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politics in North America, 1776

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  • James Yaworsky
    The following is from the Crimean War yahoo group, and perhaps more relevant to 1812 than the Crimea... Jim Yaworsky 41st Posted by: John Pearson
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2007
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      The following is from the Crimean War yahoo group, and perhaps more
      relevant to 1812 than the Crimea...

      Jim Yaworsky
      41st

      Posted by: "John Pearson" favoriteson@... bigskymanj
      Sat Jul 7, 2007 8:47 am (PST)
      Dear CWRS members: Not a Crimea topic, but maybe of interest to some:
      Here's the link to NY Times magazine.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/01/magazine/01wwln-essay-t.html?

      Loyal to a Fault
      By MAYA JASANOFF
      Published: July 1, 2007

      Every Independence Day we celebrate the founding of the world's most
      powerful — and for some, inspirational — nation. Yet for several
      months after July 4, 1776, the self-proclaimed United States of
      America looked set to go down in history as a nation that never was.
      That August, in the biggest battle of the Revolution, the British
      trounced the Continental Army on Long Island, nearly forcing an
      American surrender.

      Illustration from the Granger Collection

      As Washington's beleaguered soldiers retreated through New Jersey,
      thousands of Americans loyal to King George III surged into New York
      City — where they would remain under British protection for the rest
      of the war. These loyalists had no desire "to dissolve the political
      bands" with Britain, as the Declaration of Independence demanded.
      Instead, as they explained in a petition to British authorities, they
      "steadily and uniformly opposed" this "most unnatural, unprovoked
      Rebellion, that ever disgraced the annals of Time." While the rebels
      sought to sever the connection between Britain and the colonies, the
      loyalists "most ardently wish[ed] for a restoration of that union
      between them." Where the rebels challenged the king, the loyalists
      staunchly upheld royal authority: they had "borne true Allegiance to
      His Majesty, and the most warm and affectionate attachment to his
      Person and Government."

      During three days in November 1776, this petition sat in Scott's
      Tavern, on Wall Street, to be signed by anyone who wished. A frank
      declaration of dependence, it completely lacks the revolutionary
      genius and rhetorical grace of our hallowed July 4 document. Yet in
      all, more than 700 people put their names to the parchment — 12 times
      the number who signed the Declaration of Independence. Among the
      signatories were pillars of New York society: wealthy merchants like
      Hugh Wallace, who commanded vast tracts of land and capital; members
      of some of New York's most prominent families, the DeLanceys, the
      Livingstons and the Philipses; and the clergymen Charles Inglis and
      Samuel Seabury, who published articulate rebuttals to rebel pamphlets
      like Thomas Paine's "Common Sense." But most of the names belonged to
      the ordinary people who made New York run: tavern keepers and
      carpenters; farmers from the Hudson Valley or New Jersey; men like the
      baker James Orchard, who supplied bread for British troops; the
      Greenwich blacksmith James Stewart, who joined the British Army; and
      the hairdresser and perfumer James Deas.

      Loyalists are the American Revolution's guilty secret: rarely spoken
      of, hauntingly present. At least one in five Americans is believed to
      have remained loyal to Britain during the war. They expressed their
      opinions passively and actively: refusing to forswear allegiance to
      the king, signing petitions or joining loyalist military regiments —
      as nearly 20,000 men did — to defend their vision of British America.
      In retaliation, they faced harassment from their peers, most vividly
      (if rarely) by tarring and feathering. Some would suffer for their
      loyalty in open battle; others faced sanctions from state
      legislatures, which could strip them of their land and possessions,
      imprison them or formally banish them.

      The Tories, as the patriots pejoratively called them, are still often
      caricatured as elitist and out of touch, foreign, even treacherous.
      Granted, their dream of a continued imperial relationship with Britain
      had none of the political innovation that gave rise to the new
      republic. And yet it bears stressing that our "self-evident" founding
      principles were not seen that way by fully one-fifth of the
      population. Many of the United States' first and most passionate
      critics were Americans themselves.

