Mother goose: loyalist style.
The British officers who sang the song were calling New Englanders simpletons, claiming that their colonial cousins believed that they could attain sophistication by simply putting a feather in their caps.
The stories of the meanings for poems and songs such as "Yankee Doodle" are always fascinating reading. The same is true for that part of folklore that we have come to call Mother Goose poems.
Rather than merely being nonsense poems for children, nursery rhymes were reputed to be the editorial cartoons of their day. They were said to poke fun at the rich and powerful in an era when outright criticism would result in imprisonment or execution. The schoolyard game of "Ring Around a Rosy" was believed to recount the 17th century's Great Plague, while "Little Jack Horner" supposedly told the story of how a British family came to own some prime British real estate.
Most of the Mother Goose poems originated with the generations preceding the eighteenth century, removing any hope that there might be a verse or two with "secret meetings" related to the American Revolution, but those who study Loyalist era history don't need to feel slighted. Folklore scholars are now casting doubt on the notion that there are political references encoded within any of the Mother Goose poems. Sometimes a "plum" is just a "plum."
But perhaps, just for the sake of preserving some Loyalist era history, we could retrofit a Mother Goose rhyme to provide a counterbalance to "Yankee Doodle." Would it be totally inappropriate to use "Three Men in a Tub" to help us recall some events from the American Revolution? True, this poem actually dates back to the 15th century, but, with a little remodelling, it could be given a 300-year update to serve our purposes. And so, with tongues firmly planted in our cheeks, let's see what a Loyalist-leaning nursery rhyme might have as its "secret meanings."
"Rub-a-Dub-Dub," for any loyal colonists who survived the American Revolution, would inevitably bring to mind the gruesome practice of tarring and feathering the "friends of the king." Unfortunately for the Loyalists of the rebelling colonies, there are hundreds of examples that can be used to illustrate this line of poetry.
James Galloway, who had once been the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, "considered himself in great danger" from the Patriots of Philadelphia. On one occasion, he had "two or three mobs" at his doorstep ready with hot tar and brushes to give him a feather coat. Galloway's friends were able to dissuade the mob, but on another night thirteen drunk "Dutchmen" argued as to whether they should tar and feather Galloway or hang him! Luckily for the Loyalist, an innkeeper tipped him off and he was able to escape with both his life and his skin intact.
The administering of tar and feathers was not limited to violent mobs. It could be a penalty in a court of law. Consider the case of another Pennsylvania Loyalist named William Caldwell. Because he would not join his Rebel neighbours, Caldwell was brought before the local committee which sentenced him to be tarred and feathered. Two hundred "men in arms attended in order to see the sentence put into execution" on 15 June 1775.
Owen Richards, a customs official in Boston, was tarred and feathered simply for doing his job. The citizens of Massachusetts didn't appreciate having to pay customs. When Richards had a ship's cargo seized, local Rebels gathered up the dock side tar used for ship repairs and gave the poor customs officer a feather coat in 1770. This was five years before the first exchange of revolutionary fire. (The Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought in April 1775.)
Fortunately for the loyal colonists, there were men like Peter Dean. As soon as the "troubles" began in South Carolina, Dean signed a protest against the colony's Rebels. He later restored guns that the Patriots had spiked in order to prevent them being fired in honour of King George III's birthday, but what most endeared him to the Loyalists of South Carolina was the fact that he organized a militia of one hundred men, and thus, in his own words, "prevented some people from being tarred and feathered."
"Three Men in a Tub" might remind an historian of the Loyalists along the Atlantic seaboard who used their sailing ships to aid the Royal cause. Interestingly enough, records have survived of Loyalists who were among three owners of vessels.
The first member of our "men in a tub" is Francis Green, who had a one-third share in the ship Tryon. Worth 8000 [pounds sterling], the Tryon "did great service" to the British government on her "different cruises." Unfortunately, Green did not elaborate on how his ship helped the Loyalist cause. Another of his vessels was "of great use to the army by giving material intelligence of the French fleet." Green was an outspoken friend of the king: a very brave stance for a Boston merchant. He was "treated ill" by Rebels as early as 1774. Two years later, Green and eight of his dependents were among the 1,100 Loyalists who fled Boston for the safety of Halifax. The British government eventually awarded Green 600 [pounds sterling] a year for his losses.
