|Died||January 26, 1766 (aged 33–34)|
|Occupation||publisher and printer|
|Known for||publisher in colonial Virginia|
|Children||William (b. 1764)
|Inventory of Estate of Joseph Royle|
Joseph Royle (1732 – January 26, 1766) was an colonial American newspaper publisher and printer for the colony of Virginia.
Royle was Scottish, born in 1732 in an unknown location in Great Britain. It is not known when he immigrated to the American colonies. Royle likely lived in the same colonial Williamsburg house as his employer, the Virginia Gazette publisher William Hunter, as a co-tenant. This property, known as the "Ravenscroft site" consisting of two half-acre lots, is located at the corner of Nicholson and Botetourt Streets in colonial Williamsburg. This is at the east end of colonial Williamsburg, a block away from Duke of Gloucester Street, where the Williamsburg printing office and post office are located.
Royle was a journeyman who apprenticed under Virginia's "public printer" ("printer to the public") William Hunter. He became the foreman in the print shop around 1758 when he was 26 years old. Upon the death of Hunter in 1761, Royle took over the position as Virginia's "public printer" – a prestigious job of producing all legal public documents and forms. He was the "public printer" through the Assembly of June 1765. His salary started in 1761 at £350 per year  and increased to £375 in 1764. Royle also took over Hunter's position as the publisher of the Virginia Gazette and enlarged it to demy size (10" x 15 1/2"). He also became then the postmaster of the Williamsburg post office, Hunter's previous position. Royle followed Ben Franklin's model as a typical colonial printer and postmaster.
Upon the death of Hunter Royle also inherited the remainder of a 25-year lease on the Ravenscroft property, some nine years. He eventually bought the property in 1763 and owned it until his death in 1766. The Ravenscroft lots, part of Royle's estate, were held in trust for Royle's son, William. William was only two years old when Royle died in 1766.
Royle was the brother-in-law to the prior tenant on the lease, John Holt. Holt, one time Mayor of Colonial Williamsburg, had started the 25-year lease in 1745. Royle became Holt's brother-in-law when he married William Hunter's sister, Roseanna. Roseanna was the younger sister of Holt's wife, Elizabeth. Royle was given the sum of £1000 by William Hunter in his will, on condition that he would continue the Williamsburg printing business for the joint interest of Hunter's infant son William Jr and himself. Royle died in 1766 before his nephew (William Hunter Jr.) became of age.
Royle and his wife Roseanna lived with their sons, William and Hunter, at the Ravenscroft property. It is likely that William Hunter Jr, the infant son of William Hunter (d.1761), lived with them also. There were additionally in the household at least five slaves. There were two Negro men (Matt and Aberdeen) and three Negro females. One of the females was a mulatto 16-year-old girl (Jenny) who was a runaway.
There may have been other slaves in the household. The Bruton Parish Church register for births provides names of other slaves belonging to Royle:
- Lewis Palace, son of Lydia, baptized September 22, 1762
- William Paliars, son of Lydia, baptized June 3, 1764
- Joseph, son of Lucy, baptized April 12, 1766.
In each of these cases above the mother and son were recorded as slaves belonging to Royle.
Royle had his problems with runaway slaves, typical of others in the colonies. Besides an advertisement for his runaway slave "Jenny", Royle put an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette on 2 May 1765 for a £5 reward for the return of his slave called "George Fisher". George was an apprentice bookbinder. He was described in the advertisement as "very thick, stoops much, and has a down look; he is a little pock-pitted, has a scar on one of his temples, is much addicted to liquor, very talkative when drunk and remarkably stupid." The amount of £5 for the 25-year-old slave was a large sum at the time. The reward was large because this slave was a skilled journeyman much needed in Royle's printing shop.
Royle refused to print the controversial debates happening in the General Assembly of the House of Burgesses of the early 1760s in his Virginia Gazette. Royle followed closely the philosophies of Francis Fauquier, Lieutenant Governor of colonial Virginia, as did the previous colonial Williamsburg publishers William Parks and William Hunter. This compliance to Fauquier's philosophies did not go well with many of Royle's customers or with their representatives in the House of Burgesses. Royle refused to publish copies of the Stamp Act Resolves in 1765 when ordered by the House of Burgesses, following Fauquier's philosophies. Royle's Virginia Gazette also refused to print the Virginia Resolves of 1765 (related to the Stamp Act). This decision caused Thomas Jefferson to intervene in the situation. Jefferson decided that Virginia needed a new newspaper. Up until that time, Royle's Virginia Gazette, which was seen as a voice controlled by the English government, was the only newspaper. There were no competing newspapers in Virginia, therefore no opposing viewpoints. Jefferson recruited William Rind, co-publisher of Annapolis, Maryland's Maryland Gazette to come to Williamsburg to set up a competing newspaper, free from English control.
In 1759 the Williamsburg printing office, with Royle as foreman, began printing pamphlets on the Two Penny Act. Rev. John Camm could not get his pamphlet printed by Royle in the Virginia Gazette because he objected to its inflammatory "Satyrical Touches upon the Late Assembly." Royle's yearly pay came from the House of Burgesses of Virginia, so he did not want to print anything that would upset them. Royle returned Camm's pamphlet saying,
"if it should Displease, would be taken as ill by this Assembly, as if pointed directly at them; I am far from saying it would give them Offence, nay, I think otherwise; however as there is a Possibility in the Case, it will be most prudent in me not to risk forfeiting their Good-will upon such an Issue, as I cannot but own myself a Dependent upon the House of Burgesses, and the Public in general. I therefore return you your Pamphlet".
