Thursday, February 12, 2009

War of Independence

" A common view holds that the American Revolution was not a genuine revolution but only a political revolt, a mere war of independence that failed to make deep changes in society." This quote is from Paul Starr's The Creation of the Media on page62 from the second chapter. To me this means that the people were not fighting for psychical freedom because they already had that, but they wanted to be mindfully free from the government. The government had total control of their lives. They had to watch what they said or else they could be harshly penalized. The people felt that this needed to change, so that is how it became more of a political revolt than a genuine revolution. The war may not have been as successful as they would have liked to be, but it was a stepping stone in the foundation for the changes to come. Shortly after these rebellions away from England, the colonies were able to unite and come up with techniques to solving the problems about freedom of speech. In my opinion this was a necessary step in order for us to become the great country that we are today.

Influence of Print on Colonial America

The printing press and associated items such as newspapers and books had an interesting effect on pre revolutionary colonial America. The combination of distance from England and the protestant tradition of circulating information via print had the combining effect of creating an exceptionally literate and knowledgeable population. Especially in the northern colonies being literate was not seen as just a a privilege as it was in Europe, but an essential part of being a competent citizen. This along with the widespread printing of newspapers led to a fairly knowledgeable and worldly populace, which is what was needed for the seeds of discontent and revolution to be planted. When things started to go sour with England, it was newspapers that allowed the heads of the colonies, the Sam Adam's and Thomas Jefferson's, to communicate their grievances to the general public and make their case for separation form England. If print and the  widespread literacy that resulted because of it wasn't present in the colonies, the revolution may have never happened. Take a look Canada, it took them another century to become independent.

"Information Revolution"

"The institutions that Americans created in the first decades after independence reflected a new understanding of the political imperatives for information and communication (83)". In the early stages after the American Revolution, the early republic had many decisions to make about how they would expand communication and knowledge amongst people. Popular Sovereignty made a huge impact and "implied a change in the cognitive relationship between state and the people (83)". This becomes a great change for the common people, because before when the government decided what people were allowed to know and what they weren't allowed to know and they controlled how much knowledge people should have was no longer. It was realized that in order for the people to be sovereign they must have knowledge on their government and the other news effecting their lives and well being. This step gave people more involvement in the government and say in what was going on.

Starr, Paul. Chapter Three. The Creation of the Media Politcal Origins of Modern Communications. New York: Basic Books, 2005. 83

Government and its influence on development.

As we discussed in earlier classes the government has a great influence on the advancement of their country. The introduction of the book compared the soviet union and its use of technology to the United States and its use of technology. In order for the Soviet Union to keep its type of government in power, it used technology to communicate information to its people and limited communication among the people not allowing for much advancement. The United States' democratic government allowed for much more advancement within the country as a whole and is not said to be the best in terms of advancement but is definitely the most unique.

In chapter three Starr goes on to compare the United States development of postal communication to Europe's development. Although Europe had an existing postal service before the United States was formed, the United States developed rapidly past Europe. According to historian Richard R. John, there were 74 post offices per 100,000 people in the United States compared to Britain who had 17 and France who only had 4. The reason for this huge development of the postal was given by revolutionary leader Benjamin Rush "knowledge of every kind had to be circulated through every part of the United States in order to adapt the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens to our republican form of government." (Starr p. 88) To support this statement Congress took responsibility of establishing postal routes attempting to unite the different regions of the nation. In the United States the low cost of the circulation of newspapers within the postal service was very beneficial for distributors and helped create a broader newspaper network. On the other side of the border in Canada there were very few post offices to service the people making postal communication very low. Another disadvantage Canada had, was that the post office did not have an obligation to carry newspapers and publishers had to negotiate with the postmaster. Eventually, in 1835 Britain allowed free transportation of newspapers to those who paid the high priced stamp tax thus limiting newspapers to those with high incomes.

