|How Mary Crouch’s Newspapers
Added to the Cause for Independence
Matt Haught is a 2007 graduate of Marshall University’s undergraduate journalism program and a 2010 Master’s of Arts in Journalism degree recipient. He worked as a reporter at the Charleston (W. Va.) Daily Mail and taught introductory classes at Marshall University. In a graduate class, Women Journalists of the American Revolution, he chose to study Mary Crouch a newspaper publisher in the mid 1700s colonial press. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to gather original source data in the Library of Congress, and when his paper was completed, it was accepted for presentation at the Popular Cultural Conference in 2010. Matt is now a doctoral student at the University of South Carolina, and he is continuing his study of Mary Crouch.
IN A WORLD WHERE REVOLUTION is on the tip of everyone’s tongues, where the idea of change is rampant through the masses and the notion that freedom and liberty can be achieved by disrupting the status quo, everyone has a claim to the ideas sparking the debate. In this debate, all sides have their passions, their prose and their poets. They have their venue, their soapbox and their audience.
As the United States pondered its independence from the crown of the United Kingdom, American colonists in Charleston, S.C., found their poet and their prose in Mary Crouch. This widow of a newspaper publisher took charge of her late husband’s title and gave it a patriot voice. Later, she started her own publication and published it under her own name, not the name of her husband.
Crouch’s name does not directly appear on any writing in the paper, but several unbylined articles in her newspaper certainly had her influence on them. These writings, as well as selected writings from other patriot publications, show Crouch’s devotion to the American cause and her own South Carolina.
An analysis of Crouch’s writings from The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal and in her own paper, The Charlestown Gazette, will show the patriotic leanings of the publications and will place her in history among the patriot press in Charleston and the United States.
Because of the nature of archival research, few copies of Crouch’s newspapers remain. Thus, this analysis is drawn from the microfilm issues of both newspapers on file at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. A similar collection is available in Charleston, S.C.
Charles Crouch was born in Charleston, S.C., sometime around 1735. He had been an apprentice to Peter Timothy, who dismissed him in 1754, citing their contrary opinions on the news (Henry, 1985). (Notably, when Timothy’s paper was operated by his mother, Elizabeth, it was leaned to independence, and Timothy’s paper is considered to be independent leaning, as well.)
Mary Crouch gave birth to a daughter before the family moved from Providence to Charleston in 1764. The move allowed Charles Crouch to be near his family and to set up shop where he had business contacts in the country’s fourth-largest city (Henry, 1985).
In the typical format of the newspaper was four pages of content, with about three of those pages being filled with advertising content. As for news and editorial content, the paper typically published British news, as well as local proclamations and speeches from South Carolina officials. Very little of the content was slanted, but what little opinionated copy was published leaned to independence. The paper printed very few original essays under the time of Charles Crouch (Henry, 1985).
Charles Crouch died in 1772, according to William King (1872) in his history of South Carolina newspapers. This point in contradicted in the research by Susan Henry (1985). Henry provides no direct evidence to prove Charles Crouch’s death other than saying he was lost at sea in 1775.
The reason this research accepts King’s statement that the death of Charles Crouch occurred in 1772, and not 1775, is that the content of the publication changed in this three-year period, as well as the following notice published in the newspaper several times during that period, with this being taken from the Tuesday, May 3, 1774, edition, which appeared on the top of the front page:
This notice stands in distinct contrast to other notices printed in the newspaper about subscribers going out of town. When subscribers left, they would publish notices urging debtors to settle debts before the subscriber left town. Crouch’s notice, however, is reference to his absence, and no such notices about his impending departure were included in the Gazette and Country Journal’s editions.
Further, Henry’s research concludes that Mary Crouch did not publish a newspaper in Charles’ absence. If this were true, there would be no need for such a notice in the newspaper. Therefore, one would have to conclude that Charles Crouch died in 1772, as indicated by King, because of the notices, as well as the change in editorial philosophy.
In 1774, the newspaper’s content took a heavy lean toward patriotism, going so far as to collect money for the patriots in Boston.
Mary Crouch kept the paper’s focus similar to what it was under her husband for the remainder of 1772 and 1773, with one notable exception in 1773, when, on June 15, the newspaper published a poem by a minister about Good Friday.
