University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The Other Eden

Volume XXXIV · 1981
The Other Eden

For additional information, please see: John J. Waters' Alan Valentine's "Loyalists" 

Few Yankee loyalists had ever been in England before. From across the Atlantic they had admired what they knew of its power, its government, its culture. Now, as refugees, they entered that England like those who, fleeing from Egypt, had entered their promised land. Loyalists expected a cordial welcome, for had they not, by painful sacrifices, demonstrated their devotion to the Mother Country? It did not occur to anyone that as guests they might become too numerous, or outstay their welcome.

Few Yankee women, conditioned to puritan reserve in speech and conduct, would have voiced their exultation in terms like those of Louisa Wells from South Carolina, but they shared her emotions when first reaching England: "O! how shall I describe what I felt, when I first set my foot on British ground? It was my Home, the Country I had so long and earnestly wished to see. The Isle of Liberty and Peace." Expecting to admire the Promised Land, nearly every refugee began by doing so. And with good reason, for although England was not perfect it had much to offer. Nearly all the diaries and letters of loyalists during their first weeks in England were enthusiastic in praise of the English countryside and the magnificence of London.

But notes of disillusionment soon began to insert dissonant chords in the melody of their paeans. They had expected too much; they could not continue to find everything in England as perfect as it first seemed. London's palaces and churches remained superb, but they stood out against a background of slums. London's aristocrats and statesmen exemplified British culture and power, but they were outnumbered by London's beggars. A Yankee in Britain was more secure from Indians and rioters than at home, but more troubled by criminals, pickpockets, and whores. American refugees felt themselves, with all their crudenesses, less hypocritical than many an English gentleman so used to fine phrases that he was often unaware of his own insincerity. And although English Winters were mild and warmer outdoors than those of Boston, cold English houses made Bostonians shiver. Many a refugee found that he was gravitating for social pleasure to the company, not of these charming Englishmen, but to familiar and more downright Yankees.

London with all its grandeur proved so enormous and so overwhelming tiny Boston seemed more intelligible and friendly. The excitements of glimpses of King and Queen, of Parliament in session, of London Bridge and Westminster Abbey were memorable but somehow not warming. Economical ventures into operas, theaters, and music halls that Boston could not rival were delightful in the main, but such pleasures were accompanied by the sight of hangings at Tyburn, of pickpockets and loose women alarmingly rampant, of infinite dirt, and poverty so common it was taken for granted.

St. James's Park was relatively free from London's grosser aspects and uncomfortable crowding; it was convenient to the lodgings of most early Yankee refugees, and it soon became and long remained the recognized strolling and meeting place of Yankee loyalists. Thomas Hutchinson, one of the first to arrive, recorded having met there by chance in a single morning's perambulations no less than 13 Boston acquaintances. Edward Oxnard from Falmouth, Maine, remarked that his countrymen seemed "to have taken possession" of the Park. Before that year ended the Park was being called "the Boston Exchange."

Those first refugees in London justified Lecky's verdict that "They comprised some of the best and ablest men America had ever produced." Allen French went further -- a little too far -- when he asserted that the loyalists in England constituted "the larger part of the aristocracy of Massachusetts." Thomas Hutchinson, their knowledgeable leader, was more temperate. He merely said they were "largely persons of the best character and estate."

Since New England first experienced the rebellion and the war, its loyalists were prominent among early refugee arrivals. Nearly a third of the Americans in London in 1774 were from the Bay Colony. In 1775 more than a third had come from Massachusetts. In 1776, 74 refugee families in London were from the Bay State out of 139 families from all the former colonies. Eighty-seven of those 139 families came from New England. As the war bit more deeply into the middle and southern states, the predominance of Yankees among London refugees diminished, but over the entire war decade more loyalists came to England from the former Bay Colony than from any other.1

