History of the Loyalists: the Beginning of the Difficulties

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History of the Loyalists: the Beginning of the Difficulties
James Hannay
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HISTORY OF THE LOYALISTS THE BEGINNING OF THE DIFFICULTIES. The Area of the Struggle— Population of the Thirteen Colonies—The Stamp Act-Opposition To It In All the Colonies—Rioting and Destruction of Property—Patriotism and Plunder. BY JAMES HANNAY. CHAPTER I. The greatest political crime of the 18th century was the separation of the English race into two hostile nations, amid strife and bloodshed and all the horrors involved in an eight years’ war. For this enormous wickedness George III, and his advisers most be held primarily responsible, but no small share of the guilt should be laid to the charge of those incendiaries among the public men of the thirteen colonies who converted what ought to have been a constitutional agitation into an armed conflict, and forced on a war of which all the fruits of bitterness have not been gathered, even at this day, more than a century after the close of the conflict. If a separation between the colonies and the mother country was inevitable, an opinion in which many will not concur, it might have been brought about in a peaceful manner, so as to leave no trace of bitterness behind. But as it was no circumstance that could add to the evils of the strife was omitted, and so bad was the feeling engendered on both sides that generations yet unborn may be affected by it, and the interests of civilization endangered by another struggle between two peoples who ought always to be friends. THE AREA OF THE STRUGGLE. To understand clearly the war of the American revolution and its consequences it is necessary to clear the way by defining the area over which the struggle extended and the populations involved in it. The reader must remember that when the war began the British colonists had hardly extended their settlements to the westward of the Alleghanies and that they were almost entirely embraced within an area which had for its eastern boundary the line of coast from the St. Croix river to Savannah and extending inland 150 miles. The British colonies in North America had not been, as was the case with the French settlements, planted by the government, but were the result of private enterprise, stimulated in some cases by religious persecution and in others by that spirit of unrest which has made the English the great colonizing race of the world. The colonies which led the movement for separation from the mother country were Massachusetts and Virginia, two communities which, although they differed widely from each other in other respects, were in accord with reference to the illegality of the laws passed by the British parliament for the taxing of the colonies. Virginia was settled in 1607 by a mixed company of gentlemen of good estate and adventurers, and it grew and increased after this fashion, a slave-holding community of rich landed proprietors and poor whites who had not been able to rise above the original condition of their ancestors. The real founders of the Massachusetts colony were the Puritans who landed at Boston with Winthrop in 1630, and who increased so rapidly that they soon outnumbered and finally absorbed the Plymouth colony of earlier date, founded by one pilgrim fathers. In 1763, just before the beginning of the troubles connected with the stamp acts, Massachusetts had 240,000 inhabitants, and in 1771 the number was 292,000. It safe to say that in 1775, when Massachusetts drew the sword against the mother country, the population of that colony did not exceed 320,000, the present population of the province of New Brunswick. In I763 Virginia had a population of 70,000 whites and 100,000 negro slaves, so that its available force for warlike operations was less than that of Prince Edward Island today. In the same year Pennsylvania had 280,000 inhabitants, New Jersey 60,000, Connecticut 146,000, North Carolina 95,000 whites, South Carolina 40,000 whites, and Maryland 70,000 whites. It is quite safe to say that when the war commenced the total population of New England did not exceed 700,000 souls, while the population of the four, so-called, middle states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware did not exceed 750,000. New York colony had not more than 200,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the war. A SMALL URBAN POPULATION. The three principal cities at that period were New York, Philadelphia and Boston. The latter, which took such a leading part in the revolution had 15,520 inhabitants in 1765. Its population could not have exceeded 20,000 when the battle of Bunker s Hall was fought, Philadelphia had less than 30,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the war; while the population of New York did not exceed 25,000 at the same period. Charleston in 1765 had 13,000 inhabitants, of whom less than 6,000 were whites, while Savannah and Richmond were still less populous. There was no city in the 13 colonies at the time of the revolutionary war that was nearly as large as Halifax or St. John is now, and this