Ben Franklin’s ‘Apology for Printers’


Benjamin Franklin as a printer’s apprentice in a wood cut circa 1840. Photo: Alamy

Notable & Quotable: Ben Franklin’s ‘Apology for Printers’

‘When Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.’

From Benjamin Franklin’s “Apology for Printers” in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1731:

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 cheerfully serve all contending Writers that pay them well, without regarding on which side they are of the Question in Dispute. . . .

It is likewise as unreasonable what some assert, That Printers ought not to print anything 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.

Don Johnson – June 2016

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