louis the Fourteenth, and this edition continued to appear for about twenty years.
Charles the Second was an unsparing and unscrupulous foe to the press, and put in practice every possible form of oppression in order to crush it. One's blood boils at the perusal of the persecutions to which the struggling apostles of freedom of speech were subjected, so that the contempt which this miserable 'king of shreds and patches' inspires in other respects wellnigh changes into positive hatred. But despite of fine and imprisonment, scourge and pillory, the press toiled on steadily toward its glorious goal. The Newspaper began to assume—as far as its contents were concerned—the appearance which it wears at the present day. Straggling advertisements had long ago appeared, the first on record being one offering a reward for the recovery of two horses that had been stolen. This appeared in the first number of the Impartial Intelligencer, in 1648. Booksellers and the proprietors of quack medicines were among the earliest persons to discover the advantages of advertising, and in 1657 came out the Public Advertiser, which consisted almost entirely of advertisements. The following curious notification appeared in the Mercurius Politicus, of September 30, 1658:
'That excellent and by all Physicians approved China Drink, called by the Chineans, Tcha, by other Nations Tay, alias Tee, is sold at the Sultaness' Head Cophee House, in Sweeting's Rents, by the Royal Exchange, London.'
The earliest illustrated paper is Mercurius Civicus, London's Intelligencer, in 1643. The first commercial newspaper was a venture of L'Estrange's in 1675, and was styled The City Mercury, or Advertisements concerning Trade. The first literary paper issued from the press in 1680, under the denomination of Mercurius Librarius, or a Faithful Account of all Books and Pamphlets. The first sporting paper was The Jockey's Intelligencer, or Weekly Advertisements of Horses and Second-hand Coaches to be Bought or Sold, in 1683. The first medical paper, Observations on the Weekly Bill, from July 27 to August 3, with Directions how to avoid the Dis eases now prevalent, came out in 1686; and the first comic newspaper, The Merrie Mercury, in 1700. Notwithstanding these 'first appearances on any stage,' there never was a darker or more dismal period in the history of journalism. A great number of newspapers had sprung up in consequence of the Popish Plot, and the exclusion of the Duke of York—the respectable admiralty clerk of Macaulay—from the throne; and with the intention of sweeping these away, a royal 'proclamation for suppressing the printing and publishing unlicensed news books and pamphlets of news' was put forth in 1680. Vigorous action against recalcitrants followed, and with such pliant tools as those perjured wretches, Scroggs and Jeffreys, for judge and prosecutor, convictions and the 'extremest punishment of the law' became a foregone conclusion. Doubtless there were many vile scribblers who deserved to have the severest penalties inflicted upon them, but no discrimination was used, and good and bad alike experienced the vengeance of 'divine right.' The aim of the abandoned monarch and his advisers was manifestly total extermination, and journalism appeared to be at its last gasp. But though crushed and mutilated in every limb, and bleeding at every pore, faint respirations every now and then showed that the vital spark still lingered. But brighter days were at hand. That festering mass of mental and bodily corruption which had once worn a crown, was buried away out of the sight of indignant humanity, and the vacillating James with feeble steps mounted the tottering throne. The licensing act had expired in 1679, and had not been again renewed, for there were no newspapers to license. Upon the alarm of Monmouth's invasion, James renewed it temporarily for seven years. Journalism reared its head again, and the court party, instead of persecuting, found itself compelled to fawn and flatter and sue for its protection and support. Newspapers, both native and imported from Holland in large numbers, played an important part in the Revolution, and paved the way for the downfall of the Stuarts and the advent of William and the Protestant Succession.
It must not be supposed that the capital had possessed a monopoly of newspapers during all this period. Scotland appeared in the field with a Mercurius Politicus, published at Leith in 1653. This, however, was nothing but a reprint of a London news sheet, and probably owed its existence to the presence of Cromwell's soldiers. In 1654 it removed to Edinburgh, and in 1660 changed its denomination to Mercurius Publicus. On the last day of this year, too, a journal of native growth budded forth, with the title of Mercurius Caledonius. But the canny Scots either could not or would not spare their bawbees for the encouragement of such ephemeral literature, for Chalmers tells us that only ten numbers of this publication appeared, and they were 'very loyal, very illiterate, and very affected.' Dublin appears to have produced a Dublin News Letter in 1685, but little is known about it, and its very existence has been disputed. There were other sheets with Scotch and Irish titles, but they were all printed in London. With 1688 a new era dawned upon the press—the most promising it had yet seen—and newspapers gradually sprang up all over the kingdom.
