AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS OF PUBLIC SPHERE:
THE REVOLUTIONARY TAVERNS
OF PHILADELPHIA AND
Shannon Higgins Sharkey
B.A., University of Colorado Boulder, 2003
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Shannon Higgins Sharkey
has been approved
hr. 2.t ZjO(Q
Sharkey, Shannon Higgins (M.A., History)
American Institutions of Public Sphere: The Revolutionary Taverns of Philadelphia
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Carl Pletsch
Americas Revolutionary generation gathered inside urban taverns of colonial
America, fostering a new sphere of rational-critical discourse, working as equals in
protest of British offenses, and representing their fellow Americans. The unique
nature of tavern association in Revolutionary America requires its inclusion among
institutions of the public sphere.
As the Enlightenment movement chipped away at the unquestioned authority
of long-standing power structures in Europe, particular institutions emerged in
support of the publics newfound voice, influence, and knowledge. French salons,
English coffee houses, Masonic Lodges, and German literary societies are well
known as institutions of the public sphere in Europe. No such eighteenth-century
American institution has been identified to equal those in Europe, but the urban
tavern is a prime candidate.
Taverns across Revolutionary America reflected similarities in their services,
functions, and activities. Often the tavern and bedlam went hand-in-hand, as patrons
rioted, fought, got drunk, gambled, and so forth. But taverns also sponsored the
Enlightenment by providing a daring to know environment that catered to
discussion, learning, science, egalitarianism, government, and culture. Within such
taverns Americans adhered to Enlightenment tenets and the public sphere blossomed.
Whether in Philadelphia or in Charleston, taverns of the public sphere held
characteristics in common beyond normal business operations, occasional
debauchery, and enlightened aspirations. Americas revolutionary, urban taverns
truly became institutions of the public sphere when particular taverns were
architecturally adequate, supplied newspapers, favored the patronage of an American
leadership, and fostered discourse to define and uphold colonial liberty. Inside
Philadelphias City Tavern or Ramadges Tavern in Charleston, for instance,
American attentions coalesced on the British/American conflict, specifically, the
Non-Importation Agreements, the Tea Act, and the First Continental Congress.
Under these circumstances, Americas revolutionary leaders were compelled to enter
the tavern scene. Once inside, the manner of discussion and interaction, the purposes
behind each meeting, and the stated intentions of the participants were clearly
indicative of an institution of the public sphere.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I dedicate this thesis to my husband, Mike and to my son, Truman. This final
product, indeed my entire graduate experience, simply would not exist without you,
Mike. Thank you for the selfless husband and father that you so naturally are.
Thanks to my advisor, Carl Pletsch, for his role in my discovery of the
Enlightenment, his encouragement in my pursuits of publication, and for nurturing
this topic with me from the beginning, when I stumbled upon it in his Enlightenment
Thanks also to Myra L. Rich and Thomas G. Andrews, my other committee
members. Your insights, honesty, support, and energy have been invaluable to me,
not only in this thesis process, but during my entire graduate experience.
Thank you to my parents, Jim and Sally Higgins, for your joyful acceptance of my
interests, goals, and decisions and your unfaltering support and guidance in all my
pursuits, academic and beyond. I truly value having learned from you and love
learning with you.
Thanks to everyone who offered their babysitting services as I juggled completing
this thesis and becoming a new mom. My husband, parents, my sister Paige Higgins,
and my mother-in-law, Kathy Sharkey helped me to finish this task on time. Thanks
to all my other family members for your encouragement, especially my brother,
Lastly, this project first centered on Philadelphia because of two people, my
grandparents, James Francis Higgins and Mary Kennedy Higgins. As native
Philadelphians, they have connected me to a city that I have never lived in myself
and they made me love it. Thank you for this special relationship, not only with
Philadelphia, but with the both of you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION...................................... 1
2. HABERMAS AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE.....................4
3. PHILADELPHIA AND CHARLESTON...................... 15
4. THE EXPECTED AND UNEXPECTED OF TAVERN LIFE........28
Enlightenment in Action.........................32
5. TAVERNS WILL BE TAVERNS...........................39
6. TAVERNS OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE......................50
7. TAVERNS OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE: AGENCY..............69
Agency: The Tea Act.............................73
Agency: The First Continental Congress..........78
Every delegate knew the way. Representatives from each colony except
Georgia walked the path to the same door. Striding down Second Street, or maybe
over from Chestnut, the shade under the awning enticed many a man to quicken his
step, anticipating the conversation of that late summer in Philadelphia. Often spurred
onward by a percolating thought, a new perspective, or a possible solution, any
delegate knew his compatriots inside waited with eager ears. Stepping under the
awning, up the marble stairs, and through the door the representative entered the
main hallway, book-ended by four rooms to either side. On his left were the front
and back coffee rooms, with maps rolled open before merchants, hot coffee or tea
or something strongerwarm in the hands of men with potentially hot tempers, deep
in political discussion. On his right was the Subscription Room, stocked with a
bounty of everything that proprietor Daniel Smith subscribed to. Patrons read
magazines and newspapers, ships manifests, and letters of decree alongside letter
writers and journal scribes in this space. And in the back right comer, a tighter
roomcubicle-likepartitioned by high-backed wooden booths, the main fireplace,
and a small nook closeted off by a Dutch door, a barred gate, and a window. Out-
flowing from this room, like arteries pumping blood away from the heart, was an
altogether different liquid, but one that nevertheless fueled the life and spirit buzzing
in every cavity of the structure. This was the Bar Room, the space that made the
building what it officially wasa tavern. Philadelphias City Tavern.1
Delegates to 1774s First Continental Congress gave it other names. Rhode
Islands Samuel Ward took to calling it New Tavern, while James Duane of New
York preferred Smiths Tavern. On his first visit, John Adams declared it the most
genteel tavern in America.2 Over the course of fifty-one days the City Tavern
played host to free and open discussions on the difficult questions that America then
facedcolonial rights and the proper defense of them, non-importation, non-
exportation, war or reconciliation with Great Britain, colonial unity, the immediate
danger facing Massachusetts, and numerous others. By day these critical issues
occupied Congress as they sat in Carpenters Hall; by night, delegates gathered
inside their adopted headquarters at the City Tavern. Indeed Virginias Richard
Henry Lee declared Liberty Hall, as its nom de plum ,3 So to members of the
Continental Congress, City Tavern was no ordinary bar.
1 Walter Staib and Paul Bauer, The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American
Cuisine (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2009), 27-29.
2 John Adams Diary, August 29, 1774, in Letters of Delegates to Congress: 1774-1789, Paul Smith,
ed., Volume I (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1976), 3 and 9n6.
3 John Adams Autobiography, Part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 17 of 53 [electronic
edition], Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society,
http://www.masshist.ora digitaladams/ (accessed August 4, 2010}, 3.
As the center of rebel government the City Taverns role as the backdrop for
the unfolding of American history is indisputable and well documented.4 Less well
documented is City Taverns central role in that history as an institution of the public
sphere. Unique but not quite an anomaly, Philadelphias City Tavern rose to
prominence among a company of revolutionary taverns that sheltered the incipient
American public sphere. Further, Philadelphia was not the sole guardian of public
sphere, as specific taverns in Charleston, South Carolina demonstrated. Indeed,
Americas revolutionary, urban taverns were the most salient institutions of the
public sphere provided that those taverns were architecturally adequate, supplied
their customers with newspapers, favored the patronage of an American leadership,
and fostered discourse to define and uphold colonial liberty. Amid the complexities
of the American public sphere and among the institutions created to satisfy it, such
taverns stand out as an unrecognized arena into early American public discourse.
4 Staib and Bauer, The City Tavern Cookbook, 24.
HABERMAS AND THE PUBLIC SPHERE
Jurgen Habermas, German sociologist and philosopher, completed The
Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of
Bourgeois Society for publication in 1962. Close to three decades later, at the behest
of historians of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France and America, an English
translation hit the presses.5 The English edition introduced non-German speakers to
the concept of the bourgeois public sphere that is now employed by many historians.
The public sphere, according to Habermas,
may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a
public; they soon claimed the public sphere regulated from above against the public
authorities themselves, to engage them in a debate over the general rules governing
relations in the basically privatized but publicly relevant sphere of commodity
exchange and social labor. The medium of this political confrontation was peculiar
and without historical precedent: peoples public use of their reason.6
The public sphere became a popular concept in the 1990s, although no
agreement emerged on its value. A variety of scholarly writing on the public sphere
since that decade has confirmed, challenged, critiqued, expanded upon, refuted, or
5 Harold Mah, Phantasies of the Public Sphere: Rethinking the Habermas of Historians, The Journal
of Modem History 72 (March, 2000): 153-182.
6 Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category
of Bourgeois Society, ed. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press,
upheld Habermass thesis. While no historical consensus exists today regarding what
the public sphere is, historians do agree on what it is not. The public sphere is not
an authoritative statement but...an immensely fruitfiil generator of new research,
analysis, and theory.7 The understanding of the public sphere assumed for this
thesis focuses on the social conditions required for a rational-critical debate about
public issues conducted by private persons willing to let arguments and not statuses
determine decisions.8 The power of argument, so crucial to the public sphere, first
thrived in very specific places.
Unlike the twenty-first centurys intangible digital public, in the eighteenth
century the public sphere could actually be located. And in fact, Habermass public
sphere thrived inside institutions. Focusing on England, France, and Germany,
between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries, Habermas identified English
coffee houses, French salons, and German literary societies (along with table
societies and Masonic lodges) as exemplary public sphere institutions. Inside a
French salon, philosophes reveled in an egalitarian, governed, social structure in
which the salonniere kept order. At the salon, networks of social and intellectual
exchange were being developed to connect the capital with the four comers of
France and the cosmopolitan republic. The salon better represented and better
7 Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992), 41.
8 Ibid., 1.
supported the new Republic of Letters, whose aim was to serve humanity and whose
project was Enlightenment.9
Salonnieres ran these public institutions inside their private homes, but
English coffee houses were in public buildings. Entrance to this institution required a
dismissal of rank at the door and sometimes an admission fee. Inside the ungoverned
coffee houses, patrons spoke with whom they wished or paged through the provided
newspapers. The atmosphere of the coffee houses could be used to construct a new
sort of order to replace the authorities of church and state.10 Indeed, in England
the coffee houses were considered seedbeds of political unrest.11 Taken together,
the salons and the coffee houses promoted such ideals as political autonomy,
publicity, and worldliness of the society defined by conversation; reciprocity, mutual
respect, and equality among members of it; and unity of spoken and written
discourse in it. The development of these values in both salons and coffee houses
served as a project of Enlightenment which required both order and freedom,
women and men, to achieve its end of advancing the good of society and
9 Dena Goodman, The Republic of Letters: A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment (Ithaca:
Cornell University Press, 1994), 52.
10 Ibid., 121-122.
11 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 59.
12 Goodman, The Republic of Letters, 132.
Masonic lodges strove for a universal brotherhood and also emphasized the
importance of equality and cosmopolitanism. Masonic fraternity powerfully
expressed the ideas of the early Enlightenment, especially its order, simplicity and
social harmony.13 Freemasonry helped expand the public sphere as it blended
hierarchical and meritocratic norms, giving freemasonry a social and ideological
elasticity that enabled it to bridge the worlds of noble and bourgeois.14 As an
adjustable form of association, freemasons entered the public sphere and used their
institution to gain specific political ends.
Comparisons among these European institutions revealed similarities, four in
particular, which Habermas identified as criteria of a public sphere. The first is
egalitarianism. Within a salon, a coffee house, or a table society, participants
preserved a kind of social intercourse that, far from presupposing the equality of
status, disregarded status altogether. This tendency replaced the celebration of rank
with a tact befitting equals. The ideal often went unrealized. But the very notion
that egalitarian communities could exist represented novel thinking in the eighteenth
Visitors to the public spheres institutions expected not only social equality,
but also equal consideration in their presentation and reception of ideas. This is
13 Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the
American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 4, 26.
14 James Van Horn Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2001), 265.
Habermass second criterion. Habermas says, the parity on whose basis alone the
authority of the better argument could assert itself against that of social hierarchy and
in the end can carry the day meant, in the thought of the day, the parity ofcommon
humanity.15 In the public sphere, rational argument was the sole arbiter of any
Third, inside these institutions of the public sphere, participants determined
truth and meaning independent of higher or outside influence. With the emergence of
the new public sphere, according to Habermas, the private people for whom the
cultural product became available as a commodity profaned it inasmuch as they had
to determine its meaning on their own (by way of rational communication with one
another), verbalize it, and thus state explicitly what precisely in its implicitness for so
long could assert its authority.17 Often these meanings threatened long-standing
power structures. As Habermas scholar Craig Calhoun puts it, all sorts of topics
over which church and state authorities had hitherto exercised a virtual monopoly of
interpretation were opened to discussion, inasmuch as the public defined its
15 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 36.
16 Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere, 13.
17 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 36-37.
discourse as focusing on all matters of common concern.18 Participants of the public
sphere, as Immanuel Kant believed, must free themselves of tutelage.19
Fourth and finally, Habermas recognized the public spheres representative
nature. He pointed out that while the public sphere might appear and often was
exclusive, its members could never entirely detach themselves from the larger public.
The greater public encompassed everyone, including the congregations of coffee
houses, salons or literary societies. As Habermas explains,
however exclusive the public might be in any given instance, it could never close
itself off entirely and become consolidated as a clique; for it always understood and
found itself immersed within a more inclusive public of all private people, persons
whoinsofar as they were propertied and educatedas readers, listeners, and
spectators could avail themselves via the market of the objects that were subject to
discussion. The issues discussed became general not merely in their significance,
but also in their accessibility: everyone had to be able to participate. Wherever the
public established itself institutionally as a stable group of discussants, it did not
equate itself with the public but at most claimed to act as its mouthpiece, in its name,
perhaps even as its educatorthe new form of bourgeois representation. The public
of the first generations, even when it constituted itself as a specific circle of persons,
was conscious of being part of a larger public.20
While the public spheres institutions sanctioned exclusive meetings, Habermas still
suggested the basic inclusiveness of the public sphereat least in principle.
18 Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere, 13.
19 German philosopher, Immanuel Kant summarized the Enlightenments creed: Dare to know! But
individuals cannot hope to accomplish Enlightenment under the influence of tutelage. Kant explains:
Enlightenment is mans release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is mans inability to make
use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause
lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from
another.; Isaac Kramnick, ed., The Portable Enlightenment Reader (New York: Penguin Books,
20 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 37.
Coffee houses. Salons. Masonic Lodges. German literary societies. All
British and European institutions of the public sphere. In Structural Transformation
of the Public Sphere Habermas played within the European arena. In fact, Habermas
only mentioned the United States in his examination of the public spheres
progression from its original state, therefore ignoring eighteenth-century Americas
contribution to the public sphere. He did not claim that eighteenth-century America
lacked a public sphere, however, and over the last fifty years historians have tried to
identify it. Todays historians claim that the American public sphere existed in the
culture of manners, in print discourse, and in specific institutions. Other scholars
define actual physical spaces as public sphere, while others discovered it in political
activity and dissent.21
Eighteenth-century America seems an obvious vessel of public sphere. The
doctrine of American exceptionalism states that since its first conception as a City
on a Hill, the United States has been a nation set apart, a country that believed in
extraordinary definitions of public. From the outset the very nature of colonialism,
21 For historical studies on public sphere, see David Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in
British-America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997); Michael Warner, The
Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990); Peter J. Thompson, Rum, Punch and Revolution:
Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1999); David W. Conroy, In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of
Authority in Colonial Massachusetts (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); Sharon
V. Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
2002); Benjamin L. Carp, Rebels Rising: Cities and the American Revolution (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2007); Saul Cornell, The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting
Tradition in America, 1788-1828 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999).
the hard facts of everyday life on the new American continent, dictated a degree of
popular participation in government.22 Later, on the brink of a war, in the events
leading up to the fighting, ordinary men and women in America were roused by a
number of factors. There was the desire for a republicthe commitment to place
each selfish and separate interest in the search for the res publica, the public thing
the common good. Let us not underestimate this. It was strongly intuited by a great
many people who could barely write their names.23 The Second Continental
Congress declared independence and each sovereign state drafted constitutions and
voided old charters. During the Constitutional Convention, James Madisons
Virginia Plan ensured that American citizens delegated authority both to the
national government and to the states, thereby giving it the power to act
independently in its own sphere, as well as imposing restrictions on the actions of the
state.24 The constitutional ratification process and the public debates it fostered
further pulled average Americans into the governmental process. Americas
revolutionary and constitutional periods encompassed exemplary strides in popular
government. It is far from surprising that the public sphere flourished here because
the public was monumentally essential to Americas very existence. And
Revolutionary America certainly provided institutions for that public sphere.
