J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Censor’s Recipe for a Patriot

As I’ve recounted, friends of the royal government paid Ezekiel Russell to publish The Censor as a forum for responses to the Whig essays published in the Boston Gazette and Massachusetts Spy. The fact that the magazine lasted less than six months shows how few friends the royal government had.

According to James Stark’s Loyalists of Massachusetts, a highly sympathetic chronicle, “In succeeding numbers the controversy was prolonged with increasing bitterness, and at last became intensely personal.” How bitter? How intensely personal? Here’s a passage from the 8 Feb 1772 issue:

Take of impudence, virulence and groundless abuse quantum sufficit,

atheism, deism and libitinism ad libitum;

false reports, well adapted and plausable lies, with groundless alarms, one hundred wt. avoirdupois;

a malignant abuse of magistracy, a pusilanimous and diabolical contempt of divine revelation and all its abbettors, an equal quantity;

honor and integrity not quite an atom;

fraud, imposition, and hypocrisy, any proportion that may seem expedient;

Infuse therein the credulity of the people one thousand gallons,

as a menstrum stir in the phrenzy of the times,

and at the end of a year or two this judicious composition will probably bring forth a A*** and Y*** an O*** and a M*****.
That would be, a everyone in Boston could recognize, a Samuel Adams, a Dr. Thomas Young, a James Otis, and a William Molineux.

It’s never wise to talk about “the credulity of the people” if you’re trying to win them over. But by this time The Censor’s contributors were just complaining among themselves.

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