Censorship and Print Culture During the Romantic Era
Because of the passage of a series of increasingly stringent laws, radical speech in the Regency era became equated with vice and subject to laws enforcing morality. While vice has always been a prime target for moral reform, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the call for societal reform and the suppression of vice took on heated interest by government parties. A proclamation issued by George III on June 1, 1787 called for "the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for [the] preventing and punishing of Vice, Profaneness, and Immorality," yet this proclamation included provisions for acting against the publication and dissemination of print material found to contain "licentious" or indecent content (Donelan 1). The term "vice," as it was known in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, included the traditional definition of moral degeneracy as well as a more vague implication of social deviance in general. In the wake of the French Revolution, Donelan suggests that "social deviance" also came to include radical political views (and speech) as well as moral ones. A succession of public societies formed over the next three decades in order to help enforce the campaign against vice, starting with the Proclamation Society (1787), the Society for the Suppression of Vice (1802), and the Constitutional Society (1830). All three societies acted against "those who published and distributed...obscenity," including "seditious and blasphemous publications" (Donelan 1).
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