Democracy In America, Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831
The first American newspaper appeared in April 1704, and was published at Boston. (See Collections of the Historical Society of Massachusetts, Vol. VI, p. 66.) It would be a mistake to suppose that the press has always been entirely free in the American colonies: an attempt was made to establish something like censorship and posting of bonds. (Con- sult the Legislative Documents of Massachusetts, January 14, 1722.)
The Committee appointed by the General Court (the legislative body of the province) for the purpose of examining an affair relative to a paper entitled The New England Courant expresses its opinion that “the tendency of the said journal is to turn religion into derision, and bring it into contempt; that it mentions the sacred writers in a profane and irreligious manner; that it puts malicious interpretations upon the conduct of the ministers of the Gospel; and that the government of His Majesty is insulted, and the peace and tranquillity of the Province disturbed, by the said journal. The Committee is consequently of opinion that the printer . and publisher, James Franklin, should be forbidden to print and publish the said journal or any other work in future, without having previously submitted it to the Secretary of the Province; and that the justices of the peace for the county of Suffolk should be commissioned to require bail of the said James Franklin for his good conduct during the ensuing year.”
The suggestion of the Committee was adopted, and passed into a law; but the effect was null, for the journal eluded the prohibition by putting the name of Benjamin Franklin instead of James Franklin at the bottom of its columns, and this maneuver was supported by public opinion.
The original copyright for Alexis de Tocqueville’s, “Democracy In America,” Translated by Henry Reeve, 1899, is held in the Public Domain because its copyright has expired. Formatting of this digital copy of Democracy In America Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell and The Moral Liberal. Non-commercial, educational use of individual chapters is encouraged with a live link back to the original copy at The Moral Liberal and a courtesy note to the editors.