Brad A. JonesApr 9, 2021
Popular Loyalism in the Revolutionary British Atlantic
Cornell University Press 2021
The American Revolution has traditionally been presented as one of the thirteen colonies standing up to a tyrannical empire. Not only does this gloss over the involvement of the thousands of American colonists who remained loyal to the British crown, but it also leaves out the response of the colonies who were also affected by British policies yet did not rebel against British rule. In Resisting Independence: Popular Loyalism in the Revolutionary British Atlantic (Cornell University Press, 2021), Brad A. Jones examines four communities in the British Atlantic – New York City, Halifax, Glasgow, and Kingston, Jamaica – to describe how an emergent loyalist culture reacted to the events of the 1760s and 1770s. Jones demonstrates the existence of this common culture by describing the information networks that developed in the British Empire in the 1750s and 1760s, as ships carrying mail and newspapers crisscrossed the Atlantic. The ideology nurtured by this was one that emphasized a British identity grounded in Protestantism and Whig values of political liberty and economic freedom, and fostered a shared outrage to the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765.
Yet while the colonial communities in Halifax and Kingston saw protests similar to those in New York, Jones describes how local conditions inhibited the same degree of overt resistance to the tax’s implementation. By the mid-1770s, these distinctions had created a divergence within the British colonies, as Loyalist writers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean stressed the importance of monarchy and legitimate government over the coerciveness of the non-importation committees set up by the Patriots. The Franco-American alliance in 1778 played into this, invoking the fears of Catholic tyranny that were the counterpoint to Protestant Whiggery that even fueled protests in Britain over Catholic relief laws. Though the rebellious colonies eventually won their independence, Jones sees as one of their legacies a renewed commitment to the king and parliamentary government, one that bound the remaining elements of the empire closer together with a more sharply defined identity.