Benjamin Swaim and the “Man of Business”

[A comment on this blog last month asked for information on Benjamin Swaim.  I have written about him twice; the biogrpahy of him in Volume “S” of the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography is by me, and actually contains a portion of the following paper.  This study of his life and one of his books was originally written in 1981 as an assignment for my Masters Degree courses at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Library and Information Science.  For Mr. Powell at DNCB I abstracted the basic biographical information about Swaim.  The bibliographical information is here presented to the public for the first time.  One thing I realize is not clear from this paper is that Benjamin Swaim's legal books are the first known Randolph County imprints-- that is, they are the first books printed in the county.]

 
SWAIM, BENJAMIN (13 May 1798 – 23 Dec. 1844), lawyer, printer, author and newspaperman, was almost certainly the son of William (10 March 1770 — 1 June 1850), and Elizabeth Sherwood Swaim (8 Nov. 1773 — 14 Aug. 1835).  They and several other branches of the numerous Swaim clan were residents of the Timber Ridge Community, east of Level Cross in Randolph County. [i]

Life and Career.
Benjamin’s early life and education are obscure, although he perhaps attended schools taught by his uncle Moses Swaim.  Benjamin first appears in the records of the North Carolina Manumission Society, when, on August 27, 1819, he attended the society’s convention and began a sixteen-year association with the abolitionist group.[ii]   In the fall of 1822, he was hired to teach day classes of Mt. Ephraim schoolhouse in Guilford County.  Swaim, a law student at the time, was considered to be a teacher of great ability.  The number of students attracted to this school was so large that an assistant teacher was needed, and his second cousin William Swaim was hired for the position.  Benjamin and William organized a debating club at the school known as the “Polemic Society,” which became a forum for local men of all ages to join in oratorical contests.   In 1823, Guilford County Sheriff and state legislator Col. William Dickey asked Benjamin to take over Dickey’s private school.  Swaim instead successfully recommended cousin William for the job.

By  Line

Benjamin Swaim then relocated to the Randolph County town of New Salem, where he opened a law practice.  New Salem was (and is) located about a mile southwest of the Swaim family farms at Timber Ridge.  It was a crossroads community located at the point where the road between Asheboro and Greensboro intersected the ancient Indian Trading Path.  Land was conveyed to trustees of a Quaker meeting house there in 1815, but an informal group had probably met there as early as 1792.  New Salem was the commercial hub of Randolph County during the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, hosting more stores and businesses than Asheborough.[iii]  The state legislature chartered town government in New Salem in 1816, appointing commissioners Benjamin Marmon, Jesse Hinshaw, Peter Dicks, William Dennis and Moses Swaim.

Moses Swaim, a brother of Benjamin’s father William and the only non-Quaker on the board, was the first president of the North Carolina Manumission and Colonization Society.[iv]    Benjamin, also a charter member of the organization, was in 1827 elected its President as well as delegated to attend the National Convention of the Abolition Society.  His opinions on the subject of slavery are revealed in his 1829 “Report of the President”, as printed in the Greensborough Patriot.  In it, he declares that “…the hour of Negro Emancipation is fast approaching.  It must and will assuredly come.  And all that we can do is prepare for its approach by a timely and gradual improvement of their debased condition….  Aided by Divine assistance, we may fearlessly encounter all the opposition of our enemies and confidently stand forth, the advocates of truth and justice, with such unyielding firmness and determined purpose as no earthly Interest, power or prejudice can successfully resist.” Swaim was reelected President of the Manumission Society until its discontinuance in 1835.