Yankee loyalists would have been even more numerous in England had not several factors delayed or prevented them. Some had to wait for months to secure passage for themselves, their families, and perhaps a servant or slave or two. Some risked remaining at home in the expectation that the war would be short and the British would win. A considerable number, though planning to leave New England, remained there for a while to care for aged parents, ill children, or invalid wives, or to arrange for the protection and oversight of their property.  Some had literally no funds to pay for their transportation and costs of living in England. Few had liquid assets of importance; their assets had been in land holdings spread over Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire as well as Massachusetts, or, in the case of merchants, in ships, docks, and warehouses -- possessions not easily turned into pounds sterling. Few were as indifferent to their future welfare as was Colonel Richard Saltonstall, who despite the relative affluence of his family took ship for England with but seven guineas. But Saltonstall was a bachelor without near dependents, an old military campaigner, and with cousins in England who would presumably help him if necessity required.

Some Yankee loyalists of distinction went to England without wives and children or with only one child out of several. Most of them hoped to be joined soon by their families, but in some cases their wives did not share their royalist views or wished to remain on familiar ground, or stayed to look after family interests, or refused to expose their children to the discomforts and genuine hazards of an Atlantic crossing. The Massachusetts Committee of Safety took one of its more generous steps when in 1775 it declared that "wives and children of such persons who shall choose to remain in Boston with general Gage, may and ought to be treated with humanity and tenderness in the several Towns they may go to dwell in, during the present troubles, and by no means to suffer the least injury, or meet with the smallest mark of disrespect upon account of their said husbands or fathers." Not all enthusiasts for liberty obeyed that instruction and not all wives and children of loyalists who went through the war years in New England were spared "the least injury" or "mark of disrespect," but on the whole their treatment was to the credit of the revolutionists.

Nor were all Yankee loyalists entitled to the highest respect, for a few had chosen to be loyalists because they thought loyalty to Britain would ultimately butter their bread. A few others, including men of good reputation, sacrificed character to what they thought was expediency by magnifying to the British Treasury and Parliamentary Commission the extent of their losses in America, in hope of greater compensation.2 And there was another reason for doubting the sincerity of a few professed loyalists who made their way to England. M. Chardonier, Councillor of State and Treasurer of French Marine Affairs, wrote in a memorandum dated April 26, 1778, regarding American spies in England: "They generally appear in England as distressed loyal subjects, and by some means they obtain certificates of losses and other proofs to save them from being suspected. . . . When they have finished they slip away either to Holland or France." British suspicions of a few professed loyalists did impair somewhat the warmth of welcome given to all loyalists by British government and people during the latter years of the war.

Despite their admiring first impressions of England, many Yankee refugees sensed from their arrival that there were differences in values, manners, and points of view between most Englishmen and themselves. It took them longer to conclude that Englishmen, too, were aware of those differences and had no desire to lessen them. And there were other reasons why Yankees in London sought the company of their countrymen. Yankees were a unique breed, even in the colonies distinguishable from other Americans. They liked to be with those who very literally talked their own Yankee language and shared their knowledge of Boston Common and their nostalgia for Boston food -- a nostalgia felt by few other Americans. They enjoyed discussing with fellow Yankees details of their ill treatment by American Whigs, the hardships of their Atlantic crossings, and their current problems and opinions.

St. James's Park was not the only meeting place of Yankees. They established squatters' rights at several London taverns including St. Clement's Coffee House, the New England Coffee House in Threadneedle Street, the Jerusalem Tavern, and the Adelphi Tavern in the Strand. There they met for news, gossip, frugal meals, coffee, ale, and clients' privileges in reading the London news sheets and sending letters to America. At such inns many a Yankee learned that his fellow loyalists were beginning to qualify their original assumptions of English near-perfection in politics, manners, and social life. After all, there was consolation in agreeing that Boston life before The Troubles was equal or superior in quality to that of the famous city of London. What could better restore their flagging amour propre than to indulge in mutual criticisms of some British ways and values -- of British ignorance of America and of many an Englishman's apathy toward national issues?

