« PreviousContinue »
contradict or fail to perceive the evidences of decay and poison in more than stone and ivy—she can still show you a better side, and you are blinded to her faults. There is all that lovely rolling country, the graceful slope, not all a vulgar, rich, unbroken emerald, fertile and soft and English, but interestingly checked by rock and ledge, against which a gnarly old apple-tree or a couple of long-unsought quinces enjoy a green old age; and down in a nice, dark, damp, dank corner, mosses and ferns, and the wildest of wild vinery are sure to cling close. At the foot of the hill your wheels glisten in a little runaway brook, and further on there is a tinkling waterfall, and a shackly bridge, with a last century saw-mill, and an ice pond where now a silver poplar stretches its neck to catch its admired reflection above the scrub oak and underbrush. And-but I must abstain; though there is one drive up there—a drive we took a cousin of ours who came to spend a Sunday, a drive so full that, after we had returned and put up the pony, and dined, and were sitting out under the two big pine trees, just thinking things all over quietly, he suddenly exclaimed, “I have it !" We hung upon his words; they were worth more than text or sermon in any drowsy meeting-house that lazy afternoon. “There's something," he went on slowly, "something in the New England soul, indigenous to the soil!” That's it! That explains it all! It stays with us, and that is why we love it so i It is the ground our forefather trod, and be he whig or tory, we love to reap our harvests from his honored toil.
Now since public expression was invented, it is impossible to avoid giving that prefatory list of what our subject is not.
New England, then, was not the first American home of the loyalist. Almost a hundred years before Connecticut's historic date, we find him literally stranded on a shore which he could hardly wait to reach before giving it the name of his beloved Virgin Queen. A voyage of discovery is not prepared for colonization: that this and several other trials failed is not surprising. Half a century later, a daring sea captain happened on Cape Cod, but concluded that the climate was not salubrious, and so sailed away again. Another quarter, and,
New England started into life under the knees of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.
The would-be writer of history, be it ever so humble, and the historian ever so distinguished, must hesitate to-day to allow even the most accepted point to pass unchallenged. The modern introspective attitude is very trying. I can never quite forgive Professor Wheeler my first historical disillusionment. It came when I heard him announce, not without a certain gloomy pleasure, that the great French ruler never said "L'état-c'est moi !" From that blow my historical sense has never recovered, and so, when I read, in a recent issue of the Outlook, that the feet of the Pilgrim Fathers still wandered seeking their true rock-mark (so to speak), it seemed only too horribly possible, and that another foundation stone was gone. However, and in spite of cavil, it is no wonder that those who trace their lineage to that devout little band, prostrating themselves there in the snow, the wintry wind of that exposed coast chilling but not daunting their brave hearts, feel increased impulse to a true, clean, unselfish living, and need not seek a further inheritance.
In the formation of our various patriotic societies, American history has not only been thoroughly exploited and studied, but it has received what we now call a “boom," insomuch that there is a too free writing of books, and it takes more than common discrimination to evolve the true reading. One end has been accomplished, which without some such impulse, and in a very few centuries, would have been impossible: we have developed a race where we were but a people.
From Virginia to Connecticut covers the years up to 1635,-an interval at this distance full of romance, then filled with the struggle for existence. Here the survival of the fittest formed the backbone of our strength. Under this terrible strain went on the merciless weeding out of the weakling, until the sinews of a hardy sire were counted the best inheritance of the son. There were Spartan mothers in those days, too,-mothers who became so in the midst of other labor and travail, and who gave themselves and their babies to a certain Nemesis with no uttered complaint but that they could no longer fitly serve.
The time has come, has indeed been long with us, when we should remember among these more particularly and with equal tenderness, the ones who were loyal to their oath. We present the anomaly of a not by any means concealed attitude of regard toward our English ancestry; some having, indeed, studied heraldry to such purpose that you may see evidences of assumed privileges not even granted to the home cadet. While, therefore, we are, as we should be, justly proud of an honorable descent, why seek to conceal or ignore manifestations of loyalty on the part of those who then represented us?
