Date of Award

Fall 1992

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Charles E Clark


This study analyses the themes, rhetoric and imagery in the weekly newspaper The New-England Courant published in Boston from 1721 to 1726 by James and Benjamin Franklin and examines the way in which the circle of writers who produced it presented the topic of authority in civil and church politics.

James Franklin's printing business found its niche in the already crowded world of Boston printers and booksellers by becoming the first opposition press in the American colonies. As the first printer to publish the Real Whig doctrines of Henry Care, John Trenchard, and Thomas Gordon, Franklin supplied discontented members of the bourgeoisie with rhetorical forms and an historical vision which fostered the growth of the popular or Old Charter Party in the Massachusetts legislature. By adapting the language and social attitudes of the London literary newspapers to conflict with the Eastern Indians during Dummer's War, the Courant created a gendered rhetoric in which Native Americans, blacks, and women were identified as feminine because they relied on oral history rather than print culture. In arguing for their own inclusion in the political and cultural elite, the writers of the Courant advocated the marginalization of these feminine groups, declaring that their emotionalism and enslavement to tradition made them incapable of self-control and unfit for political autonomy.

In its reporting of doctrinal controversy within the Congregational churches and conflicts between Protestant sects in New England the Courant supported latitudinarian rationalism and condemned the efforts of Cotton Mather and his supporters to revivify the New England Way. At the same time that they criticized traditional religious practice for mingling rational analysis with emotional symbolism, writers for the paper strongly upheld the democratic traditions of Congregational polity.

This study analyzes the content of the Courant in the context of books and pamphlets printed contemporaneously in Boston to show the development of an expanding, secularized public sphere in which the new authority of the newspaper influenced historiography and altered the relationship between ministerial authors and their readership.