Perhaps as early as May, 1831, Swaim began planning a serial law publication, The Man of Business or Every Man’s Lawbook , a pioneer reference work of business law and legal forms.[v]   Swaim called The Man of Business “new in character and design’, and publicly appealed for the approval of other lawyers, since “the prudent and seasonable prevention of ruinous litigation is no less a professional duty than the skillful management of it.”  Benjamin’s partner in this venture was his cousin William, had founded The Patriot, Guilford County’s first newspaper in 1829.[vi]  William Swaim printed the first volume in 1833-31.  However, the successful reception of The Man of Business , and the trouble involved in traveling repeatedly from his home to the printing office in Greensboro, led Swain to open his own shop in October, 1834.  The New Salem operation was staffed by R.J. West, printer, and John Sherwood (a cousin)[vii].  Volume II of The Man of Business was produced there in 1834-35.
In February, 1836, Swaim began editing and publishing a newspaper from his office in New Salem.  Titled Southern Citizen, it had been proposed in November, 1834 by William Swaim. [viii]  William’s prospectus, published in the Patriot, lamented the low esteem in which Southern newspapers were held, and sought to supersede his Patriot with a new “splendid, superfine” publication, “the largest and most usefull family newspaper… devoted to the interest, amusement, and edification of the American people Swaim was roundly abused in the state’s periodical press for his pretentious statements, but within a year he had attracted enough subscribers to begin preparations for publication.  His death age 33 in December, 1835 threw these preparations into disarray.  The Patriot continued to be published for the benefit of William’s estate, while Benjamin took up the challenge of publishing the Southern Citizen.


The first issue of the Southern Citizen appeared in February, 1836.  The editorial content was of an uncompromising Whig political persuasion, promoting agriculture, internal improvements, universal education, and literature. (Its motto: “What do we live for but to improve ourselves and be useful to one another?”) An unusual feature was the “Legal Department,” subtitled “Ignorance of the Law Excuseth No Man.” Here Swaim, obviously inspired by the success of The Man of Business, answered the questions of subscribers on various points of law.

In December, 1836 Swaim moved his newspaper, printing business and law office to Asheboro, the Randolph County seat.  The Southern Citizen was issued from there weekly without interruption until April of 1842, when publication was suspended.  Either debt and financial instability or the recent death of Swaim’s wife following the birth of a daughter may have contributed to the shut-down.  Publication was resumed on 14 October 1843, and continued until 17 October, 1844, when Swain sold the newspaper and printing office to John Milton Sherwood.[ix]  Whether the newspaper continued after that date is unknown.

On 7 Feb. 1829 Swain married Rachel Dicks (Aug. 1808 – 3 March 18141), daughter of Peter and Rachel Seals Dicks. They were the parents of five children: Anna Dicks (b. 17 Apr. 1830), Thomas Clarkson (10 May l832- 1 March 18kb), Matilda Rosalie (8 March 1835 — 26 Feb. 1837), Charlotte (b. 9 Dec. 1837), arid Rachel Dicks (b. 21 Feb. 1841). Benjamin Swaim’s sudden death while on a trip to Raleigh revealed the fact that he was “indebted beyond the account of his personal assets.”[x](x)  Although his executors discovered more than 300 debtors owing money to Swaim’s estate, very little money could be collected and his property was sold in a futile attempt to pay his creditors.

Publications.

Swain’s legal career after 1836 consisted mainly of writing and publishing form-books and digests of North Carolina state law.  A proposed third volume of The Man of Business grew into Swain’s 540-page opus The North Carolina Justice, printed in Raleigh in 1839 [The North Carolina Justice:  containing a summary statement of the statues and common law of this state, together with the decisions of the supreme court, and all the most approved forms and precedents relating to the office and duty of a justice of the peace and other public officers].  In 1841 Swain published, “at the Southern Citizen office” in Asheboro his The North Carolina Executor . . . a safe guide to executors administrators in their practical management of estates. . .   And in 1842, Swaim likewise published  The North Carolina Road Law… with all the necessary forms and practical observations pertaining to the… responsibilities of overseers and road hands.

