What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“This masterly Performance merits the closest Attention and Consideration of every true SON of AMERICA the Propriety of imposing TAXES on free Subjects without their Consent.”
The Stamp Act crisis and protests spilled over into advertisements for consumer goods in colonial newspapers. In late 1765 and early 1766 newspapers were filled with editorials opposing the Stamp Act as well as news items about debates and protests reprinted from far and wide. Nonimportation agreements altered consumer culture, but, as this advertisement and others indicate, the imperial crisis transformed the meaning of consumption in other ways as well.
Printers and booksellers might be considered opportunistic for taking advantage of a political crisis to market and sell newspapers, books, and pamphlets, but believing in a cause and being entrepreneurial were not mutually exclusive. Publications that considered “the Propriety of imposing Taxes in the British Colonies” based on “Knowledge of the Laws of our Mother-Country” reflected many printers’ views and likely shaped the political attitudes of many colonists, prompting them to further consider resistance efforts and, eventually, revolution.
Even if colonists did not buy and read such any particular publication, encountering advertisements like this one yielded a certain consistency throughout the various sections of the newspaper. Commerce and consumption could not be separated from politics in an easily classified manner.