Because GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives date back centuries, we can discover the origin stories of a bedrock American principle: freedom of the press.
One such story involves America’s first president and a newspaper publisher loyal to the British Crown.
James Rivington printed Rivington’s New-York Gazetteer. When a mob threatened him in 1775, he published an impassioned plea for freedom of the press:
“Last Thursday was hung up by some of the lower class of inhabitants, at New Brunswick [New Jersey], an effigy representing the person of Mr. Rivington, the printer at New York, merely for acting consistent with his profession as a free printer.”
Rivington described the perpetrators as “the very dregs of the city,” who were “flushed with the inebriating draughts, not of the juice of the Vine, but of New England Rum.”
He also printed a drawing depicting his face and body hanging in a tree. Defending his beliefs, he asserted “that his press has been open to publications from ALL PARTIES; and he defies his enemies to produce an instance to the contrary.”