How Great a Crime - to tell the truth
- the story of Joseph and Winifred Gales and the Sheffield Register
When my dad died in November 2015 he left his unfinished manuscript of this book. Ill-health stopped him from ever getting it finished. This was not some sort of sentimental journey – my interest was as a storyteller, looking at a lost story and wanting to see it told – the story of the Galeses and what they achieved is remarkable.
Joseph and Winifred Gales were publishers of the late 18th Century Sheffield Register were giants of our history. For their beliefs in free speech and democracy they had to flee to America as the authorities made a move to arrest Joseph for treason – he dared to speak the truth.
Exiled to the United States they were important figures in the early 1800s. Joseph was the first to report the proceedings of Congress verbatim.
230 years on, when there is more than a hint of the rotten boroughs still hanging over British “democracy.” Today the votes of 37% of the electorate in the UK are held up as being an “overwhelming mandate” to push one of the most momentous, critical decisions taken by government in decades – it has nothing to do with returning power to people, but further restricting it.
Over in the United States the free press is demonised and accused of producing “fake news” just for holding up the mirror of truth (not “alternative truth”) to power.
In many ways we have made progress but in others we are taking retrograde steps, and under threat of losing hard-won liberties. Joseph and Winifred Gales are very relevant 230 years on.
How Great a Crime - tells the story of their time in Sheffield working on the Sheffield Register and how they came to be exiled – how Britain’s loss became America’s gain.