The New Hampshire Loyalist Experience
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The New Hampshire Loyalist Experience
Who Were the Loyalists?
Thomas Hutchinson, Royal Governor of Massachusetts
Loyalists: • Never called themselves, “Tories,” the conservative faction in British politics that generally championed centralized authority of the Monarchy over Parliament. • Over the course of the war, New Hampshire Revolutionaries begin to generalize the term, “Tory” to suggest any opposition to the Revolution or even neutrality toward it. • Loyalist social origins reflected that of colonial society in general, i.e., while there were a few wealthy, prominent Loyalists, most rank and file Loyalists came from the middling and lower classes, including servants and slaves.
Levi Warner: • In his Loyalist Claim to the British Government, stated: he “lost property in Claremont, New Hampshire had a small house and garden given by his father given many years ago. Says he came off in the night, left furniture, weaver’s tools, one bow, one Heifer, three swine. Heard these things were taken by the Committee of the town.”
Colonel Robert Rogers, Commander of the Queen’s Rangers
Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford of Concord
Rank and File Loyalist Soldier
The Outbreak of War • Colonial Resistance Movement in New Hampshire • The Revolutionary Seizure of Power • Rise of the Committees of Safety.
Colonial New Hampshire
Benning Wentworth, Royal Governor of New Hampshire, 1741-1766
Debate over Legislative Sovereignty: Not Amount of Taxes • The King in Parliament was British imperial national government. Britons and many American Loyalists believed that Parliament was the supreme national legislature with the right to tax anywhere in the Empire • Colonial Resistance movement believed that they were only directly represented at the colonial level and thus, only colonial legislatures could tax provincial subjects. • The resistance movement believed in a de-centralized, colonial rights ideal of the British Empire, while Loyalists and Britons saw a hierarchal, centralized national government as trumping colonial authority.
George Meserve, New Hampshire’s Stamp Tax Collector on Stamp Act Crisis, 1765:
• “When the Stamp Act was passed, appointed distributor of the Stamp papers for the Province of New Hampshire. That he returned to North America in the year 1765 to carry into execution the trust committed to him. That upon his arrival there, he found the people so hostile to that act, and to himself for accepting that trust, that though he had been at great expense he was obliged to relinquish it.”
John Wentworth, Royal Governor of New Hampshire, 1767-1775
Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquis of Rockingham
Pine Tree Riot, 1772
Pine Tree Riot: • John Sherman, Deputy Surveyor of New Hampshire woods discover six saw mills harvesting white pines marked for the King in Goffstown and Weare. On April 14, 1772, the Hillsborough County Sheriff and Deputy sent to arrest the mill owners were attacked by a mob with blackened faces and were given a lash for each tree that the owners were fined. They cut off their horses’ ears and marched them through a gauntlet out of town.
Destruction of the Tea in Boston
“Coercive Acts,” 1774 • Boston Port Act: Close the Port of Boston to all external commerce until the Company’s loss from the destruction of the tea is compensated. • Administration of Justice Act: Any British government official or member of the military charged with capital crime will be tried either in Britain or Nova Scotia to insure a fair trial. • Quartering Act: provides for quartering of regular troops on private property if necessary at public (colonial) expense
Seizure of Fort William and Mary, December 14, 1774 • Acting on false rumor that British General Gage intended to seize all munitions, about two hundred militia take the fort, overwhelming one British officer and five men in fighting, to take arms and munitions. Rebels take down the British flag.
Fort William and Mary, Portsmouth Harbor, 1774
Surrender of the Fort
General John Sullivan
Collapse of the Provincial Government • In 1774, the First Continental Congress Organizes Resistance to the Coercive Acts: calls for non importation and non exportation boycotts of Britain • Congress also calls for Committees of Safety (or Inspection) to be created to enforce boycotts. Also calls for Committees of Correspondence to be created to coordinate inter-colonial resistance. • Governor Wentworth and many New Hampshire residents view these actions as illegal and treasonous.
Revolution • On 8 June 1774, unable to prevent a newly elected New Hampshire Colonial Assembly from appointing a Committee of Correspondence to coordinate interprovincial resistance, Governor Wentworth dissolved it. • Members of this Committee called legislators back into session who, in turn, called on towns to elect members of a Provincial Congress that sat at Exeter, not the colonial capital of Portsmouth. • The Revolutionaries created an extralegal government that coordinated New Hampshire’s response to the outbreak of war in April 1775, while the Governor and the adjourned Assembly remained at Portsmouth. • The Provincial Congress and each town created extralegal Committes of Safety through elections to enforce their authority.
Powers of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety, 1775: • “That the Committee of Safety be empowered and directed in the recess of the [NH Provincial] Congress, to take under their consideration all matters in which the welfare of the Province, in the security of their rights.”
