The Cambridge History of English and American Literature
This article focuses on newspaper during 1175-1860.
1. THE turbulent years between 1775 and 1783 were a time of great trial and
2. disturbance among newspapers. Interruption, suppression, and lack of
3. support so checked their growth that at the close of the war they were
4. in most respects less thriving than at the beginning of it. Although there
5. were forty-three newspapers in the United States when the treaty of peace
6. was signed, as compared with thirty-seven on the date of the battle of
7. Lexington, only a dozen had had continuous existence between the two
8. events, and most of those had experienced delays and difficulties through
9. lack of paper, type, and patronage. Not one newspaper in the principal cities,
10. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, continued publication throughout the
11. war. When the colonial forces were in possession, royalist papers were
12. suppressed, and at times of British occupation Revolutionary papers
13. moved away, or were discontinued, or they became royalist, only to suffer
14. at the next turn of military fortunes. Thus there was an exodus of papers
15. from the cities along the coast to smaller inland places, where alone it
16. was possible for them to continue without interruption. Scarcity of paper
17. was acute; type worn out could not be replaced. The appearance of the
18. newspapers deteriorated, and issues sometimes failed to appear at all. Mail
19. service, never good, was poorer than ever; foreign newspapers, an important
20. source of information, could be obtained but rarely; many of the ablest writers
21. who had filled the columns with dissertations upon colonial rights and
22. government were now otherwise occupied.
23. News from a distance was less full and regular than before; yet when great
24. events happened reports spread over the country with great rapidity, through
25. messengers in the service of patriotic organizations. The newspapers made
26. use of such assistance, and did service in further spreading the tidings,
27. though they seldom overtook the flying word of mouth. Naturally, reporting
28. was still imperfect. The Salem Gazette printed a full but coloured account
29. of the battle of Lexington, giving details of the burning, pillage, and
30. barbarities charged to the British, and praising the militia who were filled
31. with “higher sentiments of humanity.” The Declaration of Independence
32. was published by Congress, 6 July, 1776, in the Philadelphia Evening
33. Post, from which it was copied by most of the papers; but some of them
34. did not mention it until two weeks later, and even then found room for only
35. a synopsis. When they were permitted to do so they printed fairly full
36. accounts of the proceedings of provincial assemblies and of Congress,
37. which were copied widely, as were all official reports and proclamations.
38. On the whole, however, a relatively small proportion of such material
39. and an inadequate account of the progress of the war is found in the
40. contemporaneous newspapers.
41. The general spirit of the time found fuller utterance in mottoes, editorials,
42. letters, and poems. In the beginning both editorials and communications
43. urged united resistance to oppression, praised patriotism, and denounced
44. tyranny; as events and public sentiment developed these grew more
45. vigorous, often a little more radical than the populace. Later, the idea of
46. independence took form, and theories of government were discussed.
47. More interesting and valuable as specimens of literature than these
48. discussions were the poems inspired by the stirring events of the time.
49. Long narratives of battles and of heroic deaths were mingled with eulogies
50. of departed heroes. Songs meant to inspire and thrill were not lacking.
51. Humour, pathos, and satire sought to stir the feelings of the public.
52. Much of the poetry of the Revolution is to be found in the columns
53. of dingy newspapers, from the vivid and popular satires and
54. narratives of Freneau 1 to the saddest effusions of the most
55. commonplace schoolmaster.
56. The newspapers of the Revolution were an effective force
57. working towards the unification of sentiment, the awakening of
58. a consciousness of a common purpose, interest, and destiny among
59. the separate colonies, and of a determination to see the war through
60. to a successful issue. They were more single-minded than the people
61. themselves, and they bore no small share of the burden of arousing
62. and supporting the often discouraged and indifferent public spirit.
63. Many of the papers, however, which were kept alive or brought to
64. life during the war could not adapt themselves to the new conditions
65. of peace.
What is the main point of paragraph 1?