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A Vindication of the Press, or An Essay on Usefulness of Writing
by [?]

How far Theology is improv’d from those inestimable Writings, I need not to enlarge, since it is highly conspicuous that they are the Foundation of all Divine Literature; and how ignorant and imperfect we should have been without them, is no great difficulty to explain; and who can sufficiently admire the Psalter of David, which fills the Soul with Rapture, and gives an Anticipation of sublimest Joys.

Besides the Advantages of Sacred Writings in the Cause of Religion; ’tis chiefly owing to Writing, that we have our most valuable Liberties preserv’d; and ’tis observable, that the Liberty of the Press is no where restrain’d but in Roman Catholick Countries, or Kingdoms, or States Exercising an Absolute Power.

In the Kingdom of France Writings relating to the Church and State are prohibited upon the severest Penalties, and the Consequences of those Laws are very Obvious to all Persons of Discernment here; they serve to secure the Subject in the utmost Obscurity, and as it were Effect an entire Ignorance, whereby an exorbitant Power is chearfully submitted to, and a perfect Obedience paid to Tyranny; and the Ignorance and Superstition of these People so powerfully prevail, that the greatest Oppressor is commonly the most entirely Belov’d, which I take to be sufficiently ently Illustrated in the late Lewis the Fourteenth, whose Arbitrary Government was so far from Diminishing the Affections of his Subjects, that it highten’d their Esteem for their Grand Monarch.

But of late the populace of France are not so perfectly enclouded with Superstition, and if a young Author can pretend to Divine, I think it is easy to foresee that the papal Power will in a very short space be considerably lessen’d if not in a great measure disregarded in that Kingdom, by the intestine Jarrs and Discords of their Parties for Religion, and the Desultory Judgments of the most considerable Prelates.

The best Support of an Arbitrary Power is undoubtedly Ignorance, and this cannot be better cultivated than by an Absolute Denial of Printing; the Oppressions of the Popularity cannot be thoroughly Stated, or Liberty in general Propagated without the use of the Press in some measure, and therefore the Subjects must inevitably submit to such Ordinances as an Ambitious or Ignorant Monarch and his Tyrannical Council shall think fit to impose upon them, how Arbitrary soever: And the Hands of the Patriots and Men of Eminence who should Illuminate the Age, and open the Eyes of the deluded People are thereby tied up, and the Infelicity of the Populace so compleat that they are incapable of either seeing their approaching Misery, or having a redress of present Grievances.

In Constantinople I think they have no such thing as Printing allow’d on any Account whatsoever; all their Publick Acts relating to the Church and State are recorded in Writing by expert Amanuensis’s, so very strict are the Divan and great Council of the Sultan in prohibiting the Publication of all manner of Writings: They are very sensible had Persons a common Liberty of stating their own Cases, they might Influence the Publick so far, that the Yoke of Tyranny must sink if not be rendred insupportable; and this is regarded in all Kingdoms and Countries upon Earth Govern’d by a Despotick Power.

To what I have already offer’d in favour of the Press, there may be Exceptions taken by some Persons in the World; and as it is my Intentions to solve all Objections that may be rais’d to what I advance, as I proceed, I think I cannot too early make known, that I am apprehensive the following Observations may be made; viz. that a general License of the Press is of such a fatal Tendency, that it causes Uneasinesses in the State, Confusions in the Church, and is destructive sometimes even to Liberty, by putting the ruling Powers upon making Laws of Severity, on a Detection of ill Designs against the State, otherwise never intended.