Freedom of Speech, Libel and the Law in Early Stuart England

  • David Colclough
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


1621 was a busy year for newsletter-writers. As soon as parliament assembled, investigations began into the abuse of patents and monopolies and other fiscal misdemeanours, and by the end of March the list of offenders included Francis Bacon, the Lord Chancellor himself. Around the country people wanted to be kept informed, and to share opinion as well as information: scurrilous verses attacking and satirizing Bacon and his fellow subjects of scandal were eagerly disseminated within and beyond London. Yet the circulation of such outspoken material could be dangerous both to its authors and its recipients. Samuel Albyn, writing on 28 March (probably to John Rawson), had a strong sense of his vulnerability: recounting King James’s speech to the assembled Houses of Parliament he observed that

[the king] seemed very grasius to the Lord Chanselor and I was in a place whear a very wise gentleman offered 20 Angles to 10 that he would continue his place. He shewed Reasons which yf you ware at shope or at an alle house I should perhaps tell you but for my eares not wright you at this tyme.1


Free Speech Parliamentary Debate Privy Council Honourable Society Great Offence 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • David Colclough

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