22 Edmund S. Morgan, Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and
America (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988), 122.
23 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998), 147.
24 Ibid., 185.
But American historians are usually sidetracked by the essence of public
sphere, not by discovering its institutions, and these same historians rarely adhere to
Habermass criteria. Europes public institutions have long been identified. There,
the public sphere occurred at coffee houses, salons, and lodges, but these same
places were not the public sphere in and of themselves. Therefore, an American
public sphere need not necessarily be confined in a coffee house, salon, or lodge.
Habermas says as much himself, recognizing that however much the German table
societies, salons, and coffee houses may have differed in the size and composition of
their publics, the style of their proceedings, the climate of their debates, and their
topical orientations, they all organized discussion among private people that tended
to be ongoing.25 To reveal public institutions in America, we must detach the public
sphere from its specifically European examples. This is necessary, for one, because
coffee houses, salons, literary societies, and lodges were not nearly as common in the
American colonies as in Europe. Historian Sharon Salinger says that unlike Europe
and England, most colonial towns and villages boasted only two types of public
buildingschurches and tavernsand public drinking houses were far more
common than public houses of worship.26 Furthermore, America lacked the soundly
established upper classes of Europe and England. Salons and coffee houses divorced
25 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 36.
26 Sharon V. Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 2002), 4.
aristocratic men and women from the lower classes, but eighteenth-century
American society lacked such stringent stratification. For instance, Philadelphian
Samuel Carpenter tried to open and operate the citys first coffee house in the late
seventeenth century and failed. The history of Carpenters Coffee House
illustrates the difficulty of establishing an exclusive meeting space in a city with an
assertive and undeferential population. The vulgar and ignorant demanded
access to Carpenters and, given the existence of controls on the maximum retail
price of drinks, there was little that a coffee housekeeper could do to keep them out
short of applying commercial suicidal snobbery.27
English and European elites heard no such complaints.
American institutions of the public sphere are best detected by using
Habermass criteria as guidelines and testing each criterion, along with supplemental
public sphere scholarship, against innately American institutions. Americas
revolutionary, urban taverns are potential candidates. At the very least, the fact that
colonials knew their tavernkeeper as the publican, indicates the taverns special
role in the eighteenth-century American experience. But of course, not all taverns, at
all times, served as institutions of the public sphere. However a few specific
American taverns did conform to the four criteria of Habermass specification. In
addition, an examination of these taverns suggests a purely American feature of
public sphere. What drew people inside a tavern and when would the sociability in
taverns amount to public discourse in Habermass sense? Was there agency? In
America, the agency was the conflict with England, the impetus that supplied the
27 Peter Thompson, Rum, Punch, and Revolution: Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century
Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999), 91.
need for public sphere. Without the American-British tensions of the 1760s and
1770s, would there have been reason for particular people to convene, in particular
taverns, thereby fulfilling every criteria of Habermass design? Incontrovertibly, the
crumbling empire-colony relationship and the American desire to resolve it made
revolutionary taverns tangible centers of the public sphere.
As the eighteenth centurys epicenter of American political life, Philadelphia
claimed some of these public sphere taverns. But the same kind of taverns, though to
a lesser degree, decorated the streets of Charleston, South Carolina as well. This
American public institution, common to several colonial cities, is strong enough to
stand comparison to the corresponding European institutions. Americas
revolutionary, urban taverns were institutions of the public sphere. Made possible
because of the conflict with England, specific architecturally unique taverns, ones
stocked with newspapers, frequented by political leadership, and headquarters to
American resistance, meet all of Habermass criteria.
PHILADELPHIA AND CHARLESTON
The taverns of Philadelphia and Charleston inevitably reflected
characteristics of their respective cities. The interests, entertainments, and aspirations
of city dwellers molded taverns accordingly, because taverns were often the
receptacle of those interests. In the eighteenth-century, Philadelphia and Charleston
seemed more similar than not, sharing common goals, getting excited over the same
novelties, and raising like-minded people. Yet, when the Revolution began,
Philadelphia and Charleston were also sharply different, defining themselves by
dissimilar traits. Nevertheless, whether middle colony or southern colony, whether
leader or follower, whether prosperous or frightfully rich, both Philadelphia and
Charleston produced taverns of the public sphere.
Pennsylvania and South Carolina were products of the seventeenth century.
William Penn received a royal charter for the land that would become Pennsylvania
in 1681 and built his capital, Philadelphia, on the Delaware River in 1682. Settlers of
English, Dutch, Swedish, Scottish, and German origins started new lives in this city.
It was a city that sanctioned ethnic cosmopolitanism and religious toleration, the
latter dearly important to William Penn himself. Growing throughout the eighteenth
century, Philadelphia eventually became the second largest city in the British
Empire, bested only by London. By the time of Revolution, as the largest colonial
city, with the busiest port in British North America, and home to a swelling
population, Philadelphia had obviously thrived.28 Thirty thousand people resided
there in 1770 and by 1774 that number had jumped to forty thousand.29
If Philadelphia was the place in America, then Charleston was the place of
the South. In 1663 King Charles II granted the Carolina territory to a group of
investors who called themselves Lord Proprietors. They founded Charleston in 1670
on a peninsula between the Ashley River to the west and Cooper River to the east.
English settlers arrived first, followed by French, Irish, Scots, Spanish, and
Germans.30 Like Philadelphia, Charleston strove for religious toleration. In the
eighteenth century, Charleston was the preeminent city of the colonial south and the
third busiest seaport on the Atlantic.31 Charlestons exploits in the deerskin trade,
and its successes in the production of rice and indigo added to the citys mounting
wealth. While expanding in riches and renown, Charlestons population remained
modest in 1770, counting only 11,000 to 12,000 people half of whom were slaves.
28 Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 197.
29 Joseph E. Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: A History (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1976),
30 Robert MiddlekaufF, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1982), 447.
31 William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, The Web of Progress: Private Values and Public Styles in
Boston and Charleston, 1828-1843, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 9.
Eighteenth-century Philadelphians and Charlestonians shared a drive for
intellectual and cultural refinement. In each city the libraries, scientific lectures, the
theater, concerts, and dancing offered the means to attain such discernments.
Benjamin Franklin, Americas foremost philosophe, played a monumental role in
building Philadelphias cutting-edge society. In 1731 Franklin founded the Library
Company of Philadelphia, in 1745 he created his American Philosophical Society,
and in 1749 Franklin established the Academy and College of Philadelphia.
Franklins involvement ensured Enlightenment hues to these institutions, such as a
glorification of reason, a daring to know, attitude, and an excitement toward
science and new education. Of the Library Companys original books, Baron
Pufendorf s Laws of Nature, Cato's Letters, Plutarchs Lives, Paul de Rapins
History of England, Joseph Addisons Works, and Homers Iliad and Odyssey were
just some of the titles that stood on the shelves. The Company also ordered British
magazines like The Spectator, The Tatler, The Guardian, and The Turkish Spy.32
With each passing decade, the librarys collection grew to include records of the
votes of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, histories of the countries of the world,
classical greats, and the works of David Hume, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison,
Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Benjamin Franklin by 1769.
32 George Maurice Abbott, A Short History of the Library Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia:
The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1913), 5-6, at HathiTrust Digital Library
http:, babel.hathitrust.ortj/cgi/nt?id-indp.39015033939565 (accessed June 21, 2010).
After starting with fifty books in 1732, by 1807 Philadelphias Library Company
Charleston did not have a Benjamin Franklin, but she did have a library.
Southern historian David Moltke-Hansen has labeled the Charleston Library Society,
established in 1748, as the chief intellectual institution in the city.34 Growing from
nine members to at least 275 in three decades, the Rutledges, the Pinckneys, and
merchants, doctors, and lawyers all sought memberships.35 Sitting in their reading
room, or in a taverns quiet comer, members leafed through magazines, many from
Britain. Francis Bacons Works, William Blackstones Commentaries on the Laws of
England, Cato's Letters, Francis Hutchinsons An Essay on the Nature and Conduct
of the Passions and Affections, John Miltons Paradise Lost, Montesquieus The
Spirit of the Laws, Virgils Works, and many others decorated the stacks.36 The
Library Society supported the construction of the College of Charleston in 1770,
33 The Library Company of Philadelphia, A Catalogue of the Books Belonging to the Library
Company of Philadelphia: To which is Prefixed a Short Account of the Institution, with the Charter,
Laws, and Regulations, (Philadelphia: Bartram and Reynolds, 1807), x, 3, 99, 137, 212, 262, 296,
601, at HathiTrust Digital Library http://cataloa-hathitrust.ora/Record/OOI 165806 (accessed June
34 David Moltke-Hansen, The Expansion of Intellectual Life: A Prospectus, in Intellectual Life in
Antebellum Charleston, ed. Michael OBrien and David Moltke-Hansen (Knoxville: The University
of Tennessee Press, 1986), 23.
35 James Raven, London Booksellers and American Customers: Transatlantic Literary Community
and the Charleston Library Society, 1748-1811 (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South
Carolina, 2002), 67 and George C. Rogers, Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), 99-100.
36 Raven, London Booksellers and American Customers, 357-374.
opened a public museum in 1773, and requested volunteers to help them compose a
natural history of South Carolina.37 38
Charlestons central intellectual organization was the Charleston Library
Society, but Philadelphia had another besides its library. The American
Philosophical Society promoted useful knowledge. An offspring of Franklins Junto,
a club that discussed current events, pondered philosophical questions, and strove
toward self-improvement, the Philosophical Society took Junto ideas further.
Original members included doctors, surveyors, a reverend, and many well-known
colonials, such as Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Galloway, and William Franklin, the
Governor of New Jersey. American Philosophical Society members explored
useful subjects and conversed on topics like recently discovered plants and their
uses, newfound methods of disease prevention and eradication, improvements in
mathematics, arts, trades, manufactures, surveys, maps, and charts, in short, all
philosophical experiments that let light into the nature of things. In time, the
American Philosophical Society broadened its influence beyond Philadelphia and did
extend to Charleston. As an intercolonial Junto, the Society would be based in
Philadelphia and include scientists and thinkers from other cities. They would share
37 The Charleston Library Society, Our History, Charleston Library Society,
http://www.charlestonlibrarvsocietv.org/index.htrnl (accessed August 9, 2010).
38 American Philosophical Society, List of Members of the American Philosophical Society, Held at
Philadelphia, for Promoting Useful Knowledge (Philadelphia: The Society, 1865), 1-2, at Hathi
Trust Digital Library http:/7catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007077858 (accessed June 21, 2010).
their studies by post, and abstracts would be sent to each member four times a
Philadelphia pioneered in science and medicine, thanks in large part to the
Academy and College of Philadelphia and Charleston shined in these fields as well.40
Both cities shared the Enlightenments fascination with science and taverns often
hosted scientific activities. In Pennsylvania, advertisements appealing to the
entertainment of the curious peppered the pages of The Pennsylvania Gazette,
encouraging readers to attend scientific lectures and experiments. For instance,
Ebenezer Kinnersley, a colonial scientist-on-the-rise, invited Philadelphians to an
exhibition of electrical experiments at the college, specifically focusing on the
nature and properties of lightning41 Additionally, well-known Philadelphian, Dr.
Benjamin Rush, delivered a speech for the American Philosophical Society early in
1774 containing an Enquiry into the natural History of Medicine among the Indians
in North America, and a comparative View of their Diseases and Remedies with
39 Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 55,
40 Henry Steele Commager, The Empire of Reason: How Europe Imagined and America Realized the
Enlightenment (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1977), 17.
41 Philadelphia, March 2, 1774, The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 2, 1774, in Accessible Archives,
http: vwww. accessible.com;accessible/docButton?AAW,hat-=builtPage&AAWhere=THEPENNSYLV
AN1 AG AZETTE.G A1774030245.54974&AABeanName=toc3&AANextPage= printBrowseBuiltPag
e.isp (accessed March 23, 2010).
those of civilized Nations.42 A hot commodity, Dr. Rush repeatedly filled lecture
Equally entranced by science, Charlestons most intellectually active area
was medicine.44 Before 1770, twenty-three of South Carolinas practicing physicians
belonged to the library society, which lent out books on physics, anatomy, surgery,
drugs, fevers, and so on. South Carolinas doctors investigated diverse and
pioneering avenues of their field. John Moultrie practiced obstetrics while Lionel
Chalmers preferred medical research. John Lining, perhaps Charlestons most
noteworthy physician, believed in the relationship between the local climate and ill
health and mortality, which prompted his meteorological experiments. South
Carolinas climate and environment enhanced the citys national and international
fascination with the botany and wildlife of the colony promoted broader interest in
natural history and proved an effective bridge to scientific experiment and
discussion. The natural environment of Charleston and the lowcountry estates
offered would-be savants an extraordinary opportunity to engage in an international
42 Just published, and to be sold by Joseph Crukshank, The Pennsylvania Gazette, April 27, 1774, in
e.jsp (accessed June 2010).
43 At the request of a number of his fellow citizens, Dr. Rush..., The Pennsylvania Gazette,
December 28, 1774, in Accessible Archives,
e.jsp (accessed March 23, 2010).
44 Arthur H. Shaffer, David Ramsay and the Limits of Revolutionary Nationalism, in Intellectual
Life in Antebellum Charleston, ed. Michael OBrien and David Moltke-Hansen (Knoxville: The
University of Tennessee Press, 1986), 50.
exchange of information. For once, this meant that library members were far more
than just supplicants for learning from the mother country and from past
Living within an enviable natural bounty, Charlestons scientists collected
specimens, dabbled in electrical experiments, and sharpened their expertise in
botany, zoology, geology, and ornithology. Dr. Alexander Garden, in fact, gained
international repute for his descriptive study of local plants, his correspondence and
dispatch of specimens to Europe, and his botanical and zoological writings.45 46
Charleston and Philadelphia were close rivals in this area.
Philadelphians and Charlestonians reveled in the cultural arts as well. They
danced, sang, sat for portraits, attended concerts, and indulged in the thespian scene,
purchasing tickets for the entertainments at the local taverns bar. Philadelphians
often sweetened their cultural attractions by accompanying them with something
scientific, such as fireworks.47 In Charleston, dancing masters Henry Holt and Henry
Campbell advertised subscription balls at the long room in John Gordons tavern and
the St. Cecilia Society organized amateur and professional music concerts, starting in
1766. Charlestonians so enjoyed classic and contemporary English plays, that they
45 Ibid., 167.
46 Ibid., 166-170.
47 By Permission, The Pennsylvania Gazette, August 19, 1772, in Accessible Archives,
AN1 AGAZETTE.GA1772081917.51572&AABeanName=toc3&AANextPage- printBrowseBuiltPag
e.jsp (accessed March 23, 2010).
built a brand new playhouse in 1773, just in time to witness incomparably the most
brilliant season in the history of colonial theater.48
Over the eighteenth century, Philadelphia and Charleston expanded their
geographic limits, their economies, and their populations. They both remained
religiously tolerant and cosmopolitan. Their ports bustled. And both cities matured in
the pursuit and consumption of knowledge within intellectual, scientific, and cultural
realms, although Philadelphias opportunities and results in these areas happened
earlier and were more sophisticated than in Charleston. Despite the surprising
similarities, Philadelphia and Charleston each possessed unique identities. Historians
agree that Philadelphia emerged as a colonial leader, a city that pioneered in all
things from government to education, from manners to philosophy, and from science
to cosmopolitanism. Charleston by contrast, tended to follow the example of others,
particularly of England.
Philadelphia captivated and impressed its locals and visitors. George
Washington observed that Pennsylvania...especially from the celebrity of
Philadelphia, has become the general receptacle of foreigners from all countries and
of all descriptions, many of whom take an active part in the state...49 Likewise,
passing through Philadelphia in 1774, New Englander Josiah Quincy Junior noted
the accepting and welcoming nature inherent there. Philadelphians were
48 Robert Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History (New York: KTO Press, 1983), 238-239.
49 Illick, Colonial Pennsylvania: A History, xvii.
commercial, keen and frugal: their economy and reserve have sometimes been
censured as civility and avarice, but all that we saw in this excellent city was replete
with benevolence, hospitality, sociability and politeness, joined with that prudence
and caution natural to an understanding people who are alternately visited by a
variety of strangers differing in rank, fortune, ingenuity and character.50
Philadelphia also made a lasting impression on David Ramsay. A physician and
historian, Pennsylvania-born Ramsay moved to Charleston in 1773 and called South
Carolina home the rest of his life. Perhaps reminiscing about his birth-colony,
however, in 1779 Ramsay wrote to friend and Pennsylvanian, Benjamin Rush, that
Pennsylvania seems to take the lead of most states in America. I can recollect many
important political measures that have originated there, & which have been copied
by their neighbours. There is a noble spirit of fortitude, of patience of perseverance,
of steadiness in your people.51 As Washington, Quincy, Ramsay, and many others
came to see for themselves, Philadelphia was the Metropolis of this Northern
While Charleston stood in Philadelphias shadow in most areas of
comparison, it bested Philadelphia at its incredible rise in wealth. Twenty years prior
to Revolution the opportunities and likelihood for riches and upward social mobility
50 Josiah Quincy Junior, The Southern Journal, 1773, vol. 3 of Portrait oj a Patriot: The Major
Political Writings and Legal Papers of Josiah Quincy Junior, eds. Daniel R. Coquillette and Neil
Longley York (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2007), 317.
