Tuesday, September 29, 2015

American Biography - Clementina Rind 1740-1774, Printer for Thomas Jefferson & Editor of the Virginia Gazette

Clementina Rind (1740-1774), printer & newspaper editor, wife of William Rind, public printer in Maryland & Virginia, is said to have been a native of Maryland. She may have been the daughter of William Elder (1707-1775) & his wife Jacoba Clementina Livers (1717-1807) of Prince George’s County, Maryland. The name Clementina often referred to James, the Old Pretender to the English throne, & his wife Jacoba Clementina.

Depiction of Clementina Rind

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 a kinsman, John Pinkney; an apprentice, Isaac Collins; & a Negro slave, Dick who probably worked as a semiskilled artisan.

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 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.

Apparently women were valued readers of her paper, for it 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 payments due her; 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.

Her readers prepared a number of poetic eulogies & a formal elegy of 150 lines. Although Clementina Rind lived only about 34 years, her brief obituary read, "a Lady of singular Merit, and universally esteemed." Beneath extravagant metaphors one can see her reader’s sincere affection & admiration for a woman who combined wide interests, literary talent, & sound professional judgment.

This posting based, in part, on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971

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