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Just publish'd, He Indictment and Tryal of Sir Richard Rum, a Person of noble 1 Birth and Extraction, well known to Rich and Poor throughout all America. Sold by T. Fleet at his Printing House in Pudding-Lane. Price, 6 d. single and 4 s. per Dozen (p. 2/2). . One week later, March 9, it appears again, but no mention is made of a second edition, although on the 16th is advertised —
His Day is publish'd, the third Edition of the famous Tryal of Sir. 1 Richard Rum. With a Preface, and a Song compos'd by him immediately after his Discharge, not in the former Editions. Sold by T. Fleet at his Printing House in Pudding Lane (p. 2/2).
By this it appears that the first two editions were sold and a third edition announced in two weeks from the first publication. No mention of it is made elsewhere in the Courant, and neither the Boston News Letter nor the Boston Gazette, of the same period, has anything concerning it. There is a copy of the third edition in the Boston Public Library. It closely follows the fourth edition. The fourth edition, which I have here, was advertised in the Boston Evening Post of March 5 and 12, 1750, but no notice of it appears elsewhere in the paper. The Preface to this fourth edition reads:
READER; He following Tract has sufficiently recommended it self to the World, 1 by the Sale of Three large Impressions, the last of which went off in a little more than a Fortnights Time, a few Years ago, and so gave birth to this Fourth Edition.
It must be acknowledged, that excessive Rum-Drinking is one of the Sins of the Times; and if so, it must be granted, that Rational Methods to check such a growing Vice, is both Lawful and Commendable.
1 With the alteration of “This Day is publish'd” to “Just Publish'd,” this advertisement is repeated in the issues of March 23 and 30.
? The fourth edition is practically a line for line reprint of the third, a few differences in the title and in the preface being specified on p. 234 note 2, above, and p. 235 note 3, below.
: The Preface to the third edition is identical with that to the fourth, except that the concluding words in the first paragraph in the third edition read: "went off in little more than a Fortnights Time, and so gave Birth to this Third Edition.”.
Agreeable hereto, tho’ the following Piece may pass for a Romance or Fiction with some, yet it will be found to have a direct Tendency to shame Sir Richard's most intimate Friends into an Estrangement from his Company. For, it is not only innocent, Pleasant and Diverting in it self, but the MORAL is Excellent, Useful and Instructive.
Now that it may be happily Instrumental to reclaim Sots and Tipplers from their vicious Courses, and reduce their Feet into the Paths of Vertue, it is heartily recommended to the Publick,
This edition is recorded by Evans but not by Sabin. I find no record of the fifth edition. There is a copy of the sixth edition in the library of the American Antiquarian Society. It has but nineteen pages, although it closely follows the fourth edition. It has the imprint, “Newport: Printed and sold by S. Southwick. MDCCLXX.” It is recorded by both Sabin and Evans. Of the seventh edition, I find no record. There is a copy of the eighth edition in the Boston Athenæum. It has sixteen pages and bears the imprint, “NewYork: Printed and Sold by John Anderson, at Beekman-Slip.” It has no date. The Preface begins: “The following Tract has sufficiently recommended itself to the World, by the Sale of the preceeding Editions.” Sabin gives the imprint of the ninth edition as, “Providence: Printed and Sold by John Waterman. 1774. 12mo, pp. 19.” Another, and probably the last edition, was published in 1835. It is recorded by Sabin and bears the imprint, “Boston: Published by John Ford, Temperance Press, Wilson's Lane. 1835.” For the Preface of the earlier editions is substituted an Advertisement, which begins: “The following account of the Indictment and Trial of Sir Richard Rum, was written sixty or seventy years ago, and contains frequent allusion to the colonial condition of the American States.” There is a copy in the Boston Athenæum, on the fly leaf of which is written, “Given to the Boston Athenæum by the Editor — Dunn, Esq.” It has been considerably edited; the song has been left out; and the title-page has been rewritten and made much shorter.
The argument in the tract before you, is made in the unusual form of a trial of Sir Richard, a name which was sometimes used to designate a drunken man, “By a special Commission of the Peace a Court was held, May 18. at Punch-Hall, in the Kingdom of Toaping, before the Right Worshipful Sir Nathan Standfast, and Sir Solomon Stiffrump, Chief Judges of the Courts of Justice constituted by King Bacchus." Timothy Tosspot, Benjamin Bumber, Richard Rednose, John Neversober, Giles Lickspiggot, Theophilus Toaper, John Sixgodowns, Obadiah Thirsty, Anthony Idlefellow, Nathaniel Spendthrift, Jonathan Lovedram, and Edward Emptypurse were chosen and accepted as jurors.
