Category Archives: 1750’s

Item of the Day: Swift’s Rules for Servants (1753)

Full Title:  Miscellanies.  By Dr. Swift.  The Eleventh Volume.  London:  Printed for C. Hitch, C. Davis, C. Bathurst, R. Dodsley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLIII.

RULES that concern All Servants in general.

 When your Master or Lady calls a Servant by Name, if that Servant be not in the Way, none of you are to answer, for then there will be no end of your Drudgery:  And Masters themselves allow, that, if a Servant comes when he is called, it is sufficient.

When you have done a Fault, be always pert and insolent, and behave yourself as if you were the injured Person; this will immediately put your Master or Lady off their Mettle.

If you see your Master wronged by any of your Fellow-Servants, be sure to conceal it, for fear of being called a Tell-tale:  However there is one Exception, in case of a favourite Servant, who is justly hated by the whole Family; who therefore are bound in Prudence to lay all the Faults you can upon the Favourite.

The Cook, the Butler, the Groom, the Market-man, and every other Servant who is concerned in the Expences of the Family, should act as if his Master’s whole Estate ought to be applied to that Servant’s particular Business.  For instance, if the Cook computes his Master’s Estate to be a Thousand Pounds a Year will afford Meat enough, and therefore he need not be sparing; the Butler makes the same Judgment, so may the Groom and the Coachman, and thus every Branch of Expence will be filled to your Master’s Honour.

When you are chid before Company (which with Submission to our Masters and Ladies is an unmannerly Practice) it often happens that some Stranger will have the Good-nature to drop a Word in your Excuse; in such a Case, you will have a good Title to Justify yourself, and may rightly conclude, that, whenever he chides you afterwards on other occasions, he may be in the wrong; in which opinion you will be the better confirmed by stating the Case to your Fellow-servants in your own Way, who will certainly decide in your Favour:  therefore, as I have said before, whenever you are chidden, complain as if you were injured.

It often happens, that Servants sent on Messages are apt to stay out somewhat longer than the Message requires, perhaps, two, four, six, or eight Hours, or some such Trifle, for the Temptation to be sure was great, and Flesh and Blood cannot always resist:  When you return, the Master storms, the Lady scolds; stripping, cudgelling, and turning off, is the Word.  But here you ought to be provided with a Set of Excuses, enough to serve on all occasions:  For instance, your Uncle came Fourscore Miles to Town this Morning, on purpose to see you, and goes back by Break of Day To-morrow:  A Brother-servant, that borrowed Money of you when he was out of Place, was running away to Ireland:  You were taking Leave of an old Fellow-Servant, who was shipping for Barbados:  Your Father sent a Cow to you to sell, and you could not get a Chapman till Nine at Night:  You were taking leave of a dear Cousin, who is to be hanged next Saturday:  You wrencht your Foot against a Stone, and were forced to stay three Hours in a Shop, before you could Stir a Step:  Some Nastiness was thrown on you out of a Garret-Window, and you were ashamed to come Home before you were cleaned, and the Smell went off:  You were pressed for the Sea-service, and carried before a Justice of Peace, who kept you three Hours before he examined you, and you got off with much a-do:  A Bailiff by mistake seized you for a Debtor, and kept you the whole Evening in a Spunging-house:  You were told your Master had gone to a Tavern, and came to some Mischance, and your Grief was so great that you enquired for his Honour in a hundred Taverns between Pall-mall and Temple-bar.

Take all Tradesmen Parts against your Master, and when you are sent to buy any Thing, never offer to cheapen it, but generously pay the full Demand.  This is highly to your Master’s Honour ; and may be some Shillings in your Pocket; and you are to consider, if your Master hath paid too much, he can better afford the Loss than a poor Tradesman.

Never submit to stir a Finger in any Business but that for which you were particularly hired.  For Example, if the Groom be drunk, or absent, and the Butler be ordered to shut the Stable Door, the Answer is ready, An please your Honour, I don’t understand Horses:  If a Corner of the Hanging wants a single Nail to flatten it, and the Footman be directed to tack it up, he may say, he doth not understand that sort of Work, but his Honour may send for the Upholsterer.

Masters and Ladies are usually quarrelling with the Servants for not shutting the Doors after them:  But neither Masters nor Ladies consider, that those Doors mus be open before they can be shut, and that the Labour is double to open and shut the Doors; therefore the best, and shortest, and easiest Way is to do neither.  But if you are so often teized to shut the Door, that you cannot easily forget it, then give the Door such a Clap as you go out, as will shake the whole Room, and make every Thing rattle in it, to put your Master and Lady in Mind that you observe their Directions.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Culture, Jonathan Swift, Manners, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Satire

Item of the Day: The Adventurer (1770)

Full Title:  The ADVENTURER. By John Hawkesworth. Volume the Fourth.  New Edition.  London:  Printed for W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, etc.  MDCCLXX.

Tuesday, November 27, 1753.

The evils inseparably annexed to the present condition of man, are so numerous and afflictive, that it has been, from age to age, the task of some to bewail, and of others to solace them;  and he, therefore, will be in danger of seeming a common enemy, who shall attempt to depreciate the few pleasures and felicities which nature has allowed us.

Yet I will confess, that I have sometimes employed my thoughts in examining the pretensions that are made to happiness, by the splendid and envied conditions of life; and have not thought the hour unprofitably spent, when I have detected the imposture of counterfeit advantages, and found disquiet lurking under false appearances of gaiety and greatness.

It is asserted by a tragic poet, that “est miser nemo nisi comparatus,” “no man is miserable but as he is compared with others happier than himself:” this position is not strictly and philosophically true.  He might have said, with rigorous propriety, that no man is happy but as he is compared with the miserable; for such is the state of this world, that we find in it absolute misery, but happiness only comparative; we may incur as much pain as we can possibly endure, though we can never obtain as much happiness as we might possibly enjoy.

Yet it is certain likewise, that many of our miseries are merely comparative:  we are often made unhappy, not by the presence of any real evil, but by the absence of some fictitious good, of something which is not required by any real want of nature, which has not in itself any power of gratification, and which neither reason nor fancy would have prompted us to wish, did we not see it in the possession of others.

