“Loyalist Trails” 2011-09: March 6, 2011

In this issue:
Did a Loyalist Write the American Constitution? — © Stephen Davidson
Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie
Running Gunpowder in Bermuda
Canada’s National Tartan Day on April 6
War of 1812 Major John Richardson’s “A Canadian Campaign” Reprinted


Did a Loyalist Write the American Constitution? — © Stephen Davidson

William Smith was not your typical loyalist refugee. He graduated from Yale at the age of 17 and within five years was an attorney in the city of New York. Smith was not yet 30 when he began to write a history of New York. At thirty-nine, he was appointed to the colony’s governing council because of a reputation that “his opinions may always be depended on, not only from his knowledge of the law, but his integrity”. As the Revolution polarized the people of the Thirteen Colonies, Smith abandoned his neutral stance and declared himself a loyalist. In 1786, he became the chief justice of Quebec. At his death, Smith was held in such high esteem that Prince Edward, the son of George III and future father of Queen Victoria, led his funeral procession.

Quite a life.

And yet, during his lifetime, this loyalist proudly asserted that he had helped to shape the constitution of the United States of America.

In 1789, Smith and his wife Janet entertained Dr. Samuel Mitchell, an old New York acquaintance, in their home in Quebec City. After supper, the 61 year-old chief justice invited the American doctor into his study. Pulling out a 14 year-old letter, Smith read it aloud and then looked at Mitchell. “This, sir, is a copy of the letter which I sent to a member of Congress in 1775 who was an intimate friend of George Washington. You may trace to this source the sentiments in favour of a more energetic government for your country… and from this there can be no doubt that the citizens of all the States derived their leading hints for your new form of government.”

It seems impossible that a loyal subject of King George III would have contemplated a federal government structure for the Thirteen Colonies a year before patriot politicians issued the Declaration of Independence. But then it was very characteristic of Smith to occupy middle ground from which he could consider two opposing points of view.

Some of his contemporaries admired his objectivity; to others he was a fickle weather vane — turning whichever way the political winds blew. Smith’s upbringing put him in the monarchist camp, but he opposed the Church of England. (He was a loyal Presbyterian.) As a historian, he understood what had brought the American colonies to the point of rebellion; as a lawyer, he could not resist considering what structure would best serve British North America’s growing political demands.

Ever since 1765, Smith had been publishing essays in which he envisaged a federal legislature –or continental assembly– for the Thirteen Colonies. It would be overseen by a vice-regent, an advisory council, and a representative assembly. Each British colony would still have its own legislature. In many ways, Smith’s ideas foreshadowed the modern American federal structure, but when he proposed them to a member of Congress, Smith did not expect them to be adopted as the blueprint for an independent nation.

Here is one of the great “what ifs” of the American Revolution. Had cooler heads given Smith’s plan greater consideration, a loyal American colonial federation rather than a republican nation might have been the final outcome of the Revolution.

There were, however, very few cool heads. In March of 1777, the state of New York passed an act requiring all of its inhabitants who “are gone or sent out of the State” to take an oath of allegiance. Those who remained loyal to the crown were to be “sent off with their families, bag and baggage to New York, and all who did not willingly go were to be … treated as open enemies of this State.”

One would think that because William Smith had been the Chief Justice of the Province of New York for the past 14 years, he would be above suspicion. However, his brothers Joshua and Thomas were both implicated in the plot Benedict Arnold and Major John André conceived to seize West Point. Joshua was regarded as Arnold’s dupe; the plot itself was hatched in Thomas’ house. If two Smiths were such “traitors”, surely William Smith’s political views warranted further investigation.

By June of 1777, New York patriots interrogated Smith. His hope of quietly sitting out the Revolution at his country house had been a vain one. Smith simply could not bring himself to join the rebels. “He then conceived a separation from Great Britain could not be contended for with safety to the rights, liberties, and privileges of this country; and from a deep concern for the Colonies, he prays God that peace may be restored by a happy, safe, and generous reconciliation.”

Smith, his wife and their eleven children fled to New York City and remained there until the end of the war. His siding with the British was almost as great a coup for the loyalist cause as Arnold’s defection had been. If a man of such stature as the chief justice of New York sided with the crown, did this not indicate that the rebellion was folly?