The Clerk then reads the indictment and Sir Richard pleads “not guilty" and says he will be tried by “the Opinion of all judicious Persons.” The Crier then makes his proclamation, and John Vulcan, the Blacksmith, is called and testifies to his experiences and says: "he scarce ever parts with me till he hath catcht me fast by the Noddle, tript up my Heels, and laid me fast on my Back, so that I have not been able to get up to go to Work for two or three Days; besides having my Pockets pickt, and my Head and Bones ake, he hath set my Wife's Tongue going like a Paper-Mill.” William Shuttle, the Weaver, then testifies: “I can never sit at my Loom, but this wicked Companion is enticing me from my Work, and is never quiet till he gets me to the Tavern.” Thomas Snip, the Taylor, then testifies that —
Sir Richard picking a Quarrel with me, gave me such a knock on the Crown, that I had almost broke my Arms, and both my Elbows, so that I could not work for a Fortnight after. And what is still worse, he has got acquainted with my Wife, and sends her home every Night in a scolding mood, and for my part, unless I am as boozy as she, I dare neither speak nor stir, but am forced to be a Passive-Obedience Man whether I will or no.
James Wheat, the Baker, complains that people forsake him and prefer Sir Richard, with serious consequences to themselves. NewEngland, New-York, New-Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Carolina, etc., are next called, and all testify to the evil effects produced by Sir Richard. Connecticut says: “we are sometimes ready to think, That we are the best People in the World, (at least in America);" then goes on to recite the evil effects of Sir Richard.
Boston, being called, says, “It has been observed within less than
1 An obvious misprint for Bumper, correctly given in the third edition.
Twenty Years That this was countd one of the most flourishing Towns in America; but in a few Years more (we have reason to fear) it will be in as bad a Condition as any of its Neighbours," etc. New Hampshire says, "for this pernicious Prisoner comes and consumes most of our Labour.” Sir Solomon Stiffrump then addresses Sir Richard, saying that he deserves to suffer, but Sir Nathan Standfast gives his opinion “that Sir Richard can make a Defence.” Sir Richard then addresses the Court:
I have done good Service to the Common Wealth, of which I am a good and loyal Member. In the first place, Gentlemen, besides making many an honest Mans Pot boil, I do Service to the Common Wealth by raising the Excise a third part; I am esteemed by all sober, moderate People, for the good I do when seasonable consulted.
Barbadoes, with the Leeward Islands, are called and testify that “without the Help of Sir Richard, we that live in the Islands could not subsist; for he is the best Branch of our Trade,” and “ That upon us depends the Prosperity of Trade in many other countries." Newport, on Rhode Island, then testifies that “He forceth no body," and that “we are sensible that he hath done much good to many Men in this place; he hath raised many from almost nothing to a great Estate, in a very few Years, and helped to build many good Vessels, and employs a great Number of Men daily both by Sea and Land, and most of them that do not abuse him thrive.”
Then Friend John, the Quaker, says, “For my own part I may say, he hath many times comforted me, both at Sea and Land.” He further testifies to the good character of Sir Richard. Mrs. Hostess and Mrs. Fillpot are called, and the former says, “I beseech you not to take notice of what those cruel Blood-sucking Men say; They do not care what becomes of us and many Innholders and Retailers that must starve if this Person suffer.” The Court then gives the charge to the jury, and Sir Richard addresses them:
... as to the Witnesses against me, they are of two sorts; first, particular Persons, and secondly, whole Colonies and Provinces. As for the particular Persons and some in the more Southern Colonies, you will find them Persons of none of the best of Characters, especially such of them as complain that they are abused by me, it may easily be made to appear, that they are Vicious and Immoral. And every Body knows that has been among them, that the further South you go, especially towards N. York, N. Jersey, &c. they hate a Stranger as they hate a Rattle-Snake, ... If a Stranger at any Time have occasion to enquire which is the right Road to any Place, they will not answer him before they have asked him the following Questions, viz. From whence did he come? Where is he bound? What is his Name and Business? With many more such impertinent Questions.
Further on he says, “How much precious Time do they spend in sucking the Smoke of Tobacco, by which means they make a Chimney of their Mouth, burn up their Lungs, corrupt their Breath, and turn their Head into a Still.” The jury acquits him and he is discharged. It will be noticed from these quotations, that there has been little change in the arguments, as used to-day, nearly two hundred years after the first appearance of this tract.
I have consulted several of the best authorities and otherwise endeavored to discover the author, but without success. Many suggestions have been made, but after examination, I have been unable to adopt any of them. Several of the clergy could have written it, and about that time there was one Matthew Adams, residing here, who was a popular writer and one of the writers in the Courant. He had a good library and was one of the earliest friends of Benjamin Franklin. He with Mather Byles and others constituted a club, the members of which wrote essays for the papers, published by the Franklins. Some one of them may have been our author. The evidence points to its having been written here, but I will leave for others to discover the authorship.
In the North-American's Almanack for 1776,2 by Samuel Stearns, is an article entitled “Sir Richard Rum's Advice to the Soldiers and others,” written in the same style as this tract and evidently inspired by it. The name of the author does not appear.
In my search for the author, I have found no history of the early temperance movement here, and it is probable that there was no organized effort in that direction when this tract was first issued. The clergy early took up the subject and preached against intemperance. The earliest I have found published are two sermons preached
1 New England Historical and Genealogical Register, x. 89; S. G. Drake, History and Antiquities of Boston, p. 634.
? There is a copy in the Boston Public Library.