Tuesday, April 12, 2011

John Fleeming - Part Two

 While John Mein was still living aboard a ship in Boston Harbor after his and John Fleeming's encounter with the Boston mob on Saturday October 28th, 1769, Fleeming went about getting the next edition of the Boston Chronicle to press. Page one of the November 6-9 edition of the Chronicle had a description of the Pope's Day Parade in which Mein was publicly ridiculed and also a reprint of a satiric letter signed "A Tory" which had first appeared in in the November 6th edition of the Boston Evening Post. Dated November 4th, it read:

Mr. John Mein, our intrepid asserter of truth and falsehood, has kept himself out of the way (for reasons best known to himself) since Saturday last.--
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If his offenses (if I can with propriety call them so) are not unpardonable, I would earnestly entreat the "Well Disposed"* inhabitants of the town of Boston to commiserate his case, and conspicuously display their humanity by publickly indemnifying Mr. Mein, that so he may, with safety, once more appear in his usual splendor and magnificence.

 * A word frequently made use of by my distressed brother.
  One can only speculate as to the reason Fleeming reprinted this letter.

HMS Rose
John Mein stayed in the Captain's quarters of this British Navy sixth rate while hiding in Boston harbor. This photo is of a modern day replica of the Rose, built and owned by Americans. HMS Rose was used to combat smuggling on the North American station and her Captain, James Wallace, was very good at it. During the war, Captain Wallace was knighted for his actions in helping to drive George Washington and the Continental Army from New York City. The Rose shelled fortifications in the city and made daring raids up the Hudson. She met her end in Savannah, Georgia in 1779 when she was scuttled to prevent the French fleet from moving up the Savannah, serving as an aquatic roadblock. She was destroyed after the war to clear the channel. This modern replica was built in Nova Scotia in 1970, from the original blueprints, in honor of the then forthcoming bi-centennial.

   A one column advertisement on page four of the November 16-20 edition of the Chronicle  announced the publication "this day", at a cost of three shillings, of a pamphlet which contained the complete importations story as reported in editions of the Chronicle. In this ad, obviously prepared by Mein before his encounter with the mob, Mein again stated that the original reason for his publication of the manifests was the merchants' action in publicly denouncing him as an importer. This was done with "paritality and malice...some of their Importations being FIFTY times the value of mine..." The merchants had also taken the" greatest pains" to damage his entire business as bookseller, stationer, bookbinder, and printer by "sending to the Select-Men of every Town in the Province...not to deal with me..." The ad also repeated Mein's continued claim that "I have not considered the affair of non-importation in a political light..."
   Fleeming then announced in a page one notice in the December 4-7 edition of the Chronicle that he had decided to resume publication of the manifests proving non-compliance with the non-importation agreement "at the desire of of a number of our Subscribers" and would pick up in mid-August where the previous list had ended. But this series did not take up much space in the paper. Two columns on page 4 listed a manifest in each issue from December 11 to March 1, 1770, with two exceptions.

   But Fleeming's decision to continue with the criticism of the non-importation agreement soon brought the mob out after him again. In a second hand story published in New York and dated Newport, January 8, the following appeared :


on the Evening of the 29th Ultimate Mr------Fleeming, Printer of the Boston Chronicle, was attacked in one of the Streets of that Town, by a Number of Ruffians, who abused him very much; and, 'tis thought, he would have died of his wounds on the Spot, had not a humane Negro, who knew him, taken him up and helped him to his home.

   There was no mention of this assault in the Chronicle just as there had been no mention of the October assault. I have found no further information about this assault.

   With Mein absent, the Chronicle continued to publish the weekly manifests but they were not accompanied by any further commentary or any of Mein's scurrilous and fiery rhetoric. They were just published. But items of anti-Whig propaganda could still be found in the form of letters to the newspaper. The most prolific letter writer was  "A Bostonian" (identity unknown) who, in four weeks provided six letters, most of them hitting again on the theme that the "Well Disposed" merchants were mouthing non-importation while lining their pockets.

   An exception to the "Bostonian's" usual subject was in a letter that appeared in the 15-19 February edition of the Chronicle. "A Bostonian" bitterly assailed the town while referring to Mein and Fleeming as "strangers" who made the mistake of declaring themselves "to be of no party" when, if they had known Boston better, "not only self-interest, but self-preservation, would have left them to court the patronage and protection of the RULING POWER." Instead, thinking that this was a land full as much liberty as the country from whence they came, they ventured to "publish and propagate with the greatest industry, whatever might promote the GENERAL GOOD," without any regard to the separate interests of the "Well Disposed." He concluded with savage sarcasm:

"Strangers are often at a loss to distinguish those in power among us, as we have substituted the Bludgeon and the Cudgel, and occasionally, the SHOVEL, as badges of authority, instead of the mace, wand, &. used in other countries."
   There is a lot to be said for "A Bostonian's" viewpoint.

   And so the struggle went on. Ironically, throughout this intense political warfare, the Chronicle was advertising Bickerstaff's Boston Almanack (see previous posts), illustrated with a half length figure of James Otis Jr., supported on one side by Minerva the goddess of Wisdom, holding the Cap of Liberty over his head; and on the other side, by Hercules the god of Strength in his proper dress, treading on a Serpent, the emblem of envy.



  But the whole dynamic of the political struggle was to irrevocably change a little less than a month after this letter was printed. We shall take up John Fleeming's story on March 5th, 1770, the night of the" Boston Massacre."

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