Swaim therefore made a career of writing and publishing form-books and digests of North Carolina state law related to various public offices and private professions.  All of his works seem to have been relatively popular;  The Man of Business was still in print in 1841 and offered for sale (along with Swaim’s Justice and Executor) in the catalog of law books of the Raleigh bookseller Turner and Hughes.  A second edition of the popular North Carolina Justice was updated by Swaim and published posthumously in 1846.  Another purported revision of The North Carolina Justice was edited by an Edward Cantwell and published by Henry D. Turner of Raleigh in 1856; although titled “Swaim’s Justice—Revised,” it was subtitled The North Carolina Magistrate, a practical guide to the laws of the state…under the Revised Code, 1854-55, and its preface states that the work is not a revision of Swaim, but a “new and original publication.”  That a “new and original publication” would wish to trade on Swaim’s name in its title twelve years after his death suggests that his reputation as a North Carolina legal authority was high.

Precedents.

The author of “Legal Practice and Ethics in North Carolina, 1820-1860” muses that “when one remembers that he was a lawyer, one is amazed that Swaim was eager to help the common man and to assist him in being his own attorney.”   Yet to some extent Swaim was following in the footsteps of legal predecessors in the state.  North Carolina’s first printer, James Davis, published in 1774 his  Office and Authority of a Justice of Peace.  And Also, the the duty of Sheriffs, Coroners, Constables, Churchwardens, Overseers of Roads and other Officers, Together with precedents for Warrants, Judgements, Executions and other legal process….  New editions by different authors appeared in 1791 and 1800 which were also subsequently revised and reprinted[xi]; Swaim’s North Carolina Justice therefore had a long pedigree.   Likewise, his Executor was preceded by Francois-Xavier Martin’s Treatise on the Powers and Duties of Executors and  Administrators according to the Law of North-Carolina, published in Raleigh by J. Gales in 1820.  However,  Swaim’s Road Law does not seem to have had North Carolina antecedents, and The Man of Business appears to have been a completely original conception.  An 1819 self-help book which could represent a parallel idea was J.H. Conway’s The North Carolina Calculator; or New Practical Arithmetic…  of utility to merchants, traders and others, in their general occupations; this was a prototype small-business accounting treatise.

Swain asserted, however, that The Man of Business was “new in character and design,” and worried that those in the legal fraternity might protest the popularizing of the law.  Though the work was “calculated to render every man his own counsellor in matters of ordinary business,” Swaim declared himself motivated by the desire “to improve the modes of doing business, and thereby to render the ends of justice more easy and accessible to all classes of the community…”  While today every state (except Louisiana) operates under the Uniform Commercial Code (a model state law package governing all commercial transactions), the nineteenth century operated under the burden of a bewildering array of local laws regulating business. Although business law is taught as a separate curriculum in modern business schools and economic departments, Swaim may have been an originator of the concept of uniform laws as a vital part of business administration and financial efficiency.  His most direct influence lay in the inspiration of imitators such as Franklin Crosby, who in 1860 in Philadelphia published Everybody’s Lawyer and Counsellor in Business:  containing plain and simple instructions to all classes for transacting their business according to law…. [xii]

Vol II Title Page

Characteristics of the Printed Page.
The Man of Business was considered by Swaim to be a periodical “published simultaneously at Greensborough and New Salem, N.C.  It will consist of four hundred and thirty-two duodecimo pages (in twelve monthly numbers) neatly printed, pressed, -folded, stitched and trimmed.”  Each monthly number consisted of 18 leaves or 36 pages made up of 9 signatures of 4 leaves each.  Four pages of type were printed at once on one side of an 8 x 13-inch sheet of rough-laid paper from the Emmanuel Shober paper mill in Salem.[xiii]

The joint publishing arrangement may have arisen from the difficulty of a single press publishing a weekly newspaper as well as a monthly magazine.[xiv]  Although the printing work for volume one was stated to have occurred at William Swaim’s Greensborough Patriot office, four versions of volume one exist.  This physical evidence indicates volume one was set in type by hand and printed four separate times, and perhaps only once in Greensboro.  Two versions of volume one exhibit a simple masthead on page one, and two begin with title pages.

