THE WANING OF TORYISM
THE execution of Moses Dunbar in March 1777, did much to dampen the ardor of the loyalist cause in Connecticut. But the raid on Danbury and the drunken debauch of Tryon's men, followed by the consignment of the town to flames, in April of the same year, injured it still more, and, in fact, hastened a crisis. Dr. Strong's sermon had been published and very widely read. Washington had withdrawn from New York and was encamped for the winter at Morristown, New Jersey, and while the best men of Connecticut were away with the army, the Tories guided the British to Danbury; but escaped the destruction that followed, by marking a white cross upon their doors; and they remained comfortable in their houses, while old men and women, and children gathering what scanty clothing they could, and shunning the soldiers, ran, crawled, or were carried upon their beds, into lonely lanes, damp pastures and leafless woods. Feeling ran to fever heat. Sympathizers of England were arrested on the spot.
The excitement was not long in making itself felt on Chippeny Hill. "Last Friday," says a volunteer correspondent to the Connecticut Courant, "fifteen prisoners taken to Danbury were brought to this town and delivered to the care of the Committee. Same day seventeen tories belonging to New Cambridge, a society in Farmington, were taken up and committed to gaol in this place. They are a pack of fellows who were connected with the late Moses Dunbar, whose infamous end is well known; some of them had actually engaged to serve under him in the ministerial army. The gentlemen, by whose authority they were apprehended, gave them free liberty to go over to the enemy, but they rather chose to accept of their present confinement, where they remain for trial at the next Superior Court for High Treason against the State."
What thoughts our seventeen friends of the Hill must have had as they awaited their fate at Hartford, we can not say. There is a poem, which, in view of later events, I surmise may have expressed their ideas. It is a parody entitled:
"The Pausing American Loyalist."
"To sign or not to sign? That is the question,
Whether 'twere better for an honest man
To sign, and so be safe; or to resolve,
Betide what will, against associations,
And, by retreating, shun them. To fly--I reck
Not where; and by that flight, t'escape
Feathers and tar, and thousand other ills
That loyalty is heir to: 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To fly--to want--
To want? Perchance to starve: Ay there's the rub!
For in that chance of want, what ills may come
To patriot rage, when I have left my all--
Must give me pause:--There's the respect
That makes us trim, and bow to men we hate.
Who would bend to fools,
And truckle thus to mad, mob-chosen upstarts, But that the dread of something after flight (In that blest country, where, yet, no moneyless Poor wight can live) puzzles the will, And makes ten thousands rather sign--and eat Than fly--to starve on loyalty-- Thus dread of want makes rebels of us all."
The following quotation from the public records of Connecticut continues the history of the seventeen men from New Cambridge:
"On report of the committee appointed by this Assembly to take into consideration the subject matter of the memorial of Nathl Jones, Simon Tuttle, Joel Tuttle, Nathaniel Matthews, John Matthews, Riverius Carrington, Lemuel Carrington, Zerubbabel Jerom junr, Chauncey Jerom, Ezra Dormer, Nehemiah Royce, George Beckwith, Abel Frisbee, Levi Frisbey, Jared Peck, and Abraham Waters, all of Farmington, shewing that they are imprisoned on suspicion of their being inimical to America; that they are ready and willing to join with their country and to do their utmost for its defense; and praying to be examined and set at liberty, as per said memorial on file, reporting that the said committee caused the authority &c of Farmington to be duly notifyed, that they convened the memorialists before them at the house of Mr. David Bull on the 22nd of May, instant, and examined them separately touching their unfriendliness to the American States, and heard the evidences produced by the parties; that they found said persons were committed for being highly inimical to the United States, and for refusing to assist in the defence of the country; that on examination it appeared that they had been much under the influence of one Nichols, a designing church clergyman who has instilled into them principles opposite to the good of the States; that under the influence of such principles they had pursued a course of conduct tending to the ruin of the country and highly displeasing to those who are friends to the freedom and independence of the United States; that under various pretences they had refused to go in the expedition to Danbury; that said Nathaniel Jones and Simon Tuttle have as they suppose each of them a son gone over to the enemy; that there was, however, no particular positive fact that sufficiently appeared to have been committed by them of an atrocious nature against the States, and that they 'were indeed grossly ignorant of the true grounds of the present war with Great Britain; that they appeared to be penitent of their former conduct, professed themselves convinced since the Danbury alarm that there was no such thing as remaining neuters; that the destruction made by the tories was matter of conviction to them,; that since their imprisonment upon serious reflection they are convinced that the States are right in their claim, and that it is their duty to submit to authority, and that they will to the utmost of their power defend the country against the British army; and that the said committee think it advisable that the said persons be liberated from their imprisonment on their taking an oath of fidelity to the United States: RESOLVED by this Assembly, that the said persons be liberated from their said imprisonment on their taking an oath of fidelity to this State and paying costs, at £22 7 10; and that the keeper of the gaol in Hartford is hereby directed to liberate said persons accordingly."
Whatever were the feelings of those on Chippeny Hill, outward manifestations of their loyalty were peremptorily checked.
"Thus dread of want makes rebels of us all."