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A Patriotic Choice



Thomas Jefferson hated Annapolis and he certainly would have hated this tavern. Clementina hated that the insufferable man was constantly in her thoughts.


Truthfully, the tavern had seen better days. Paint chipped from window sills and wall paper rolled from the walls. The floors were hardworn and in need of many new boards. The tables bore no linens save the napkins the woman had spread across their laps. A few stragglers had come and gone. They grabbed a pint of ale, read from incendiary pamphlets, and conducted quick business. When Clementina had lived in Annapolis, the Godwin House had been a popular site. Thomas Godwin offered good food, good ale, and good company. It had been the primary point of lodging for travelers of the highest Maryland society. Clementina and William had spent many happy hours here. But with the death of Thomas and his dear wife Jane, the tavern had fallen from its great heights. And with the death of William, Clementina too had fallen from great heights.


Elizabeth Lanham, Thomas Godwin's daughter and recent widow, was hard at work bringing the place back to life. Clementina could see the progress. The great room had been repainted, the fireplace was in working order, and the furniture was new. Elizabeth said she focused on the great room first so that she could host events and raise money to work on the rest of the tavern. The food served was minimal but of excellent quality and well-presented. Elizabeth was making smart choices.


Across from Clementina, Anne Green stirred a slight dash of sugar into her tea. On her plate were apple slices and a small amount of surprisingly lovely cheese. Anne tried to appear as if she were focused on her tea, but the sparkle in her eye gave her away.


"Mrs. Lanham certainly knows how to save a tavern," Clementina observed, teasing her friend by not getting to the point of the matter.


Anne nodded, swallowing her tea. "Lizzie's a dear friend. She's working so hard."


"Aren't we all?" Clementina sighed. Three women, three widows, three livelihoods to save.


"I'm so pleased you're here!" Anne exclaimed and reached across the table to squeeze Clementina's hand. "Now tell me everything!"


There was so much to tell. Clementina had been devastated by her husband's death. He had been her world, the absolute brightest star in her galaxy. She had loved him so deeply it hurt and when he died she was certain she would soon follow. For nearly two months she could barely leave her bed. Her friends and family became increasingly worried. It was a letter from Anne that had saved her really. Sending her condolences, Anne reminded her of the good times she and William had when he had apprenticed in Jonas Green's print shop, publishing The Maryland Gazette. Seven years of happiness and relative ease. Until the Stamp Act changed everything. The Gazette shut down and William and Clementina reluctantly moved south to Virginia where William would start his own paper, The Virginia Gazette.


It was that Gazette that finally got Clementine out of bed. It was tempting to go back into her warm cocoon once she learned the details. William had been a loving and reliable husband, but as Clementina reviewed the account ledgers, she realized he was a horrible businessman.


"Oh Anne! It's been so hard!" Clementina admitted. "How was I so unaware of the position William had gotten us into?"


Anne nodded knowingly, she too had lost a husband and gained a failing business. And she too was turning things around. "So tell me about the changes."


This was the best part really. Clementina outlined to Anne everything she had done. At first, she kept The Gazette largely the same as it had been when William was alive. And at first it barely sold. Slowly, oh-so-slowly, she started to add new features. She wrote profiles of European aristocracy, particularly the ladies. She printed poetry and essays written by local women. She doubled her readership when she included the female half of society.


"Oh, but it's all become so complicated! Thomas Jefferson…"


Anne groaned and rolled her eyes.


"He wrote this treatise and Peyton Randolph read it from the rooftops and now they want me to print it." Clementina popped a blackberry in her mouth and talked as she chewed. "I don't know. I've done government work and some politics, but things are starting to feel more…dangerous."


Anne deftly lifted a finger to her lips as Elizabeth Godwin swept through the room.


"Lizzie's struggling with…the situation," she exclaimed when the tavern keeper was gone.


"As am I! Anne, I'm a good and proud Englishwoman, but my god Parliament is making it hard to do business." Anne nodded in agreement. "And I've been publishing more and more about the King's policies, but this angry talk of 'patriotism' and 'rebellion' just feels like it's all going too far."


"Is Jefferson asking you to do more than you'd like?" Anne asked, getting straight to the matter.


"A Summary View of the Rights of British America," Clementina proclaimed with mock arrogance. "Randolph got a bunch of men riled up with it and now they want to distribute it more broadly."


"Do it." Anne said.


Clementina froze, her teacup not quite to her lips. She slowly settled the cup in its chipped saucer. Elizabeth Godwin may have loyalist tendencies, but Anne Green had clearly made a different choice. Clementina surveyed the room around her. Was it the death of the Godwins that led to this? Or was it something far bigger than that?


***


Anne settled comfortably in the parlor and cut the twine that held the parcel together. She immediately recognized the handwriting of her Virginia friend and fellow printer. The card said simply, "It's done."


Leaning back in chair, she read the pamphlet with a smile, "A Summary View of the Rights of British America. Thomas Jefferson."


###


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