The masthead design resembles a tiny newspaper masthead, with title, editor, and imprint information.  “THE MAN OF BUSINESS./ (motto)/ Benjamin Swain, Editor./ NEW SALEM, N.C. JULY, 1833/ VOL. I NO, 1/ PROSPECTUS…” Version one also includes the “TERMS” at the foot of the page, ending with “…stitched and trimmed.”  Version two does not include TERMS, ending instead with “…ordinary business.”  Version one of the ‘title page’ design ends “VOL. 1/ OCTOBER, 1834-5/ WILLIAM SWAIM, PRINTER,/ GREENSBOROUGH, N.C./ 1834.” Version two of the title page ends “VOL. 1/ OCTOBER, 1833,/ Reprinted,/ New Salem, N.C./ 1836.”

Vol II No. 6 Title Page

The imprint of version one of the title page is obviously incorrect. Volume one, number one is dated July, 1833, not October, 1834. The printer has taken the title page for volume two, printed in 1834, and replace the “II” of that “VOL. II’ with “I’, making no other corrections, This suggests that volume one originally appeared with no title or imprint information other than its masthead.  Moreover, since the title page of the 1836 reprint corrects 1834-5 to 1833, but has not corrected “October” to ‘July”, we may surmise that the type for the reprint was set from a copy of the 1834 title page, with some mistakes corrected and others overlooked. Which one of the two “masthead” versions may be original requires further study.

In volume one, number twelve, Swaim complains of the trouble and expense of traveling back and forth to the printing office, and says “I hope to find some relief in the location of the whole concern in one place… In future it will be printed and published in the town of New Salem, Randolph County, N.C., provided its patronage should be sufficiently increased to justify the purchase of a press, etc.” However, at least volume two, number one must still have been printed in Greenshorough, for in number two Swaim states “Since the appearance of the first number of this volume, I have engaged in the services of a young printer,[xv] who has recently set up, and is commencing business in this place… it is therefore hoped, and confidently expected, that the publication will, in future, go on with more promptness and regularity, as the whole concern is now at home.”

Numbers three through twelve of this volume all bear the imprint “R.J. WEST PRINTER,/ New-Salem, N.C.” No versions of the volume two title page exist. Version one bears the imprint “VOL. II/ NEW SALEM,/ OCTOBER/ 1834’5.” The page is printed in six different point sizes of type, including two versions of an unusual ball-serif italic, one slanting to the left, the other slanting right.[xvi]  Title page version two has already been mentioned, bearing the imprint “VOL. II/ OCTOBER, 1834-5/ WILLIAM SWAIM, PRINTER./ Greensborough, N.C./ 1834.”
Volume one is indexed by a simple contents list following the numbered page sequence. This is complicated by the fact that pages 37 through 48 are misnumbered 1 through 12 (noted in an Erratta on page 72), and by the fact that “Pages from 352 to 417 are erroneously numbered by mistake. The index, however, is made out as the pages are, and not as they should be…” This indexing system cannot have been very satisfactory. Volume two provides a classified alphabetical index to both volumes; it indicates both the true page number and the erroneous page number (bracketted). The mistakes were probably perpetuated due to the exigencies of legal citation, which demands that page numbering be uniform from copy to copy— even uniformly incorrect.
Swaim ends volume two hinting at a third volume which was, however, never published and probably grew into his North Carolina Justice, which appeared two years later.  He indicates throughout volume two that complete files of both volumes could be bought “in good law binding.”  Therefore, in addition to “young printer” R.J. West, Swaim also evidently secured the services of a bookbinder.  A copy of The Man of Business in the Peacock collection at Duke has the damaged label “(torn)/ BOOK BINDER/New-Salem, N.C.”  A copy of Volume 2 now in the possession of the author includes a paper label inside the front cover, imprinted “JOHN SHERWOOD/ BOOK BINDER,/ New-Salem, N.C.”  This is evidently his cousin John Milton Sherwood who was subsequently the purchaser of the Southern Citizen printing office.[xvii]