The year 1774 marked Mary Crouch’s arrival in the conversation of independence and political discourse. She opened the year with an editorial, which may or may not have been written by her, but is published in her newspaper, that calls for action in the upcoming South Carolina General Assembly.
The article rebuked South Carolina lawmakers for doing little in the last legislative session. Crouch urged the General Assembly to take action in this session against criminals and to something about the court acts. Crouch also urged the lawmakers to follow the example of the the Virginia legislature to prevent counterfeiting.
There was no name attached to the article, but the third news item, after a parliamentary anecdote, was a notice asking debtors to pay the newspaper, signed by publisher Charles Crouch, who was dead.
The newspaper was silent to commentary until March 15, 1774. A short notice was published on the front page of that edition that was signed by American Liberty. The piece is in the style of other notices published in the newspaper, such as when a person died and the family would want to collect debts owed to that person, or as a legal notice about business affairs or transfer of property, as was common for the day. The piece, however, personified American Liberty as a scorned wife who has been mistreated by her husband.
Whether this statement was written by Crouch or not, the message is clear: the newspaper under Crouch’s hand would beat the drum for independence. The references in this notice are consistent with the colonial complaint that Britain was profiting from the American bounty. Further, this notice shows plan for a divorce of the two, which alludes to the American revolution.
In the April 5, 1774, edition of the newspaper, Crouch printed a soliloquy and an essay that discussed the importance of happiness in human life.
The soliloquy explains the importance of religion and its effect of rationality. The writer ties religion to rationality and rationality to wisdom. It is noted that God wants people to be happy and wise, and therefore it is appropriate to practice religion.
The essay, which is also not bylined, discusses the need for strong morals and indicates that strong morals are essential to a strong country. The writer discusses how God expects people to have morals and then admonishes people to take care of their problems, because God wants people to deal with there problems.
It can be interpreted that the problem referred to in the essay about which people needed to deal with would be the British rule. The essay uses religion as a motivator for the people of South Carolina to fight the British.
On May 17, 1774, Crouch announced the paper had moved its offices from Gadsen’s Alley to the “House on the Bay, corner of Elliot Street.”
Crouch’s newspaper inspired support of the patriots by publishing the names of subscribers who had given money to the people of Boston suffering because of the Boston Port Act. More than 100 names were printed, saying the people had donated “for the Relief of our distressed brothers in Boston not suffering for the common cause of America under the late, most cruel, arbitrary and oppressive act of the British Parliament.”
A note that followed said rice would be shipped to Boston without a farthing charge.
The language in the newspaper’s statement parallels the language used in the statement from American Liberty made on March 15. Both refer to arbitrary and oppressive actions of the British. But the notice did something more than publicize the names of patriots; it showed the people of Charleston, S.C., that their own friends, family and neighbors were getting behind the cause of the American revolution. This notice recorded one of the first American movements of unity to help others, and it helped to foster the notion that the problems of Boston were the problems of Charleston.
On August 2, Crouch printed a letter from A Farmer in Pennsylvania to the inhabitants of the British Colonies that added to the idea that the Americans are bankrolling the British government. The letter provides several examples of Britain’s abuse of power and showed ways in which Britain had profited.
The newspaper followed that letter with a letter from the Husband of the Planter’s Wife, which appealed to women to allow their husbands and sons to go to war to protect the country, advising them that this would be the only way to have a free country. It also implored the women to stop buying tea, saying that buying tea financed the British government, and therefore put guns in the hands of those who would attack their husbands and sons.
“Every ounce of tea you buy will I fear be paid for by the blood of your sons. Save american from the danger of tyranny. If it starts with tea, where does it go,” the letter said.
These writings enhance the notion that the colonies should do something to fight the British. By publishing these works, Crouch and her newspaper were trying to show the people of South Carolina the importance of causing revolution and the reason for them to support it. By including these writings, the people of South Carolina can know that it is important to support the revolution, and that their commitment to it will be great.
On August 16, Crouch’s newspaper published a letter from a Loyal American. This letter explains how the British took control of Ireland, and then gave it equal treatment (even though it is now known that was not true.) The letter then says that the Americans want to treat them as lower than the British of the Irish. Then the letter says that America should not stand for being treated beneath Britain.
