Friday, April 19, 2019

In Business - Clementina Rind 1740-1774, Printer for Tho Jefferson & Editor of the Virginia Gazette

Clementina Rind (1740-1774), 

Clementina Rind (1740-1774), printer & newspaper editor, was the wife of William Rind, public printer in Maryland & Virginia. She sailed to the Maryland colony with her father John Grierson in 1757.  Her father died on that voyage. The name Clementina often referred to James, the Old Pretender to the English throne, & his wife Jacoba Clementina.

Her husband, born in Annapolis in 1733, was reared there as apprentice to the public printer, Jonas Green. During the 7-year period of his partnership with Green (1758-65) young Rind acquired town property, a home, & his wife, Clementina. In 1758, that the firm of "Green & Rind" was formed for the purpose of carrying on the newspaper. The junior partner, it seems, did not enter into the ordinary business of the establishment; his name appeared on none of its imprints except that of the Maryland Gazette. To protest the Stamp Act the partners suspended publication of the Maryland Gazette in October 1765, & shortly thereafter Rind accepted the invitation of a group of Virginians to publish a “free paper” in Williamsburg.

"Until the beginning of our revolutionary disputes," wrote Thomas Jefferson to Isaiah Thomas 43 years later, "we had but one press, & that having the whole business of the government, & no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper."

The first issue of Rind’s Virginia Gazette appeared May 16, 1766, under the motto: “Open to ALL PARTIES, but Influenced by NONE.” The press, the paper & the printer quickly established a good reputation. The fall assembly chose Rind as public printer, & in spite of rising costs of paper & other supplies the business prospered.

When the editor died in August 1773, his family was living on the Main street in the present Ludwell-Paradise House & the printing shop was operated in the same handsome brick building.  His widow Clementina immediately took over the editorship & business management of the press for her “dear infants”- William, John, Charles, James, & Maria. The household included also John Pinkney; an apprentice, Isaac Collins; & a Negro slave, Dick who probably worked as a semiskilled artisan.

On September 2, Cementina wrote in the Gazette,  "Being now unhappily forced to enter upon Business on my own Account, I flatter myself those Gentlemen who shall continue to oblige me with their Custom will not be offended at my requesting them, in the future, to be punctual in sending Cash with Advertisements, and c. The ardent Desire I have of rendering this Paper as useful and entertaining as possible urges the Necessity of attending to this Request, as it must be obvious to every one that Business of so extensive a Nature cannot be carried on with that Spirit which is necessary, without a sufficient Fund to supply it: Mine, in great Measure, depends on the Punctuality of those who favour me with their Commands. May that All Ruling Power, whose chastening Hand has snatched from my dear Infants and myself our whole Dependence, make me equal to the Task! An unaffected Desire to please, an indefatigable Attention to my Business, and the Assistance of Persons whose Abilities and Attachment I can rely on, will, I hope, make me not entirely unworthy of Encouragement from the Public in general, and from the Honourable House of Burgesses in particular; whose Favour I once more take the Liberty to solicit, and in whose generous Breasts it lies to bestow Happiness and Plenty on my orphan Family, if they find me capable of being their Servant. Cheared by that pleasing Hope, I will try to support, with Fortitude, the painful Sensation of Incertainty, by a firm Reliance on that Candour and Generosity, which have ever been the Characteristic of that honourable Body. I am, with great Respect, The Public’s most faithful, And most obedient, CLEMENTINA RIND." 

As editor Mrs. Rind was careful to preserve the integrity of the newspaper’s motto & purpose. Reports of foreign & domestic occurrences, shipping news, & advertisements were supplemented by essays, articles, & poems accepted from contributors or selected from her “general correspondence” & from London magazines & newspapers. During her short tenure as publisher, Rind's periodical highlighted new scientific research, debates on education, & philanthropic causes, as well as plans for improving educational opportunities-especially those relating to the College of William & Mary.

Clementina kept printing even as her home & many of her possessions were sold to pay off her dead husband’s outstanding debts. She did manage to keep the printing press, however, & within a few months had turned her business around enough that was able to purchase “an elegant set of types from London.” She petitioned the House of Burgesses to continue granting her gazette their printing orders over a rival gazette published by Purdie and Dixon.

Clementina Rind Rind was not hesitant to express her own voice in the Virginia Gazette. She wrote articles that expressed her patriotic ideals, which supported rights of the American colonies & denounced British authority.  During her tenure, the Virginia Gazette carried an unusual number of poetic tributes to ladies in acrostic or rebus form, literary conceits, & news reports with a feminine slant. As conventional fillers she used sprightly vignettes of life in European high society, in rural England, & in other colonies.

