Today’s guest poster is Christopher Minty, a PhD candidate at the University of Stirling. His dissertation focuses on Loyalists in New York.
Over the past four years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a group of colonists who would go on to become Loyalists in the American Revolution. My dissertation examines 9,341 future Loyalists during the imperial crisis, 1763–1775, in New York and, essentially, tries to follow their collective paths to either voluntarily signing their name to a declaration, petition and/or subscription list affirming their continued allegiance to the prevailing political order or taking the oath of allegiance.
This public act is what I have referred to as “active Loyalism.” Of course, there were colonists who were “passive Loyalists” who did not make either of these statements, but to identify and account for their attitudes is beyond the purview of my current project. By taking the start of the American Revolution as my endpoint, I then work my way from 1763 to 1775 to look for any patterns or explanations that may explain why these people all signed their names to a document supporting the continuation of British rule.
As I continued to gather source materials relating to these individuals, I then found out if they participated in the opposition movement(s) of the 1760s and early 1770s. Did they participate in the infamous Stamp Act riots of November 1765 where the temporary governor, Cadwallader Colden, was twice burned in effigy and had his carriage burnt to the ground? Were they Sons of Liberty? Did they advocate non-importation and promote its continuation following the partial repeal of the Townshend duties in 1770? By doing this, I found numerous instances when future Loyalists were prominent advocates of opposition to Parliament.
Joseph Allicocke, for instance, was an Irish wine-merchant who became a Loyalist in the American Revolution, but from 1765–1766 he was regularly referred to as “General Allicocke” because he was a prominent member of the Sons of Liberty. Indeed, in mid-November 1765 he wrote to his fellow Liberty Boy, John Lamb, criticizing the behavior of their equivalents in Philadelphia and remarked that he would muster Liberty Boys in New York “with a noble Possy of Jersey Folks” and “Eastern Lads” to relight their “Patriotic Fire.” Allicocke’s command over the Liberty Boys at this stage was so strong that he proudly declared they would quickly “swarm like the Industrious Bees, to assist with Heart and Hand to scourge the base Enemies of our Country and our greatest Darling LIBERTY whensoever or whereforever may happen.”
Under ten years later, Allicocke would be forced to flee New York for attempting to supply British troops with provisions before they reinforced Boston. In addition, in 1783, upon his decision to become one of the Loyalist Diaspora, a French privateer commandeered his ship and he lost nearly everything he owned. What is more, in his compensation claim submitted to the British government, he received numerous statements from New Yorkers affirming his devout allegiance to Parliament and George III. Indeed, one statement from William Smith, Jr., a prominent lawyer in New York who criticized Allicocke in his diary, wrote that he had “never heard his moral Character ill spoken of,” despite knowing him over twenty years.
Allicocke’s experiences during the imperial crisis were not unique. Men such as Frederick Rhinelander, Charles Nicoll, and Evert Bancker, Jr. would all go on to become Loyalists despite having participated in the opposition movement. Bancker, for instance, authored a short account-book in which he inscribed “Cash Account since the 11th June 1776 at the time the Enemy [i.e., the British] was Expected at New York.” Over the coming months and years, after the British entered New York, Bancker would sign every Loyalist declaration he could, take the oath of allegiance on two separate occasions, and claim that he was “uniformly Loyal early in the contest, and . . . took a decidid [sic] part in favour of the Crown”. Other future Loyalists such as William Bayard, Abraham De La Noy, and Amos Underhill would also oppose the repeal of New York’s non-importation agreement in July 1770, arguing that because a duty on tea remained, it should remain in operation. These individuals, moreover, represent a fraction of New Yorkers who had acted against Parliamentary measures but would go on to become Loyalists.
Although some have noticed resistance by future Loyalists during the imperial crisis, few have offered more than a short footnote. Instead, scholarship has tended to focus upon prominent future Patriots—Philip Schuyler, Alexander McDougall, John Lamb, Isaac Sears—and how they influenced or controlled political activism during the imperial crisis. By doing this, it ignores the foot-soldiers of the imperial crisis and implicitly imposes a Whig interpretation of history that conflates resistance with revolution. But this is not the only outcome.
By using colonists political activism during the imperial crisis as the starting point of a journey to Patriotism, Loyalism appears as if it was somehow predetermined. Admittedly, some have documented the participation of future Loyalists in acts of resistance, but none have gone into any degree of depth to account for that participation.
Although my work seeks to improve this perception, I am continually reminded how issues of teleology and anachronism remain a problem. Over the course of my PhD, I have lost count of the number of e-mails and questions I have received looking for a Loyalist interpretation of X, Y, and Z, either for publications or for teaching purposes. Yes, some colonists who became Loyalists would offer a distinct interpretation; yet, if we are to move our historiographical focus away from prominent cases and focus on the vast majority—the people “out of doors”—we need to move beyond the notion that Loyalists, as a group, experienced the crisis differently. It then becomes crucial to remember that prior to 1775 there was no such thing as a “Loyalist,” and a colonist only became a “Loyalist” if he or she engaged in a voluntary act to demonstrate it, such as signing a “declaration of dependence” at a local tavern in November 1776.
I am extremely interested in the thoughts of The Junto readers on Loyalists both prior to and during the American Revolution. Do you share my concerns regarding anachronism and teleology? If so, how do you think we can move beyond it? If not, why not? What of those Loyalists who chose to stay in their local communities after the Revolution? Of course, they were no longer “Loyalists,” but did that mean (or require) that they had somehow emancipated themselves from their former position?
 For instance, see “First Declaration of Dependence,” Y1776, New-York Historical Society; “Second Declaration of Dependence,” Y1776, New-York Historical Society; New-York Gazette: and, the Weekly Mercury, 17 April 1775; Oaths of Allegiance tendered in New York, 28 March 1777, CO 5/1108, ff. 71–101, The National Archives, Kew. Other sources are readily available and references are available on request.
 Joseph Allicocke to John Lamb, 21 November 1765, John Lamb papers, 1762–1779, New-York Historical Society.
 For Allicocke’s claim, see AO 12/24, ff. 355–360; AO 13/63, ff. 50–109, 411, The National Archives, Kew.
“Oaths of Allegiance Tendered by Col. William Axtell in Brooklin [sic],” October 1776, Sir Henry Clinton papers, Vol. 274, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan; “An Alphabetical List…,” CO 5/1108, ff. 71–101, Bancker at f. 73, The National Archives, Kew. He is listed as a merchant; “Cash Account since the 11th June 1776 at the time the Enemy was Expected at New York,” Bancker papers, New-York Historical Society; “Petition by Evert Bancker[, Jr.] to the British Commission on Claims of Loyalists,” Bancker family papers, Box 2, New York Public Library.
 I am aware that some people—Rev. Dr. Myles Cooper, Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury, Jr., and Cadwallader Colden, for instance—were always against the opposition movement and did experience the imperial crisis differently. My work focuses on “ordinary” Loyalists, or the people “out of doors,” and attempts to interpret community behavior and activism on the most local level.
 For instance, Pauline Maier and Joseph Tiedemann both documented Allicocke’s political activism, but focused more on those who would become Patriots. See Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765–1776 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973); Joseph S. Tiedemann, Reluctant Revolutionaries: New York City and the Road to Independence, 1763–1776 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997).
 “Declaration of Dependence,” Y1776, New-York Historical Society.