fact must be kept steadily in view in estimating the work of the mob in these cities which did so much to bring about the revolution. A very slight breeze will raises storm in a mud puddle and a mob was easily manufactured in towns like Boston or New York where wealthy and influential men were interested in opposing a law. That the revolution was largely due to the work of men of this class is susceptible of the clearest proof. DOWNFALL OF PITT. When Geo. III. ascended the throne in 1760 the power of the nation was wielded by the first William Pitt, the greatest of war ministers, and England was triumphant all over the world. But the narrow minded king could not abide this great leader of the people, before whose genius his own ability seemed so small, and as determined to get rid of him. This he accomplished the year following his accession to the throne, Lord Bute, whose only claim to royal favor was that he was a friend of the king’s mother, becoming prime minister and patching up a peace with France much lets advantageous to England than Pitt would have made. When Pitt was driven from office, in 1761. England had reached the highest point of greatness in all her history, and France was at her feet. In 1781, after 20 years of government by the king and his favorites, England was reduced so low that it became a question whether the nation would be able to preserve its independence. Hostile navies swept the seas and threatened her coasts; for two years her greatest fortress, Gibraltar, had been besieged by the fleets of France and Spain, while England was powerless to relieve it. Her great colonies in North America had been torn from her, and a second British army had been compelled to surrender at Yorktown. In the meantime an indebtedness had been incurred, the greatest that up to that period had been borne by any nation, the nucleus of a still greater indebtedness which future generations will be required to pay. All this and much more came from the intermeddling of a foolish king with the business which properly belongs to statesmen. THE STAMP ACT PASSED IN 1765. The proposal to tax the British colonies in America was readily adopted by the king, and to the last he never would admit that he was wrong in urging it. The war which resulted in the conquest of Canada had cost a large sum, and it was thought to be reasonable that the colonies, which were so much interested in the destruction of French power in America, should pay their share of this cost. It was also thought that troops should be kept in the colonies and that the latter should pay for their maintenance. On the 27th February, 1765, resolutions for a colonial stamp act were carried in the house of commons by a vote of five to one, in spite of the remonstrances of Col. Barre and others. The stamp act was finally passed on 22nd March, to go into effect on the 1st November, 1765. There was very little discussion in regard to it in either home, and in the house of commons the only division taken on the bill was 250 for and 50 against. The stamp act contained 55 sections and applied to all kinds of legal documents, and on playing cards, dice, pamphlets, newspapers, advertisements, almanacs, and calendars. As I write I have before me a release of dower to a piece of land near Fredericton given by Ann Ferguson to John Anderson, which has upon it one of these fatal stamps, which made the first rift in the British Empire. It is dated the 20th February, 1766, and those who are interested in each matter can have a sight of it by applying at THE TELEGRAPH office. ORGANIZED OPPOSITION TO THE STAMP ACT. The stamp act was looked upon by the people of the British colonies as a violation of the British constitution, because it involved the principle of taxation without representation, and combinations were formed against Its execution in most of the colonies. The house of burgesses Virgina, which was in session when the news of the passing of the act was received, passed several spirited resolutions asserting the rights of the colonies and denying the claim of parliamentary taxation. The legislatures of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut passed similar resolutions. The assembly of Massachusetts, besides pasting resolutions in opposition to the claims of the British parliament, proposed a congress of deputies from each colony to consult on the common interest. On the first Tuesday in October, the time proposed by the Massachusetts assembly, a congress consisting of 28 delegates from the assemblies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina met in the city of New York. Nine colonies were represented at the congress, and three others, Virginia, North Carolina and. Georgia, were prevented from tending deputations by the action of their governors. The first act of this congress was the passing of a declaration of rights and grievances. The colonists were declared to be entitled to all the rights and liberties of natural born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain, with the exclusive power to tax themselves and the right to trial by jury. The stamp act, by which the colonists were taxed without representation and without their own consent, was