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TO THE EDITORS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE.
On the Abuse of the Press. MESSRS. HALL AND SELLERS, I lately heard a remark, that on examination of the Pennsylvania Gazette for fifty years, from its commencement, it appeared, that, during that long period, scarce one libellous piece had ever appeared in it. This generally chaste conduct of your paper is much to its reputation ; for it has long been the opinion of sober, judicious people, that nothing is more likely to endanger the liberty of the press, than the abuse of that liberty, by employing it in personal accusation, detraction, and calumny. The excesses some of our papers have been guilty of in this particular, have set this State in a bad light abroad, as appears by the following letter, which I wish you to publish, not merely to show your own disapprobation of the practice, but as a caution to others of the profession throughout the United States. For I have seen a European newspaper, in which the editor, who had been charged with frequently calumniating the Americans, justifies himself by saying, “that he had published nothing disgraceful to us, which he had not taken from our own printed papers.” I am, &c.
“ New York, March 30, 1788. “DEAR FRIEND, “My gout has again left me, after five months' painful confinement. It afforded me, however, the leisure to read, or hear read, all the packets of your newspapers, which you so kindly sent for my amusement.
“Mrs. W. has partaken of it; she likes to read the advertisements; but she remarks some kind of inconsistency in the announcing so many diversions for almost every evening of the week, and such quantities to be sold of expensive superfluities, fineries, and luxuries just imported, in a country, that at the same time fills its papers with complaints of hard times, and want of money. I tell her, that such complaints are common to all times and all countries, and were made even in Solomon's time; when, as we are told, silver was as plenty in Jerusalem as the stones in the street; and yet, even then, there were people that grumbled, so as to incur this censure from that knowing prince. “Say not thou that the former times were better than these ; for thou dost not inquire rightly concerning that matter.'
“But the inconsistency that strikes me the most is, that between the name of your city, Philadelphia, (brotherly love,) and the spirit of rancor, malice, and hatred that breathes in its newspapers. For I learn from those papers, that your State is divided into parties, that each party ascribes all the public operations of the other to vicious motives; that they do not even suspect one another of the smallest degree of honesty; that the antifederalists are such, merely from the fear of losing power, places, or emoluments, which they have in possession or in expectation ; that the federalists are a set of conspirators, who aim at establishing a tyranny over the persons and property of their countrymen, and to live in splendor on the plunder of the people. I learn, too, that your justices of the peace, though chosen by their neighbours, make a villanous trade of their office, and promote discord to augment fees, and fleece their electors; and that this would not be mended by placing the choice in the executive council, who, with interested or party views, are continually making as improper appointments; witness a 'petty fiddler, sycophant, and scoundrel, appointed Judge of the Admiralty; "an old woman and fomenter of sedition' to be another of the Judges, and a Jeffries' Chief Justice, &c. &c.; with two harpies' the Comptroller and Naval Officers, to prey upon the merchants and deprive them of their property by force of arms, &c.
“I am informed also by these papers, that your General Assembly, though the annual choice of the people, shows no regard to their rights, but from sinister views or ignorance makes laws in direct violation of the constitution, to divest the inhabitants of their property and give it to strangers and intruders; and that the Council, either fearing the resentment of their constituents, or plotting to enslave them, had projected to disarm them, and given orders for that purpose; and finally, that your President, the unanimous joint choice of the Council and Assembly, is an old rogue,' who gave his assent to the federal constitution merely to avoid refunding money he had purloined from the United States.
“There is, indeed, a good deal of manifest inconsistency in all this, and yet a stranger, seeing it in your own prints, though he does not believe it all, may probably believe enough of it to conclude, that Pennsylvania is peopled by a set of the most unprincipled, wicked, rascally, and quarrelsome scoundrels upon the face of the globe. I have sometimes, indeed, suspected, that those papers are the manufacture of foreign enemies among you, who write with a view of disgracing your country, and making you appear contemptible and detestable all the world over; but then I wonder at the indiscretion of your printers in publishing such writings! There is, however, one of your inconsistencies that consoles me a little, which is, that though, living, you give one another the characters of devils; dead, you are all angels! It is delightful, when any of you
die, to read what good husbands, good fathers, good friends, good citizens, and good Christians you were, concluding with a scrap of poetry that places you, with certainty, every one in heaven. So that I think Pennsylvania a good country to die in, though a very bad one to live in."
FROM THOMAS POWNALL TO B. FRANKLIN.
Political Condition of the Swiss Cantons. — Constitution of the United States.
Bristol, 8 April, 1788. MY DEAR OLD FRIEND, It is with more than common pleasure, that I sit down this day to write to you once more. As I have read my own death more than once in our news. papers, so I have read, and also heard, that you had quitted this present stage, and were gone where Lycurgus, Solon, Numa, and the elder Brutus have been long gone before you; and where I most decidedly believe, that you and others, who have served and have endeavoured to serve their country and the community of mankind at large, will compare notes with them. Although I considered your last quitting of Europe, as a departure like that of death, at least to us whom you left behind, yet, so long as you remained upon the same globe, in the same system of life, and since, as the proverb says, while there 's life, there's hope, one might indulge a fond hope that we should meet again. But, when I was told you were dead, I was struck with a damp upon my heart, not for you, but for myself, as having lost the last friend remaining, with whom I could communicate on some points of the utmost importance to the liberty of man.
I believe that I am the only one now left, on this · stage of life, of those commissioners representing and
acting for the several provinces in America, whom I met at that Congress in Albany, in 1754, when the events, which have since come into fact, first began to develope themselves, as ready to burst into bloom and to bring forth the fruits of liberty, which you in America at present enjoy. How long I am to continue after these, is of very little consequence either to myself or to the world, as I now stand unconnected with it and its affairs.
In your last letter from Paris, when you took leave of me, then at Geneva, you desired I would consider the operations and effect of the Helvetic League, with a reference to the political union of the American States. I did so, and every thing, which I saw or had occasion to learn about this league, only served to confirm what I had already written and published in my “Memorial addressed to the Sovereigns of America.” I saw, that, if there was not in a people such a confidence in the basis of their liberty, as could suffer without fears and jealousies a spirit of sovereignty to establish a regulated rotary system of government, trusted, as to men in rotation, with every power necessary to render it effective, there could be neither the true spirit of liberty nor the fruits of government, and that either an aristocracy, or a monarchy, founded in faction or violence, must take place of it. I saw the traces of the politics of some high allies, false friends of the Swiss, establishing an aristocracy, whose members were their pensioners. I deprecated from my soul, that this might ever be the fate of America. And since you carried up from the committee of the Convention your report of a system of sovereignty founded in law, and above which law only was sovereign, I begin to