Vernon L. Parrington: Main Currents in American Thought



So nearly forgotten by later generations is the American Tory of Revolutionary times that it will be well to examine the genus with some care; for only by understanding the great authority inhering in his traditional leadership can we measure his power to thwart the ambitions of the republicans. In numbers the Tories were a very small minority; unendowed with wealth and position they would have been negligible; but as members of the local gentry they enjoyed great prestige which was highly serviceable to the royal cause. Although native born they aped the English aristocracy, and reproduced on a less magnificent scale the manners of the English landed families. Less arrogant than their old-world models, certainly much less corrupt in their politics, they exuded the same aristocratic prejudices and the same narrow sympathies. Their most cherished dream was the institution of an American nobility, with the seal of royal favor set upon their social pretensions. They were the embodiment of the aristocratic eighteenth century, in a world instinctively hostile to all aristocracies. Out of a numerous company of distinguished Tories, three will serve for consideration--Thomas Hutchinson, Royal Governor, Daniel Leonard, lawyer, and Jonathan Boucher, minister.



Royal Governor

The career of the last royal governor of Massachusetts affords a suggestive study in the relation of material prosperity to political principles. Descended in the fourth generation from the Anti-nomian enthusiast, Mistress Anne Hutchinson, whom all the authorities of Boston could neither terrify nor silence, but who suffered contumely and exile rather than submit her will to official censors, Thomas Hutchinson reveals in his stiff conservatism the common change that follows upon economic well-being. The House of Hutchinson bad long since abandoned all unprofitable radicalisms and had taken to the safer business of acquiring property and respectability; in which work it had by God's blessing greatly prospered, until it came to be reckoned the first house in the province. With growing wealth political honors multiplied. The grandfather of the governor had been the first Chief justice of the Common Pleas, Commander of the Forces, Assistant, and Councilor; and at his death in 1717 he was as eminent a citizen as Chief Justice Sewall, the diarist. The governor's father, Thomas Hutchinson, Sr., devoted more attention to his calling of merchant than to politics, nevertheless he sat in the Council for twenty-five years, and was a colonel in the provincial militia. With the advent of Thomas Hutchinson upon the scene, the respectability of the house was assured, abundant wealth had been accumulated, and the path of political preferment was open. The little colony was eager to confer honors on so promising a son. He was ambitious and thrifty, and he coveted the distinction and the material rewards which officeholding brought. No Boston gentleman of his day had a sharper eye for the main chance. He added office to office, and at one and the same time he was Member of the Council, judge of Probate, Chief Justice, and Lieutenant Governor; and such other offices as he could not himself possess he maneuvered to get into the hands of his sons, and brothers-in-law, and dependents. One of those brothers-in-law, Samuel Mather, son of Cotton Mather, who refused to follow his kinsman into the Tory camp, called him "an avaritious man"; and avaritious of power, even more than of money, he certainly was.

With his abundant offices and honors, there was every temptation to conservatism. Unless there was hidden in him some lingering idealism, some seed of the ancestral radicalism to sprout and grow into discontent, Thomas Hutchinson was marked for a reactionary. And unhappily in his conventional soul there was not the faintest spark of idealism. The enthusiasm of Mistress Anne was washed clean out of the Hutchinson blood, leaving only the native stubbornness; which stubbornness, dominating a character cold, formal, arrogant, dogmatic, unimaginative, self righteous, was finally to play havoc with Thomas Hutchinson's good fortune. The son of a merchant, he was a careful, methodical soul, who studied how to save and invest; in a later generation he would have been a great banker, but in his own he preferred to invest in politics. How suggestive of Yankee thrift is such an entry as this:

All the time he was at College he carried on a little trade by sending ventures in his father's vessels, & kept a little paper journal & leger, & entered in it every dinner, supper, breakfast, & every article of expense, even of a shilling; which practice soon became pleasant; & he found it of great use all his life. . . . Before he came of age, he had, by adventuring to sea from two or three quintalls [hundredweightl of fish, given him by his father, when about 12 years old, acquired four or five hundred pounds sterling. 1