Few Yankee refugees experienced real poverty or great physical discomfort in England, but most of them grew increasingly homesick as their months of exile expanded into years. Nostalgia loves company; discontented men tend to organize. As early as August 31, 1775, the small group of Yankee refugees met at the Paul's Head Tavern with the intention of arranging regular meetings. Nothing came of that, but in early 1776, a larger number met at a tavern in the Strand and formed a club of New England loyalists. The documents of their association were signed by the club's founders on February 1, 1776, and illuminated the persons and purposes of the founders:

We whose names are undersigned do mutually agree to meet and dine together at the Adelphi Tavern, on every Thursday weekly under the following regulations.

1st. That the expence [sic] of the dinner, exclusive of liquor and waiters, shall be two shillings and sixpence for each person present, and no more.

2ly. That a dinner every Thursday, shall be accordingly ordered for twelve persons at least.

3dly. That one of the members present shall officiate as steward each day, who shall order the liquors, collect and pay the Bills and manage the general concerns of the Company.

4thly. That when less than twelve members shall attend, those present shall not be liable for more than their own dinners together with the liquor order'd and the waiters; the residue of the Bill to be paid by the Steward or his substitute, and repaid him by the absentee members in equal proportions.

5thly. That any Gentleman, belonging to the four N. England Governments, may be admitted a member provided he is first proposed to the Club at any meeting, and that there be not two dissenting votes.

6thly. That each person subscribing or agreeing to these Rules, is to be considered as a member, untill [sic] he shall give notice to the Steward, of his desire to withdraw himself, and to have his name erased from the list of members.

7thly. That any member may invite his friend, giving notice to the Steward of his intention and paying his bill.

(Signed) Daniel Silsby, Joseph Taylor, Isaac Smith Jr., Harrison Gray Jr., Samuel Quincy, I. W. Clarke, Jonathan Bliss, Saml. Porter, Wm. Cabot, Thos. Flucker, R. Clarke, S. Curwen, Jon. Sewall, Samuel Sewall, J. S. Copley, Geo. Brinley, David Greene, Edward Oxnard, S. S. Blowers, Fras. Waldo.

Upon one margin of this paper is written: "Stewards at ye Crown and Anchor -- Mr. Quincy, Pickman, Mr. S. Porter." Attendance at the meetings varied in 1776 from 11 on May 17 to 28 on March 14. Later meetings were sometimes held at the Queen's Arms. After 1777 the club ceased to flourish.

A coffeehouse was often the only mail address a refugee uncertain of his future lodgings could arrange. There he received and sent letters, for ships' captains or their agents made a practice of stopping at certain coffeehouses to collect letters just before sailing for America. That system was perhaps not greatly inferior to the postal services of contemporary America. But coffeehouses were sources of false rumors as well as of news from America. Much of what loyalists heard there was untrue -- reports of a major defeat of Howe on Long Island, of Washington's resignation, Washington's capture, Washington's surrender, Washington's death. One loyalist remarked, with caustic understatement: "What is the talk of the day in London is not much to be depended on."

It is significant that the club the Yankee refugees formed was the New England Club and that the coffeehouses they frequented were regularly patronized almost exclusively by Yankees. For geographical reasons if no others, social life in New England had been largely limited to one's own colony. Loyalists in London retained colonial divisions in their social activities. Refugees from the Carolinas, from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York also gathered in separate coffeehouses and taverns, and to some extent had lodgings in different areas in London. Although the political interests of the refugees were deeper and more personal than those of most Englishmen, their social interests were in the literal sense provincial. Before the war ended, Brompton Row in Knightsbridge had become almost a Yankee monopoly. Among residents in adjacent lodgings there were Jonathan Sewall, Robert Auchmuty, Thomas Hutchinson, Jr., John Murray, Samuel Curwen, and Thomas Flucker, with other Yankees peripatetically in nearby buildings.3

During their first year of residence in England, Yankee refugees were mostly occupied with their immediate personal affairs: finding lodgings for themselves and their families; pursuing financial assistance from the British government, and hopefully making the acquaintance of a few members of Britain's governing class. They spent their hours of enforced leisure in exploring, chiefly on foot, the streets, parks, palaces, churches, theaters and markets of London and its suburbs. All of this most of them did as inexpensively as possible, for they had no certain future income or capital to maintain (especially in London, where they found prices very high) their former standard of living in America. Their spirits varied according to their natures and the fortunes of war. During their first year or two in England most of them anticipated a fairly prompt return to a British-controlled America. But after the first few months of eager sightseeing and house-hunting they filled their time waiting, waiting. . .

