WORLD Magazine / Central Ideas / Chapter Two
Perils of the Puritan Press


Rise of the Corruption Story

Unnatural Acts
Perils of the Puritan Press
A New Planting of the Corruption Story

Macrostories in Conflict

Breakthrough of the Oppression Story



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While James I was asserting his sovereignty in England, new journalistic formswere emerging in the Reformed strongholds of Amsterdam and Augsburg. The first newspapers-printed information sources on a regular (in these cases,weekly) schedule-were published in those cities in 1607 and 1609.[1] By 1620, Amsterdam, known for its Reformed emphasis on literacy and liberty, was the refuge for emigre printers from France, Italy, England, and other countries. In that year the first newspapers ever printed in English and French came out-inAmsterdam. In 1621 another Amsterdam publisher started exporting his English language newspapers to England, and the king's agents now had to track down bundles of newspapers, not just destroy printing presses.

The British government, under pressure, tried to co-opt the opposition by allowing licensed publication of a domestic newspaper, Mercurius Britannicus, and some political pamphlets during the 1620s. Criticism of governmental foreign policy became a sore point, however, and James struck back at his press opponents, issuing edicts decrying "the great liberty of discourse concerning mattersof state."[2] Printer Thomas Archer was imprisoned, but Puritan doctrines won increasing acceptance, particularly in English towns. Opposition to James and his successor, Charles I, increased.

When one Puritan critic, Alexander Leighton, wrote and published a pamphlet in 1630 entitled An Appeal to Parliament, Charles and his court were outraged.Leighton insisted that Scripture was above everything, including kings, so that subjects could remain loyal while evaluating their rulers against biblical standards; Leighton said his goal was to correct existing problems "for the honour of the king, the quiet of the people, and the peace of the church." The Star Chamber saw the situation differently, terming Leighton's work "seditious and scandalous." On November 16, 1630, Leighton was whipped at Westminster, and had one of his ears cut off, his nose slit, and one side of his face branded. One week later the mutilation was repeated on the other side.

The penalty did not stop other Puritans. John Bastwick, Henry Burton, and William Prynne were hauled into the Star Chamber in 1637 and charged with seditious libel for writing pamphlets that criticized royal actions. Each man was sentenced to "perpetual imprisonment" without access to writing materials, andloss of ears. The royal authorities, believing they had the populace on their side, proclaimed a public holiday highlighted by the public mutilations. But when the three men were allowed to make public statements (according to the custom ofthe day) as the officials waited with knives, they were cheered. Prynne wasactually arrested and maimed twice; when he was released from prison and allowed to return to London, he was greeted by a crowd of 10,000.

Barbarous attempts to control the press prompted even more determined opposition; as a Boston Gazette essayist would note over a century later, the English civil war had as its "original, true and real Cause" suppression of the press, and "had not Prynn lost his Ears, K. Charles would have never lost his Head."[3] The verbal battle of Parliament versus crown, Puritans versus Anglicans, official story versus corruption story, led to war during the 1640s. The changed political environment led to a journalistic surge, as Puritan-dominated Parliament, remembering past oppression, abolished in 1641 the torture-prone Star Chamber. Theresult, according to a parliamentary committee in 1643, was that many printers"have taken upon them to set up sundry private Printing Presses in corners, and to print, vend, publish and disperse Books, pamphlets and papers . . . ."[4]

Some of these publications were regular newspapers with high standards. Samuel Pecke's weekly, A Perfect Diurnall, began with these words: "You may henceforth expect from this relator to be informed only of such things as are of credit . . . ."[5] Pecke did not make up things. Although clearly a Puritan partisan, he truthfully reported Royalist military victories, and twice covered wrongful conduct by Parliamentary soldiers. He also gave opponents space to express their views: When Archbishop Laud was executed for murder, Pecke included a transcript of the Archbishop's speech from the scaffold.

