Review Corner: “Revolutionary Versus Loyalist”

26 Sep

Revolutionary Versus Loyalist. Edited by Leslie F. S. Upton. Blaisdell Publishing Company: A Division of Ginn and Company. Toronto. 1968. Pp. xiii. 157.

 Reviewed by Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            Revolutionary Versus Loyalist edited by Leslie F.S. Upton is a book that dives into the first civil dispute between Loyalist (Tories) and Revolutionary (Patriots) within Colonial America. This book is a collection of primary journal, articles, and letters written by Loyalist and Patriots about the political and social crisis in Colonial America. The editor, Upton compiled numerous primary sources of Tories and Patriots writings in order to recollect on their psychological, political, emotional, and economical responses during the Revolutionary Era.

            This book was published in part of ‘The Primary Sources in American History Series’ which provides historians with primary materials n the form of pamphlets, memoirs, and newspapers accounts written during or shortly after major historical events. These documents up till now buried in libraries and archives are more often unavailable. The thesis of this book is to explore the cost of allegiance that became the dividing factor between the Loyalist and Patriots society which set both factions on a collision course in Colonial America. It also explores key individuals in coping to the evolving political chaos during and after the American Revolution.

            The book begins with Jonathan Sewall and Jonathan Boucher articles on the Revolutionaries within the Colonies. As the book progresses it covers articles from authors like Alexander Hamilton about the Colonist right for economic and political freedom to loyal reaffirmation by Samuel Seabury who calls for patience and trust in the British administration. Upton’s analysis of the separation of two different groups was the failure of either side to listen and compromise from the very start of the political crisis (Chaps 1-3). It also elaborates on the inability of the Loyalist to judge the situation coherently because of their ties to the British Crown.

            Then in the middle of this book the editor, Upton discusses on the political stance made by both the Loyalist and Patriots (Chaps 4-6). Upton used articles from authors like William Smith, Thomas Paine, and others to illustrate the principles of common sense versus true interest. The analytical notion of keeping the old guard was considered treason by the Patriots. Loyalists would align themselves with the British in order to preserve the sense of security and its economical interest. The book also touches on the tic for tack principle that both sides uses to gained the upper hand over the other.

            Finally, this book focuses on the reconciliation of Loyalist by the newly Independent American government. Upton analyses the difficulty by Patriots in accepting Loyalist into the new American society (Chapter 7). The problems were in returning the confiscated real estate and businesses. The book elaborates on the issues and troubles faced by Loyalist with an extensive articles written by Nathaniel Whitaker and Aedanus Bruke to the Treaty of Paris (1783). Most Loyalist decided instead of winning the trust of their fellow Patriots decided to move to Canada, Caribbean or England with the exception of a few like Samuel Seabury.

            Upton’s book is based on valuable primary source material which was written by Colonial authors like Jonathan Sewall, Thomas Paine, Jonathan Boucher, Daniel Leonard, and Alexander Hamilton. The strength of this book is in the narration of the authors that share their personal insights on the chaotic political environment of the American Colonies. However it does not contain an index, notes, reference or a bibliography section but it contains a cited notation after every primary article used in this book. This is helpful for the reader to do further research by examining the issue of personal allegiances during the Revolutionary Era.

            Revolutionary Versus Loyalist offers information on individuals struggling between King and Colony in what could be considered the first civil war. It portrays Loyalist and Patriots communities locked between self-preservation and justified principles that created a rupture within an Independent America. This book is useful in examining and answering some of today’s tough questions on the contributing factors for a civil war. I recommend this book as a great primary source of reference for American historians, students of history, and enthusiast in general.


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