Monday, July 31, 2006

Let Freedom Sting: Addendum

Readers of "Let Freedom Sting" (in two parts, see below) will recall the story of Harry Croswell, the Hudson printer of The Wasp whose libel case represents the foundation on which rests our country’s freedom of the press. Between his 1803 conviction and the commencement of his appeal in mid-February of 1804, Croswell continued publishing in The Balance and Columbian Repository material that frankly denounced the actions of Thomas Jefferson and his cronies. Here reproduced is one such work wherein Croswell expresses unreservedly his love for the American virtues, as embodied by Washington and Adams, and his abhorrence of their adulteration by Anti-Federalist “snakes” such as Jefferson. By way of explanation: when Croswell mentions “hireling pens” he alludes to his rival printer, Charles Holt, and to political writer James T. Callender, and when he speaks of the “sharpest sting” of conscience, he surely alludes to his discontinued paper, The Wasp.—MARK THORN


[Written by the Editor.]
CHANG’D be the News-Boy’s wonted jocund song,
For strains more serious to this verse belong:
In times like these, but little cause of joy
Inspires the poet, or awakes the boy—
In times like these, when great malignant foes
Condemn the press—the voice of truth oppose—
When upstart pow’r lifts high its ruthless hand,
Dejection deep pervades an injur’d land.

When our lov’d Washington, the great and good,
First in the councils of his country stood—
When his successor Adams, firm and just,
Discharg’d with faith, a nation’s dearest trust,
The Press was free—truth sanction’d by the law—
Falshood and malice kept in proper awe;
Then did a sland’rous, base, and factious band,
The scourge, the curse, the ruin of our land,
With ceaseless clamour pour their loud complaints
Of fetters, gags, infringements and restraints—
Restraints, the good were never doom’d to feel—
Restraints like those which say “Thou shalt not steal”—
Infringements, of those rights which bad men claim,
The just and wise to slander and defame—
Gags, which the mouth of falshood only knew—
Fetters, impos’d not on the just or true.

Then, to dam up the torrent of abuse,
Which flow’d from hireling pens, in streams profuse;
To blunt the arrows aim’d at virtue’s head—
O’er Truth’s fair form a coat of mail to spread,
Was deem’d a wrong, too great for those to bear,
Who breed in filth, and breathe infectious air;
A reptile race, in Envy’s bosom nurs’d
With other snakes—of all those snakes the worst.

But that refulgent Sun, whose golden ray
Appris’d our nation of the break of day,
Whose op’ning morning beam, whose noontide light,
Cheer’d our forefathers with a prospect bright;
Whose mild, whose steady, whose unerring course,
Of all our blessings was the certain source,
Alas, is set, and nothing guides our way,
Save a dim planet’s poor and cheerless ray—
A feeble, changing, wav’ring, waning moon,
Which scarcely glimmers at its highest noon.

Such dark and gloomy times, all things invite,
That shun the day, and basely shrink from light;
Knaves quit their lurking-holes, and range at will,
Usurp all pow’r, and all the places fill.
And should, perchance, a faithful watchman deign
To sound th’ alarm, and midnight wrongs restrain,
Quick is he mark’d, and ev’ry upstart’s arm
Is rais’d in might to do the victim harm.

And must we always grope our darksome way?
Must gloom forever shroud the beams of day?
Must discord, anarchy, confusion reign,
And virtuous freedom ne’er her pow’r regain?
Forbid it, Heav’n! fair freedom’s Sun must rise,
Illume the world, and gild Columbia’s skies;
Justice and truth shall meet a better fate,
Nor longer fear derision from the great.

Then let the storm of party-spirit rage;
Let foes a war of persecution wage;
Let the strong arm of power be rais’d in might,
To crush, and triumph o’er defenceless right;
Let a gigantic faction proudly vaunt;
Let human tigers after victims pant;
Let upright freedom, fetter’d, gagg’d and bound,
Be scoff’d, and spurn’d, and trampled to the ground;—
Truth unappall’d, will meet the deadly blow,
And hurl defiance at the vengeful foe;
E’en from the dust will raise its potent word—
E’en from the dungeon’s depths it shall be heard.
Tyrants themselves, shall tremble at its voice—
Th’ oppress’d shall hear, and hearing, shall rejoice.

Nor let the tyrant think himself more blest,
When, on the couch of down, he seeks for rest:
Let him not think that e’en the shades of night
Can yield him comfort, or repose invite;
For here shall conscience, with her sharpest sting,
Affright and terror to his bosom bring—
Plant in his pillow such a deadly thorn,
That e’en his solitude shall be forlorn—
Whisper such awful warnings in his ear,
His black and haggard soul shall start with fear.

Such, such are my hopes—such my wishes are,
And this my fervent and my constant prayer—
God grant, the virtuous may live to see

Hudson, January 1, 1804.


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