When toward the end of 1777 news of Burgoyne's disaster at Saratoga reached London, many loyalists gave for the first time serious consideration to the possibility that Britain might not win the war, especially if France and Spain gave active military and naval support to the colonies. In that case what would happen to the refugees, to their wives, their children, and their children's children? A few whistled through the woods, or pretended to, but most recognized that if Britain lost the war they must remain in England for the rest of their lives or else, at ages no longer elastic, create new homes in the rigors of Canada or the debilitating climate of the West Indies islands. In any case, where would the necessary pounds sterling come from? Although most of them preferred life in London, an increasing number of refugees sought homes outside the London area, where living cost less and they could stay solvent a little longer.

The largest Yankee exodus from London went to Bristol, which was not only cheaper but a seaport somewhat reminiscent of Boston. By the end of 1778 Jonathan Sewall, Thomas Oliver, Robert Hallowell, Nathaniel Coffin, and Henry Barnes, all from leading Boston families, were among those living in the Bristol Yankee colony. There were others at Bath and nearby Cowbridge in South Wales, where rural life was remarkably pleasant and inexpensive. William Brown of Salem had staked out the first claim at Cowbridge, and John Sargent his half-brother, Colonel Murray, and sometimes Thomas Flucker and Richard Saltonstall were among the part-time followers. The Oliver family moved, with characteristic independence and confidence, to the up-and-coming industrial city of Birmingham.

Burgoyne's defeat was accompanied by other body blows to Yankee refugees. In September 1778 many of them were proscribed and banished by the state of Massachusetts. In 1779 that state also confiscated their property.4The banishment act declared that loyalist refugees who attempted to re-enter Massachusetts without advance official permission would be immediately expelled from it. If they returned again they would "suffer the pains of death without benefit of clergy." Other states took comparable steps. Pennsylvania maintained an official Black List of 490 names attainted of high treason and punishable by death. Seven other states passed similar acts, and the rest accomplished comparable results in other ways. Maryland, for example, ruled that if any loyalist should return to that state, he would be excluded from holding public office there and would be liable to triple taxation. Such legislation, state by state, provided the peace commission and the loyalists (which John Adams currently called "these vermin") with a clear negative answer to their conciliatory proposals in 1778.

In some states loyalists who did return unauthorized were fined up to £2,000, whipped, branded, pilloried, or cropped of their ears. Such acts further embittered the loyalists, but the final closing of doors back into their old homes increased their nostalgia for what they still regarded as their rightful homeland. Life elsewhere had made the old days in New England seem all the happier. They might be grateful to England for giving them refuge and modest support, but their discomfort of spirit in what had been The Promised Land increased with time and events. They never felt more ardently American (and proud of it!) than when faced with examples of an Englishman's certainty of his own innate superiority.

Yankee loyalists found various reasons for their malaise in England. Their diaries increasingly deplore the empty sameness of their unemployed days. Few of them could create for themselves -- Hutchinson, Peter Oliver, and Leonard notably excepted -- any constructive work to fill their waking hours. The British system offered them almost no opportunities to take places in the business or political scene, at least at the level most of them thought worthy of their abilities and deserts. Many of them had been men of affairs, influential and admired. They did not adjust easily to having neither their services nor their opinions asked for or valued. Then came Burgoyne's defeat and their own banishment to bring home to them the fact that their careers had ended and their ambitions must go unrealized. Henry Barnes, former Boston merchant suffering reluctant inactivity in Bristol, spoke for many of his fellows when he wrote that he was "heartily tired" of so boring and futile a life.