The first that came out in the interests of the new Government were the Orange Intelligencer and the Orange Gazette. The opponents of the ministry also started organs of their own, and the paper warfare went gayly on, but with more decency and courtesy than heretofore. William did not show himself disposed to hamper the press in any way, but Parliament, in 1694, proved its hostility by an ordinance 'that no news-letter writers do, in their letters or other papers that they disperse, presume to intermeddle with the debates or other proceedings of this House.' This was only a momentary ebullition of spleen. The licensing act, which expired in 1692, had been renewed for one year, but at the end of that period disappeared forever from English legislation. The House of Lords—obstructive as usual to all real progress—endeavored to revive it, but the Commons refused their consent, and a second attempt in 1697 met with a like defeat. This obstacle being happily got rid of, new journals of all kinds arose every day. One was called The Ladies' Mercury; a second, The London Mercury, or Mercure de Londres, and was printed in parallel English and French columns. A third was entitled Mercurios Reformatus, and was, during a portion of its existence, edited by the famous Bishop Burnet. Some were half written and half printed. One of these, the Flying Post, in 1695, says in its prospectus:
'If any gentleman has a mind to oblige his country friend or correspondent with this account of public affairs, he may have it for twopence of J. Salisbury, at the Rising Sun, in Cornhill, on a sheet of fine paper, half of which being blank, he may thereon write his own private business, or the material news of the day.'
In 1696, Dawks's News Letter appeared, printed in a sort of running type, to imitate handwriting, with the following quaint announcement:
'This letter will be done upon good writing paper, and blank space left, that any gentleman may write his own private business. It does, undoubtedly, exceed the best of the written news, contains double the quantity, with abundant more ease and pleasure, and will be useful to improve the younger sort in writing a curious hand.'
Various authors, whose names will always find a lofty place in literature, contributed to the newspapers of this epoch, and among them we find those of South, Wesley, Sir William Temple, and Swift. The advertisements by this time had become as varied as they are nowadays, and were without doubt almost as important a part of the revenue of a newspaper. An amusing proof of this is to be found in the Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry and Trade, in which the editor displays a lively interest in this department of his paper, by employing the first person, thus: 'I want a cook maid for a merchant,' 'I want an apprentice for a tallow chandler,' etc., etc. He also advertises that he knows of several men and women who wish to find spouses, and he undertakes match making in all honor and secrecy. He tells us that he has a house for sale, and wishes to buy a shop, an estate, a complete set of manuscript sermons, and a government situation. Other editors bear witness to the character of their advertisers, and recommend doctors, undertakers, waiting maids, footmen, and various tradesmen. Some of the advertisements are very funny. 'I want a compleat young man that will wear a livery, to wait on a very, valuable gentleman, but he must know how to play on a violin or flute.' Was the 'very valuable gentleman,' we wonder, troubled like Saul with an evil spirit, that could be exorcised by music? Tastes certainly differ, for this advertisement reminds us of a venerable old lady of our acquaintance, who was kept in a chronic state of irritation by a favorite footman, whom she did not choose to discharge, through his learning the flute and persisting in practising 'Away with melancholy'—the only tune he knew—for an hour daily! But to return to the advertisements. A schoolmaster announces that he 'has had such success with boys, as there are almost forty ministers and schoolmasters that were his scholars. His wife also teaches girls lace making, plain work, raising paste, sauces, and cookery to a degree of exactness'—departments of education which are, unfortunately, too much lost sight of in modern 'Establishments for Young Ladies,' 'His price is L10 to L11 the year; with a pair of sheets and one spoon, to be returned if desired.'
During the whole reign of William there was not a single newspaper prosecution, but there were many in that of 'the good Queen Anne.' Still editors were obliged to be very careful in the wording of their items of news, generally prefacing them with 'We hear,' 'It is said,' 'It is reported,' 'They continue to say,' ''Tis believed,' and so on. Of the chief newspapers of this period we get the following account from John Dunton, who was joint proprietor with Samuel Wesley of the Athenian Mercury:
'The Observator is best to towel the Jacks, the Review is best to promote peace, the Flying Post is best for the Scotch news, the Postboy is best for the English and Spanish news, the Daily Courant is the best critic, the English Post is the best collector, the London Gazette has the best authority, and the Postman is the best for everything.'