Recall the circumstances. We were English colonists, supported by and under the control of English government. We had sworn allegiance to her king, her parliament, and her flag. Washington was on the staff of General Braddock, and at his death led the army on its march to Philadelphia. England and America had joined hands to wrest Canada from the French, and great was the joy of the colonists when this was effected. Out of the then eleven commonwealths (the two Carolinas counting as one) five were under governors appointed by the king; in three of the others (Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland) the offices of the courts were also in his gift and pay. Trade was almost exclusively confined to the mother country. Ship-building was the most remunerative industry on our coast. It is said, too, that twelve thousand sailors were enlisted in the royal navy; indeed, statistics show that for some years more troops, in proportion to the population, were raised here than in England. So many natives were in the army of Cornwallis at the surrender that he tried to make special terms for them in the capitulation papers. Failing this, there was a sort of connivance agreement, by which he was allowed to ship some of the most influential ones the night before the signing.
Of the states, the Church of England was supported by legislative authority in Virginia, and favored in New York. The Quakers governed Pennsylvania. Had those four Dutch regiments quartered in Boston been four of our own raising, fitly commanded from both sides of the water, we might still be lovalists. Connecticut escaped the severer punishments of New Hampshire, where tar and feathers, entire confiscations, and banishment were common penalties. In Rhode Island we read of that of death: and there were Sons of Liberty, so-called, who forever stigmatized their order by insulting the wives and daughters of their fellow townsmen. On the lists of the proscribed are given the names of those who betrayed them, and in many instances a man's foes were those of his own household. There were, however, good men and women who deprecated these evils, and sought to alleviate suffering, and moderate a too strict justice. There again Connecticut was fortunate and foremost. Dip into her records during the years immediately following the Revolution. In no others will you find such . moderation, and if enthusiasm seems less than in Virginia, excitement less than in Massachusetts, demonstration less than in Rhode Island, there is throughout this trying interval a steady judicial attitude, a firmly held responsibility, and a high ideal of purpose, well sustained in private as well as public life.
In New England, religion as well as liberty was in danger. The Church of England men were moving for a bishopric in America. It was feared, however, that parliament could as well collect tithes' as create dioceses, and the Congregational churches felt this to be opposed, not only to their own supremacy, but to colonial interests at large, and it was noted that the crown officers and appointments were Episcopalians. We may read much entertaining if not always credible matter concerning these times and frictions, in the Rev. Samuel Peters' letters, in one of which he writes: “The Episcopal Church there (in Connecticut) must soon fall a victim to the rage of the Puritan mobility, if the old serpent, that Dragon is not bound!
Spiritual iniquity rides in high places with halberts—pistols—and swords.” And he pictured the preachers and magistrates on their pious Sabbath day, leaving their pulpits for gun and drum and setting off for Boston, cursing the King, and Lord North, General Gage, the bishops and their curates, and the Church of England generally: "rebellion is obvious—treason is common, and robbery is the daily devotion.”
It is stated that at the beginning of the war there were three hundred Episcopal parishes in America; but not all of the ministers were loyalists, especially at the South. Except in Maryland many of them were patriots. So as a result of the introduction of religious controversy into political life, it came about in New York and Connecticut, as a late writer has said, that “altar was arrayed against altar.” Where the British were in control, the Presbyterian churches were insulted, and the patriots so-called, unless restrained by local interests, were ready for any vandalism against the Episcopal churches and rectories.
But all this unhappy phase of internal strife was, as Mr. Jefferson would have said, "necessary,” as a means to an end. We must not forget that the mother country, very naturally, invited such loyalty as could be bought, to swell her forces here, and Lord Howe thus increased his army by thousands. Another thing: to the loyal militia was left the so to speakdirty work of pillage and raid. The great campaigns were legitimate warfare, recognized as such; but these marauders came to be regarded as, and indeed were, a sort of freebooters, and were joined by the lowest classes, for the sake of the excitement and plunder. In this way “Indigo Connecticut” suffered from whig and tory alike, and the farms paid full penalty to both. It is not necessary in this place to do more than refer to such incidents as the Tryon expedition.
I have not been able to find the full text of the pledge of the Redding Association of Loyalists. In every mention of it there is, after the main phrase, that irritating addition, “et/c et/c.” The part which is literally quoted reads, that the members pledged theinselves “to defend, maintain and preserve, at the risk of their lives and property, the prerogatives of the crown and the privileges of the subject, from the attacks of any rebellious body of men, any committees of inspection, of correspondence,” etc., etc. The signatures number ninety-two. To many you will be able to fit tale and story; it will not take long to run through the list, and then to recall a few. Remember that the association was formed in 1776, and that most of its members were then in middle age.