It has already been stated351 that in September, 1768, a singular arrangement was entered into between Richard Draper, publisher of the Boston News-Letter, and John Green and Joseph Russell, publishers of the Boston Post-Boy. The Boston News-Letter was issued on Thursday, the Boston Post-Boy on Monday. The publication of each paper continued under its own name and on its regular day of issue, while the publishers of both papers published jointly a paper called the Massachusetts Gazette. The portion of the Massachusetts Gazette which appeared on Thursday was printed by Draper and was sometimes, but not always, printed on the same sheet with the Boston News-Letter of the same date; while the portion of the Massachusetts Gazette issued on Monday was printed by Green and Russell and was sometimes, but not always, printed on the same sheet with the Boston Post-Boy of the same date.
It is remarkable that a careful examination of the Boston News-Letter, of the Boston Post-Boy, and of the Massachusetts Gazette itself, reveals but a single allusion to the arrangement entered into between Draper and Green and Russell. That allusion occurs in a notice printed in the Boston News-Letter of 26 May, 1768 (p. 1). Though this notice has already been given in the present volume,352 it is for convenience repeated here:
THE Thursday’s Paper (the first ever printed in America,) returns to its primitive Title, the Gazette being directed by AUTHORITY to be published in another Manner: The Customers will be served with Care and Fidelity; those who advertise herein may depend on having their Notifications well circulated. N.B. A Gazette will accompany the News-Letter every Thursday (tho’ not always in a separate Paper.) . . .
This is a clear intimation that in some way the Government was concerned in the new arrangement, but exactly how has never been indicated. Both the Massachusetts Archives and the Massachusetts House Journals are apparently silent on the subject; but in the Council Records have been found two passages which, while they by no means fully explain the situation, at least shed some light on it.
In the supplement to the Boston Gazette of 29 February, 1768 (p. 2/2), was printed a letter which reads in part as follows:
Messieurs Edes & Gill,
Please to insert the following.
MAY it please your —, We have for a long Time known your Enmity to this Province. No Age has perhaps furnished a more glaring Instance of obstinate Perseverance in the Path of Malice, than is now exhibited in your — . . . But I refrain, lest a full Representation of the Hardships suffered by this too long insulted People, should lead them to an unwarrantable Revenge. We can never treat good and patriotic Rulers with too great Reverence — But it is certain that Men totally abandoned to Wickedness, can never merit our Regard, be their Stations ever so high.
“If such Men are by God appointed,
“The Devil may be the Lord’s annointed.”
A true Patriot.
Governor Bernard fitted the cap to his own head, and at the meeting of the Council held the next day, March 1, —
His Excellency laid before the Board the Boston Gazette, published yesterday, containing the most insolent attack upon the character of His Excellency, the Governor, with the most unjustifiable insinuations concerning his public conduct, and an implicit call upon the People to revenge: and having asked the advice of the Council thereto:
The Board took the matter into consideration, and having expressed their utmost detestation of the libellous and seditious publication aforesaid: — Unanimously advised that His Excellency lay the same before the Two Houses in such manner as he shall think proper.353
The Board therefore cannot but look upon the said libel with the utmost Abhorrence and Detestation: and they are firmly persuaded the Province in general view it in the same light: The Threats therefore implied in the Libel cannot be the Threats of the Province, but of the Libeller.354
In the House the message was considered on March 1 and 2, and on March 3 an answer was drawn up in which it was said:
We are very sorry that any Publication in the News Papers, or any other Cause, should give your Excellency an Apprehension of Danger to the Being or Dignity of His Majesty’s Government here. But this House, after Examination into the Nature and Importance of the Paper referred to, cannot see Reason to admit such Conclusion as your Excellency has formed. No particular Person, public or private is named in it: And as it doth not appear to the House, that any thing contained in it can affect “the Majesty of the King, the Dignity of the Government, the Honor of the General Court, or the true Interest of the Province,” they think it may be fully justified in their Determination to take no further Notice of it.355
In these proceedings there was no allusion to the Massachusetts Gazette, and whether they have any bearing on the newspaper now under consideration is by no means clear. However that may be, it is certain that at a meeting of the Council held March 3 it was —
Advised that Messrs. Draper, and Green & Russell be appointed Printers of the Massachusetts Gazette, they engaging to publish the same two days in every week.356
The matter was not again referred to until April 11, on which day—
The Council having advised on the Third of March last that Mr. Richard Draper, and Messrs. Green and Russell be appointed printers of the Massachusetts Gazette, they engaging to publish the same two days in every week. This matter was taken up anew at a General Council duly summoned and continued by adjournment to this day. And the said Richard Draper, and Green and Russell were by the Advice and Consent of the Council appointed Printers of the Massachusetts Gazette accordingly, they to publish the same two days in every week.357
A period of six weeks elapsed, when the first issue of the Massachusetts Gazette appeared on Monday, 23 May, 1768, numbered 277, printed by Green and Russell. The second issue appeared on Thursday, 26 May, numbered 278, printed by Draper. Thereafter every portion published on Monday received an odd number, and every portion published on Thursday an even number. The numbers were intended to alternate; but, with their accustomed inability to number correctly, the printers soon became hopelessly confused.358
Why 277 was selected as the number of the first issue of the Massachusetts Gazette requires explanation. Between 1704 and 1776, the Boston News-Letter was known under eleven titles, in all except one of which the words “Boston News-Letter” occurred. From 24 April, 1704, to 31 March, 1763, the words “Massachusetts Gazette” never appeared in the title of the Boston News-Letter. Between 31 March, 1763, and 26 May, 1768, the exact titles of the Boston News-Letter were as follows:
1763, April 7 – 1765, October 31: The Massachusetts Gazette. And Boston News-Letter.