The Daily Courant, which was the first daily newspaper, first appeared on the 11th of March, 1702. It was but a puny affair of two columns, printed on one side of the sheet only, and consisted, like most of the journals of the time, mainly of foreign intelligence. It lasted until 1735, when it was merged in the Daily Gazetteer. In spite of prosecutions for libel, the press throve, and, perhaps, to a certain extent, on that very account greatly improved in character. Addison, Steele, Bolingbroke, Manwaring, Prior, Swift, Defoe, and other celebrities became editors or contributors, and a battle royal was waged among them in the Examiner, the Whig Examiner, the Observator, the Postboy, the Review, the Medley, and other papers of less note.
Meanwhile newspapers began to appear in the provinces. The earliest was the Stamford Mercury—a title preserved to the present day—which came out in 1695. Norwich started a journal of its own, the Norwich Postman, in 1706, the price of which the proprietors stated to be 'one penny, but a half penny not refused.' The Worcester Postman made its bow in 1708, and Berrow's Worcester Journal—which still exists—in 1709. Newcastle followed suite with its Courant, in 1711, and Liverpool with its Courant in 1712. The other large towns did the same at less or greater intervals, and of the provincial journals which were born in the first half of the eighteenth century about a score still flourish. The Edinburgh Gazette came cut in 1699, as appears from the following quaint document, which has been republished by the Maitland Club at the 'modern Athens':
'Anent the petition given to the Lords of his Majestie's Privy Councill by James Donaldson, merchant in Edinburgh, shewing 'that the petitioner doth humbly conceive the publishing ane gazette in this place, containeing ane abridgement of fforaigne newes together with the occurrences at home, may be both usefull and satisfieing to the leidges, and actually hath published on or two to see how it may be liked, and so farr as he could understand the project was approven of by very many, and, therefore, humbly supplicating the said Lords to the effect after mentioned;' the Lords of his Majestie's Privy Councill, having considered this petition given in to them by the above James Donaldsone, they doe hereby grant full warrant and authority to the petitioner for publishing the above gazette, and discharges any other persones whatsoever to pen or publish the like under the penaltie of forfaulting all the coppies to the petitioner, and farder payment to him of the soume of ane hundred pounds Scots money, by and altour the forsaid confiscatioun and forfaulture; and recommends to the Lord High Chancellor to nominat and appoint a particular persone to be supervisor of the said gazetts before they be exposed to public view, printed, or sold.'
In 1705 a rival started up in the Edinburgh Courant, which was published three times a week. About the same time appeared the Scots Courant, in 1708 the Edinburgh Flying Post, and in the following year the Scots Postman, the two last being tri-weekily. In 1718 there dawned upon the literary horizon the Edinburgh Evening Courant, which still continues. It was published cum privilegio on condition that the proprietor 'should give ane coppie of his print to the magistrates.' With regard to Ireland, it is a curious fact that Dublin took the lead of London in establishing a daily paper, for Pue's Occurrences first issued in 1700, and survived for more than fifty years. But this effort appears to have exhausted the newspaper energies of the sister isle, for we have no record of any other journal during a quarter of a century.
Contemporary with its extension to the provinces, newspaper enterprise was penetrating into the colonies, and America took the lead. Small were the beginnings in the land where the freedom of the press was destined to attain its fullest development. America's first journal—the Boston News Letter—was printed at Boston in 1704, and survived to the limit assigned by the Psalmist to the age of man. In 1719 appeared the Boston Gazette, and in the same year the American Weekly Miscellany, at Philadelphia. In 1721 appeared James Franklin's paper, the New England Courant, and in 1728 the New York Journal. In 1733 John P. Tenzer brought out the New York Weekly Journal, a paper which was so ably conducted in opposition to the Government, that in the following year a prosecution, or rather persecution, was determined upon. Andrew Hamilton was Tenzer's counsel, and the temptation to quote a passage from the peroration of his speech for the defence is irresistible:
'The question which is argued before you this day is not only the cause of a poor printer, nor yet even of the colony of New York alone: it is the best of causes—the cause of liberty. Every man who prefers freedom to a life of slavery will bless and honor in you the men whose verdict will have secured to us upon a firm basis—to us, to our posterity, to our neighbors, that right which both nature and the honor of our country gives us, the liberty of freely speaking and writing the truth.'