For a mind diseased with vain longings after unattainable advantages, no medicine can be prescribed, but an impartial enquiry into the real worth of that which is so ardently desired.  It is well known, how much the mind, as well as the eye, is deceived by distance; and, perhaps, it will be found, that of many imagined blessings it may be doubted, whether he that wants or possesses them has more reason to be satisfied with his lot.

The dignity of high birth and long extraction, no man, to whom nature has denied it, can confer upon himself; and, therefore, it deserves to be considered, whether the want of that which can never be gained, may not easily be endured.  It is true, that if we consider the triumph and delight with which most of those recount their ancestors who have ancestors to recount, and the artifices by which some who have risen to unexpected fortune endeavour to insert themselves into an honourable stem, we shall be inclined to fancy that wisdom or virtue may be had by inheritance, or that all the excellencies of a line of progenitors are accumulated on their descendant.  Reason, indeed, will soon inform us, that our estimation of birth is arbitrary and capricious, and that dead ancestors can have no influence but upon imagination:  let it then be examined, whether one dream may not operate in the place of another; whether he that owes nothing to fore-fathers, may not receive equal pleasure from the consciousness of owing all to himself; whether he may not, with a little meditation, find it more honourable to found than to continue a family, and to gain dignity than transmit it; whether, if he receives no dignity from the virtues of his family, he does not likewise escape the danger of being disgraced by their crimes; and whether he that brings a new name into the world, has not the convenience of playing the game of life without a stake, an opportunity of winning much though he has nothing to lose.

There is another opinion concerning happiness, which approaches much more nearly to universality, but which may, perhaps, with equal reason be disputed.  The pretensions to ancestral honours many of the sons of earth easily see to be ill-grounded; but all agree to celebrate the advantage of  hereditary riches, and to consider those as the minions of fortune, who are wealthy from their cradles, whose estate is “res non parta labore sed relicta;” “the acquisition of another, not of themselves; ” and whom a father’s industry has dispensed from a laborious attention to arts and commerce, and left at liberty to dispose of life as fancy shall direct them.

If every man were wise and virtuous, capable to discern the best use of time, and resolute to practice it; it might be granted, I think, without hesitation, that total liberty would be a blessing; and that it would be desirable to be left at large to the exercise of religious and social duties, without the interruption of importunate avocations.

But since felicity is relative, and that which is the means of happiness to one man may be to another the cause of misery, we are to consider, what state is best adapted to human nature in its present degeneracy and frailty.  And, surely, to far the greater number it is highly expedient, that they should by some settled scheme of duties be rescued from the tyranny of caprice, that they should be driven on by necessity through the paths of life with their attention confined to a stated task, that they may be less at leisure to deviate into mischief at the call of folly.

When we observe the lives of those whom an ample inheritance has let loose to their own direction, what do we discover that can excite our energy?  Their time seems not to pass with much applause from others, or satisfaction to themselves:  many squander their exuberance of fortune in luxury and debauchery, and have no other use of money than to inflame their passions, and riot in a wider range of licentiousness; others, less criminal indeed, but surely, not much to be praised, lie down to sleep, and rise up to trifle, are employed every morning in finding expedients to rid themselves of the day, chase pleasure through all the places of public resort, fly from London to Bath and from Bath to London, without any other reason for changing place, but that they go in quest of company as idle and as vagrant as themselves, always endeavouring to raise some new desire that they may have something to pursue, to rekindle some hope which they know will be disappointed, changing one amusement for another which a few months will make equally insipid, or sinking into languor and disease for want of something to actuate their bodies or exhilarate their minds.

Whoever has frequented those places, where idlers assemble to escape from solitude, knows that this is generally the state of the wealthy; and from this state it is no great hardship to be debarred.  No man can be happy in total idleness:  he that should be condemned to lie torpid and motionless, “would fly for recreation,” says South, “to the mines and the gallies,” and it is well, when nature or fortune find employment for those, who would not have known how to procure it for themselves.

He, whose mind is engaged by the acquision or improvement of a fortune, not only escapes the insipidity of indifference, and the tediousness of inactivity, but gains enjoyments wholly unknown to those, who live lazily on the toil of others; for life affords no higher pleasure, than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes, and seeing them gratified.  He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking, has his fatigues first supported by hope, and afterwards rewarded by joy; he is always moving to a certain end, and when he has attained it, an end more distant invites him to a new pursuit.

It does not, indeed, always happen, that diligence is fortunate; the wisest schemes are broken by unexpected accidents; the most constant perseverance sometimes toils through life without a recompense:  but labour, though unsuccessful, is more eligible than idleness:  he that prosecutes a lawful purpose by lawful means, acts always with the approbation of his own reason; he is animated through the course of his endeavours by an expectation which, though not certain, he knows to be just; and is at last comforted in his disappointment, by the consciousness that he has not failed by his own fault.

That kind of life is most happy which affords us most opportunities of gaining our own esteem; and what can any man infer in his own favour from a condition to which, however prosperous, he contributed nothing, and which the vilest and weakest of the species would have obtained by the same right, had he happened to be the son of the same father.

To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity; the next, is to strive, and deserve to conquer:  but he whose life has passed without a contest, and who can boast neither success nor merit, can survey himself only as a useless filler of existence; and if he is content with his own character, must owe his satisfaction to insensibility.

Thus it appears that the satirist advised right, when he directed us to resign ourselves to the hands of Heaven, and to leave to superior power the determination of our lot:
Intrust thy fortune to the pow’rs above:

Leave them to manage for thee, and to grant

What their unerring wisdom sees thee want.

In goodness as in greatness they excel:

Ah! that we lov’d ourselves but half so well.


What state of life admits most happiness, is uncertain; but that uncertainty ought to repress the petulance of comparison, and silence the murmurs of discontent.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Culture, England, Enlightenment, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times (1758)

Full Title: An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times. By John Brown. Seventh Edition. London, Printed;  Boston, New-England: Re-printed and sold by Green and Russell, at their Printing-Office in Queen-Street, MDCCLVIII.


