“Loyalist Trails” 2008-48: December 28, 2008

In this issue:
Executed Loyalists I: Two Quakers — © Stephen Davidson
National Portrait Gallery of Canada Petition
The Canadian Museum For Human Rights
Anglo-Celtic Connections; A Blog by John Reid
Additions to the Loyalist Directory
Editor’s Note: Happy New Year
      + Response re Black Powder Club and The Loyalist Cup


Executed Loyalists I: Two Quakers — © Stephen Davidson

Not all loyalists who died during the American Revolution lost their lives on battlefields defending the Thirteen Colonies against rebels. Many died at the hands of the patriots’ judicial system. This article is the first of a three-part series to look at the stories of loyalists who were hanged during the American Revolution. Each of the three executions had far reaching consequences.

At the beginning of the War of Independence, the largest city in the Thirteen Colonies was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The British army occupied it in 1777, and a large number of loyal colonists made it their home. However, property damage and opulent lifestyles did not endear the British troops to its citizens. The rebels’ day of vengeance came in June of 1778, when a new military strategy required the king’s forces to abandon Philadelphia for New York City. When the patriots reestablished control of the City of Brotherly Love, they were quick to accuse Philadelphia’s remaining loyal citizens of being “collaborators with the enemy”.

Anxious to punish loyalist sympathizers, the rebel courts convicted two men of treason and made plans to hang them as a warning to others. Both men were elderly; both were members of the Quaker faith, a denomination renowned for its pacifist principles and its support of abolition. Nevertheless, Joseph Reed, a leading Pennsylvanian patriot, described the two Quakers as “a crafty and designing set of men” and called for “a speedy execution for both animals.”

On September 25, 1778 Abraham Carlisle stood before the Philadelphia court charged with collaboration. He had been a prosperous carpenter who, during the British occupation, was a guard at the city’s gates. He was accused of receiving a commission from the British, but no written evidence could be found. After deliberating for 24 hours, the jury found Carlisle guilty of treason. His case was taken to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, but the verdict was not overturned. The State Executive Council, which could have commuted Carlisle’s sentence, turned down the many appeals made on his behalf. Though just as guilty of “unpatriotic acts” as many other loyalists, Carlisle was only one of two men who were actually hanged for treason in Philadelphia.

The other loyalist was John Roberts. He stood trial on September 30, 1778. This 60-year-old father of 10 children was a prosperous Quaker. He owned a gristmill, a sawmill and a paper mill as well as 420 acres of land in Lower Merion. Because of his loyalist principles, he was forced to flee to Philadelphia, leaving his family behind. During the year that the British occupied Philadelphia, Roberts sold them provisions and guided foraging raids in the nearby countryside. Although he raised a cavalry troop for the British, Roberts demonstrated his pacifist principles by helping rebel prisoners that were held by the occupying army.

After the British abandoned Philadelphia, Roberts, along with a great number of other loyalists, was ordered to surrender himself to the authorities. Roberts obeyed the law and was soon charged with “waging cruel war against this Commonwealth”. Ten of the jurors thought the Quaker should be acquitted and only agreed to charge him with treason if they could request that he receive a pardon. They felt that he had acted “under the influence of fear when he took the impudent step of leaving his family and joining the enemy”. Nevertheless, Roberts was sentenced to be hanged.

His wife and 10 children went on their knees before Congress; more than 1,000 civic, religious, and military leaders signed a petition for mercy, and appeals were made to the Supreme Court and the State Executive Council. However, both John Roberts and Abraham Carlisle were sentenced to be hanged on November 4, 1778.

On that Wednesday morning, the two elderly loyalists were marched to the gallows with halters around their necks. Roberts spoke to the crowd that had gathered for the execution. He said that his conscience acquitted him of guilt, that he had done his duty for his king, and “that his blood would one day be required at their hands”. He charged his children to remember the principles for which he had died and to stay true to them as long as they lived. The two Quaker loyalists were then hanged.

The execution of these men did little to convince the loyalists of Pennsylvania to join the patriot cause, but it was –perhaps– a turning point in the life of Benedict Arnold. The rebel general felt that the hangings were a heavy-handed action. As a gesture of protest, Arnold gave a public reception on the night before Roberts and Carisle’s executions, inviting leading loyalists and Quakers.

This rankled the more radical patriots who wrote letters to General Washington complaining that Arnold was siding with the enemy. The opulent lifestyle of loyalists and Quakers during the occupation of Philadelphia offended the more revolutionary elements within the rebel movement, and they saw Arnold’s reception as evidence that he, too, was simply another elitist aristocrat. Other rebel Americans, however, admired Arnold’s tact.

These calmer voices were soon drowned out by the vicious attacks that Joseph Reed made on Arnold, who went so far as to demand that the general be removed from command in Pennsylvania. By the spring of 1779, many loyalists were denouncing Arnold’s opponents for their shameful treatment of the general. The political infighting was beginning to wear on Arnold, and during that same spring, he began to put out feelers to see if the British would be interested in his services.

How might history have been altered if John Roberts and Abraham Carlisle had been given fair trials? Perhaps the two loyalist Quakers would have derived some small satisfaction if they knew that their unjust hangings were the thin edge of the wedge that would eventually divide one of the revolution’s most capable generals from the cause for which he had fought.

