What was advertised in a colonial newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“PERMIT me thus heartily to congratulate you on the Expulsion of an Act which must have involved these respectable Colonies into the utmost Difficulty.”
A week ago the Adverts 250 Project featured a “to be continued” advertisement placed by John Coghill Knapp from the “Scrivener, Register, and Conveyancer’s OFFICE, on Rotten-Row.” The lawyer’s advertisement concluded with a not that “The Remainder of this Advertisement, with some further Remarks that may be beneficial to the Publick, in our next.” The wording raised questions about whether the advertiser or the printer made the decision to delay publication of “The Remainder.” Did Knapp devise a clever means of inciting interest in whatever might appear in “The Remainder” or did the printer run out of space and choose to truncate the advertisement? After all, it wasn’t uncommon for printers to insert notices that advertisements that had not appeared in the current issue would be published in the next.
An examination of the dates attached to each advertisement may help to answer this question. The original advertisement, published in the June 2 issue of the New-York Mercury, was dated “2d of June.” It was written the same day that it was printed (or, more likely, post-dated to be current with the issue). “The Remainder” that appeared in the June 9 issue of the New-York Mercury was dated “June 7” – after the previous issue, making it more likely that Knapp did originally intend to have the advertisement appear in separate pieces in two consecutive issues.
What were these “further Remarks that may be beneficial to the Publick” that Knapp promised and expected readers to anticipate? Knapp published an extended reflection on the repeal of the Stamp Act, “the Expulsion of an Act which must have involved these respectable Colonies in the utmost Difficulty.” In particular , he lauded “that great Defender of LIBERTY, the most Noble and Right Honorable WILLIAM PITT.” Knapp used politics and current events to appeal to potential clients who had protested the Stamp Act.
In a second paragraph, he discussed his own virtues as an attorney. In addition, he stated that he was “again admitted to Practice in that Profession to which I was regularly bred.” In his previous advertisement he had announced that he “received his Education at the University of Oxford; was regularly bred to the Profession of the LAW.” The Stamp Act disrupted attorneys’ work since legal documents were supposed to be recorded on stamped paper. Knapp lamented that “the Stagnation of Business during the Debate of that weighty Affair, has been sorely felt.” Now that the repeal had gone into effect, Knapp was “again admitted” to practicing the law now that the colonies had reverted to “Dear Liberty, the Birth-Right” of the Britons who resided there.