What could the jury do, after these burning words, but acquit the prisoner? They did acquit him, and from this famous trial dates, according to Gouverneur Morris, the dawn of the American Revolution, which myriads of Englishmen, whatever may be thought or said to the contrary by persons who wish to raise bad blood between two mighty countries, delight to acknowledge as glorious. But the progress of the press in America was slow under British rule, for in 1775 there were only thirty-six journals in the various States altogether. The West India islands soon began to establish papers of their own, and Barbadoes led the way in 1731 with the Barbadoes Gazette. Yet the development of journalism in other British colonies belongs to a later period of history.
To return to England. A heavy blow was impending over the fourth estate. In 1712 a tax, in the shape of a half-penny stamp, was levied upon each newspaper. The reason alleged for this measure was that political pamphlets had so increased in number and virulence that the queen had called the attention of Parliament to them, and had recommended it to find a remedy equal to the mischief, and, in one of her messages, had complained that 'by seditious papers and factious rumors, designing men have been able to sink credit, and that the innocent have to suffer.' An act was accordingly passed by which every printer was obliged to lodge one copy of each number of his paper, within six days of its publication, with a collector appointed for the purpose, and at the same time to state the number of sheets, etc., under a penalty of L20 for default. Country printers were allowed fourteen days instead of six. This act, as may easily be imagined, spread confusion and dismay in all directions. Half-penny and farthing newspapers fell at once before the fierce onslaught of the red oppressor—a vegetable monstrosity, having the rose, shamrock, and thistle growing on a single stalk, surmounted by the royal crown. All the less important and second-rate journals withered away before the deadly breath of the new edict, and a few only of the best were enabled to continue by raising their price. Addison, in the 445th number of the Spectator, July 31st, 1712, alludes to this new tax as follows:
'This is the day on which many eminent authors will probably publish their last words. I am afraid that few of our weekly historians, who are men that, above all others, delight in war, will be able to subsist under the weight of a stamp and an approaching peace. A sheet of blank paper that must have this new imprimatur clapped upon it before it is qualified to communicate anything to the public, will make its way but very heavily.... A facetious friend, who loves a pun, calls this present mortality among authors 'the fall of the leaf.' I remember upon Mr. Baxter's death there was published a sheet of very good sayings, inscribed: 'The last words of Mr. Baxter.' The title sold so great a number of these papers, that, about a week after these, came out a second sheet, inscribed: 'More last words of Mr. Baxter.' In the same manner I have reason to think that several ingenious writers who have taken their leave of the public in farewell papers, will not give over so, but intend to appear, though perhaps under another form, and with a different title.'
This prediction of Addison's was verified, for, after the first year, the act was allowed to fall into abeyance, and the scribblers raised their heads once more, and endeavored, by extra diligence and industry, to make up for their past discomfiture and enforced silence.
Of the essay papers, as they are called, the Tatler is the only one which properly comes within the scope of this article, as being, to a certain extent, a newspaper. Addison wrote in the Freeholder, and Steele in the Englishman, both being political journals opposed to the Government. For certain articles in this last, which were declared to be libellous, and for a pamphlet, entitled The Crisis, which he published about the same time, poor 'little Dicky, whose trade it was,' according to his quondam friend Addison, 'to write pamphlets,' was expelled the House of Commons, despite the support of several influential members, and the famous declaration of Walpole, who was not then the unscrupulous minister he afterward became, 'The liberty of the press is unrestrained; how then shall a part of the legislature dare to punish that as a crime which is not declared to be so by any law framed by the whole? And why should that House be made the instrument of such a detestable purpose?'
The newspaper writers had now reached a great pitch of power, and had become formidable to the Government. Prosecutions therefore multiplied; but not without reason in many cases. Addison complains over and over again of the misdirection of their influence, and says, among other things:
'Their papers, filled with different party spirit, divide the people into different sentiments, who generally consider rather the principles than the truth of the news writers.'
