What if the People who started the War for American Independence WERE like the thuggish patriots we see today?

Not an outlandish question since the people who are generally called “Patriots”

were not a tolerant group, and Loyalists suffered regular harassment, had their property seized, or were subject to personal attacks. Unless the British Army was close at hand to protect Loyalists, they often suffered bad treatment from Patriots and often had to flee their own homes. About one-in-six Americans was an active Loyalist during the Revolution, and that number undoubtedly would have been higher if the Patriots hadn’t been so successful in threatening and punishing people who made their Loyalist sympathies known in public.

Wealthy Loyalists left for Great Britain in contrast to most ordinary Loyalists, who went to Canada.  As a preface to a future post, these displaced Loyalists would come to play a large role in the development of Canadian society and government.

Most of what is known about the Loyalists are those who fought against independence or who fled the newly independent colonies since they are the best documented members of this group.  The silent majority remain a mystery.  Although, one might be surprised by who exactly the Loyalists tended to be (e.g., they were the “mountain men” in the South).  Also, being loyal didn’t preclude one from wanting independence (see Canada comment above): only that they wanted any independence to come from a peaceful and lawful process.

The most notorious Loyalist, Benedict Arnold, had been one of the most effective “Patriot” military leaders when he decided that the objective of war had been achieved.  Peace and reconciliation made more sense than continuing a war that bankrupted the nation and led to the revolt at Morristown.  The Town of Deerfield, MA had a town vote in 1781 which instructed their representative to the Massachusetts General Court to urge the state to “Effect an accomodation Settlement & Peace between Great Britain & the United States of America without the futher effusion of Blood.”[1]

The issue is that the war was forced upon a nation which may have been coerced into an imprudent course of action. The goal of independence was achieved, but was the aftermath worth the resulting chaos which led to Shays’ Rebellion and ultimately the adoption of the US Constitution? Given the reactions of most of the founders to Shays’ Rebellion and their addressing rebellion in the Constitution, would they agree that those who call themselves “Patriots” while fighting perceived tyranny would be a folly?

Or as Samuel Adams said:

in monarchies the crime of treason and rebellion may admit of being pardoned or lightly punished, but the man who dares rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.

I also ask this question as an descendant of one of those members of the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown.  Was he forced to be there, away from his home, for the whims of people who pressed him into service.  I am pretty certain he would have preferred to be back on the farm where he was truly needed.

[1] Sheldon, George. A History of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Deerfield, MA: Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, 1895: Vol. II, p.739.

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