Such malaise, nostalgia, and frustration led refugees to curious contradictions as their pride, their realism, and their relative poverty conflicted within their minds. After 1778, most of them professed determination never to compromise with the rebels who had robbed and persecuted them. But many a loyalist showed in private signs of readiness to swallow pride and settle for a return to New England on terms far short of the apologies, welcoming parades, and restoration of property that they talked of in public. They condemned as too conciliatory the proposals for peace made in America by the Carlisle peace commission, but they themselves offered far greater concessions to the state of Massachusetts if it would let them return. A group of loyalist leaders in London presented to the Privy Council, and also to the Assembly of the state of Massachusetts, memorials proposing an amnesty, and offered to return to that state as peaceable citizens of the new nation and to share "in just proportion" in the payment of its public debts, provided the state would assure them and their families of cordial receptions and equality under the law. Their hope that such proposals would even be considered in America showed how greatly they misunderstood the current attitudes of their former neighbors.

The instructions given to the Carlisle peace commission by the ministry, in the name of the King, were also creditable but utterly unrealistic:

Many particular Cases of Distress and Losses sustained by Our British Merchants and Proprietors of Estates, during these Commotions, have excited Our most Serious Attention and Concern . . . and throughout the whole Progress of this Treaty, as far as Circumstances will admit, you will anxiously lay hold of every Opportunity to exert every means of providing for them that Relief which Justice requires, and which it is Our earnest Wish to obtain in their Behalf. . . the worthy conduct of the dispossessed clergy of the Church of England in America. . . must therefore be your particular Care. . . to attend to every possible Occasion of repairing their Losses, and establishing their Situations in the same Condition in which they formerly held them.

The American government and people soon made clear their scornful rejection of those proposals. Carlisle and his colleagues had left England instructed that Britain would never accept a peace with the Americans that conceded American independence and failed to provide for the security and compensation of the loyalist refugees. Americans, now confident of ultimate victory, received those proposals with mingled laughter and anger. William Lee wrote in 1778: "I am sure that not one of the three commissioners last sent out will be trusted by a single man in Congress." Josiah Bartlett of Congress declared that the British peace proposal was "so ridiculous that I should not believe it genuine had we not the best proof of its authenticity."

Having summarily rejected the British peace terms, the Continental Congress proceeded in late October 1778 to vote resolutions which (as fairly accurately summarized by Hezekiah Niles) authorized American citizens, if attacked or injured in any way by loyalists, "to set fire to, ravage, burn, and destroy the houses and properties of all tories and enemies to the freedom and independence of America, and to secure the persons of such," though avoiding "wanton cruelties" to loyalists and their families -- apparently a window-dressing afterthought. What Congress seemed to mean was: "Be as cruel as you wish to Tories but do not be wanton about it."

The immediate and practically unanimous rejection of the Carlisle peace terms led refugee loyalists as well as British Whigs to blame the North ministry for failure in making war and failure in making peace.  Parliament's investigation of the causes of Burgoyne's defeat was at its height, and enabled English Whigs to assert with reason that it was not Burgoyne but the ministry that had issued him orders who was responsible for the Saratoga surrender. The loyalists in New York were also heard from. In an address dated November 23, 1778, they declared that if the British government had spent as much time and money to support the loyalists in 1775 as it had spent in futile efforts to end the rebellion, the war would long since have ended. American patriot bitterness toward loyalists increased with the activities of a few loyalists who had formed bands of raiders and encouraged Indians to raid frontier settlements with resultant savageries.5 Those Indian scalpings were deliberately magnified as propaganda by some highly reputable patriots, even including Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Paine, whose "Common Sense" had helped to start the war, gained further popularity by proposing that the patriots finance it by taking over all the remaining possessions of all the loyalists. Common sense had gone a long way.

