John Swinton

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John Swinton (* 12. December 1829 in Scotland; † 15. Dezember 1901 in Brooklyn Heights, New York) was a Scottish-American journalist, newspaper publisher, and orator.


  • There is no such a thing in America as an independent press, unless it is out in country towns. You are all slaves. You know it, and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to express an honest opinion. If you expressed it, you would know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid $150 for keeping honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for doing similar things. If I should allow honest opinions to be printed in one issue of my paper, I would be like Othello before twenty-four hours: my occupation would be gone. The man who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the street hunting for another job. The business of a New York journalist is to distort the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to villify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread, or for what is about the same — his salary. You know this, and I know it; and what foolery to be toasting an "Independent Press"! We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are jumping-jacks. They pull the string and we dance. Our time, our talents, our lives, our possibilities, are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.
    • E. J. Schellhouse: The New Republic. Founded on the Natural and Inalienable Rights of Man (1883) pp. 122-123, quoting - "copied from an Eastern paper" - what "was uttered by a prominent New York journalist at a press dinner a short time since", when "the hackneyed and ridiculous toast, 'The Independent Press,' was proposed".
The journalist's name is disclosed as John Swinton in [Edward Hewes] Gordon Clark's Shylock: as Banker, Bondholder, Corruptionist, Conspirator, Author's Publisher, c/o the American Bimetallic League, Washington D.C. 1894, p. 111 note 4 On tracing up this extraordinary speech, I find that the moral substance of it was first popped off by John Swinton in 1883. It was "at a banquet of newspaper hacks," in New York, when called upon to speak to the toast, "The Independent Press." Mr. Swinton has always insisted, however, that his remarks were "clumsily reported," and that they contained no "infamous personal confessions." (, chapter XIII;
In its January 1943 issue the bimonthly American Notes & Queries wrote: It is more than likely that John Swinton's statement that "there is no such thing in America as an independent press, unless it is in the country towns ...." was made at the "Journalists' Gathering" in the rooms of the Twilight Club in the Mills Building, New York City, on April 12, 1883. The subject of Swinton's talk was "Some Things an Editor Dare Not Discuss." Swinton at the time was chief of the editorial staff of Charles A. Dana's New York Sun, a post which he left a very few months later to found his own ill-fated labor sheet, John Swinton's Paper. The Twilight Club dinner at which Swinton and five or six other working newspapermen spoke was only very briefly reported in the New York papers. (p. 159

Quotes about John Swinton

  • a brilliant journalist
    • Abraham Cahan Bleter Fun Mein Leben (1969) translated from Yiddish as "The Education of Abraham Cahan"
  • Until my imprisonment I had believed that except for Albert Parsons, Dyer D. Lum, Voltairine de Cleyre, and a few others America was barren of idealists. Her men and women cared only for material acquisitions, I had thought. Swinton's account of the liberty-loving people who had been and still were in every struggle against oppression changed my superficial judgment. John Swinton made me see that Americans, once aroused, were as capable of idealism and sacrifice as my Russian heroes and heroines. I left the Swintons with a new faith in the possibilities of America.
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