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Social progress is made in two ways — by evolution and by revolution; through right reason and through catastrophe. In the life of a people, a crisis may come when violence seems to be the only means of advancement; but advancement by violence is terribly expensive in property, in morals, and in human lives. In this regard, the American Revolution was no exception to the rule.

Unlike the French Revolution, it was mainly political and not social: there were no frightful abuses of ancient class privilege to redress, for the old colonial system was in no way the result of conscious oppression. Its cardinal principles took their rise in economic ignorance, and very soon would have become a dangerous hindrance to social evolution had they been rigidly enforced.

Just here is the anomaly of the situation. The American Revolution differs from all other revolutions in the mode of its origin and in the swiftness of the catastrophe. With astonishing perversity, the British ministry strove thoroughly to enforce the colonial system only after it was already becoming clear to thoughtful men that its principles were false. This resolve bore the likeness of a revolution in policy by which prescriptive rights long enjoyed were violently taken away. Meanwhile, the colonists in political education had outstripped the Englishmen who remained at home. A fierce spirit of liberty had sprung up. With superior knowledge, they had become exceedingly sensitive regarding their political rights. Moreover, the new restrictive policy was adopted just as the conditions had become favorable for the development of the nascent sentiment of union among the colonists. Hence it is that in the short space of ten years the ministerial blunders, aggravated by the violent counsels of extremists in America, had brought the provinces to the verge of revolution.

While resistance was confined to debate and other legal forms of opposition, many conservatives could unite with the radicals in seeking a redress of grievances, though denying the validity of the revolutionary argument. Men like Seabury and Galloway freely condemned the policy of Great Britain. But when it was proposed to drop the argument and seek redress by the sword, perhaps by separation, these and thousands of other worthy persons drew back.

When hostilities began, the people were very far from being united, although the fact was in part concealed; for in most places, the revolutionary party speedily got possession of the actual government and was able to silence opposition.

The American Revolution, like every revolution, brought earnest men face to face with tremendous cases of conscience that had to be solved. For revolution means violation of law, breach of allegiance, and disturbance of the established social order. It means a rending of family and national ties, a wounding of sentiments that ages of historical association have fostered. It means a vast expenditure of blood and treasure and incalculable moral and physical suffering. Is the end in view worth the cost? This question the American people had to face, and the loyalists answered it emphatically in the negative. Is it not clear from the nature of the problem that they might do so and yet challenge our respect, even our admiration? They may have been mistaken; they may have been opposing the march of progress; but they were not necessarily actuated by motives less conscientious than those which inspired their adversaries. Triumphant Revolution is apt to cover with obloquy the fame of many a moral hero whom history should respect and seek to understand. Happily, the period of self-glorification is passing and the American student is learning to be just in his judgment on the case of the American loyalists.

For ten years the opposing parties of patriots and loyalists — of Whigs and Tories — had been gradually forming. From the very nature of the case, the active or aggressive party, under so astute a leader as Samuel Adams, was the first to gain an effective organization, which was brought to completion by the creation of a continental congress. Of necessity, this event at once drew more closely together all those who for whatsoever reasons refused to take the way of armed rebellion. "In a valid sense, therefore, it may be said that the formation of the great Loyalist party of the American Revolution dates from about the time of the Congress of 1774. Moreover, its period of greatest activity in argumentative literature is from that time until the early summer of 1776, when nearly all further use for argumentative literature on that particular subject was brought to an end by the Declaration of Independence." In number, character, and the principles for which it stood, the loyalist party is a fact of decided interest, deserving the serious and respectful attention of every student of the American Revolution.

There is no means of finding out the actual number of Tories in any colony. At all times during the struggle, a great body of the loyalists was found in New York and Pennsylvania. Timothy Pickering called the last-named province the "enemies' country"; while John Adams declared that "New York and Pennsylvania were so nearly divided — if their propensity was not against us — that if New England on one side and Virginia on the other had not kept them in awe, they would have joined the British." There were many Tories in Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. In Virginia they were less numerous than the Whigs; in South Carolina they were more numerous; "while in Georgia their majority was so great that, in 1781, they were preparing to detach that colony from the general movement of the rebellion, and probably would have done so, had it not been for the embarrassing accident which happened to Cornwallis at Yorktown in the latter part of that year."