However, Royle did print a reply to Camm's pamphlet by House of Burgesses member Richard Bland. Thomas Jefferson and others saw this as a slanted point of view since Royle would not print any attacks on the House of Burgesses, which inspired a competing outlet – a second "Virginia Gazette" newspaper. Jefferson brought in a "patriot" influence to have an open press voice. Jefferson's words on this were
"we had but one press, and that having the whole business of the government, and no competitor for public favor, nothing disagreeable to the governor could be got into it. We procured Rind to come from Maryland to publish a free paper."
Jefferson and other colonists had hoped that Rind's press would give an opposing view to Royle's, which they thought leaned too much toward the royal governor. A 1766 Virginia Gazette newspaper article describes from a "Man of Principle" that during the time Royle printed the newspaper, it was not known as a free press giving all viewpoints. This "Man of Principle" alleged the governor censored the newspaper.
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Printed page samples of Royle's publications:
Some additional publications credited to Hunter:
- 6 editions of The journal of the House of Burgesses from 1762 into 1765.
- 4 editions of Acts of Assembly passed at a General Assembly, begun and held at the capitol, in the city of Williamsburg of 1762 .
- 1 editions of To the Honourable Francis Fauquier, Esq; His Majesty's lieutenant-governor, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia: the humble address of the Council of 1763.
- 1 editions of To the Honourable Francis Fauquier, Esquire, His Majesty's lieutenant-governor, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia: the humble address of the Council of 1762.
- 4 editions of Anno regni Georgii III. Regis Magnae-Britanniae, Franciae & Hiberniae, secundo of 1762.
- 2 editions of Anno regni Georgii III. Regis Magnae-Britanniae, Franciae & Hiberniae, secundo of 1764.
- 2 editions of Critical remarks on a letter ascribed to Common Sense of 1765.
Death and will
Royle died January 26, 1766. He directed in his will that in the event his sons (William and Hunter), the heirs of his estate proved to be childless, the estate funds should be used to create a children's school to be called "Royle's Free School". He wanted the school to employ a teacher of good character, who would be paid £50 per year. This teacher should have the capability of teaching English, arithmetic and mathematics. The school-house was to be built on any part of lots 266 and 267, a section of land inherited by his son William.
- Alexander Purdie (publisher)
- William Hunter (publisher)
- William Parks (publisher)
- Isaac Collins (printer)
- Elizabeth Timothy
- Louis Timothee
- Jane Aitken
- "History of Ravenscroft". The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Rawson, David (2012). "Printing in Colonial Virginia". Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "History of the Ravenscroft Property". The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Welcome to the Ravenscroft Site". The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Parks 2012, p. 128.
- Parks 2012, p. 139.
- Virginia State Library 1908, p. 108.
- Ford 1990, p. 18.
- Thomas 1972, p. 164.
- Parks 2012, p. 140.
- Hall 2000, p. 232.
- "Detailed Chain of Title". Ravenscroft Archaeological Project. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Thomas 1810, p. 146.
- "Williamsburg, April 23, 1765". Maryland Gazette. 2 May 1765. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Wroth 1964, p. 160.
- "History of Ravenscroft - Jenny". Ravenscroft Archaeological Project. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Amory 2009, pp. 238–9.
- "Common Sense Arguments for American Independence - Thomas Paine Promoted Revolution, Rights, and Reason". The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
- "A History of The Virginia Gazette". Virginia Gazette. 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Mellen 2009, p. 50.
- Mellen 2009, p. 201.
- Mellen 2009, p. 195.
- Ford 1990, p. 25.
- Mellen 2009, p. 203.
- Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon: August 22, 1766)
- "The journal of the House of Burgesses". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Acts of Assembly 1762". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Anno regni Georgii II. Regis Magnae Britanniae, Franciae, & Hiberniae, tricesimo tertio". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "To the Honourable Francis Fauquier, Esquire, His Majesty's lieutenant-governor, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia: the humble address of the Council". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Laws, etc. (Session laws : 1762 Jan.)". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Laws, etc. (Session laws : 1764 Oct.)". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "The speech of the Honourable Francis Fauquier, Esq; His Majesty's lieutenant-governour, and commander in chief, of the colony and dominion of Virginia, to the General Assembly=". Open Library. Internet Archive. 2009–2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Mary Newton Stanard (1917). "Colonial Virginia, its people and customs". Internet Archive Open Library archive.org. Philadelphia and London, J.B. Lippincott company. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- The William and Mary Quarterly 7. College of William and Mary. 1899.
- Amory, Hugh (2009). A History of the Book in America: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807868000.
- Ford, Thomas (1990). The Bookbinder in Eighteenth-century Williamsburg: An Account of His Life & Times, & of His Craft. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
- Hall, David D. (2000). A History of the Book in America: Volume 1, The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521482569.
- Mellen, Roger P. (2009). The Origins of a Free Press in Prerevolutionary Virginia: Creating a Culture of Political Dissent. Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 0773438777.
- Parks, A. Franklin (2012). William Parks: The Colonial Printer in the Transatlantic World of the Eighteenth Century. Penn State Press. ISBN 0271052120.
- Thomas, Isaiah (1810). The history of printing in America, with a biography of printers, and an account of newspapers. To which is prefixed a concise view of the discovery and progress of the art in other parts of the world.
- Thomas, Isaiah (1972). The History of Printing in America: With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers, Volume 2. New York: Lenox Hill (Burt Fraklin).
- Virginia State Library (1908). Report of the Virginia State Library, Volumes 5-7. Virginia State Library, Division of Purchase and Printing.
- Wroth, Lawrence C. (1964). The Colonial Printer. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0486282945.