Joseph Durfee, a Norfolk, Rhode Island, Loyalist, had a 33% interest in the schooner Dolphin. Before the outbreak of the Revolution, Durfee and his two partners used their schooner to trade between New York and Rhode Island, but, by 1775, Durfee "decidedly declared himself adverse to the opposition to the British government." This made the Loyalist and any of his property fair game for New England Rebels. A Patriot privateer vessel seized the Dolphin as it was sailing in Long Island Sound and took it off to New London, Connecticut.
Durfee and his family left Rhode Island when the occupying British troops sailed for New York City. During the remainder of the Revolution, Durfee served as superintendent of small craft and was recognized as a "faithful servant of the Crown." The New York barrack officer also employed two of the Loyalist's schooners. Following the conclusion of the war, this "man in a tub" and his family settled in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
Edward Thorp was a Stamford, Connecticut, merchant who held a one-third interest in a number of sailing vessels. He conducted trade with the southern colonies and ferried passengers to New York. During the Revolution, Rebels seized two of his sloops, a schooner worth 600 [pounds sterling], and a ship worth 1000 [pounds sterling] that he used to trade with Jamaica and Florida. The Loyalist Compensation Board awarded Thorp 40 [pounds sterling] a year for the remainder of his life.
"And who do you think they be?" Yes, even a question can call to mind a part of the Loyalist experience. Henry Nase was a Loyalist soldier who kept a diary of his Revolutionary War experiences. In the fall of 1782, Nase was in Charleston, South Carolina, as the British forces were evacuating the colony. On November first, his diary entry recorded the events surrounding a court of enquiry. A field officer and four captains met near the gallows on Charleston's grand parade to "ascertain the person of James McCan." Who they thought him to be would have serious consequences. Was this the McCan who had deserted from the 19th Regiment?
The Loyalist soldier confessed that he had, indeed, "deserted his colours" three times. Military justice was anything but slow. Upon his confession, McCan was immediately hanged. Six hundred Loyal soldiers and a crowd of at least 2,000 spectators witnessed the consequences of the court determining McCan's identity.
"A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker" easily describes the trades of some middle-class Loyalists. One butcher who served his king was David Gosling. The Englishman had immigrated to New Jersey in 1751. Five years later, he married his wife, Elizabeth, who, over the next twenty years, produced eight children, including a set of twins. Their last child, Howe Carleton Gosling, was born in 1776, the year that David joined the British army. Gosling served the troops, as he had the citizens of Amboy, New Jersey, by being their butcher. He died of an unspecified cause in 1778. Five years later, his widow and six of their children settled in Wilmot, Nova Scotia. In 1786, James was the oldest surviving son. One Gosling daughter married a local man named Henry Potter.
Interestingly, there are compensation claims for three Loyalist bakers who all once tended ovens in Boston prior to the Revolution. Benjamin Davis described himself as "a baker in government service" who had made himself "very obnoxious" to the Rebels. He was one of 1,100 Loyalists who fled when the British forces retreated to Halifax from Boston in March of 1776. When Davis attempted to sail to New York City that summer, Patriots arrested him and imprisoned him for twelve months. By 1783, the loyal baker had settled in Halifax.
Another Bostonian baker that Davis might have known was Archibald MacNeil. This Loyalist had an "extensive line" of baked goods in his shop. When the Rebel tradesmen of Boston refused to supply the British troops with bread, MacNeil "engaged to do it and supplied them for a long time." Like Davis, MacNeil fled Boston in 1776. He was later murdered while travelling to Quebec. His second wife, Elizabeth MacNeil, and their unmarried daughter, Sarah, settled in Canada, leaving at least one married daughter behind in Boston.
MacNeil's partner in supplying bread to the British troops in Boston was William Hall. In his interview with the Loyalist Compensation Board, he testified that he had supplied the 14th Regiment with bread for six weeks without charge. In 1774, Hall had the misfortune to be among the jurors who heard the case against the British captain charged with instigating the Boston Massacre. Patriots threatened his life, tarred his house, and "frequently insulted" the Loyalist baker. When he fled Boston, Rebels seized his furniture and one of his houses; he left his mother in possession of a second house. Like the baker Davis, Hall also settled in Halifax.
