Project Canterbury

The Tories of Chippeny Hill, Connecticut
by E. LeRoy Pond.

New York: The Grafton Press, 1909.


WHATEVER may have been the degree of goodness or of evil existing in that "designing church clergyman," the Rev. James Nichols, it is certain that the principles he taught were the principles which governed the Chippeny Hill folk. How deeply they had studied them is a matter of controversy. The report of the committee at Hartford that examined the seventeen prisoners from New Cambridge states that "they were indeed grossly ignorant of the true grounds of the present war with Great Britain." Yet there were educated men among them just as there were among the other Tories throughout the country, and it is unfair to assume that their actions were based simply on their love for their church and antipathy to its opponents, or that they were more ignorant of the grounds of the war than some of their Puritan neighbors. Moses Dunbar, in his life on Long Island, had had an opportunity to become acquainted with the thoughts and feelings of the Tories in New York. Rev. James Nichols at Litchfield had also been able to keep in touch with events. It was at Litchfield, by the way, that Governor Franklin of New Jersey, son of Benjamin Franklin, but a royalist governor, was kept in honorable confinement. There were many Tories in Western Connecticut, and especially about Stratford, not have done: saved them from a ruler of foreign tongue and detested religion. Who should pay the expense of this war if not the colonists? England was not a wealthy land, and the colonies had received the benefit. Yet when a nominal tax was imposed, the colonists became enraged, and exclaimed against "Taxation without representation!" They did not petition for representatives in Parliament. They did not offer to tax themselves. There was reason to suspect that taxation with representation would be as distasteful to the disgruntled ones as taxation without representation. The taxation reason for desiring independence did not seem important in the eyes of the loyalists.

Three thousand miles of intervening water,--that was a good reason for independence; difference in religious belief,--that was a good reason for independence; lack of sympathy with English life in general was a good reason for independence. But to the true churchman these reasons did not exist. England was the religious center and place of pilgrimage; it was home. The mere technicality of a few cents on tea could not sever their attachment to the home government.

A good example of loyalism is the following speech delivered in September, 1776, before a large body of the inhabitants of Long Island, a speech which Moses Dunbar himself may have heard:

"Gentlemen, Friends, and Countrymen:--Being appointed by his Excellency, General Howe, to raise a corps of Provincials for his Majesty's service, I readily engage in the attempt from principle, and in consequence of the fullest conviction that there are yet very many among us who still retain the most unshaken loyalty to our gracious sovereign, and zealous attachment to the blessings of the British constitution. Now is the time to exert our endeavors if we wish to rescue ourselves from the evils of Republican tyranny, or our country from ruin. The misrule and persecutions of committees, conventions, and Congresses are no longer to be endured; they have become insupportable--they are too enormous for description. There are none of us but what have already seen or felt the cruelty and oppression of their Republican despotism. Without affecting one salutary purpose, those self-created bodies have violated all the sacred ties of civil society, prostrated all law and government, and arbitrarily usurped an absolute control over the natural rights, the reason, and the consciences of their fellow subjects. Instead of supporting constitutional liberty, and redressing public grievances, the special purposes of their original associations, they have denied their fellow citizens the greatest and most valuable of all possible privileges: those of personal liberty and freedom of speech. Instead of endeavoring, by dutiful representations in a constitutional method, for a reconciliation with the parent state, and thereby restoring to us the innumerable benefits and advantages of the former happy union between Great Britain and the colonies, they have most unjustifiably and perversely erected the standard of independency. That is not all. They have increased and multiplied the distresses of poverty and want among our poor. They have moreover deliberately involved their country in all the turbulence of faction, in all the evils of monarchy and licentiousness; and to complete the transcendent enormity of their crimes against the interest and prosperity of America, they have disregarded the liberal and benevolent declaration of his Majesty's commissioners of peace, and with the most obdurate and unfeeling dispositions for the distresses of their countrymen, obstinately and wickedly precipitated the whole British continent of America into all the guilt of rebellion, and all the horrors and calamities of a civil war. In a few words, gentlemen, they have deluded the populace, they have betrayed their trust, they have forfeited the confidence of the public, they have ruined our country. Not to oppose them and their measures were criminal. Not to join and assist the King's forces at this time would be at once unwise, unmanly, and ungrateful. Your loyalty to your King, your duty to your country, your regard for your wives and children, the cause of violated justice and of injured majesty, all call aloud for your strenuous and united endeavors in assisting the royal army and navy in re-establishing the authority of his Majesty's government in the colonies, and with it a return to America of those happier days we all have seen, when the voice of peace and plenty was heard in our land, and we experienced, under the protection and benignity of the British State, the tranquil enjoyment of such constitutional and established liberties and privileges as were equal to our wishes, and known only to British subjects."