After a number of years in his father's countinghouse, learning the ways of eighteenth-century trade, he abandoned the mercantile career and entered politics at the age of six-and-twenty. From May 31, 1737, when he first took his place in the House of Deputies as one of the " Boston Seat," to June 1, 1774, when he quitted his country home at Milton to take ship for London and exile, he was a power in the political life of Massachusetts, reaching eventually the highest station. During that long period of thirty-seven years he was a spokesman of the New England gentry, always on the side of government, never in the opposition. That he ever critically examined the foundations of his political creed, there is nothing in the printed record to indicate. He had some of the tastes of the book-lover and scholar. He was deeply interested in the Puritan past, and his History of Massachusetts Bay was based on a wide knowledge of manuscript sources which he had been at great pains to collect. But in spite of a praiseworthy care for accuracy and impartiality, he lacked the creative imagination to reconstruct the past. He had pretty much freed his mind from religious bigotry, but he could not rid himself of a narrow partisanship, and his treatment of the agrarian movement was grossly unfair. His shortcomings as a political thinker were more striking. His knowledge of the political classics was of the slightest. When Samuel Adams made use of the natural-rights theory, Hutchinson's comment would indicate that he had no acquaintance with the theory and had not even read Locke.2 He was little given to intellectual interests, and ill at ease in dealing with general principles. He possessed the mental qualities of a lawyer rather than a speculative thinker, and his long immersion in office contracted a mind naturally sterile to the routine habits of an administrator.

He hardened early, and thereafter he was incapable of changing his views or liberalizing his sympathies. Consistency he erected into a fetish and once he had taken a position he would not budge from it. He did not understand the liberal America that was rising about him-- neither the economic forces that were creating it nor the spokesmen who represented it; and he saw no reason for change. The House of Hutchinson had prospered under existing conditions, and other houses would prosper likewise, he believed, if they were equally honest and diligent. So he went his tactless, unintelligent way) barking his shins on every liberal tendency of the times, and hating the men who gave him trouble.

Hutchinson, in short, was a complete Tory, and if we would understand him and his class, we must first take into account the current Tory philosophy. Compressed into a sentence it was the expression of the will-to-power of the wealthy. Its motive was economic class interest, and its object the exploitation of society--through the instrumentality of the state. Stated thus, the philosophy does not appear to advantage; it lays itself open to unpleasant criticism by those who are not its beneficiaries. In consequence, much ingenuity in tailoring was necessary to provide it with garments to cover its nakedness. Embroidered with patriotism, loyalty, law and order, it made a very respectable appearance; and when it put on the stately robe of the British Constitution, it was enormously impressive. The Tory theory of the British Constitution may well be regarded as a masterpiece of the gentle art of tailoring. Government by king, lords, and commons it asserted, approximated the ideal of a "mixt government," embracing the total wisdom of the realm, ruling in the interests of all, avoiding the evils of class domination, and chastising the refractory only for the common good. Gentlemen might well praise the "glorious British Constitution." It was their little jest at the expense of the English people, who were content to be exploited by them.

In this game of political pretense Hutchinson willingly shared. He knew that Parliament did not represent the English people; that it was controlled by a group of landed gentlemen with mercenaries in their pay; and yet in reply to repeated charges he revealed no hint of the truth, but reiterated the familiar Tory interpretation in the face of shrewd enemies who knew that he was insincere. In private among other gentlemen, Hutchinson was frank enough. He knew what was at stake in America--whether political control should remain in the hands of "gentlemen of principle and property," with the assistance of English Tories, or whether it should pass into the hands of the majority. And so while declaiming against mobs, and preaching loyalty to the best of kings, he secretly busied himself with influential persons in devising methods to. frustrate the Whig ambitions. Moreover in dealing with his enemies he was a thorough realist. In his comment on American Whigs and their political methods, he set down many a shrewd and just estimate of their actions and motives. But in defense of the English ministry he refused to face reality. He quibbled and misrepresented and denied, stooping to dirty politics to hold his party together and strengthen it.