The Government's purpose of communication either limits or allows for growth of development. The United States government felt according to the Constitution it was their duty to inform all of its citizens and as a result there postal service flourished. Britain and other nations of Europe felt no urgency to inform its citizens, in the introduction Starr stated that Europe valued high quality rather than informative journalism.

Early Informative Systems

Today’s America is usually compared to other countries and their systems. Past America was also compared to countries because of our information delivery system. I find it interesting that even though the United States wasn’t the first to use such informative subjects, it excelled more than other nations in with its use of the Post Office and Newspapers.

Some countries, like Great Britain, used taxes and high prices to keep the purchase and shipment of such information in the hands of the wealthy (sound familiar?). While the United States, on the other hand, exercised the use of a free expanding Post Office system, also including the shipment of newspapers in the mailing system as well. Starr mentions that the United States Government also tried influence the production of information towards specific outlets, (ex. rich/poor, different political supporters) after stating the non-involvement of government is such businesses. Eventually the freedom and availability of these informative outlets were addressed.

I also find it interesting that, like today, a major portion of revenue from newspapers was from advertisements. I always thought that these early newspapers held more information than advertisements, then needed more money to keep business running.

Statute of Anne

I found a very interesting, and rather important, case Starr mentions that happened in 1774. A Scottish printer by the name of Alexander Donaldson had opened a shop shelling reprints of English works for 30 to 50 percent of what the English printers were selling them for. The English printers were outraged by this and sued Donaldson. This was due the common interpretation of the Statute of Anne. The Statute of Anne, created in 1710, extended that years of a copyright from 14 to 21. It was though was that the years mentioned in the statute only applied to the penalties for the infringement of the copyright and not the copyright itself. This however was not to be the case as the House of Lords ruled in favor of Donaldson. This case established the fact that copyrights are time limited and that no one can perpetually own a copyright.

I just think it is funny. I guess Donaldson figured that there were two likely scenarios that would follow from his actions. Either a) he wouldn't be bothered with because there would be no penalty. Or b) He would be brought up on charges, but what could they do to him because by the law there were no penalty.

The Sedition Act

In 1798 the United States was split into two parties, the Federalist and the Democratic-Republicans. Alexander Hamilton formed The Federalists and they wanted a financially stable and strong patriotic government. The Federalists felt that alien’s living in the United Stated were untrustworthy. They feared that these aliens were going to empathize with the French and join their side of the war. The Federalists felt the way to hand this problem was to have congress pass four different laws that are known as the Alien and Sedition Acts. “These laws raised the residency requirements for citizenship from 5 to 14 years, authorized the President to deport Alien and Sedition Acts. . The Sedition Act made it a crime for American citizens to "print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous, and malicious writing" about the Government.” The laws were aimed against Democratic-Republicans. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison founded The Democratic-Republican Party in 1792. This party was formed because they were opposed to the views and actions of the Federalists. The Federalists eventually were defected and the acts were repealed.

The Creation of the News Network

The newspaper, it is one of the many things that we as American's take for granted everyday. In our society we are able to just flip open our copy of the Daily News, New York Times or Newsday that we pick up on our way to work or class and be instanty informed about what is going on around us. Now how many of us have actually opened a newspaper and realized its value, or wonder where exactly it came from? Probably not many of us. In Chapter 3 of Paul Starr's book, he informs us of the Creation of the News Network, a network that proves itself all too valuable in todays society.

Newspapers of today were not the same from the original papers. They did not start out national or even citywide. According to Starr " scores of communities Americans developed little newspapers to relay important political news to their readers, to support their friends and attack their enemies, and to argue for their view of the world". As result, newspapers became even more popular and Starr states that " the printer's single most important business was typically a newspaper." He even goes on to state how communities that were without newspapers would buy themselves a certain number of subscriptions and that between the years of 1790 and 1835 the number of newspapers climbed from 106 to 1,258. It is truly amazing to see just how much impact the newspaper that we all take as an everyday normality, had on people when it was first introduced into society.

