Tag Archives: 18th Century
Essay on Human Life and Happiness - April 5, 1774

Essay on Human Life and Happiness

This essay ran in The South Carolina Gazette & Country Journal.  This publication was heavily pro-American and nearly always included scandalous stories of European royalty. While it tended to be “stuffy,” it was the only paper to discuss citizens who would not be considered among the elite in society.

“What is life but a circulation of little mean actions? We lie down and rise again, dress and undress, feed and wax hungry, work or play, and are weary, and then we lie down again, and the circle returns. We spend the day in trifles, and, when the night comes, we throw ourselves into the bed of folly, amongst dreams and broken thought, and wild imaginations. Our reason lies asleep by us, and we are, for the time, as arrant brutes as those that sleep in the stalls or in a field. Are not the capacities of man higher than these? And ought not his ambition and expectations to be greater? Let us be adventurers for another world! It is at least a fair and noble chance, and there is nothing in this worth our thoughts, or our passions, If we should be disappointed, we are still no worse than the rest of our fellow mortals, and if we succeed in our expectations, we are eternally happy.” –Thomas Burnet (1635-1715)

No possession or enjoyment, within the round of mortal affairs, is commensurate to the desires, or adequate to the capacities of the mind. The most envied condition has its abatements, the happiest conjuncture of fortune leaves behind it many wishes; and after the highest gratifications, the mind is carried forward in pursuit of new ones ad infinitum . The love of virtue, of one’s friends and country, the generous sympathy with mankind, and the heroic zeal of doing good, which are all so natural to great and noble minds, (and some traces of which are found even in the lowest) are seldom united with proportioned means or opportunities of exercising them; so that the moral spring, the noble energies and impulses of the mind, can hardly find proper scope, even in the most fortunate condition; but are much depressed in some, and almost entirely restrained in others, in the generality, by the numerous clogs of an indigent, sickly or embarrassed life.


The First White Men in the Shenandoah Valley

The First White Men in the Shenandoah Valley

On a summer’s day in the year 1716, Governor Alexander Spotswood, with a party of twenty or thirty horsemen, set cut from Williamsburg, the capital of the Virginia colony, to ascertain for himself what sort of country lay west and north of the great “Blue Mountains.” There was good reason to believe that several Indian tribes of uncertain friendship might be found there; and who else or what else nobody seemed quite certain, save the ignorant and superstitious, who declared that there were monsters and mysteries numerous and dreadful enough.

The Governor may have had predominantly in mind objects much more commonplace and practical than the simple clearing up of superstitions and mysteries. Doubtless the elements of romance and danger afforded a considerable stimulus toward a jaunt; but he must have been seriously in earnest about something, to undertake an expedition of nearly two hundred miles up country, past the very frontiers and into the wilderness.

The full-text search capability of the American County Histories database permits the student/researcher to explore all the publications of a particular county by using a single query. In addition, those wishing to read or browse the text on a page by page basis may do so in the original format merely by scrolling down the screen and then continuing to the next chapter.


“Negro Generosity” in 1790 Jamaica

Jamaica, Feb. 5, 1790

The following are recent instances of negro generosity, notwithstanding we are too apt to consider them as mere stupid beasts of burden:

An estate under a heavy mortgage was sold from its owner, who soon after died, leaving a widow, a son, and two daughters in very distressed circumstances. The negroes (having been formerly well treated) had a meeting, and agreed to pay an annuity of half a bit a week, each, for the support of their old master’s family. Seeing the son, soon after, passing through the plantation in a ragged coat, they assembled again, and made up a purse of three pounds (equal to nine dollars) with which they bought cloth and linen to refit him. This was an extra bounty, not interfering with the stipend, which they continue to pay regularly.

Another planter was sued for a very considerable amount, in consequence of several protested bills. Judgment was obtained, and writs issued against the property, when the negroes assembled before the door with a large sum of money tied up in bags made of old stockings, and said, if that was insufficient, hey would try to borrow as much more from their friends and relations.

These instances prove, that negroes are not brutish in their nature, and by no means divested of the finer feelings.

The Pennsylvania Gazette was one of the United States’ most prominent newspapers from 1728—before the time period of the American Revolution—until 1800. Published in Philadelphia from 1728 through 1800, The Pennsylvania Gazette is considered The New York Times of the 18th century.

Source: The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 17, 1790


Rules for Kings in 1773

The Virginia Gazette was the first newspaper published in Virginia and the first to be published in the area south of the Potomac River in the colonial period of the United States. Issues have the following subtitle: “Containing the freshest advices, foreign and domestick.

Rules for Kings

The conceptions of Kings are commonly as far above the vulgar as their conditions; for being higher elevated, and walking upon the battlements of sovereignty, they sooner receive the inspirations of Heaven. The greatest potentates of the earth are but weak, penetrable things; and, though somewhat refined and kneaded down from that coarser fort of stuff which goeth to the compositions of the citizens of the world, yet they are so much the more brittle ware, only they differ in their office, which nevertheless makes them to have far less to hope for than to fear.

How poor is that Prince, amidst all his wealth, whose subjects are only kept by a slavish fear, the gaoler of the soul. An iron arm, fastened with a screw, may be stronger, but never so useful, because not so natural as an arm of flesh, joined with muscles and sinews: So loving subjects are more serviceable, as being more kindly united to their Sovereign than those which are only forced on with fear and threatening.

Published weekly in Williamsburg, Virginia between 1736 and 1780, The Virginia Gazette contained news covering all of Virginia and also included information from other colonies, Scotland, England and additional countries. The paper appeared in three competing versions from a succession of publishers over the years, some published concurrently, and all under the same title.


South Carolina Classified

These classified ads ran in the August 12, 1778 issue of The Gazette of the State of South Carolina.

To be disposed of at private Sale, very reasonable – A Likely Negro Man, who has always been used to the field till these three years past, since whichtime he has been used to attend a single man, and sometimes to work out. He is sold no fault, the owner having no occasion for him. -Enquire of the Printers.

Twenty Pounds Reward – RUN away the subscriber, on the 27th ult.a dark Mulatto man named Sam, a Shoemaker by trade; he has a large bushy head of hair, is 5 feet six inches high, well set, and had on when he went away, a straw hat, a plaid Jacket, white breeches,and Oznabrugs shirt. It is supposed he is either harboured about Charlestown, or near Mr. Weston’s plantation in the parish of Christchurch. Whoever brings him to me, or to the Warden of the Work-house, shall be entitled to the above reward.

Our South Carolina Newspapers collection contains a wealth of information on colonial and early American History and genealogy, and provides an accurate glimpse of life in South Carolina and America in the 18th century.

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