51 Robert L. Bumhouse, ed. David Ramsay, 1749-1815: Selections from His Writings (Philadelphia:
The American Philosophical Society, 1965), 63-64.
52 Quincy Junior, The Southern Journal, 1773, 326.
in South Carolina were beyond compare.53 The preoccupation with wealth deeply
impressed Charlestons identity. David Ramsay wrote to Benjamin Rush that
I have learnt more of Southern Manners & abilities & [etc.?]this present year than I
ever knew before.. .A sense of honour is more cultivated among our Gentry than
with you; but, fortitude of mind, a patience under public calamities are not [grown
in?] warm climates. You cannot conceive the dejection of some rich persons on the
loss of their property,the bitter exclamation against Congress & General Lincoln.
Riches are not a blessing to a peoplethey induce an effeminancy of mind as well as
of body, which disqualifies the possessors from preserving equanimity of temper in
the vicissitudes of fortune; or indeed from accomplishing any great undertakings.54
Charleston, in fact, reserved those great undertakings to other communities,
Philadelphia being one.
But more so than her fellow colonies, South Carolina followed the lead of
Great Britain. Most historians agree that Charlestonians imitated the London
lifestyle, preferring that example over the ways of life found in Philadelphia, Boston,
or New York City. A visiting Englishman to Charleston in 1774 sensed a powerful
affection for London emanating from South Carolina. Across America he noticed
very strong signs of firmness and unanimity among the Americans to defend what
they think their rights and liberties as long as they can, which the people of this town
and province in conjunction with the other provinces seem pretty unanimously
determined upon, however,
53 Carl Bridenbaugh, Myths and Realities: Societies of the Colonial South (Westport Connecticut:
Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1952), 114; Jack P. Greene, Pursuits of Happiness: The Social
Development of Early Modern British Colonies and the Formation of American Culture (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 51; Joseph P. Ward, ed. Britain and the American South:
From Colonialism to Rock and Roll (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2003), 82.
54 Bumhouse, ed., David Ramsay, 1749-1815, 63-64.
notwithstanding all these appearances of zeal for liberty, most people that are bom
in Carolina cant help discovering in common conversation a great partiality
towards England, calling it their home tho they have never been there and seem to
wish much to have it in their power to be able to go and live comfortably in it.. ,55
Therefore Charleston operated heavily within Britains intellectual sphere. Despite
their immersion in that worldor perhaps because of itCharleston failed to
contribute original notions, theories, institutions or societies to eighteenth-century
America. Historian Robert Weir says that most scholars have pointed out that
Charlestons intellectual efforts involved the consumption rather than the production
of culture.56 Historical explanations cite Charlestons small provincial society of
recent origin, their bent to educate their sons in England, their reliance on slavery,
their geographic disadvantage, and the absence of learned promoters and
performers.57 So, on the brink of revolution Charlestons ties to England remained
In some respects, public taverns of Philadelphia and Charleston reflected the
unique societies which they serviced. As keepers of the public sphere, taverns could
assume characteristics unique to each city. Therefore as the Revolution approached,
55 Roy H. Merrens, ed. The Colonial South Carolina Scene: Contemporary Views, 1697-1774
(Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1977), 285.
56 Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History, 240.
57 For opinions, see: on society-type: Weir, Colonial South Carolina: A History, 240; on English
educations: Merrens, ed., The Colonial South Carolina Scene, Michael OBrien and David Moltke-
Hansen, Intellectual Life in Antebellum Charleston (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press,
1986); on slavery: Carl Bridenbaugh, Myths and Realities, 113, OBrien and Moltke-Hansen,
Intellectual Life, 4; on geographic disadvantages: Hennig Cohen, The South Carolina Gazette, 1732-
1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953; on the absence of influential persons:
Raven, London Booksellers and American Customers, 166.
perhaps more of Philadelphias tavern patrons spoke of independence while
Charlestons tavern crowds expressed their commitment to Britain. Regardless of
either citys affections however, the taverns public sphere did not discriminate
based on particular persuasions and was quite simply available to discuss countless
opinions. Still, across the thirteen colonies, Americans also knew exactly what they
would get in the way of tavern service, lodging, hourly activity, and appearance. In
this sense, American taverns were beacons of consistency, familiar whether located
in Philadelphia or Charleston, Boston or Virginia, New York City or rural North
THE EXPECTED AND THE UNEXPECTED OF TAVERN LIFE
Public auctions occurred frequently in Philadelphia. Crowds formed already
apprised of items up for sale, having read the details in advertisements for public
vendues, as colonials called them, days or even weeks before in The Pennsylvania
Gazette. Any morning around ten, Philadelphians placed bids on buildings or clusters
of buildings, such as a good square log dwelling house, two story high, a stone shed
the length of the house, and a good cellar; the house and shed contain on the first
floor 3 rooms, in 2 of which are fireplaces, also a kitchen and shop, and
furthermore, on the second floor 3 rooms, in one of which is a fire place; there is a
spring of good water near the house, a bam and stables.58 The winning bidder
perhaps intended to use his recent purchase in the tavern trade.
Year after year, week after week, the major newspapers in America printed
sale information for buildings considered well suited for a tavern. It was not
uncommon for the structure in question to have been a tavern before. For example,
twelve miles outside Philadelphia, located on ten acres was
38 Carlisle, March 13, 1772, The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 19, 1772, in Accessible Archives,
AN 1AGAZETTE.GA 1772031937.50672&AABeanName=toc3&AANextPage=vprintBrowseBuiltPag
e.isp (accessed March 12, 2010).
a two Story Stone House thereon erected, 36 by 30 Feet, a Brew house, Malt house,
and Kiln, Malt mill, Brewing tubs and Cooler, all in good Order, a good Cellar for
the Beer, a Copper Boiler, and a good Pump, that with a small Spout carries the
Water into the Copper; a good Log Bam, and two good Stables, a good Waggon
Shed, and a good Garden before the Door; the Lot conveniently divided; it has been
a noted Tavern these several Years, known by the Name of the Barley Sheaf.59
Whether such would-be taverns were well suited or not, colonial Americans
expected their taverns to look a certain way, conduct business uniformly, and
faithfully host and perform the same activities.
Taverns hung signs of identification, their only differentiating feature once
spotted from the road. Tavemkeepers, notably also called publicans usually did
business in a single-room space with a large, oblong table stuffed in. Sitting shoulder
to shoulder at mealtime, guests shared conversations and even a communal drinking
bowl, because privacyas well as the booths, banquettes, and meeting rooms that
might supply itwere unheard of. Tavemkeepers typically provided three meals a
day, selecting their menu items seemingly at random.60 Upstairs appearances
mirrored downstairs and if the tavern offered overnight accommodation, strangers
sleeping above often shared a bed in a room with white-washed walls, bare floors,
59 Edward Doyle, To be sold by way of public vendue... The Pennsylvania Gazette, February 8,
1770, in Accessible Archives,
http:-7www.accessible.com/accessible/doc Button ?AAWhat=builtPage&AAWhere=THEPENNSYLV
e.jsn (accessed March 12, 2010).
60 Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America, 55.
plain curtains and hard beds.61 Horses rested in the taverns stables, usually
supplied with a large Quantity of Com, Fodder, [et cetera]... for the
Accommodation of Horses, belonging to either Town or Country Gentlemen; who
may depend on the utmost Care being always taken of the Houses entrusted to
them.62 Across colonial America, travelers counted on food, drink, lodging, and
equine boarding at any tavern along their way.
Of course, tavemkeepers tempted clients with spirits. Barmen poured a
quantity of all sorts of good Liquors, and a variety of the first wines, spirits, &c.
and a good stock of the best liquors now to be had in this province,63 which meant
specifically, punch, toddy, and slingers, as well as cider, bitters, grog, beer by the
bottle or mug, mm, wines brandy, and various flavorings, such as cherry and vanilla,
which were added to punch or slingers.64 Locals dropped by their favorite taverns
daily. In Philadelphia, tavemkeepers prepared quick meals and a dram for early-
birds, laborers, seamen, artisans, stage drivers, post riders, and travelers and formally
61 Thompson, Rum, Punch and Revolution, 84 and Frances May Manges, Women Shopkeepers,
Tavemkeepers and Artisans in Colonial Philadelphia (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1958),
62 John and Richard Thompson, John.. .Richard Thompson beg leave to aquaint... The South
Carolina Gazette, October 4, 1773, in Accessible Archives,
http://www, accessible.coirvaccessible/doc Button.)AAWhat=builtPai>e&AAWhere=THESOUTHCAR
ge.jsp (accessed March 20, 2010).
63 See The South Carolina Gazette, October 4, 1773; The Pennsylvania Gazette, June 4, 1772; The
South Carolina Gazette, August 9, 1773.
64 Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America, 55-56.
plated breakfast no later than nine oclock. Dinner was at noon, supper at seven, and
all day long tavemkeepers laid out the newspapers, catered to businessmen, handled
mail, sold tickets to concerts, lectures, and other entertainments, managed a lost and
found (including runaway servants and slaves), and coordinated various employment
opportunities, such as positions on ships bound for sea.65
Taverns also welcomed more surprising activities. Before 1770 and the
construction of the Exchange Building, Charlestonians held court in the citys
taverns.66 Plots of land, buildings, plantations, and slaves went up for sale on tavern
grounds. In Philadelphia, these auctions normally occurred between one and three in
the afternoon, while Charlestonians preferred the mornings between ten and noon.
Creditors settled estate affairs at taverns beginning around three in Philadelphia and
at ten oclock in Charleston.67
Come afternoon and evening, tavemkeepers promised their customers the
best Entertainment and civil Usage, and also a good ordinary every day.68
65 See, for example, The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 5, 1772, December 2, 1772, April 14, 1773,
December 13, 1773, March 22, 1775; The South Carolina Gazette, August 8, 1771, March 22, 1773,
October 4, 1773; The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, January 12, 1773, March 9, 1773.
66 Eugene M. Sirmans, Colonial South Carolina: A Political History. 1663-1763 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1966), 233.
67 Newspaper advertisements for public vendues and estate settlements were explicit on dates, but not
on times. Despite a consistent lack of stated timeframes, what little information that is provided
reveals some patterns. For public vendues, see: The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1770-1771; The South
Carolina Gazette, February 13, 1770; The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, January 2,
1770, June 26, 1770 ; For estate affairs, see: The Pennsylvania Gazette, April 25, 1771, February 9,
1774; The South Carolina Gazette, January 31, 1771, April 19, 1773.
Taverns hosted balls, banquets, concerts, and various festivities after dark. For
instance, on King George Ills thirty-third birthday, Charlestonians rejoiced as usual,
by displaying of Colours from the Forts and Shipping, firing of Guns, a general
Muster of the Military, and an elegant Entertainment given, at Mess. Dillon &
Gray's Tavern, by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor. In the Evening, there
was an Exhibition of Fire-works, and the New-Barracks, by the Artillery
Company, which exceeded anything of the Kind ever attempted here before. ,68 69
American colonists counted on their taverns to host memorable celebrations.
Enlightenment in Action
While some customers reveled in festivity and leisure, others conducted the
days business. As many patrons bid on plots of land for sale, some merely wanted a
meal and a good nights rest. And amid such a buzz of activity, still other tavern
patrons thoroughly engaged and challenged their minds and conventional attitudes.
The urban, American tavern was in fact a hotbed of Enlightenment. In Philadelphia,
in Charleston, and in their fellow colonies, tavern guests discussed politics and
government, educated themselves, and worked toward the social and cultural
progress of their communities. Individuals who freely, openly, and reasonably
investigated an amalgamation of subject matter and current events, as well as
68 This is to inform the public... The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, September 24,
1771, in Accessible Archives,
http://www. accessible, com; accessible/docButton?AAWhat=builtPage&AAWhere=THESOUTHCAR
xtPage=/printBrowseBuiltPage.isp (accessed March 20, 2010).
69 Charles-Town, Last Monday, being our Soverigns birthday..The South Carolina Gazette, June
7, 1770, in Accessible Archives,
http: .'Avww.accessible.com/accessible/ docButton?AAWhat=builtPage&AAWhere=THESOUTHCAR
OLLNAGAZETTE.se 1770060716.00016&AABeanName-4oc3&AANextPage= printBrowseBuiltPa
ge.isp (accessed March 20, 2010).
questioned long-held opinions and authority on such issues were typical of
In Philadelphia political debate and discussion between ordinary citizens and
the citys public officials occurred in the late-night hours.70 Members of Patriotic
Societies, such as the Sons of Liberty, Club Forty-Five, and Members of the Non-
importation Associations conducted affairs at taverns as well, at four in the afternoon
or after. The political musings and arguments inside tavern walls were buttressed by
the Enlightenment. Clubs and societies enlightened the tavern space by inserting
fresh ideas for government, a spirit of rebellion against quite a formidable foe, and
by suggesting new forms of representation. Patriotic societies reveled in enlightened
concepts of reason, government, individualism, and equality.
And as tensions between Great Britain and her colonies intensified, many
legislative bodies in fact abandoned government buildings for taverns. Governor
Dunmore of Virginia, disbanded his colonys House of Burgesses in May, 1774
following the Virginia Assemblys public call to fasting, humiliation, and prayer,
in order to plead to Heaven, King George III, and Parliament towards moderation
and justice. Undeterred, the next day eighty-nine members of Virginias House of
Burgesses met at Raleigh Tavern.71 Likewise, the New Hampshire House of
70 Nancy L. Struna, People of Prowess: Sport, Leisure, and Labor in Early Anglo-America (Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1996), 148.
71 James Mercer Garnett, The Last Fifteen Years of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1761-1776,
The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 18 (April 1910): 220-221.
Representatives adjourned to a tavern after being ordered to disperse from the State
House, where they had been selecting their delegates to the First Continental
Congress in July, 1774.72 Apparently colonial representatives believed the tavern
space provided the same service as the official legislative halls.
Educational methods of the time and their potential improvement interested
the men and women of the Enlightenment as well. Joseph Priestley, a British
philosophe and expert in theology, natural philosophy, and political theory, proposed
original thinking in pedagogy. He mused over new articles of academical
instruction, such as have a nearer and more evident connection with the business of
active life, and which may therefore bid fairer to engage the attention and rouse the
thinking powers of young gentlemen of an active genius.73 Certain residents of
Charleston and Philadelphia solicited taverns for teaching venuesa role taverns
continued even after the founding of city colleges.
In 1773 Philadelphias Alexander and William Power opened a night school
in the back of the Fountain Tavern, where they taught the most expeditious and
approved methods, writing, in all the modem hands; arithmetic, and the practical
branches of the mathematicks; bookkeeping, in the newest and most approved
72 Boston, July 11, The Pennsylvania Gazette, July 20, 1774, in Accessible Archives,
http:./wvvw. accessible.com/accessible/docButton'.AAWhat^doc&AAWhere^ 1 &AABeanNaine=toc
1 &AANexll>aue-printFullDocl:roniXML.isp&AAChcck -1.62.4U.0.20 (accessed September 16,
73 Kramnick, ed., The Portable Enlightenment Reader, 236.
method now taught in Dublin; Geography, the use of the globes, maps, &c.74
Notwithstanding the Powers location, the brothers planned for a school of serious
study for boys and girls, explaining that they
prepared two large rooms on the same floor, one of which will be for the reception
of young men, and others, who would not choose to study in a crouded [sic]
school, composed of boys of every denomination. Pupils of more tender years, in
the adjoining room, will have a double advantage by being separated, because they
can be properly classed, the school not so much hurried, and they not liable to be
imposed on by those of riper years.75
The Powers saw nothing unusual in their selection of the Fountain Tavern as a
Tavern classrooms admitted women too. Charleston ladies schooled at the
Sign of the Kings Arms Tavern learned the curious Art of making artificial Fruits,
consisting of Pear Plumbs, Currants, Cherries, & c. & c. which will keep a Number
of Years as natural as if they were taken off the Trees; the Fruit is eatable.76 This
course represented enlightened tenets in action because it encouraged the pursuit of
knowledge and because it included women. Enlightened thinker Catherine
Sawbridge Macaulay Graham insisted, we must endeavor to palliate the evil we
74 Alexander and William Power, A night school... The Pennsylvania Gazette, September 30,
1772, in Accessible Archives,
http: //www. accessible. coinjaccessible/docButton?AAWhat=builtPaue&AAWhere=THEPENNSYLV
e.jsp (accessed March 12, 2010).