In view of the numerous pleas throughout the work asking subscribers to pay their bills, and from the fact that none of Swain’s subsequent works appeared serially, it may be assumed that his experience with subscription sales was an unhappy one.  The problems of sale and distribution of such published materials in the early nineteenth century must have discouraged many local printers from even attempting a project of the magnitude undertaken by Benjamin Swaim— nearly 900 pages of material related to the study of business law. [xviii]

Copies Examined.
UNC-CH, North Carolina Collection (call number: C347.05-M26)

Vol. I
(c.i) New Salem reprint, 1836.
Stephen B. Weeks Collection.
Number 1, p.1 ends “…ordinary business.”
(c.2) Greensborough, 1834.
Stephen B. Weeks Collection.
(c.3) No title page (t.-p.); rebound.
Gift of the N.C. Baptist Historical Commission.
(c,4) No t.-p.; ‘S’ dropped from masthead: “PROSPECTU .”

Vol. II
(c.l) Greensborough, 1834.
John Sprunt Hill Collection.
(c.2) New Salem, Oct. 1834’5.
Stephen B. Weeks Collection.
(c.3) Greensborough, 1834.
Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies.

UNC—CH, Law Library (Rare Book Room) (call number: S971m-1834)

Vol.  I
(c.1) New Salem reprint, 1836 (#241180),
Bound in calf; black label; stamped “1” on Spine.

Vol. II
(c.1) No t.-p. (#180548),
Bound in calf; red label; stamped “2” on spine.
Duke University Library, Peacock Collection (call number: 347.6—3971-P)

Vol, I
(c.1) Greensborough, 1834 (#23290)
Rebound in red library bindings
(c.2) New Salem reprint, 1836 (#23291),

Number 1, p.1, ends “…In short it will be calcu-“

Signed on t.-p.: “Wm. M.B. Arendell”

(c.3) No t.-p. (#23292)
Number 1, p. 1 ends “. . .and trimmed.”
“B.F. Swaim/ A.D. 1852” in ink on front cover.

Vol. II
(c.1) Greensborough, 1834 (#23293)
On flyleaf: “B.F. Swaim’s/ Law Book/ May the 2nd. 1852” In ink on cover: “B.F. Swaim/ 1852”
(c.2) Greensborough, 1834 (#23294)
Inside front cover: “(torn)/ BOOK BINDER/ New-Salem, N.C,”

“DICK” stamped (in ink?) on spine.

Bibliography.
1. Arnett, Ethel Stephens, William Swaim, Fighting Editor: The Story of O. Henry’s Grandfather. Greensboro Piedmont Press, 1963.

2. Blackwelder, Fannie M. F. “The Bar Examination and Beginning Years of Legal Practice in North Carolina, 1820-1860.”  North Carolina Historical Review XXIX (April, 1952), pp. 159-170.

3. ——-, “Legal Education in North Carolina, 1820-1860.” N.C.H.R., XXVIII (July, 1951), pp. 271-297.

4. ——-, “Legal Practice and Ethics in North Carolina, 1820-1860.” N.C.H.R. (July, 1953), pp. 329-353

5. Davis, Jewell Faye, Bibliography of North Carolina Imprints, 1801-1820.  Washington, D.C. Catholic Univ., M.S.L.S. thesis, 1955.

6. Fox, Charlesanna M., ed., Randolph County 1779-1979. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Co., 1980.

7. Gibson, Virginia E. Salmon Hall, N.C. Printer, 1800-1840, UNC School of Library Science: MSLS paper, 1967.

8. Gress Edmund F.  Fashions in American Typography, 1780-1930. New York Harper and Bros., 1931.

9.  Hall, Francis H. Public Printing in North Carolina, 1816-1861.  UNC School of Library Science: MSLS thesis, 1957.

10.  Jones, H.G.  Union List of North Carolina Newspapers. Raleigh, N.C., Dept. of Archives and History, 1966.

11.  McFarland, Daniel M, “North Carolina Newspapers, Editors and Journalistic Politics, 1815-1835.” N.C.H.R., July, 1953.