Similarly, when John Dillingham began his newspaper The Parliament Scoutin 1643, he pledged "to tell the truth" and not to "vapour and say such a one was routed, defeated," when there actually had been no battle. [6] Dillingham wrote of plundering by Cromwell's soldiers, the bravery of some captured Royalists, andthe need for better medical treatment of the wounded on both sides. Partisanship and fairness could go together, apparently, as editors believed that God could judge them for lying even if their backers cheered. [7]

By 1644 London, a city with a half-million residents, had a dozen weekly newspapers. This was more journalistic variety on a regular basis than had ever before existed. [8] Some Puritan leaders did not like criticism any more than the king's officials did, but most were committed to the idea of biblical rather than personal authority, and ofletting individuals read for themselves. [9] One Puritan leader and friend of John Milton, Samuel Hartlib, reflected general hopes when he predicted in 1641 that "the art of Printing will so spread knowledge that the common people, knowing their own rights and liberties,will not be governed by way of oppression."[10]

Parliament in 1643 did pass a law that restricted sales of pamphlets and newsbooks, but it received little enforcement and much criticism. Puritan pamphleteer William Walwyn noted that licensing might restrict some evil publications but would also "stopt the mouthes of good men, who must either not write at all, or no more than is suitable to the judgments or interests of the Licensers."[11] Another Puritan, Henry Robinson, proposed that theological and political combat should "be fought out upon eaven ground, on equal termes, neither side must expect to have greater liberty of speech, writing, Printing, or whatsoever else, than the other."[12]

The most famous response to the new law was penned by Milton himself. Licensing, hewrote, brought back memories of Bloody Mary, she of "the most unchristian council and the most tyrannous inquisition that ever inquired," and was inconsistent with the "mild, free and human government" that the Puritans said they would provide. Milton's most famous words in his Areopagetica were,

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter."[13]
Milton had faith in God's invisible hand over journalism; he asked, "For who knows not that truth is strong, next to the Almighty? She needs no policies, nor stratagems, nor licensings to make victorious; those are shifts and the defences that error uses against her power."[14]

The greatest journalistic talent of 17th-century England emerged during this mid-1640s period of relative freedom. The story of Marchamont Nedham typifies the 17th-century journalistic attempt to follow the tightrope walk of John Foxe, John Stubbes, and other 16th century writers who prayed for reformation without revolution.

Nedham was born in 1620 in a small town near Oxford. He studied Greek, Latin, and history as a child, received a bachelor's degree from Oxford University in 1637, and spent the next 6 years as a schoolteacher, law clerk, and dabbler in medicine. During those 6 years, Nedham underwent a theological and political transformation that led him to side with the Puritans. When King Charles established in 1643 his own weekly newspapers, the Mercurius Aulicus, Nedham was hired to help out with a competing newspaper from the Parliamentary side, Mercurius Britanicus. Within a year Nedham was in charge and doing almost all of the writing for a newspaper that was eight pages long and typographically clean enough to make possible headacheless reading of it three centuries later.

Nedham's writing was sensational and colorful; rather than theorizing or preaching, he provided specific detail about the vices of Royalists. Lord Ratcliffe, for example, was "bathing in luxury, and swimming in the fat of the land, and cramming his Hens and Capons with Almonds and Raisins," and Lord Porter was "that Exchequer of Flesh, which hath a whole Subsidie in his small guts and his panch, and hath bestowed the Sessments, and taxes of the State in sawces."[15] Nedham saw himself turning darkness into light by exposing corruption; when Nedham reviewed his first year as editor, he wrote that

I have by an excellent and powerful Providence led the people through the labyrinths of the enemies Plots . . . I have brought the secrets and sins of the Court abroad, from her Majestie to Mistris Crofts her very maid of honour, and from his Majesty to his very Barbour. [16]
Another time, he listed his successes in investigative journalism and exposure:
1. The King could not keepe an evil Councellour, but I must needs speake of him.

2. The Queene could not bring in Popery, but I must needs tell all the world of it ....

4. The Common Prayer could not be quiet, but I was still crying out Idolatry, and will worship.

5. The Bishops, Deans, and Doctors, could not play at Gleeke, and drinke Sacke after evening Prayer, but I gave in their names ....