76 Eledewick Sorgen, The subscriber begs leave to inform the public... The South Carolina Gazette
and Country Journal, November 30, 1773, in Accessible Archives,
http: > www.accessible.com/accessible/docButton?AAWhat-builtPage&AAWhere^THESOUTEiCAR
xtPage^- printBrowseBuiltPage.isp (accessed March 20, 2010).
cannot remedy; and, in the education of our females, raise as many barriers to the
corruption of the world, as our understanding and sense of things will permit.77
Thus in some cases at least, American taverns lifted educational barriers for both
men and women.
The Enlightenment gloried in progress. As the Marquis de Condorcet wrote,
no bounds have been fixed to the improvement of the human faculties; that the
perfectibility of man is absolutely indefinite; that the progress of this perfectibility,
henceforth above the control of every power that would impede it, has no other limit
than the duration of the globe upon which nature has placed us.78 Benjamin
Franklin thought similarly, contemplating that the rapid progress the sciences now
make, occasions my regrets sometimes that I was bom so soon. It is impossible to
imagine the heights to which may be carried in a hundred years, the power of man
over matter.. ,79 The idea of worldly advancement was not confined to European
circles. As Franklin expressed, progress was a leitmotiv of the American
Enlightenment as well.
Colonial societies of all types worked toward progress inside taverns. The
Sons of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick all directed meetings inside taverns.
These charitable organizations assisted new immigrants from England, Scotland, and
77 Kramnick, ed., The Portable Enlightenment Reader, 598.
78 Ibid., 388.
79 Ibid., xiii.
Ireland, respectively, and eventually extended their mission to all the poor and needy
members of society. Sons of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick read the
summons to their meetings in the newspapers, which announced, the Members of
Sons of St. Andrews Charitable are desired to attend a Quarterly meeting of the said
Society, at 7 Oclock in the Evening, of Thursday the 30th day of August instant, at
Dillon & Gray's Tavern.80 Members typically met in the evenings, although
Charlestons Sons of St. George preferred mid-morning sessions. In attempting to
alleviate the plights of new immigrants or the downtrodden, the Sons of these
organizations fostered communal progress. In Enlightenment thought, to aid one
eventually aided many. Philosophes believed that the more people living happily,
successfully, and knowledgably lead to a better society for all. This was just the kind
of progress Enlightenment thinkers had in mind.
Cultural and intellectual societies were progress-driven as well. Charlestons
St. Cecilia Music Society enriched the citys refinement. Participants of St. Cecilias
often gathered at Ramadges Tavern to dine, collect subscription monies, and plan
concert series.81 In Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklins Junto, precursor to the
80 John Simpson, St. Andrew, The South Carolina and American General Gazette, August 13, 1770,
in Accessible Archives,
http://www.accessible. com- accessible/docButton'.>AAWhat=builtPaae&AAWhere=THESOUTHCAR
extPageWprintBrowseBuiltPage.isp (accessed March 17, 2010).
81 Alexander Inglis, Charlestown, May 3rd 1775, the quarterly meeting... The South Carolina and
American General Gazette, May 5, 1775, in Accessible Archives,
http: www.accessible.com accessible/docButton?AAWhat=builtPage&AAWhere=THESOUTHCAR
American Philosophical Society, held their inaugural meetings at taverns. As both
Philadelphia and Charleston worked toward tasteful discriminations, societies like St.
Cecilias and the American Philosophical Society quickened their attainment of such
The taverns of Philadelphia and Charleston, and all across America, were
hubs of Enlightenment ideas. Oftentimes they manifested Enlightenment as they
were transformed from a place to drink, eat, and sleep, into school rooms, meeting
houses, and legislative centers. The capacities of taverns to house nondescript affairs
as well as the lofty discourse of Enlightenment moralism further pushed public
houses into the role of hosting the public sphere.
extPage-/'nrintBio\vseBuiltPage.isp (accessed March 22, 2010).
TAVERNS WILL BE TAVERNS
Undeniably, many tavern patrons frequented their favorite public house to
partake in activities far from enlightened. A male-dominated arena, colonial women
often scolded men for going to the tavern.
There is not one night in the week in which they are not engaged with some club
or other at the tavern where they injure their fortunes by gaming in various ways,
and impair their healths by the intemperate use of spirituous liquors, and keeping
late hours, or rather spending whole nights, sometimes, in these disgraceful and
ruinous practices.82 83
Tavern patrons gambled, fought, gossiped, condoned animal cruelty, rioted, dueled,
womanized, wasted time, ignored responsibilities, and drank to the point of
Taverns headquartered chaos. Repeatedly political rioters organized their
protests inside the tavern before staging them outside, perhaps by hanging or burning
82 Letter to the Editor from Margery Distaff, To be sold, at public outcry, The South Carolina
Gazette, October 5, 1769, in Accessible Archives,
http:7www.accessible.com/accessible/print? A ADocList-l&AADocStvle=&AAStyleFile=&AABean
Name=toc 1 &AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck-4,1,1.1,1 (accessed July 8,
83 Bridenbaugh, Myths and Realities, 82-83 and Walter J. Fraser, Jr., Charleston! Charleston!: The
History of a Southern City (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1989), 156.
someones unfortunate effigy.84 Sometimes their drunken rage led them elsewhere,
like to Henry Laurenss front door. One evening a stamp-searching crowd descended
upon Laurenss home. Laurens, a prominent South Carolinian who initially
supported the Stamp Act, joked, is it not amazing that such a number of Men many
of them heated with Liquor & all armed with Cutlasses & Clubbs did not do one
penney damage to my Garden.. ,85 Men also fought duels on tavern grounds.
Charlestons infamous Haley-Delancey duel took place, with Pistols, at Mr.
Holliday's Tavern on the Bay,86 and left Peter Delancey dead.
Both Philadelphians and Charlestonians bought and sold slaves and servants
at public houses. Advertisements for the public auctions announced, to be sold on
Friday the 14th Day of June next, at the House of John Rumpb [sic], Tavern -keeper,
in Orangeburgh ; A Likely Negro man, also a woman and child, belonging to the
Estate of Hugh Mac Intosh of St. George's Parish, deceased, crowded the
84 Charles-town, June 21The South Carolina Gazette, June 21, 1770, in Accessible Archives,
March 17, 2010).
85 Henry Laurens to Joseph Brown, October 28, 1765, in The Papers of Henry Laurens, George C.
Rogers Jr., David R. Chesnutt, and Peggy J. Clark, eds., Volume V (Columbia, S.C.: University of
South Carolina Press, 1976), 31.
86 Charlestown: The General Assembly... The South Carolina Gazette, August 22, 1771, in
1 &AANextPagewprintFullDocFromXML.isp&AAC'heck-18.104.22.168.7 (accessed March 20, 2010).
newspapers. 87 While indicative of contemporary eighteenth-century America, the
implication of taverns in slavery and servitude was antithetical to the Enlightenment
Drinking, violence, laziness, temptation, irresponsibility, immoralityall
vices which at one time or another ruled tavern life. And Americans worried.
Although many taverns hosted enlightened activities, and while some prominent
taverns played an indisputable role in forming the American nation, public houses
troubled influential colonists. Many agreed that society, youth, and politics would all
suffer from the influence of the tavern.
The Pennsylvania Assembly wrestled with the proper action to take against
these Nurseries of Idleness and Debauchery. In 1764 the Pennsylvania Gazette
summarized the Assemblys despair:
It is notorious, the Number of Taverns, Ale-houses and Dram-shops, have encreased
beyond all Measure or Necessity. That they are placed so near to each other, that
they ruin one another; and Two Thirds of them are not merely useless, but are
become a Pest to Society. There are very few of them that are able to provide the
necessary Conveniences for entertaining Travellers, or accommodating the People
either in Country or City.88
87 John Fisher, To be sold, on Friday the 14th day of June next, The South Carolina and American
General Gazette, April 24, 1771, in Accessible Archives,
http:/; www.accessible.corny accessible/print?AADocList=2&AADocStvle-STYLED&AAStyleFile=&
AABeanName=toc 1 &AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML. jsp&AACheck= 10,22.214.171.124 (accessed
March 19, 2010).
88 Explanatory Remarks on the Assemblys Resolves, The Pennsylvania Gazette, March 29, 1764,
in vol. 11 of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin: Digital Edition, The American Philosophical Society
and Yale University, http://ffanklinpapers.org/ffanklin/ffamedVolumes.jsp (accessed April 20, 2010).
The Assembly tried to regulate the rising number of taverns in Philadelphia, failed,
and seemed inclined to give up.
From whence it seems evident, that so long as the Proprietaries are interested in
our Ruin, ruined we must be: For no Deputy will dare to regulate this Mischief,
because it will lessen the Revenue; nor accept a Compensation for this Revenue, as
it will affect his Successor; nor even accept a greater Annuity, because it may, in
Time, encrease to an higher Sum.89 90
John Adams feared the same for New England in 1760. He concurred that
contemporary taverns fell inexcusably short of original tavern purposes and
standards. Adamss strict opinion of proper tavern business included: the
accommodation of travelers and sometimes locals on special occasions; the sale of
small quantities of liquor, at reasonable rates, for consumption in the privacy of the
buyers home; the operation by only the most virtuous of society and the fewer
taverns built, the better. The taverns of Boston failed to meet his expectations.
at the present Day, such Houses are become the eternal Haunt, of loose disorderly
People of the same Town, which renders them offensive and unfit for the
Entertainment of a Traveller of the least delicacy; and, it seems that Poverty, and
distressed Circumstances are become the strongest Argument, to procure an
Approbation, and for [these?] assigned Reasons, such Multitudes have been lately
licensed, that none can afford to make Provision, for any but the trifling, nasty
vicious Crew, that most frequent them.911
The tavern threatened ruin to the promise of America; public houses were roadblocks
90 John Adams Diary 5 (from May 26 to November 25, 1760 [electronic edition]), May 29, 1760,
Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society,
http://www.masshist.org- digitaladams/ (accessed April 20, 2010).
The alcohol consumed and habits learned in eighteenth-century American
taverns spelled particular trouble for Americas youth. According to Benjamin
Franklin, tavern regulars deemed themselves unfit for a professional life. In 1772,
Franklin advised a friend, saying, your Years have a Claim to some Respect, if you
did not forfeit it by your Misbehaviour. Buffoonery and Tavern-Bawling can not
possibly become a Physician and Philosopher.91 Instead, Franklin thought it best for
young colonials to avoid the tavern as much as possible. Fie wrote an Indenture of
Apprenticeship for his son in 1740 and assured the employer that his son shall not
absent himself Day nor Night from his said Masters Service, without his Leave: Nor
haunt Ale-houses, Taverns, or Play-houses; but in all Things behave himself as a
faithful Apprentice ought to do, during the said Term.92
John Adams was likewise convinced that drink led to dungeon. Young
People are tempted to waste their Time and Money, and to acquire habits of
Intemperance and Idleness that we often see reduce many of them to Beggary, and
91 Benjamin Franklin to Sir William Browne, 1772, in vol. 19 of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin:
Digital Edition, The American Philosophical Society and Yale University,
http:.7franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.isp (accessed April 20, 2010).
92 Benjamin Franklin, James Franklin: Indenture of Apprenticeship, November 5, 1740, in vol. 2 of
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin: Digital Edition, The American Philosophical Society and Yale
University, http:/ frankhnpapers.org franklin framedVolumes.isp (accessed April 20,2010).
Vice, and lead some of them at last to Prisons and the Gallows.93 94 95 Essentially,
taverns locked the cell door on the hopes of Americas future.
The tavern menace eyed Americas political promise as well. Everyday
tavern patrons consistently talked politics, however the discussions and opinions of
tavern politics were not highly regarded. In one diary entry from 1758, John
Adams evidenced the insensible dramatics that taverns could foster. He remembered
the other Night I happened to be at the Drs., with Ben. Veasey. He began to prate
upon the Presumption of Philosophers in erecting Iron Rods to draw the Lightning
from the Clouds. His Brains were in a ferment with strong Liquor and he railed, and
foamed against those Points and the Presumption that erected them, in Language
taken partly from Scripture and partly from the drunken Disputes of Tavern
Philosophy, in as wild mad a manner as King Lear raves.. .9
But Adams lost more sleep over the potential power that tavern philosophy might
hold. He complained that the
worst Effect of all, and which ought to make every Man who has the least sense of
his Priviledges tremble, these Houses are become in many Places the Nurseries of
our Legislators; An Artful Man, who has neither sense nor sentiment may by gaining
a little sway among the Rabble of a Town, multiply Taverns and Dram Shops and
thereby secure the Votes of Taverner and Retailer and of all, who will be induced
and the Multiplication of Taverns will make many who may be induced by Phlip and
Rum to Vote for any Man whatever.93
93 John Adams Diary 5 (from May 26 to November 25, 1760 [electronic edition]), May 29, 1760,
Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society,
http: 7 www'.massh ist.org/digitaladams/ (accessed April 20, 2010).
94 Ibid., Diary 2 (from October 1758 to April 1759 [electronic edition]), December 3 or 4, 1758,
(accessed April 20, 2010).
95 Ibid., Diary 5 (from May 26 to November 25, 1760 [electronic edition]), May 29, 1760, (accessed
April 20, 2010).
In time, John Adams acted as one such tavern legislator-a passionate and influential
one at Philadelphias City Tavern. But in 1760 when Adams recorded his distress,
the City Tavern did not exist, Adams had never left Massachusetts, and he was
unacquainted with the men, the ideas, and the causes that would transform tavern
legislating into a legitimate forum. At the time Adams wrote in his diary,
Puritanism, a long-standing and influential mindset in Massachusetts, influenced
Adamss opinions. As historian David Conroy puts it,
in the seventeenth century the habitual use of drink in taverns came under severe
censure and greater regulation. In first Old and then New England, Puritan leaders
became the most vocal critics of customary drinking habits. Their vision of a godly
commonwealth owed much to tradition, revering as it did the principles of hierarchy
and consensus in community life. But they simultaneously sought to establish a
reformation in public and private behavior by compelling conformity to the nascent
modem value of temperance.96
Therefore in 1760, John Adams simply considered tavern political ponderings
Henry Laurens was no more impressed with tavern philosophy in 1766.
Laurens initially supported the Stamp Act and consequently opposed the very
existence of the Sons of Liberty, who met at the Sign of the Bacchus Tavern.
Laurens could not seriously fathom any form of respectability at tavern meeting
grounds. He mocked the Sons attempts to conduct their meetings, presumably
enlivened by spirits, and particularly poked fun at his neighbor, Christopher
Gadsden. Laurens teased that
96 David Conroy, In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts
(Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 13.
sometimes they are a Little humm'd too, as the phrase is, by delusive advertisements
of meetings to be held at the Bacchus. Upon one such occasion which was artfully
made, my said Neighbour who attended & plumply too the Chairas if of right it
did belong to himwas exceedingly chagrind to find that nobody knew what they
were convend for.97 98 99
In the confusion, Gadsden first attempted to wheedle a confession from some of the
Company but none would Father the Child & then he grew very crabbed which it
seems made other folks laugh & me too when I heard it for I was at the time very
sick in Bed. Laurenss joy stemmed from the incompetence perceived in his
opponents. But Laurens was also pressed to imagine how alcohol mixed with
business could produce substantive or effective results.
In times of betting and brawling and drinking and dueling, taverns did not
measure up to the public sphere of Habermass conception. But Englands taverns
stooped to the very same level. And yet Englands public sphere is Habermass ideal.
Englands taverns certainly sponsored their fair share of debauchery. Patrons
gossiped incessantly, intoxicated clients fought, and men met head to head in duels."
For instance, at Londons Ordnance Tavern, a Sir Joseph Mawby and Richard Wyat,
Esq. narrowly avoided such an affaire d'honneur. The papers reported that the
parties first spit in each other's faces, and then went to loggerheads, when Sir Joseph
was sadly beaten. Sir Joseph has since offered to fight with pistols, but Mr. Wyat has
97 Henry Laurens to John Lewis Gervais, January 29, 1766, The Papers of Henry Laurens, Volume V,
99 Henry Laurens to Thomas Savage, March 3, 1774, The Papers of Henry Laurens, Volume 9, 328.
declined it.100 Mob activity brewed at London's taverns as well. One such
aggressive mob trapped a mayoral procession, singling out one unlucky government
official. The mob directly began to pelt him with stones and dirt, and pulled him out
of his chariot, opposite to the Door of the Sun Tavern, into which he was forced to
take to preserve his Life.101 The mob obviously felt comfortable expressing their
wrath with a tavern as the backdrop.
