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CMNS 210 Chapter Notes -Canadian Living, Canada Gazette, Voluntary Association

Course Code
CMNS 210
Stuart Poyntz

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‘The Most Powerful Engine of the Human Mind’: The Press and Its Readers (McNairn,
1820s: Upper Canadians got most of their political information from colonial
newspapers -> central to the public sphere
Chronicles would lessen isolation by allowing participation in debate:
society’s existence depends on reciprocal communication of sentiments
Exchange of opinion takes place in cultural institutions and practices that
promote it, instead of monarchical court or church who don’t, e.g. coffee house
Four positive consequences of colonial press
1. Sparking curiosity
2. Defining issues of common concern
3. Encouraging emulation
4. Political role: create and reflect public opinion
Political role threatened to engulf other three: newspapers became political
Although newspapers could substitute for face-to-face conversation, differences
o Conversation: Identity of speaker influences how words are received,
immediate response is demanded
o Print: opinions abstracted from identity of author, more people reached
Publication predominantly in newspapers rather than books
o Critical distance between reader and text, more sceptical towards text
o Choice between publications was possible and required
o Communication no longer authorized by social superiors for passive consumers
o Integrated readers into a common political community
1793: First newspaper printed in Canada ‘Upper Canada Gazette’ – organ of
1798: First privately owned paper ‘Canada ‘Constellation’
number of communities with newspapers increased, number of papers within
communities increased -> competition increased
figures can be misleading: readers not restricted to place of publication, # of
titles not # of readers, expansion driven by demand,
demand -> competition -> broadened market
expansion and decentralization of newspapers to non-metropolitan centres
(although amount of local material remains small) -> local source of
information, sense of connectedness to larger community, books/papers produced
locally -> “village enlightenment”
small communities -> news are known before they can be printed -> newspapers
need to provide what is not readily available (non-local news, often long
no division of labour between metropolitan and local papers (who serves who?)
local papers dominated by provincial politics
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