A Delineation of the Ruling Manners and Principles.



SUPERFICIAL, though zealous, Observers, think they see the Source of all our public Miscarriages in the particular and accidental Misconduct of Individuals. This is not much to be wondered at, because it is so easy a Solution.

THIS pretence, too, is plausibly urged upon the People by profligate Scribblers, who find their Account in it. It is a sort of Compliment paid the Public, to persuade them, that they have no Share in the Production of these national Misfortunes.

BUT a candid and mature Consideration will convince us, that the Malady lies deeper than what is commonly suspected: and, on impartial Enquiry, it will probably be found springing, not from varying and incidental, but from permanent and established Causes.

 It is the Observation of the greatest of political Writers, that “it is by no means Fortune that rules the World; for this we may appeal to the Romans, who had a long Series of Prosperities, when they acted upon a certain Plan; and an uninterrupted Course of Misfortunes, when they conducted themselves upon another. There are general Causes, natural or moral, which operate in every State; which raise, support, or overturn it.” *

Among all these various Causes, none perhaps so much contributes to raise or sink a Nation, as the Manners and Principles of its People. But as there never was any declining Nation, which had not Causes of Declension peculiar to itself, so it will require a minute Investigation in the leading Manners and Principles of the present Time, to throw a just Light on the peculiar causes of our calamitous Situation.

To delineate these Manners and Principles without Aggravation or Weakness, to unravel their Effects on the publick State and Welfare, and to trace them to their real though distant Sources, is indeed a Task of equal Difficulty and Importance.

IT may be necessary therefore to apologize even for the Attempt; as being supposed to lie beyond the Sphere of him who makes it. To this it can only be replied, that a common Eye may possibly discover a lurking Rock or Sand, while the able and experienced Mariners overlook the Danger, through their Attention to the Helm, the Sails or the Rigging.

He will be much mistaken, who expects to find here a Vein of undistinguishing and licentious Satire. To rail at the Times at large, can serve no good Purpose: and generally ariseth from a Want of Knowledge or a Want of Honesty. There never was an Age or a Nation that had not Virtues and Vices peculiar to itself: And in some Respects, perhaps, there is no Time nor Country delivered down to us in Story, in which a wise Man would so much wish to have lived, as in our own.

NOTWITHSTANDING this, our Situation seems most dangerous: We are rolling to the Brink of a Precipe that must destroy us.

AT such a Juncture, to hold up a true Mirror to the Public, and let the Nation see themselves as the Authors of their own Misfortunes, cannot be a very popular Design. But as the Writer is not sollicitous about private Consequence, he can with the greater Security adopt the Words of an honest and Sensible Man.

“MOST commonly, such as palliate Evils, and represent the State of Things in a sounder Condition than truly they are, do thereby consult best for themselves, and better recommend their own Business and Pretensions in the World: But he who, to the utmost of his Skill and Power, speaks the Truth, where the Good of his King and Country are concerned, will be most esteemed by Persons of Virtue and Wisdom: And to the Favour and Protection of such, these Papers are committed.” **


* “Ce n’est pas la Fortune qui domine le Monde: on peut le demander aux Romains, qui eurent une suite continuelle des Prosperites quand ils se gouvernerent sur un certain Plan, & une suitenon interrompue de revers lors qu’ils se conduisirent sur un autre. Il y a des Causes generales, soit morales, soit physiques, qui agissent dans chaque Monarchie, l’elevent, la maintiennent, ou la precipitent” — Grandeur, &c. des Romains, c. 18.

 ** Dr. Davenant, on Trade.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Culture, Enlightenment, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Dr. Mayhew’s Election Sermon (1754)

Full Title:  A Sermon Preach’d in the Audience of His Excellency William Shirley, Esq; Captain General, Governour and Commander in Chief, The Honourable His Majesty’s Council, and the Honourable House of Representatives, Of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, in New England May 29th 1754.  Being the Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty’s Council for the Province. By Jonathan Mayhew, D.D. Pastor of the West Church in Boston.  Boston: N.E. Printed by Samuel Kneeland, Printer to the Honourable House of Representatives, 1754.

An Election SERMON.

MATT. XXV. 21.

His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful Servant; thou hast been faithful —-

This is part of our Savior’s well-known parable of the talents; the moral of which is in general this, That whatever powers and advantages of any kind, men severally enjoy, are committed to them in trust by the great Lord and Proprietor of all, to whom they are accountable for the use they make of them; and from whom they shall, in the close of this present scene, receive either a glorious recompence of their fidelity, or the punishment due to their sloth and wickedness.  The subject, then, is very general, and equally interesting.  All men, of whatever rank or character, are concerned in it.  It leads our thoughts from what we possess, up to the great source thereof; from what we are at present, to what we shall be hereafter.  It connects this world with another; and comprehends both our probationary and final state, under the righteous administration of God.

But tho’ the subject is very general, and of the last importance to all; yet civil power being one of the principal of those talents which Heaven commits to men, and the present occasion requiring a more particular consideration of it, the ensuing discourse will be confined thereto.  Nor would I injure our honoured rulers by the least suspicion, that they can possibly take it amiss to be reminded of their duty to God and Man upon this occasion, with all the plainness and simplicity becoming a minister of the Gospel, and consistent with decency; the rules of which, it is hoped, will not be violated. . . .

As to the source and origin of civil power; the parable on which my discourse is grounded, suggests that it is ultimately derived from God, whose “kingdom ruleth over all;” this being as truly a talent committed by Him, to the fidelity of men, as any thing else can be.  In this light it is considered in the holy scriptures.  It is not only agreeable to the original scheme and plan of God’s universal government, that civil rule should take place among men, in subordination to His own; but his providence is actually concerned in raising those persons to power and dominion, who are possessed of it.  In the language of the Prophet, “Wisdom and might are His.  He removeth kings, and setteth up kings.  the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”  The language of the apostles is not less emphatical.  They tell us, that “there is no power, but of God”; and that “they are God’s Ministers.”

