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sisted. The porters complained that their interests were attacked, and tore down the placards in which the scheme was announced to the public. The excitement caused by Godfrey's death, and by the discovery of Coleman's papers, was then at the height. A cry was therefore raised that the penny post was a Popish contrivance. The great Doctor Oates, it was affirmed, had hinted a suspicion that the Jesuits were at the bottom of the scheme, and that the bags, if examined, would be found full of treason.” The utility of the enterprise was, however, so great and obvious, that all opposition proved fruitless. As soon as it became clear that the speculation would be lucrative, the Duke of York complained of it as an infraction of his monopoly, and the courts of law decided in his favor.f The revenue of the post-office was from the first constantly increasing. In the year of the Restoration a committee of the House of Commons, after strict inquiry, had estimated the net receipt at about twenty thousand pounds. At the close of the reign of Charles the Second, the net receipt was little short of fifty thousand pounds; and this was then thought a stupendous sum. The gross receipt was about seventy thousand pounds.; The charge for conveying a single letter was twopence for eighty miles, and threepence for a longer distance. The postage increased in proportion to the weight of the packet. At present, a single letter is carried to the extremity of Scotland or of Ireland for a penny; and the monopoly of post-horses has long ceased to exist. Yet the gross annual receipts of the department amount to more than 1,800,000l., and the net receipts to more than 700,000l. It is, therefore, scarcely possible to doubt that the number of letters now conveyed by mail is seventy times the number which was so conveyed at the time of the accession of James the Second. No part of the load which the old mails carried out was more important than the newsletters. In 1685 nothing like the London daily paper of our time existed, or could exist. Neither the necessary capital nor the necessary skill was to be found. Freedom, too, was wanting, a want as fatal as that of either capital or skill. The press was not indeed at that moment under a general censorship. The licensing act, which had been passed soon after the Restoration, had expired in 1679. Any person might, therefore, print, at his own risk, a history, a sermon, or a poem, without the previous approbation of any public officer; but the judges were unanimously of opinion that this liberty did not extend to Gazettes, and that, by the common law of England, no man, not authorized by the crown, had a right to publish political news.” While the Whig party was still formidable, the government thought it expedient occasionally to connive at the violation of this rule. During the great battle of the Exclusion Bill, many newspapers were suffered to appear, the Protestant Intelligence, the Current Intelligence, the Domestic Intelligence, the True News, the London Mercury.f None of these was published oftener than twice a week. None exceeded in size a single small leaf. The quantity of matter which one of them contained in a year was not more than is often found in two numbers of the Times. After the defeat of the Whigs it was no longer necessary for the king to be sparing in the use of that which all his Judges had pronounced to be his undoubted prerogative. At the close of his reign, no newspaper was suffered to appear without his allowance; and his allowance was given exclusively to the London Gazette. The London Gazette came out only on Mondays and Thursdays. The contents generally were a royal proclamation, two or three Tory addresses, notices of two or three promotions, an account of a skirmish between the imperial troops and the Janizaries on the Danube, a description of a highwayman, an announcement of a grand cockfight between two persons of honor, and an advertisement offering a reward for a strayed dog. The whole made up two pages of moderate size. Whatever was communicated respecting matters of the highest moment was communicated in the most meagre and formal style. Sometimes, indeed, when the government was disposed to gratify the public curiosity respecting an important transaction, a broadside was put forth, giving fuller details than could be found in the Gazette ; but neither the Gazette nor any supplementary broadside printed by authority ever contained any intelligence which it did not suit the purposes of the col rt to publish. The most important parliamentary debates, the most important state trials, recorded in our history, were passed over in profound silence.” In the capital the coffee-houses supplied, in some measure, the place of a journal. Thither the Londoners flocked as the Athenians of old flocked to the market place to hear whether there was any news. There men might learn how brutally a Whig had been treated the day before in Westminster Hall, what horrible accounts the letters from Edinburgh gave of the torturing of Covenanters, how grossly the navy board had cheated the crown in the victualling of the fleet, and what grave charges the Lord Privy Seal had brought against the Treasury in the matter of the hearth money. But people who lived at a distance from the great theatre of political contention could be kept regularly informed of what was passing there only by means of newsletters. To prepare -such letters became a calling in London, as it now is among the natives of India. The newswriter rambled
* Smith's Current Intelligence, March 30 and April 3, 1680.
t Angliae Metropolis, 1690.
f Chamberlayne, 1684. Davenant on the Public Revenue, Dis course IV.
