What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago today?
“ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary. … Repeal of the Stamp-Act.”
This “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” hailed the “Repeal of the Stamp-Act” and encouraged other patriotic Britons to do the same. In particular, the advertisement encouraged a variety of public displays” “general Illuminations, Ringing of Bells, Bonfires, Firing of Guns, or other Fire-Works” to be conducted “in Duty and Loyalty to our most gracious SSEVERIGN” and “in Respect, Love and Gratitude to his patriotic MINISITRY.”
This advertisement helps to demonstrate that the American Revolution did not take place as soon as Parliament passed the first act intended to better regulate colonial commerce and raise revenues after the Seven Years War. Most colonists did not immediately clamor for political independence from Great Britain. Instead, that decision took place only after a lengthy process that extended more than a decade as colonists and Parliament acted and reacted to each other.
In the spring of 1766, however, colonists were overjoyed to return to what they considered their rightful place in the global British Empire. Once “that detestable Act” – a measure also described as “unconstitutional” – was repealed, opponents in Britain’s North American colonies encouraged “Rejoicings and Exhibitions of joy thro-out this Continent” but also desired that “all whom it may concern, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America” would join in their celebrations. In saluting the “Great GEORGE and PATRIOT PITT” along with the king’s “patriotic MINISTRY” colonists signaled that they considered themselves Britons and wished to be part of the British Empire. Only in the wake of greater disruptions and the “Contempt of an infernal, atheistical, Popish and Jacobite Crew” over the course of the next decade would revolution be fomented. The crisis had been averted – temporarily – but the promulgation of the Declaratory Act at the same time the Stamp Act was repealed suggested that “Rejoicings and Exhibitions of joy” might not last long.
Take note of the first and last lines of this advertisement: “From the Boston Gazette, April 21.” and “P. S. All Printers throughout this Continent are desired to publish this Advertisement.” Just as printers had shared and reprinted news of the Stamp Act and protests against it throughout 1765 and into 1766, they also exchanged and shared news of its repeal. This advertisement, originally printed in Boston four days earlier, was inserted in the very next issue of Portsmouth’s New-Hampshire Gazette. This was how news went viral in eighteenth-century America