Essay 2: The Liberty of the Press

The extreme liberty that we enjoy in Britain surprises foreigners the most.

The reason, why the laws indulge us in such a liberty seems to be derived from our mixed form of government, which is neither wholly monarchical, nor wholly republican.

To justify the other part of the foregoing observation, that, in every government, the means are most wide of each other, and that the mixtures of monarchy and liberty render the yoke either more easy or more grievous;

Et fit aimer son joug a l’Anglois indompté, Qui ne peut ni servir, ni vivre en liberté, Henriade, liv. I.3

According to these remarks, we are to consider the Roman government under the emperors as a mixture of despotism and liberty, where the despotism prevailed; and the English government as a mixture of the same kind, where the liberty predominates.

These principles account for the great liberty of the press in these kingdoms, beyond what is indulged in any other government.

It must however be allowed, that the unbounded liberty of the press, though it be difficult, perhaps impossible, to propose a suitable remedy for it, is one of the evils, attending those mixt forms of government.d