Digital Paxton: Digital Collection, Critical Edition, and Teaching Platform


One of the key advantages of looking at paratexts is that they allude to the fact that printed texts appeared as part of a process. Errata corrected mistakes in the printing process; advertisements aimed to influence future behaviour; and supplementary material reframed old material for new purposes. However, the postscript was the paratext that most explicitly addressed the ongoing nature of the Paxton debate.

Postscripts were material inserted into a text at some point between the composition of the main body and the printing of the text as a whole. They indicate that the timing of distributing the work had a significant effect on the argument. While there is overlap with postscripts and supplementary material like the coda at the end of Letter of Batista Angeloni, the key distinction is that postscripts highlight the urgency of the additional material. They ask the reader to revisit the main argument with new information that was not available during the composition of the piece.

In Quaker Unmask'd, the author David James Dove included a postscript that informed his readers that the Paxton Boys' Declaration and Remonstrance appeared between Dove writing and publishing Quaker Unmask'd. The author endorsed the document as a demonstration that the "Principles of BRITISH LIBERTY" had motivated the Paxton Boys to massacre the Native Americans and march on Philadelphia. Dove used the postscript to contrast his characterisation of the politically ambitious Quakers against the loyalty of the Paxton Boys. Dove asserted that the march itself was a manifestation of their just anger at the political machinations of the Quakers rather than a disorderly and threatening show of force. In fact, the condemnation of the Paxton Boys was underpinned by either "Malice and Party Spirit, or Nonsense."

In between Dove composing his indictment of the Quaker government and publishing Quaker Unmask'd, the Declaration and Remonstrance appeared on the streets. By including the postscript, Dove signalled to his readers that this new information was important for understanding the argument in Quaker Unmask'd and so meaningful for how readers should reflect on the main text. Effectively, Dove argued that the course of political events further supported his denunciation of Quaker government.

Postscripts were used in a similar way in The Quaker Vindicated, one of a number of rejoinders to Quaker Unmask'd. In Quaker Vindicated, the author offers a point-by-point refutation of Quaker Unmask'dto expose the lies that underpinned it. The author argued that Quakers were valuable members of society and concluded that the audience should be wary of how Quaker Unmask'd would affect their decision to vote for Quaker representatives in government.

At the end of the Quaker Vindicated, the author appended a brief postscript that recommended the audience read an article from New York dated March 12 that had appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette. The article reported that a group of 200 Native Americans had received information there was a camp of hostile Delaware warriors intent on attacking white communities. The allied Indians surprised the Delaware camp and took 41 prisoners, including their war captain Bull, son of the hostile leader Teedyuscung. The article concluded that the preceding story should "sufficiently prove the IMPORTANCE they [Native American allies] are of in an Indian War." The postscript further vindicated the Quaker government and its continued attempts to foster alliances with Indians rather than allow the violence to continue in western Pennsylvania.

The Paxton Boys debate unfolded over many months. It was initially provoked by a series of skirmishes in western Pennsylvania that escalated over a number of years, and the debate shifted over the course of 1764 from the responses to the Paxton Boys riot to the functioning of government. The disruption that followed the debate persisted long after 1764. During this period, information did not stand still. Postscripts encourage researchers to consider the chronology of the pieces that appeared in Pennsylvania. Authors themselves were aware of the gap between composition and publishing. Postscripts provide clues that can help researchers understand how readers encountered texts during the Paxton pamphlet war.

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