Topic 12
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The Politics of Waging War: Patriots, Loyalists, Outsiders

 

 

 

Pulling down the statue of King George III in New York City (William Walcutt, 1854)
Reading:
 
bullet Continental Congress
bullet Hamilton to Clinton, 1778
bullet Jonathan Boucher
bullet Loyalist/British Songs
bullet Loyalist Propaganda
OVERVIEW: The Continental Congress was already acting as a de facto government once the shooting began in 1775. With the decision for independence the  political stakes became higher and the challenges more complex. Politics involved struggles in three areas:
bulletamong the patriots themselves (between radicals and moderates and  among regions)
bulletbetween patriots and loyalists (this was also a civil war)
bulletwith outsiders - people on the periphery of power- Native Americans, enslaved and free African-Americans, women and men in dependent status.

 

PATRIOTS IN POLITICS 

STRUCTURE OF POLITICS IN THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS

bulletInterest Blocks in the Congress
bulletPre-Congress link between Virginia & Massachusetts link in 1770 (Arthur Lee and Sam Adams)
bulletSectional differences between north and south and the ambiguous position of delegates from middle states all created political tensions in the Congress
bulletOver the years the power shifted
bullet1774-1779: Eastern (North East) ascendance with New England playing major role. They were regular in attendance and had long tenures.
bullet1780-1783 - Power shifts to middle states. Key administrative posts played a part.
bullet1784-1787 - Southern delegates led in shaping policy
bulletNo one sectional block had real majority; intersectional coalitions were crucial
bulletChanging circumstances of the Revolution affected Congressional politics
bulletEarly Phase had a high level of ideological fervor: Republican Revolution would bring moral regeneration
bulletNew England's newspapers and pulpits played key roles.
bulletIdeology of discontent reached highest level in New England
bulletSam Adams looked for a reformation of public morals that was not congenial with the secular liberalism of Virginians like Jefferson. After 1776 an ideological separation developed.
bulletNew England developed political views and techniques early since that's where the resistance had started and was strongest
bulletNew England delegates had reputation of being the party of "virtuous republicans" with tendency towards democracy contrasted with southern "elitists."
bulletNew England delegates were distrustful of mixing public and private enterprise characteristic of Robert Morris of Pennsylvania
bulletMiddle states delegates lined up sometimes with New Englanders and sometimes with the southerners along social and ideological lines. For example, in 1779 New York and southern "gentlemen" often voted together while Pennsylvanian radicals sided with New Englanders. These alignments became nucleus of national political division between populist and elite interests.
bulletNew England radicalism also had a conservative dimension. Their ideal of a Christian Sparta harked back to 17th-century ideals of social and political order that stressed denial more than opportunity and social order more than mobility. New England radicalism with its Puritan heritage vs. materialistic liberalism
bulletSecond Phase: 1780-1783
bulletVigorous British campaign in the South required more efficient government. Quasi-executive committees meant more concentration of power of talented and well-connected men like Robert Morris, the financier. This brought some fears that a "new aristocracy" was arising.
bulletRise of middle states "nationalists."

WAR GOVERNMENT
bullet Robert Morris and Finance  
bullet Organization of Intelligence
bullet The Committee of Secret Correspondence
bullet The Secret Committee
bullet The Committee on Spies