But then it is to be remembered, that this power is derived from God, not immediately, but mediately, as other talents and blessings are.  The notions of any particular form of government explicitly instituted by God, as designed for a universal model; of the divine right of monarchy, in contradistinction from all other modes; of the hereditary, unalienable right of succession; of the despotic, unlimited power of kings, by the immediate grant of Heaven; and the like; these notions are not drawn from the holy scriptures, but from a far less pure and sacred fountain.  They are only the devices of lawned parasites, or other graceless politicians, to serve the purposes of ambition and tyranny.  And tho’ they are of late date, yet being traced up to their true original, they will be found to come, by uninterrupted succession, from him who was a politician from the beginning. . . .

All the different constitutions of government now in the world, are immediately the creatures of man’s making, not of God’s.  And indeed the vestiges of human imperfection are so manifest in them, that it would be a reproach to the all-wise God to attribute them directly to Him.  And as they are the creatures of man’s making; so from man, from common consent, it is that lawful rulers immediately receive their power.  This is the channel in which it flows from God, the original source of it.  Nor are any possessed of a greater portion of it, than what is conveyed to them in this Way.  Or at least, if they have any more, they have it only as the thief or the robber has the spoil, which fraud or violence has put into his hands.  Agreably to what is here said, concerning the medium or channel thro’ which power is derived from God, government is spoken of in scripture, as being both the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man:  Of God, in reference to His original plan, and universal Providence; and of man, as it is more immediately the result of human prudence, wisdom and concert.

In the second place, we are just to mention the great end of government.  And after the glory of God, which we usually consider as the end of all things in general, that can be no other than the good of man, the common benefit of society.  This is equally evident whether we consider it as a divine, or an human institution.

As it is God’s ordinance, it is designed for a blessing to the world.  It is instituted for the preservation of mens persons, properties & various rights, against fraud and lawless violence; and that, by means of it, we may both procure, and quietly enjoy, those numerous blessings and advantages, which are unattainable out of society, and being unconnected by the bonds of it.  It is not conceivable that the all-wise and good God, should ordain government amongst men, but with a view to its being subservient to their happiness, and well-being in the world:  to be sure, not, that it might be subservient to a contrary one, their misery.  We cannot imagine it possible that He who is good unto all, and whose tender mercies are over all his works, should exalt a few persons to power over the rest, to be their oppressors; or merely for their own sakes, that they may amass riches, that they may live in ease and splendor, that they may riot on the produce of other’s toil, and receive the homage of millions, without doing them any good.  It were blasphemous to think that God has instituted government for such a partial, unworthy end.



Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Colonial America, Government, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Religion

Item of the Day: The History of the Province of New-York (1776)

Full Title:  The History of the Province of New-York, From the First Discovery, To Which is Annexed a Description of the Country, An Account of the Inhabitants, Their Trade, Religious and Political State, and the Constitution of the Courts of Justice in that Colony by William Smith A.M.  London: Printed for J. Almon, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, MDCLXXVI.


Whoever considers the number and extent of the British colonies, on this continent; their climates, soil, ports, riches, and numberless advantages, must be convinced of their vast importance to Great Britain; and be at a loss to account for the ignorance concerning them, which prevails in those kingdoms, whence their inhabitants originally sprang.  The merchants, indeed, by  profitable experience, have not been altogether unacquainted with our trade and our growth; and some gentlemen of an inquisitive turn, by the help of their correspondents, have obtained the knowledge of many other particulars equally important.  But the main body of the people conceive of these plantations, under the idea of wild, boundless inhospitable, uncultivated deserts; and hence the punishment of a transportation hither, in the judgment of most, is thought not much less severe, than an infamous death.  Nay, appealing to facts, we may safely assert, that even the public boards, to whose care these extensive dominions have been more especially committed, attained, but lately, any tolerable acquaintance with their condition.  This is the more to be wondered at, as it is natural to imagine, that the King’s governors have statedly transmitted full accounts of their respective provinces.  The case has been quite otherwise.  Governments were heretofore too often bestowed upon men of mean parts, and indigent circumstances.  The former were incapable of the task, and the latter too deeply engrossed by the sordid views of private interests, either to pursue or study or common weal.  The worst consequences have resulted from these measures.  Perpetual animosities being engendered between the governors, and the people subjected to their authority; all attempts for conciliating the friendship of the Indians, promoting the fur trade, securing the command of the lakes, protecting the frontiers, and extending our possessions far into the inland country, have too often given place to party projects and contracted schemes, equally useless and shameful.  The conduct of the French has been just the reverse:  in spite of all the disadvantages of a cold climate, a long and dangerous navigation up the river of St. Lawrence, a rough, barren, unsettled country, locked up from all communication with the ocean, the greatest part of the year; I say, notwithstanding these difficulties, they have seized all the advantages which we have neglected.  The continent, for many hundred leagues, has been thoroughly explored, the main passes fortified, innumerable tribes of Indians, either won over to their interest, subdued, or bridled, the fur trade engrossed, a communication maintained between the extremes of New-France, the British colonies restricted to scant limits along the sea shore, and nothing left remaining for the establishment of a vast empire, but to open a free water passage to the ocean, by the conquest of the province of New-York.

If the governors of these plantations had formerly been animated by the same generous and extensive views, which inspired Mr. Burnet, the long projected designs of our common enemy might, with the aid of Great Britain, have been many years ago supplanted, or at least defeated, at a trifling expence.  But, alas! little, too little, attention has been had to these important affairs, till the late encroachments on the river Ohio, in the province of Pennsylavania, gave the alarm, and the ministry were apprized of the French machinations, by the seasonable representations fo General Shirley; and if the colonies have now attracted the notice of his Majesty and his parliament, their grateful acknowledgements are due principally to the noble Lord, to whom these sheets are dedicated, for his laudable enquires into their state, and his indefagatible zeal and industry for their defence and prosperity.