At no time, probably, in the history of journalism did party feeling run higher than at this period. New organs sprang up every day, but were, for the most part, very short lived. Among the papers of most note were The Weekly Journal, Mist's Weekly Journal, the London Journal, The Free Briton, and the Weekly Gazetteer. Mist was especially a stout opponent of the Government, and was consequently always in trouble. In 1724 there were printed nineteen first-class journals, of which three were daily, ten tri-weekly—three of them 'half-penny Posts'—and six weekly. News was abundant, and the old plan of leaving blank spaces or filling up with passages of Scripture—an editor actually reproduced from week to week the first two books of the Pentateuch—was now abandoned. In 1726 appeared the Public Advertiser, afterward called the London Daily Advertiser, which deserves to be remembered as having been the medium through which the letters of Junius were originally given to the world. In the same year, too, was started The Craftsman, one of the ablest political papers which London had yet seen, and of which Bolingbroke was joint editor. It was immediately successful, and its circulation soon reached ten or twelve thousand. In 1731 a great novelty came out, the Gentleman's Magazine, or Monthly Intelligencer, under the proprietorship of Edward Cave, the printer. The title page contained a woodcut of St. John's Gate, Clerkenwell, which had been in olden times the entrance gateway to the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, but was then the abiding place of Cave's printing press, and upon either side of the engraving was a list of the titles of metropolitan and provincial newspapers. The contents, as announced on the same title page, were: 1. Essays, controversial, humorous and satirical, religious, moral, and political, collected chiefly from the public papers; 2. Select pieces of poetry; 3. A succinct account of the most remarkable transactions and events, foreign and domestic; 4. Marriages and deaths, promotions and bankruptcies; 5. The prices of goods and stocks, and bills of mortality; 6. A register of barks; 7. Observations on gardening. The prospectus states:
'Our present undertaking, in the first place, is to give monthly a view of all the pieces of wit, humor, or intelligence daily offered to the public in the newspapers, which of late are so multiplied as to render it impossible, unless a man makes it his business, to consult them all; and in the next place, we shall join therewith some other matters of use or amusement that will be communicated to us. Upon calculating the number of newspapers, 'tis found that (besides divers written accounts) no less than two hundred half sheets per mensem are thrown from the press only in London, and about as many printed elsewhere in the three kingdoms, a considerable part of which constantly exhibit essays on various subjects for entertainment, and all the rest occasionally oblige their readers with matter of public concern, communicated to the world by persons of capacity, through their means, so that they are become the chief channels of amusement and intelligence. But then, being only loose papers, uncertainly scattered about, it often happens that many things deserving attention contained in them are only seen by accident, and others not sufficiently published or preserved for universal benefit or information.'
The Magazine sets to work upon its self-imposed task by giving a summary of the most important articles during the preceding month in the principal London journals, of the ability, scope, and spirit of which we thus obtain a very fair notion. The Craftsman has the precedence, and among articles quoted from it are a historical essay upon Queen Bess, and 'her wisdom in maintaining her prerogative;' a violent political article full of personalities, a complaint of the treatment of the Craftsman by rival journals, and an essay upon the liberty of the press. The summary of the London Journal seems to show that it was continually occupied in controverting the views and arguments of the Craftsman. Fog's Journal is employed in making war upon the London Journal and the Free Briton. The following specimen does not say much for Mr. Fog's satirical powers:
'One Caleb D'Anvers' (Nicholas Amherst, of the Craftsman), 'and, if I mistake not, one Fog, are accused of seditiously asserting that a crow is black; but the writers on the other side have, with infinite wit, proved a black crow to be the whitest bird of all the feathered tribe.'
These old newspapers give us curious glimpses of the manners of the time. The Grub-Street Journal has an article upon 'an operation designed to be performed upon one Ray, a condemned malefactor, by Mr. Cheselden, so as to discover whether or no not only the drum but even the whole organ be of any use at all in hearing.' The writer must have been an ardent vivisector, for he concludes by a suggestion that 'all malefactors should be kept for experiments instead of being hanged.' In another number this periodical indulges in a criticism upon the new ode of the poet laureate (Colley Cibber), in the course of which the writer expresses an opinion that 'when a song is good sense, it must be made nonsense before it is made music; so when a song is nonsense, there is no other way but by singing it to make it seem tolerable sense'—a criticism which, whether it were true of that period or no, may be fairly said to apply with great force to the times in which we live. The Weekly Register makes war upon the Grub-Street Journal, and, in a satirical article upon the title of that newspaper, likens the writers to caterpillars and grubs, etc., 'deriving their origin from Egyptian locusts;' and, in another article, accuses them of 'having undertaken the drudgery of invective under pretence of being champions of politeness.' The other papers summarized are the Free Briton, a violent opponent of the Craftsman, the British Journal, and the Universal Spectator, the forte of the last two lying in essays and criticisms.