Growing Communications

The beginning of chapter 2, Starr explains that through the revolutionary era, communications were being implemented in the U.S. government. It helped create the government and the political process of the country. Without books and periodicals, laws would not be carried out or important institutions such as the Post Office and the common school. Starr said that European visitors by the increasing use of communications through ordinary Americans. Everyone village were using newspapers, each town had printers. Starr also explains that the most educated people lived in the northern states. Americans allowed communications and education develop America and to create a new society and a powerful nation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I find it very interesting that American revolution was a political revolt that failed to make changes in society. I am aware that the american war of independence is often said to be a revolution that established democracy, i also find it interesting that it was in fact merely a defense og existing democratic institutions against britians attempt to circumvent them to increase its revenues from the colonies. the american revolution actually fascinates me and i have learned alot about it.

Thomas Paine was a good man because he had "Common Sense"

In 1776 Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called "Common Sense" that made the case for an independent republic. These words written by Thomas Paine can be the single reason why America is now the greatest country in the world. This pamphlet was first written anonymously on January 10th right before the Start of the American Revolution against the British. Now you may wonder why he wrote this 45 page pamphlet anonymously. My feelings are that he could have been punished or killed for his thoughts and or ideas. Free speech was firmly looked down upon and was looked at from the people of power as treason. Before “Common Sense” the people of the colonies were starting to have that itch or urge to revolt against the British Regime but like anything those were only thoughts until Thomas Paine. His letter was the spark that to united the people of the colonies. Paine’s arguments included that “it was ridiculous for an island to rule a continent and that America was not a British nation, it was composed of influences and peoples from all of Europe. “ I like this one the best…” Even if Britain was “the mother country of America that made her actions all the more horrendous, for no mother would harm her children so brutally.” That is so true because Britain taxed everything and did not allow any growth for the colonies. A mother is supposed to help guide its youth and help expand its horizons in a positive way.
After reading about this amazing time in history I found this little information to be quite interesting and intriguing. For instance, the Pamphlet sold over 500 000 copies and went through twenty –five editions in only its first year. Also, Thomas Paine donated the profits to General Washington Continental Army , saying “ As my wish was to serve an oppressed people, and assist in a just and god cause, I conceived that the honor of it would be promoted by my declining to make even the usual profits of an author.”

Media being free by right

During the eighteenth century of America's history, newspapers were very important to the people because it bridged the gap between Great Britain and America. It kept the people informed and kept the people educated. It was the most successful business during that time... also free. A lot of the American people were already being taxed for trade, property, food and family. So they were pretty tired of being taxed so much that most people weren't making enough money unless you had a solid profession such as a doctor, publisher or a lawyer. So the paper was really all they had left that was untaxed, free and knowledgeable.
Congress then decided to pass another act that would continue to raise money to protect the colonies. 
The Stamp Act was passed in 1765 that put tax on every single piece of paper that went through the printing machine. That included the newspaper, letters and even playing cards. The people rioted right away and demanded that the newspaper, out of all things, should be illegal to tax. The people fought for that right for about a year and the Stamp Act was completely revoked in 1766.

This shows how powerful the media had an effect on the people then and today. We rely so much on the media to not only keep us cultured but educated on what is going on. Of course we, today, have different technologies of the media such as the T.V and the radio to keep us informed about the outside world but back then the newspaper all they had. Besides, at the time, the government was trying to take the money any place that they could but how can you charge something that is naturally free by right?

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Propaganda during the Revolutionary conflict.....

America survived the Revolution and with that came freedom of the press and the journalists. "It seemed self-evident to the Revolutionary generation that a free press had played a vital role in the struggle, even as they came to disagree about what freedom of the press ought to mean" William Cushing wrote a letter to John Adams that spoke about the free press clause of the Massachusetts stating " Without this liberty of the press could we have supported our liberties against British administration? or could our revolution have taken place? In normal circumstances it definitely could not but guess what? It did! The most important and major role that the press played was called "Propaganda". "Propaganda" in the simplest terms means "those who initiate communication shape others' attitudes and knowledge, but communication did not simply flow from top to bottom, from elites to masses, from center to periphery". So, in 1803 there was a book published by a man named Samuel Miller who instead of writing facts, and information in newspapers  they gave themselves a leg up and became " the vehicles of discussion". By this occurring it made the society "deeply involving both its peace and prosperity". 