At present our affairs begin to wear a more similar aspect.  We are under the guardianship of a Sovereign, who delights in the welfare of his people; are respected by a Parliament, affected with a generous sympathy for the distresses of their fellow subjects, in all their dispersions; and by a wise improvement of the British aids, it is hoped, we shall be able to retrieve the ill consequences of our long, reproachful, and insensible security.

Formerly the colonies were at home disregarded and despised, nor can any other reason be assigned for it, than that they were unknown.  This is, in a great degree, to be imputed to ourselves.  If our governors with-held those informations, which their duty required them to have given, persons of private characters ought to have undertaken the useful and necessary talk.  But, except some accounts of the settlements in the Massachusetts-bay and Virginia, all the other histories of our plantations upon the continent, are little else than collections of falsehoods, and worse than none.  That this charge against those published concerning this province, in particular, can be fully supported, I persuade myself, will incontestably appear from the following summary, concerning which I shall say a few words.

Having been formerly concerned, according to an appointment by act of assembly, in a review and digest of our provincial laws, it was the duty of myself, and my partner in that service, to peruse the minutes of the council, and the journals of the general assembly, from the glorious revolution, at the accession of King William, to the year 1751: and as an acquaintance with our public transactions, was a branch of instruction, of which a student for the profession of the law ought not to be ignorant, I have since re-examined those entries, beginning with the first minutes of the council, and read over many of the records in the secretary’s office.  From these authentic materials, the following pages were in a great measure, compiled.  For many of those parts, which concern our affairs with the French and the Indians, antecedent to he peace of Ryswick in 1697, I am bound to make liberal acknowledgements to Dr. Colden, the author of the History of the Five Nations. . . .

When I began to frame this digest, it was only intended for private use; and the motives which now induce me to publish it, are the gratification of the present thirst in Great Britain after American intelligences; contributing, as far as this province is concerned, to an accurate history of the Biriths Empire in this quarter of the world; and the prospect of doing some small service to my country, by laying before the public a summary account of the first rise and present state. . . .

June 15, 1756.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Colonial America, Great Britain, New York, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: An Account of the European Settlements by William Burke and Edmund Burke (1758)

Full Title:  An Account of the European Settlements in America. In Six Parts. I. A Short History of the Discovery of that Part of the World.  II.  The Manners and Customs of the Original Inhabitants.  III.  Of the Spanish Settlements.  IV. Of the Portuguese.  V.  Of the French, Dutch, and Danish.  VI.  Of the English.  Each Part contains An Accurate Description of the Settlements in it, their Extent, Climate, Productions, Trade, Genius and Disposition of their Inhabitants:  the Interests of the several Powers of Europe with respect to those Settlements; and their Political and Commercial views with regard to each other.  Vol. II.  The Second Edition, with Improvements.  London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall. MDCCLVIII.


The royal, proprietary, and charter governments.  Laws of the colonies.  Paper currency.  Abuses in it.  Another sort of money proposed.

 THE settlement of our colonies was never pursued upon any regular plan; but they were formed, grew, and flourished as accidents, the nature of the climate, or the dispositions of private men happened to operate.  We ought not therefore to be surprised to find in the several constitutions and governments of our colonies, so little of any thing like uniformity.  It has been said that there is scarce any form of government known, that does not prevail in some of our plantations; the variety is certainly great and vicious; but the latitude of the observation must be somewhat restrained; for some forms they are certainly strangers to.  To pass over several, nothing like a pure hereditary aristocracy has ever appeared in any of them.  . . .

The law in all our provinces, besides those acts which from time to time they have made for themselves, is the common law of England, the old statute law, and a great part of the new, which in looking over their laws I find many of our settlements have adopted, with very little choice or discretion.  And indeed the laws of England, if in the long period of their duration they have had many improvements, so they have grown more tedious, perplexed, and intricate, by the heaping up many abuses in one age, and the attempts to remove them in another.  These infant settlements surely demanded a more simple, clear, and determinate legislation, though it were of somewhat an homelier kind; laws suited to the time, to their country, and the nature of their new way of life.  Many things still subsist in the law of England, which are built upon causes and reasons that have long ago ceased, many things are in those laws suitable to England only.  But the whole weight of this ill-agreeing mass, which neither we nor our fathers were well able to bear, is laid upon the shoulders of these colonies; by which a spirit of contention is raised, and arms offensive and defensive supplied to keep up and exercise this spirit, by the intricacy and unsuitableness of the laws to their object.  And thus in many of our settlements the lawyers have gathered to themselves the greatest part of the wealth of the country; men of less use in such establishments than in more settled countries, where the number of people naturally sets many apart from the occupations of husbandry, arts, or commerce.  Certainly our American brethren might well have carried with them the privileges which make the glory and happiness of Englishmen, without taking them encumbered with all that load of matter, perhaps so useless at home, without doubt so extremely prejudicial in the colonies.

Laws themselves are hardly more the cement of societies than money; and societies flourish or decay according to the condition of either of these.  It may be easily judged, that as the ballance of trade with Great Britain is very much against the colonies, that therefore whatever gold or silver they may receive from the other branches of their commerce, makes but a short stay in America. This consideration at first view would lead one to conclude, that in a little time money for their ordinary circulation would be wanting; and this is apparently confirmed by experience.  Very little money is seen amongst them, notwithstanding the vast increase of their trade.  This deficiency is supplied, or more properly speaking, it is caused by the use of money or credit, which they commonly call paper currency.  This money is not created for the conveniency of traffic, but by the exigencies of the government, and often by the frauds and artifices of private men for their particular profit.  Before this invention money was indeed scarce enough in America, but they raised its value, and it served their purpose tolerably.  I shall forbear entering into the causes that increased the charges of government so greatly in all our American provinces.  But the execution of projects too vast for their strength, made large sums necessary.  The feeble state of a colony which had hardly taken root in the country, could not bear them; and to raise sudden and heavy taxes, would destroy the province without answering their purpose. . . .

The currency of our plantations must not be set upon a level with the funds in England.  For besides that the currency carries no interests to some amends for the badness of the security; the security itself is so rotten, that no art can give it any lasting credit; as there are parts of New England wherein, if the whole stock and the people along with it were sold, they would not bring money enough to take in all the bills which have been emitted.