12.  McMurtrie, Douglas C.  Eighteenth Century North Carolina Imprints, 1749-1800. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1938.

13.  Paschal, George Washington.  A History of Printing in North Carolina. Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton Co., 1946.

14.  Raleigh Register, 16 Feb. 1836, 16 March 1841, 24 Dec. 1844.

15.  Sherrill, P.M., “The Quakers and the North Carolina Manumission Society,” Trinity College Historical Society Papers, Series X, 1914.

16.  Robert N. Tompkins, ed., “Marriage and Death Notices from Extant Asheboro, N,C., Newspapers, 1836—1857”, N.C. Genealogical Society Journal (Nov. 1978);

FOOTNOTES


[i]  Swaim Bible Records, published in Randolph County Genealogical Society Journal, Vol. X, #2, p.28 (1986); Sidney Swain Robins, A Letter on Robins Family History (nd.); Swaim family genealogical records (possession of Mrs. Francine Holt Swain, Liberty, N.C.)

[ii]  H.N. Wagstaff, ed., “Minutes of the N.C. Manumission Society, 1816-1831”, The James Sprunt Historical Studies, Vol. 22 (1934)

[iii]  Peter Dicks was a storekeeper in the Town, as well as the operator of a mill on Deep River some 2 miles southwest. William Dennis was a potter of slip-decorated redware whose home and kiln were sited half a mile east of town. Dr. John Milton Worth, born in the nearby Centre Friends Meeting community just north across the county line, opened his first practice in New Salem.  William Clark, a future organizer of the Union Factory, operated a “flourishing” tannery and store in the town.  (J.A. Blair, p. 50)  The Adams family, who employed Naomi Wise as a servant girl, lived just South of town.

[iv] At that first meeting, says Levi Coffin in his autobiographical Reminiscences, Moses Swaim, “a lawyer of Randolph County, delivered a lengthy and able address, which was afterward printed and widely circulated.  It was a strong abolition speech, and would not have been allowed a few years later.”  (p.74)  Moses Swaim was elected Clerk of Superior Court in Randolph County in 1837 and served for several years.

[v]  The phrase “Man of Business” had come into English writing as early as 1660, but it had only begun to assume its modern form, “business-man,” in 1829.

[vi]  William Swaim also happens to have been the grandfather of novelist O. Henry, and so has merited the monograph William Swaim– Fighting Editor by Ethel Stephens Arnett (1963). William’s cousin Lyndon Swaim later took over editorship of his newspaper. “The Life of William Swaim” was a multi-part biographical series written by Lyndon Swaim and published in the Patriot from May 18 to June 22, 1866. In transmogrified form, the Patriot survives today, becoming the Greensboro Daily News, now known as  The News and Record.

[vii]  John Sherwood (27 Sept. 1806 – 5 July 1895) was the son of Benjamin Sherwood (1783-1865) and Sally Swaim (b. 29 Sept. 1787).  Sally Swaim was the daughter of distant cousin Michael Swaim; Benjamin Sherwood was evidently a brother of Benjamin Swaim’s mother Elizabeth Sherwood Swaim.  On 26 Sept. 1835 John Sherwood was the grantee of a deed of trust (Randolph County Book 20, Page 111) encumbering property described as “one quarter acre lot in New Salem adj. B. Swaim (formerly Jesse Watkins”.  In 1837 John Sherwood was a candidate for Randolph County Clerk of Superior Court, printing circulars on June 10th , decrying prejudice against candidates who were not Randolph natives and on July 29th,  printing a diatribe against “racing candidates” and describing himself as a “man in limited circumstances, with an extensive family.”  Moses Swaim was the victor in this contest (see Deed Book 21, Page 151).