9. I would never let Aulicus tell a lie to the world, but I blew a Trumpet before it, that allmight know it.

10. I undisguised the Declarations, and Protestations, and Masqueries of the Court."[17]

Nedham, although thoroughly partisan, was not a propagandist at this time. His leads summarized factually the "new business of King and Parliament."[18] He desired accuracy and criticized the Royalist newspaper editor, John Birkenhead:
Oh! what Prodigious Service hath he done, he could tell of Battailes and victories, when there was not so much as an Alarme or skirmish, he could change Pistolls into Demi-Cannons, and Catbines into Cutverings, and Squadrons and Troopes into Regiments and Brigades, he could rally routed Armies and put them into a better condition when they were beaten then before. [19]
Unlike Birkenhead, Nedham commented on his own side's difficulties:
The King is too nimble for us in horse, and his designers ride, while ours go on foot, and we lacquey beside him, and usually fall short of his Army, and we shall scarce be able to encounter him, unless he please to turn back and fight with us. [20]
Furthermore, he made theological points through laying up specific detail, rather than bypreaching: "Prince Rupert abides in Westchester . . . the young man is lately grown so devout, that he cannot keep the Lords day without a Bull baiting, or Beare baiting."[21]

Nedham rarely drew attention to himself, but in one issue he explained that "I took up my pen for disabusing his Majesty, and for disbishoping, and dispoping his good subjects."[22] Exposure was his goal: He wanted to take off the "vailes and disguises which the Scribes and Pharisees at Oxford had put upon a treasonable and popish Cause."[23] He enjoyed his effectiveness: "I have served a Parliament and Reformation hitherto in unmaking and unhooding incendiaries of all sorts . . . Everyone can point out the evill Counsellours now."[24] But, in a question-and-answer note (an early version of "Dear Abby") at the end of each issue of Mercurius Britanicus, he regularly cautioned against arrogance: When asked, "What are we to do or expect now in this time when our forces are so considerable?" Nedham answered, "Not to trust nor looke too much upon them, but through them to a Diviner power, lest we suffer as we did before. [25]

In short, Nedham saw his calling as one of truth-telling, rather than promoting allegiance to a certain set of leaders. He worked hard to maintain some distance from those Puritan leaders who began to trust in their own power. In June 1645, Nedham made it clear to his readers that Parliament did not tell him what to write-he had independent authority, under God. [26] Two months later, Nedham disobeyed a licenser's request that he delete a hard-hitting passage, and received only a reprimand. [27]

Yet, as some Puritan leaders gained great power and decided they were above criticism, they backed off from their own principles. In May 1646, Nedham published that era's equivalent of the Pentagon Papers; the official charge noted his publication of "divers passages between the two Houses of Parliament and other scandalous particulars not fit to be tolerated."[28] One writer attacked Nedham's "sullen and dogged wit" and suggested that "his hands and feet be as sacrifices cut off, and hung up, to pay for the Treasons of his tongue."[29] Nedham's limbs were spared, but he was jailed for 12 days and released only on condition that he do no more newspaper editing.

Nedham abided by his "no editing" pledge but continued to write. At a time when both Anglicans and Puritan Presbyterians opposed independent churches, Nedham made himself unpopular with both sides by writing a pamphlet that warned those who would not tolerate independent churches, "Take heed therefore lest while ye raile against new lights ye work despight to the Spirit of God. To Quench it in a mans self is a great sin, [but it is worse] tolabour to quench it in others."[30] Nedham attacked "compulsive power" in religion-but compulsion increased as tensions between Parliament and Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army grew.

The Army, with hands and guns and support from those members of Parliament who were disposed to use force rather than reason, increasingly seemed determined to brook no opposition. Parliament empowered a Committee on Examinations to investigate pamphlet publishers and to demolish the presses and imprison press owners found to be part of the opposition. On September 27, 1647, the House of Commons provided stiff fines for publication of nonlicensed publications. In 1648 many pamphleteers were arrested. In 1649 Parliament increased penalties, ordered all newsbooks to be licensed, required every printer to make a bond of 300 pounds not to print anything offensive to the government, and confined printing to London and the universities at Oxford and Cambridge, with limited exception for two other presses.

