thomas carlyle: 1st reference to journalists as 4th estate

text version

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 Reporters’ 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
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 requisite.”
[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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