FACTIONS & THE CONDUCT OF A WAR GOVERNMENT

bulletConway Cabal (1777-78): The harshness of the winter at Valley Forge was made worse by the political difficulties Washington experienced. Factions in Congress, envious of military glory, fearful of an eventual military dictatorship, resentful that a Virginian was commander of the Continental Army, joined in an intrigue to replace Washington with the New England hero of Saratoga, General Horatio Gates.
bulletFear of Regular Army and the Militia as symbol of democratic ideals.
bulletWeaknesses of the militia system: "the Vexation I  have experienced from the Humours and intolerable Caprice of Militia, at a critical time . . . I solemnly declare I never was a witness to a single instance that can countenance an opinion of Militia or raw troops being fit for the real business of fighting." (G. Washington)
bulletThe rivalry between the army and militia touched Congress where  civilian officials were often fearful of military leaders
bulletSince Congress made military appointment officers looked to Philadelphia for preferment.
bulletCongress dispatched committee members to investigate military issues and complaints. They also wanted a direct hand in military decisions, but the press of business made that impossible. The established a Board of War for this business. Until 1777 is was composed entirely of Congress members.
bulletSome congressmen, especially Dr. Benjamin Rush, were wary of Washington. In fall  1777 Rush inspected the army. He scathingly criticized officers and men and went on to say of the commander-in-chief: ". . . this uniformed mob [was commanded by a man who had been] outgeneraled . . . outwitted and twice beaten [by reason of his] ignorance, idleness, and blunders." [John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom: 1775-1783, pp. 247-48]
bulletAttempt to replace Washington with Horatio Gates, hero of Saratoga while most Congress members were away.
bulletThomas Conway wrote a letter to Gates suggesting he would make a better commander than Washington.
bulletGates was known to be an admirer of the militia
bulletConway's letter was leaked by James Wilkenson
bulletIn the winter of 1777-78 there was a move to humiliate Washington in the hope of removing him from command.
bulletThe Board of War was reorganized with Gates, Thomas Mifflin and Conway as members.
bulletCongress adopted Gates' plan to invade Canada without consulting Washington.
bulletThe invasion plan proved unworkable, embarrassing Gates and Washington's enemies in Philadelphia
bulletThe "plot" failed by spring, 1778
bulletThe Army stood firmly behind the commander
bulletPaine published The Crisis
 
bulletDeane-Lee Affair (1778)
bullet Silas Deane

 

LOYALISTS
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Loyalists may have constituted between twenty percent to a third of the population of the American colonies during the war. They were not confined to any particular group or class, but their numbers were strongest among the following groups:

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officeholders and others who served the British crown and had a vested interest in upholding its authority

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Anglican clergymen and their parishioners in the North

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Quakers

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German religious sects and other conscientious pacifists

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large landholders, especially in the North, and wealthy merchant groups in the cities whose businesses and property were affected by the war.
 

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Common Trait: A conservative orientation and a deep devotion to Britain and the crown.

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Many Loyalists at first urged moderation in the struggle for colonial rights and were only driven into active Loyalism by radical fellow colonists who denounced as Tories all who would not join them.

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Most numerous in New York, Pennsylvania and the South, but were not a majority in any colony. New York was a stronghold and had more loyalists than any other colony. New England had fewer than any other section

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The Loyalists did not rise as a body to support the British army, but individuals did join the army or form their own guerrilla units. New York alone furnished about 23,000 Loyalist troops, perhaps as many as all the other colonies combined.

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Congress recommended repressive measures against the Loyalists, and all states passed severe laws against them, usually forbidding them from holding office, disenfranchising them, and confiscating or heavily taxing their property.

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Beginning in March 1776, approximately 100,000  Loyalists fled into exile. (This was between 3 and 4 percent of the total number of settlers in the colonies, which is estimated at 2,500,000 - 3,000,000 during the Revolutionary period.) The largest portion of those who fled ultimately went to Canada, where the British government provided them with asylum, compensating them for losses in property and income and paying pensions to Loyalist officers.
 

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The Revolution as a civil war
 

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Loyalists and Loyalism in the American Revolution - a lesson from Ohio State University, complete with documents and a game simulation on choosing sides.
 

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Black Loyalists

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Compare Lord Dunmore's Proclamation and The Virginian Patriot Response
 

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The religious dimension is illustrated by the role of clergy. Look at Peter Oliverís essay attacking whig clergy. Anglican minister Charles Inglis proposed a way to reconcile British and local interests in "The True Interest of American Impartially Stated," 1776. The whiggish political cartoon, "An Attempt to Land a Bishop in America," can be examined in light of Myles Cooperís "Whip for the American Whig," which denounced hostility to Anglicanism and constituted Parliamentary authority alike. A political-religious argument can be examined also in one of the 1770 "Dougliad" essays. The pro-British cartoon, "The Yankie Doodles Intrenchment Near Boston 1776," similarly portrays "Cromwellian" antecedents.

 

 

OUTSIDERS

Indians and the American Revolution

The  War of Independence Through Seneca Eyes

Hearts and Minds 

Antibastes

A Woman Remembers the Revolutionary War