A great Virginia rarity: The “Association” of 1770

[William Rind, printer?], The ASSOCIATION entered into last Friday, the 22d instant, by the Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses, and the Body of Merchants, assembled in this city. , Williamsburg, VA, June 22, 1770 .
Letterpress broadside on laid paper

A remarkable Williamsburg, Virginia broadside printing of the text of “The Association” of June 1770, signed in type by 164 leading Virginians. No example of the broadside has appeared on the market in living memory, and we have been unable to locate an example in any Virginia institution.

In their disputes with the mother country in the 1760s-70s the boycott, or “non-importation agreement,” was one of the few weapons available to the colonists of British America. The basic strategy was to place pressure on British merchants, who it was believed would then pressure on the Ministry to change its policies. For many advocates this tactic also had important ancillary benefits, in particular the reduction of debts owed by Americans to British merchants as well as the stimulation of American manufactures.

The tactic was first used in 1765 in opposition to the Stamp Act, when New York merchants took the lead in boycotting British goods and were joined by their counterparts in Boston and elsewhere. The boycott was reintroduced by Boston merchants in 1768 in response to the Townshend Acts, which placed import duties on glass, paint pigments, tea and other items. In the Spring of 1769 Virginia’s House of Burgesses, having been dissolved by Governor Botetourt, followed suit and passed an extra-legal resolution known as the “Association.” This committed signers to boycotting imports of a long list of English goods. The Association lacked an enforcement mechanism and was largely ineffective, so much so that Virginia’s imports in 1769 were higher than ever.

In the Spring of 1770 news arrived that Parliament had repealed most of the duties in the Townshend Acts but retained that on tea as a demonstration of its fundamental right to tax the Colonies. In response the Burgesses and leading Virginia merchants combined forces on June 22 to enter into a new Association. Important features of the new agreement seem to have been introduced at the suggestion of George Mason, who had drafted the 1769 resolution. In a June 7, 1770 letter to Richard Henry Lee, he had written that for an Association to succeed, “the sense of Shame and the Fear of Reproach must be inculcate, and enforced in the strongest manner.” (quoted in Sweig, p. 319) As will be seen, the new Association did in fact introduce elements of “shame,” “fear of reproach,” and “enforcement.”

The broadside
Offered here is a large broadside representing the first appearance in any form of the articles of association. The broadside bears two lines of headline type, four columns of text, and eight columns bearing the names of no fewer than 164 signatories. The text begins with the ritual profession of loyalty to the King; protests against “the fatal consequences certainly to follow from the arbitrary imposition of taxes on the people of America… without the consent of their representatives;” and commits the signatories to boycotting a long list of British goods and any merchant known to be trafficking in such goods. Enumerated items include, to name just a few, commodities such as alcoholic beverages, cheese and fish, as well as finished products such as furniture, clocks, and high-end textiles and articles of clothing. To enforce the Association, the articles provide for the creation in each county of a five-man committee to monitor the behavior of “associators,” warn “defaulters,” and should they persist in such behavior, make their names and misdeeds known to the public. The Association was to remain in force until the Townshend Acts were entirely repealed.

The 164 signatories include the members of the Burgesses and merchants, among them Peyton Randolph, Robert Nicholas, Richard Bland, Edmund Pendleton, several Lees, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and William Rind, the last of whom was probably the printer. The lower half of the broadside is entirely blank, to allow participants to solicit additional signatures back in their home counties.

Rarity and provenance
Over the past century a variety of bibliographers have generated some confusion over the number and location of known impressions of the broadside. The definitive work was done by Donald Sweig of William & Mary and published in his 1979 article “The Virginia Nonimportation Association Broadside of 1770 and Fairfax County.” Sweig located a total of seven examples, all bearing a paragraph in manuscript added by George Washington followed by signatures of his constituents in Fairfax County. All seven are held by the Library of Congress-six in the George Washington papers and the seventh in the Peter Force papers. There are no examples known in Virginia institutions, and this writer finds no record of the broadside ever having appeared on the market.

This example is docketed on the verso with the names of James Balfour (d.1775) of the Norfolk, Virginia firm of Balfour and Barraud. and that of Osgood Hanbury, a leading London tobacco merchant. Presumably Balfour forwarded this document to Hanbury as soon as it became available, affecting as it did their joint interests.

The broadside came to the market from a private archive of the papers of the Wickham family. The Wickhams moved to Virginia from New York and became one of Richmond`s most prominent families.

Evans, American Bibliography (1907), #11911. Torrence, Trial Bibliography of Colonial Virginia, (1908), #365 (Library of Congress only). Sabin #100503. R.O. Hummel, Southeastern Broadsides, #2998 (Library of Congress and Duke, though the Duke impression is a photocopy).

Background from Donald M. Sweig. “The Virginia Nonimportation Association Broadside of 1770 and Fairfax County.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 87 (1979), pp. 216-325. A history of Virginia non-importation resolutions is provided by Glenn Smith, “An Era of Non-Importation Associations, 1768-73.” The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 20 no. 1, pp. 84–98.

Click here to view the full text of the broadside.


Holes in text block affecting parts of several words, but the text entirely … Large triangular hole in blank center of sheet.