What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?
“The said Wines are still in the Possession of Captain Livingston.”
The “NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS” in the February 20, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette and Country Journalcommenced with a notice placed by the “GENERAL COMMITTEE” responsible for overseeing adherence to the nonimportation agreement adopted in protest of duties that Parliament levied on certain imported goods via the Townshend Acts. The committee noted that Patrick Muir had imported some goods from Scotland and “refused to store or re-ship” them. The bulk of the advertisement, however, concerned a “Parcel of Wines” from Tenerife on the Hope, captained by Alexander Livingston.
That was a much more convoluted story. The committee became aware of an “industriously spread” rumor that John Tuke ordered the wine at the behest of Wilson, Coram, Wayne, and Company despite the fact that those merchants were “Subscribers to the Resolutions” who had pledged to support the nonimportation agreement. In response, Tuke made a statement in which he declared “the above Report is absolutely false, having never made use of those Gentlemen’s Names.” He did acknowledge, however, that “the Wines were bought on my own Account” even though he was also “a Subscriber to the General Resolutions.” Tuke assumed responsibility and expressed his “utmost Concern” that the wine had been shipped to Charleston. A nota bene inserted by the committee reported that the wine was “still in the Possession of Captain Livingston.” Tuke had not taken possession of it or attempted to sell it.
Did Tuke profess “utmost Concern” because a misunderstanding resulted in the wine being delivered by mistake or because he had been caught and now realized the error of his ways? His statement did not make that clear, but it did attempt to unequivocally clear Wilson, Coram, Wayne, and Company. As Tuke worked to ameliorate any damage done to his own standing in the community, he also sought to restore the reputations of prominent merchants who had been pulled into the controversy. It was bad enough to find his dealings under so much scrutiny; he did not need to alienate himself from Wilson, Coram, Wayne, and Company by continuing to call unwarranted attention to them. Instead, he did what he could to exonerate those merchants and shift the focus solely to himself.
Relatively little local news appeared in colonial newspapers, in part because most were published once a week so anything of consequence spread via word of mouth before it could appear in print. In some instances, however, advertisements carried news and supplemented coverage that ran elsewhere in the newspaper.