But the grand feature of the Gentleman's Magazine was, that it was the first to systematize parliamentary reporting. This was originally managed by Cave and two or three others obtaining admission to the strangers' gallery, and taking notes furtively of the speeches. These notes were afterward compared, and from them and memory the speeches were reproduced in print. Cave's reports continued for two years unmolested, when the House of Commons endeavored to put an end to them. A debate took place, in which all the speakers were agreed except Sir William Wyndham, who expressed a timid dissent, as follows: 'I don't know but what the people have a right to know what their representatives are doing.' 'I don't know,' forsooth—the Government and the people must have been a long way off then from a proper appreciation of the duties of the one and the rights of the other! Sir Robert Walpole, the former friend of the press—who, by the way, is said to have spent more than L50,000 in bribes to venal scribblers in the course of ten years—had completely changed his views, and had nothing then to say in its favor. A resolution was passed which declared it breach of privilege to print any of the debates, and announced the intention of the House to punish with the utmost severity any offenders. Cave, however, was not easily daunted, and, instead of publishing the speeches with the first and last letters of the names of the speakers, he adopted this expedient: he anagrammatized the names, and published the debates in what purported to be 'An Appendix to Captain Lemuel Gulliver's Account of the Famous Empire of Lilliput, giving the Debates in the Senate of Great Lilliput.' This system was continued for nine years, but, after an interval, Cave reverted to the old plan. He had always employed some writer or other of known ability to write the speeches from his notes, and generally even without any notes at all, so that the speeches were often purely imaginary. In 1740 Dr. Johnson was employed for this purpose, and he, according to his own confession, had been but once inside the walls of the Parliament. Murphy tells the story and gives the names of the persons who were present when he made the avowal. It occurred thus: A certain speech of Pitt's, which had appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine, was being highly praised by the company, when Johnson startled every one by saying: 'That speech I wrote in a garret in Exeter street.' He then proceeded to give an account of the manner in which the whole affair used to be managed—this happened many years after his connection with the matter had ceased—and the assembly 'lavished encomiums' upon him, especially for his impartiality, inasmuch as he 'dealt out reason and eloquence with an equal hand to both parties.' Johnson replied: 'That is not quite true: I saved appearances tolerably well, but I took care that the Whig dogs should not have the best of it.' These speeches were long received by the world as verbatim reports, and Voltaire is said to have exclaimed, on reading some of them: 'The eloquence of Greece and Rome is revived in the British Senate.' Johnson, finding they were so received, felt some prickings of conscience, and discontinued their manufacture. When upon his deathbed, he said that 'the only part of his writings that gave him any compunction was his account of the debates in the Gentleman's Magazine, but that at the time he wrote them he did not think he was imposing upon the world.' Several attempts had been made to checkmate Cave, and in 1747 he was summoned before the House of Lords, reprimanded, and fined, but finally discharged upon begging pardon of the House, and promising never to offend again. However, in 1752, he resumed the publication of the debates, with this prefatory statement, a statement which must be taken cum grano:
'The following heads of speeches in the H—— of C—— were given me by a gentleman, who is of opinion that members of Parliament are accountable to their constituents for what they say as well as what they do in their legislative capacity; that no honest man, who is entrusted with the liberties and purses of the people, will ever be unwilling to have his whole conduct laid before those who so entrusted him, without disguise; that if every gentleman acted upon this just, this honorable, this constitutional principle, the electors themselves only would be to blame if they reflected a person guilty of a breach of so important a trust.'
Cave continued his reports in a very condensed form until he died, in 1754, and left his system as a legacy to his successors and imitators. He was the father of parliamentary reporting, and it is for this reason more especially that his name deserves to be remembered with gratitude by all well wishers to the freedom of the press, which is the liberty of mankind.
