LOYALISTS IN THE AMERICAN PRESS, 1812-1918.
"slackers." (4) Edward Said has argued that communities actively "other" out-groups as a means of reinforcing group identity. (5) Benedict Anderson has argued that national identities are built on notions of historic cultural unity and national myth-making that reinforces that unity. (6) Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the memory of the Loyalists often served such purposes in the United States. Especially during times of conflict, American newspapers drew on the memory of the Loyalists as a means both of reinforcing a sense of historic-American unity and of "othering" their opponents by associating them with historic treachery.
Early associations were not limited to any one group. In 1809, the New-Jersey Telescope attacked President James Madison by arguing that "The Tories in '75, were the advocates of arbitrary power, of 'passive obedience and non-resistance,' to the tyrannical encroachments and restrictions of government--So are the Tories of 1809." (7) In 1812, supporters of "Madison's War" turned accusations of Loyalism around, focusing them on the war's opponents. The Baltimore Patriot read, "it is somewhat amusing, to observe the exact conformity between the manner, in which the tories of 76, and the non-combatants of the present day, have spoken of Great Britain... [as] the 'world's last hope', and the only barrier between us and despotism." (8) The Armstrong True American similarly argued that the Tories of the Revolution "insisted then, as [opponents of the war] do now, that Great Britain had done us no wrong, that we were fighting for nothing." (9) Such publications discouraged Americans from sympathizing with the British by relating such action to the perceived treachery of the Revolutionary Loyalists. Throughout the War of 1812, both supporters and opponents of the war used association with the Loyalists as a means of tarnishing their adversaries' reputations and of reinforcing their own position as true Americans.
Similar comparisons were utilized during the American Civil War by both pro-slavery and anti-slavery newspapers. In 1860, the Green-Mountain Freeman read of the Revolution, "While the Whigs were opposed to Slavery, the Tories were strongly pro-Slavery. The British Kings had steadily sustained Slavery in the Colonies, and the old Tories who called themselves 'the King's men,' went with the King." (10) The paper continued by associating the entrenchment of Southern slavery with the Loyalists who had recanted and remained in the South following the Revolution. (11) By the Freeman's reckoning, true Americans were anti-slavery and always had been. Other newspapers, however, made the association in the opposite direction. Recounting "the history of King Lincoln I," the Wisconsin Daily Patriot argued that "Old King George, when compared with Abraham Lincoln, appears an angel of light... for surely the chief of the present Administration at Washington would make King George blush and hang his head with very shame." (12) The Weekly Wisconsin Patriot expanded this comparison, arguing that " The tories of 1776 were 'loyal' to the monarchy but traitors to liberty," (13) continuing, "The tories of 1776 were for despotism, so are the war abolitionists of 1863. Had the latter lived in 1776, they would have taken sides with the British King, while the democrats would have been with Washington, Hancock and Jefferson." (14) By associating themselves with the heroes of the Revolution and their enemies with the despised Loyalists, Civil War newspapers on both sides utilized the memory of the Tories to claim rightful inheritance of the cultural unity supposedly established in 1776.
The memory of the Loyalists was exploited once again, during the First World War, as American newspapers sought to mobilize the country for the war effort by appealing to historic American patriotism. Those that refused to participate were painted with the same brush of disloyalty as the Tories. In 1918, the Idaho Statesman read, "Pro-Germans, pacifists and even some of the conscientious objectors of today, are using the same arguments and tactics that were employed by the Tories, or Loyalists, in the Revolutionary War." (15) The Statesman further argued that, during the Revolution, Loyalists faced oaths of allegiance, confiscation of property, banishment, and concentration camps, surmising that "To these severe measures Washington and his contemporaries gave their approval, for they believed that sympathizers with the enemy must be treated as enemies of the state." (16) The Statesman advocated the same for pro-Germans and pacifists. (17) In 1917, the Jonesboro Daily Tribune asked "Slacker or Patriot? What are you? You alone must answer and answer by what you give today. Were your forefathers Tories or Patriots? Where will your grandchildren class you?" (18) The paper warned its readers not to reject the historic cultural unity their patriotic forefathers had established and doom their own progeny to the stain that still soiled the memory of the Loyalists. (19) By the Tribune's reckoning, the only Americans that could rightly claim association with the Patriots of the Revolution were those that similarly supported the American war effort, "now that America [was] fighting not only for her own liberties, but for the liberties of the world." (20)
Though many Loyalists reintegrated into American society following the Revolution, in the United States, their memory has largely continued to be one of treason and betrayal. Recently, Loyalists have often served as generalized literary shorthand for treachery in American pop culture, most notably Benedict Arnold, (21) who has appeared as the stereotyped epitome of treason in many diverse mediums including the television shows: The Simpsons, The Fairly Odd-Parents, and a Batman comic entitled "Robin, Batgirl, and the Devil-Worshipping Ghost of Benedict Arnold." (22) In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however, portrayals of Loyalists were utilized more solemnly in the American press as a means of tarnishing the reputations of those deemed to be betraying true America. By associating non-combatants and British sympathizers, slave-holders and abolitionists, and pacifists and conscientious objectors with the Loyalists, American newspapers both tied their present enemies to historic treachery, while also tying Loyalists to alleged contemporary treachery. As part of the nation-myth that underpinned nineteenth and early twentieth century American identity, the memory of the Loyalists served to reinforce the image of what true, patriotic Americans were, and more importantly, what they were not.
Jonathan Bayer is a doctoral student in history at the University of Western Ontario, studying under Dr. Nancy Rhoden. He is currently researching national identities and portrayals of Canada in the early American press. As the 2019 recipient of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada Scholarship, he will be forever grateful to the UELAC.
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|Title Annotation:||TORIES THEN AND TORIES NOW:|
|Publication:||The Loyalist Gazette|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2019|
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