The harassed loyalists were not universally loved or even approved by all the citizens of the Promised Land. A few British military men, some members of the ministry, and many opposition Whigs, such as Charles James Fox, deplored the Indian raids and blamed all the loyalists for the sins of the few who misconducted their attacks on frontier settlements. General Clinton, who had done his best for the loyalists with very little financial or other help from Britain, was finding them more of a burden than an asset in his military operations.6 When he evacuated Philadelphia and hurried toward New York, he had to sacrifice highly desirable speed of movement in order to protect the many loyalists who came with him to the relative security of that city. Once safely arrived there, those loyalists' needs and demands for housing, food, and transport to England or Canada presented Clinton with major problems and expense. He could do little, but appointed an advisory committee of three loyalist leaders: Samuel Shoemaker of Philadelphia, Beverley Robinson of New Jersey, and Robert Alexander of Maryland. Perhaps no army in enemy territory concerned itself so long and so seriously with the welfare of so many resident refugees.

British officers were also troubled by difficulty in distinguishing between loyalists who were their sincere supporters and professed loyalists who were spies or malingerers. Neither Howe nor Clinton was able to keep all the latter from making trouble in New York and Philadelphia. Washington had the same problem in reverse. In October 1777 Congress authorized Washington to see that courts martial imposed the death sentence on "any person taken within 30 miles of any town in Pennsylvania, Jersey or Delaware that is in possession of the enemy" for giving supplies, information, aid, or comfort to the enemy. After the campaign near Philadelphia ended, Congress showed a less punitive spirit, and in April 1778 it voted to recommend to the various states that each of them enact laws and issue proclamations that would ensure justice to loyalists. But the recommendation was at odds with popular opinion, and many members of Congress opposed it. One of them, Henry Lawrence, wrote that the resolution was voted only after "much contention," and added that it "proves to be the most unpleasing to the States in general of any determination of the Congress within my experience."

Many influential patriots shared the increase in popular bitterness toward loyalists during the latter years of the war. William Whipple, a member of Congress, wrote on July 19, 1778, to Ebenezer Thompson, another member, that the loyalists were "wreched [sic] Miscreants. . .justly chargeable with the greatest part of the miseries of this cruel War, and still they are suffered to remain quietly with us, doing all the mischief within their power." Samuel Adams, notorious for his extremism, in speeches before Congress in 1778 called the loyalists "traitors," "wretches," and "dastardly and criminal Neutrals." On November 3, 1778, he praised the banishment act of Massachusetts but deplored the fact that that state's General Court had allowed a few exceptions to the death penalty. Even John Adams, a more tolerant and just man, wrote in 1780 that he would have hanged his own brother had he taken the British side.

Patriots still repeated with glee the definition of a Tory as "a thing whose head is stretched in England and its body in America, and its neck ought to be stretched too." In late 1778 a few loyalists in America were actually branded with a red hot cross, or had their ears cropped- sometimes without the sanction of any proper authority. Every massacre of settlers by Indians was featured as having been led, or at least inspired, by loyalists. On July 22, 1778, the New Haven Connecticut Journal and Postboy printed a letter from a loyalist in London expressing his hope that at the end of the war he might with safety return to America. The Postboycommented editorially: "We do hope and believe that there is yet so much virtue left in the worthy Citizens of this Metropolis that they will sooner part with even Life itself, than suffer such Ingrates to have an Existence among them." One wonders how Chief Justice Smith of New York, an able and emphatic loyalist, could have reported to the ministry in January 1779 that in Connecticut as elsewhere, "of the general mass, two for one are for reunion with Great Britain."

Yankees in England were also less appreciated and less secure. At a special meeting of the London Loyalist Association, presided over on May 29, 1779, by Sir William Pepperrell in the Spring Garden Coffee House, those present voted to hold a general meeting of all loyalists at the Crown and Anchor in the Strand "to consider the measures proper to be taken for their interest and reputation in the present conjuncture." That conjuncture included the news from America that Congress and an increasing number of the states had adopted or were adopting extremist policies of property confiscation of loyalists. No loyalists seemed more likely to suffer from further confiscation than the Yankee refugees in London, since many of them owned acreages in the various New England states and could do nothing to defend their titles. The confiscation acts voted in Massachusetts on April 30 and May 1 were almost immediately followed by confiscations themselves. In Suffolk county alone, the state acquired £98,121 by confiscation and sale of 159 estates owned by Thomas Hutchinson, who also owned much land elsewhere. Eighteen parcels of land belonging to Eliakim Hutchinson were also acquired and sold by the state, and 14 parcels which had belonged to Samuel Sewall. The property of Sir William Pepperrell in the Boston area alone brought the state £102,000.7