The fights, the duels, the mobs, the gossipall normal aspects of late
eighteenth-century, London taverns. But Londons watering holes, like those in
America, sponsored sophisticated activity as well. At London taverns like the
Standard, the Kings Arms, the Thatched, the Globe, the Half Moon or the Crown,
political societies met to present petitions, take votes, hold debates, elect new
members, make resolutions, and consider resignations.102 The Society of the
Supporters of a Bill of Rights, adopted the London Tavern as their headquarters and
helped save John Wilkess political career. Despite a fair election by his constituents,
100 London: February 2, The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, May 4, 1773, in
AABeanName=tocl&AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck=l 1,10.4.0.10 (accessed
March 20, 2010).
101 to him, by which means his present income is not less than 13001: May 31, The South Carolina
Gazette, August 9, 1770, in Accessible Archives,
http://mvw.accessible.com/ accessible/docButton? A A What=doc&AAWhere=5&A ABeanName=toel
&AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AAC'heck= 126.96.36.199.12 (accessed March 17,2010).
102 See The South Carolina Gazette, June 7, 1770, February 28, 1771, October 1, 1771; The South
Carolina and American General Gazette, February 19, 1770, April 13, 1770, October 31, 1770,
November 11, 1771, December 24, 1771; The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal,
November 13, 1770, October 1, 1771, November 19, 1771, January 5, 1773.
Parliament considered Wilkes an outlaw member and expelled him from his post.
Wilkes regained his seat, however, largely thanks to the pressures imposed by the
society operating out of the London Tavern.103 Infused with the presence of such
influential political association, some taverns in London claimed an official air just
as authoritative as any reknowned government facility.
Despite English taverns ability to house the public sphere, Habermas
selected the English coffee house instead as his focus. His reason might have
centered on the overtly gentlemanly nature of a coffee house compared to the often
unruly personality of a tavern. At first glance, a public sphere of Habermass analysis
squared more smoothly with a coffee house. But taverns fostered public sphere just
as well and perhaps for a broader public. American taverns regularly transformed
into official, productive, and influential meeting spaces at the appropriate times.
Habermas might not be surprised that the tavern was the American
counterpart to coffee houses, salons, and literary societies. The tavern, not the coffee
house, dominated American city landscapes in the eighteenth century and Americans
took longer to warm up to exclusive meeting spots like the coffee house.104
Americans so preferred taverns to coffee houses that some public house owners
103 See The South Carolina Gazette, May 9, 1772; South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal,
February 20, 1770, April 16, 1771, July 30, 1771; The South Carolina and American General Gazette,
April 6, 1770, May 23, 1770, January 7, 1771, June 17, 1771, July 1, 1771.
104 Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America, 4 and Thompson, Rum, Punch, and Revolution,
abandoned their coffee house ambitions for the more familiar tavern. After
Virginias Richard Charlton opened his coffee house, he soon changed its title,
informing Williamsburg residents, The Coffee-House in this citybeing now
opened by the subscriber as a TAVERN, he hereby acquaints all Gentlemen
travelers, and others, who may please to favor him with their company.. .105 The
tavern did business in America. The coffee house remained empty.
So the tavern came to the forefront of Americas public sphere. And while
British coffee houses, French salons, and American taverns may have differed in
the size and composition of their publics, they were similar in the style of their
proceedings, the climate of their debates, and their topical orientations. Tavern
patrons exercised sound reasoning, effective politicking, profound philosophizing,
and novel governing, making their case for public sphere impossible to ignore.106
105 Michael Olmert, Williamsburg Again Has an R. Charltons Coffeehouse, Colonial
Williamsburg: The Journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 32 (Winter 2010): 25 and
Richard Charlton, Williamsburg... The Virginia Gazette, July 2, 1767, in Accessible Archives,
(accessed September 12, 2010).
106 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 36.
TAVERNS OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE
The eighteenth-century American tavern, as those in Philadelphia and
Charleston show, was a multifaceted public arena. Tavern personalities differed from
street to street, or even from door to door. But taverns were also the same, in their
typical and familiar appearances, services, menus, and potential for unbecoming
behavior, to name a few. To further complicate the taverns enigmatic nature, late in
the century some taverns underwent a transformation that added new layers to their
character. Historian Karin Wulf said that the majority of Philadelphias taverns
during this time remained gathering spots for neighbors or work-fellows, providing
modest provisions and drink at a low price, but that certain public houses catered
to a new clientele of merchants who wanted not just to exchange business talk but to
engage in the whole realm of discussions that were beginning to constitute public
discourse.107 The desire for private spaces that invited intellectual exploration and
blessed rebellious notions increased with the American Revolution on the horizon.
Philadelphias and Charlestons taverns that satisfied this desire can be understood as
institutions of the public sphere.
107 Karin Wulf, Not All Wives: Women of Colonial Philadelphia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
The taverns that fostered the public sphere the best shared certain
characteristics. First, these taverns were larger than average colonial taverns and
boasted spacious private rooms. Second, a wide array of colonial and British
newspapers accumulated inside those large rooms. Third, a unique clientelemale,
educated, ambitious, prone to leadership, and often wealthy filtered in through the
doors. Finally, these taverns are most easily recognized as institutions when the
aforementioned criteria are combined with agency. In Americas case the conflict
with Great Britain and the American response to it, provided an impetus. Most
especially American patriots coalesced in taverns during the times of non-
importation, the Tea Act, and the First Continental Congress.
In Philadelphia, the Bunch of Grapes Tavern and the City Tavern satisfied
Habermass criteria and were institutions of the public sphere. In Charleston, the
building first christened as Shepheards Tavern (and called Ramadges Tavern by the
point of the Revolution) was an institution of the public sphere and conformed to
In the majority of late eighteenth-century taverns, patrons shared the same
space, regardless of the activity. Drinking, eating, reading, discussing, gambling,
letter-writing, politicking, and other activities happened simultaneously. But the
taverns that housed the public sphere offered something that most taverns did not:
privacy. Clients realized that taverns with large, secluded rooms were more
appropriate for discussing the affairs at hand.
Philadelphias Josiah Davenport sold his Bunch of Grapes Tavern to fellow
tavemkeeper, Israel Jacobs, in the early 1770s. As one of the citys most genteel
houses, on one of its grandest avenues, Philadelphians accessed the Bunch of
Grapes on Third Street, between Market and Arch. Under both owners, the Bunch of
Grapes promised fine entertainments for travelers and locals, excellent liquors, and
stables and sheds that rivaled the best in the province. But the Bunch of Grapess
secret weapon was its elegant and spacious room for the accommodation of large
companies, who may have occasion to meet on business or recreation. Both
Davenport and Jacobs expected that their tavern, conveniently located among the
principal merchants and capital stores of Philadelphia and close to the market would
tempt a client base eager for quiet retreats.108
Until 1774, the Bunch of Grapes lacked serious competition and despite
Israel Jacobss large and isolated room, certain Philadelphians wanted even more.
Therefore, wealthy Philadelphia gentlemen funded the construction of their own
108 For the Davenport take-over, see: Josiah F. Davenport, The subscriber begs leave... The
Pennsylvania Gazette, June 2, 1768, in Accessible Archives,
http: ww\v.accessible, cony accessible/docButton? A A What=builtPaue&AAWhere=TFlEPENNSYLV
ANI AG AZETTE.G A1768060219,42610&A ABeanName=toc 1 &A ANextPaae=/'printBuiltPage. isp
(accessed April 10, 2010); For the Jacobs take-over see: Israel Jacobs begs leave... The
Pennsylvania Gazette, July 18, 1771, in Accessible Archives,
http:/ www. accessible.com/accessible/print?AADocList=l&AADocStvle-&AAStyleFile=&A A Bean
Name=tocl&AANextPage= printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck=188.8.131.52,1 (accessed April 23,
tavern which they named the City Tavern. The Pennsylvania Gazette officially
introduced Philadelphia to its newest resident on February 16, 1774:
CITY TAVERN, PHILADELPHIA. DANIEL SMITH begs leave to inform the
PUBLIC, that the Gentlemen Proprietors of the CITY TAVERN have been pleased
to approve of him, as a proper person to keep said tavern: in consequence of which
he has compleatly furnished it, and, at a very great expence, has laid in every article
of the first quality, perfectly in the stile [s/c] of a London tavern: And in order the
better to accommodate strangers, he has fitted up several elegant bed rooms,
detached from noise, and as private as in a lodging house. The best livery stables are
quite convenient to the house. He has also fitted up a genteel Coffee Room, well
attended, and properly supplied with English and American papers and magazines.
He hopes his attention and willingness to oblige, together with the goodness of his
wines and larder, will give the public entire satisfaction, and prove him not unworthy
of the encouragement he has already experienced. The City Tavern in Philadelphia
was erected at a great expence, by a voluntary subscription of the principal
gentlemen of the city, for the convenience of the public, and is by much the largest
and most elegant house occupied in that way in America.109
Tavernkeeper Daniel Smiths announcement left no question regarding the
excellence to which this tavern aspired. And from the start, City Taverns model of
public sphere satisfied its stately visitors on several monumental occasions.
In Charleston, the perfect structure already existed. Until his death in 1767,
Benjamin Backhouse owned the Sign of the Bacchus, an agreeable tavern that
possessed household furniture, mahogany bedsteads (carved and plain), beds,
mattresses, pavilions, curtains, and articles befitting a family. Backhouse owned
mahogany tables, looking-glasses, china and glass, kitchen furniture, linen, and a
109 City Tavern, Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Gazette, February 16, 1774, in Accessible
http: ;www.accessible.com/accessible/print?AADocList=5&A ADocStyle^STYLED&AAStyleFile=&
March 12, 2010).
good billiard table.110 The Sign of the Bacchuss private room, an undeniable
attraction, set the stage for Sons of Liberty meetings.111
While the Sons of Liberty preferred the Sign of the Bacchus, most
Charlestonians favored the tavern that cornered the northeast section of Broad and
Church Streets. In 1734 Charles Shepheard converted a former courthouse into a
tavern, which he ran for more than a decade. After Shepheard and because of
subsequent deaths, departures, retirements, and marriages, ownership changed hands
five times. Shepheards Tavern became John Gordons in 1748. In 1762 Robert
Dillon took over. In 1771 William Holliday assumed ownership, followed by Mrs.
Francis Swallow in 1773. One year later, Mrs. Swallow married Charles Ramadge
and both she and her business took Mr. Ramadges name.112 Whether it was
Gordons or Dillons or Ramadges, charitable organizations, governmental bodies,
and the Free Masons frequented the tavern. The Masons, for example, met four times
in 1768, whereby
110 Thomas Elfe, To be sold for cash, at public vendue... The South Carolina Gazette and Country
Journal, November 3, 1767, in Accessible Archives,
April 23, 2010).
111 Charles-town, August 17, 1767, The South Carolina Gazette, August 17, 1767, in Accessible
http://www. accessible.com/access! ble/docButton? AAWhat=doc&AAWhere-45&A ABeanName~toc
l&AANextPaue=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck=184.108.40.206.86 (accessed April 23, 2010).
112 111. Brother McDonald Don Burbridge, A Timeline on the Tavern Located At the Northeast
Comer of Broad and Church Streets, Scottish Rite California, under Scottish Rite Birthplace,
Shepheards Tavern, Shepheards Time Line,
http:/ vvww.scottishritecalifornia.org/shepheard's time line.htm (accessed April 23, 2010).
all present and former Grand and other Officers and Stewart of the most ancient and
honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in South Carolina; and all present
Masters and Wardens of regular constituted Lodges under the provincial Jurisdiction,
are desired to assemble in Quarterly Communication in the Lodge-Room at Mr.
Dillons, on Monday the 21st of March Instant, at seven o' Clock in the Evening.113
This same lodge-room eventually catered to South Carolinas delegates to the First
Continental Congress and to members of the colonys provincial congress.
The Sons of Liberty, the Free Masons, congressional and provincial
representatives all preferred the privacy of the Bunch of Grapes, the City Taverns
coffee rooms, Backhouses private room and Dillons lodge room. The large, solitary
rooms in these taverns fulfilled the aims of powerful and driven organizations.
Additionally enticing for the men who used these particular areas was the abundance
Newspapers fulfilled the Enlightenment call to dare to know and within
tavern walls, newspapers served the public sphere well. Any printed content in the
hands of any individual was fair game, or open to interpretation. Ideally, newspaper
readers and discussants strove for equality of consideration, reasoning their way
through the information at hand. The local, colonial, and worldwide news presented
113 Robert Wells, All present and former... The South Carolina and American General Gazette,
March 11, 1768, in Accessible Archives,
AABeanName=tocl&AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheckH 0,220.127.116.11 (accessed
April 10, 2010).
reminded tavern patrons of the public to which they belonged, and to the public
many came to speak for.
Jurgen Habermas appointed special importance to literacys role in the public
sphere. As eighteenth-century Europes reading populace grew, so did the types of
reading material available to them. Novels, newspapers, periodicals, moral weeklies,
book reviews, autobiographies, erotic literature, and so forth, sponsored a new public
as Europeans accessed the content of each medium. Reading also opened eyes,
exposing the public to potentially seditious ideas.114
American literacy increased as well, but not all Americansor Europeans
could read. In Structural Transformations of the Public Sphere Habermas explained
the presss potential to exclude participants from his public sphere. Newspapers
the educated classes. Along with the apparatus of the modem state, a new stratum
ofbourgeois people arose, which occupied a central position within the public.
The officials of the rulers administrations were at its coremostly jurists. Added to
them were doctors, pastors, officers, professors, and scholars, who were at the top
of a hierarchy reaching down through the schoolteachers and scribes to the
While the press initially limited access to the public sphere, Habermas suggested that
educated classeswe could perhaps also say leadershippossessed the ability to
inform illiterate people using a number of avenues. In America, one of these
pathways was the tavern. For example, illiterate tavern regulars still kept abreast of
114 Van Horn Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe, 111-112.
115 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 22-23.
current events. Historian David Conroy likened taverns to public information
centers. The tavern functioned, as rural Massachusetts farmers saw it, as windows
on the world, and the tavemkeeper a trusted informant on happenings about the
colony.116 Just as the authors of 1787s The Federalist used the pseudonym
Publius, a term meaning friend of the people, both literate and illiterate tavern
goers obviously regarded their publican as encompassing the very same.
Philadelphia tavemkeepers subscribed to newspapers at least as early as
1729.117 Decades later, the City Tavern prided itself on the British and American
magazines and newspapers stacked on the tables.118 Benjamin Franklin and the
brothers Andrew and William Bradford, all edited The Pennsylvania Gazette, the
colonys most successful publication. A typical edition included letters to the editors,
speeches from the General Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania (and
sometimes from the General Assemblys of other colonies), news from neighboring
colonies, and some international communications. The paper advertised rewards for
runaway slaves and servants, buildings and tracts of land on the market, rooms for
116 Conroy, In Public Houses, 276.
117 Martha Careful and Caelia Shortface to Andrew Bradford, January 28, 1729, The American Weekly
Mercury in vol. 1 of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin: Digital Edition, The American Philosophical
Society and Yale University, http://franklinpapers.orgfranklin framed Volumes, jsp (accessed April
118 City Tavern, Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Gazette, February 16, 1774, in Accessible
March 12, 2010).
let, ship sailings, and slaves for sale. The Gazette detailed imports, custom house ins
and outs, death notices, and estate affairs.119 Franklin cleared room for literary pieces
as early as 1735, which took a back-seat by the 1770s for more pressing matters.120
The Gazette printed intellectually-heavy material as well, like John
Dickinsons Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, published between December
1767 and February 1768. Written to contest the Townshend Acts, Dickinsons
Letters referenced British, French, Spanish, Irish, Roman, and Ancient histories. The
essays delved into English law, the English Constitution, and cited parliamentary
speeches. Dickinson introduced or reminded his readers of the ideas and insights of
Enlightenment philosophes such as David Hume, Alexander Pope, and the Baron de
Montesquieu.121 The paper reprinted Edmund Burkes speeches, an American
supporter and quasi-philosophe, as well as parliamentary orations.122 The decision to
publish material from Dickinson, Burke, philosophes, and the British Parliament, to
cite a few, suggests that Franklin and the Bradford brothers assumed a highly
119 The Pennsylvania Gazette, in Accessible Archives, http://wvYW.accessible.com accessible.
120 Alfred Owen Aldridge, Benjamin Franklin and the Pennsylvania Gazette, Proceedings of the
American Philosophical Society 106 (February, 1952): 77.
