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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Friday, July 22, 2022

“We shall not fail of informing our readers thereof”

Prof. Carl Robert Keyes, a historian of print culture and advertising at Assumption University, alerted me to a free database of the Maryland Gazette during the Revolutionary period, courtesy of that state’s government.

That made me think back on my look at newspapers that George Washington might have read at Mount Vernon at the start of 1773. [And looking back made me realize that posting had never posted while I was traveling last week, but it’s up now.]

The Virginia Gazettes carried only the barest news about the Crown’s investigation into the Gaspée affair. In contrast, the Pennsylvania Journal reprinted incendiary reports and commentary New England. What did Anne Catherine Green (shown here) and her son Frederick tells readers of their Maryland Gazette?

Their 31 December issue didn’t mention the Gaspée by name anywhere. But it reprinted items from the 14 December Boston Evening-Post, including:
Last Thursday evening an express came to town from New-York (which left that place the Sunday morning before) with dispatches brought thither by the Cruizer sloop of war, Capt. [Tyringham] Howe, who sailed from English the beginning of September, destined to this port; but meeting with bad weather, &c., was obliged to put away for South-Carolina, where he arrived the 10th of November, and has since got to New-York.

In consequence of the above dispatches, the Lizard frigate, Capt. [Charles] Inglish, with some of the armed schooners, which lay unrigged in this harbour, received orders from the admiral on Saturday morning to be immediately fitted for the sea, and accordingly before night were equipped ready for sailing, with a design (as we are told) to repair to Lord Hillsborough’s loyal colony of Rhode-Island.

The same morning an express set off from hence for New-York, with like orders for the Arethusa to sail for the same place, and letters to Gen. [Thomas] Gage and Governor [William] Tryon. Another express was sent to Capt. [Robert] Keeler, commander of the Mercury frigate at Newport: but the consequence of this unexpected naval manoeuvre we must leave for time to discover; though should any thing of importance transpire, further than that his Majesty’s ships lay this winter in the harbour of Newport with the same security from storms and tempests that they have hitherto done in that of Boston, we shall not fail of informing our readers thereof.

It is also further said, that two regiments are to be sent to Rhode-Island from New-York; and that a motion was intended to be made at the next session of Parliament to have the charter of that colony vacated.
These paragraphs suggested that the British military, both navy and army, was converging on little Rhode Island, and that Parliament was even going to change its constitution.

And for what? With no mention of smugglers attacking H.M.S. Gaspée, these measures looked even more tyrannical.

Of course, none of that happened. But rumors like these both reflected and raised the political tensions in North America, and perhaps at Mount Vernon.

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