THE TREASURY REPORT AND MR. SECRETARY CHASE.
The military condition at the present time is highly encouraging; but our armies have not always been successful in the field, and many of our campaigns have ended either in disaster or without decisive results. The navy, though it has achieved much in some quarters, has not altogether answered to the reasonable expectations of the country or to the vast sums which have been expended to make it powerful and efficient. Our foreign relations, during the war, have sometimes assumed a threatening aspect, and, it must be confessed, have not always been managed with the skill and firmness due to our prominent position among the nations of the world. But there is at least one department of the Government whose general operations during all these vicissitudes have been the subject of just pride to the American people. In the midst of great difficulties, sufficient to appal and disconcert any ordinary mind, our stupendous fiscal affairs have been conducted with unrivalled firmness, ability, and success. All our military and naval operations, and indeed our whole national strength at home and abroad, have necessarily been in a large degree contingent upon the public credit, and this has remained solid and unmoved except to gain strength, in spite of all the disasters of the war on the land and on the water. The recent annual report of Mr. Chase, though chiefly confined to a simple statement of facts and figures, is like the account of some great victorious campaign, submitted by the unassuming officer who conducted it. The achievements of the Treasury are in fact the greatest of all our victories; they underlie and sustain the prowess of our armies, while they signalize the confidence and the patriotism of our whole people. Without them the peril of the Union would have been infinitely enhanced, and perhaps it would have been wholly impossible to conquer the rebellion. There was a narrow and difficult path to tread in order to avoid national bankruptcy; it was necessary within three years to raise fifteen hundred millions of dollars, and a single false step might have doubled or trebled the amount even of that enormous demand. How often has intelligent patriotism trembled to think that the failure of our finances would involve the probable futility of our sacred war for the Union, with all its tremendous sacrifices of life and property!
Nobly have the people sustained their Government; with a wise instinct of confidence, they have freely risked their money, as their lives, in support of their own holy cause. This confidence at home has given us unbounded strength abroad. Nor do the facts in the least diminish the credit fairly due to the Secretary, whose great merit is to have organized a system so well calculated to attract the confidence of the people and to inspire them with a sense of perfect security in trusting their fortunes to the keeping of the nation for its help and support in the hour of supreme peril. It is the highest evidence of wise statesmanship to be able thus to arouse a nation to the cheerful performance even of its obvious duty: this has been accomplished by Mr. Chase, under the embarrassment of repeated failures on the part of those who had in special charge to defend and promote our noble cause. The entire merit of this grand success can only be adequately estimated by considering how slight a mistake of judgment or want of faithful courage in conducting these momentous affairs would have thrown our finances into inextricable confusion. Our own experience immediately before the war, when there was no adequate conception of the extent of the trouble about to come upon us, shows how easily the public credit may be shaken or destroyed by incompetent or dishonest agents. In spite of envious detraction and interested opposition, these great and successful labors of the Secretary will remain an imperishable monument of his ability to conduct the most intricate affairs of government, in times of the most appalling danger and difficulty. He has undergone the severest tests to which a statesman was ever subjected; his genius and his great moral firmness have brought him out triumphant.
There are a few prominent points in the lucid report of the Secretary which constitute the great landmarks of his system. Adequate taxation was of necessity its basis; and, from the very beginning, Mr. Chase insisted upon a rigid resort to every available means of raising a revenue sufficient to strengthen the hands of the Government, and sustain its credit through all the vast operations which it was compelled to undertake. And now by reference to the actual figures, and by an analysis of the facts embodied in them, the Secretary shows that since the first year of the war, the taxes collected have paid all the ordinary peace expenditures together with the interest on the whole public debt, and beyond this have yielded a surplus which, had the war ended, might have been applied to the reduction of the debt. This sound and indispensable principle, beset with so many temptations and difficulties in time of civil commotion, is the very soul of the public credit; and the fearlessness with which the Secretary meets the contingency of prolonged war and the necessity of additional taxes, evinces his determination to strengthen and sustain the principle, rather than to abandon it under any possible circumstances. The enormous loans already so advantageously obtained, to say nothing of those additional ones which will probably be indispensable, could not have been negotiated on any reasonable terms without a firm adherence to this policy.