J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

“Life, liberty, land, to each other begrutch”

Here to celebrate the New Year is the verse that the newsboys of Boston’s Independent Chronicle created at the end of 1797.

It’s an interesting example of the dynamic Leon Jackson described in the essay I quoted yesterday. The boys wanted money. They appealed to their customers’ sense of charity. Yet they also represented that money as part of a gift exchange, in which they offered their donors entertainment and a blessing.
The CARRIERS
of the
INDEPENDENT CHRONICLE,
to Their
Patrons and Friends!

Independent, dependent, depending,
The CHRONICLE lads, for once, are seen bending;
Not bending like party, that’s bent on one side;
But bent like Tom Bowling who curves to the tide;
That is in plain English, or French, if you chuse;
We BEG once a year, for hat, coat, and shoes;
Not caring, as beggars, who gives us the pence;
Both Beggar and Chooser, is want of good sense.

Since Custom ordains, that good wishes must greet,
Our PATRONS and FRIENDS, in or out of a seat;
And blessings and prayers from the mill grinding rhyme,
Like mill-stone and wheel move in musical time;
We, therefore, complying with custom’s old law;
The cat-gut well rozin’d; the fiddle see saw;
Thus strike at a tune—Your CASH quick to follow;
The beast-moving bard resolv’d to beat hollow:—

And first we implore, that the world of mankind,
In FREEDOM, and PEACE may their happiness find;
Nor Briton, nor Frenchman, nor Spaniard, nor Dutch,
Life, liberty, land, to each other begrutch;
While the States of the Union and Union of States,
War, faction, plague, famine remov’d from their gates;
Belov’d; beloving, respected, and fear’d;
May last, till Time’s razor shaves off the world’s beard.

Amen, to these wishes, the world must reply;
And say you can leave us to perish and die?
To perish in stockings, and die in old shoes!
Why, who would a nine-pence, or shilling refuse?
’Tis but little we ask; that little impart
And added to prayers, we’ll bless you in heart.

CHRONICLE-OFFICE, Boston, Jan. 1, 1798.
“Tom Bowling” was the name of an archetypal British sailor as portrayed in Tobias Smollett’s Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) and a song by Charles Dibdin (1788).

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