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John Rutter

March 27, 2010

The fight for publicity in our Police Courts that I waged so successfully in Dorsetshire before the Magistrates at Wimbourne, I have had to repeat in the Council Chambers of Bristol, Lawford Gate and elsewhere. Nor is it likely that the public will have fair play before local Magnates who have strong prejudices and are operated upon by personal influences in regard of those between whom they have to adjudicate.

From Wimbourne Minster I proceeded to Blandford to give a series of lectures on my system of “Rational Memory.” Shaftesbury being about ten miles from that town announced the delivery of my course of lectures at each place, on alternate nights.

At Shaftesbury a Quaker named John Rutter is a printer and bookseller. Having employed him to print my bills, a friendly acquaintance ensued which was considerably promoted by the efforts made by him to secure the success of my undertaking, in which, he, in my absence at Blandford, acted as my agent. In return I assisted John Rutter, at his urgent solicitation, in resistance of the tyranny of Earl Grosvenor’s agents, and the authorities of that Borough.

It was my successful fight with the tyrannical Tory Magistrate at Wimbourne that brought him and many other good and zealous Liberals of Dorsetshire around me and from that time I was almost unconsciously entangled in the contest for right and for the freedom of the press.

John Rutter was a true patriot, many considered him progressive and certainly he was energetic. He was a good man and a staunch friend. Although John was originally apprentice to a linen draper, nonetheless, he later became a printer, a profession in which he could use his fine education and vent his stated belief that ‘the great panacea is publicity.’

On 2nd October 1826, we published the first issue of The Shastonian. This issue contained a full report of the proceedings of the Corporation in the election of Phillip Chitty as Mayor. John and I decided to push forward our ideas of press freedom by printing the paper without the imprint required by law. We spoke at length about this and although we moved together as one, John felt happy that the paper was entitled¬† ‘The Shastonian’, occasional periodical publication. At the time, publications that were printed with a frequency of more than a month and carried current news items, did not have to carry the expensive stamp. We worked hard together and it is true to say that many of the principles that I carried through life were nurtured by the good John Rutter.

After the publication of some four or five numbers, I think overtures were made to John Rutter, for the suppression of the work. I understand the condition was the non-enforcement of the fines in which he, John Rutter had been convicted. Be that as it may, the cessation of the work was determined on, and I continued to fulfil my engagements now at Sherborne and Yeovil. I shall always hold this man in the highest regard; but he made one great mistake in his mature age, for he turned lawyer; in the hope, doubtless of operating more effectually in the law Courts against his political persecutors. I do not think that in his case that circumstances made him a worse man; but it is dangerous for any. man to seek even justice by threading the intricate maze of the law and devote himself to the study of a tortuous system for circumventing an opponent. How many men have I known or thought to be great and good, but that they were lawyers by profession, their judgements warped and their sense of right perverted! How many lawyers in the City of Bristol and Hull have I unearthed and denounced and denuded of this moral garb of seeming respectability!

What happened to John Rutter after I left Shaftesbury, I know not, but this I have since learned from his brother Samuel of the Castle, for he would not tell ought but truth. That his brother John is not one to be led by any man. He said that John Rutter ought to have been, and I believe is, thankful to me for the inconvenience to which I put myself, with the sole view of withdrawing him from the clutches of a most disgraceful political persecution.

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