At the moment when Hutchinson assumed the duties of governor the situation was tense. Bernard had muddled things sadly, and "the rage against him became, at length, so violent, that it was judged necessary to recall him," 3 and he slipped off to England to receive a baronetcy and a pension. But he had brought the commonwealth to the parting of the ways, and Hutchinson found himself in a difficult position. The roots of the trouble are laid bare in the following affidavit of Bernard:

In the Province of Massachusetts Bay, when civil authority was reduced so low as to have nothing left but the form of a government, and scarce even that, an enquiry into the causes of so great a weakness in the governing power was unavoidable; and there was no entering upon such an enquiry, without observing upon the ill effects of that part of the constitution of that government, whereby the appointment of the Council is left to the people, to be made by annual election; and yet the Royal Governor, in all Acts of prerogative, is subject to the controul of the Democraticall Council. This solecism in policy has been as hurtful in practice as it is absurd in theory, and it is the true cause of the extreme imbecility of the power of the crown in this government, at times when the exertion of it is most wanted. This is not an observation of a new date; it is of many years standing; . . . ever since he has felt the effects which the popular constitution of the Council has had upon the Royalty of the government, which is above three years ago; within which time, he has seen the King deprived of the service of every man at the Council Board, who has resolution enough to disapprove the opposition to the authority of the King and the Parliament, and their supremacy over the .4merican Colonies. This, and this only, is the foundation of the charge of their endeavouring to overthrow the charter; whereas his real desire has been, that the charter should have a more durable stability, by means of a necessary alteration, without which, he is persuaded it cannot have a much longer duration; , as the abuse of the appointment of the Council now prevailing, must oblige the Parliament to interfere sooner or later. 4

The more thoughtfully one considers this frank statement the more clearly it appears what grounds for party dissension lay in the "solecism" of a constitution whereby the "Royal Governor, in all Acts of prerogative," was "subject to the controul of the Democraticall Council." It would not be easy to patch up a working compromise between an absentee prerogative and the local democratic will; one or the other must be sovereign; and because the terms of the charter enabled the democracy to nullify the prerogative, Bernard concluded that the charter must be revised and the abuse corrected. In this Hutchinson agreed, and from the imperial point of view not without reason. "By an unfortunate mistake," he wrote in apology to Gage, "soon after the charter, a law passed which made every town in the Province a corporation perfectly democratic." With every passing year the mistake was becoming more unfortunate, and the vital problem before government, in the opinion of Hutchinson, was how to correct this unfortunate mistake, together with other like mistakes, with such happy skill as to check the democratic branch without arousing popular resentment. On this reef Hutchinson foundered.

As early as 1764 the meddlesome Bernard had proposed to the home government a complete remodeling of colonial governments on the English Tory plan; and by way of suggestion he forwarded some proposals looking to the eventual consolidation of the several colonies under a single royal government, the erection of a house of lords as a balance to the popular party and a comprehensive tax policy. It was one of numerous suggestions then being made for incorporating America into the British Empire, and extending the imperial power over the continent. Bernard's bias is sufficiently revealed in the following:

86. There is no government in America at present, whose powers are properly balanced; there not being in any of them, a real and distinct third legislative power mediating between the king and the people, which is the peculiar excellence of the British constitution.
87. The want of such a third legislative power, adds weight to the popular, and lightens the royal scale; so as to destroy the balance between the royal and popular powers.
88. Although America is not now . . . ripe enough for an hereditary nobility; yet it is now capable of a nobility for life.
89. A nobility appointed by the king for life, and made independent, would probably give strength and stability to the American governments, as effectually as an hereditary nobility does to that of Great Britain.5

It is not known to what extent Hutchinson indorsed so ambitious and comprehensive a plan. For years he had been Bernard's understudy, and supported him in all his policies; but being cautious by nature and attached to local custom, he probably would have rejected the plan of continental consolidation unless his personal ambition had been enlisted. Hosmer's attempt to clear his skirts 6 is not convincing. Recalling that Hutchinson yielded invariably to royal or ministerial suggestions, no matter how contrary to local custom, there is no reason to believe that he would have objected to any coercive program, which provided adequately for the colonial Tories.