121 77?e Pennsylvania Gazette, December 4, 1767, December 10, 1767, December 17, 1767, December
24, 1767, December 31, 1767, January 7, 1768, January 14, 1768, January 21, 1768, January 28,
1768, February 4, 1768, February 11, 1768, in Accessible Archives,
122 See, for example, The Pennsylvania Gazette, February 7, 1771, May 18, 1774, June 22, 1774, in
Accessible Archives, http://www.accessible.com/accessible.
Charlestons taverns furnished newspapers tooquite a selection, actually.
Charleston printers published four newspapers in the eighteenth century. The South
Carolina Gazette, The Gazette of the State of South-Carolina, The South Carolina
Gazette and Country Journal and The South Carolina and American General
Gazette piled high on end tables and at the bars of the citys taverns.123 The South
Carolina Gazette, Charlestons first and longest-running paper, presented its material
in a four-page, four column layout. Editors devoted the front page to foreign and
colonial news reprinted from other publications and to local and official
proclamations. Readers scanned letters to the editor on page two, as well as features
like sea-fairing schedules (ships in and out of port), current prices of staple
commodities, statistics on produce exported, and descriptions of runaway slaves with
return to information. Oftentimes pages three and four entertained with original
poems, essays or other literary pieces imported from British journals and sometimes
from South Carolinians themselves. Any additional ads filled space in the back
pages.123 124 All of Charlestons newspapers included lengthy accounts from Londons
papers, usually three months after the fact.
South Carolinas papers delved into intellectual territory too. Christopher
Gadsden readily contributed to The South Carolina Gazette in the 1760s. Concealed
123 For example, The South Carolina Gazette, January 31, 1771; The South Carolina and American
General Gazette, February 5, 1771; The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, February 12,
1771, in Accessible Archives, http://www.accessible.com/accessible.
124 Hennig Cohen, The South Carolina Gazette, 1732-1775 (Columbia, S.C.: University of South
Carolina Press, 1953), 12.
by his Philopatrios pseudonym, Gadsdens politically-themed, history-packed,
Latin-heavy essays first appeared in 1761. Gadsdens comprehension of Virgils
Aeneid, Ovids Metamorphoses, Horaces Ars Poetica and Epistles, Juvenals
Satires, et cetera, enhance his essay series.125 Likewise, Henry Laurens submitted
political tracts to Peter Timothys paper and masked himself as Philolethes.
Charlestonians accessed political and philosophical writings from other colonies and
from Great Britain, reading John Wilkes, Stephen Hopkins, Benjamin Franklin,
Benjamin Rush, John Dickinson, the Journal of Transactions of Boston, Janius, and
The Massachusetts Spy.126 They read proceedings of the House of Commons,
including speeches by Member of Parliament Edmund Burke.127 South Carolinians,
by scanning the European Intelligence section, encountered enlightened names like
Voltaire and Montesquieu. Editor Peter Timothy had presupposed his readers
familiarity with such characters and their ideas.128
125 Christopher Gadsden, The Writings of Christopher Gadsden, 1746-1805, Richard Walsh, ed.,
(Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1966), viii-14.
126 Jeffery A. Smith, Impartiality and Revolutionary Ideology: Editorial Policies of the South-
Carol ina Gazette, 1732-1775, The Journal of Southern History 49 (November, 1983): 522.
127 See, for example, LONDON, J 10, The South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal, April 10,
1770, in Accessible Archives,
&AANextPage=printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck=18.104.22.168.104 (accessed August 1, 2010).
128 For Voltaire, see: European Intelligence, The South Carolina Gazette, January 6, 1772, in
April 23, 2010); for Montesquieu, see Literary Article, The South Carolina and American General
Gazette, September 17, 1771, in Accessible Archives,
The man sitting at the tavern bar needed a newspaper just as much as the man
sitting in a secluded room if Habermass public sphere was to be realized.
Habermass public sphere depended on newspapers. Just as newspapers challenged
readers to think for themselves, they also forced readers to hear it out, if you will.
The Habermas ideal required readers to embark on each story with an open mind.
Habermass public sphere required readers to reason through (either individually or
collectively) the events, opinions, facts, and claims recounted and then determine
their personal stance based on their logical judgment of the information presented.
Something additional, however, was required of the men in City Taverns coffee
rooms or in Ramadges lodge-room. Thankfully, inside the seclusion of private
tavern rooms, astute readings of current events, weighing editorial bias, pondering
philosophe innuendo, and reasonable discussion with an able partner were all easier
managed in the absence of boisterous diners or impromptu fights. For these
participants of public sphere were called to remember that names and numbers
printed in the papers represented flesh and blood human beings. Their opinions
reasonably formed with newspaper aidcarried extreme consequences for their
Name=toc 1 &AANextPage=< printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck^22.214.171.124.1 (accessed April 27,
Any curious customer in any tavern read the papers. And all colonists knew
the days news whether they read it or heard it, through word of mouth or anothers
reading out loud directly from a paper. But the patrons in private tavern rooms read
their newspapers differently, with greater depth and understanding. The customers
who sat in the City Taverns genteel room or in Ramadges lodge-room acquainted
themselves with the ideas of Montesquieu, Voltaire, Locke, the classical authors, and
so forth, at school, long before seeing them in a newspaper. Many of these tavern
clients participated in local government, such as the colonial general assemblies.
They attended prominent Latin schools, Harvard or Kings College, or Middle
Temple and the Inns of Court in London. They continued their educations after
leaving academia, attending sessions of the American Philosophical Society or the
Charleston Library Society. The men who frequented City Tavern and Ramadge's
came equipped with the training to logically process the information presented.
Jurgen Habermas investigated the public sphere in Europes bourgeois class.
In search of public sphere in Revolutionary America, a bourgeoisie is difficult to
discover, defined as it was in Europe in contrast to aristocracy. But as both
Philadelphia and Charleston evidence, an educated, cosmopolitan, wealthy, and
influential citizenry existed in Revolutionary America and this class of leaders used
their talents and connections to inform the general populous, as Habermas
observed.129 In Europe, professionals of this sort might not have been considered
leadersthe monarchies and Church filled that role. But in Americas absence of a
national, established church and far distant from its English king, members of
educated classes readily lead the way. Therefore, rather than assuming a bourgeois
public sphere, let us consider a public sphere of leadership. Incidentally, Americas
late eighteenth-century leaders preferred the seclusion of the specific tavern space.
Soon after mid-century, Philadelphias run-of-the-mill taverns fell out of
favor with the citys elite. Philadelphia historian Peter Thompson identified the shift
in tavern social make-up precisely in the final third of the eighteenth century.
Thompson determined that in the 1760s,
Philadelphians of all ranks and backgrounds grew disillusioned with the mixed
company previously typical of their citys taverns.. .tavemgoers expressed.. .an
increasing preference for sociability among men of similar background and opinion.
At the same time, sections of the tavemgoing public demanded the more efficient
provision of specific services.130
Indeed, Benjamin Franklins Junto, precursor to the American Philosophical Society,
eventually forsook their original tavern meeting ground. According to Franklin,
Junto members left the Alehouse where we first met, and hired a Room to hold our
Club in.131 Similarly, Philadelphias Free Masons, academic lecturers, directors of
the Library Company, and contributors to the Pennsylvania Hospital, all once
129 Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 22-23.
130 Thompson, Rum, Punch and Revolution, 145.
131 Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography Part 8, The Benjamin Franklin Papers: Digital Edition, The
American Philosophical Society and Yale University,
http::/tfanklinnapers.org'franklin/framed Volumes, isp (accessed April 20, 2010).
satisfied with the neighborly tavern space, discontinued tavern use when structures
more appropriate for their purposes were constructed, such as the College of
Philadelphia or Carpenters Hall (the Library Company met on the second floor).132
The drive to build the City Tavern in 1773 evidenced the transformation in
tavern usage. Intent to create a venue suitable for serious and sophisticated business,
Philadelphias social upper crust financed the City Taverns construction, paying
twenty-five pounds each.133 Over the next few years, the men enlivening City
Taverns space brought backgrounds similar to the men who provided its original
monetary backing. Governor John Penn, John Dickinson, and Benjamin Chew all
signed onto the venture, finding the notion of an extraordinary and exclusive tavern
Reaching five stories high, built brick upon brick, City Tavern was as elegant
and dominant as the city that built it. Tavern staffers stored and prepared meals in the
cellar, while customers waited to dine on the second and third floors above. The
charter members reserved the fourth floor for lodging and the fifth floor to servant
quarters. Customers entered after climbing a stately set of marble stairs, all the more
unique because of their significant distance from the street, and got comfortable in
the Coffee Rooms, the Subscription Room, or the Bar Room. Some patrons, usually
132 Russell F. Weigley, ed., Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
1982), 76, 120.
133 Staib and Bauer, The City Tavern Cookbook, 20.
those attending balls or private parties on the third floor, accessed City Tavern from
its back door, passing through a garden and up onto the porch. On the third floor,
tavern visitors stepped into two private dining or meeting spaces that readily
transformed into one long room, ideal for balls, music performances, card games,
large meetings, and lavish entertainments. City Taverns charter members
purposefully planned every detail.134
The taverns donors lived atop Philadelphia society. Wealthy Governor John
Penn, descended from Pennsylvanias most established family, also possessed
influential London connections and attended school in London and Geneva. John
Dickinson, author of Letters of a Farmer in Pennsylvania, studied law in
Philadelphia, followed by three years at Middle Temple and the Inns of Court. As a
lawyer and politician, Dickinson became one of the wealthiest men in British North
America. Benjamin Chew, an astute legal mind, studied at Middle Temple as well.
Greatly influenced by Sir Francis Bacons Law Tracts, Chew became a legal scholar,
prominent Philadelphia lawyer, head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary, and Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Men like Penn, Dickinson, and Chew planted
the seeds for a legacy of leadership at the City Tavern.
Charlestons leading men used Ramadges Tavern for intellectual pursuits.
Early in the 1730s, Henry Gignilliat lived in the building during its first stint as a
judicial facility. The court room easily held very large parties, upwards of forty
134 Ibid., 27-29 and Salinger, Taverns and Drinking in Early America, 54.
people. The Court of Common Pleas did business here, and somewhat fortuitously,
judges granted appointments for liquor licenses. The size of Gignilliats court room
drew crowds that used it repeatedly in the coming decades, like the St. Andrews
Club. Once converted to a tavern, the buildings court room (as many continued to
call it) enticed the Free Masons to perform processional ceremonies there.135 In
celebration of the festival of St. John the Evangelist, members of two Free Masons
lodges, marched to Mr. Shepheards court room, along with a numerous assembly
of ladies and gentlemen, to hear the newly elected provincial grand masters very
eloquent speech of the usefulness of societies, and the benefit arising there from to
mankind.136 The building that became Ramadges Tavern in the 1770s had long
been a Charleston landmark, the epicenter of meetings, celebration, and culture since
Members of the Charleston Library Society, considered the heart of the citys
intellectual circuit, had favored Ramadges since in 1748, when it belonged to John
Gordon. Nine merchants, two lawyers, a schoolmaster, a peruke-maker, a printer, a
physician, and two planters inaugurated the society.137 As the library grew, so did its
135 See The South Carolina Gazette, May 13, 1732, September 2, 1732, December 16, 1732, March
24, 1733, March 9, 1734, April 20, 1734, June 4, 1737, in Accessible Archives,
136 CHARLES-TOWN, The South Carolina Gazette, December 28, 1738, in Accessible Archives,
http:,'-www. accessible.com/accessible/print?AADocList^ 15&A ADocStvl e^STYLED&AAStyleFile^
(accessed August 8,2010).
137 Rogers, Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, 99.
demographic of merchants, doctors, and lawyers. Well-known Charlestonians, such
as Peter Timothy, Thomas Middleton, and Robert Brisbane actively participated and
Henry Laurens, a successful merchant, planter, and American Philosophical Society
member, attended to the librarys governance. Lawyer, William Henry Drayton,
statesman Thomas Lynch, and architect Gabriel Manigault also joined the club.
These leading citizens kept diverse reading lists. Books in the librarys possession
included the Bible, classical works of Cicero, Caesar, and Chaucer, and the
Enlightenment tomes of Voltaire, Shaftesbury, and Rousseau. In addition, members
perused contemporary magazines like The Annual Register, British Magazine,
Critical Review, The Gentlemans Magazine, The London Magazine, and Monthly
| i o
Review and periodicals such as The Taller, The Rambler, and The Spectator.
Charlestons Library Society supplemented already exceptional educations.
These men met together, ordered books, and read them in their societys rooms,
but library society companions frequented other favorite haunts, as well, indeed,
they were also the men who red the newspapers and magazines in the coffee houses
and taverns, and the men who owned private libraries, as the inventories of their
estates attest.138 139 Charlestons intellectual leaders enjoyed their books, magazines,
and conversations as much in a tavern as in the librarys reading rooms and the
comfort of their own homes.
138 Raven, London Booksellers and American Customers, 357-359.
139 Rogers, Jr., Charleston in the Age of the Pinckneys, 100.
Again, Jurgen Habermas concluded that the bourgeoisie was central to
Europes public sphere. While eighteenth-century America bred no bourgeoisie as
such, it did support an emerging leadership. This leadership class was just as
connected to and part of the public sphere and stayed in touch with the general public
through avenues like schooling, the written word, and taverns. And in America the
public reached back. In fact, Americas revolutionary leaders explicitly rejected
hiding their thoughts and actions from their countrymen. In time, the American
people discovered what the occupants of City Tavern and Ramadges were talking
about. Representation was something to be taken seriously.
TAVERNS OF THE PUBLIC SPHERE: AGENCY
The public sphere existed in Revolutionary American taverns. The best
receptacles of that public sphere were taverns with a large room that provided
colonial and international news and that welcomed the new American leadership.
Taverns of this type resemble the institutions that Habermas recognized in Europe
and met his four criteria: ideas and people were assumed equal, truth was determined
through reasoned arguments, and the actors within represented public needs and
But what drew anyone inside in the first place? In this case, it was the
American Revolution. The mounting tensions between Great Britain and her
American colonies were responsible for
reorienting the agenda of public discourse, bringing new issues to the fore. The
routine rational-critical discourse of the public sphere cannot be about everything all
at once. Some structuring of attention, imposed by dominant ideology, hegemonic
powers, or social movements must always exist.140
Colonial Americans of the 1760s and 1770s focused their attentions on the conflict
with England, compelling them to act on their own behalf. American responses to
British authority were an impetus that completed the public sphere of a tavern.
140 Calhoun, Habermas and the Public Sphere, 37.
Specifically reactions to the Townshend Acts and the Tea Act, the meeting of the
First Continental Congress, and the implementation of the resolves of that Congress
all indicate the focal point for the participants in the public sphere. Agency brought
the other elements together, to work together, resulting in the realization of the
public sphere inside the tavern.
The Non-Importation Associations of the late 1760s formed in reaction to
1767s Townshend Duties, a series of Acts implemented to raise revenues at colonial
expense. Boston led the opposition to the Acts, resolving in 1768 to
not send or import from Great Britain this fall, either on our own account, or on
commission, any other goods than what are already ordered for the fall supply. That
we will not send for or import any kind of goods or merchandise from Great Britain,
either on our own account, or on commissions, or any otherwise, from January 1,
1769, to January 1, 1770, except salt, coals, fish-hooks and lines, hemp, duck, bar
lead and shot, wool-cards, and card-wire. That we will not purchase of any factors,
or others, any kind of goods imported from Great Britain from January 1, 1769, to
January 1, 1770. That we will not import on our own account, or on commission, or
Purchase from any Who shall import from any other colony in America, from
January 1, 1769, to January 1, 1770, any tea, glass, paper, or other goods commonly
imported from Great Britain. That we will not, from and after January 1, 1769,
import into the province any tea, paper, glass, or painters' colours, until the Acts
imposing duties on these articles have been repealed.141
Other colonies followed suit with similar Non-Importation Agreements.
Philadelphia merchants passed their agreement on March 10, 1769 and Charlestons
contract, overwhelmingly sponsored by the citys planters and artisans, was signed
141 The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Boston Non-Importation
Agreement, August 1, 1768, Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Law Library,
http:, avalon.law.yale.edu/18th centurv/boston non importation 1768.asp (accessed May 23, 2010).
on July 22, 1769. After early revisions to their agreement, Charlestonians vowed to
also boycott importing Negro slaves.142
Members of the Non-Importation organizations called meetings at taverns to
honor their contracts. In Philadelphia, subscribers to their Non-Importation
Agreement convened at Josiah Davenports tavern (the future Bunch of Grapes
Tavern) on September twentieth, where they held a vote, selected a chairman, and
discussed questions regarding the details of their contract.143 Charlestons Non-
importation Association constantly gathered at Dillons Tavern. On October 4, 1770,
The South Carolina Gazette reported that last Tuesday Morning there was a very
sadder [sad?], very numerous, and very respectable Meeting of the Inhabitants of this
Town (Subscribers to the General Resolutions of the 22d of July, 1769) at Messrs.
