Looking at other verses from that year shows it had become common for the apprentices to work their employer’s address into their verse. The Massachusetts Mercury was published out of State Street, as you’ll be able to guess. This poem also alluded to a landmark on Beacon Hill—the memorial column with an eagle at the top—before drawing a helpful picture of how Bostonians consumed their newspapers in 1799:
Each proper morn, in routine way,Those latter lines look like trash-talking about Jeffersonian rivals. Boston had a new newspaper called The Constitutional Telegraphe, discussed back here. The other references appear to be to Philadelphia’s American Aurora, New London’s Bee, and New York’s Greenleaf’s New Daily Advertiser, which had Argus on its masthead. Others Boston carrier verses for this year also refer to their rivals or the pseudonyms of their usual contributors; before the war, such verses usually bad-mouthed foreign enemies and extolled patriotic unity rather than playing out domestic political quarrels.
When Beacon’s EAGLE spies the day,
We sally forth from Street of State,
And as at breakfast board you set,
Present the sheet, t’inform, amuse—
You coffee sip and read the News.
Reclin’d at ease in elbow chair,
You smile at this, at that you stare;
And as the columns you pursue,
Lo, the whole World comes in review.
You, like the SUN, o’er Nations glance,
Nor rest at Russian, Britain, France.
You soon discern who basely Prints,
That “RORA’s” cloudy, “ARGUS” squints;
That the pert “BEE”’s a worthless dunce,
Sans sting or honey of his own.
But dropping anger, loud you laugh,
At signals false of “TELEGRAPH.”
The Mercury boys’ verse continues:
Perhaps at Store our sheet you view,The purpose of these broadsides, you may remember, was to remind customers that New Year’s was the traditional time to tip one’s newspaper carriers.
Or in some Office learn what’s New
—To us the toils the same—the treat to you.
Say, who besides, for Public Good,
Like the News Boys have yet withstood
The fretting Snows—the bruising Hail,
And the North-wester’s freezing Gale?
The drenching Rain—the sultry Air,
The Thunder’s Roar—the Light’nings Glare?
Too much for us small Lads to bear,
Did not HOPE lend her potent cheer.
She points us to your purse and face—
There’s pence, she cries, and there is grace.
But the turn of the year 1800 wasn’t just any year.
TOMORROW: A hastily written extra.