Some Puritans criticized this tightening. In January 1649, a "Petition of firm and constant friends to the parliament and Commonwealth" urged the granting of liberty to the press, and pointedly told military leaders that if

you and your army shall be pleased to look back a little upon affairs you will find you have bin very much strengthened all along by unlicensed printing .... The liberty [of the press] . . . appears so essential unto Freedom, as that without it, it's impossible to preserve any nation from being liable to the worst of bondage. For what may not be done to that people who may not speak or write, but at the pleasure of Licensers? [31]
John Owen, Cromwell's religious advisor, recognized that it is better to have 500 errors scattered among individuals than to have one error gain power over all. [32] Nevertheless, the tendency to reduce debate continued.

Nedham saw the dictatorship coming. In October 1647, he published a pamphlet anticipating the purge of Parliament that took place the following year, in which the military ousted and excluded from further influence 231 of its Parliamentary opponents. Nedham noted that "Mr. Cromwell hath them [Parliament] in the Mill, grind they must,seeing that they are at his Beck who holds a Whip and a Bell over their guilty Heads." Hethen presciently argued that when Cromwell "hath used them long enough under the name of Parliament, then (perhaps) they shall be disbanded severall waies, that the Sword-menmay stand for ever. [33] Calling Cromwell "King Cromwell" and "The Grand Segnior,"Needham saw dictatorship leading to more bloodshed and noted sardonically, "Tis a godlything States to reforme by Murther."[34] Reflecting on how good intentions can lead to sad results, Nedham exclaimed, "Good God, what a wild thing is Rebellion."[35]

The dramatic result of Nedham's rethinking of rebellion was that he amazed his former allies by joining the Royalists. Presbyterian minister John Hackluyt, a chaplain in the Parliamentary army who shared Nedham's concern about dictatorship, also switched sides, in the hope that a humbled King Charles might consent to a constitutional monarchy. The suggestion of one historian that Nedham joined the king's side because he "liked excitement and power" seems weak: The king's side was a losing side, and in a little over a year Charles would be executed. [36] To become a Royalist late in 1647 showed either great stupidity or uncommon bravery. Nedham was not dumb, and it appears that he was risking all to try to preserve some liberty in England. From September 1647 through January 1649, Nedham edited Mercurius Pragmaticus, a newspaper deeply critical of the new dictatorship emerging.

Nedham's reporting, as usual, contained exciting detail and perceptive analysis. He showed how Cromwell and his associates won a Parliamentary majority through intimidation and created public fear through artfully designed troop movements. He exposed other plans and pretensions, including dissension among the army-Parliamentary forces: Cromwell's "face is now more toward an Aristocracie than Zion, which hath raised a deadly feud betwixt him and the Adjutators, who looke upon him as fallen from grace."[37] In 1648 Nedham also produced several satirical pamphlets, including one entitled Ding Dong or Sr. Pitifull Parliament on his death-bed, under the pen name Mercurius Melancholicus. In that pamphlet he wrote, "Sir Pitifull Parliament hath taken griefe, which hath so prevailed over his powers, and mastered his faculties, that he is now become a meere Skelleton . . . harke how he groanes."[38] As the Puritan reforming zeal turned to revolutionary power lust, Nedham week after week in Mercuricus Pragmaticus showed the degradation of the movement: "See how Wealth/ Is made their Heaven! They swell/ With Pride! and live by Blood and Stealth,/ As if there were no Hell.[39] Meanwhile, poverty dominated the countryside, and there "the citizens (like silly sheep)/ Must fast, and be content."[40] Civil war, Nedham feared, was bringing out the worst in men: "Faith and Religion bleeding lie,/ And Liberty grows faint:/ No Gospel, but pure Treachery,/ And Treason make the Saint . . . . Away with Justice, Laws and Fear;/ When Men resolve to rise,/ Brave Souls must scorn all Scruples where/ A Kingdom is the Prize. "[41] Might apparently was making right, with preaching secondary: "Militia too, they needs must gain,/ Those pretty carnal Tools:/ For Pauls old Weapons they disdain,/ As fit for none but Fools.[42]

In November 1648, two months before King Charles' execution, with the revolutionary party at its height, Nedham published A Plea for the King and Kingdome. He decried the movement "to a Military Government"that would lead to "the utter subversion of our Law . . . and the inslaving of the Kingdome." Nedham was not alone in thinking the forces of Cromwell were going too far: Of the 250 men who remained in Parliament following Pride's Purge of December 1648, only about 60 sat regularly as puppets of the army, and fewer than half of those finally approved of the King's execution.

