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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter IV. Treatment of the Loyalists During the War

From the very beginning the Loyalists were looked upon with the disfavor with which evildoers always regard those who do not approve of their actions. They were the objects of suspicion. All their movements were watched. They were even forbidden the ancient British right of public meeting and the freedom of the press, and were liable to arrest and imprisonment at any moment, without the right of habeas corpus.

The Declaration of Independence forced the choice of either one side or the other. Previously both parties had been, nominally at least, at one in their allegiance to the British Crown; but now it was open war and no neutrality. In many states Congress gave the legislative, executive and judicial powers over to committees, who often improperly used their authority under the specious veil of patriotism. These dealt at pleasure with the rights and liberties, and even lives, of the hated “Tories.” To crush liberty of speech and opinion, to reduce the Loyalists to the position of slaves or proscribed aliens, under penalties of imprisonment, banishment, and even death, was a slartling contradiction to their high-sounding declaration, “All men are born free and equal.” The Loyalists were exposed to all sorts of indignities and to wanton insult, such as being tarred and feathered, their cattle were sometimes horribly mutilated, their barns burned, and neither life nor property was safe. The rule of the mob was dominant. A letter from John Adams, then at Amsterdam, in 1780, to the Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts, says, “I think their (the Loyalists’) career might have been stopped if the executive officers had not been so timid in a point which I strenuously recommended from the first, namely, to fine, imprison and hang all inimical to the cause, without favor or affection. I would have hanged my own brother if he had taken part with the enemy in the contest.”: This advice of Adams was followed by Lieutenant-Governor Cushing, and many instances are on record of unjust and cruel persecution.

Bodies of vagabonds roamed about the state, destroying the property of the Loyalists, imprisoning the suspected, and seizing the goods of those unable to defend themselves. A nefarious band dubbed themselves “Sons of Liberty,” and carried bloodshed and rapine to peaceful homes. Their victims were the women and children, the aged and defenceless. Their favorite pastime was the burning of the homes of the Loyalists. Often the houses were set on fire in the middle of winter and the occupants forced to take shelter in the woods, and every door being shut against them, some were frozen to death. Frequently torture of various kinds was resorted to, in order to make the victims tell where their money or valuables were concealed, or their dear ones in hiding. The family of Maby, which came to Long Point, suffered grievously, as will be told in a subsequent chapter. There is nothing more pathetic than the story of this unceasing and determined persecution.

Nor were other states very far behind Massachusetts in point of unpunished lawlessness. The blood of the murdered cried from the ground unceasingly for vengeance. The governments of the different states winked at, if they did not sanction, this terrible ill-treatment of the Loyalists. All trod the blood-stained path of cruelty, and the pen of anguish writes its history.

The Convention of the State of New York in 1776 enacted that any person, being an adherent of the king of Great Britain, should be guilty of treason and should suffer death. But this enactment of the Legislature seems to have been too extreme, and was not carried out in its entirety, the Loyalists for the most part being given an opportunity to quit the country. However, in all the states there was a vast amount of lawlessness by organized mobs, who had at least the passive sanction of the executive councils. The saying became common among these bands of “Loggers and Sawyers,” that “The Lord commanded us to forgive our enemies, but said nothing about forgiving our friends.” This went on so far that the State of North Carolina, in 1780, passed a law to put a stop to the robbery of people under the pretence that they were Tories, “a practice carried on even to the plundering of their clothes and household furniture.” In New York State this rage for plundering grew so strong that it demoralized the American army, and affected even the officers, who. from first opposing it, came to take afterwards an active share in despoiling Loyalist homes.

“We hold,” says the Declaration of Independence, “these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And yet, in the same year in which that precious document was promulgated, the State of New York passed an Act whereby severe penalties were pronounced on all adherents of the king. This, then, was the liberty they allowed their opponents. They had one gospel for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. It matters so much whose ox falls into the ditch.

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