To secure permission to reprint this article contact the author at {stephendavids AT gmail DOT com} how do I email him?

National Portrait Gallery of Canada Petition

As a result of the article (with Hugh MacMillan), the Vancouver Branch has written a petition in support of establishing a Portrait Gallery of Canada. We favoured a written petition with signatures as we know not all members use the internet.

As one branch, we would like to challenge all the other branches to get their members to sign a similar petition and mail it to:

Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein

The Senate of Canada

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4

A collective effort from across Canada would raise the awareness of the UELAC and give us a voice in issues of Canadian historical concern.

Our petition reads as follows:

We are one of 29 Branches of the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada. Our ancestors include Loyalists, the men and women who remained true to England when the colonies rebelled during the American Revolutionary War.

We are stewards of Canadian history. The creation of a national portrait gallery is a step to help preserve Canadian history. As such, We, the undersigned, support your efforts to create a national portrait gallery. We will also be encouraging all of our 2,600 members to forward similar petitions to your office.

Name; Address; Phone Number; Signature

…Wendy Cosby, UE, President, UELAC Vancouver Branch

The Canadian Museum For Human Rights

Canada’s newest national museum is underway. Although a physical building is not scheduled to open until 2012, the museum’s activities have already begun. The web site is now live and the first exhibit is on display. Titled “A Canadian and The Words that Changed the World”, the exhibit is in honour of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Visit the web site and enjoy the exhibit.

…Margaret Carter UE, Manitoba Branch

Anglo-Celtic Connections; A Blog by John Reid

John D. Reid runs a blog with genealogy and related news and views with a British-Canadian perspective from Ottawa, Canada’s Capital for more than 150 years. A couple of months ago John noted: One of my regular stops is the list of new items posted by Ancestry. Most often these are digitized books. Those with United Empire Loyalist interests might want to check for items on Ancestry – these were noted in mid-summer.:

United Empire Loyalists, Enquiry into the Losses and Services in Consequence of their Loyalty, by Alexander Fraser, Parts I and II

The Old United Empire Loyalists List by Milton Rubicam

(Both are publications of the Genealogical Publishing Company).

The List notes items posted in the last 60 days, with some five or six being posted each day. One must have a paid membership to see the actual books, although ancestry is available at some libraries, including the City of Toronto libraries.

…Nancy Conn

Additions to the Loyalist Directory

As time permits, we add information to the Loyalist Directory. The latest additions are:
– Donald McMillan by Brian Stanger (with certificate application)
– Sara Kast McGinnis by Marvin W. Millis
– John and Martha ( Brown) Dennis and Henry Dennis by Holly Adams
– John McLaney by Holly Adams
– Dr. Robert Kerr by Joan Lucas
– David Breakenridge by Diane Brown

Editor’s Note: Happy New Year

As editor, but not contributor, to Loyalist Trails, I wish to thank all of you who have contributed to Loyalist Trails, with items many or few, big or small. It was a good year, with a lot of good content. I would specially like to thank Stephen Davidson for his weekly wonderful articles which have brought many different insights into aspects of the Rev. War and the Loyalist refugees which I would never have explored. Also special thanks to Fred Hayward who has not only contributed many articles himself, but has done a wonderful job of introducing Loyalist Trails to others, and coaxing them to contribute.

Finally, thanks to all of the others among you who have contributed items or submitted queries. It is your collective interest, along with that of our subscribers, now well over one thousand, which keeps the newsletter going.

Along with good wishes for a Happy New Year and for health and prosperity throughout 2009, may I wish that many more of you will find a little time to send an item for Loyalist Trails, or some details about a Loyalist Family for our Loyalist Directory.



Response re Black Powder Club and The Loyalist Cup

Last July (“Loyalist Trails” 2008-27: July 6, 2008), Judy Sholz of the Chilliwack Branch wrote: “my husband and I belong to the Chilliwack Blackpowder shooting club. I was given a page from The Loyalist Gazette Spring, 1976 pg. 11. It mentions a Black Powder Rifle Match that was held in Ottawa, Ontario Sun. Aug. 8, 1976. The winner was presented with The Loyalist Cup…. My question is, out of curiosity, does this competition still go on? Where might The Loyalist Cup be found now? Any related information would be appreciated.”

To date there has been no response from the readers of Loyalist Trails.

However in September, while attending the Pacific Region Mini-conference in Chilliwack Judy raised the question of the Loyalist Cup once more after teaching me the fine art of shooting a “black powder” rifle.

The key to the question rested on contacting the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association. The article “Black Powder at the Canadian Championships” indicates a decline in participation. However, the DCRA office indicates that the Loyalist Cup is still being awarded. In fact, two years after Major D. Holmes donated the cup, he donated a second and identical trophy called the Ranger Cup. The DCRA has also indicated a third trophy had been presented back in 1913 by Lieutenant Colonel William Hamilton Merrit. While all three are used in rifle competitions only the Loyalist Cup and Ranger Cup are presented in Black Powder competitions.

The Dominion of Canada Rifle Association has provided pictures, descriptions and history for each of the awards. The full resource will be posted to the Monuments and Commemoratives section at a later date.

…F.H. Hayward