- Editor’s Introduction
“We Could Have Been Canada.” New Yorker author Adam Gopnik’s choice of title thinly disguises the longing that spills into the more pointed query of his subtitle: “Was the American Revolution Such a Good Idea?” Commonly associated with democracy and creativity, with independence and the pursuit of happiness, the Revolution had less optative features that have come into sharp focus since the appearance in 2011 of Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, by historian Maya Jasanoff. Gopnik’s review essay of post-Jasanoff work related to Loyalism appeared in the May 15, 2017, issue of the New Yorker, as this issue of Early American Literature was going to press. Among the destructive legacies of the fratricidal war for independence that Gopnik highlights are the fractiousness, the impatience with gradual change, and the lack of respect for administrative skill that accompany Americans’ fixation on the Revolution as a culturally defining moment. He further emphasizes that the patriotism surrounding the Revolution is bound up with a pervasive failure to attend to the conflict’s extraordinary brutality and violence.
The essays assembled here explore some literary aspects of the Loyalism that Jasanoff helped make current. Guest-edited by John J. Garcia and Philip Gould, this special section takes up stylistic, representational, and ideological dimensions of Loyalist texts from the early Revolution through the mid-1830s. These essays by Christopher A. Hunter, Rachel Trocchio, and Garcia extend a line of inquiry that Gould initiated in Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (2013). They employ distinctive and richly complementary modes of analysis and interpretation, and Gould assesses the contributions of each essay in a closing comment. [End Page 529]