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Boston Gazette, 22 January 1770, "Ame and Elizabeth Cummings and Henry Barnes Named as Public Enemies for Importing British Goods," Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society

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Ame and Elizabeth Cummings and Henry Barnes Named as Public Enemies, 1770

This front page attack named those who continued to import or sell imported British goods contrary to public opinion. Shortly after Elizabeth (Murray) Smith had been widowed and had sailed for London in the fall of 1769, her protégés, Ame and Elizabeth Cumings, were confronted by a committee of merchants, who came to their home to investigate their business dealings.

The sisters protested that they were simply two honest, hard-working girls, who had to earn their own bread, and they argued that their trade was so minor as to be unimportant. The merchants disagreed, however. Along with several other traders, including merchant Henry Barnes, the husband of Elizabeth (Murray) Smith's good friend Christian Barnes, the Cumings sisters were repeatedly criticized in the press for their continued dealings in imported goods.

Public naming of traders who violated the popular will regarding boycotts was not an isolated phenomenon. Repeated notices in the press, as well as visits to the offenders' shops, made it difficult for shopkeepers to claim that their commercial activities lacked political implications.

For more on the Cumings sisters, see Patricia Cleary, Elizabeth Murray: A Woman's Pursuit of Independence in Eighteenth-Century America , Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.


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