Mrs. Rind was peculiarly sensitive to the good will of contributors & usually explained why specific offerings were not being published promptly. Sometimes, however, contributions were summarily rejected. Scarcely three months after Rind’s death her competitor, Alexander Purdie, published an anonymous open letter criticizing her refusal to print an article exposing the misconduct of some of “the guilty Great.” Her dignified reply, published in her own paper the next week, demonstrated independence, good sense, & literary skill.  She had rejected the article, she wrote, because it was an anonymous attack on the character of private persons & should be heard in a court of law, not in a newspaper; yet she promised: “When the author gives up his name, it shall, however repugnant to my inclination, have a place in this paper, as the principles upon which I set out will then, I flatter myself, plead my excuse with every party.” In later issues of her gazette contributors often expressed healthy respect for her standards & literary judgment.  Her bid for public favor was so well received, that she expanded her printing program & in April 1774, after 6 months as editor, announced the purchase of “an elegant set of types from London.” A month later the House of Burgesses appointed her public printer in her own right, & they continued to give her press all the public business in sprite of competing petitions from Purdie & Dixon, publishers of a rival Virginia Gazette.

In early 1774, she printed Thomas Jefferson's A Summary View of the Rights of British America just after Peyton Randolph read it aloud in his home to a gathering of Virginia patriots. George Washington was among the first to purchase a copy, writing in his diary that it cost him 3 shillings and ninepence. The pamphlet was reprinted in Philadelphia and London, and its importance has been described as "second only to the Declaration of Independence." It was a document Jefferson had drafted at Monticello for the guidance of Virginia's delegates to the Continental Congress. The colony's House of Burgesses considered the composition too radical for official endorsement, but a group of Jefferson's friends persuaded the Widow Rind to issue it as a pamphlet. Thus A Summary View of the Rights of British America appeared in August 1774. The future author of the Declaration of Independence later wrote: "If it had any merit, it was that of first taking our true ground, and that which was afterwards assumed and maintained."  

At the end of August, however, she became ill & found it difficult to collect those payments due her which she fretted over earlier; yet her pride in her work & her optimistic plans for the future were undiminished. She died in Williamsburg a only a month later & was probably buried beside her husband at Bruton Parish Church.

In a note published shortly before her death she wrote, “The generous support which the printer of this paper has received from the public, since the decease of her late husband, induces her once more to return the warmest acknowledgements. . .the printer would by no means be understood to boast a superiority in the conduct of a vehicle of this nature; she only advances, that it shall be her particular endeavor to amuse and instruct, and, at the same time, her firm determination, ever to preserve the dignity of her paper.” She ended the note, “I shall conclude the public’s most grateful, and much obliged, humble servant, Clementina Rind.”

Her readers prepared a number of poetic eulogies & a formal elegy of 150 lines. Although Clementina Rind lived only about 34 years, one obituary read, "a Lady of singular Merit, and universally esteemed."

On Sunday last died, Mrs. CLEMENTINA RIND. It ill beseems the printer, he apprehends, as
being a relation, to pretend to characterize her. The public, who must in general have been
acquainted with her, knew her qualifications. It shall, however, be his most ardent study to
protect her children . . .
Virginia Gazette September 29, 1774
From a reader
Ye mournful bards! Why are your lyres unstrung!
Shall Clementina’s praise remain unsung!
Sooner the lowest of the tuneful throng
Shall raise her lays to elegiac song:
To her, blest shade, a plaintive verse is due,
Lov’d by the muses, and fair science too;
And sure a happy proof of this remains,
In her soft numbers, and harmonious strains.
With manly sense, and fortitude of mind,
The softer graces of her sex combin’d,
To form a bright example in her life,
Of friend, of mistress, daughter, mother, wife.
Aid us, religion! To receive the strike,
Which fatally those dear connections broke.
When worth and genius prematurely die,
All men must give th’ involuntary sigh;
But when that worth is intimately known,
We pay the tribute of a heart-felt groan!
Virginia Gazette October 6, 1774

To check out issues of the various editions of the Virginia Gazette digitized copies from 1736-1780 are available on the Colonial Williamsburg site. Additional issues can be accessed on microfilm at the Library of Virginia. This posting based on information from Maryland State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse & from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971.