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By beanerywriters(11,675)

This is the second part of a two-part article lightly responding to articles relating today’s blogging to 18th century pamphleteering. Read the first part at PAMPHLETEERING: THE 1790s BLOGGING. Tonight I’ll  start with a brief background and then give actual 1789 pamphlet examples I’ve come across in doing research for my novel. But.
Most of the articles comparing blogging and pamphleteering relate situations in America and England. However, my research has turned up examples in France. One in particular presents a glowing report of the American Eden: the Scioto area of Ohio.
In October 1787 Arthur St. Clair signed two land grants. One concerned the Northwest Territory. The second was the Ohio Land Grant.
Buried within the Ohio Land Grant was the Scioto Land Grant. It’s land was preempted to top military and government persons who hoped to sell it to others and make a profit. Briefly, they were land speculators, and many kept their identity secret. However, there were several key persons: Manasseh Cutler, Rufus Putnam and Benjamin Tupper and William Duer.
A good portion of the land was to be sold in the Netherlands or France.
Once the contracts were signed Joel Barlow, a law student and poet, was sent to France to seel the land. There he met up with an unscrupulous Englishman whose name was William Playfair.
In the early months of 1789 Barlow and Playfair issued the “Prospectus for an Establishment on the Rivers Ohio and Scioto---” pamphleteer style.
Its description of the Ohio country embellished material in an American pamphlet prepared by Cutler and Capt. Hutchins. An annexed extract reads (remember, this is OHIO!):  A climate wholesome and delightful, frost even in winter almost entirely unknown, and a river called, by way of eminence, the beautiful, and abounding in excellent fish of a vast size.  Noble forests, consisting of trees that spontaneously produce sugar (the sugar maple) and a plant that yields ready-made candles (myrica cerifera).  Venison in plenty, the pursuit of which is uninterrupted by wolves, foxes, lions or tigers.  A couple of swine will multiply themselves a hundredfold in two or three years, without taking any care of them.  No taxes to pay, no military services to be performed.

Thus began the rage for American land as Sciotomanie set in: land shares sold like hotcakes. Poorer citizens lined up for positions as indentured workers. 

“I would be charmed to go to another hemisphere to try my fortune,” commented an architect from Rouen.  “I dream only of Scioto... Paris has no more charm.  France is nothing next to Scioto.”

This American acreage speedily became a hot topic of discussion, satire, and debate in revolutionary press and pamphlet literature.  The phrase Sciotomanie refers not only to the sale of lands but even more so to a sudden popular fascination with a dreamlike space on the border between “le Kentucki et l’Ohio.”

Participants in Sciotomanie spoke from different angles, published in pamphlets. Salesmen promoted the financial, agricultural, and political advantages of Scioto while a noisy chorus of public commentators set about either satirizing or debunking Scioto.

“One speaks only of Scioto,” reported the Bulletin général des journaux de Madame Beaumont.

One set of these critical authors had no intention of voyaging to America as a real physical destination, but they took delight in playing with the political and cultural possibilities of Scioto as an imaginary space, occupied by aristocrats fleeing the Revolution.   For the most part, these writers were left-wing, political satirists, although a few right-wing journalists also contributed. 

A second set of serious debunkers attempted to assess the claims of the Scioto Company from an allegedly objective stance: this group  – some of whom had actually gone to America – sought to unmask the fraudulent or exaggerated claims of the Scioto Company.  In the public arena, Scioto’s defenders squared off against attacks both fanciful and sober. 

For readers, these multiple layers of commentary became intertwined and played off one another constantly. Is this not one service today’s blogs serve?

It’s “a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and ‘high-brow’ than is ever possible in a newspaper or most kinds of periodicals. At the same time, since (it’s) always short and unbound, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. Above all, (it) does not have to follow any prescribed pattern. It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue, or a piece of ‘reportage.’ All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short.”

Material for this piece comes from the Henry Knox papers The French Revolution, Sciotomanie, and American Land Speculation by Suzanne Desan, University of Madison. Wisconsin
To read additional background on the beginning of the Northwest Territory and Ohio/Scioto land grants, click on: A 1786 Meeting at the Bunch of Grapers Tavern, Boston, MA (Novel #1) and AT the BUNCH OF GRAPES TAVERN 1787 {Novel #2}

This Blog Post has been read 5 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Monday, January 01, 2007
View other posts by beanerywriters

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