_Apology for Printers_
Being frequently censur'd and condemn'd by different Persons
for printing Things which they say ought not to be printed, I have
sometimes thought it might be necessary to make a standing Apology
for my self, and publish it once a Year, to be read upon all
Occasions of that Nature. Much Business has hitherto hindered the
execution of this Design; but having very lately given extraordinary
Offence by printing an Advertisement with a certain _N.B._ at the End
of it, I find an Apology more particularly requisite at this
Juncture, tho' it happens when I have not yet Leisure to write such a
thing in the proper Form, and can only in a loose manner throw those
Considerations together which should have been the Substance of it.
I request all who are angry with me on the Account of printing
things they don't like, calmly to consider these following
1. That the Opinions of Men are almost as various as their
Faces; an Observation general enough to become a common Proverb, _So
many Men so many Minds._
2. That the Business of Printing has chiefly to do with Mens
Opinions; most things that are printed tending to promote some, or
3. That hence arises the peculiar Unhappiness of that Business,
which other Callings are no way liable to; they who follow Printing
being scarce able to do any thing in their way of getting a Living,
which shall not probably give Offence to some, and perhaps to many;
whereas the Smith, the Shoemaker, the Carpenter, or the Man of any
other Trade, may work indifferently for People of all Persuasions,
without offending any of them: and the Merchant may buy and sell with
Jews, Turks, Hereticks, and Infidels of all sorts, and get Money by
every one of them, without giving Offence to the most orthodox, of
any sort; or suffering the least Censure or Ill-will on the Account
from any Man whatever.
4. That it is as unreasonable in any one Man or Set of Men to
expect to be pleas'd with every thing that is printed, as to think
that nobody ought to be pleas'd but themselves.
5. Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in
Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being
heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play,
the former is always an overmatch for the latter: Hence they
chearfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without
regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute.
6. Being thus continually employ'd in serving all Parties,
Printers naturally acquire a vast Unconcernedness as to the right or
wrong Opinions contain'd in what they print; regarding it only as the
Matter of their daily labour: They print things full of Spleen and
Animosity, with the utmost Calmness and Indifference, and without the
least Ill-will to the Persons reflected on; who nevertheless unjustly
think the Printer as much their Enemy as the Author, and join both
together in their Resentment.
7. That it is unreasonable to imagine Printers approve of every
thing they print, and to censure them on any particular thing
accordingly; since in the way of their Business they print such great
variety of things opposite and contradictory. It is likewise as
unreasonable what some assert, _That Printers ought not to print any
Thing but what they approve;_ since if all of that Business should
make such a Resolution, and abide by it, an End would thereby be put
to Free Writing, and the World would afterwards have nothing to read
but what happen'd to be the Opinions of Printers.
8. That if all Printers were determin'd not to print any thing
till they were sure it would offend no body, there would be very
9. That if they sometimes print vicious or silly things not
worth reading, it may not be because they approve such things
themselves, but because the People are so viciously and corruptly
educated that good things are not encouraged. I have known a very
numerous Impression of _Robin Hood's Songs_ go off in this Province
at 2_s_. per Book, in less than a Twelvemonth; when a small Quantity
of _David's Psalms_ (an excellent Version) have lain upon my Hands
above twice the Time.
10. That notwithstanding what might be urg'd in behalf of a
Man's being allow'd to do in the Way of his Business whatever he is
paid for, yet Printers do continually discourage the Printing of
great Numbers of bad things, and stifle them in the Birth. I my self
have constantly refused to print any thing that might countenance
Vice, or promote Immorality; tho' by complying in such Cases with the
corrupt Taste of the Majority, I might have got much Money. I have
also always refus'd to print such things as might do real Injury to
any Person, how much soever I have been solicited, and tempted with
Offers of great Pay; and how much soever I have by refusing got the
Ill-will of those who would have employ'd me. I have heretofore
fallen under the Resentment of large Bodies of Men, for refusing
absolutely to print any of their Party or Personal Reflections. In
this Manner I have made my self many Enemies, and the constant
Fatigue of denying is almost insupportable. But the Publick being
unacquainted with all this, whenever the poor Printer happens either
through Ignorance or much Persuasion, to do any thing that is
generally thought worthy of Blame, he meets with no more Friendship
or Favour on the above Account, than if there were no Merit in't at
all. Thus, as _Waller_ says,
_Poets loose half the Praise they would have got
Were it but known what they discreetly blot;_
Yet are censur'd for every bad Line found in their Works with
the utmost Severity.
I come now to the particular Case of the _N.B._
above-mention'd, about which there has been more Clamour against me,
than ever before on any other Account. -- In the Hurry of other
Business an Advertisement was brought to me to be printed; it
signified that such a Ship lying at such a Wharff, would sail for
_Barbadoes_ in such a Time, and that Freighters and Passengers might
agree with the Captain at such a Place; so far is what's common: But
at the Bottom this odd Thing was added, N.B. _No Sea Hens nor Black
Gowns will be admitted on any Terms._ I printed it, and receiv'd my
Money; and the Advertisement was stuck up round the Town as usual. I
had not so much Curiosity at that time as to enquire the Meaning of
it, nor did I in the least imagine it would give so much Offence.
