The Greatest Friend to Liberty Must Needs be Ashamed of the Boston Gazette

Recreation of the 18c Boston Gazette print shop

in about Warren

by Dr. Thomas Young

To Democritus.

Alternate confessions and denials issue so freely from some persons, that these with their hints of some magazines of scandal yet unbroached, and sly in[n]uendoes of being loaded with mighty secrets, obtained in closest friendship, give their productions a formidable aspect.  Threaten again, Democritus, as you or the good-natur’d Philo Physic did to Mr. Edes, that if I did not cease writing you would be obliged to expose me.  If I be a villain, a person acquainted with ‘hair-breadth ’scapes,’ you owe your country an explanation on that subject, as much as you and your zealous brethren do on the other first agitated; but alas, too many obstacles lie in the way of either.  Could you boast the character either for capacity or integrity in any one town, that I have sustained in three provinces, and begin to obtain in a fourth and fifth, your name need not covet so close a covering.  Important man! out with all your secrets at once and let us be done with them.  A dunghill should never be removed by piecemeal.  If the country be not yet tired with hearing a man called an Empiric and a Rascal, by a group of unworthy wretches, that turn the liberty of the press into a such a sink of licentiousness, that the greatest friend to liberty must needs be ashamed of it, I must conclude them a patient people – I have always held the press so sacred that what is affirmed there, respecting any man’s character, has been regarded by me with the same solemnity as if affirmed under oath, before a magistrate; and indeed I think none will dispute it should with more.  Those therefore who can without scruple, in despite to their own honor and conscience, issue one continued scene of fals[e]hood and slander for months together, and that from presses too that never meddled with such things before, must when thoroughly known be as thoroughly despised and detested by every man that has the least regard for his own safety – A thing affirmed of any man in any court, to his damage and discredit, is false and malicious, if the affirmant being once and again called upon for evidence, he cannot or will not produce it.

But all of a sudden the whole affair is transformed to a ‘little innocent raillery.’  It was truly a very proper time for a gentleman who ‘sincerely affirms he would not injure me,’ to indulge in such raillery – Again, I must cease my pertinaceous scribbling to prevent my being fought for in the dark; mutato nomine de te narratur fabula.1  Who is to suffer if you (nobody) Anonymous Democritus, Philo Physic, W. and all the conspiracy of you cease and be no more seen?  I dare engage ‘the discerning few’ are pretty well sated with your delicacies, and assure yourselves the many are heartily sick of them – Self-defence forced me to write, and I wrote to the purpose: You felt if, and soon left the merits of the cause, and have ever since fatigued us with noise of ‘vain boasting and self-sufficiency.’  Which for the future to prevent, assure yourself you will be troubled with nothing further on the subject from –

            Tho. Young.

1 [Editor’s Latin translation] “…when the name is changed the story is told about you.”

Source: Boston Evening-Post, July 27, 1767, issue 1662, p. 2

Commentary: The salvos of poison pen letters continue during the summer of 1767 between Dr. Thomas Young on the one hand, and Joseph Warren’s Philo Physic and Miles Wentworth on the other. In this one Dr. Young accuses Benjamin Ede’s Boston Gazette as betraying the principle of an honest, free press in supporting Whig conceptions of Liberty. Benjamin Edes, complains Young, has turned “the liberty of the press into such a sink of licentiousness, that the greatest friend to liberty must needs be ashamed of it.”

The Boston Gazette had for months printed the anti-Young letters, while the rival Boston Evening-Post hosted Dr. Young’s letters and his generally ineffective counter-attacks.

The recreated Boston Gazette print shop, from whose website the above picture originates, is currently open in Boston’s North End very close the the historic Old North Church. Visitors find the printing demonstrations entertaining and instructive. The site’s modern organizers have not publicly commented on Patriot Thomas Young’s labeling of the establishment as a “sink of licentiousness.”

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