University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Alan Valentine's "Loyalists"

Volume XXXIV · 1981
Alan Valentine's "Loyalists"

In the 1950's when Alan Valentine penned his memoir Trial Balance he reflected retrospectively upon the England he had known as a Rhodes Scholar three decades earlier. He remembered Balliol's grace, form, style, and catholicity; he noticed that its students pursued truth "as ardently as at Columbia and Chicago but less effortfully and impatiently."l In contrast, he had grown up as a Quaker Puritan with a background "remote from the fine arts" while his college, Swarthmore, represented American "parochialism." Valentine had been raised to believe in individualism, in the Republican Party, and in the absolute right and truth of American history.2 Now, at Oxford, he found himself surrounded by intellectuals who believed that single answers rarely explained historical questions. His Oxford experience forced Alan Valentine to reexamine his values. He wrote that if "there was much to be said for both Charles and Cromwell," then was it not also possible that "even the events of our own 1776 might have to be evaluated in a new light." Without perhaps totally being aware of it Valentine had started a lifetime journey on the "road of Oxford's open-mindedness."3 His scholarly quest would be to understand why Britain and America had taken separate paths in 1776.

Growing up on Long Island Alan Valentine easily absorbed the intense anglophilia of the turn of the century "eastern establishment." He was impressed by their Tudor-Stuart houses, their tennis courts, their "Scottish gardeners and English grooms," and he resolved "to win his own place in the warm sun of power." Valentine said of his youth that he grew up "half living with Robin Hood and Ivanhoe" and imagined himself as part of the "elite of the Saxons." As did many of his generation, he saw the past in the present. Thus by both background and inclination and his belief that it was "only sensible to go where money is," Oxford was a step in the right direction.4 There he "wallowed with enthusiasm in the muddy exhilarations of the Rugby football" and "secretly glorified in his captaincy of lacrosse and membership in the all-England team." And, he "took very kindly to sherry, whiskey, and champagne." Simply put -- like the loyalists he would one day study -- he had "made England a second home." There can be no doubt that Alan Valentine liked British and American elites and that he admired style. Valentine knew what he wanted. He had "one of the finest schoolings the world had to offer," good looks, "good fortune and good friends."5 In his public career Valentine would gain a practical knowledge of how influential people work. And he held command as President of the University of Rochester, Chief of the Marshall Plan in the Netherlands, and as Administrator of Economic Stabilization in the Truman administration.

When Alan Valentine finally turned his talents to unraveling the factors leading to the separation of the English-speaking peoples -- and with it the creation of an independent United States -- it was natural for him to look at the eighteenth-century elite. Such key policy makers as the Lords Germain, North, and Stirling received his care in a series of solid monographs. In addition, he collected the entire "British Establishment" in a biographical dictionary that showed his understanding of the networks of birth, power, position, and patronage.6 These works show Valentine's empathy, they testify to his being at "home" on both sides of the Atlantic, and they provide him with an unusually rich background in British history that would make possible a contextual understanding of the "Yankee Loyalists in England." After all, psychologically Valentine was a loyalist to Anglo-American values. This Rhodes Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa understood that the irony of time had made cultural loyalism an asset for an American such as himself, who was born at the start of the twentieth century; but for the subject of his study, the eighteenth-century political loyalists, it had meant loss and exile. Shortly before his death Alan Valentine realized that this project of a quarter century would "remain uncompleted," and so early in 1980 he gave his manuscript and notes to the University of Rochester.7 It is from this manuscript that we have selected "This Other Eden" for publication.

"Yankee Loyalists in England" starts with a clear thesis. Valentine wrote "if a patriot is, as dictionaries say, '. . . one who loves and supports his government,' then the true patriots of 1776 were the colonists loyal to their existing government, which happened to be British in origin." Moreover, they embodied the great American virtue of individualism. After all, they were the superior people of Colonial America -- individualists by "inheritance, by instinct and by the independence born of their economic well-being."8 Valentine appreciated wealth and position, he understood the obligations of place, and growing up a Quaker made him conscious of the insularity of minority values. Thus Valentine understood why Quakers, Mennonites, and many of the Episcopal clergy would be by nature inclined toward loyalism. They had the conservative habits of cultural minorities. It was also apparent why Yankees who held Crown appointments, who ate the king's bread, or who had served and fought for the Empire supported the mother country during the American Revolution. Finally, as a clubman, Valentine understood why the loyalists in England gathered together in self-contained enclaves.9These three findings: that the colonial minorities inclined to loyalism, that the servants of the Crown did likewise, and that the loyalists in England revealed their social and political values in their clusterings -- anticipated much of the modern historiography of the era of the American Revolution. 10

Alan Valentine in his study of the loyalists aptly demonstrated his "feel" for associational patterns; he understood intuitively how these can help shape the past decisions of historical actors. Since then a younger generation of historians has introduced "cohort analysis" as a way of further understanding group behavior: its findings suggest that the middle-aged and older colonial servants of the Crown were most likely to become loyalists while younger men, with more time to gamble with the future, were least likely to do so. What Valentine did do can compare favorably with the synthetic accounts of his contemporaries. Moreover, he wisely chose to study his "Yankees" and thus had as subjects the one group of "Colonial Americans" addicted both to writing and saving letters, memoirs, and diaries. We think that "This Other Eden" shows that he used this material sensitively, that it brought forth his own gift of irony, and that it remains a proper tribute to Alan Valentine as historian and to the loyalists as Americans.



  1. Alan Valentine, Trial Balance: The Education of an American (New York, 1956), p. 82.
  2. Ibid., pp. 21-22, 27, 68.
  3. Ibid., p. 83 (italics mine).
  4. Ibid., pp. 29, 241.
  5. Ibid., pp. 86, 99, 122.
  6. Cf. Lord George Germain (Oxford, 1962); Lord North (Norman, Okla., 1967); Lord Stirling (Oxford, 1969); and The British Establishment, 1760-1784 (Norman, Okla., 1970).
  7. Alan Valentine to Robert Sproull, Princeton, 12 January 1980, Valentine Papers.
  8. "Yankee Loyalists in England," I, pp. 1-2, Valentine Papers.
  9. Ibid., I, pp. 6-7, 10, 59, 65-69.
  10. Cf. William H. Nelson, The American Tory (Oxford, 1961); James Kirby Martin, Men in Rebellion: Higher Governmental Leaders and the Coming of the American Revolution (New Brunswick, 1973); Mary Beth Norton, The British-Americans: The Loyalist Exiles in England, 1774-1789 (Boston, 1972).


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