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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter V. Legislative Enactments for the Punishment of the Loyalists

Both during and after the war the legislatures of the different states passed Acts for the punishment of the Loyalists and the confiscation of their property. In spite of the recommendations of Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the Treaty of Paris, there was no mercy shown to those who had joined the king’s army or who sympathized with the Royal cause.

New York, on the 12th of May, 1784, passed an Act for the speedy sale of the confiscated and forfeited estates. The county committees were authorized to apprehend and decide upon the guilt of such inhabitants as had been in correspondence with the enemy, and punish those whom they adjudged to be guilty with imprisonment or banishment.

Delaware enacted that the property, real and personal, of forty-six persons should be forfeited to the state unless they gave themselves up to trial for the crime of treason in adhering to the Royal cause.

Rhode Island announced the penalties of death and confiscation of property on any person who communicated with the Ministry or their agents, or who afforded supplies to the forces or piloted the armed ships of the king.

New Hampshire confiscated the estates of twenty-eight of her former citizens and banished seventy-six.

In Connecticut, to speak or write against the doings of Congress or the State Legislature was punished by imprisonment and disqualification for office. The property of those who sought Royal protection was seized and confiscated. To give the king’s army or vessels any assistance, whether by information or provisions, was punished by forfeiture of estate and imprisonment for three years.

Virginia and Pennsylvania proscribed certain persons, and enacted that their property should be sold and the proceeds go into the public treasury.

In New Jersey traitors were punished by imprisonment and confiscation of property. If the prisoner were a “traitor” of repute, he might be hanged for treason on the judgment of the Executive Council, and the estates of all refugees were declared confiscate.

Maryland.—The estates and property of all persons who preserved their allegiance to the British Crown were declared forfeit, and commissioners appointed to carry out the terms of the statutes.

Georgia.—"Augusta, State of Georgia, 4th May, 1782. Be it enacted by the representatives and freemen of the State of Georgia in general assembly met, that all and each of the following two hundred and eighty-six persons be, and are hereby declared to be, banished from this state for ever, and if any of the aforesaid shall remain in this state sixty days after the passing of this Act, they are to be apprehended and committed to jail without bail and main prize, until such time as a convenient opportunity shall occur for their transportation beyond the seas; and if the}r shall hereafter return they shall be adjudged and are hereby declared to be guilty of felony, and shall on conviction of their having so returned as aforesaid, suffer death without the benefit of clergy, . . . and be it further enacted, that all their property, real and personal, be confiscated to, and for the benefit of, this state; . . . and whereas there are various persons subjects of the king of Great Britain, possessed of or entitled to estates, which justice and sound policy require should be applied to the benefit of this state, be it therefore enacted that all and singular, their estates, real and personal, of whatever kind or nature . . . be confiscated, to and for the use and benefit of this state,. . . and the commissioners appointed are hereby given full power and authority for the carrying into effect of these regulations.”

In South Carolina forty-five persons who had offended the least were simply amerced ten per cent, of the value of their estates, sixty-three were banished and their property confiscated for affixing their names to a petition to be armed on the Royal side, eighty suffered the same penalty for holding civil or military commissions under the Crown, and twelve others for the sole reason that they were “obnoxious.”

In North Carolina the property of sixty-five individuals and four mercantile firms was confiscated.

Massachusetts took the lead in severity. A person suspected of enmity to the Whig cause could be arrested under a magistrate’s warrant and banished, unless he would take the new oath of allegiance. In another Act three hundred and eighty of her people, who had fled from their homes, were designated by name, and in the event of return were threatened with apprehension, imprisonment and transportation to a place possessed by the British, and for a second voluntary return, death without the benefit of clergy.

By another Act the property of twenty-nine “notorious conspirators” was declared confiscated, of whom there were two governors, one lieutenant-governor, one treasurer, one chief justice, one attorney-general and four commissioners of Customs.

Congress itself, by several Acts, subjected to martial law and to death all who should furnish provisions and certain other articles to the king’s troops in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and enacted that all Loyalists taken in arms be sent to the states to which they belonged, there to be dealt with as traitors.

These Acts may well be compared to the scandalous confiscations of Marius and Sulla in the later days of the Roman Republic. That the refusal to take the oath of allegiance should be declared to be treason, or neutrality a crime, will always remain an everlasting monument to the injustice and tyranny of the legislatures of the various states of the union. No modern civilized nation, unless it be Spain in the courts of the inquisition, or the French Republic in its earliest days, has presented such a spectacle of wholesale and undeserved confiscation of the property of those who were guilty of no crime, except that of loyalty to their king.

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