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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 29 Sep 1994 22:58:57 EST
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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>From Paris, in January of 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote to his friend
Edward Carrington:
      "...The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people,
the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to
me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or
newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to
prefer the latter.  But I should mean that every man should receive
those papers, and be capable of reading them.  I am convinced that
those societies (as the Indians) which live without government, enjoy
in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than
those who live under the European governments.  Among the former,
public opinion is in the place of law, and restrains morals as
powerfully as laws ever did anywhere..."

In April of 1908, the District-Attorney of the County of New York,
William T. Jerome, gave a speech in which he said:
      "I tell you, a democratic government won't work as long as you
have government by the newspapers...A democratic form of government
should be based on universal suffrage, but it is now based on public

Samuel Clemens heard Jerome's speech and commented upon it in his
autobiographical dictation of April 27, 1908:
      "...What we call our civilization is steadily deteriorating, I
think.  We were a pretty clean people before the war; we seem to be
rotten at the heart now.  The newspapers are mainly responsible for
this.  They publish every loathsome thing they can get hold of, and if
the simple facts are not odious enough they exaggerate them...Our
newspaper is a singular product.  Its editorial page is morally clean;
its ideals are high and fine, and its advocacy of them is able,
eloquent, and convincing; then along with it, every day, we have seven
pages of poisonous dirt in the form of news.  Our newspaper is a kind
of temple, with one angel in it and seven devils..."

Paul Berkowitz