* London Gazette, May 5 and 17, 1680. t There is a very curious and, I should think, unique collection of these papers at the British Museum.
from coffee-room to coffee-room, collecting reports, squeezed
himself into the Sessions House at the Old Bailey, if there was an interesting trial, nay, perhaps obtained admission to the gallery of Whitehall, and noticed how the king and duke looked. In this way he gathered materials for weekly epistles, destined to enlighten some country town or some bench of rustic magistrates. Such were the sources from which the inhabitants of the largest provincial cities, and the great body of the gentry and clergy, learned almost all that they knew of the history of their own time. We must suppose that at Cambridge there were as many persons curious to know what was passing in the world as at almost any place in the kingdom, out of London. Yet at Cambridge, during a great part of the reign of Charles the Second, the doctors of laws and the masters of arts had no regular supply of news, except through the London Gazette. At length the services of one of the collectors of intelligence in the capital were employed. That was a memorable day on which the first newsletter from London was laid on the table of the only
* For example, there is not a word in the Gazette about the important parliamentary proceedings of November, 1685, or about the trial and acquittal of the seven bishops.
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coffee-room in Cambridge.” At the seat of a man of fortune in the country, the newsletter was impatiently expected. Within a week after it had arrived, it had been thumbed by twenty families. It furnished the neighboring squires with matter for talk over their October, and the neighboring rectors with topics for sharp sermons against Whiggery or Popery. Many of these curious journals might doubtless still be detected by a diligent search in the archives of old families. Some are to be found in our public libraries; and one series, which is not the least valuable part of the literary treasures collected by Sir James Mackintosh, will be occasionally quoted in the course of this work.f. It is scarcely necessary to say that there were then no provincial newspapers. Indeed, except in the capital and at the two universities, there was scarcely a printer in the kingdom. The only press in England north of Trent appears to have been at York.f It was not only by means of the London Gazette that the government undertook to furnish political instruction to the people. That journal contained a scanty supply of news without comment. Another journal, published under the patronage of the court, consisted of comment without news. This paper, called the Observator, was edited by an old Tory pamphleteer named Roger Lestrange. Lestrange was by no means deficient in readiness and shrewdness; and his diction, though coarse, and disfigured by a mean and flippant jargon which then passed for wit in the greenroom and the tavern, was not without keenness and vigor. But his nature, at once ferocious and ignoble, showed itself in every line that he penned. When the first Observators appeared, there was some excuse for his acrimony. For the Whigs were then powerful; and he had to contend against numerous adversaries, whose unscrupulous violence might seem to justify unsparing retaliation. But in 1685 all opposition had been crushed. A generous spirit would have disdained to insult a party which could not reply, and to aggravate the misery of prisoners, of exiles, of bereaved families; but from the malice of Lestrange the grave was no hiding-place, and the house of mourning no sanctuary. In the last month of the reign of Charles the Second, William Jenkyn, an aged dissenting pastor of great note, who had been cruelly persecuted for no crime but that of worshipping God according to the fashion generally followed throughout Protestant Europe, died of hardships and privations in Newgate. The outbreak of popular sympathy could not be repressed. The corpse was followed to the grave by a train of a hundred and fifty coaches. Even courtiers looked sad. Even the unthinking king showed some signs of concern. Lestrange alone set up a howl of savage exultation, laughed at the weak compassion of the Trimmers, proclaimed that the blasphemous old impostor had met with a most righteous punishment, and vowed to wage war, not only to the death, but after death, with all the mock saints and martyrs.” Such was the spirit of the paper which was at this time the oracle of the Tory party, and especially of the parochial clergy. Literature which could be carried by the post bag then formed the greater part of the intellectual nutriment ruminated by the country divines and country justices. The difficulty and expense of conveying large packets from place to place was so great, that an extensive work was longer in making its way from Paternoster Row to Devonshire or Lancashire, than it now is in reaching Kentucky. How scantily a rural parsonage was then furnished, even with books the most necessary to a theologian, has already been remarked. The houses of the gentry were not more plentifully supplied. Few knights of the shire had libraries so good as may now perpetually be found in a servant's hall, or in the back parlor of a small shopkeeper. An esquire passed among his neigh
* Roger North's Life of Dr. John North. On the subject of newsletters, see the Examen, 133. "
t I take this opportunity of expressing my warm gratitude to the family of my dear and honored friend Sir James Mackintosh, for confiding to me the materials collected by him at a time when he meditated a work similar to that which I have undertaken. I have never seen, and I do not believe that there anywhere exists, within the same compass, so noble a collection of extracts from public and private archives. The judgment with which Sir James, in great masses of the rudest ore of history, selected what was valuable, and rejected what was worthless, can be fully appreciated only by one who has toiled after him in the same mine.
† Life of Thomas Gent. A complete list of all printing houses in 1724 will be found in Nichols's Literary Anecdotes of the eighteenth century. There had then been a great increase within a few years in the number of presses; and yet there were thirty-four counties in which there was no printer, one of those counties being Lancashire.