Ninety loyalists came to the meeting at the Crown and Anchor to consider what measures they could take. They adopted the usual device of the frustrated; they appointed a committee. It included at least one loyalist from each former colony, and presented on July 6, 1779, a characteristically inadequate large-committee report. It recommended that a memorial be prepared and sent to the King, assuring him of their continued loyalty and describing their losses and sufferings in behalf of the Crown. The result was another committee to prepare the memorial. It included Pepperrell, Daniel Leonard, and Samuel Fitch, three leading Yankees. On August 11, 1779, Pepperrell reported that Lord George Germain had approved their undertaking and that a similar organization of loyalists was being formed in New York.

The New York loyalists, presided over by William Franklin, asked the British government to authorize recruitment of armed bands of loyalists, under their own officers, to make private war on the rebels. General Clinton approved the proposal but withheld some of the independence and powers the Associated Loyalists demanded. William Franklin urged Clinton on June 30, 1779, to rule that the new loyalist bands be entitled "to the plunder they take, which is to be only from rebels." Clinton refused to allow the loyalists to plunder, and the loyalists protested: "We conclude it to be absolutely necessary to that predatory kind of war proposed to be carried out by the associators, that a latitude of command be allowed to their officers, when on excursion, to conduct themselves as circumstances seem to them to require," including "power to treat the rebel prisoners in every respect neither better nor worse than they treat the loyalists." Clinton continued to deny them so free a hand. Thus at the very start of their "predatory kind of war" the New York loyalists lost much of their enthusiasm for their task and for their British overseers. The British military men also lowered their opinion of loyalists, who clearly did not wish to respect the established "rules of war."

The New York loyalists' open defiance of Clinton's ruling was published in the Royal Gazette of December 30, 1779. It announced that all goods captured by loyalists should become their own property and that rebel prisoners taken by loyalist bands would be exchanged only for loyalists who had been members of their organization. Enlistment in those predatory bands proved nevertheless to be smaller and the bands less helpful than ardent loyalists had predicted and Lord George Germain had hoped. But meanwhile the loyalists were contributing affectively to the British secret service in America under loyalist adjutant general Major Oliver Delancey of New York.

Cornwallis wrote on August 20 from his campaign in the Carolinas that the loyalists there had been driven by "barbarous persecution" to rise in arms. A month later he reported "with what patience and fortitude the southern loyalists were enduring the most cruel torments and violent oppressions." But he added that earlier indecisions of the loyalists had prevented them from taking as great advantage of British successes as they might have done. Too much had of course been expected of them. Admiral Arbuthnot, one of Britain's least admirable naval officers, had for example written to Germain from Charleston on May 15, 1780: "Could gentlemen have been prevailed upon to lay aside jealousies with respect to rank, and a loyal militia encouraged under the gentlemen of this country," he had no doubt that a force equal to that under Washington would have opposed him. All Arbuthnot was saying was that if things had been different they would have been very different.

Lord George Germain was professing increasing concern for the loyalists in America. On June 19, 1780, he assured Sir James Winthrop, the British governor at Savannah, that "the Commander-in-Chief. . . has it in his power to make compensation to the [loyalist] sufferers." In July 1780 he ordered Clinton, through his aide William Knox, to give military care to "the poor Americans. . . deserving sufferers." Germain thus passed the problem on to Clinton, who was willing enough to do what he could but had no straw for his bricks. Germain, having said Clinton had power to compensate the loyalists, provided him with no funds to do so. On December 20, 1781, Clinton begged the Treasury to send him funds and materiel "to supply the Associated Loyalists, as well as on account of the number of refugees" who had fled into areas under British control. But Clinton, though assigned responsibility, was for a long time provided with absolutely no funds or supplies to meet it. 8

The Associated Loyalists in New York remained in being, but with diminished enthusiasm, until the war ended. In 1782 Daniel Coxe was listed as their president and Sampson S. Blowers as their very active agent, but William Franklin continued to write in their behalf pontifical letters to the harassed Clinton. In England the Associated Loyalists were chiefly engaged in trying to secure or to gain continuance of pensions and grants-in-aid for themselves and their families. Most of them could not have secured, even had they sought it strenuously, remunerative employment in London, at least at a level they considered worthy of them.

