- The Other Loyalists: Ordinary People, Royalism, and the Revolution in the Middle Colonies, 1763–1787
In this work’s first chapter, Wayne Bodle writes “the ‘King’s friends’ always seem to be one big book away from popular critical mass, or at least historiographical redemption” (19). While The Other Loyalists might not be this “big book,” it is certainly an important step in the right direction. As the book’s subtitle indicates, Joseph S. Tiedemann and his fellow editors focus on non-elites in the middle colonies to offer new perspectives on loyalism and those who espoused it. [End Page 357]
In an introduction that sets the rest of the book into context, Tiedemann and the late Eugene R. Fingerhut develop a number of broad themes. They argue that Loyalists in the middle colonies were disorganized, and ultimately weak, because they depended on British officials to enforce laws and maintain order. Therefore, as British power faded, Loyalists proved unable to organize as effectively as the Whigs. The editors also assert that their subjects had “varied and complicated” reasons for choosing loyalism, and these were often “personal or local rather than imperial in nature” (10). A final theme that links many of the seven essays that compose the heart of the book is a growing cycle of retaliatory violence.
The Other Loyalists is divided into three sections, the first of which is “Places.” “‘The Ghost of Clow’” provides an interesting account of a failed April 1778 loyalist uprising on the remote Delmarva Peninsula. Noting the paucity of sources, a common problem when researching ordinary royalists, historian Bodle perceptively suggests that its alleged leader, China Clough, may not have actually organized this movement. Instead, Whigs might have attributed it to him because of “the American compulsion . . . to be able to put a name and a face to a mysterious evil” (37). Regardless, local militia, working with Continental authorities, quickly suppressed this insurgency but its memory persisted. Clough was not executed until a decade later, and others attempted to clear their names of any involvement in the uprising into the 1790s and beyond. In the section’s companion essay, David J. Fowler gives a horrifying account of the “predatory kind of war” that raged between New Jersey Whigs and Loyalists (58). As on the Delmarva Peninsula, regular British troops played little or no role in this fighting, but that did nothing to diminish the violence and may have actually increased it. Rather than treating captured Loyalists as legitimate combatants, Whig forces routinely executed them, whether they were soldiers, brigands in search of loot, or those engaged in illicit trade with the British. Loyalists then retaliated with a vengeance that is usually associated with the Southern Campaign. Collectively these two essays show the varied nature of the Revolutionary War and loyalism in areas frequently overlooked in other works.
“Groups,” the book’s strongest section, offers the broadest look at the loyalist experience. African Americans in the Mid-Hudson Valley took advantage of the revolutionary unrest and the presence of British forces in the area to undermine slavery. Like whites, however, many blacks remained neutral until circumstances made them choose a side, and in some cases they stayed loyal to their masters. Still, three thousand slaves left with the British when they [End Page 358] evacuated New York City in November 1782. A. Glenn Crothers provides an excellent account of the Revolution’s impact on Quakers in Northern Virginia. Although they initially supported the Americans’ resistance to Parliament’s enactments, the growing violence and moral questions about toppling a legitimate government eventually alienated many members of the Society of Friends. When internal unrest and British forces threatened Virginia in 1777 and 1780/81, Whig authorities interpreted Quaker non-participation as loyalism. They forced some Quakers to serve in the military, and distrained property and levied fines on others. Most Quakers stayed true to their principles, however, and used the experience to strengthen...