The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XV. Colonial and Revolutionary Literature; Early National Literature, Part I.
§ 8. Politics in the Later Newspapers
After 1750, general news became accessible, and the newspapers show more and more interest in public affairs. The literary first page was no longer necessary, though occasionally used to cover a dull period. A new type of vigorous polemic gradually superseded the older essay. A few of the well-known conventions were retained, however. We still find the fictitious letter, with the fanciful signature, or a series of papers under a common title, such as The Virginia-Centinel, or Livingston’s Watch-Tower. The former is a flaming appeal to arms, running through The Virginia Gazette in 1756, and copied into Northern papers to rouse patriotism against the French enemy. The expression of the sentiment, even thus early, seems national. This whole series, though somewhat florid in style, shows the familiarity of the cultivated Southerner with his favourite English poets,—Young, Pope, Shakespeare. Livingston’s well-known Watch-Tower, a continuation of his pamphlet-magazine The Independent Reflector, has already the keen edge of the Revolutionary writings of fifteen and twenty years later. The fifty-second number even has one of the popular phrases of the Revolution: “Had I not sounded the Alarm, Bigotry would e’er now have triumphed over the natural Rights of British Subjects.