[viii]  In October 1834, Williams Swaim proposed merging the Patriot into the Southern Citizen beginning July 4, 1835.  He planned to enlarge the weekly paper with three times the editorial material, “printed in new type, on a new press.”  The prospectus of the new paper was printed Nov. 19, 1834; in it he said 2.000 subscribers would be required to begin publication.  Lyndon Swaim, “The Life of William Swaim,” in The Patriot (Greensboro, NC) published from May 18 to June 22, 1866.

[ix]  From The Southern Citizen, Vol. V, #52 (17 October 1844)—“We have recently sold out to Mr. John Milton Sherwood, a young gentleman who was partly raised in this office, and , for the past year, has been the foreman in the establishment.  He will issue the first number week after next./  This number of our paper concludes the Fifth volume of the Southern Citizen, and closes, for the present, at least and very probably forever, the Editorial Career of its present Editor and Proprietor.”

[x] From the Patriot, Greensboro, 12-28-1844:  “Died/ In Raleigh, on Monday the 22nd inst., about 12 o’clock, BENJAMIN SWAIM, of Randolph county, counselor at law, and author of several legal works.

“A friend who watched his dying bed informs us that the deceased ‘had been indisposed about two weeks ago, but had got much better, so as to consider himself well.  On Friday night he was taken with a violent cholera morbius, which proved fatal on Monday.  His suffering was intense.  He had the best medical aid, and attentive nursing, but all failed.  He retained his senses in a most remarkable degree, and submitted to his fate without a murmur- observed, after he was conscious of the near approach of death, that he had no disposition to complain of any act of Providence.  He had but few friends present, but these few gave every possible attention that could be bestowed.’

“Always under the depressing influence of pecuniary want, and afflicted from his birth with a radical defect in his sight, he labored under more of the difficulties of life than fall to the lot of most men.  But nature had endowed him with a remarkably clear intellect and a patient disposition, which enabled him to press forward in the attainment of knowledge to an extent highly creditable to himself and useful to the community.  His mind, patient to investigate, delighted to follow the old law writers through the mazes of their learning into the latent recesses of truths and right reason.  The law was his favorite study, and in it he had made uncommon proficiency for one of his age and proscribed opportunities. He enjoyed the reputation of a clear and correct legal theorist and a safe counselor.  And the practical legal works which he compiled and published will long be used and appreciated by the business public.  He was a man of inoffensive manners and most amiable disposition.  Peace be to his ashes!

“We have deemed this meager public tribute due to one who was, during a portion of our youth ‘our guide, companion, and familiar friend.’—EDS. PAT.”

[xi]  i.e., Francois-Xavier Martin, The Office and Authority of a Justice of the Peace of Sheriffs, Coroners, &c., According to the Laws of North-Carolina (1791) ; or The Office and Duty of A Justice of the Peace and A Guide to Sheriffs, Coroners, Clerks and Constables and Other Civil Officers  According to the Laws of North-Carolina (John Haywood, ed., printed in Raleigh by William Boylan in 1806; and Henry Potter, ed., published by J. Gales and Son of Raleigh in 1828 (2nd ed.).

[xii]  Interestingly, Brantley York (1805-1891), Randolph County native, teacher and founder of Trinity College, is credited with authoring The Man of Business and Railroad Calculator:  Containing such part of arithmetic as have a special application in business transactions (Raleigh: J. Nichols & Co., 1873).  The work contains legal forms edited by Richard Watt York, “A.M. and Counsellor at Law,” but it does not appear to relate to Swaim’s Man of Business in anything but title and subject matter.