The Stamp Tax

The Stamp Tax of 1765 was the fourth tax of this kind imposed by England, but it was the first imposed upon the colonies. The tax was imposed on all printed paper such as documents, contracts, legal papers such as wills, newspapers, pamphlets, and even decks of playing cards. England had to impose the tax because of the high debt it run up due to fighting the French and Indian War and to help pay for protecting the American frontier in which England was going to commit 10.000 troops to defend. England felt that the colonies should pay for part of these expenses.

The colonists opposed this act and in March of 1766 it was repealed, but because England needed the money and replaced this tax with several others. This act was viewed by the colonists as a way to get money from them without first getting the approval of the colonial legislatures. The colonists felt that if this tax was passed it would open the door for more taxes without representation, hence the slogan “No Taxation without Representation”.

Sir William Berkeley and The Ruling Class

Sir William Berkeley (the governor of Virginia in the 1600’s) once stated, “I thank God, there are no free schools, nor printing; and I hope we shall not have these (for a) hundred years, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us both!” William had some really strange ideas. It seems Berkeley never quite believed in freedom of thought. He harshly persecuted many people for it. Sir William’s dream for society was totally authoritarian. He wanted everyone in Virginia to know their place. Berkeley believed in an elite, rich, ruling class.

Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media, Pg. 53
Sir William Berkeley Site

In regards to the first paragraph’s quote I believe this is how most of the ruling class felt at around the 1600’s. During the colonial times America was under England’s hand. The ruling class was scared of the idea of people learning to read and to communicate their ideas through the press (and print). A license was required in order to allow for printing in those times. No thinking was needed. Most of the ruling class wanted the government/church to tell the people what was necessary to know.

Antiquarian Booksellers

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

America's First Information Revolution

In The late 1700's Europe was most informative due to their profusion of newspapers and the amount of newspapers they had read. As time crept up into the 1800's the United States had a larger use of newspapers even though the population difference was substantial. "In 1835 after travels in America, The English writer Richard Cobden pointed out that despite a larger population, the British Isles had only 369 newspapers, of which only 17 were daily, while the United States, according to an almanac for 1834, had 1,265 newspapers, of which 90 were daily" (Starr, P.86). In 1835 the United States was larger than Great Britain by two or three times in the sense of per capita circulation. On The other hand the rise of Post Offices as well fed the people with information and news. Before the Revolution, there was an estimated 67 offices or just about 4.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. The Rise of Post Offices and Newspapers had also opened up a way for employment handing out around 8,700 jobs for postmasters. Time kept moving forward and 67 offices then turned to 74 in the United States.

I Find this information extremely important because it goes back to our roots and informs us on how and where it all started. Most of us were born in the late 1900's where basically everything we know was established already. If we didn't have such informative systems we live by today then where exactly would we be?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Martin Luther's 95 Theses

Early Modern Illiteracies
Harvey J. Graff

The Reformation “was triggered by the publication of Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses in 1518”. During this time he became increasingly dissatisfied with the Roman Catholic Church and accused them of many heresies. He nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Church at Wittenberg. He felt that the church was wrong in selling indulgences like what was being done by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest, and he also challenged the Churches position regarding a man’s salvation. His theses was copied and published in German where it spread like wild fire through out Germany and all of Europe.

Luther’s new Protestant views were condemned by the Church. He was labeled a heretic by Pope Leo X and told that he had to either renounce his views or reaffirm them at the Diet of Worms Assembly. At the Assembly he was asked if he still believed in his views and was given a day to think about it before he made his decision.

The next day he apologized fir the tone and harshness of the theses but said, "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen." With that he was declared enemy of the Church and an outlaw.