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the means of mischief-weapons of dreadful execution; but deprive him, while he is yet young, his teeth and his nails-disarm him while he is within your reach-and he will never rise to be the terror of the forest, or the tyrant of the field.
Impressed with a conscious sense of this proposition, I now take up the pen in the cause of my Country. The season of danger ought to be the season of alarm; and when a secret blow is aimed at the State by the cunning or the ambitious, no honest individual, who is aware of it, will be idle. On the present occasion, therefore, be it my business, as it is my duty, to unveil the foes of Public Freedom, and drag them to the public altar.
It is apprehended, and with good reason, that a design is now ripening to restrain the Liberty of the Press. The character of our present Ministry makes the existence of such a design probable, but their conduct carries it almost beyond a doubt. So daring an attempt is indeed worthy of that enterprising spirit which has already controverted Elections, and ridiculed the complaints of twelve millions of Subjects. It is well known that this
scheme has been long adopted, but adopted only in prospect; the execution of it was reserved for this season and this Pt: accordingly hints have been given, inuendoes thrown out, and whispers circulated, that the Press is grown luxuriant and wanton, and requires cropping.
This laudable business has been ushered into the world by a Publication, which may be considered as the prologue to the tragedy which is intended to follow. On Thursday the 30th day of January last (as if Freedom was doomed to bleed on the same day with Virtue *) a Pamphlet was published, entitled, "Reasons against the intended Bill for
laying some restraint upon the Liberty of the Press, "wherein all the arguments yet advanced by the "promoters of it are unanswerably answered." The tendency of this Pamphlet is obvious to the most superficial observer, It is written in a strain of continued irony; and, while it seems to be the keen foe of the errours of Administration, it is in truth their warmest advocate. It is replete with that oblique and uncouth raillery which is always aiming at humour, but never reaches it; and though
The day on which the Royal Martyr suffered.
it is neither satirical nor witty, it well serves to show that Dullness can sometimes be as malicious as Wit.
Such is its tendency, and such its character. However, the powers of this masked battery are too circumscribed and feeble to annoy the palladium of Freedom, by playing against it: if it possesses any importance, it is acquired only by its being in disguise. The keenness of its ridicule or the force of its reasoning could never give it consequence sufficient to merit a reply, were it not shielded under very powerful protection; for from very good authority I inform the Public, That it was published under the immediate patronage of C. Jn, Esq. This Gentleman- the flower of the Cabinet, and the epitome of the TreasuryBench-ever able, ever willing to lend a good hand to a bad purpose-this Gentleman (I say) kindly gave his parental bosom to foster, nourish, and warm this bantling into life.
A destructive measure cannot be too early crushed a task worthy of the AREOPAGITICA of MILTON. This exalted Genius, when an ill-advised Parliament, in times of political rage and civil dissention, had imposed an illicit restraint upon the
Press, drew forth his Eloquence and his Pen in the cause of Freedom-and conquered. The importance of this triumph was the best panegyric on the powers which effected it; but when Liberty is the prize, what will not Genius encounter and surmount?
I will not promise myself such a signal victory in our days. Parliaments, which in former times were but novices in the mystery of political intrigue, are now become familiar with the tricks of State, and can laugh at Justice as unconcernedly as the Lawyers in Westminster-Hall. Corruption is a thriving weed; and has often found the warmest hotbed in a Senator's heart.
However, the AREOPAGITICA is an admired performance, and has been always esteemed by learned men a master-piece of argument as well as of composition. It is indeed connected with that close argumentation which chains the attention always to the subject, and is diversified with such agreeable and happy observations on Men and Books as Genius and Taste only could produce. The success of this piece was admirable. The men who were wounded by its doctrines became converts to its truth. There is a remarkable instance of this.
Soon after the first publication of the AREOPAGITICA, one Mabbot, a Licenser of the Press, was so sensibly struck by the force of its arguments, that he applied to the Council of State to move the House of Commons that he might be discharged from his office. He gave the following reasons:
I. "Because many thousand of scandalous and "malignant Pamphlets have been published with "his name thereunto, as if he had licensed the same (though he never saw them) on purpose (as "he conceives) to prejudice him in his reputation among the honest party of this nation.
II. "Because that employment (as he con"ceives) is unjust and illegall, as to the ends of its "first institution, viz. to stop the Presse for pub"lishing any thing that might discover the cor"ruption of Church and State in the time of
Popery, Episcopacy, and Tyranny; the better "to keep the People in ignorance, and carry on "their popish, factious, and tyrannical designs, for "the enslaving and destruction both of the Bodies "and Souls of all the free People of this nation.
III." Because Licensing is as great a mo"nopoly as ever was in this nation, in that all "men's judgments, reasons, &c. are to be bound