Several letters followed this one in the same issue that agreed with this first letter. Therefore the idea of this was likely that the first letter would tell people the news and the subsequent letters would inspire them to act. By reading the letter, people would be aware of the issue and could have emotions incited in them. After that, the letters from people will show the readers that others share their sentiments, and therefore will give them a feeling of unity to to cover up any inkling of treason they might feel. This lets people know that their feeling of angst and anger against the British government is normal, and that there are others in the colonies who feel the same way that they do.
In the last occurrence of writing in The Gazette and Country Journal that was not a British dispatch or proclamation was a letter from a clergyman on September 6 that said religion and Christianity are important, and that they give people strength. This can be interpreted as the people need to maintain their faith for the trying period ahead.
Very few copies of Crouch’s newspaper have survived through the years. Only six copies of the newspaper are available on microfilm at the Library of Congress, and the same copies are available at the public library in Charleston, S.C. The contents of these issues are listed and analyzed in the following paragraphs.
Crouch’s November 3, 1778, issue, she published a supplement that included notices of sale and other advertisements.
The letter from A Planter told readers that they needed to be ready for battle. A Planter told readers that they needed to act because the “Civil War” was not finished. The letter even inspired readers to “furnish your Page to the History of America,” and to “leave them an example worthy their imitation.” The country had not yet settled after the revolution, and A Planter was trying to tell people to keep fighting for the cause, because the war had not yet been won.
The letter from A Taxable Inhabitant is to the author of The Scourge, which was apparently a regular feature in the newspaper. The author tells the Scourge that the assembly needs to care for the poor. The letter cites the biblical parable of the woman with the two mites, where the woman gave all she had to help the church. This is paralleled to those who gave all they had to help the revolution and now need help to make ends meet. The message of this letter was that the government needed to care for its new citizens because those citizens created the government.
Crouch’s newspaper on March 23, 1779, printed a letter written by the British author and American sympathizer Catharine Macaulay that had been written before the American revolution. While Macaulay’s writing is a topic its own worth of research, Crouch’s introduction to it is also of interest:
Crouch’s introduction shows her belief that Macaulay is an intelligent writer. Crouch called her a credit to her sex and says Macaulay’s work is based on actual knowledge, and not superstition. Crouch defends Macaulay’s work as a woman and then prints the piece, which details the troubles that would befall Great Britain if they American colonies were to gain independence. These things had all happened by the time the writing was published in Crouch’s paper, which is why Crouch said it was prophetic. Crouch’s writing is important because it introduces the idea that a woman can know things about government and politics, and that women are an important part of the public sphere.
“America, the rising all [mutilated] empire of the world, where all will be happy, because [mutilated] forever separated from her jurisdiction ... From so piteous and dreadful a situation, good lord deliver us.”
This shows the unity already developing among the American people, as well as the pride that has come from being a free country.
On November 23, the newspaper printed a letter from Plain Sense, who identifies himself as a British citizen, that calls out Lt. Gen. Burgoyne. The letter says Burgoyne needs to answer for his actions against the British people.
There was a response to the letter in January 11, 1780. But the greater article in that issue is the No. 8 installment of The Scourge. That article called out a man in Savannah who owes money to many people. The Scourge said the man needs to try honesty instead of scheming everyone. The Scourge then quoted the Golden Rule, and said his favorite passage was Job 7:8. “The eye of him who sees me will behold me no longer; Your eyes will be on me, but I will not be.” The verse is part of a passage that says the man who forsakes God will not be known by God anymore. This could be true for the man from Savannah, who will not be known by those whom he owes money. The article then says all of mankind will face his punishment.
In the last preserved issue of the newspaper, Crouch published two letters, one from the New-Jersey Journal and another from the Pennsylvania Packet.
The Journal’s letter talks about how liberty and religion are connected. The letter tells the readers that they are free, and now that they have freedom, they can have liberty. By having liberty, they can have religion. The letter says that God delivers his people from the hands of their enemies, and the United States has been delivered from Great Britain, its enemy.
The letter from the Packet included a poem called “The Reduction of Fort Sand.” The poem referred to the American revolution, and compared the Americans to fighting children. But then the poem said the children became skilled, and then defeated the British. The moral of the poem is that anything is possible, including the Americans beating the British.
(1772-75) South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal.
Henry, S. (1985). Exception to the female model: Colonial Printer Mary Crouch. Journalism Quarterly, 62 (4), 725-733, 749.