Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do You Want To Study Loyalists?

If your answer to this question is "yes," then you should read Christopher Minty's latest post at Borealia.  It is a nice essay on using petition and oaths of allegiance to King George III for studying those who stayed loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution.  

Here is a taste:

Writing in Libertys Exiles, Maya Jasanoff argued that the Loyalist Claims Commission was a useful—perhaps the most useful—source available for scholars working on loyalists. They are indeed useful, offering thousands of biographical snippets of a wide range of individuals. Most scholars have used the claims, in some capacity.
But, alongside the claims, there are other sources out there that offer a different, less biased insight into loyalists during the American Revolution. In this post, after a brief discussion of “signing” prior to 1776 and with a particular focus on New York, I will discuss the historical uses of loyalist petitions and oaths of allegiance to King George III.
It doesn’t take long to sign a piece of paper. A flick of the pen. A transitory introduction of ink with paper, forever etching a combination of letters together with a contract, an idea, or a statement. Even though it didn’t take long, there could be long-term consequences for signing a piece of paper. Indeed, once a name hit the page, the cloud of anonymity was lifted. Political views could no longer be hidden from view.
Prior to and during the American Revolution, signing subscription lists or petitions was an important barometer of an individual’s or a group’s political persuasion(s). On multiple occasions, between 1765 and 1776, the difference between a “signer” and a “non-signer” were significant; it often marked the distinction between those who were “for” something and those who were “against” something.