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"Silence Dogood" has been pointed to as the mother of a rich history of anonymity in American journalism. What is true is that between April and October of 1722 New England Courant Publisher James Franklin printed 14 articles that had been slipped under his door.

The author "Silence Dogood" claimed to be the widow of a country minister, but Franklin suspected the name was a pseudonym for someone else. It was common for eighteenth century journalists, including Franklin's, to use pseudonyms when writing articles that the authorities might have been considered to be libelous or illegal.

Historical records infer that James Franklin knew the identities of his other pseudonymous contributors, but not that of "Silence Dogood." That failing was perhaps one of many reckless publishing decisions by Franklin, who soon served jail time for his own writings in the Courant and who the Boston authorities later banned from publishing newspapers. He was meanwhile not amused to learn that "Silence Dogood" was actually his 16-year-old brother and apprentice Benjamin Franklin.

Unlike James Franklin, American Weekly Mercury Publisher Andrew Bradford of Philadelphia knew before publication that "Caelia Shortface" and "Martha Careful" were pseudonyms for Ben Franklin, who had fled Boston and joined Bradford’s employ.

When Franklin himself later became a newspaper publisher, he occasionally published his own articles under the pseudonyms "Anthony Afterwit" and "Alice Addertongue." Yet the "Richard Saunders" of the eponymous book "Poor Richard's Almanac" was probably publisher Ben Franklin's best-known, self-permitted pseudonym.

There is a rich history of pseudonymity in American opinion journalism. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay wrote "The Federalist Papers" using the pseudonym "Publius," but not without their publisher's prior permission and knowledge of their true identities. A more recent example occurred in 1947 when the publisher of Foreign Affairs granted the Moscow-based American diplomat George Kennan the pseudonym "X" to write the renowned political essay proposing the geographic containment of Communism.

Though I can't think of a current American periodical that regularly grants pseudonyms to its writers, the British publishers of the Financial Times and The Economist regularly grant them for some of their columnists.

In all the examples I've mentioned, the publishers not only knew the pseudonymous writers' true identities but also vetted the writers' submissions before publication. That's a far cry from publishing anonymous blog postings.

Though there is a rich history of pseudonymity in American journalism, there is none of anonymity. It has long been understood that if the publisher of a reputable periodical grants a writer use of a pseudonym, then that publisher knows the writer's true identity and takes responsibility -- legal and otherwise -- for that writer's words."


"A Conversation on Slavery

On January 30, 1770, an annonymous missive, entitled A Conversation on Slavery appeared in the Public Advertiser, a Philadelphia newspaper. Written in the style of three individuals -- an Englishman, an American, and a Scotsman -- having a discussion concerning the problem of slavery and the slave trade, the three present a daming testimony of the moral failings of each participant's society. The American character is forced to deflect criticisms from his two companions about the practice of keeping slaves while still clamoring for political liberty at home, turns the tables on the Scot and Englishman by pointing out that their own societies kept men in bondage in the same manner as Americans kept African-Americans. A Conversation would remain an anonymous writing until 1934, when its authorship was proven to belong to one of America's Founding Fathers: Benjamin Franklin. The Conversation is considered the turning point in Franklin's long relationship with the institution of slavery away from his younger years as a slave owner, to an abolitionist."
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If you vote for government, you have no right to complain about what government does.