thomas carlyle: first use of the term “fourth estate” (0086)

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thomas carlyle

first use of the term “fourth estate.”
On Heroes and Hero Worship (1841)

“burke said there were
three estates in parliament;
but in the reoporter’s gallery yonder,
there sat a fourth estate more important far
than they all. it is not a figure of speech
or a witty saying; it is a literal fact . . .
[a journalist]
speaking now
to the whole nation
becomes a power
a branch of government
with inalienable weight
in law-making,
in all acts of
authority.
it matters not
what rank he has, what
revenues or garnitures.
the requisite thing is that
he have a tongue
to which others will listen;
this & nothing more
is reqisite.”

the term fourth estate refers to the news-reporting community — print, broadcast & internet — both in its explicit capacity of advocacy and in its implicit ability to frame political issues.

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