Revolution • On 24 August 1775, Wentworth fled the province on a British warship. • The Provincial Congress declared itself the House of Representatives and charged a committee with drafting a constitution. • The New Hampshire Revolutionary government adopted its constitution in January 1776, thus creating its own formal power. New Hampshire was the first state to write a Revolutionary constitution.
1776, Extra-Legal Provincial Congress Writes and Approves State Constitution, effectively seceding from the British Empire before the Declaration of Independence • No Governor acting as executive, but provision of State Committee of Safety Acting as executive, President of Committee, Meshech Weare was most powerful single person • Committee of Safety empowered with civil, legal, and military powers.
The Repression of Dissenting Speech • • • •
Test Oaths Powers of the Committees of Safety Experiences of Presumed Loyalists Confiscation and Treason Laws
New Hampshire Association Test Oath Act , April 1776 • “In order to carry the unwritten RESOLVE of the honorable Continental Congress into execution, you are requested to desire all males above twenty-one years of age (lunatics, idiots, and Negroes excepted) to sign to the DECLARATION on this paper; and when so done, to make return thereof, together with the name or names of all who shall refuse to sign the same, to the GENERAL ASSEMBLY or Committee of Safety of this Colony.” • Orders towns to record names of all who refuse to take the oath.
New Hampshire Oath • “WE, THE SUBSCRIBERS, DO HEREBY SOLEMNLY ENGAGE, AND PROMISE, THAT WE WILL, TO THE UTMOST OF OUR POWER, AT THE RISQUE OF OUR LIVES AND FORTUNES, WITH ARMS, OPPOSE THE HOSTILE PROCEEDINGS OF THE BRITISH FLEETS AND ARMIES AGAINST THE UNITED AMERICAN COLONIES”
June 1777 New Hampshire Law Giving Sweeping Power to Committees of Safety
• the Committee of Safety to imprison anyone whom they “shall deem the safety of the commonwealth requires should be restrained of his personal liberty.” Such prisoners were to be held “without bail” until released by state authority. This temporary act gave the Committee of Safety sweeping powers (usually upon the advice of local committees) to arrest, examine, and detain suspicious persons indefinitely based on hearsay evidence.
Petition of Oliver Parker of Stoddard, NH: • “he was lately summoned to appear before certain committees to answer a complaint against him as an enemy to America, and without letting him know what the complaint was or to what he was to answer to, they proceeded to confine him to that lot of land his house stands upon, and to order that no persons deal with him on pain of being deemed enemies to their country”
Repression of Dissenting Speech: Mass Trial of Reported Loyalists in Keene, 1777: • John Butrick testified against Captain Samuel Smith that “he never heard him speak in favour of the Americans but in favour of the King. I said to him if you cannot think as other people do you had better not speak.”
Evidence Against Breed Batcheller of Nelson (Packersfield) at 1777 Keene Trial
• “Question: Did he condemn the [Packersfield Committee of Safety’s] authority? • Answer: He did the Committee and Selectmen. Threatened to kick his ass to the Devil. He said he would have their estate meaning the Committee.”
Witness Against Isaac Rindge of Portsmouth: • Rindge “in the presence and hearing of your informant held up both hands and said pray God he might be sent where he could speak his mind freely.”
Jeremiah Clough writes to his father from Jail, 1777: • “Considering the long confinement I have had, which I see no relief, unless God in his providence should release me, for people in general seem to have no humanity for their fellow creature and in hoping for better times I am afraid to see worse, I am conscious of myself that I never did any thing against my country deserving such treatment. I can’t find as there is any evidence against me unless some unguarded words that I should have spoke some time last spring, and upon them words [sic] I am held here close confined without trial or bail which I can’t live so no longer.”
Committee and Mob Threats Against Loyalists: • Loyalist deposition in support of Stephen Holland of Londonderry: • Holland “was frequently harassed, taken up and carried a prisoner to the General Court where he was tried for high treason and at that time acquitted. That the deponent has frequently heard the Whig Party declare that if the General Court did not confine the said Stephen Holland in Gaol, they would burn his house.”
Mob Attack on Simon Baxter of Alstead: • “One Harvey struck him into the breast with a sword, he was then beat dreadfully by the mob, took away his pass and parole, he was then thrown into Keene Gaol.”
New Hampshire Confiscation Act • In November of 1778, the New Hampshire government passes an act to confiscate all the real estate and personal property of proscribed Loyalists who joined the British. • Many Loyalists left their families behind who are rendered homeless.
Revised New Hampshire Treason Law, 1781 • Any person who “shall seduce or persuade any inhabitant or inhabitants of this state, to renounce his or their allegiance to this state and government thereof . . . shall be adjudged guilty of high treason against this state and be put to death.”