[xiii]  On Feb. 7, 1838, in the midst of a financial crisis, Benjamin Swaim mortgaged his house and lot in New Salem, his household property in Asheboro, and “also the printing press, cases, gallies, and all other Materials belonging to the printing office of the Southern Citizen of Asheboro, including the Dog Press, also the Library of books belonging to the said Swaim, consisting of about 200 volumes.”  Swaim owed 4 local businessmen $770, as well as $33.87 to printer R.W. West, and $260 to Salem paper mill owner Emanuel Shober.  “Dog Press” was evidently a generic name for a traditional wooden screw-type printing press.

[xiv]  According to Ethel Stephens Arnett, William Swaim used a Ramage press to print The Patriot (Greensboro, North Carolina, The County Seat of Guilford (1955), p. 240).  Adam Ramage of Philadephia  built wooden printing presses from about 1800 until he died in 1850.  They were available in three sizes: a full-size common press, an intermediate free-standing press which he called his “screw press,” and the smallest, the “foolscap,” named for the size of sheet paper it could print.

[xv] Identified on all subsequent monthly title pages as “R.J. WEST, Printer/ New-Salem, N.C.”

[xvi]  A modern “trutype” version of this typeface is available on computers as Elephant Italic, an adaptation of early 19th century “fat face” types made by designer Matthew Carter.

[xvii]  Swaim’s reference of October 17, 1844 to the purchase of the Southern Citizen by John Milton Sherwood is the only known use of that middle name, but the buyer appears to be the same as the “John Sherwood, Book-Binder” of the Man of Business.  While Sherwood’s latter career with the Southern Citizen is not clear, he also is apparently the same man responsible for another first in N.C. journalism.  A John Sherwood, editor of The Farmer’s Advocate and Miscellaneous Reporter, published in Jamestown from Aug. 1838 to June 1842, is cited by James Oliver Cathey as publishing North Carolina’s first agricultural journal.  [see “Agricultural Developments in North Carolina, 1783-1860,” published in James Sprunt Studies in History and Political Science, Vol. 38; Chapel Hill, UNC Press, pp. 84, 102-103] .  Says Cathey, “John Sherwood… was one of the leading advocates of greater efficiency in farm operations. ‘What you undertake, do well,’ he urged.  Farmers were encouraged, in the interest of efficiency, to keep business-like records of their activities, to include notations of stock on hand, implements, methods used, weather conditions, time of planting, time and methods of culture, and of all experiments conducted…. Sherwood, in his Farmer’s Advocate, was the most forceful and persistent in advocating this feature of the reform program.”  Sherwood’s program to make farmer’s more business-like seems very much akin to Swaim’s program to codify and demystify business law.

And as regards book binding, Swaim’s estate papers indicate that Daniel Clewell of Salem in 1842 bound 29 copies of the N.C. Executor and 4 sets of the Man of Business.

[xviii] Swaim’s estate papers in the NC State Archives contain records of an auction sale of his assets held in August 1845; for sale were 185 copies of the N.C. Road Law, which sold for 5 cents each; 8 copies of the Man of Business which sold for $1.35; 53 copies of the N.C. Executor, and 1 N.C. Justice.  5 bound volumes of the Southern Citizen were sold to Joseph P. Julian.  At least one of these bound volumes survived into the 21st century, which the local owner, refusing to sell to the local historical society, auctioned it off to a paper dealer on eBay who cut the pages apart and sold them as “SLAVE ADS!!!”  Among the law books in Swaim’s sale were Haywood’s Justice; Haywood’s Manual; a Revised Statutes (of N.C.); Iredell’s Digest; N.C. Reports; Battle’s Reports; Martin’s Sheriff; N.C. Sheriffs, and “Right’s M of B.”  This last title is intriguing; if “M.O.B.” is short for “Man of Business” then this might indicate some other work related in title or subject to Swaim’s periodical.  But so far nothing under that title or author (either Right or Wright) has been found in union catalogs.

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One Response to “Benjamin Swaim and the “Man of Business””

  1. charles geer Says:

    have a old copy N. C. Road law 1842 used by overseers in mt Gilead N. C. is it worth anything well worn

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