The Power Of The Press
As part of the celebration of the Bicentennial (America’s 200th Birthday) President Gerald Ford was presented with a printing press that had been built in France in 1785. The gift was to point out how the printing press in our struggle for independence. The power of the press accomplished more than any battle ever could have.
Americans in the Eighteenth Century were among the most literate people in the world. Newspapers were numerous and political pamphlets and broadsides were as common as blogs are today. This enabled people in Georgia to read about the events in Boston in the words of people who witnessed events. This chain of paper bound the colonies together.
Pamphlets formed the spine of the resistance. Some of the most important ones in the years prior to 1775 are:
- John Dickinson, Letters of a Farmer in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1768)
- James Warren, Oration to Commemorate the Bloody Tragedy of the Fifth of March, 1770 (Boston, 1772)
- Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British Americans (Williamsburg, 1774)
The opposition also generated a ton of paper to get their views out to as many people as possible. Some of their most notable are:
- Samuel Seabury, The Congress Canvassed (New York, 1774)
- Thomas B. Chandler, A Friendly Address to All Reasonable Americans(New York, 1774)
- Daniel Leonard, Origin of the American Contest . . . by Massachusettensis (Boston, 1775)
As for newspapers, well there were many on both sides that spoke for the Patriots and the Loyalists, each a propaganda arm of the various movements. The best look at newspapers during the Revolution comes in the collection Reporting the Revolutionary War by Todd Andrlink. In that collection, he gathers many of the surviving newspaper articles. Worth a read. You can catch an interview with him about the book here.
The printing press was a very apt present for the country. It serves as a reminder that the power of the press is an awesome power that should be wielded responsibly, now more than ever.