The American Revolution: Searching for Loyalists Parts 2 & 3

Americans like to remember the American Revolution as a Patriot movement, but are they hostile to the memory and viewpoints of Loyalists? Check out Parts 2 & 3 of my 3-post series: "Searching for Loyalists: Boston Harborfest," which appeared in the Journal of the American Revolution.  

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail"No Tax on Tea! A Colonial Tea Debate” (Part 2)

On Friday July 5, I returned to the Old South Meeting House for the “No Tax on Tea! A Colonial Tea Debate” program. Unlike “Whispers of Revolution: Plotting the Boston Tea Party,” this event invited audience members to “[assume] the role of a Patriot or Loyalist to debate the tax on tea!” A Meeting House docent handed each visitor a blue or yellow piece of paper. The slips contained the name and occupation of a colonial Bostonian and their position on the Tea Act. Blue papers described Patriot positions, yellow pieces Loyalist positions.

A museum educator began the program by setting the scene. On December 16, 1773, Patriots and Loyalists gathered at the Old South Meeting House to debate whether they should unload the cargoes of the three tea ships anchored in Boston Harbor or send them back to England fully loaded. The assembled colonists chose Samuel Savage of Weston, Massachusetts to moderate the meeting. A re-enactor playing Savage ascended the pulpit stairs.

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Tory Stories"Tory Stories" (Part 3)

After attending the “No Tax on Tea!” program at the Old South Meeting House, I walked to nearby King’s Chapel, the first Anglican Church in Massachusetts.[1] The steeple-less, hand-hewn, granite-block church sits on the edge of Boston’s first burial ground. In 1686, Governor Edmund Andros thwarted the Puritans’ refusal to sell land to non-Puritans by using eminent domain to take part of the public burial ground for the construction of King’s Chapel. In 1749, the Chapel’s congregation commissioned Peter Harrison of Newport, Rhode Island to design a new, stone church to replace the wooden chapel Andros built. The church has always been steeple-less, at first because the congregation lacked the funds to build one, and later, because the steeple-less façade had become a defining feature of the church.[2]

During Harborfest, King’s Chapel staff offers “Tory Stories.” The program consists of two female re-enactors; one portrays Baroness Agnes Frankland (née Surriage), the Marblehead, Massachusetts barmaid who married Sir Charles Henry (“Harry”) Frankland, Baronet and the other plays Lady Margaret Gage (née Kemble), wife of Lieutenant-General Thomas Gage.[3] In the 1770s, both women worshipped at King’s Chapel. Together, Ladies Frankland and Gage regaled visitors with tales of the most famous King’s Chapel congregants.

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The American Revolution: Searching for Loyalists Part 1

This week, the Journal of the American Revolution will feature a 3-piece series I wrote on Boston Harborfest, the largest 4th of July celebration in the United States. The topic of the series: the integration of Loyalists into the narrative of the American Revolution. Here's a taste of my first article.

My Quest

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailAs a historian, I am interested in how people understand and interact with the past. I find the question of how present-day Americans relate to the American Revolution and War for Independence particularly fascinating. This curiosity led me to explore the 32nd Annual Boston Harborfest, the largest Fourth of July celebration in the United States.

While thumbing through the festival brochure, I discovered that out of more than 200 activities, only four advertised a discussion of the Revolution with a Loyalist, or Tory, perspective. I found this surprising as the broad scholarly view posits that during the Revolution and War for Independence one third of Americans supported the Patriot cause, one third remained loyal to the Crown, and one third sought to survive as neutrals or disaffected.

Therefore, I decided to visit these scarce Loyalist-related events to better understand their paucity. Did historic organizations in Boston find it difficult to interpret Loyalist viewpoints? Did Loyalist stories prove unpopular among Harborfest attendees? Both? I attended three of these four events in search of answers.[1]


“Whispers of Revolution: Plotting the Boston Tea Party”

Old South Meeting House.jpgOn Tuesday July 2, I attended “Whispers of Revolution: Plotting the Boston Tea Party” at the Old South Meeting House. Faneuil Hall hosted most public meetings in colonial Boston, but when the crowd outgrew its hall they repaired to the Meeting House.

On December 16, 1773, over 5,000 people gathered in and around the Meeting House to discuss whether or not to send the three “tea ships” back to England with their cargoes.[2] The education staff at Old South Meeting House sought to express the sentiments that led to that meeting in their “Whispers of Revolution” program.

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