I hope it is not too late to contrive some remedy for this evil, as those at the head of affairs here are undoubtedly very sollicitous about so material a grievance.  I should imagine that one current coin for the whole continent might be struck here, or there, with such an allay as might at once leave it of some real value, and yet so debased as to prevent its currency elsewhere, and so to keep it within themselves.  . . .

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Colonial America, Great Britain, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Harris’s Hermes (1751)

Full Title:

Hermes: Or, a Philosophical Inquiry Concerning Language and Universal Grammar, by James Harris. Printed in London by H. Woodfall, for J. Nourse oppostie to Catherine-street, and P. Vaillant facing Southampton-street, in the Strand. 1751.

From the Preface:

THE chief End, proposed by the Author of this Treatise in making it public, has been to excite his Readers to curiosity and inquiry; not to teach them himself by prolix and formal Lectures, (from the efficacy of which he has little expectation,) but to induce them, if possible, to become Teachers to themselves, by an impartial use of their own understandings. He thinks nothing more absurd than the common notion of Instruction, as if Science were to be poured into the Mind, like water into a cistern, that passively waits to receive all that comes. The growth of Knowlege he rather thinks to resemble the growth of Fruit; however external causes may in some degree co-operate, ’tis the internal vigour, and virtue of the tree, that must ripen the juices to their just maturity.

This then, namely, the exciting men to inquire for themselves into subjects worth of their contemplation, this the Author declares to have been his first and principal motive for appearing in print. Next to that, as he has always been a lover of Letters, he would willingly approve his studies to the liberal and ingenuous. He has particularly named these, in distinction to others; because, as his studies were never prosecuted with the least regard to lucre, so they are no way calculated for any lucrative End. The liberal therefore and ingenuous, (whom he has mentioned already,) are those, to whose perusal he offers what he has written. Should they judge favourably of his attempt, he may not perhaps hesitate to confess,

Hoc juvat et melli est.——-

For tho’ he hopes, he cannot be charged with the foolish love of vain Praise, he has no desire to be thought indifferent, or insensible to honest Fame.

From the influence of these sentiments, he has endeavoured to treat his subject with as much order, correctness, and perspicuity as in his power; and if he has failed, he can safely say, (according to the vulgar phrase,) that the failure has been his misfortune, and not his fault. He scorns those trite and contemptible methods of anticipating a pardon for a bad performance, that “it was the hasty fruits of a few idle hours; written merely for private amusement; never revised; published against consent, at the importunity of friends, copies (God knows how) having by stealth gotten abroad;” with other stale jargon of equal falshood and inanity. May we not ask such Prefacers, If what they allege be true, what has the world to do with them and their crudities?

As to the Book itself, it can say this in its behalf, that it does not merely confine itself to what its title promises, but expatiates freely into whatever is collateral; aiming on every occasion to rise in its inquiries, and to pass, as far as possible, from small matters to the greatest. Nor is it formed merely upon sentiments that are now in fashion, or supported only by such authorities as are modern. Many Authors are quoted, that now a-days are but little studied; and some perhaps, whose very names are hardly known.

The Fate indeed of antient Authors (as we have happened to mention them) is not unworthy of our notice. A few of them survive in the Libraries of the learned, where some venerable Folio, that still goes by their name, just suffices to give them a kind of nominal existence. The rest have long fallen into a deeper obscurity, their very names, when mentioned, affecting us as little, as the names, when we read them, of those subordinate Heroes,

Alcandrumque, Haliumque, Noemonaque, Prytanimque.

Now if an Author, not content with the more eminent of antient Writers, should venture to bring his reader into such company as these last, among people (in the fashionable phrase) that no body knows; what usage, what quarter can he have reason to expect?—Should the Author of these speculations have done this, (and ’tis to be feared he has) what method had he best take in a circumstance so critical?—Let us suppose him to apologize in the best manner he can, and in consequence of this, to suggest as follows—

He hopes there will be found a pleasure in the contemplation of antient sentiments, as the view of antient Architecture, tho’ in ruins, has something venerable. Add to this, what from its antiquity is but little known, has from that very curcumstance the recommendation of novelty; so that here, as in other instances, Extremes may be said to meet. Farther still, as the Authors, whom he has quoted, lived in various ages, and in distant countries; some in the full maturity of Grecian and Roman Literature; some in its declension; and others in periods still more barbarous, and depraved; it may afford perhaps no unpleasing speculation, to see how the SAME REASON has at all times prevailed; how there is ONE TRUTH, like one Sun, taht has enlightened human Intelligence through every age, and saved it from the darkness both of Sophistry and Error.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Language, Philosophy, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: Milton’s Areopagitica (1753)

Full Title: The Works of John Milton, Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous. Now more correctly printed from the ORIGINALS, than in any former Edition, and many Passages restored, which have been hitherto omitted. To which is prefixed, An Account of his Life and Writings. Vol. I. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand, MDCCLIII.


A SPEECH for the Liberty of Unlicens’d PRINTING,


This is true liberty, when free born men,

Having to advise the public, may speak fre,

Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise;

Who neither can nor will may hold his peace;

What can be juster in a state than this? (Euripid. Hicetid.)

