Monday, August 10, 2009

Banned in Boston . 1 | Boston News-Letter . 3

There is a city in our world upon which the light of the sun of righteousness has risen. There is a sun which beams in its full meridian splendour upon it. Its influences are quickening and invigorating the souls which dwell within it. It is the same from which every pure stream of thought and purpose and performance emanates. It is the city that is set on high. "It cannot be hid." It is Boston. The morality of Boston is more pure than that of any other city in America. Bronson Alcott, 1828.

Banned in Boston sounds like a quaint phrase from the distant past. Today it's hard to imagine anything being banned in Boston, or almost anywhere else in America for that matter. But that past is none too distant and still alive in the memories of many older residents in the Puritan city on a hill.

For nearly a century - roughly from Walt Whitman to William Burroughs - the morality of Boston, the purest in America according to Bronson Alcott, was closely monitored and censorship imposed by a private society known as the Watch and Ward. The name was adopted from an English institution rooted in the Middle Ages, that of citizen police forces charged to watch for and ward off miscreants.

Image ... Bullseye Glass, the North End.

Continues on August 22 ...