In another matter that touched the political life of Massachusetts to the quick, Hutchinson was deeply engaged. The source of the power of the popular party lay in the democratic town meeting. In earlier days the Tories had made no objection to it, for it was amenable to control by the "better sort of people." But under the skillful politics of Samuel Adams and his fellows, it had become the chief instrument of opposition, and Hutchinson was determined to cut its claws. On so delicate a matter, however, it was only to the ministry that he could speak frankly; he must not appear to be laying a plot against an institution so long established as a part of the political machinery of the commonwealth. Under date of March 26, 1770, he wrote to the secretary of Lord Hillsboro:

There is a Town Meeting, no sort of regard being had to any qualification of voters, but all the inferior people meet together; and at a late meeting the inhabitants of other towns who happened to be in town, mixed with them. . . . It is in other words being under the government of the mob. This has given the lower part of the people such a sense of their importance that a gentleman does not meet with what used to be common civility, and we are sinking into perfect barbarism. . . . If this town could be separated from the rest of the Province, the infection has not taken such strong hold of the parts remote from it. The spirit of anarchy which prevails in Boston is more than I am able to cope with. 7

Writing to Hillsboro on April 19, 1771, he complained:

In these votes and in most of the public proceedings of the town of Boston, persons of the best character and estate have little or no concern. They decline attending Town Meetings where they are sure to be outvoted by men of the lowest order.8

A month later, writing to his old crony, ex-Governor Bernard, he suggested a remedy which in one form or another he was constantly holding before the ministry, as an inducement to act:

The town of Boston is the source from whence all the other parts of the Province derive more or less troubled water. When you consider what is called its constitution, your good sense will determine immediately that it never can be otherwise for a long time together, whilst the majority which conducts all affairs, if met together upon another occasion, would be properly called a mob, and are persons of such rank and circumstance as in all communities constitute a mob there being no sort of regulation of voters in practice; and as these will always be most in number, men of weight and value, although they wish to suppress them, cannot be induced to attempt to do it for fear not only of being outvoted, but affronted and insulted. Call such an assembly what you will, it is really no sort of government, not even a democracy, at best a corruption of it. There is no hope of a cure by any legislative but among ourselves [i.e., ministerial supporters] to compel the town to be a corporation. The people will not seek it, because every one is sensible his importance will be lessened. If ever a remedy is found, it must be by compelling them to swallow it, and that by an exterior power,--the Parliament. 10

In such advice--the destruction of the democratic machinery by an "exterior power" in order that control of government should lie beyond the reach of the popular will--we may discover ample grounds for democratic dissatisfaction with the governor. Hutchinson believed that when matters of state were settled by gentlemen over their wine, good government resulted; but when discussed by common people over their cider, the door was thrown wide open to anarchy. His particular béte noire was the mob, by which name he designated any gathering that had not received his gracious permission to assemble. It was his shortsighted willingness to arm himself with external authority against his fellow countrymen, that filled the years of his administration with so much bitterness. The more he lost ground, the more anxiously he pleaded for help from the ministry. When certain of his private letters came to the hands of Franklin and were sent home, Hutchinson was put in a rage. He had long been fearful of such a diplomatic leak and urged secrecy, for if his private correspondence should become public, he explained, "I have no security against the rage of the people." 11 Much ink was used by his friends in declaiming against the infamy of making public a gentleman's private letters, and Hutchinson characterized it as an " affrontery " such as "was never known before." That such private correspondence was in effect official correspondence, in that it aimed at shaping parliamentary policy towards Massachusetts, was ignored by these outraged gentlemen. Diplomats who plan privately rarely like to be read publicly, especially when the public reads how it is being bought and sold. Very likely the Assembly overstated the case in declaring that "there has been, for many years past, measures contemplated, and a plan formed, by a set of men, born and educated among us, to raise their own fortunes, and advance themselves to posts of honor and profit, not only to the destruction of the charter and constitution of this province, but at the expense of the rights and liberties of the American colonies." 11 Hutchinson was too cautious and too conservative to seek any revolutionary end; at the same time he was too yielding to make a stand against any encroachment that had legal sanction. From his narrow mind no help could be expected touching the great matter of imperial federation. In seeking a way out of the difficulties in which the British Empire was daily becoming entangled, the royal governor could discover no wiser plan than the abridgment of fundamental privileges which a hundred and fifty years of slow growth had made the peculiar possession of the colonies. The unhappy conclusion towards which the American Tories were drifting he set forth in words which were to become the most notorious he ever penned.