THEY, who to states and governors of the commonwealth direct their speech, high court of parliament! or wanting such access in a private condition, write that which they foresee may advance the public good; I suppose them, as at the beginning of no mean endeavor, not a little altered and mov’d inwardly in their minds: Some with doubt of what will be success, others with fear of what will be the cinsure; some with hope, others with confidence of what they have to speak. And me perhaps each of these dispositions, as the subject was whereon I entered, may have at other times variously affected; and likely might these foremost expressions, now also disclose which of them sway’d most, but that the very attempt of this address thus made, and the thought of whom it hath recourse to, hath got the power within me to a passion, far more welcome than incidental to a preface. Which though I stay not to confess ere any ask, I shall be blameless, if it be not other, than the joy and gratulation which it brings to all who wish and promote their country’s liberty; whereof this whole discourse proposed will be a certain testimony, if not a trophy. For this is not the liberty which we can hope, that no grievance ever should arise in the commonwealth, that let no man in this world expect; but when complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reform’d, then is the utmost bound of civl liberty attain’d that wise men look for. To which I now manifest, by the very sound of this which I shall utter, that we are already in good part arrived, and yet from such a steep disadvantage of tyranny and superstition grounded into our principles, as was beyond the manhood of Roman recovery, it will be attributed first, as is most due, to the strong assistance of God, our deliverer; next, to your faithful guidance and undaunted widsom, lords and commons of England! Neither is it in God’s esteem, the diminution of his glory, when honourable things are spoken of good men, and worthy magistrates; which if I now first should begin to do, after so fair a progress of your laudable deeds, and such a long obligement upon the whole realm to your indefatigable virtues, I might be justly reckon’d among the tardiest, and the unwillingest that praise ye.

Nevertheless there being three principal things, without which all praising is but courtship and flattery, first, when that only is praised which is solidly worth praise; next, when greatest liklihoods are brought, that such things, are truly and really in those persons, to whom they ascribed; the other, when he who praises, by shewing that such his actual persuasion is of whom he writes, can demonstrate that he flatters not: the fomer two of these I have heretofore endeavorured, rescuing the employment from him who went about to impair your merits, with a trivial and malignant encomium; the latter as belonging chiefly to mine own acquittal, that whom I so extolled I did not flatter, hath been reserv’d opportunely to this occasion. For he who freely magnifies what hath been nobly done, and fears not to declare as freely what might be done better, gives ye the best covenant of his fidelity; and that his loyalest affection and his hope waits on your proceedings. His highest praising is not flattery, and his plainest advice is a kind of praising: for though I should affirm and hold argument, that it would fare better with truth, with learning, and the commonwealth, if one of your publish’d orders which I should name, were called in; yet at the same time it could not but much redound to the lustre of your mild and equal government, whenas private persons are hereby animated to think ye better pleased with publick advice, than other statists have been delighted therefore with public flattery. And men will then see what difference there is between the magnanimityof a triennial parliament, and that jealous haughtiness of prelates and cabin counsellors that usurp’d of late, whenas they shall observe ye in the midst of your victories and successes more gently brooking written exceptions against a voted order, than other courts, which had produced nothing worth memory but the weak ostentation of wealth, would have endured the least signified dislike at any sudden proclamation. If I should thus far presume upon the meek demanour of your civil and gentle greatness, lords and commons! as what your publish’d order hath directly said, that to gainsay, I might defend myself with ease, if any should accuse me of being new or insolent, did they but know how much better I find ye esteem it to imitate the old and elegant humanity of Greece, than the barbaric pride of a Hunnish and Norwegian stateliness. And out of those ages, to whose polite wisdom and letters we owe that we are not yet Goths and Jutlanders, I could name him who from his private house wrote that discourse to the parliament of Athens, that persuades them to change the form of Democraty which was then established. Such honour was done in those days to men who professed the study of wisdom and eloquence, not only in their own country, but in other lands, that cities and signiories heard them gladly, and with great respect, if they had aught in public to admonish the state. Thus did Dion Prusaeus, a stranger, and a private orator, counsel the Rhodians against a former edict: and I abound with other like examples, which to set here would be superfluous. But if from the industry of a life wholly dedicated to studious labours, and those natural endowments haply not the worst for two and fifty degrees of northern latitude, so much must be derogated, as to count me not equal to any of those who had this privilege, I would obtain to be thought not so inferior, as yourselves are superior to the most of them who receiv’d their counsel; and how far you excel them, be assured, lords and commons! there can no greater testimony appear, than when your prudent spirit acknowledges and obeys the voice of reason, from what quarter soever it be heard speaking; and render ye as willing to repeal any act of your own setting forth, as any set forth by your predecessors. . . .



Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, Liberty, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Printing

Item of the Day: History of California (1759)

Full Title: A Natural and Civil History of California: Containing An accurate Description of that Country, Its Soil, Mountains, Harbours, Lakes, Rivers, and Seas; its Animals, Vegetables, Minerals, and famous Fishery for Pearls. The Customs of the Inhabitants, Their Religion, Government, and Manner of Living, before their Conversion to the Christian Religion by the missionary Jesuits. Together with Accounts of Several Voyages and Attempts made for settling California, and taking actual Surveys of that Country, its Gulf, and Coast of the South-Sea. Illustrated with a Map of the Country and the adjacent Seas. Translated from the original Spanish of Miguel Venegas, a Mexican Jesuit, published in Madrid in 1758. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. London: Printed for James Rivington and James Fletcher at the Oxford Theatre, in Pater-Noster-Row, 1759.



Of the temper and manners of the Californians;

and of their government in peace and war.

To those who have seen any of the American nations, and observed their genius and disposition, it would be sufficient to say in general, that the ancient inhabitants of California did not in the least differ from them; except those of the two empires of Mexico and Peru, in which, as there was a greater union and intercourse, so the fruits of it were seen in the cultivation of their reason, in their laws, policy and military conduct, and in the other branches of government, as well as in the reciprocal and friendly dependencies on on one another. But all the other American nations differ very little, either in capacity, disposition, or customs. The characteristicks of the Californians, as well as of all the other Indians, are stupidity and insensibility; want of knowledge and reflections; inconstancy, impetuosity, and blindness of appetite; an excessive sloth and abhorrence of all labour and fatigue; an incessant love of pleasure and amusement of every kind, however trifling or brutal; pusillanimity and relaxity: and in fine, a most wretched want of every thing which constitutes the real man, and renders him rational, inventive, tractable, and useful to himself and society. It is not easy for Europeans, who never were out of their own country, to conceive an adequate idea of these people, for even in the least frequented corners of the globe, there is not a nation so stupid, of such contracted ideas, and so weak both in body and mind, as the unhappy Californians. Their understanding comprehends little more than what they see: abstract ideas, and much less a chain of reason, being far beyond their power; so that they scarce ever improve their first ideas; and these are in general false, or at least inadequate. It is in vain to represent to them any future advantages, which will result to them, by doing or abstaining from this or that particular immediately present; the relation of means and ends being beyond the stretch of their faculties. Nor have they the least notion of pursuing such intentions as will procure themselves some future good, or guard them against evils. Their insensibility, with regard to corporeal objects which lie before them, being so great, that it may easily be conceived, what sentiments they can have with regard to rewards and punishments in a future life. They have only a few faint glimmerings of the moral virtues and vices; so that some things appear good and others evil, without any reflection: and though they enjoyed the light of natural reason, and that divine grace which is given to all without distinction, yet the one was so weak, and the other so little attended to, that, without any regard to decency, pleasure and profit were the motives and end of all their actions. . . .