The pensions and grants-in-aid given to loyalists were not excessively generous. The average pension given a single man or one with only a small family was about £100 a year, and many a lone refugee received less than that, though in London he could not secure a decent single room for less than £30 or £40 a year. Loyalists were critical of this treatment, and irritated by the time and money they had to spend in securing their pensions from the bureaucratic British Treasury. Clerks there received minimal wages and partly compensated themselves by routine little corruptions honored by time and custom. They also asserted their little brief authority by causing deliberate delays. Each loyalist beneficiary had to call in person at the Treasury each quarter to receive his quarterly pittance. If he was living outside London or unavoidably absent, he could with some difficulty arrange to be represented by an agent, but the agent had to present signed authorizations in a satisfactory form and to present receipts for quarterly payments before he actually received them. Each Treasury clerk with whom a loyalist had to have dealings took for himself, in advance of payment, a certain traditional percentage of each pension payment as a fee for his services. Even the doorkeeper expected a substantial quarterly tip, and otherwise a loyalist's admittance to the Treasury building might prove difficult. Most remarkable of all, payments of any sort to refugees could be made by only one Treasury official, who kept late morning and irregular afternoon hours and was very frequently "out of town." In their criticism of such practices these loyalist colonists in London revealed themselves to be forever, unescapably, Americans.



  1. While historians of Valentine's generation rarely defined what they meant by "few" or "many" Valentine did have a feel for "numbers" and he is correct in his estimates on the predominance of Yankee loyalists in London. In fact a shade more than a quarter of 1440 loyalist family heads came from New England with Massachusetts providing seven out of ten of them. See Mary Beth Norton, The British-Americans . . . (Boston, 1972), p. 37.
  2. For a succinct summary of the loyalist claims problem see Esmond Wright, "The Loyalists in Britain," in A Tug of Loyalties: Anglo-American Relations, 1765-85 (London, 1975), pp. 1-25.
  3. Cf. R. Horwood's "Map of London, 1799," as in Norton's The British-Americans . . ., pp. 73-74.
  4. Alan Valentine while connected with the Marshall Plan in the Netherlands had grave reservations about Indonesian Independence. He worried about the "personal safety and personal property of the Dutch in Indonesia-to say nothing of the anti-Republic natives." (Trial Balance, p. 175). This same concern repeats itself in Valentine's handling of the loyalists in America. However, he based this treatment on the "perception" of confiscation by the Yankee loyalists rather than on actual examination of either the confiscation legislation or the process itself. Had he looked at the "facts" he would have found that most loyalist property went to pay off debts the loyalists owed and that the new state governments respected and honored the "dower" rights of loyalist widows. See Richard D. Brown, "The Confiscation and Disposition of Loyalists' Estates in Suffolk County, Massachusetts," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 21 (1964), pp. 534-550, and Richard B. Morris, The American Revolution Reconsidered (New York, 1967), pp.  76-79.
  5. See Paul H. Smith, "The American Loyalists: Notes on Their Organization and Numerical Strength,"William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 25 (1968), pp. 259-77.
  6. Cf. Sir Henry Clinton, The American Rebellion, William B. Willcox, ed., (New Haven, 1954), pp. 192-93.
  7. See Eugene R. Fingerhut, "Uses and Abuses of the American Loyalists' Claims: a Critique of Quantitative Analyses," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 25 (1968), pp.  245-58.
  8. Valentine ought to have been more critical of the liberation-occupation blunders of both the British Army and American loyalists, and of course the contents of local politics in the formation of loyalist sentiment in the first place. The single best treatment of these themes is Robert McCluer Calhoon, The Loyalists in Revolutionary America, 1760-1781 (New York, 1973).


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