After a brief stay in England, William Smith followed Sir Guy Carleton to Quebec. His reputation as a “weathercock” did not fade away despite being made the colony’s chief justice. Why was the loyalist still holding onto sizable properties in republican New York and Vermont? The politicians of the day regarded him with distrust. In the succeeding years, Smith’s attempts to shape the structures of the colony met a great deal of opposition from a wide cross-section of the public.

While his impact on the growth and development of the Quebec government after the Revolution is a matter of debate, it seems that William Smith’s political ideas may have had some influence on the structure of the United States government. And it was clearly a source of pride to the loyalist. How fitting a role for a “weathercock” to have in American legal history — a royalist chief justice who shaped a republican constitution!

Reverend John Beardsley (1732 – 1809) © George McNeillie

– Appendix to Beardsley Ancestry – ‘D’ –

Lieutenant John Jenkins was a South Carolina Loyalist. He held the position of Lieut. and Adjutant in the 3rd Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, commanded by Lieut. Col. Isaac Allen. This corps gained great credit for bravery in some of the hardest fought battles in the southern campaigns during the Revolutionary War, especially in their part in the heroic defence of Fort “Ninety-Six”, near Camden, South Carolina.

At the peace, Lieut. Jenkins came to New Brunswick with his wife and settled beside Col. Edward Winslow a little above Fredericton, not very far from the home of his old commander Colonel Allen. He had married not long before the close of the war a Mrs. Bradley, a widow. Among their children, born at Kingsclear, were three daughters, Mary, Judith and Elizabeth, and one son, John, later known as “The Hero of Ogdensburg”.

Mary Jenkins was born at New York in 1783. She married Bartholomew Crannel Beardsley and lived below Woodstock on the John Riorden place a little below Bull’s Creek. Mr. Beardsley was born at Poughkeepsie on the Hudson, Oct. 20, 1775, studied law with Ward Chipman in St. John and was admitted attorney in 1796. On the formation of the County of Carleton in 1832, he was appointed one of the first Judges of the Court of Common Pleas. During his residence at Woodstock he was elected one of the first members for the new County of Carleton in the House of Assembly, and a like honour shortly afterwards fell to his son Horace H. Beardsley. Judge B.C. Beardsley moved to Oakville, Ontario, where he died March 24th, 1855, aged 80 years. His wife died at Woodstock, Dec. 20, 1852, and is buried just beside the Parish Church. A pine head-board placed at her grave was well preserved for many years and I think I copied the lettering painted on it when I was a boy. It had then fallen into decay. The black letters, preserved by the paint, were raised above the surrounding surface and stood out with marked distinctness, the following being the inscription:-

– Sacred –
To the memory of
Mary Beardsley,
Wife of
Bartholomew Crannel Beardsley, Esq.,
Who died 20th Dec. 1852
In the 70th year of her age.

The place of interment was between the first parish Church and the river, and the memorial, I presume, was intended as a temporary one, but the death of her son Horace H. Beardsley, the following year, probably prevented the erection of a suitable monument.

Judith Jenkins, the second daughter, married Richard Smith, eldest son of Capt. Jacob Smith, and after his death (at a comparatively early age) married Frederick Morehouse. The latter was a dashing young fellow, popular with all his associates His tragic death by his own hand on the 21st June, 1842, while laboring, as was believed, under a fit of temporary insanity, created a profound sensation in the community. His widow, Judith, inherited valuable real estate from her first husband, which she was prohibited from selling. She, however, disposed of it under leases for 999 years, which practically amounted to the same thing. In early times Richard Smith’s house was the first residence in Woodstock. It was a large two storey house which stood in an open field back of the present Town Hall (see the illustration at p. 128 of Col. Baird’s “Seventy Years of N.B. Life”). It was burned in the fire of 1860. Mrs. Morehouse left most of her property to her nephew, the late Sherriff F.R. Jenkins Dibblee. She died Dec. 7, 1857, and is buried between her two husbands, Smith and Morehouse, in the North East corner of the Parish churchyard in Woodstock.