Many Puritans spoke out vigorously against the coup; many were arrested. William Waller, a Puritan general who split from Cromwell, called the takeover tyrannical and labeled it "treason in the highest degree."[43] But the king was executed; in the words of the newspaper A Perfect Diurnall, "The executioner at one blow severed his head from his body. Then when the King's head was cut off, the Executioner held it up and showed it to the spectators."[44] This was the first modern revolutionary execution, with millions more to follow.

Soon after Charles' execution, Nedham went into hiding. Other journalists expressed veiled concern about a move toward dictatorship. Dillingham wrote in February 1649, following Charles' execution, "There's Kings gone, them and Lords in two dayes: how easie it is to pull down." He asked readers to turn to II Samuel, where the daughters of Israel are told to weep over Saul. He mocked utopian plans and economic panaceas.[45] Nedham, however, went further than others. For 2 months during the spring of 1649 he put out an underground edition of Mercurius Pragmaticus that featured reporting like this:

Both King and Bishops thus exil'd/ The Saints not yet content:/ Now with fresh flames of Zeal grow wild,/ And cry, No Parliament . . . The State's grown fat with Orphans Tears,/ Whilst Widows pine and moan;/ And tender Conscience in sev'n years,/ Is turn'd t' a heart of stone."[46]
Nedham concluded that "No Powers are safe, Treason's a Tilt,/ And the mad Sainted-Elves/ Boast when Royal Blood is spilt,/ They'll all be Kings themselves. "[47]

Nedham, from various hiding places, also sent out several pamphlets that did not endear him to the new masters of England. Immediately after the revolutionary leaders celebrated victory with a parade and feast on June 7, Nedham published The Great Feast at the Sheepshearing of the City and Citizens. The last page gives a sense of the whole:

At Grocers Hall, they grocely fed,/ With which their paunches out were spread,/ Whilst thousands starve for want of bread,/ Let's thanke the Parliament./ Neere forty Bucks, these Holy ones/ Devour'd, and left the dogs the bones,/ And Musick grac'd with Tunes and Tones,/ This Bacchanalian Feast:/ And after that, a Banquet came . . . Tyrants feast with joy.[48]
With that publication the search for Nedham intensified; a few days later he was captured, sent to Newgate prison, and almost executed. He escaped in August and was free for 2 weeks, but was captured and sent back to prison, where he spent 3 more months.

It turned out that Nedham was not executed, because Oliver Cromwell had other plans for him. Cromwell, in effect the new king, wanted to merge the official story and the corruption story, the latter restricted so as to chastise the corruption of subjects but not the new rulers. He offered Nedham a deal: Write for me, and live. Nedham gave in, signed an oath of allegiance to the new government in November 1649, and was released to begin work on a 100-page pamphlet that presented "The Equity, Utility, and Necessity, of a Submission to the present Government. "[49] Nedham argued at length that the Royalist cause was done for, and that wise men, understanding the "improbability of Success in the new Royall enterprize," should submit in recognition of "Necessity, the Custome of all Nations, and the Peace of our own."[50]

One of Nedham's title chapters-"That the Power of the Sword Is, and Ever Hath been, the Foundation of All Titles to Government"-shows how the official story had come to dominate Nedham's thinking or at least his expression, with Cromwell as king. A person disobeying another who had come into power, whether or not the ascent was lawful, and regardless of "allegiances, oaths, and covenants" formerly entered into, was "peevish, and a man obstinate against the reason and custom of the whole world."[51] Nedham used examples from the then recent Thirty Years War to show how allegiances quickly change under pressure:

One while, you might have seen the same town under the French, the next under the Spaniard. And upon every new alteration, without scruple, paying a new allegiance and submission, and never so much as blamed for it by the divines of their own or any other nation. [52]
Such is life, Nedham argued.

