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  • The Reverend Jacob Bailey, Maine Loyalist: For God, King, Country, and for Self by James S. Leamon
  • Spencer McBride (bio)

Loyalists, Jacob Bailey, American Revolution, Anglican

The Reverend Jacob Bailey, Maine Loyalist: For God, King, Country, and for Self. By James S. Leamon. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012. Pp. 251. Paper, $28.95.)

James Leamon's book, The Reverend Jacob Bailey, Maine Loyalist, adds to an already long and rich historiography of loyalists in the American [End Page 347] Revolution. The first accounts of Americans who refused to support the Revolution and those who openly opposed it appeared in the war's immediate aftermath, when loyalists such as Peter Oliver and Jonathan Boucher published their memoirs in an effort to counterbalance the patriotic histories then vilifying them. The years after the Civil War witnessed a resurgence of loyalist histories, which arose in response to popular interest in the Revolution's dissenters. Loyalist studies resurfaced in the 1960s and 1970s when the Vietnam War made the term "conscientious objector" commonplace and inspired historians to reexamine the reasons why an estimated one-third of American colonists refused to support the Revolution. Most recently, Maya Jasanoff has approached the history of American loyalists from an Atlantic (even global) perspective, demonstrating that the mass exodus of loyalists from the United States in the 1780s had profound ramifications for cultural and political developments in Great Britain's worldwide empire. It is to this latter historiographical thread that Leamon's book contributes.

Though Bailey was born into modest circumstances in Rowley, Massachusetts, an attentive clergyman recognized his aptitude and set him on the path to an education at Harvard. Bailey was an exceedingly shy youth, but after a couple years in Cambridge his reluctance to address young women vanished. He frequently participated in the regional practice of "bundling," noting in his journal each woman with whom he "bundled" (24-26). Leamon explains that while Bailey was working as a tutor in several Massachusetts towns he became a strong advocate for the education of women, writing cogently that only with education could women achieve a sense of equality and true happiness in their marital relationships. Though his ordination as a priest in the Church of England in 1760 and his marriage in 1761 put an end to his days as a serial bundler, Bailey advocated for female education throughout his life.

As an Anglican priest, Bailey was assigned to minister to the people of Pownalborough (now Dresden, Maine). From the moment he arrived in the frontier town, Charles Cushing, the town's sheriff, and Jonathan Bowman, its justice of the peace, made Bailey's life miserable. They had all been classmates at Harvard, but saw the arrival of an Anglican preacher as a threat to Congregationalism in the town, though it had yet to organize a Congregationalist church of its own. Cushing and Bowman incessantly conspired to make Bailey's condition uncomfortable by demonstrating their social superiority; but they never went so far as to drive him away. Leamon explains that even as a clergyman of a detested [End Page 348] denomination, Bailey was the only person in town who could perform "the Christian rites of marrying, baptism, and burying" (136). What Leamon terms "the politics of religion" (77) made Pownalborough anything but a pacific frontier settlement.

Leamon argues that "the crises drawing the town into the Revolution tended to politicize animosities that up to then had been largely religious and personal in nature" (101). He does not claim that the patriot-loyalist dichotomy fell along strict denominational lines in Pownalborough, but that Cushing and Bowman used the tumult of war to justify and intensify their mistreatment of Bailey. Bailey did not take an overtly political stance on the war, but by refusing to omit the king's name from the Anglican liturgy he was quickly deemed a loyalist. Privately, he confessed that he did not support the Revolution. While at Harvard he had disapprovingly witnessed several instances of unruly behavior by large groups of people, and he saw little to differentiate them from disorderly patriot committees of the 1770s. Though frequently the target of angry patriot mobs and frivolous lawsuits brought by...


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