The New England Courant: A Cause for Arrest

The paragraph of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, having to do with media and communications, which I found most interesting, was the last paragraph in Part 2 of the online edition. This paragraph brought up the ideas of censorship that was part of media and communications for a long time. James Franklin’s arrest was, in fact, caused by his newspaper, The New England Courant, printing articles that upset the Assembly. The ultimate arrest of James Franklin goes to show that in the 1720s, with only a couple of newspapers in circulation, in this area, the government was still rampant about censoring what the readers saw. It is difficult to say just by reading the first part of the book, but it is very possible that this was one of the first cases of censorship in America’s history. One of the reasons this could be true is because the government did not totally disallow the public to see the comments written in attack towards them. Rather, James Franklin was arrested after the fact, so the newspaper was released for the public to see and read the attacking thoughts on the Assembly. Also, interestingly enough,  Benjamin Franklin, despite his contemptuous relationship his brother James, gave the “Rulers some Rubs,” which shows that the government did not completely take control of the newspaper. This was fascinating to me, so I did a little research on The Boston News Letter, the first newspaper in British North America and found out some interesting information. This newspaper was completely controlled by the government, for the governor approved all of the editions sent out in print. This means that James Franklin’s newspaper was a little less censored than the early newspaper in this region. It is fascinating to think that The New England Courant was so controversial, making it seem like the media we currently see, as in America, there is little to no censorship, which brings about a lot of debate.  Is it possible that The New England Courant was the first of its kind, the kind that outright challenges the government and its policies? Media and Communications has had a long history in the United States and it had to start somewhere, and Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography gives a great insight into printing in colonial America, one of the beginnings of media and communications. The New England Courant gives great insight into the beginnings of media and communications.

This excerpt brings up a couple of important questions when discussing Benjamin Franklin. First, was Franklin’s relationship with his brother as bad as he tells it? It absolutely seems that Ben and James Franklin did not have the best of relationships; however when James was at a low point (in jail and unable to run his business), Ben took over and made slights towards the government. Hence, it seems as though these brothers were not best of friends, but their brotherly relationship caused them to always protect one another because family was important to them. It is important to ask this question because Ben mentions his relationship with his brother as a reason for leaving to Philadelphia. The other question this excerpt brings up is: exactly how did Franklin come to his disdain for the British government in the colonies? It is important to go deeper into this question because Franklin ends up playing a big role in the American Revolution for the colonies.  Also the excerpt shows that Franklin was not opposed to write poorly of the government.  So from that one can tell that Franklin was anti-British, but how exactly Ben Franklin got to this point would be a fascinating study.

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One thought on “The New England Courant: A Cause for Arrest

  1. Hello fellow classmate,
    Firstly, I enjoyed reading your post and was also struck by what befell Benjamin Franklin’s brother in regards to his newspaper. I think that it is a interesting event and is very telling of what society was like in the early 18th century. I remember from reading Starr and also from my British history course that I am currently taking with Dr. Bihler, that censorship in Britain was very common during this time period and often times printers would be brought up on chargers of libel and have their newspaper shut down if they publicly criticized the government. It appears the phenomenon continued in the colonies, although likely to a lesser degree. Anyway, good post and I look forward to reading more of your stuff!
    Kieran.S

    Like

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