Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
The Loyalists

IN taking up arms against the mother country, Americans expected that Great Britain would be crippled by civil war: mobs of honest Englishmen would storm Parliament and the King's palace, overthrow the government, and make a just peace with the colonies. In actuality, Americans themselves were more sharply divided by the revolt than were Englishmen. As the patriots admitted, it was necessary for one part of the American people "to dragoon another at the same time that they are opposing a most powerful external foe," and in 1776 a committee of the Continental Congress declared that "if America falls, it will be owing to such divisions more than the force of our enemies." The opponents of the Revolution -- totaling perhaps as much as a third of the population -- were known as Tories or Loyalists. A large number were gentry: lawyers, doctors, clergymen, governmental officials, merchants, and large landowners.

Many well-to-do Americans were reluctant to embark their persons and their worldly goods upon the troubled waters where Sam Adams and his fellow radicals swam boldly; having much to lose, they hesitated to take the risks that poorer members of the community could scorn. Harvard graduates -- a more reliable index of social acceptability during the revolutionary period than at the present time -- made up a considerable part of the Massachusetts Loyalists. On the other hand, Harvard as well as Yale and Princeton contributed numerous leaders to the Revolution, Hancock and "the brace of Adamses" being the most notable of the Harvard revolutionaries.

In the North, it is fair to say, more of the gentry opposed the Revolution than in the Southern states. Sitting down to dinner with a Southern gentleman in 1776, one might assume that he was a patriot -- with almost as

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