Nedham's writings thoughout the early 1650s showed that mixture of cynical wisdom andbroken spirit. Cromwell's government, with its deeply flawed practice but a base in biblical principles, did not prove to be as terrible as Nedham first had feared. The leaders did not engage in the mass murder that characterized revolutions to come. Still, petty dictatorship emerged; as Puritan Denzil Holles complained, in what would also be a preview of future revolutionary outcomes, "The meanest of men, the basest and vilest of the nation, the lowest of the people, have got the power into their hands . . ."[53] It is sad to see Nedham reporting to such individuals and editing the official public relations weekly for the regime, Mercurius Politicus.[54]

And yet, Nedham at times was able to work within the system to keep a slight breeze blowing. The Council of State, as publisher, approved of Nedham's plan to have Politicus "written in a jocular way" to attract attention. [55] Nedham produced good coverage of local news along with cautionary reports of persons hanged for treason. [56] But Nedham also kept hope alive in his pamphlet The Excellencie of a Free State, which he serialized in Politicus. Nedham observed that

The Interest of Freedom is a Virgin that everyone seeks to deflower; and like a Virgin, it must be kept from any other Form, or else (so great is the Lust of mankinde for dominion) there follows a rape upon the first opportunity.[57]
He wondered whether there was political life after rape, or whether government was merely"an artifice . . . occasioned by necessity."[58]

Eventually the petty aspects of Cromwell's rules, not the major thrusts, turned English public opinion massively against what became associated with all of Puritanism, rather than its revolutionary elements that had achieved power. The "rump Parliament" formed after Pride's Purge passed laws forbidding the celebration of Christmas and attacking traditional pastimes such as dancing, playing at cards or dice, and so on. In 1655 Cromwell divided England and Wales into 12 military districts, each ruled by a major-general with authority to "promote godliness and virtue" by enforcing laws against horseracing, cock-fighting, and so on. No recreation was allowed on the Sabbath; in 1659 a French observer wrote that "the religion of England is preaching and sitting still on Sundays."[59] Popular resentment grew.

As the revolution ran down in the late 1650s Nedham saw that a monarchical restoration was likely: "Tis neither dishonour nor scandal," he wrote, that "after all other experiments made in vain, where the ends of government cannot otherwise be conserved, to revert upon the old bottom and foundation."[60] It would have been easy for Nedham, following Oliver Crowell's death in 1658, to join others in beginning to grease the slide on which the dead king's son, Charles II, soon would return. But Nedham did not join the plotters-instead, against his own personal interests, he warned Puritans that hopes of a peaceful, constitutional monarchy were foolish, because Charles II would be vindictive and wouldonce again empower "the Episcopacie."[61] In 1660 Nedham again deliberately stuck with alost cause, this time suggesting that Charles II should be fought because his promises of mercy were unreliable: "Tush! remember that blessed line of Machiavel; he's an oafe that thinks an oath, or any other tender, can tame a prince beyond his pleasure."[62]

Such jabs killed Nedham's chances to remain in English journalism following the monarchical restoration. They almost killed Nedham. In May 1660, a pamphlet entitled A Rope for Pol. Or a, a Hue and Cry after Marchamont Nedham, suggested that he deserved death because of the influence his writing had "upon numbers of unconsidering persons, who have a strange presumption that all must needs be true that is in Print."[63] A broadside, The Downfall of Mercurius, argued "now the time is coming which no doube/ Will do him justice, vengeance will find him out./ . . . Thus with the times he turned. next time I hope/ Will up the ladder be and down the rope."[64] In April 1660, Nedham fled to Holland.

He was allowed to return 4 months later, but on the condition that he abstain from any further involvement in political journalism. [65] Nedham stayed out of politics for 15 years and concentrated on medicine. From 1676 to 1678 he wrote four political pamphlets inopposition to the Whig leader Shaftesbury and in opposition to the dictatorship of Louis XIV in France. They did not make much of a mark, nor was Nedham's death in 1678, at age 58, much noted.

