Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Russell, 5 December 1790

From Benjamin Russell

Boston, 5 Dec. 1790. In response to Remsen’s inquiry he informs TJ that the laws of the second session printed by him [in the Massachusetts Centinel, which on 16 June 1790 became the Columbian Centinel] amounted to 372 squares. “The square, in Typographical language, is 20 lines of Long-Primer matter-the line being 20 ms long—and in that proportion of shorter or longer lines, larger or smaller types. Inclosed is a square of matter of the Centinel—the lines being but 18 ms long, it takes almost 23 lines to make a square.”1 The total, “at half a dollar a square,” amounted to 186 dollars. “The price paid for publishing the Laws of this Commonwealth in Long-Primer squares, has been reduced, on account of the competition of the Printers for the Printing-work of government, which in some of its branches, is lucrative, from One Dollar to Half a Dollar. The price, therefore, that I have inserted, is regulated by the price given by this State-Your Honour’s information will enable you to judge whether it is too high or not high enough.” But, while compensation was “[not the] first object … and while I earnestly solicit the continuation of your patronage, I shall rest satisfied, should I be so fortunate as to obtain it, with such allowance as you shall think just to make”; Captain Patrick Phelon of the customs is authorized to receive his allowance.

RC (DNA: RG 59, PDL); slightly mutilated. Recorded in SJL as received 15 Dec. 1790. Enclosure not found.

The above was in response to Remsen’s inquiry of 23 Nov. 1790. While TJ bestowed upon Andrew Brown’s Federal Gazette the privilege of publishing the statutes in Philadelphia rather than upon John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States, which had enjoyed the patronage for a brief time in New York, he continued to permit the Federalist Benjamin Russell to print the laws in Boston (see note on TJ’s arrangement with Fenno, under 20 Mch. 1790; Rush to TJ, 15 Aug. 1790). Russell was informed by two Massachusetts representatives, Benjamin Goodhue and Fisher Ames, of his “appointment to publish the Laws &c. of the United States for the Eastern States.” With “emotions of gratitude and respect,” he had asked to be informed of his duties (Russell to TJ, 12 June 1790, DNA: RG 59, PDL). For TJ’s solution to the question of price, see Remsen to the printers, 10 Jan. 1791.

1These two sentences were written at foot of text and keyed to the first reference to squares by an asterisk.

Index Entries