The free press tradition, in which newspapers and pamphlets expose government malfeasance, goes back to early 18th century England. Among the periodicals that skewered high government and Anglican church officials was a weekly English newspaper, The Independent Whig (1719-1720). Written largely by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, (of future Cato’s Letters fame) the Independent Whig exposed and ridiculed with exquisite snark, the divine right of kings, the established church, and those who grew wealthy from government corruption.
Trenchard and Gordon’s popular columns were endlessly reprinted in America, well into the 1750s. From them, colonists learned more of the foundations of free government and the elements of John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government.
From Trenchard and Gordon, an Independent Whig:
Scorns all implicit faith in the State, as well as the Church. The Authority of Names is nothing to him; he judges all Men by their Actions and Behavior, and hates a Knave of his own party, as much as he despises a Fool of another. He consents not that any Man or Body of Men, shall do what they please. He claims a Right of examining all public Measures and, if they deserve it, of censuring them. As he never saw much Power possessed without some Abuse, he takes upon him to watch those that have it; and to acquit or expose them according as they apply it to the good of their country, or their own crooked Purposes.
While I do not attempt here, to attribute the writings of Trenchard/Gordon to particular clauses of our Constitution some decades later, they are certainly part of the aura of republicanism that soon gathered strength, subsequently burst into revolution in 1776, and culminated in a new form of free government in 1787.
Where the Independent Whig:
- Scorned the passive submission inherent in implicit faith to a national government and its allied church, our Framers utilized their God-given reason to design a governing form that discouraged tyranny through the division of legitimate powers in a framework of three co-equal branches and the states.
- Rejected a state-sanctioned church, our Framers likewise prohibited an established national church.
- Wasn’t impressed with noble birth and titles, the anti-republican institutions of a hereditary nobility have no place in America.
- Rejects divine right to rule, the Constitution acknowledges sovereignty in the people.
- Claimed the right to open government, to know its deliberations, the American congress keeps a public journal of its proceedings, while the executive branch is supposed to be open to Freedom of Information Act inquiries.
- Knows that keeping free government requires an ever-vigilant society, an open and free press along with provisions to impeach, remove, and prosecute malefactors is essential.
Through a newly won freedom of the press, Trenchard and Gordon unknowingly reinforced the American cause of free government some fifty-five years later. Three hundred years after an emergent free press encouraged the spread of John Locke’s noble and uplifting theories, the American media of 2016 works toward the destruction of the principles that set them free. Instead of exposing high crimes, major media conceal and partake of them. America is an occupied nation, a nation occupied by hostile Leftist nostrums that reject The Enlightenment and its embodiment, the United States Constitution.
Trenchard and Gordon are among the silent partners of the American tradition that clamors for renewal of free government, that happy condition wherein government respects and protects the unalienable, Natural Rights of the nation, and makes no law without its consent.
Free government is impossible without a free press.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States. Sign the COS Petition
Reference: Robbins, C. (1968). The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Pages 115, 120.