- The Consequences of Loyalism: Essays in Honor of Robert M. Calhoon ed. by Rebecca Brannon, Joseph S. Moore
For almost five decades, the work of Robert M. Calhoon has been required reading for anyone studying the loyalists of the American Revolution. Calhoon’s The Loyalists in Revolutionary America, 1760–1781 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973) remains the most comprehensive study of the intellectual arguments against the American Revolution, and his later publications expanded our understanding of loyalist self-perception and political moderation in the Revolutionary era. The Consequences of Loyalism, edited by Rebecca Brannon and Joseph S. Moore, is a tribute to a scholar whose work continues to influence the increasingly vibrant field of loyalist history.
The book’s fifteen chapters present fresh new scholarship that re-engages with perennial questions about loyalist identity, self-perception, and motivation. Though some chapters follow the loyalists into exile, the book focuses on the place of the loyalists in American history. As Rebecca Brannon writes in her introduction, the loyalists are essential for a clear understanding of the civil war ignited by the American Revolution and the process of nation building in the war’s aftermath.
The book is divided into two sections: “Perceptions,” which is Calhoon’s term for how the loyalists understood themselves and the conflict, and “Moderation,” which mainly focuses on the fate of the loyalists in the United States. Chapters in the first section by Taylor Stoermer, Kacy Tillman, Bonnie Huskins, Carole W. Troxler, and C.L. Bragg adopt micro-historical approaches to reveal the fluidity of allegiances, the complexity of loyalist self-perception, and the imprecise meaning of the term “loyalist.” As Kacy Tillman succinctly states, “there were loyalisms, not Loyalism” (50). Christopher Minty’s impressive quantitative study of New York loyalists confirms they came from all walks of life. Christopher Sparshott applies insights from modern refugee camps to shed light on the pragmatic construction of loyalist identities within British-held New York where survival often depended on professing loyalty. Bonnie Huskins uses the perceptive journal of British engineer William Booth to provide an interesting look at the aspirations and dashed hopes of both Black and white refugees in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. Archaeologist Catharine M.A. Cottreau-Robins’ chapter uncovers the traces of African American lives amid “the landscape of slavery” in the Canadian Maritimes. These chapters confirm that, while some loyalists were fuelled by devotion to the British constitution, most were locally minded, pragmatic, and animated by diverse hopes and dreams.
The second section, “Moderation,” examines the process of peace making and reintegration in the aftermath of the Revolution. Perhaps sixty thousand [End Page 139] loyalists left the United States, but far more (perhaps four hundred thousand) did their best to reconcile themselves to the new order and find a place in the republic. Fascinating chapters by Brett Palfreyman, Aaron Nathan Coleman, and Rebecca Brannon explore how wartime anti-loyalist rage abated in the 1780s and led to state-based policies in which moderation won out over vengeance. Brannon and Coleman convincingly argue that the reintegration of the loyalists is a historical example of successful transitional justice – a process of overcoming the violence and bitterness of a civil war and constructing a society that makes room for former enemies.
Canadian historians will find the collection useful both for its insights into loyalist identity and for its explorations of how loyalists navigated the postwar world. Sally E. Hadden presents the story of two American lawyers who made lucrative careers representing exiled loyalists pursuing lost property and debts. Intriguingly, the lawyers carried out much of this work by appealing to individual notions of justice and fair play rather than by pursuing all of their claims in American courts. Gregory Knouff shares the story of the breakdown of patriarchal rule in the Batcheller household of New Hampshire, which ended with husband and wife on different sides of the new border. The cross-border connection between exiled and reintegrated loyalists is an area that is...