The loyalists themselves claimed that in the aggregate they constituted a positive majority of the American people and that none of the decisive measures of the Revolution were sanctioned by a full or fair vote of any colony. In their belief, says Tyler, these measures "were the work of a well-constructed and powerful political machine, set up in each colony, in each county, in each town, and operated with as much skill and will and unscrupulousness as go into the operation of such machines in our own time." The same historian — the first American writer to make a just and adequate statement of the case for the loyalists — accepts as probably a fair estimate John Adams's opinion, approved by Thomas McKean, that about one-third of the people were at first opposed to the Revolution.

The large body of loyalists represented nearly every type of character and motive, from the lowest to the highest. Among them were virtually the entire official class, embracing not only the mere placemen, often incompetent and corrupt, who had come to America to gain their fortunes but also native Americans like Oliver and Hutchinson, who loved their country and had won respect and honor in its service. The crown officers "good and bad were the backbone of the Tory party in America." Next to these were the clergy and members of the established church, the majority of whom were staunch loyalists. A third division comprised the mass of those who from tradition, circumstances, or training are usually inclined to be conservative. Here were found very many of the capitalistic, professional, and cultivated classes, with all those who revered monarchy and distrusted democratic institutions. College presidents like Cooper, of King's, and a great number of the graduates of Yale, Harvard, William and Mary, and other colonial institutions, remained loyal to Great Britain. Among the three hundred and ten Tories banished by Massachusetts in 1778 were sixty graduates of Harvard. "To anyone at all familiar with the history of colonial New England, that list of men denounced to exile and loss of property on account of their opinions, will read almost like the bead roll of the oldest and noblest families concerned in the founding and upbuilding of New England civilization."

Doubtless many of the Tories, like many of the Whigs, were actuated by base motives. To their ranks at first would naturally come those who hoped to be on the safe side and those who fancied that in the inevitable triumph of the king's troops, they should be rewarded for their loyalty by a share in the confiscated estates of the vanquished. Yet among the two hundred thousand men and women who eventually went into exile or who died in the struggle were very many who in a just sense were true patriots and who as devotedly as their adversaries suffered for conscience' sake.

The problem of the American Revolution was by no means a simple one. Whether viewed as a question of right or of expediency it had two opposite sides, either of which might well be taken by honest and thoughtful men. The constitutional maxim "no taxation without representation" was accepted as valid by both parties, but the loyalists denied that it had been violated. As an expression of mere law, the argument from virtual representation is invincible, for the kind of representation that then satisfied the law and the constitution was very crude. Indeed, since the American Revolution, and even since the reform bill of 1832, in both the United States and England it is but slowly that the idea of a broader and more effective representation has prevailed; and we are beginning to realize that even now our system is very far from perfect.

Again, the loyalists frankly admitted that the colonists had real grievances which ought to be redressed. They were earnestly in favor of reform and severely censured the policy of the ministers. Thus far there was substantial agreement among the best Americans. Regarding the proper remedy, however, there was not the same unanimity. The loyalists denied the expediency of refusing to pay taxes levied by Parliament, while they abhorred the thought of separation. In their view, oppressive taxes had not yet been laid; and there was no likelihood that such taxes ever would be imposed. It was, therefore, unwise to risk civil war by resisting precedents that might never be abused. Even in the crisis of 1774 they still had faith in argument, and, as already seen, they presented a definite plan for conciliation. Its author, Joseph Galloway, next to Hutchinson was the most conspicuous loyalist in America. He had long served his colony, Pennsylvania, as a member of the assembly, and with Franklin he had opposed the proprietary government and done what he could to have the province transferred from the Penn family to the crown.

In 1775 Galloway published a pamphlet in defense of the "Plan" which the Continental Congress had rejected. It was many times reprinted both in America and Europe, and it is a powerful presentation of the best loyalist argument. In the outset, he condemns the reign of terror which under the authority of Congress the Whigs had set up: "Freedom of speech suppressed, the liberty and secrecy of the press destroyed, the voice of truth silenced, a lawless power established throughout the colonies" depriving "men of their natural rights and inflicting penalties more severe than death." Next, he insists that in its true nature, the present controversy is "a dispute between the supreme authority of the state and a number of its members." Now in every state, there must be "a supreme legislative authority, universal in extent"; in the British empire, this supreme power belongs to Parliament. The colonies are a part of that empire, and hence even in cases of taxation and internal police — contrary to the claim of Congress — they cannot be exempt from its control and subject only to the king.