Dillon & Gray's Tavern...144 In addition to studying the agreement, voting, and
making resolutions, from time to time Charlestons Association set some rule-
breakers straight. Members hurried to Dillons on March 8, 1771 because a large
cargo of goods has been lately imported here from Liverpool, contrary to the intent
142 Leila Sellers, Charleston business on the Eve of the American Revolution (New York: Library
Editions, Ltd., 1970), 201.
143 American Intelligence: Philadelphia, September 24, The South Carolina and American General
Gazette, October 15, 1770, in Accessible Archives,
http://www. accessible. com/accessible/print?AADocList=4&AADocStvle=STYLED&AAStyleFile=&
March 19, 2010).
144 Charles-town, October 4. On Sunday last... The South Carolina Gazette, October 4, 1770, in
OLIN AG AZETTE. SC 1770100402.00002&AABeanName=tocl&AANextPage= printBuiltPage.jsp
(accessed March 19, 2010).
of those who signed the Resolutions of the 22nd of July, 1769.145 The organization
felt duty-bound to consult each other and enquire into the circumstances relative to
the said importation.146
Charlestons Associations decisions did not remain under lock and key at
Dillons Tavern. Charleston citizens expected to be kept informed. South Carolinians
relied on the press to convey the Associations on-going business. Neglect of this job
was unacceptable. One South Carolina Gazette subscriber and signer of the Non-
importation resolutions, complained publicly to editor, Peter Timothy, saying,
as the Town was a good deal agitated last Friday, many of whom were not present at
the Meeting at Dillon's have impatiently expected some public Account of the
Transactions of that Day. Mr. Crouch's and R. Wells's Gazettes have since appeared,
but not a Word of the Matter... Lest your Paper also should be silent, I, who was
present at that Meeting... have taken the Liberty to Send you a Detailed [account?]
of these Transactions; which I desire may be in your Gazette of this Date, whether
you have, or have not, another submitting to may [make?] Corrections, if in any, I
may have erred.147
As a Charlestonian, this Gazette reader demanded access to the meeting
minutes. As a city representative, obviously cognizant of his mission, he believed
public awareness tantamount to the cause.
145 What may have been the leading motive... The South Carolina Gazette, March 14, 1771, in
Accessible Archives, .
http: www.accessible.com/accessible/r>rint?AADocList=2 l&AADocStvle=STYLED&AAStvleFile=
&AABeanName=toc l&AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp& A ACheck=l .126.96.36.199
(accessed August 1, 2010).
147 Anonymous, Mr. Timothy... The South Carolina Gazette, March 14, 1771, in Accessible
http: www. accessible.com/aecessible/docButton?AAWhat-doc&AAWhere^20&AABeanName=toc
1 &AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck-1,188.8.131.52 (accessed August 1, 2010).
Members of the Non-Importation Associations included Charles Thomson,
Joseph Reed, John Dickinson, and Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania and Peter
Timothy, Christopher Gadsden, and Thomas Lynch of South Carolina.148 During the
tavern meetings, American leaders tested and refined their skills, practicing on one
another. Outside tavern walls, they acted as tribunes of the people and directed
the motions as they (had) previously settled the matter at public meetings in taverns
or under the Liberty Tree.149 By the late 1760s, tavern politics had gained the
respect of former doubters. Henry Laurens, at one time both British sympathizer and
tavern prosecutor, changed his tune on both fronts as the colonies wrestled with the
non-importation question. Described as Charlestons conservative conscience,
Laurens presided at meetings at Dillons Tavern.150 Americans quickly transformed
their taverns into administrative capitols once the quarrel with Great Britain
Agency: The Tea Act
American Revolutionaries deemed taverns just as suitable to deal with the
Tea Act as any governmental building could be. Leaders of Philadelphia and
148 Robert F. Oaks, Philadelphia Merchants and the Origin of American Independence, Proceedings
of the American Philosophical Society Vol 121, 6 (December 1, 1977): 413 and Sellers, Charleston
Business on the Eve of the American Revolution, 210.
149 Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution, 210.
150 Ibid., 211.
Charleston frequented City Tavern and Ramadges to address the continued taxation
on tea. By 1773,
the Stamp Act had been repealed. All of the Townshend duties had been repealed,
except that on tea. The tax on tea had been retained as proof that Parliament had the
right to tax the colonists; the colonists must therefore never consent to pay it, for to
do so would be an admission that the power of taxation rested in Parliament, a body
in which they themselves were not represented.151
While Boston staged the most dramatic affront to the Tea Act by hosting the
Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, her urban contemporaries refused the
British tea as well. Charlestonians denied the distribution of the tea chests, seized the
cargo for safe-keeping in the cellar of the Exchange, and declared their rejection of
all future tea imports.152
As word reached Philadelphia of the tea-fury gripping neighboring
colonies, they too vowed to act in unison. Philadelphians roundly approved of the
Conduct and Spirit of the People of New York, Charles Town, and Boston, and
return their hearty Thanks to the People in Boston for their Resolution in destroying
the Tea rather than suffering it to be landed.153 A select committee of gentlemen
151 George C. Rodgers, Jr. The Charleston Tea Party: The Significance of December 3, 1773, The
South Carolina Historical Magazine 75 (July 1974): 157.
152 Ibid., 162, and Charlestown, November 25, The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 22, 1773, in
http://www. accessible.com/accessible/print?A ADocList=4&AADocStvle=ST YLED& A AStvleFile=&
March 20, 2010).
153 Philadelphia, Monday, December 27, 1773, The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 29, 1773, in
(accessed April 23, 2010).
intercepted the tea ship bound for Philadelphia, called the captain ashore, and
escorted him to the State House. There Captain Ayers witnessed a public meeting in
which Philadelphians ordered the tea returned and elected a committee of four
gentlemen to execute the command.154 After the teas banishment the people of
Charleston wasted no time in enlisting tavern services for the Tea affair. In
Philadelphia, taverns played a significant role in the aftermath of the declarations
made at the State House.
Charleston taverns offered an atmosphere as effective as their official
Exchange building. Following Charlestons tea party
there was a very numerous Meeting of the most respectable Planters and
Landholders, in this Province, at Mrs. Swallow's Tavern: And another of
Mechanicks. And on Thursday, there was also a Meeting of the Merchants at the
same House. Friday Morning the General Meeting of the Inhabitants, in
Consequence of Tuesday's Adjustment, was opened at 10 oclock, under the
Exchange, and continued till 3 in the Afternoon; when another was agreed to be held,
at the same Place, on Friday the 7th Day of January next, at 1 O'clock in the
Forenoon; and it was requested, that every Man of Property in the Province that
could attend, would be present.153
Swallows Tavern swarmed with activity just as the Exchange did. While the
Exchange was the statelier of the two choices, Mrs. Swallows Tavern provided the
same use. The debates at Swallows and the Exchange were held to an ideal of 155
155 Lodgings. To be LECC, The South Carolina Gazette, December 20, 1773, in Accessible
http:, /www. accessible. com/accessible/print?AADocList=97&AADocStvle^STYLED&AAStvleFile=
(accessed April 24, 2010).
equality of thought and argument, an atmosphere in which no Gentleman, that had
an [inclination?] to Speak, suffered the least Interruption, but was heard with the
gentle Attention Each Side of the Question had its Advocates...156 Disappointed
Charlestonians accused many merchants of dishonoring their initial resolves in
continuing to import British tea. Whether in Swallows Tavern or the Exchange,
Charlestonians played watchdog to Englands abuses of authority, beholden to ideas
of equality and honorable representation of public sentiment.
The City Tavern was only a loose frame when Philadelphians sent the tea
ship back to England. But Philadelphias leading men found the tavern invaluable in
dealing with the ramifications of their tea party in 1774. The British Parliament
closed Bostons Port as punishment for the wasted teaa sentence that infuriated the
colonies. From New England to Georgia, colonial leaders announced solidarity with
their Bostonian friends. On May 20, 1774 Philadelphians, at a Meeting between
Two and Three Hundred of the respectable Inhabitants of the City of Philadelphia, at
the City Tavern, established a committee to communicate with Pennsylvanias sister
colonies and reassured Boston of their unyielding adherence to the cause of
American liberty, promising to call future meetings when necessary.157 Gathered at
157 Messieurs Hall and Sellers, The Pennsylvania Gazette, June 8, 1774, in Accessible Archives,
AABeanName^-toc 1 &AANextPage=/printFullDocFromXML.isp&AACheck^l. 184.108.40.206 (accessed
March 23, 2010).
City Tavern that night, John Dickinson, Thomas Mifflin, George Clymer, Charles
Thomson, and William Smith, among others, recognized the profound nature of
representation. These leaders explained that to collect the Sense of this large City is
difficult; and when their Sense is obtained, they must not consider themselves as
authorized to judge or to act for this populous Province, in a Business so deeply
interesting as the present is to all British America.158 Nevertheless, as
representatives for Philadelphia, their job motivated them to consult what was
proper to be done.159 Pennsylvanias leading figures deciphered and formulated the
colonys opinion on the Boston port closure inside the City Tavern.
The Committee of the City of Philadelphia also expected The Pennsylvania
Gazette to relay their proceedings to Pennsylvanias citizens. Pennsylvanias
representatives understood that many People are desirous to know that Steps were
taken by the Inhabitants of this City, on the late Application made to them by their
Brethren of Boston, upon receiving the Act of Parliament for shutting up their Port,
reasoning that in a Matter of such general Concern to the Liberties of All, the
Inhabitants of the different Counties of this Province should be made acquainted
with the Proceedings of the Metropolis, that they may approve or dissent from them,
as they shall see Cause.160
In December of 1773, the crowd that conducted Philadelphias tea party
descended upon the State House. By May of 1774, leading Philadelphians had
another option. The City Tavern sponsored rational-critical debate, a resistance to
authority, and the careful business of representation. As had happened in Charleston,
Philadelphians readily and shamelessly substituted taverns for official venues. By
now, perhaps Americans desired a changing of the guard. If an American Revolution
was on the horizon, an innately American institution would be more suitable to direct
that rebellion, rather than former centers of English legislation. If colonists were to
turn their backs on England, they must do it completely, and for this the tavern door
swung wide open.
Agency: The First Continental Congress
Perhaps the grandest showcase of public sphere in American taverns occurred
when the First Continental Congress met from September through October 1774 in
Philadelphia. The Congress sought a unanimous, inter-colonial consensus regarding
the basis of American rights and the proper means by which to defend them. The
City Tavern sanctioned the ideas, debates, and strictures of the delegates who
conducted off-the-record governmental affairs inside its doors. Congressional
meetings at the City Tavern fostered egalitarianism, reasoned discussion, a keen
awareness of representation, and of course, a forceful resistance to established
power. City Tavern was Americas best example of an institution of the public
No secretary recorded the endless chatter at City Tavern. But the regularity of
delegate visits before and after official sessions in Carpenters Hall suggests the
days issues visited City Tavern as well.162 Representatives did however, record their
musings and concerns, frustrations and elations in their journals, notes, and letters.
And despite a vow of secrecy, every now and then delegate opinion slipped out.
These men felt strongly on every topic, such as non-importation or non-exportation,
the union (or lack thereof) with Great Britain, colonial solidarity, and their pleasure
or displeasure with each sessions debates and resolutions. Bostons plight caused
many an aching wrist. Delegates wrote about the rumored shots fired in Boston, the
Suffolk Resolves, the seizure of the city by General Gage, and the perceived
passionate or tepid empathy for Massachusetts from other colonies. In the duration of
two months, the serious questions before Congress left little time to think of anything
else. If the colonial representatives wrote of these matters outside Carpenters Hall,
then they certainly talked of them as well. And as the favorite rendezvous of those
men who founded our government, the City Tavern was the place to go.
Many delegates saw City Tavern before they saw the rest of Philadelphia,
including John Adams. Adams, along with Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, and
161 MiddlekaufF, The Glorious Cause, 249.
162 Staib and Bauer, The City Tavern Cookbook, 24.
Robert Treat Paine, arrived in Philadelphia nineteen days after departing Boston, and
dirty, dusty and fatigued as we were, we could not resist the Importunity, to go the
Tavern, the most genteel one in America. There we were introduced to a Number of
other Gentlemen of the CityDr. Shippen, Dr. Knox, Mr. Smith, and a Multitude of
others, and to Mr. Lynch and Mr. Gadsden of South Carolina.163 Like Adams, many
of his fellow delegates found themselves intrigued by City Tavern. Robert Treat
Paine, Connecticuts Silas Deane, Samuel Ward of Rhode Island, New Yorks James
Duane, and Virginias George Washington all found the City Tavern worthy of note
in their letters or journals.164
City Tavern hosted a welcome dinner for the Congress and over the course of
two months, the delegates became very well acquainted inside Philadelphias newest
attraction. John Adams sized everyone up. Thomas Lynch, a solid, firm, judicious
Man, was also a gossip.165 Lynch dealt the juicy details of, the Scandalous History
of Sir Egerton Leighthe Story of his Wifes Sister, and of his Dodging his Uncle,
163 John Adams Diary 21 (from August 15 to September 3, 1774 [electronic edition]), August 29,
1774, Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society,
http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/ (accessed March 15, 2008).
164 See Robert Treat Paines Diary, August 30, 1774; Samuel Wards Diary, August 30, 1774; Silas
Deane to Elizabeth Deane, August 31, 1774; James Duanes Notes of Debates; and George
Washingtons Diary, September 6, 1774, in Letters of Delegates to Congress: 1774-1789, Paul Smith,
ed., Volume I (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1976), 13-14, 16, 25, 33.
165 John Adams Diary 21 (from August 15 to September 3, 1774 [electronic edition]), August 29,
1774, Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive, Massachusetts Historical Society,
http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/ (accessed September 25, 2008).
much to Adamss delight.166 Benjamin Harrison from Virginia impressed Adams by
proclaiming that he would have walked to Philadelphia for this Congress, if that had
been his only option.167 South Carolinas Edward Rutledge seemed good natured,
tho conceited, Marylands Thomas Johnson had a clear and cool Head, and
Delawares Caesar Rodney was the oddest looking Man in the World. He is tall
thin and slender as a reedpalehis face is not bigger than a large Apple. Yet there
is a Sense and Fire, Spirit, Wit and Humor in his Countenance.168 The characters
present at the First Continental Congressthe clientele of the City Taverncame to
Philadelphia from all walks of life.
John Adams noticed the extraordinary diversity surrounding him:
here are fortunes, abilities, learning, eloquence, acuteness equal to any I ever met
with my life. Here is a diversity of religions, educations, manners, interests, such as
it would seem almost impossible to unite in any one plan of conduct. Every question
is discussed with a moderation, and an acuteness and a minuteness equal to that of
Queen Elizabeths privy council.169
Delegate ethnicities ranged from Irish to Finnish, British to French Huguenot, Dutch,
Welsh, Swedish, Ulster-Scot, and Scottish. They practiced different faiths
Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, Episcopalian, Dutch Reformism, Quakerism,
Lutheranism, Anglicanism and Unitarianism. They were merchants, planters,
statesmen, military men, lawyers, farmers, shopkeepers, governors, jurists, former
167 Ibid., September 2, 1774 (accessed September 25, 2008).
168 Ibid., September 3, 1774-October 10, 1774 (accessed September 25, 2008).
169 John Adams to William Tudor, September 29, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I,
mayors, millers, and surveyors. No two representatives received identical educations.
Some delegates attended colonial colleges, such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Kings
College or William and Mary. Common schools, Latin Schools, and Quarter Schools
produced representatives too. Many were self-educated. Quite a few congressmen
had traveled to England for schooling, including all of South Carolinas delegates.
Political stances varied from fiercely patriotic to conservative, and a few turned to
loyalism with the onset of warfare. Still others rejected any option other than peace,
particularly the Quaker delegates. Differences aside, Patrick Henry captured the
general feelings of Congress early on, declaring that the Distinctions between
Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more. I am
not a Virginian, but an American.170 These men set about their task as equals,
working on Americas behalf, conversing at City Tavern.
