Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews



The Loyalist Americans: A Focus on Greater New York. Edited by Robert A.

East and Jacob Judd. (Tarrytown: Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1975. xiv +

176p.; illustrations, notes, appendix, index. $12.00.)


Few aspects of life during the colonial era have failed to be singled out and

judged in terms of their importance to the American Revolution, yet important

phases of that event remain inadequately explored. Although the subject of

several recent investigations, Loyalism is a case in point. For this reason books

which shed light on the half-million Americans who opposed separation are a

welcome addition to the literature of the Revolution. Robert East and Jacob

Judd present a volume composed of six essays about Loyalism, five of which

originate from papers delivered at a conference on Loyalists held in Tarrytown,

New York in 1973.

In the first chapter, John Shy discusses the British perception of Loyalism in

the lower Hudson Valley. Shy ponders two questions. With Loyalism so

widespread, might the British have used that segment of colonial population to

pacify a "bankrupt" rebellion? If, as recent research suggests, the American

Revolution was as violently intolerant as the French, how is the quick disap-

pearance of the Tory issue after the War explained? Shy asserts that the British

did try to use the Loyalists. But Loyalism in New York was too varied for

uniform assessments. Thus, Shy finds that New York did not suffer the extremes

of violence during the Revolution because of the manner in which the British

viewed Loyalism at close range. Shy's observations are amplified by Esmond

Wright's essay which concludes the volume. Offering a cross-section of

Loyalism, Wright observes that New York was the most loyal of all the colonies

and explains New York City's Loyalism as "simply a consequence of its

location." Wright identifies location, an interpretation of Locke which required

allegiance to both parliament and king, and a repugnance to the use of force as the

three major strands of Loyalism in that province. With Loyalists more numerous

in New York than elsewhere, why were they militarily of so little value? Wright

suggests that British statesmanship failed to properly assess Loyalism and

misread "the nature of war in the eighteenth century."

Sandwiched between the chapters by Shy and Wright are four essays that

offer views on the Loyalism of widely differing colonials. Catherine Crary

singles out James De Lancey and his Cowboys and asks if they went beyond the

bounds of conventional warfare; were they mere freebooters? She finds the

evidence conflicting, although De Lancey did operate under British military

authority and probably adhered to the laws of war as recognized at that time. As

a consequence, she concludes that the opprobrium heaped upon the Cowboys

was far too harsh. Jacob Judd is also critical of earlier interpretations. Expres-

sing dissatisfaction with the "behavior theory of patterned Loyalist adherence"

he points to Frederick Philipse III as an example of hazards attending classifica-

tion of New Yorkers. Large land owner and esteemed member of the assembly,

Philipse chose the Loyalists' side only when events outside New York finally

produced a Tory party. Nor is Judd able to explain why the Philipse estate was

singled out for such harsh treatment at the hands of the New York revolutionary


William Benton paints an interesting portrait of Peter Van Schaack. A brilliant