I never think of the measures necessary for the peace and good order of the colonies without pain. There must be an abridgment of what are called English liberties. I relieve myself by considering that in a remove from a state of nature to the most perfect state of government, there must be a great restraint of natural liberty. I doubt whether it is possible to project a system of government in which a colony 3000 miles distant from the parent state shall enjoy all the liberty of the parent state. I am cer- tain I have never yet seen the projection. I wish the good of the colony when I wish to see some further restraint of liberty rather than the connexion with the parent state should be broken; for I am sure such a breach must prove the ruin of the colony. 13

Later writers, forgetful of Hutchinson's self-seeking record and of his Tory philosophy, have inclined to leniency in judging him for his stand on this crucial point. But in spite of his wig and scarlet broadcloth robes he was only an unintelligent politician, who served the hand that fed him. No better commentary could be asked than is found in the caustic remark of the keenest Englishman of his day on the ministerial policy. In a letter of April, 1777, Horace Walpole asked, "What politicians are those who have preferred the empty name of sovereignty to that of alliance, and forced subsidies to the golden ocean of commerce?" Hutchinson was stubborn rather than wise. He would make no compromise in the matter of sovereignty; there could be no lawful will but the will of Parliament. "I know of no line that can be drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies," he replied to the Assembly, when it was struggling with the idea of federation." When the Council and House were outlining a plan of imperial union, and seeking to demonstrate that the "subordinate authorities" of the colonies were sovereign within their fields, and "that, in fact, two such powers do subsist together, and are not incompatible"; the governor with patient finality explained to them the true" nature of supreme power,"

... and urged, as an undeniable principle, that such a power is essential in all governments, and that another power, with the name of subordinate, and with a right to withstand or control the supreme in particulars, is an absurdity--for it so far ceases to be subordinate, and becomes itself supreme; that no sensible writer upon government ever denied what he asserted; and whilst the council continued to hold, that two supreme powers were compatible, it would be to no purpose to reason upon the other parts of their message to him, or to deny what they adduced from a principle so contrary to reason. 16

Hutchinson's position as the King's representative soon became so difficult that a wiser man would have resigned. He was constrained to be the executive of a policy of government by ministerial instructions. Again and again he vetoed a measure, or dissolved the legislature, or took action contrary to the spirit of the charter; and the sole justification which he pleaded was a secret letter of instructions, the terms of which he refused to make public, and the object of which must be judged by his acts. "So long as he continued commander-in-chief," he replied to the House in one of their perennial wranglings, "he should think himself bound to conform to every signification of his majesty's pleasure." To the denunciations of the popular party he remained outwardly indifferent, strong in the supposed integrity of his official purpose. In time, he believed, the evil spoken of him by ambitious men would be forgotten, and his course would find vindication. The words of Bernard might well have been his:

He denies, that the opinion of the whole people of that Province can now be taken and ascertained, labouring as it does at present, under the baneful influence of a desperate faction, who by raising groundless fears and jealousies, by deluding one part of the people, and by intimidating the other part, has destroyed all real freedom) not only of action, but even of sentiment and opinion. But the Respondent doubts not but that his Administration has been approved by the generalty of the best and most respectable men of the Province."

In spite of Hutchinson's endeavors to build up a prerogative party the drift of public opinion went steadily against him until he was convinced, that he stood almost alone. "He was not sure of support from any one person in authority," he commented stoically, in telling of the tea troubles. The Council, the Assembly, the very constables were against him. Yet he went his way obstinately; he would fulfill to the last word the instructions of his superiors. The ministry might be unwise, but better the legal folly of Parliament than the madness of the democracy. To encroach upon the royal prerogative, Hutchinson believed was to endanger the nice balance of the constitution. He was convinced that "the present easy, happy model of government" was as near perfect as the ingenuity of Englishmen could devise; that the welfare of America was dependent upon a proper subordination of the colonies to the mother country; and that the popular party was plotting treason against their country and their king. The third volume of his history is a long argument to demonstrate the wisdom of his own and Bernard's administrations. The liberal governor, Thomas Pownall, Hutchinson disliked, partly because of his easy familiar ways, but chiefly because he was not a prerogative man.17 But if Pownall had been in Hutchinson's place, the history of the relations of Massachusetts and England would have run very differently.

