The first issues of The Censor, the political magazine printed by Ezekiel Russell of Boston in late 1771, carried the motto “Vexat censura columbas.” That’s the last part of a line from the Roman satirist Juvenal, which literally means, “The censor forgives the crows and harasses the doves.” So The Censor was telling readers, “The censor harasses the nice birds,” which hardly puts The Censor in a good light.
I suspect that the gentlemen behind the magazine meant that motto as a dig at their political opponents, implying that the Boston Whigs’ sanctimonious activism was misdirected at the best of public servants. But as a political slogan it had two big problems:
- Its sarcastic meaning was too smart for the room.
- It was in Latin, so most people in Boston couldn’t understand it, anyway.
Know while I live, no rich or noble Knave,That had the chance of communicating to all the readers in Boston since it was in English. And it promised to speak truth to power. But it was an odd choice for a magazine funded by the upper-class elite with a message that it was best to defer to royal authority.
Shall walk the World in credit to his Grave.
Finally, for what turned out to be its last issues, The Censor landed on a motto from Cicero:
Ne quid falsi dicere audeat, ne quid veil non audeat.“Let him not presume to utter any falsehood, but be bold in promulgating every truth.” Finally the magazine led with a straightforward statement of its principles. Once again in Latin.
As I described yesterday, The Censor wasn’t cut out to appeal to the common people.
TOMORROW: The Censor goes on the attack.