Juxtaposin’: King Press

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


The Parliament of this period has become historically famous as the unreported Parliament. Such reports of the debates as reached the public ears were almost unintelligible. Two magazines there were, namely, the London and the Gentleman’s, which professed to give reports, but they only spoke with bated breath. Dr. Johnson in the pages of the Gentleman’s wrote the reports of the so-called Senate of Lilliput, and not daring to assign to each speaker the speech that he delivered, he gave merely the names of the debaters in a catalogue. His materials were scanty, and he eked them out by indulging in imaginative flights. He was even charged with fabricating bad arguments which he put into Sir Robert Walpole’s mouth. This was a state of things that plainly could no longer be endured, and several journals began to cater for their readers with better reports than any yet attempted. That they were very inaccurate is only natural under the conditions that prevailed. Wedderburn — better known afterwards under the title of Lord Loughborough — once remarked of a speech of his that was reported in the newspapers in this sarcastic vein: “Why, to be sure, there are in that report a few things which I did say, but many things which I am glad I did not say, and some things which I wish I could have said”. His experience, no doubt, was that of many others. Moreover a door was left open to a subtle species of corruption. Woodfall, for example, who was for his feats as a reporter nicknamed “memory Woodfall,” is said to have been paid £400 a year for reporting in the Morning Chronicle the speeches of Fox and Sheridan better than those of Pitt and Dundas. And Woodfall was one of the most distinguished of his class. The profession of a journalist was still one which was held and long continued to be held in very low repute. But however that may be, parliamentary reporting suddenly became a burning question. It was in 1771 that Colonel Onslow called the attention of the House to the fact that its debates were being reported in the newspapers, and he moved that the resolutions — which in 1728 had been passed upon the subject — be read. By these resolutions the newspaper reporting of debates was declared to be “an indignity to and breach of privilege of the House,” and offenders were ordered to be punished. In the course of discussion an ex-Speaker, Mr. Onslow, asserted the Parliamentary law and custom very clearly; reporting in the newspapers was, he said, “a modern practice completely unprecedented, and in direct violation of the privileges of the House of Commons “. The Colonel’s motion was carried, as might have been expected from the temper of the House. The next day he rose again in his place, and complained that the Gazetteer and the New Daily Advertiser had published a misrepresentation of his speeches. The printers of the papers, Thompson and Wheble, were thereupon directed to attend the House. Wilkes and Tooke now saw their opportunity and prevailed upon the printers to disobey the order. Then the House passed a resolution that an address should be presented to the King, praying him to issue a royal proclamation to order the arrest of the offenders. His Majesty — who in a letter to Lord North had called the printers ”miscreants,” and affirmed that “this strange and lawless method of publishing debates in the papers should be stopped” — was only too glad to comply with the request. Yet, in defiance of both King and Parliament, the reports were merrily continued, and in the following month the Colonel called the attention of the House to the fact that six more papers, the Morning Chronicle, the St. James’s Chronicle, the London Packet, the Whitehall Evening Post, the General Evening Post, and the London Evening Post, were publishing reports. A hot discussion followed, and, perhaps, the very first example of the use of obstructive tactics in the House. Twenty-three divisions were taken, and the debate was not closed until the morning sunlight was streaming through the windows. ”Posterity,” said Burke, in a speech in which he afterwards referred to the debate, “will bless the pertinacity of that day.” Then followed a series of events which were hardly less dramatic than those which had occurred in connection with Wilkes and his expulsion. Verily the times seemed out of joint. The printers of the incriminated journals were urged to persevere by the Bill of Rights Society, which provided them with funds. Then the printer, one Miller, of the London Evening Post, was summoned to the House; he refused upon the ground that he was a Liveryman of the City, and a messenger who had been sent to fetch him was himself arrested for assault. Brought before the Lord Mayor Crosby and Aldermen Oliver and Wilkes, who were sitting as magistrates at the Mansion House, the messenger was declared to have been legally arrested. Then Crosby and Oliver were ordered to attend in their places in the House, and were accompanied thither by great demonstrations of applause. At Westminster a riotous mob assembled and approaches to Parliament were blocked; Lord North’s carriage was wrecked, and the brothers Charles and Stephen Fox were pelted and rather roughly handled. The signing of the warrant for the arrest of the messenger of the House was declared a breach of privilege, and Crosby and Oliver were committed to prison; an event which Gibbon characteristically described as the sending of “two wild beasts … to the menagerie in the Tower “. The news of the committal was received by the people with a burst of indignation. On the Tower Hill the figures of the obnoxious persons were carried in carts, beheaded by a chimney-sweep and committed to the flames. Oliver and Crosby were received with every mark of honour in the City, and the Corporation presented them and Wilkes with silver cups in memory of the zeal they had displayed in the protection of the printers. Wilkes seized the opportunity to emphasise his Radical proclivities by choosing the death of Julius Caesar as a design for his cup, and the following lines from Churchill for an inscription: —

May every tyrant feel
The keen deep searchings of a patriot’s steel.

C.B. Roylance Kent

Trump’s attacks on the press have been aimed at what he calls the “mainstream media.” Six of the seven U.S. outlets in our study—CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post—are among those he’s attacked by name. All six portrayed Trump’s first 100 days in highly unfavorable terms. CNN and NBC’s coverage was the most unrelenting—negative stories about Trump outpaced positive ones by 13-to-1 on the two networks. Trump’s coverage on CBS also exceeded the 90 percent mark. Trump’s coverage exceeded the 80 percent level in The New York Times (87 percent negative) and The Washington Post (83 percent negative). The Wall Street Journal came in below that level (70 percent negative), a difference largely attributable to the Journal’s more frequent and more favorable economic coverage.

Thomas E. Patterson

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Books Publishing and Writing, Media, Philosophy and Religion, Politics and Economics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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