The reign of George III has always been a subject of interest to Americans, but national and political prejudices, inherited from that formative period, have long combined to restrict our vision and limit our interpretation. Only in recent years have we begun to recognize the realities and subtleties of eighteenth-century politics, and the work of revision, though a generation old, has yet to make itself felt in many areas of scholarship tangential to political and constitutional history.
While much has been written concerning the press and its leading figures, little effort has been made to incorporate the swarm of hacks and scribblers into the historical narrative. This book attempts to bring them all upon the stage of politics, to introduce the chorus, and to describe the methods used to create that public opinion which made John Wilkes and Junius important. It is a study, not of public opinion per se, but of the political press which produced that ephemeral force— and was a power unto itself. In dealing with the press, the broadest use of the term has been employed. Newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, broadsides, and satirical prints represent its physical aspect; the "authors, printers and publishers" sought by general warrant and information ex officio provide the human element. In undertaking a synthesis of the history of journalism, the tattered fringes of literature, the complexities of politics, and the niceties of law, one is made acutely aware of many shortcomings whose elimination time and circumstance will not allow. The present state of historical studies seems, however, to justify the attempt which periodicals and pamphlets support. Much remains to be gleaned from newspapers, but until further monographs like Robert L. Haig's The Gazetteer and Lucyle Werkmeister's studies in The London Daily Press, 1772-1792 are available, little more can be derived from that source. This book will have served its purpose if it refurbishes the stage settings, introduces a company who have long awaited their turn before the curtain, and delineates the several parts they play. Others are invited to write their lines.
An author's debts are manifold and cannot all be paid. It is pleasant to be able to recognize the tangible and intangible encouragement provided over the years by John J. Murray, Fredrick S. Siebert, Jack M. Sosin, a host of friendly librarians, and the Graduate School of Auburn University.
As this began with Phyl and Pam, it is proper that theirs should be the last word.