It was his ingrained snobbery which, more than anything else, brought about his undoing. The aristocratic govern or never differed with a lord, and rarely agreed with a commoner. It was intolerable to him that common fellows should dispute his reasoning or sit in judgment upon his official acts. It was their duty as loyal subjects to obey without question the mandates of the King's appointed spokesmen; and when town-meeting resolutions, put through by mechanics and petty tradesmen, criticised his conduct, or refused to accept the decision of the supreme court that the "Boston massacre" was not legally a "massacre," he saw in such acts only the madness of the mobocracy. That the people should suspect the probity of his majesty's judges was painful to him. As partisan bitterness increased, he became acutely suspicious of all who disagreed with him, and shut his mind against every argument. The debates and resolves in House and Council cc abounded with duplicity and inconclusive reasonings." "The disingenuity and low craft, which appeared in so many of the messages, resolves, and other publick instruments," he commented, descended "to the level and vulgarity of a common newspaper essay." 18 To the leaders of the popular party, the group of keen debaters and parliamentarians who kept him constantly on the defense, he attributed an artful malignancy. The fathers of the Revolution do not appear to advantage in the pages of his history. The Otises had gone over to the opposition because the father had been disappointed on the occasion of Hutchinson's elevation to the coveted chief-justiceship. John Hancock's "ruling passion was a fondness for popular applause. . . . His natural powers were moderate, and had been very little improved by study." John Adams was a man whose " ambition was without bounds. . . . He could not look with complacency upon any man who was in possession of more wealth, more honours, or more knowledge than himself," and he went over to the opposition because of a slight upon him by refusal of a place on the bench. For Samuel Adams, his most relentless enemy, Hutchinson's hatred was boundless. He had defaulted as collector of taxes and for equivalent of his arrears of public money he had set up as defender of the public liberties, and he "made more converts by calumniating governors, and other servants of the crown, than by strength of reasoning." His main business in life was "robbing men of their characters."

It is unlikely that time will bring any vindication of the later career of Thomas Hutchinson. He was a stiff-necked official of scrupulous principle, whose principles were grossly reactionary. He was sincerely attached to the great ideal of imperial unity, but he conceived of that unity as embodied in the coercive sovereignty of the crown and parliament, with Tory gentlemen as exclusive administrators. Samuel Adams was not unjust in declaring, "It has been his principle from a boy that mankind are to be governed by the discerning few; and it has ever since been his ambition to be the hero of the few." Courteous and conscientious, with very considerable administrative ability, it was his misfortune to defend a social philosophy alien to the rough individualism of his fellow countrymen. He would think only in terms of imperial centralization, and they would think only in terms of local home rule, He conceived of the political state as a private preserve for gentlemen to hunt over, and they conceived of it as a free hunting-grouod for all. He never understood the assertive, capitalistic America that was rising about him, and in joining issue with it he destroyed himself. "If we were not mad," he lamented, "I have no doubt we might enjoy all that liberty which can subsist with a state of government." It was the complaint of the Tory upon a democracy that preferred self-rule to the blessings of a trusteeship, which, like a lawyers' squabble, consumed the estate in fees. Quite evidently the "mobility," in the days of Thomas Hutchinson, was running into madness, for it demanded greater liberty than was compatible with a "state of government" sanctioned by crown officials-a fact which the royal governor grieved over but was helpless to restrain.



Tory Lawyer

Probably the most finished prose writer, certainly one of the most cultivated minds, among the notable group of American Loyalists, was a young man of excellent family, who if events had turned out otherwise would have made a much greater name for himself. Daniel Leonard was a Harvard graduate and a member of the Boston bar, an effective speaker, of some weight in commonwealth politics, and aligned with Hutchinson, Sewall, and the crown party. In temperament and taste he seems to have been conspicuously aristocratic. He delighted in fine clothes and set up his coach and pair to drive from his countryseat to Boston--a gesture of opulence that excited the laughter of sober people, and led Mercy Warren to introduce him into her comedy, The Group, under the name of Beau Trumps. According to John Adams, who was a decided gossip, it was this cavalier love of display that led to his political undoing, overcoming his native sympathy with the party of revolution.