      After the Revolutionary War ended, thousands of loyalists blended into
      the nation, and their descendants participated in shaping American
      society. But many — as many as 1 in 30 Americans — did not. Feeling
      insecure and unwelcome in the United States, and attracted by British
      promises of land and compensation, some 80,000 loyalists left their
      homes to build new lives elsewhere in the still-vigorous British
      Empire. About half fled north to Canada, among them more than 3,000
      black loyalists — former slaves who had been granted freedom in
      exchange for fighting for the British — and several hundred Mohawk
      Indians, longstanding British allies. Many loyalists entered Jamaican
      society as doctors, printers, merchants and planters — or tried their
      luck at cotton planting on the out-islands of the Bahamas. In perhaps
      the most intriguing migration, a contingent of just under 1,200 black
      loyalists relocated in 1792 from Nova Scotia to the experimental free
      black colony of Sierra Leone. Some of their black peers wound up yet
      farther afield, among the first convicts shipped out to Australia's
      Botany Bay. And a few loyalists made their way to India — including
      two of Benedict Arnold's sons, who found love, war and death as
      officers in the East India Company's army.

      (Page 2 of 2)

      The scale and range of this exodus point to a gap in popular
      understandings of the American revolutionary tradition. We pride
      ourselves on the freedom and tolerance embedded in our founding
      principles. We have also recently begun to acknowledge the discrepancy
      between the nation's vaunted commitment to "life, liberty and the
      pursuit of happiness" and the gross abuse of these principles in
      practice — through slavery above all. (Compared with the United
      States, the British Empire looked like a good bet if you were an
      enslaved black or a Native American.) But the loyalist émigrés had
      experienced a form of exclusion that is less familiarly American: one
      based on political affiliation. Unlike slaves and Native Americans,
      who were never assumed to be part of the republic's political fabric,
      the majority of loyalist families were headed by white,
      property-owning men, who if not for their allegiances would otherwise
      have been enfranchised members of the new polity. In opting for the
      king, they were motivated not only by economic interests and
      trans-Atlantic cultural ties but also by a coherent set of political
      beliefs.

      Loyalists believed they already lived under a constitution — a British
      Constitution — directed by the supreme figure of the king.
      Republicanism was treason; it heralded descent into anarchy and
      violence. As the minister Charles Inglis explained in his rejoinder to
      Paine's "Common Sense," under a republic "all property . . . would be
      unhinged," "the old Constitution would be totally subverted,"
      thousands would be forced to "wound their conscience" by renouncing
      the king, "torrents of blood will be spilt and thousands reduced to
      beggary and wretchedness" — and after all that, judging from history,
      chances were high Americans would end up in "thralldom" to an
      individual despot. "Even Hobbes would blush," he said, to acknowledge
      Paine as "a disciple."

      Though many loyalists technically left by choice, freedom meant little
      if your property had been confiscated or your person threatened. It is
      no wonder, then, that the loyalist migrants routinely referred to
      themselves as refugees, since like many modern asylum seekers they
      moved under a shadow of trauma and fear. Their accounts of their
      plight — in letters, diaries, claims and petitions for support — form
      a wrenching archive of woe. Even the wealthy Hugh Wallace, the first
      person to sign the New York declaration, was reduced to loneliness,
      illness and deprivation. "If ever man was to be pitied, he is," his
      brother reported, not long after the war's end. "His losses hang heavy
      on him & his being from his wife hurts him much." So effectively did
      the loyalists articulate their distresses that the British government
      established a commission to reimburse them for their losses (though
      few were satisfied with the ultimate rewards they received).

      Still, even as the loyalists put down roots in the British Empire, it
      seemed that they had not left every trace of America behind. For what
      should they promptly express abroad but an uncannily American desire
      for greater political representation — much to the chagrin of British
      officials. Fired up by an "American spirit of innovation," as one
      disgruntled British governor put it, loyalists clamored for
      participation everywhere from the Canadian Maritimes to the Bahamas to
      Sierra Leone. In some settings, they achieved it. Thanks in part to
      the loyalists' political legacy, Canada gained limited self-government
      earlier than any other British colony, providing a template for later
      home rule and decolonization. Apparently you could take the colonists
      out of America, but something American in them endured.

      The American Revolution went well, as revolutions go: no guillotines,
      no gulags. But the democratic revolution was nonetheless violent. The
      American way was established by force, and those who did not renounce
      their old allegiances in favor of the new government paid a price.
      Then again, there may be a cue to be taken from the surprising way in
      which loyalists, victims of the American idea, became unwitting
      emissaries of American values. American-ness comes in many shapes and
      forms and holds a peculiar appeal, even to some of its critics. After
      all, despite its imperfections, our most successful exercise in
      nation-building continues to be our own.

      Maya Jasanoff is an associate professor of British history at Harvard
      University. She is the author of "Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture and
      Conquest in the East, 1750-1850
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