- Loyalism and the Formation of the British World, 1775–1914 ed. by Allan Blackstock, Frank O’Gorman
Loyalty, patriotism, and national identity are timely concepts in a complex world that continues to evolve from the vast expanse of what was the British Empire. From the American Revolution to the continued tensions in Northern Ireland and the eastern expansion of the Empire in the nineteenth century, the idea of British loyalism meant different things to different waves of British migrants and colonists. Loyalism and the Formation of the British World, 1775–1914, a volume of fourteen essays edited by Allan Blackstock and Frank O’Gorman, examines the “role of loyalism in promoting and mobilizing sentiments of national identity in Britain and Ireland and in the rapidly expanding empire between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries” (2). It argues, “that while English, Scottish and [End Page 165] Irish conceptions of identity were developing strongly during the eighteenth century, a ‘British’ identity, cultural, social and political, was growing simultaneously” (3). The British might leave their homeland, voluntarily or by force, but how they connected to that home—its principles, government, cultural and social institutions—enabled them to identify with that global power and pledge loyal support for the British way of life. Essays in this volume examine the wide range of “reciprocalities of popular culture, sentiment and identity in Britain and the empire” in considering a “manifestation of identity at its most active and dynamic . . . as a model form of citizenship (2).
The volume seems to divide into two parts: the first establishes a conception of British loyalism based upon a Protestant and constitutional monarchy. The essays look at loyalism through the lens of Catholic Ireland, Ulster Orangeism, and the religious, political, and militaristic ways in which one might test loyalty to Britain. It begins with O’Gorman’s contention that English loyalism in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries was grounded in anti-Catholic sentiment, evidenced by “associational” loyalism in which the organization of people into loyalist groups or organizations was a regular response to political and social instability, frequently linked to religious threat (193). Jacqueline Hill’s essay argues that Irish loyalism was more tied to socio-economic concerns than to religion. By using religious difference as a significant distinction between those worthy of economic opportunities in the nineteenth century, Catholics would lose to working class Protestants, thus creating a so-called economic loyalism. Blackstock’s essay, however, argues a different interpretation. He contends that loyalism in Ireland, from the French Revolution to the age of Victoria, was accomplished through mobilization and militarization that linked Orange loyalism to conservative political organization, something Catholic loyalist groups never developed. Liberal loyalists equated their position with political, social, and economic dominance, but failed to present it under the same militaristic banner. In a biographical essay on James Whiteside, a mid-Victorian politician in the Conservative party, Patrick Maume argues that this jurist and loyalist, a trusted British political figure, defined loyalism more broadly than the project of securing an Irish Protestant state. Rather, he advocated for an enlightened one, relying on law and effective administrative reforms.
Orangeism and religious difference in Ireland also had a significant impact on defining, creating, and maintaining loyalism in British colonies worldwide. The second part of the volume examines loyalism, however linked to the Irish question, beyond the Irish Sea. In one essay, Keith Mason argues that in North America, loyalists were often viewed as “His Majesty’s Americans,” loyal to the crown and government throughout the Revolution, but culturally American (174). This “dual identification means that loyalist refugees carried a mixed legacy with them, infusing their new British settlements with political, religious, social and cultural values derived from their former American colonial homes” (174). Following this notion of British identity further into North America, Scott W. See’s essay argues that ultra-loyalism in the form of the Orange Order played an important role in maintaining ties between the Maritime Provinces...