The Early American Press, 1690-1783

By William David Sloan; Julie Hedgepeth Williams | Go to book overview

4
The Expansion of the Colonial Press, 1735-1765

The new year of 1741 was just a week old, but already it had brought nothing but distress to newspaper publisher Elizabeth Timothy of Charleston, South Carolina. 1 Her son Peter was only a teenager, but at that moment he had just been hauled into court with the world's most famous evangelist. 2

The trouble had begun when the Reverend George Whitefield arrived in Charleston and got mixed up with Hugh Bryan, a starry-eyed convert to Whitefield's evangelical brand of Christianity. 3 Peter had been arrested after his mother's newspaper, the South-Carolina Gazette, had printed a letter by Bryan that libeled the clergy. At least, South Carolina Chief Justice Benjamin Whitaker deemed it libelous. He also considered it to be "false, malicious, scandalous, and infamous" as well as in contempt of the king. The article said of the clergy that "they themselves break [their] Canons every Day. . . . Oh Shame! Shame! Is this to imitate their Master, who went about doing Good?" 4

As the supposed publisher of the Gazette, fifteen-year-old Peter had been arrested along with Bryan and Whitefield, who had corrected the letter before it was published. 5 Peter Timothy was innocent in the whole matter, and it was his mother's fault that he had been arrested at all. Elizabeth Timothy herself was the real publisher of the Gazette, having taken over two years earlier upon her husband Lewis's death. She had printed the offending article. She used Peter's name as publisher, it was true, but that was just to live up to a legal agreement between Peter's father and the Gazette's co-owner, Benjamin Franklin. According to the contract with Franklin, Lewis was to start the paper and leave it to Peter for a career. 6 So now Peter was supposedly the publisher of the paper, when really he was still just a boy. With six children younger than Peter to care for, the baby just now two years old, 7 Elizabeth nearly had her hands too full to worry about George Whitefield and the chief justice as well as Peter and the Gazette. Fortunately Peter and his fellow prisoners made bail. 8

-97-

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The Early American Press, 1690-1783
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - The Boston Press, 1690-1735 1
  • 2 - The Philadelphia Press, 1719-1735 51
  • Notes 68
  • 3 - Freedom of the Press, 1638-1735 73
  • Notes 91
  • 4 - The Expansion of the Colonial Press, 1735-1765 97
  • Notes 118
  • 5 - The Stamp Act Crisis, 1765-1766 123
  • Notes 142
  • 6 - The Uneasy Years, 1766-1775 147
  • Notes 165
  • 7 - The Revolutionary Press, 1775-1783 171
  • Notes 192
  • 8 - Reflections on the Early American Press 199
  • Notes 209
  • Bibliographical Essay 211
  • Notes 217
  • Sources 219
  • Index 229
  • About the Authors 235
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