The legacy of Nedham-his early fervor, his later suspicion, and his deliberate bad timing should be noted, however. Three times-in 1646, 1649, and 1660-he stuck out his neck for what he believed, and three times he came close to having it chopped off or stretched out. Through that experience he became suspicious of all ideologies that promised earthly salvation; many American journalists would later follow in his footsteps.

His dashed hopes were shared by Puritan journalists generally. In May 1662, the new, Royalist-dominated Parliament passed a bill enacting a new, stringent censorship system.No more, said Parliament, would

evil disposed persons [sell] heretical, schismatical, blasphemous, seditious and treasonable books, pamphlets and papers... indangering the peace of these kingdoms, and raising a disaffection to his most excellent Majesty and his government. [66]
The official story was triumphant, not only in journalism but in legal preaching. [67] English newspapers born during the years of civil strife suffered governmental infanticide. Despite early promises to the contrary, Charles II increasingly tried to rule on the French, divine right model, and his press clippings reflected that: Palace writers had God always in the background, looking on benevolently, but Charles at the center, master of the realm. A tight censorship eliminated regular news coverage unless it helped to propel the official story.

For proponents of the corruption story, life was even harder than it had been before the revolution. For example, in 1663 John Twyn was convicted of sedition for printing a book arguing that citizens should call to account a king whose decrees violated biblical law. After Twyn refused to provide the name of the book's author, his "privy-members" were cut offbefore his eyes, and he was then beheaded. Twyn's body was cut into four pieces, and each was nailed to a different gate of the city as a warning to other printers or writers.[68]

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CHAPTER 2 Perils of the Puritan Press Notes

1. A Cologne publication, Mercurius Gallobelgicus, commenced publication in 1594 and continued semi-annually for four decades, but its summaries of diplomatic and military events and other news were in Latin, and the publication thus made no claim to popular appeal.

2. See Joseph Frank, The Beginnings of the English Newspaper 1620-1660 (Cambridge, MA, 1961), p. 13.

3. Boston Gazette, June 2, 1755; cited in Jeffery A. Smith, Printers and Press Freedom: The Ideology of Early American Journalism (New York, 1988), p. 21.

4. Frank, p. 41.

5. Ibid., p. 80.

6. Ibid., p. 91.

7. There were errors, of course, and Puritan editors learned from hard experience that sources were not always reliable. Frank describes how the editor of one newspaper, The True Informer (1643-1646), observed that "Truth is the daughter of Time. Relations of Bartels, fights, skirmishes, and other passages and proceedings of concernment are not alwaies to be taken or credited at the first hand, for that many times they are uncertaine, and the truth doth not so conspicuously appeare till a second or third relation" (p. 55). But the goal of truthtelling led to vigorous attempts to uncover the reality of events; in the words of Richard Sibbes, "Truth feareth nothing so much as concealment, and desireth nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all: when it is most naked, it is most lovely and powerful."

8. Hyder Rollin, Cavalier and Puritan (New York: University Press, 1923), p. 44. Average newspaper circulation was only 500, but copies were passed from hand to hand; most London males, and many females, were literate, and most read all or part of one of the weekly newspapers. In addition, one page ballads, customarily selling for a cent, also continued their practice of covering news events.

9. In 1642 Parliament decreed that "no person or persons shall Print, publish, or utter, any Booke or Pamphlet, false or scandalous, to the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament," but the emphasis was on falsehood, not embarrassment, and enforcement was largely absent. For additional perspective, see Frederick Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England, 1476-1776 (Urbana, IL, 1952), p. 182.

10. Samuel Hartlib, A description of the Famous Kingdom of Macaria (London, 1641); quoted in Siebert, p. 192.

11. William Walwyn, The Compassionate Samaritane (London, 1644), p. A5.

12. Henry Robinson, Liberty of Conscience (London, 1644), p. 17.

13. John Milton, Aeropagetica, in many editions; here, in Douglas Bush, ed., The Portable Milton (New York, 1949), p. 199.

