The Daily Telegraph - 1883-08-29

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Gen. De Peyster on the Loyalists
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The address to the Historical Society of New Brunswick, from the pen of General John Watts de Peyster, LL. D., A. M., of New York, read at its meeting last night, is an interesting, if not valuable, contribution to our Centennial literature. General de Peyster does not take a very rose-colored view either of the revolutionary fathers or their descendants. Perhaps this is not surprising in an individual who speaks of himself as “brought up, as it were, at the feet of the Gamaliel of loyalty, and taught to believe that the American Revolution was an unnecessary evil, and that Independence was “log-rolled” into an accomplished fact, and converted by interested parties from a menace into a machine.” Like a good Tory of the old school, he chafes under the existing condition of affairs in the United States, where, he says, “his birthright has been almost swallowed up by the immigration of inferior races, lifted up by the force of unprincipled politicians, and for party purposes, to a place for which they are unfit.” He enlarges upon the cruelties and indignities offered to the Loyalists by the Revolutionists, but seems to think good has come out of evil, for he says:- Here, in New Brunswick, the centre of loyal blood, tried in every fire of temptation and suffering, let their descendants remain satisfied and secure. They are a people, a peculiar people, self-governed under a paternal supreme authority for good and not for evil. They exist on autonomy of honorable association and exercise a glorious influence. The United States, particularly the State of New York, have become the cesspool of the world. If the native stream has still power and volume to carry off the impurity cast into unceasingly, and continue to cleanse and clarify itself, ultimately remains to be seen. It may, alas! Become like one or more of the Maine rivers, so choked with saw-dust and “stubb short” that the noble river has shriveled into a stream so narrow and shallow that its once capacious channel will no longer float, at any but high tide, the largest vessels which once found everywhere ample depth and expanse to navigate freely and safely. What the end will be when the pinch comes, remains to be seen. It was a touch and go in 1877, when there was little occasion for an uprising. What will result when scanty harvests and severe seasons bring the wolf to the door of the vast majority? The reflecting and forecasting shudder at the grave gloom of the prospect. Be content! New Brunswick has prospered in itself; may its future be as happy as its increment has been sure. Of the events, which led up to the Declaration of Independence, and the leaders of the movement, he says- The action of the act which separated the Colonies from the Empire was engineered pretty much as the ordinances of secession were carried through, and the brutality, the savageness, the calculated cruelty exhibited at the South towards Union men was nothing more than a repetition of the treatment of loyalists a century ago, exaggerated in the secession case by the demoralizing influences of slavery. It was not a Loyalist nor the descendant of Loyalists who sought out and made public the wrongs they had greatly suffered, and the services they had even more greatly preformed. The children of Whigs or rebels have made the most astounding revelations, disgusted with the cant and deception of the rebels in their romances styled histories, founded on the assumed disinterestedness, virtues and god-like attributes of the “patriot sires.” The “patriot sires!” In a great number of instances they were not even born on the soil the interests of which they pretended to advocate with filial affection. A number of the patriot generals, divested of the halo of success, would have been breaded by failure as mercenaries and adventurers, if not even worse, and a man who was imported (Tom Paine) to fire the public heart is one now execrated by every individual who honors the good and the true. After this tremendous denunciation of its inception it is interesting to note that General de Peyster attributes the final success of the Revolution to Providence, for he says: “But God had a great purpose to work out, and He, and He alone, made the Colonial success a possibility. Heaven, earth and sea cooperated, and Cornwallis was crushed, the Loyalists ruined and the thirteen colonies forever separated from the Crown.” There are in Gen. de Peyster’s address many historical facts which are new to most people, and he makes out very clearly that our Loyalist ancestors were harshly used by the revolted colonists; but this was generally known already, and there seems to have been no particular necessity for opening the wounds afresh. However, we will let the distinguished author plead his own case in this respect. He says:- Very probably someone in the United States may ask, what good can be derived from reviving these reminiscences? If for no other reason, that Montesquieu’s adage may be verified, “Sooner or later every (hidden) thing comes to the light.” What is more, the wrongs done to the Loyalists have never been repented of, while every falsehood has been repeated and magnified in regard to the treatment of the Whigs by Royalist party. The cry of the wrongdoer is always “forgive,” whereas the gospel does not enjoin forgiveness without repentance and atonement going before. If atrocities were committed on these who were esteemed rebels, the deeds were not done by persons high in office, but by underlings. The severities against our forefathers are chargeable upon men exercising the highest trusts and occupying the most dignified positions, for which it is held that a man should be imbued with sentiments of justice and of mercy. There is no need to enter upon a consideration of the mines or prison-ships to which the Tories were consigned or going into the thousands of outrages inflicted on respectable people, the aged, the sick, the unprotected; the tarring and feathering, the riding-on-a-rail, the flogging with hickory sprouts, which were administered without decency or remorse. With all due respect we submit that at a time when the general disposition is to let bygones be bygones, and to cultivate international amity and the brotherhood of a common origin between the people of the Republic and the Dominion, it would have been just as well to have left untold so much of the story of the Loyalists as is calculated to engender feelings of hatred in the breasts of their descendants towards neighbors whom they have learned to respect and esteem.