Leave a comment

Filed under 1750's, American Indians, California, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Defoe’s History of the Plague (1754)

Full Title:  The HISTORY of the Great PLAGUE in London, in the Year 1665. Containing, Observations and memorials of the most remarkable Occurrences, both Public and Private, that happened during that dreadful Period.  By a Citizen, who lived the whole Time in LONDON. To which is added, a JOURNAL of the Plague at Marseilles, in the Year 1720.  London: Printed for, and Sold by F. and J. Noble, at their Circulating Libraries, in King’s Street Covent-Garden, and in St. Martin’s Court near Leicester-Square, 1754. [Price Five shillings in Boards.]


It was about the Beginning of September 1664, that I, among the Rest of my Neighbours, heard, in ordinary Discourse, that the Plague was return’d again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Roterdam, in the Year 1663. whether they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant among some Goods, which were brought home by their Turkey-Fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus.  It matter’d not, from whence it came; but all agreed, it was come into Holland again.

We had no such thing as printed News-Papers in those Days, to spread Rumours and Reports of things; and to improve them by the Invention of Men, as I have liv’d to see practis’d since.  but such things as those were gather’d from the Letters of Merchants, and others, who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by Word of Mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now.  But it seems that the Government had a true Account of it, and several Counsels were held about Ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private.  Hence it was, that this Rumour died off again, and People began to forget it, as a thing we were very little concern’d in, and that we hoped was not true; till the latter End of November, or the Beginning of December 1664, when two Men, said to be Frenchmen, died of the Plague in Long-Acre, or rather at the upper End of Drury-Lane.  The Family they were in, endeavour’d to conceal it as much as possible; but as it had gotten some Vent in the discourse of the Neighbourhood, and Secretaries of State got Knowledge it.   And concerning themselves to enquire about it, in order to be certain of the Truth, two Physicians and a Surgeon were order’d to go to the House, and make Inspection.  This they did; and finding evident Tokens of the Sickness upon both the Bodies that were dead, they gave their Opinions publickly, that they died of the Plague; whereupon it was given in to the Parish Clerk, and he also return’d them to the Hall; and it was printed in the weekly Bill of Mortality in the usual manner, thus,

Plague 2.  Parishes infected I.

The People shew’d a great Concern at this, and began to be alarm’d all over the Town, and the more, because in the last Week in December 1664, another Man died in the same House, and of the same Distemper: And then we were easy again for about six Weeks, when none having died with any Marks of Infection, it was said, the Distemper was gone; but after that, I think it was about the 12th of February, another died in another House, but in the same Parish, and in the same manner.

This turn’d the Peoples Eyes pretty much towards that End of the Town; and the weekly Bills shewing an Increase of Burials in St. Giles’s Parish more than usual, it began to be suspected that the Plague was among the People at that End of the Town; and that many had died of it, tho’ they had taken Care to keep it as much from the Knowledge of the Publick, as possible:  This possess’d the Heads of the People very much, and few car’d to go thro’ Drury-Lane, or the other Streets suspected, unless they had extraordinary Business, that obliged them to it.

This Increase of the Bills stood thus; the usual Number of Burials in a Week, in the Parishes of St.Giles’s in the fields, and St. Andrew’s Holborn; were from 12 to 17 or 19 each, few more or less, but from the Time that the Plague first began in St. Giles’s Parish, it was observ’d that the ordinary Burials increased in Number considerably.  For Example,

From Dec 27 to Jan 3  St. Giles’s………………….16

                                        St. Andrew’s…………….17

           Jan. 3 to—-10  St. Giles’s………………….12

                                        St. Andrew’s…………….25

           Jan 10.——17  St. Giles’s…………………18

                                        St. Andrew’s…………….18

From Jan 17. to Jan 24.  St. Giles’s………………23

                                           St. Andrew’s………….16

. . .

Besides this, it was observed with great Uneasiness by the People, that the weekly Bills in general increas’d very much during these Weeks, altho’ it was a Time of the Year, when usually the Bills are very moderate.

The usual Number of Burials with the Bills of Mortality for a Week, was from about 240 or thereabouts, to 300. The last was esteem’d a pretty high Bill; but after this we found the Bills successively increasing, as follows.


Dec. the 20. to the 27th,  Buried 291  ———-

                27. to the 3 Jan. —— 349.  ———- 58

January    3. to the 10.      —— 394. ———-  45

                 10. to the 17.      —— 415.  ———- 21

                  17. to the 24.     —— 474. ———– 59

This last Bill was really frightful, being a higher Number than had been known to have been buried in one Week, since the preceding Visitation of 1656.

However, all this went off again, and the Weather proving cold, and the Frost which began in December, still continuing very severe, even till near the End of February, attended with sharp tho’ moderate winds, the Bills decreas’d again, and the City grew healthy, and every body began to look upon the Danger as good as over; only that still the Burials in St. giles’s continu’d high:  From the Beginning of April especially they stood at 25 each Week, till the Week from the 18th to the 25th, when there was buried in St. Giles’sParish 30, whereof two of the Plague, and 8 of the Spotted-Fever, which was look’d upon as the same thing; likewise the Number that died of the Spotted-Fever in the whole increased, being 8 the Week before, and 12 the week above-named.



Filed under 1660's, 1750's, Great Britain, Plague, Posted by Rebecca Dresser