declared to be subversive of their liberties. A petition to the king against the act and a memorial to each house of parliament were agreed to, and it was recommended that the several colonies appoint special agents, who should unite their utmost endeavors in soliciting redress of grievances. The colonies that were prevented from sending representatives to the congress forwarded petitions to England similar to those adopted by that body. DISGRACEFUL DOINGS OF MOBS. In the meantime, and before the proper and legitimate action of the congress had been taken, the mob began to take the control of affairs into their own hands. Andrew Oliver, of Boston, the secretary of the colony, had been spoken of as the distributor of the stamps under the act, and in August his effigy was found hanging to a tree in the main street of Boston, afterwards known as liberty tree, and with it were displayed emblems intended to designate Lord Bute, the supposed author of the obnoxious act. That night the effigies were taken down, placed on a bier and carried through the town by a mob of disorderly persons. Mr. Oliver had recently erected a small brick building on King Street, in which it was supposed the stamps were to be kept, and this was leveled with the ground by the rioters. The mob next attacked Mr. Oliver’s house, broke the windows, entered the hones and destroyed part of the furniture. They also tore down his garden fence, cut down hit trees and ravaged his property. Mr. Oliver thought himself fortunate in escaping with his life and next day announced that he would not accept the office of stamp distributor, but this did not satisfy the mob and that evening he was compelled to repeat this declaration in front of a bonfire which they had built. Mr. Oliver, who became lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1770, was exposed to so much annoyance from the mob and from attacks on his public character that he died in 1774. His son, William Sandford Oliver, came to St. John with the Loyalists and was the first sheriff of this county. He held the office until his death in 1813 at the age of 62. His remains as well as those of his second wife lie in the old burial ground. PATRIOTISM AND PLUNDER. On the 26th August, just 12 days after the first attack on Mr. Oliver’s house, the tumults were renewed. The rioters assembled in King Street and proceeded to the home of William Story, deputy register of the court of admiralty. His house and office were sacked, his furniture broken, and all his private papers as well as his official books, containing the records and files of the admiralty court, were burnt. The house of Benjamin Hallowell, jr., the comptroller of the customs, was next attacked and robbed. His cellar was well stocked with liquors and the mob speedily disposed of them. Inflamed with drunken rage they made their way to the residence of Thomas Hutchinson, lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Hutchinson was the most distinguished man that New England had up to that time produced; the author of a history of New England which is still read and admired; of blameless life, kindly, charitable, moderate in his opinions, a fluent and graceful public speaker, in short a man of the highest character and ability. But the possession of these admirable qualities did not save him or his property from the fury of a drunken mob. His house, then one of the finest in the province, was attacked, his family driven out of it, he himself being obliged to escape by a secret passage to save his life. His house was sacked and ruined, nothing being left of it but the bare walls and the floors. A large quantity of silver plate, the family pictures, most of the furniture, the wearing apparel, about nine hundred pounds sterling in money, and the historical manuscripts and books which Mr. Hutchinson had been more than 30 years in collecting, besides many public papers in his custody, were either carried off or destroyed. All this, of course, was the work of patriots of the purest character, but if there had been no stamp act in question, such acts might have been mistaken for the deeds of common thieves and robbers. Mr. Sabine, who pretends to be so very impartial in his book on the Loyalists, conveniently omits to mention the looting and destruction of Mr. Hutchinson's house and the carrying off his property, the most, disgraceful episode in the whole story of the revolution. On the following day the inhabitants of the town of Boston voted that the select men and magistrates be desired to use their utmost endeavors to suppress such disorders in future, and that the freeholders and other inhabitants should assist them. But no one was ever punished for these outrages, although in a small community of 15,000 people it is impossible that the names of those concerned in them should have remained unknown. At a later period these disorders were renewed. The 1st November, the day on which the stamp act was to come into operation was ushered in at Boston by the tolling of bells. Many shops and stores were shut, while effigies of the authors and friends of the act were carried about the streets and afterwards torn in pieces by the people. (To be continued.)