Historians estimate that between a quarter and a third of Americans maintained their loyalty to the British crown during the Revolution. Of course, loyalists had more freedom to express their views and openly support the British in areas under British control. The following tract was published in New York, which had been under British control since 1776. What is the general point the writer is trying to make? What arguments does the writer use?
NEW-YORK, November 28.
(From Rivington's Royal Gazette.)
It is scarcely possible to conceive of a more impudent and cruel insult upon humanity, than the order of the Congress for the celebration of a festival, after bringing their country to the very edge of the precipice of utter destruction.
It is impudent to assign as a motive of rejoicing, what the meanest understanding must ascribe to Great-Britain's disinclination to prosecute the war as a foreign one, instead of a chastisement of subjects rebellious indeed, but not yet given up as irreclaimable. And what cruelty greater, than to provoke her to depart from this distinction, and proceed in future with a studied severity, for rendering them as incapable of mischief, as the Congress declare them to be inimical and obstinate?
Can there be a zealot for prolonging these unnatural contentions, who will deny the power of Great-Britain to make weekly descents upon a naked and unfortified country, and to spread all the desolations which the laws of war would justify, against the subjects, cities, towns, harbours, shipping, mills, houses and territories of a separate and foreign nation? Nay, is there nothing to be credited to the generosity of the British army for abstaining from that waste of the farms and property of the implacable and unrelenting rebel, who may be found at this late day in councils or in arms? What tongue can describe the tragical scenes that would present themselves to the eye of compassion, the moment Great-Britain gives command for no further forbearance on the inland or sea coast frontiers, but to increase by all possible endeavours, the general burden of distress and affliction?--May God of his infinite mercy prevent them, by a speedy reconciliation between contending brethren?
How then shall we find a name for the spirit which in dictating the edict for the congressional thanksgiving, prompts to this mode of conducting the war by insinuating a censure on the measures hitherto pursued?
After recounting the intermedling of France in this quarrel between the parent and her children, as one instance of the signal interposition of heaven in their favour, another is assigned to be, In confounding the councils of our enemies, and suffering them to pursue such measures, as have most directly contributed to frustrate their own desires and expectations. Above all, in making their extreme cruelty to the inhabitants of these states, when in their power, and their savage devastations of property, the very means of cementing our union, and adding vigor to every effort in opposition to them.
But perhaps this paragraph had its origin in the dread, that Great-Britain might at last be driven to compel America to make preference of a happy re-union to an unprofitable separation, by a warfare that will be ruinous to the projects of the leaders from the revolt of their partizans; and that to state it, was the real design of this apparent stimulation to the fervour of devotion, if possible to prolong the war [and increase] their profits by the common calamities.
In this case, the people of America, and even the advocates for independent whiggism, unless they are sharers of the plunders of the Congress, owe no thanks to their high mightinesses, for suggesting measures that cannot be viewed, even in distant prospect, without horror, except by eyes from which nothing can draw a tear. And yet it seems, for the benefits that have flowed from their past losses and sufferings, the Americans are commanded to rejoice! Obdurate hypocrites! forbear to pervert the genuine devotions of grateful piety to your barbarous and destructive policy: And tell me, whether yourselves have not, by this very proclamation, furnished evidence of the interposition of Divine Providence, for the confounding of your own wicked councils. Cease from your delusions before they are made manifest to your fellow-citizens, in one general indiscriminate conflagration, from which even you may find it difficult to escape, with all the spoils you have amassed in a more lenient and dilatory, but consuming war. Vaunt no longer of a French triumph in your country, which instead of adding to, has exhausted her wealth, by increasing her debt; and rendered every thing dear to a people, the easier prey to a rapacious army, and an insidious popish ally, whose interest leads him to hold the advantages he already has by your weakness, and whose long practised arts enable him to cheat you, and the miserable people trusting in your untutored skill, out of that peace, liberty, and safety, which are only to be gained by a return to that fold, from which like silly sheep they have strayed. And let the present miseries of your country teach you, what the history of your ancestors, in the long wished for restoration that closed the civil wars of the last century, should have taught you, that an Englishman can never be happy under any other government but his own: and that the longer he is separated from it, the more intolerable his anxieties, and the keener his resentments at last against the authors of the innovations from which they naturally flow.