14. Ibid., loc. cit.

15. Quoted in Joseph Frank, Cromwell's Press Agent: A Critical Biography of Marchamont Nedham, 1620-1678 (Latham, Md., 1980), p. 186.

16. Mercurius Britanicus, June 10-17, 1644.

17. Ibid., August 12-19, 1644.

18. Ibid., June 24-July 1, 1644.

19. Ibid., June 10-17, 1644.

20. Ibid., July 18, 1644.

21. Ibid., August 12-19, 1644.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid., October 21-28, 1644.

25. Ibid., May 20-27, 1644.

26. Ibid., May 25-June 2, 1645.

27. Parliament, trying at that time to work out a compromise with King Charles, was not pleased when Nedham described the monarch as "a wilfull King . . . with a guilty Conscience, bloody Hands, a Heart full of broken Vowes and Protestations."

28. Quoted in Frank, Nedham, p. 100.

29. Francis Wortley, Characters and Elegies (London, 1646), p. 26.

30. Marchamont Nedham, Independencie No Schism (London, 1646), p. 40.

31. Rollin, p. 45.

32. See John Adair, Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI 1986), p. 218.

33. Mercurius Pragmaticus, October 1926, 1647.

34. Ibid., October 12-20, 1647.

35. Ibid., November 21-28, 1648.

36. Frank, Nedham, p. 45.

37. Mercurius Pragmaticus, October 5-12, 1647.

38. Marchamont Nedham, Ding Dong (London, 1648), pp. 12.

39. Marchamont Nedham, A Short History of the English Rebellion (London, 1661), p. 4.

40. Ibid., p. 7.

41. Ibid., pp. 11, 14.

42. Ibid., p. 31.

43. William Waller, Vindication, quoted in Adair, p. 220.

44. Frank, The Beginnings of the English Newspaper, p. 194.

45. Ibid., p. 185.

46. Mercurius Pragmaticus, p. 34.

47. Ibid., p. 37.

48. Marchamont Nedham, The Great Feast at the Sheepshearing of the City and Citizens, on the 7th of June last, p. 6.

49. Marchamount Needham, The Case of the Commonwealth of England, Stated, or Tile Equity, Utility, and Necessity, of a Submission to the present Government (London, 1650).

50. Ibid., p. 40.

51. Ibid., p. 30.

52. Ibid., loc. cit.

53. Holles quoted in Adair, p. 220.

54. Nedham edited the Mercurius Politicus through the demise of the Cromwellian regime in 1660. From 1655 to 1660 he also edited The Publick Intelligencer; it appeared on Monday and Politicus on Thursday, with some pages duplicated.

55. Frank, Nedham, p. 207.

56. See, for example, Publick Intelligencer, July 5-12, 1658, execution of Edmond Stacy.

57. Marchamont Nedham, The Excellencie of a Free State (London: 1656), p. 45.

58. Mercurius Politicus, March, 1657.

59. Adair, p. 228.

60. Ibid., loc. cit.

61. Marchamont Nedham, Interest will not Lie (London, 1659).

62. Marchamont Nedham, Newes From Brussels (London, 1660).

63. A Rope for Pol (London, 1660).

64. Quoted in Frank, Nedham, p. 127.

65. Charles II executed many of those who had signed the death warrant for his father, and even hanged (by what was left of their necks) the semi-decayed corpses of Cromwell and two other leaders. But Nedham in 1647 and 1648 had opposed the execution and given aid and comfort to Charles I, and that twist evidently was remembered by Charles II.

66. Preamble of 13 & 14 Charles II, c. 33.

67. In 1664 the First Conventicle Act made it illegal for five or more people not of the same household to meet together for worship except in accordance with the Anglican liturgy. In 1665 the Five Mile Act forbade ejected ministers to come within 5 miles of any place where they had ministered, unless they would swear never to attempt "any alteration of government either in Church or State." In 1670 the Second Conventicle Act imposed heavier penalties on preachers or others who defied the law. Seizure and sale of Dissenters' goods was authorized, with one third of the revenue gained paid to informers.

68. 15 Charles II 1663, in Howell's State Trials, p. 513.