The Era of the American Revolution: Studies Inscribed to Evarts Boutell Greene

By Richard B. Morris | Go to book overview

Eliphalet Dyer: Connecticut Revolutionist

GEORGE C. JR. GROCE

BEFORE there can be an adequate understanding of revolutionary movements there must be some knowledge of the lives of revolutionists. According to Van Tyne, "The culture, the dignity, the official rank, the inheritors of wealth tended to support the old order."1 While he was forced to qualify this assertion with respect to the Virginia planters, it was his view that in New England the socially elect were "cold toward rebellion." To this generalization there are, however, numerous exceptions. It clearly was not applicable, to take one example, to Eliphalet Dyer. Perhaps a study of Dyer and his interests may indicate, in some degree, how so many Connecticut men of property and position chose to break with the parent country during the crucial years of the American Revolution.

In his prime, Eliphalet Dyer ( 1721- 1807) of Windham, Conn., was, perhaps, as influential a leader as the colony could boast.2 He held high office in the legislature of Connecticut, was emissary to England on a matter of far-reaching importance, served with more or less distinction in the Continental Congress for many years, was a judge of the Connecticut superior court, and was a person of assured social position throughout his life.

Eliphalet Dyer came of a substantial New England family. His

____________________
1
C. H. Van Tyne, The War of Independence: American Phase ( Boston, 1929), p. 31.
2
Note, for example, that Dyer receives 132 lines in the Index to the Revolutionary series of the Connecticut Archives (the files of the Connecticut General Assembly) as compared to 120 lines for Roger Sherman. Dyer manuscripts are to be found at the Connecticut State Library, Connecticut Historical Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, New York Public Library, New York Historical Society, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Library of Congress, and Huntington Library. The main printed sources are the Susquehannah Company Papers ( Wilkes-Barre, 1930-33) and Letters of Members of the Continental Congress ( Washington, 1921-36). Since there are some errors in the article on Dyer in the Dictionary of American Biography, the present essay may be regarded as a minor biographical contribution.

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