On the other hand, in agreement with his adversaries, Galloway holds that the colonists are entitled to all the rights of Englishmen at home; for "the subjects of a free state, in every part of its dominions, ought in good policy to enjoy the same fundamental rights and privileges." Yet the colonists through their representatives have not shared the right of making laws binding upon them; but they ought to share it "in such manner as their circumstances admit of, whenever it shall be decently and respectfully asked for." "If the British state, therefore, means to retain the colonies in due obedience to her government, it will be wisdom in her to restore to her American subjects the enjoyment of assenting to and dissenting from such bills as shall be proposed to regulate their conduct. Laws thus made will never be obeyed because by their assent they become their own acts. It will place them in the same condition as their brethren in Britain, and remove all cause of complaint; or if they should conceive any regulations inconvenient or unjust, they will petition, not rebel. Without this, it is easy to perceive that the union and harmony, which is peculiarly essential to a free society whose members are resident in regions so very remote from each other, cannot long subsist. The genius, temper, and circumstances of the Americans should be also duly attended to'. No people in the world have higher notions of liberty. It would be impossible ever to eradicate them, should an attempt so unjust be ever made." The colonists must be united with Britain "upon principles of English liberty," or they "will infallibly throw off their connection with the mother country."

Therefore, Galloway's remedy for the present grievances of the colonies is — not the course of violence recommended by Congress, but a liberal constitutional union with the parent state. Even now, he says, it is not too late to apply this remedy. Reasonable petitions have never been refused a hearing, as American demagogues have asserted. "It is high time that this fatal delusion should be exposed, and the good people of America disabused. It is true that his majesty and the two houses of parliament have treated petitions from the colonies with neglect; but what were those petitions? ... They disowned the power of the supreme legislature, to which as subjects they owe obedience." "Let us, like men who love order and government, boldly oppose the illegal edicts of the Congress, before it is too late, — pull down the licentious tyranny they have established, and dissolve their inferior committees — their instruments to trample on the sacred laws of your country, and your invaluable rights." When this is done and peace and order restored, let a proper petition be presented through your legal assemblies, and there is "no reason to doubt" that it will be graciously received and "finally terminate in a full redress of your grievances, and a permanent system of union and harmony, upon principles of liberty and safety."

It must be frankly admitted that the arguments of Galloway like those of Myles Cooper, Daniel Leonard, and Samuel Seabury — also called out by the proceedings of Congress — were far from contemptible. His plan of conciliation, however just, came too late; and even if satisfactory to the Americans, it is very doubtful whether at any time after the Albany convention of 1754 it would have been acceptable to Great Britain. Certainly, in 1774 the time for conciliation was past unless England, taking the initiative, should make prompt, frank, and full concessions. All halfway or insincere measures, such as those proposed by Lord North, must prove utterly futile.

Making all due allowance for the alleged sinister influence of colonial politicians, we are now able clearly to see that the American Revolution was justifiable for two general reasons. First, the legislation of Grenville and his successors was a real grievance. The Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Revenue Acts, though legal, were contrary to wise political policy and a violation of the spirit of constitutional liberty that the experience of a century had fostered in the colonies. The effect of these acts was aggravated by the ill-judged measures adopted to enforce them; and they were brought into contempt by the halting policy of the ministry.

Secondly, in the light gained by ten years of discussion, the old colonial system itself had become a grievance. It was seen to be a check to the full development of the American people. Hence, while learning to be more just regarding the merits of the loyalists, we have gained a more intelligent appreciation of the higher qualities of the men who achieved independence. Since the problem was so hard, the arguments were sometimes so nicely balanced, all the more honorable to those whose clearer vision guided them to a righteous solution! Politically, the revolutionary party comprised the best products of the American experience: the men whose social consciousness was most fully aroused. Socially, its leaders stood on a lofty ethical plane. They represented a political sagacity, a higher race-altruism, which was capable of present sacrifice for the good of the coming generations.

Social progress is not guided by the devout conservatism of loyalists like Jonathan Boucher, who as a final remedy recommended passive obedience to a divinely appointed king and a divinely ordained church. "It is your duty," he exclaimed, to instruct your members to take all the constitutional means in their power to obtain redress. If these means fail of success, you cannot but be sorry and grieved; but you will better bear your disappointments by being able to reflect that it was not owing to any misconduct of your own. ... Those persons are as little acquainted with general history, as they are with the particular doctrines of Christianity, who represent such submission as abject and servile. I affirm, with great authority, that there can be no better way of asserting the people's lawful rights, than the disowning unlawful commands, by thus patiently suffering." Not to such men, however brave and conscientious, but to men equally conscientious and more clear-sighted and daring — to Adams, Franklin, and Washington — is the upbuilding of nations committed.