Elizabeth Jenkins, the third daughter of Lieut. John Jenkins, married Frederick B. Dibblee. She was grandmother of the Rev. H. E. Dibblee, present rector of Amherst, N.S. and formerly for many years of Oromocto, N.B.

Mrs. Fred. B. Dibblee died Oct. 5, 1861, at the age of 70 years and rests near her three sisters in the old Churchyard.

Their only brother, Capt. John Jenkins, the “Hero of Ogdensburg,” on the occasion of the battle (fought on the 22nd of February, 1813) “gallantly led his column exposed to a heavy fire of seven guns, which he bravely attempted to take with the bayonet. While making a gallant charge his left arm was broken in pieces by grape shot and almost immediately afterwards his right arms was disabled by a discharge of case shot. He still ran on cheering his men to the attack until, having traversed nearly two miles on the frozen river, he fainted from loss of blood near the batteries of the enemy. He that day suffered amputation of his left arm close to the shoulder and, but for the risk of dying under the operation, would have lost the other also. The right arm was eventually saved, but never of much service and an incessant source of pain. His lady-love, Penelope Winslow, daughter of Judge Edward Winslow, was true to him in his calamity and gave him her hand in marriage on the 10th of January, 1814. After the disbanding of his corps he was placed on retired full pay and appointed town mayor of Fredericton. His daughter, Mary Caroline, afterwards married Capt. Hale of the 52nd Regiment.

Excerpt from Book of Family History, by The Ven. William Odber Raymond, LL.D, FRSC. © 2009 George McNeillie – all rights reserved [published here with permission; see footnote].

George McNeillie

Running Gunpowder in Bermuda

I don’t remember details clearly but Stephen Davidson’s article on life in the Colonies caused me to remember a story we heard in Bermuda on our honeymoon — almost 28 years ago.In St. Georges, a town crier dressed in an ancient British Redcoat told a tale – here is the Wikipedia version:

In 1775, after the Battle of Lexington, the Continental Congress announced a trade embargo against British colonies remaining loyal to the Crown. Bermuda offered to supply the Patriots gunpowder. Meanwhile, in June of 1775 Bruere (the Governor of Bermuda) lost his son John, who was killed fighting on the British side at the Battle of Bunker Hill. On August 14, to the fury of Bruere, Bermudians sympathetic to the Revolution stole the island’s supply of gunpowder from the Powder Magazine in St George’s and shipped it to the rebels. During the Revolution, trade with Bermuda developed, for which Bruere was not blamed in London.

…Susan Henry

Canada’s National Tartan Day on April 6

Those Loyalists with Scottish blood represent one of many nationalities in the Loyalist collective. It is good that Canada finally has a National Tartan Day, announced in October of 2010, and to be celebrated for the first time a month from now on Wed April 6. April 6 is the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, the Scottish declaration of independence.

A tartan represents a clan, a family, and a community, and is an enduring symbol of Scotland that is cherished by Canadians of Scottish ancestry.

Click here for a more extensive description and a picture showing the national and provincial tartans.

There will undoubtedly be many local celebrations across Canada. If you happen to be in the Newmarket Ontario area on Saturday, April 9, you might join the Ceilidh which has been organized by the Clans and Scottish Societies of Canada – more details here.

…Jo Ann Tuskin, UE

War of 1812 Major John Richardson’s “A Canadian Campaign” Reprinted

First published in the 1820s, A Canadian Campaign narrates Richardson’s experiences with the 41st Regiment from the Battle of Fort Detroit through the Battle of the Thames and his imprisonment in Kentucky. Recollections of the West Indies describes his military experience on Barbados and Grenada from 1816 to 1817 and his denunciation of slavery. In Search of Richardson’s Spain is David Beasley’s retracing of the march of the British Legion over the Cantabrica Mountains as described in his Journal by Richardson in 1835 contrasting then to now.

A Canadian Campaign; Operations of the Right Division of the Army of Upper Canada, During the American War of 1812, by a British Officer [Major John Richardson] with an Introduction by David Beasley, and Richardson’s Recollections of the West Indies, and David Beasley’s In Search of Richardson’s Spain.

ISBN:978-0-915317-36-3. Price: $15 Cdn & U.S. [available March 15, 2011]

For more information and to order, visit www.davuspublishing.com.

David Beasley