1766, May 22 – 1768, May 19: The Massachusetts Gazette. And Boston News-Letter.
It is thus seen that the words “Massachusetts Gazette” were employed in the title of the Boston News-Letter for the first time on 7 April, 1763. It has already been shown that the reason why these words were adopted was because the Council ordered on 31 March, 1763, that all official notices should be printed in the Boston News-Letter.359 Isaiah Thomas, referring to the first issue of the Massachusetts Gazette published on 23 May, 1768, wrote:
Two hundred and seventy-six weeks previously to this new mode of publication, Draper had added, “Massachusetts Gazette,” to the title of the News-Letter. Green and Russell began publishing in the mode described, on Monday, and Draper on Thursday of the week. Green and Russell therefore numbered that part of their sheet which was to bear the title of Massachusetts Gazette, 277. Draper on the Thursday following numbered his 278, and as long as this mode of publishing the Gazette by authority continued, the number for one press was reckoned from that of the other.
There can be no doubt that Thomas was correct in theory, though he himself made a mistake—as did the printers — in assuming that 276 weeks had elapsed between 7 April, 1763, and 20 May, 1768. By actual count the number was 268. Hence the first issue of the Massachusetts Gazette, dated 23 May, 1768, should have been numbered 269, instead of 277.360
Some further inaccuracies of Thomas’s need correction. He wrote:
The News-Letter was published on Thursdays, and the Post-Boy on Mondays. Each paper was divided into two equal parts. Half of each paper was entitled, “The Massachusetts Gazette, Published by Authority;” and the other half bore their former respective titles. For instance, the old title of Boston News-Letter was reassumed, and, under this title, news and advertisements filled one half of a whole sheet; the other half of this sheet was entitled, “The Massachusetts Gazette, Published by Authority;” the contents of this half, like the other, were news, advertisements, and, occasionally, the proceedings of government and public bodies. The same method was taken by Green and Russell. One half of the sheet bore the title of Post-Boy and Advertiser, and the other half that of “The Massachusetts Gazette, Published by Authority.” . . . It was in fact publishing a half sheet Gazette “By Authority” twice in a week, once by Draper and once by Green and Russell.361
Frequent differences occurred in the method of issue. As already stated, the Boston News-Letter and the Massachusetts Gazette were sometimes printed on the same sheet,362 while the Boston Post-Boy and the Massachusetts Gazette were also sometimes printed on the same sheet.363 In such cases, of course, each paper consisted of a single leaf or half sheet, as stated by Thomas. But sometimes the Boston News-Letter contained two leaves, with or without a supplement;364 sometimes the Boston Post-Boy contained two leaves, with or without a supplement;365 and the Massachusetts Gazette itself, though usually consisting of a single leaf, sometimes contained two leaves,366 and in at least one instance — the issue of 3 November, 1768 — it also had a supplement.367
The issue of the Massachusetts Gazette published by Draper on Thursday, 2 February, 1769, contained this notice (p. 1/3):
THE Malevolence of the “best writers” here towards the publisher of this Paper, is often discovered in their Publications, the Journal of Occurrences368 not excepted; — Without troubling our Readers with the Grounds of their Resentment the Publisher hereof thinks it necessary at this Time, to inform them, that what was inserted in the last,369 said to be the Debates in Parliament on the first Day of their Meeting, was not taken from any extract wrote here, but from the Letter wrote by a Gentleman in London from whom it came, which original Letter was in the Hands of the Printer, and composed therefrom, without any Addition or Omission respecting America; nor was the Publisher requested to make any Alterations convenient or inconvenient, by the Gentleman who favoured him with the said original Letter.
It is evident from this that Draper regarded himself as the sole publisher and printer of the portion of the Massachusetts Gazette issued by him on Thursday.
This perplexing and incomprehensible arrangement, whatever its exact nature may have been, between Diaper and Green and Russell came to an end with the final issue of the Massachusetts Gazette on Monday, 25 September, 1769. On 28 September, 1769, the Boston News-Letter assumed the title of “The Massachusetts Gazette: and the Boston Weekly News-Letter;” while on 2 October, 1769, the Boston Post-Boy took the title of “The Massachusetts Gazette, and the Boston Post-Boy and Advertiser.” This confusing similarity in titles — a similarity which has wrought havoc in citations — continued until the existence of the Boston Post-Boy came to an end on 17 April, 1775.
The words “Published by Authority” appeared in the title of every issue of the Massachusetts Gazette.
The bibliographical details relating to the Massachusetts Gazette are arranged under the following four heads:
- I. Titles.
- II. Days of Publication.
- III. Publishers, Printers, and Places of Publication.
- IV. Devices.
1768, May 23: The Massachusetts Gazette.
II DAYS OF PUBLICATION
Monday and Thursday.
III PUBLISHERS, PRINTERS, AND PLACES OF PUBLICATION.
1768, May 23 – 1769, September 25: Mondays: Published and printed by John Green and Joseph Russell in Queen Street.
1768, May 26 – 1769, September 21: Thursdays: Published and printed by Richard Draper in Newbury Street.