Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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RIVINGTON, James, journalist, born in London, England, about 1724" died in New York city in July. 1802. Early in life he acquired wealth in London as a bookseller, which he lost at Newmarket, and, sailing to this country in 1760, resumed his occupation in Philadelphia, and in the next year in New York, where he opened a shop in Wall street, in 1773 he published "at his ever open and uninfluenced press" the first number of a newspaper entitled "The New York Gazetteer" or the Connecticut, New Jersey, Hudson's River, and Quebec Weekly Advertiser." He advocated the measures of the British govern-men/ with great zeal, and attacked the patriots so severely that in 1775 the Whigs of Newport resolved to hold no communication with him. In consequence of his repeated attacks upon the Sons of Liberty, and especially Captain Isaac Sears, that officer came to New York from Connecticut with seventy-five horsemen, and, entering Rivington's office, destroyed his press and converted the types into bullets. Rivington's conduct was examined by the Provincial congress, which referred the case to the Continental congress, and while the latter was considering it the publisher wrote a remonstrance, declaring "that however wrong and mistaken he may have been in his opinions, he has always meant honestly and openly to do his duty as a servant of the public." He then made his peace with the Whigs, and was permitted to return to his house, but, having incurred suspicion he afterward went to England, where he was appointed king's printer for New York. In 1777, after the British occupation of that city, he returned with a new press, and resumed the publication of his paper under the title of "Rivington's New York Loyal Gazette." which he changed on 13 December, 1777, to "The Royal Gazette." On the day when Major John Andre was taken prisoner his "Cow Chase" was published by Rivington. About 1781, when the success of the British was becoming doubtful, Riving/on played the part of a spy, furnishing Washington with important information. His communications were written on thin paper, bound in the covers of books, and conveyed to the American camp by agents that were ignorant of their service. When New York was evacuated, Riving/on remained in the city, much to the general surprise, removed the royal arms from his paper, and changed its title to "Rivington's New York Gazette and Universal Advertiser." But his business rapidly declined, his paper ceased to exist in 1783, and he passed the remainder of his life in comparative poverty. There is a complete set of his journal in the library of the New York historical society. Riving/on offended his readers by the false statements that appeared in his paper, which was called by the people "The Lying Gazette," and which was even censured by the royalists for its utter disregard of truth. The journal was well supplied with news from abroad, and replenished with squibs and poems against the leaders of the Revolution and their French allies. Governor William Livingston in particular was attacked, and he wrote about 1780: "If Rivington is taken, I must have one of his ears ; Governor Clinton is entitled to the other; and General Washington, if he pleases, may take his head." Riving/on provoked many clever satires from Francis Hopkinson, Philip Freneau, and John Wither-spoon. Freneau wrote several epigrams at his expense, the best of which was "Rivington's Last Will and Testament," including the stanza: "Provided, however, and nevertheless, That whatever estate I enjoy and possess At the time of my death (if it be not then sold) Shall remain to the Tories, to have and to hold." Alexander Graydon, in his "Memoirs," says of Riving/on: "This gentleman's manners and appearance were sufficiently dignified; and he kept the best company, He was an everlasting dabbler in theatrical heroics. Othello was the character in which he liked best to appear." Ashbel Green speaks of Rivington as "the greatest sycophant imaginable; very little under the influence of any principle but self-interest, yet of the most courteous manners to all with whom he had intercourse." The accompanying portrait is from the original painting by Gilbert Stuart, in the possession of William H. Appleton, of New York.--His son, Jonx, a lieutenant in the 83d regiment, died in England in 1809.
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