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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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Halifax Gazette in Mourning

I was in the middle of relating the teen-aged Isaiah Thomas’s misadventures with the Stamp Act in Halifax last month when anniversaries, events, and my book publication interrupted.

So even though the sestercentennial of the Stamp Act crisis is happily behind us, I’m going to finish up those stories.

We left Isaiah Thomas at work in Anthony Henry’s shop in late 1765, printing the Halifax Gazette. Richard Bulkeley, the editor of that weekly newspaper, who was also the royal secretary of Nova Scotia, had told the young printer to stop saying the people of that province opposed the Stamp Act.

So Thomas began to run steady reports from newspapers to the south about how people in those other provinces opposed the Stamp Act. According to Marie Tremaine’s Bibliography of Canadian Imprints, “a quarter to a half of each issue consisted of reports from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia about resistance to the Stamp Act.”

The 31 October Pennsylvania Journal was one of several North American newspapers that printed thick dark lines around all its columns when the law was taking effect, as shown above. (For more detail, see this article at the Journal of the American Revolution.) That style was usually a sign of public mourning. In 1765, it became a less than subtle way to mourn the death of liberty because of the new tax.

Thomas wanted to do the same with the Halifax Gazette, but he couldn’t do that directly without angering his newspaper’s sponsor. Instead, he wrote:
We are desired by a number of our readers to give a description of the extraordinary appearance of the Pennsylvania Journal of 30th [sic] of October last, (1765). We can in no better way comply with the request than by the exemplification we have given of that journal in this day’s Gazette.
Then he recreated the black borders. And he kept those thick black borders in every issue of the Halifax Gazette from 5 December onward.

TOMORROW: Isaiah Thomas stands up to the sheriff?

1 comment:

Laura Kennelly said...

Thank you for this. It is a bit of a relief to be reminded that people may not have changed all that much.