There is a factor in war time more powerful even than reason and that is feeling. The intensity of feeling among the loyalists was kept at a white heat by the continual persecutions by the patriot bands. Every loyalist knew how the famous printing house of their trenchant writer, James Rivington of New York, had been ruthlessly entered and the valuable type and other property carried away into Connecticut or destroyed. Such acts were resented. The following items are examples of what made the ears of the loyalists ring:

"In November a parcel of rebels in the dead of night passed the North river from the Jersey shore, landed at Bloomingdale, the seat of General DeLancey, about seven miles from the city of New York, surprised and made prisoners a guard at the landing place, broke into the house and plundered it, abused and insulted the General's lady in a most infamous manner, struck Miss Charlotte DeLancey, a young lady of about sixteen, several times with a musket, set fire to the house, and one of the wretches attempted to wrap up Miss Elizabeth Floyd (an intimate acquaintance of Miss DeLan-cey's, about the same age, and the daughter of Col. Richard Floyd) in a sheet all in flames, and as she ran down the stairs to avoid the fire, the brute threw it after her. (In consequence of this transaction Miss DeLancey was rewarded by the government with a pension of $200 per autumn.) One of the party below of more humanity than the rest advised the young ladies to make their escape. Miss DeLancey and Miss Floyd made their flight through several fields until they reached a swamp into which they entered and there continued until eight o'clock the next morning without either shoes or stockings and nothing upon them except such thin clothes as ladies use to sleep in, when they were discovered and carried to the house of Charles Ward Apthorpe, Esq., a gentleman who lived in the neighborhood and an intimate acquaintance of General DeLancey. This was in the middle of the night in the month of November when the weather is very cold in this part of America. Miss DeLancey took with her in her flight, her brother's child, an infant in arms, and held it safely in her lap the whole time. Miss Floyd's feet and legs were so torn and lacerated by the briers, brambles, and hedges that she passed, as to render her unable to walk for three weeks."

"Some days ago, the daughter of Mrs. Jonathan Knif-fin, of Rye in Connecticut*, was murdered by a party of rebels near or upon Budd's Neck. She was carrying some clothes to her father in company of two men who' had the charge of a herd of cattle. They were fired upon by the rebels from behind a stone wall. The men escaped unhurt. They plundered her dead body of its clothes, cut one of her fingers almost off in order to take a ring, and left the corpse most indecently exposed in the highway. Such are the advocates of this cursed rebellion!"

"The following odd affair happened at Stratford in Connecticut, a few days ago:--A child of Mr. Edwards, of that place, was baptized by the Rev. Mr. ------ of Norwalk, and named Thomas Gage. This alarmed the neighborhood; and one hundred and seventy young ladies formed themselves into a batallion, and with solemn ceremony appointed a general and the other officers to lead them on. The petticoat army then marched in the greatest good order to pay their compliments to Thomas Gage, and present his mother with a suit of tar and feathers; but Thomas's sire having intelligence of their expedition, vi et armis kept them from entering the house."

News of such character travelled fast among the Tories of western Connecticut, the last two accounts being published in newspapers having a circulation about New York, and it is reasonable to suppose that these or similar stories were recited eventually at Chip-peny Hill firesides. To a man at all ready set in his convictions against Puritanism, in those days when men were "sot," such accounts as these would not tend to alleviate his state of rigidity.

There was a funny side to the American rebellion which could not but appeal to the descendants of cavaliers, and at the risk of forever losing my right to become a member of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, I beg leave to close this chapter with the following extract from a loyalist paper: "Thirteen is a number peculiarly belonging to the rebels. A party of naval prisoners lately returned from New Jersey say that the rations among the rebels are thirteen dried clams per day; that the titular Lord Stirling takes thirteen glasses of grog every morning, has thirteen enormous rum-bunches on his nose, and that (when duly impregnated) he always makes thirteen attempts before he can walk; that Mr. Washington has thirteen toes on his feet (the extra ones having grown since the Declaration of Independence), and the same number of teeth in each jaw; that the Sachem Schuyler has a top knot of thirteen stiff hairs, which erect themselves on the crown of his head when he grows mad; that Old Putnam had thirteen pounds of his posteriors bit off in an encounter with a Connecticut bear ('twas then that he lost the balance of his mind) ; that it takes thirteen Congress paper dollars to equal one penny sterling! that Mrs. Washington had a mottled tom-cat (which she calls in a complimentary way "Hamilton"), with thirteen yellow rings around his tail, and that his flaunting it suggested to the Congress the adoption of the same number of stripes for the rebel flag."

Project Canterbury