In fact, the American delegates nearly called the Congress to order at City
Tavern, not at Carpenters Hall. Silas Deane arrived from Connecticut quite early, on
August 31, 1774, well in advance of other colonial delegates. Deane and those
delegates who were present dined at City Tavern on September first where they
discussed some preliminaries. The conversation became so involved that someone
interrupted to suggest it prudent to defer the business until all the congressmen
170 John Adams Notes of Debates, September 6, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I,
arrived.171 From this point forward, congressmen used City Tavern as their unofficial
headquarters. Delegates met at Daniel Smiths public house before and after
congressional sessions, forming much of the world we live in with what they said
among themselves: Bargaining, politicking, speaking their minds, talking small
things and large over the rattle of dishes and the steady hubbub of surrounding
The colonial representatives met first a City Tavern the morning of
September 6, 1774 before they proceeded to Carpenters Hall to convene the
Congress.173 Each man who took the walk that day was prepared to suggest their
solutions for handling the Intolerable Acts, solutions that were numerous, differing,
and sometimes unyielding. Questions over the basis of colonial rights, the
distribution and weight of each colonys vote, non-exportation, the injustices
committed in Boston, the use of colonial militias, and the potential for reconciliation
with Great Britain were just some of the issues entrusted to Congress. The
complicated subject matter fostered countless opinions, constantly challenging the
delegates to consider each proposal in a reasonable and equal manner. Presenting,
171 Silas Deane to Elizabeth Deane, August 31, 1774-September 1, 1774, Letters of Delegates to
Congress, Volume I, 16; Samuel Wards Diary, September 1, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress,
Volume I, 14; Robert Treat Paines Diary, September 1, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress,
Volume I, 13.
172 Staib and Bauer, The City Tavern Cookbook, 10.
173 John Adams Diary, September 5, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I, 9.
debating, pondering, and concluding each issue often took days, haunting the
delegates outside of Carpenters Hall, accompanying them to dinner at City Tavern.
First and foremost, delegates formally introduced themselves and quickly
established a system of rules. Representatives determined that no man could speak
on one issue more than twice, that the doors of Carpenters Hall be kept shut, and the
issues at hand kept secret, and that no question shall be determined the day, on
which it is agitated and debated, if any one of the Colonies desire the determination
to be postponed to another day.174 Congressmen continually honored the last rule,
laying many questions to rest until tomorrow. But delegates resurrected the
unresolved topics at the City Tavern following adjournments. For example, between
Wednesday October twelfth and Friday the fourteenth, Congress daily resumed the
consideration of the rights and grievances of these colonies.175 The disparity of
opinion on the matter dictated a multi-day debate. On the twelfth,
from ten o'clock until half after four, we were debating about the parliamentary
power of regulating trade. Five Colonies were for allowing it, five against it, and two
divided among themselves, that it, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Mr. Duane has
had his heart set upon asserting in our bill of rights the authority of Parliament to
regulate the trade of the Colonies. He is for grounding it on compact, acquiescence,
necessity, protection, not merely on our consent.176
174 Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington,
D.C., 1904-1937), 1:26, Tuesday, September 6, 1774, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-
bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(jc00110)): (accessed June 18, 2010).
175 JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:63,
Wednesday, October 12, 1774. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-
bin/querv/r?ammem/hlaw:(afield(DOCID-r(fl.lit( jcOO 131)): (accessed June 18, 2010).
176 John Adams Diary, October 13, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I, 189.
So for two evenings and two mornings, delegates revisited the essence of colonial
rights at the City Tavern.
Congress questioned how much weight each colonys vote should yield in
their opening session. Virginias Patrick Henry suggested that colonial votes
correspond to each particular colonys population. New Hampshires John Sullivan
argued that a little colony had its all at stake as well as a great one. Thomas Lynch,
representing South Carolina, believed colonial votes should be determined based on
a compound of population numbers and of property. Only the first day and
congressman had to forget their individual biases for their home colony and measure
each argument against the bar of logic.177
Likewise, delegates easily agreed to non-importation but hotly contested non-
exportation. The debate began on September the thirtieth and lasted until October
sixth, leaving plenty of evenings for tavern talk. Also on October 6, 1774, Paul
Revere arrived in Philadelphia carrying a letter from the Boston committee of
correspondence and the Suffolk Resolves. The Suffolk Resolves spelled out
Massachusettss frame of mind toward the murderous Intolerable Acts and their
steadfast resistance to them. The letter that accompanied the Resolves requested
Congress guidancewhat should Boston do as the British army fortified their
town? Congress delayed, deciding that this letter be taken into consideration to-
177 John Adams Diary, September 6, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I, 10 and JCC,
1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:25, Tuesday, September
6, 1774, http: '/memory.loc.gov.',cgi-bin/tiuerv/r?ammem/hla\v:(d tield(DQCID+(dlit(ic00110)):
(accessed June 19, 2010).
morrow morning. But the news from New England was urgent and mind-
consuming. According to Robert Treat Paine, the letter sparked a three day debate
in Congress, and John Adams wrote Abigail that his fellow congressmen were all
around me debating what Advice to give to Boston and the Massachusetts Bay.178
The Suffolk Resolves presented an issue too great to leave behind inside Carpenters
Hall at sessions end. John Adams found himself incapable to think of anything
My Feelings for its [Bostons] distresses are exquisite. I lie down with it, in my
Mind, I dream of it all night, and awake with its ghastly Spectre before my Eyes. I
wish that you and all the rest of our Friends had been more explicit, in your private,
confidential Letters to Us, in pointing out what was thought of and what was desired
by the People of Boston and the Massachusetts Bay. The Expressions in all your
Letters are a little enigmatical-We are left to guess at the Meaning.179
Adamss distress revealed a man sick over Bostons suffering and determined to ease
her plight. Obviously his concern stayed with him after delegates shut the doors on
Carpenters Hall for the day. Additionally forthcoming, Adams wrote,
if it is a secret Hope of any, as I suspect it is, that the Congress will advise to
offensive Measures, they will be mistaken. I have had opportunities enough both
public and private, to learn with Certainty, the decisive Sentiments of the Delegates
and others, upon this Point. They will not at this session vote to raise Men or Money,
or Arms or Ammunition. Their Opinions are fixed against Hostilities and Ruptures,
except they should become absolutely necessary, and this Necessity they do not yet
See. They dread the Thoughts of an Action because, it would make a Wound which
could never be healed. It would fix and establish a Rancour, which would descend to
the latest Generations. It would render all Hopes of Reconciliation with Great Britain
l7s JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:55-57,
Thursday, October 6, 1774, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-
bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:(d field!DOClD+fo lit(icOO 126)): (accessed June 19, 2010) and Robert Treat
Paines Diary, October 6, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I, 154; John Adams to
Abigail Adams, October 7, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 155.
179 John Adams to William Tudor, October 7, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I, 157.
desperate. It would light Up the Flames of War, perhaps through the whole
Continent, which might rage for twenty year, and End, in the Subduction of America,
as likely as in her Liberation.'80
Adams confessed to extensive discussions, both public and private, on the life and
death issues before the Congress. Surely he learned many opinions inside
Carpenters Hall. But some of these private opportunities that Adams alluded to were
probably sheltered by the high-backed booths inside the City Tavern.
The situation in Boston occupied a considerable amount of time, but many
other issues challenged delegates to fair consideration. Representatives drafted and
deliberated all of October. By October 1, 1774 delegates voted to prepare an address
to King George III and by the fifth the debate that determined which matters to
include in the formal letter had concluded. On October twenty-first, the committee
that drafted the Kings address read it to Congress, followed by a debate. The
remarks were finally approved on October twenty-fifth. Congress also appointed
committees to prepare a statement to the people of Great Britain, a letter to General
Gage, a memorial to the inhabitants of the thirteen colonies, a plan for non-
importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation, and an address to the people of
Quebec. Once presented to Congress, all these documents lay on the table for
delegate perusal followed by debate, amendments, and recommitment for editing. 180 181
181 JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:53-104,
Saturday, October 1, 1774-Tuesday, October 25, 1774, http:7memorv.loc.gov/cgi-
bin/querv r?ammem/hlaw:(a fieldi DOClD-rtu lit( icOO 1TOOO)): (accessed September 12, 2010).
The City Taverns Coffee Rooms, Subscription Rooms, and Long Room were well
attended that October.
Notwithstanding the days, weeks, and even month-long debates, not every
resolution of the First Continental Congress attained unanimity. However frustrating
at the time, the comfort of some men to ardently and publicly oppose the decisions of
Congress evidenced respect and equanimity. For example, Congress officially
approved the actions of Bostonians as they opposed General Gages seizure of
Massachusetts Bay. However, both Joseph Galloway and James Duane disagreed
and requested their opposition noted in the congressional minutes.182 Furthermore,
some delegates supported British taxation of the American colonies and ardently
worked for a lasting reconciliationnot a greater distancingwith King and
country. This unpopular sentiment challenged congressmen to equal and reasonable
consideration however much any man might fundamentally disagree. Pennsylvanian
Joseph Galloways plan reminded his fellow colonists of the necessity of the
supreme authority of Parliament over the Colonies...183 Galloway outlined his best
solution to manage the Intolerable Acts, one that suggested a happy reunion with
Great Britain. The Galloway Plan proposed
182 JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), l:58nl, Saturday,
October 8, 1774. http://memorv.loc.ttov/cgi-
bin/auerv'r?ammem./hlavv:(tt Field! DOClDAu litt icOO 128)): (accessed June 19, 2010).
183 JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Fordetal (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:47, Wednesday,
September 28, 1774, http://memorv.loc.aov/cgi-
bin/query/r?aminem'hlaw:(tt field( DOCID+fa litt icOO 120)): (accessed June 19, 2010).
that a British and American legislature, for regulating the administration of the
general affairs of America, be proposed and established in America, including all the
said colonies; within, and under which government, each colony shall retain its
present constitution, and powers of regulating and governing its own internal police,
in all cases what[so]ever. That the said government be administered by a President
General, to be appointed by the King, and a grand Council, to be chosen by the
Representatives of the people of the several colonies, in their respective assemblies,
once in every three years. 4
Galloway presented his plan on September 28, 1774. It lay on the table for future
consideration, but in fact, Congress voted to dismiss the resolution when its
supporters were absent from Congress.184 185 However noble the intentions, often their
visions of equality fell short.
Whether formally at Carpenters Hall or informally at City Tavern, delegates
had no shortage of problems to solve. Just as delegates sought egalitarianism
amongst themselves, they also fought for equality in their ideas. Day after day,
delegates challenged themselves to consider potential solutions equally, at
Carpenters Hall and at City Tavern. In issues like vote allocation, non-importation,
and American rights, and future relations with Great Britain, delegates took their
time and their task seriously. The first American Congressmen were cognizant that
their daily and nightly discussions would affect more than just themselves.
Actors of the public sphere were held up against the standard of
egalitarianism, formed opinions rationally, and served as the mouthpiece for a larger
public. Both ordinary Americans and their representatives understood that the latter
184 Ibid, 49.
185 Ibid, 5 In 1.
party, being a mere agent or deputy, was obliged to act as his constituents directed,
regardless of his own views.186 And Americas delegates to the First Continental
Congress tried to implement the proper means of representation. When Richard
Henry Lee arrived in Philadelphia, he took his Pen and attempted a Calculation of
the Numbers of People represented by the Congress which he made about 2,200,000,
and of the Revenue now actually raised.. .187 188 Like Lee, Silas Deane refused to
dismiss the people he spoke for. Awe-inspired by his newfound duty, Deane
requested his wife to
inform my Friends that we are in high spirits, if it is possible to be really so, where
the Eyes of Millions are upon Us, and who consider themselves & their posterity
interested in our conductbut the prospect of Unanimity among Ourselves, & of
support from our countrymen, greatly serve to animate us in the arduous task before
us, which is as arduous, & of as great consequence, as ever men undertook and
Congressmen bound one another by a vow of secrecy during deliberations, but their
first duty as representatives compelled them to eventually reveal their final products.
For example, Congress unanimously resolved and requested colonial merchants to
stop ordering British goods and directed that the execution of all orders already
sent, to be delayed or suspended, until the sense of the Congress, on the means to be
taken for the preservation of the liberties of America, is made public. Ordered, That
this resolution be made public by handbills, and by publishing it in the
186 Morgan, Inventing the People, 214.
187 John Adams Diary, September 3, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I, 7.
188 Silas Deane to Elizabeth Deane, August 31, 1774-September 1, 1774, Letters of Delegates to
Congress, Volume I, 19.
newspapers.189 The First Continental eventually distributed official documents and
correspondence as well. Congress ordered copies of the letter to General Gage
delivered to Bostons Committee of Correspondence and commanded that the
address to the people of Great Britain be printed in the newspapers.190 And in one of
their final acts, Congress ordered, that the Journal of the proceedings of the
Congress, as now corrected, be sent to the press, and printed under the direction of
Mr. [Edward] Biddle, Mr. [John] Dickinson, and the secretary.191 The delegates
spoke for the people of America and its citizens must know what had been said.
Before returning to their home colonies, the congressmen signed the formal
address to King George III. The document reminded His Majesty of Americas lack
of representation in Parliament and assured him that the colonies spoke as a united
force. The delegates requested that their
most gracious sovereign, in the name of all your faithful people in America, with
the utmost humility to implore you.. .that your majesty, as the loving father of your
whole people, connected by the same bands of law, loyalty, faith and blood,
though dwelling in various countries, will not suffer the transcendant relation
formed by these ties to be farther violated, in uncertain expectation of effects, that,
189 JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:41, Thursday,
September 22, 1774, http:/ memorv.loc.gov cgi-
bin Query/r?ammem hlaw:(dfield(DOClD+(d litf icOO 116)): (accessed June 19, 2010).
190 For the letter to Boston, see JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C.,
1904-1937), 1:61,Tuesday, October 11, 1774. http:, memory, loc.gov/cgi-
bin ciuery/r?ammem hlaw:tofield(DOCTD-Hd lit( icOO 130)): (accessed September 12, 2010); for the
address to the people of Great Britain, see JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al
(Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:75-81,Thursday, October 20, 1774, http:/Jnemorv.loc.gov/cgi-
bin ciuery/r?ammein/hlaw:/d field!DOCID-i'q lit(icOO 137)): (accessed September 12, 2010).
191 JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:102, Saturday,
October 22, 1774, http://memory.loc.gov cgi-
bin/querv'r?ammem/hlaw:(d field! DOCTD+(a litf icOO 139)): (accessed June 19, 2010).
if attained, never can compensate for the calamities, through which they must be
With the address to King George III signed and sealed, with the Congress adjourned,
and after the farewell dinner at City Tavern, representatives searched for evidence
that they truly had spoken in the name of all people in America. North Carolina
Delegate Joseph Hewes claimed that before he left Pennsylvania all ranks of people
here generally approve their recently published proceedings. The Germans who
compose a large part of the Inhabitants of this province are all on our side...193
Pennsylvanian John Dickinson agreed. Dickinson congratulated Josiah Quincy, Jr., a
Bostonian with so much riding on the decisions of the Congress, on the
hearty Union of all America from Nova Scotia to Georgia in the Common Cause.
The particulars, You are, no Doubt, acquainted with. The Congress broke up the
Day before Yesterday; and if it be possible, the Return of the Members into their
several Countries, will make the People still more firm. The most peaceable
Provinces are, now animated; and a Civil War is un-avoidable.194
North Carolinas William Hooper reported that Philadelphia clung to patriotic fervor,
Silas Deane wrote to Samuel Adams that New Yorkers paid the most sacred regard
to the resolutions of Congress, and Marylander Thomas Johnson, Jr. proclaimed his
192 JCC. 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al (Washington, D.C., 1904-1937), 1:120,
Wednesday, October 26, 1774, http: memory, loc.gov/cgi-
bin,c]uerv/r?ammem/hlaw:ta field!DOCID-Ha lit(icOOI42)): (accessed September 12, 2010).
193 Joseph Hewes to James Iredell, October 31, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume I,
194 John Dickinson to Josiah Quincy, Jr., October 28, 1774, Letters of Delegates to Congress, Volume
colony ready to stand in unison with the rest. In the months following Congress, the
delegates came to know that they had represented the American people accurately.195
The First Continental Congress delegatesthe constant companions at City
Tavernleft Philadelphia hopeful that they properly understood and carried out an
honest representation. Congress sincere belief that the American-British conflict
may ultimately be attributed to the Misrepresentations & Mistakes of Ministers; and
universal Peace be establishd throughout the British World, only by a general
Acknowledgement of this Truth, ensured that they themselves would be damned
rather than commit the same follies of misrepresentation.
195 William Hooper to James Duane, November 22, 1774, Silas Deane to Samuel Adams, November
13, 1774, and Thomas Johnson, Jr., to James Duane, December 16, 1774, Letters of Delegates to
Congress, Volume 1, 258, 262, 273.