Women, Loyalism, and Fidelity to Authority • Women in Eighteenth-Century America were assumed to be incapable of making independent political decisions. • However, over the course of the war, treason laws were revised to apply to all people, recognizing some level of female agency.
English Law of “Coverture” • Femme Sole: A woman alone, unmarried and of adult age. • Femme Covert: A covered woman; a woman who was married. Once a woman married she could not act independently of her husband, earn wages of her own, make wills, nor buy or sell property. • Case of husband killing his wife: murder • Case of wife killing her husband: baronicide, petit treason.
William Blackstone in Commentaries on English Law, 1769 • “By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in the law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing.”
Legal Challenges to Coverture • Some wives of Loyalists send petitions to Revolutionary state legislatures and even file suits in state courts to retain part of confiscated estate, typically the traditional third reserved for dowry. • Women make argument that while their husbands may have betrayed the state, they did not. They clearly state their independent political consciousness. • Some states award property to women in particular cases. Most refuse as they value coverture more than women’s patriotism. • Coverture remains in U.S. law into the mid 1800s when a few laws protecting married women’s property rights are passed in states. Elements of coverture remain legal until 1960s
Petition of Ruth Batcheller, Wife of New Hampshire Loyalist, Breed Batcheller That your petitioner has since the absence of her husband been put to great difficulties to support herself and family and if it had not been for the assistance of friends they must have suffered. And that your petitioner is still dependent on the charity of her friends for the support of herself and family. Your petitioner therefore humbly prays your honors to take her distressed circumstances into your serious consideration and if consistent with your duty order that some part of the said Breed’s estate both real and personal be assigned her sufficient for the support of herself and children and your petitioner further prays that some part of the corn seized by the Selectmen of Marlborough may be allowed her as she is destitute of any or [other] means to procure it and . . .innocent for the crimes of him who ought to have been their support. Your petitioner submits her case to your honors not doubting but your humanity and goodness will see justice done her as in duty bound shall ever pray.
Fidelity, Loyalty, Marriage and the State: • Rebecca Davis of New Hampshire demonstrated how the domestic and public world interacted when she successfully petitioned for divorce from her husband, Elezar, in 1780. • She informed the New Hampshire General Court that he “hath cohabited with several other women by whom he hath had children....And to add to his guilt towards her, he hath voluntarily joined himself to the enemies of America and been in arms against his country.”
Loyalist Claim of Isabella Nevin of Portsmouth: • “was obliged to leave America, her husband’s immediate connections with government, the known attachment and inviolable fidelity of her family and relations to the King, and the mother country, left her no prospect of living with any comfort in a country which had thrown off all ties of allegiance.” • Condemns resistance to Parliament as “spirit of anarchy.”
Aftermath • Loyalist Diaspora • Loyalist Memory of the Revolution
Reception of the American Loyalists by Benjamin West
Loyalist Diaspora • Historians estimate that approximately 500,000 Americans were Loyalists • Documents reveal approximately 80,000 departed the U.S. after Treaty of Paris (20,000 African American, 60,000 European American) • 33,000 to Nova Scotia/New Brunswick; 7000 to Quebec; 6500 to Florida; 13,000 to Great Britain (including 5000 free blacks), Rest to British West Indies.
Robert Trail of Portsmouth Remembers the Revolution from England:
• “That he is and always has been a true and faithful subject of his majesty and firmly attached to the British government and endeavored to the utmost of his ability to support the same: In consequence of which he has been obliged to leave that province, is forever banished therefore, and has lost rights and properties to a large amount.”
Statement by Governor John Wentworth in Support of New Hampshire Loyalist: • Still persisting to reject any flattering attempt to seduce him into the service of disloyalty, he was thence deprived of his property and means of subsistence. Fidelity to his Majesty’s service therefore, requires me most humbly to recommend the said Thomas Macdonagh, Esq. as a faithful subject and meritorious subject of the crown, suffering very considerably for adhering to his duty.
Sir John Wentworth, Governor of Nova Scotia
Some Online Resources:
• Grant Hammond, Tories of New Hampshire: https://archive.org/details/toriesofnewhamps00hamm • Online Supplement to Thomas Allen’s, Tories: http://www.toriesfightingfortheking.com/index.htm • Full Text of Wilbur Seibert’s, Loyalist Refugees of New Hampshire: http://archive.org/stream/loyalistrefugees00siebrich/loyali strefugees00siebrich_djvu.txt • Online Institute of Advanced Loyalist Studies (features searchable primary source transcriptions including Loyalist Claims): http://www.royalprovincial.com/index.htm