Several good Men are very angry with me on this Occasion; they are
pleas'd to say I have too much Sense to do such things ignorantly;
that if they were Printers they would not have done such a thing on
any Consideration; that it could proceed from nothing but my abundant
Malice against Religion and the Clergy: They therefore declare they
will not take any more of my Papers, nor have any farther Dealings
with me; but will hinder me of all the Custom they can. All this is
I believe it had been better if I had refused to print the said
Advertisement. However, 'tis done and cannot be revok'd. I have
only the following few Particulars to offer, some of them in my
Behalf, by way of Mitigation, and some not much to the Purpose; but I
desire none of them may be read when the Reader is not in a very good
1. That I really did it without the least Malice, and imagin'd
the _N.B._ was plac'd there only to make the Advertisement star'd at,
and more generally read.
2. That I never saw the Word _Sea-Hens_ before in my Life; nor
have I yet ask'd the meaning of it; and tho' I had certainly known
that _Black Gowns_ in that Place signified the Clergy of the Church
of _England_, yet I have that confidence in the generous good Temper
of such of them as I know, as to be well satisfied such a trifling
mention of their Habit gives them no Disturbance.
3. That most of the Clergy in this and the neighbouring
Provinces, are my Customers, and some of them my very good Friends;
and I must be very malicious indeed, or very stupid, to print this
thing for a small Profit, if I had thought it would have given them
just Cause of Offence.
4. That if I have much Malice against the Clergy, and withal
much Sense; 'tis strange I never write or talk against the Clergy my
self. Some have observed that 'tis a fruitful Topic, and the easiest
to be witty upon of all others. I can print any thing I write at
less Charge than others; yet I appeal to the Publick that I am never
guilty this way, and to all my Acquaintance as to my Conversation.
5. That if a Man of Sense had Malice enough to desire to injure
the Clergy, this is the foolishest Thing he could possibly contrive
for that Purpose.
6. That I got Five Shillings by it.
7. That none who are angry with me would have given me so much
to let it alone.
8. That if all the People of different Opinions in this
Province would engage to give me as much for not printing things they
don't like, as I can get by printing them, I should probably live a
very easy Life; and if all Printers were every where so dealt by,
there would be very little printed.
9. That I am oblig'd to all who take my Paper, and am willing
to think they do it out of meer Friendship. I only desire they would
think the same when I deal with them. I thank those who leave off,
that they have taken it so long. But I beg they would not endeavour
to dissuade others, for that will look like Malice.
10. That 'tis impossible any Man should know what he would do
if he was a Printer.
11. That notwithstanding the Rashness and Inexperience of
Youth, which is most likely to be prevail'd with to do things that
ought not to be done; yet I have avoided printing such Things as
usually give Offence either to Church or State, more than any Printer
that has followed the Business in this Province before.
12. And lastly, That I have printed above a Thousand
Advertisements which made not the least mention of _Sea-Hens_ or
_Black Gowns_; and this being the first Offence, I have the more
Reason to expect Forgiveness.
I take leave to conclude with an old Fable, which some of my
Readers have heard before, and some have not.
"A certain well-meaning Man and his Son, were travelling
towards a Market Town, with an Ass which they had to sell. The Road
was bad; and the old Man therefore rid, but the Son went a-foot. The
first Passenger they met, asked the Father if he was not ashamed to
ride by himself, and suffer the poor Lad to wade along thro' the
Mire; this induced him to take up his Son behind him: He had not
travelled far, when he met others, who said, they were two unmerciful
Lubbers to get both on the Back of that poor Ass, in such a deep
Road. Upon this the old Man gets off, and let his Son ride alone.
The next they met called the Lad a graceless, rascally young
Jackanapes, to ride in that Manner thro' the Dirt, while his aged
Father trudged along on Foot; and they said the old Man was a Fool,
for suffering it. He then bid his Son come down, and walk with him,
and they travell'd on leading the Ass by the Halter; 'till they met
another Company, who called them a Couple of sensless Blockheads, for
going both on Foot in such a dirty Way, when they had an empty Ass
with them, which they might ride upon. The old Man could bear no
longer; My Son, said he, it grieves me much that we cannot please all
these People; Let us throw the Ass over the next Bridge, and be no
farther troubled with him."
Had the old Man been seen acting this last Resolution, he would
probably have been call'd a Fool for troubling himself about the
different Opinions of all that were pleas'd to find Fault with him:
Therefore, tho' I have a Temper almost as complying as his, I intend
not to imitate him in this last Particular. I consider the Variety
of Humours among Men, and despair of pleasing every Body; yet I shall
not therefore leave off Printing. I shall continue my Business. I
shall not burn my Press and melt my Letters.