Candle-making was usually a do-it-yourself necessity, especially if one needed light in a pioneer farmhouse. However, city dwellers during the Loyalist era could buy their candles from local shops. James Hoyt was a Loyalist whose store in Norwalk, Connecticut, carried a wide variety of items, including candles.
Hoyt's loyalty got him into trouble with local Patriots even before the first shots were fired at Lexington. They once jailed him on the suspicion that he had brought tea into the colony. In 1776, Rebels again imprisoned Hoyt on suspicion of carrying intelligence to British frigates. This proved to be the last straw and the Norwalk shopkeeper left home to go within British lines in the fall of 1777.
After a short stay in the army, Hoyt became the captain of a Loyalist privateer vessel. His ship was captured in the spring, and he was put in prison until the fall. Following a prisoner exchange and a short command of another privateer, Hoyt decided to become a New York City shopkeeper. After a year, he was appointed the cashier of the Barrack Master General's Department, and then served as a clerk in the Fuel Department. When Loyalists left New York in 1783, Hoyt was among those who settled in Parrtown (Saint John, New Brunswick).
Within three years' time, Hoyt had the opportunity to tell his story of wartime losses to the Loyalist Compensation Board. In addition to the plundering of his property and store, the seizure and sale of his ship the Little George, and the theft of eighty-six boxes of soap, Hoyt duly noted that Patriots had taken sixty-three boxes of tallow candles. The candles were carried off and sold at an auction to raise money for the Rebel cause. The 63 boxes were taken because they had been hidden away in the store belonging to Hoyt's father "for the use of the enemy" (the British), and thus we have our candle maker for our Loyalist Mother Goose.
"Turn them out, knaves all three" is the final line in the nursery rhyme. One might wonder how the term knave, meaning a dishonest or unscrupulous person, could ever be applied to a Loyalist refugee and yet, over a two-day period in September of 1787, the Commissioners of the Loyalist Compensation Board felt a trio of veterans of the American Revolution could best be described as "knaves all three."
Alexander Simpson's story would seem to merit sympathy. He had come to New York in 1762 and made a living by trading with the colony's Aboriginals. Patriots imprisoned Simpson for ten weeks in Albany and later incarcerated him for not taking an oath to the new republic. The Loyalists gathered 44 men and headed north to Canada in 1780 to join the king's men. When he appeared before the board in Montreal, Simpson was 60 years old and "afflicted with rheumatism." Surely, here was a man who deserved to be commended for his loyal service but, for reasons that go unexplained, the Claims Commissioners called Simpson "a damned rascal."
Later that same day, David Jackson stood before the Compensation Board. This Englishman had settled in New York in 1772. He joined the British army in 1780 and served in Sir John Johnson's 2nd Battalion. For his loyalty, Jackson had forfeited a 100-acre farm, three steers, a horse, furniture and "utensils." Instead of calling him a "zealous Loyalist," as it had done for so many others, the Board said that Jackson was "a drunken dog."
On the next day, James Mackim came before the Board. It's too bad he wasn't aware of the Commissioners' foul mood. He recounted his story, beginning with his arrival in America in 1774, his service throughout the Revolution, and his arrival in Sorel in 1783. For the third time in just two days, the Loyalist Claims Commissioners were not impressed. They claimed that Mackim was "a drunken Irishman, very little to be allowed." Loyalists could be (and were) "turned out, knaves all three."
Our exercise in infusing Loyalist history into a Mother Goose rhyme has come to an end. While it may never be as popular as "Yankee Doodle Went to Town," the verse about the three men in a tub can, when needed, be conscripted for the cause of Loyalist history. Loyalists were tarred and feathered; they jointly owned ships to serve their cause; knowing who they were was immensely important; they were usually ordinary tradesmen; and at least three of them could be refused compensation for being rascals.
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|Publication:||The Loyalist Gazette|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2013|
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