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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Thursday, December 31, 2009

“A happy Year may all enjoy”

As in previous New Year’s seasons, Boston 1775 offers a “carriers’ verse,” one of the poems or lyrics that newspaper delivery boys printed at the end of the year as part of their request for tips from customers.

This one with best wishes for 1772 is unique in that it comes from the boys of the Censor. Friends of the royal government paid Ezekiel Russell to launch that magazine in November 1771 as a home for their arguments. This carriers’ verse was thus directed to readers on that side of the political debate, and reflected their views of who was responsible for the turmoil and what was at stake.

The Carrier of the
Wishes all Happiness to his generous

What means this Clamour? why this strife?
To poison all the Joys of Life;
Ah why will Friend ’gainst Friend engage?
And brethren meet with hostile rage?

Say Candidus, rude Mucious say,
“It is such Slavery to obey?”
“Are Rulers Tyrants?—to be free,
“Must we destroy Society?”

Ye Friends to order! ’tis my pride,
To combat on the honest side:
Let Faction rave, or Villains brawle,
The CENSOR nobly scorns them all

May Government her Laws defend,
And foul Misrule to Hell descend;
A happy Year may all enjoy,
And may your FAVOURS bless your Boy.
“Candidus” was one of Samuel Adams’s pseudonyms for newspaper essays. “Mucius Scaevola” was the pen name Joseph Greenleaf had used for his attack on Gov. Thomas Hutchinson in the Massachusetts Spy a few months before; the Censor’s first issue responded to that essay.

Because the Censor stopped publishing a few months into 1772, this is the only New Year’s verse its carriers ever got to distribute. Fellow printers recalled that a woman in Russell’s print shop—possibly his future wife Sarah—composed occasional verses for his newspapers, so this might be one of her compositions.


Peter Fisk said...

Adams' and Greenleaf's use of pseudonyms as cover for verbal political attack is strikingly reminiscent of contemporary practices on the Internet.

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, there’s a lot of similarity between the eighteenth-century news and opinion media and the online world. Most newspapers didn’t try to be neutral. People published anonymous essays with personal attacks, sock puppetry, and the rest. Arguments went back and forth for weeks on end. The controversy over the “Gloria Mundi” essays starting here is a an entertaining example, with a lot more heat than light.