What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Just published, and to be sold by the Printer hereof, CONSIDERATIONS upon the RIGHTS of the COLONISTS.”
When the Stamp Act was repealed a major political crisis came to a close (though the simultaneous passage of the Declaratory Act signaled that not all was resolved between Parliament and Britain’s colonies in North America). Colonial merchants imported goods from Britain. Advertisers encouraged consumers to purchase those goods.
Printers and booksellers continued to market other wares that had been for sale during the Stamp Act crisis: books and pamphlets about the “RIGHTS of the COLONISTS to the PRIVILEGES of British SUBJECTS.” Such items had been advertised frequently before the Stamp Act went into effect in 1765 and continuing through its repeal in the spring of 1766. The Stamp Act may have been repealed, but existing stock of these pamphlets did not disappear. Printers and booksellers needed to sell the leftovers in order to profit or at least break even on their investments. Surplus pamphlets did not suit their needs.
So they continued to advertise. Today’s featured advertisement was not the only one of its kind in the April 28, 1766, issue of the Newport Mercury. Other notices promoted books and pamphlets that advanced a similar political position. They appeared in the same issue that reprinted an “ADVERTISEMENT Extraordinary” from the Boston Gazette (which we saw also reprinted in the New-Hampshire Gazette earlier this week) celebrating the repeal of the Stamp Act.
In all fairness, decisions to continue selling and marketing pamphlets about the “RIGHTS of the COLONISTS” did not necessarily depend solely on financial considerations to the exclusion of sincere political anxieties. Although the immediate crisis was over, the Declaratory Act dampened the colonists’ victory. Astute printers and booksellers likely realized that Parliament and the colonies would continue to experience tensions. By selling pamphlets like the one from today’s advertisements, printers and booksellers performed a civic duty that kept their fellow colonists informed and helped to frame future debates and discourse.