Decision Activity: Loyalists in New Jersey

Decision-Making Activity: Loyalists in New Jersey

Middlesex County, 1776

In June of 1776, tensions between loyalists to the Crown and American patriots were reaching a fever pitch. It is time to choose sides.

You are a patriot living in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. You and your family make a living by selling the manufactured goods that come off the ships at port. Your son is in the Continental Army. You have learned that your next door neighbor is a loyalist sympathizer!

Sergeants Newton and Jasper of Marion’s Brigade, Rescuing American prisoners from a British guard

Do you…
Write to your son and inform him of the potential danger in your midst?Allow your neighbor to continue to live in town, even if it poses a potential risk to the patriot cause?

Loyalists in a patriot-controlled town such as Perth Amboy can be dangerous as they can report on the Continental Army’s movements to the enemy or sabotage the town from within, sometimes even by disrupting the economy with counterfeit bills.

Captured loyalists or suspected loyalists were subjected to imprisonment and confiscation of their lands and belongings.

If you choose to report your neighbor, he is arrested within the week and sent to a prison to await trial. You have heard rumors of the conditions within different prisons and prison ships, and they are all unhygienic, inhospitable, and crowded as Congress has not deemed emptying them a high priority.If you chose not to report your neighbor, your town and the army that your son fights for are at risk of top-secret information reaching the British. Additionally, since you did not report a loyalist, if your neighbor is ever found out, your own loyalty might also be called into question.
Quote to consider:   Some high-profile prisoners were offered the opportunity to sign an Oath of Allegiance and effectively switch sides in the war. It is important to remember, though, that a prisoner may have been risking not only their own safety but also the safety of their loved ones by refusing to sign oaths of allegiance to their captors. One prisoner, Rawlins Lowndes, former governor of South Carolina, states that soldiers, “harassed his wife, seized his slaves, horses, and poultry,” and felt he “had little choice but to submit.” (Lurie, 69)Quote to consider:   Even neutrality was suspicious. Due to their religious beliefs, Quakers were barred from “swearing loyalty, offering aid, using its money, [or] printing its newspapers or documents” to assist either side of a war. (Lurie, 110) As a result, their non-Quaker neighbors were often suspicious that Quakers were secretly loyalists and therefore, guilty of treachery. Simply stated, “Neutrality helped the enemy. When Quakers were suspected of loyalism their property could be seized, they could be fined, imprisoned, exiled, and in a few rare cases executed.” (Lurie, 111)
Your Choices:Your Choices:
Loyalists’ properties and possessions were typically confiscated and sold to benefit the patriot cause. How could this have motivated you to turn your neighbor in?   How will you attempt to do right by your neighbor and ensure that they are treated well by the Continental Army?   Towns were sometimes raided and townspeople kidnapped to be used in prisoner exchanges. How can you ensure that someone will not try to kidnap a patriot from your town to use as a trade for your loyalist neighbor?   What would you do if your neighbor had proof that they were a patriot just like you?   Do you think the Army is likely to arrest someone without evidence? Why or why not?What could you do to prove your loyalty to the Revolutionary cause and avoid being arrested yourself if it is revealed that you knew that your neighbor was a loyalist and you did not turn them over?   How have the reports of conditions within prisons during the Revolutionary War swayed your choice?   What can you do to ensure that Perth Amboy is still safe, even with a loyalist sympathizer in town?   What would you do if your son comes home for a visit and asks about the family next door?   You learn that ahead of major attacks on British-held Long Island later this summer, General George Washington will be coming to town. Does this change your decision?  

Additional sources to consider:

Oath of Allegiance (Lurie, p.81)

Interior of Jersey (Darley and Bookhaut)

Sources linked or cited in activity above

Taking Sides in Revolutionary New Jersey: Caught in the Crossfire, by Maxine N. Lurie, 2022.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s