Earlier this year, E. J. Witek shared a three-part profile of John Fleeming, a Scottish printer in Boston during the years before the Revolution. He was the partner of John Mein, another immigrant from Scotland; Mein vociferously supported the royal government in 1768-1770 and was driven out of town. Fleeming never had mobs on his tail, but he was a natural Loyalist and left America in 1776.
Since I find myself unable to leave comments on Ed’s blog, I’m adding some responses to his profile here. On Fleeming’s marriage, Ed wrote:
Somehow, during all of this turmoil, Fleeming managed to find romance and on August 8, 1770, married Alice Church, sister of Dr Benjamin Church, Jr. The wedding took place in Portsmouth, N.H., perhaps to avoid any possible incidents since Fleeming’s flight to Castle William was still very recent. Given Benjamin Church’s prominence as a leader of the Whig camp, the prominence of the Church family in New England, and the fact that John Mein had lampooned Church as “The Lean Apothecary”, this is an astonishing event.As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Massachusetts couples went to Portsmouth and other towns just over the New Hampshire border when they wanted to get married quickly with no questions asked. That doesn’t explain what questions this particular couple wanted to avoid. They were probably too old for parental disapproval, but perhaps there was a child well on the way. Notably, the other inexplicable marriage between vociferously Whig and Loyalist families—that of Ann Molineux and Ward Nicholas Boylston—also took place in New Hampshire.
Mein and Fleeming’s Boston Chronicle got a lot of ads from the Customs office, as well as news tips about which merchants were importing goods in possible violation of their boycott agreement. After that newspaper closed, Fleeming continued to cultivate that source of patronage:
He remained the stationer to the Customs Board and attempted to gain the printing contract as well. But he faced the determined resistance of John Green and Joseph Russell, the publishers of The Boston Weekly Advertiser who had been very supportive of the British Government and the Tory cause.O. M. Dickerson’s 1951 article “British Control of American Newspapers on the Eve of the Revolution” explains how the Customs office contracts helped keep Green and Russell’s newspaper, usually called the Boston Post-Boy, and the Chronicle afloat. (Of course, Edes and Gill of the radical Boston Gazette benefited in the same way from being the town government’s favored printer.) Given that patronage relationship, it makes sense that, as Ed reports, Fleeming tried to land a job with the Customs service after his printing business failed.
TOMORROW: Fleeming’s most famous publication, and the man responsible for it.