He wore a broad gold lace round the rim of his hat, he made his cloak glitter with laces still broader, he had set up his chariot and pair and constantly traveled in it from Taunton to Boston. This made the world stare--it was a novelty. Not another lawyer in the province, attorney or barrister, of whatever age, reputation, rank, or station, presumed to ride in a coach or chariot. The discerning ones soon perceived that wealth and power must have charms to a heart that delighted in so much finery, and indulged in such unusual expense. Such marks could not escape the vigilant eyes of the two arch-tempters, Hutchinson and Sewall, who had more art, insinuation, and address, than all the rest of their party. 19

Under the pen name of "Massachusettens is," Leonard published a series of weekly letters addressed to "the Inhabitants of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, running from December 12, 1774, to April 3, 1775, a fortnight before the affair at Lexington.

They were begun soon after the adjournment of the Continental Congress, and may be taken as the final statement of the Tory argument. They were exceedingly skillful partisan pamphlets, adapted with great adroitness to current prejudices and old loyalties. Their main appeal was to the psychology of the colonial, and if the springs of that psychology had not been sapped by the rising liberalism, the appeal would have been extraordinarily persuasive. Probably the King's cause was never presented more convincingly, and the American Tories were delighted with the letters. "On my return from Congress," said John Adams, "I found the Massachusetts Gazette teeming with political speculations, and Massachusettensis shining like the moon among the lesser stars." 20 He at once replied to them under the pen name "Novanglus," beginning with a slashing attack in which the seventeenth-century republicans are called in to refute Leonard, and then reciting some plain facts about the British government and its American spokesman, which somewhat tarnished the latter's eulogies. But he soon strayed off into abstract disquisition, and the controversy was brought to an abrupt end with the news from Lexington.

As in most Loyalist pamphlets, Leonard's appeal was primarily to the law and the constitution, and it is tagged with references to statutes like a proper lawyer's brief. But underlying the argument is a political philosophy which fairly represents the current Tory theory. The immediate purpose of the Letters was to make the rebellious spirit of the colonial Whigs toward their lawful sovereign appear both wicked and groundless, dangerous to the peace and well-being of society and inspired by the personal ambitions of demagogues. This major purpose involved him in two main arguments: first, on the heinousness of rebellion in general; and second, on the special heinousness of the Whig leaders. Leonard's political philosophy is implied rather than elaborated. With other American Loyalists he evaded broad principles; nevertheless his total argument rests on a philosophical foundation too well known to be glossed over. He derived immediately from Hobbes, and he follows the Leviathan in his exaltation of the sovereign state. Men in a state of nature, he argued, live in a condition of anarchy, with the hand of all against all. Amid such chaos civilization is impossible, and the common need of security for person and property impelled men to erect the coercive state as an instrument of social protection. It first arose and has since been maintained from the necessity of holding in check the spirit of anarchy which continually threatens from the ambitions of designing men. This is the great danger that lies always in wait, ready to destroy society. Government is a guarantee of the protection of the weak against the strong) and every friend of law and order must enlist his loyalty on the side of the lawful prince against all who would foment rebellion; for rebellion is the mischief-maker that unlooses all the evils of Pandora's box.

This was no more than the familiar stock-in-trade of the Tory, nevertheless Leonard becomes quite terrifying in describing the evil of sedition:

Rebellion is the most atrocious offence, that can be perpetrated by man, save those which are committed more immediately against the supreme Governor of the Universe, who is the avenger of his own cause. It dissolves the social band, annihilates the security resulting from law and government; introduces fraud, violence, rapine, murder, sacrilege, and the long train of evils, that riot, uncontrouled, in a state of nature. Allegiance and protection are reciprocal. The subject is bound by the compact to yield obedience to government, and in return, is entitled to protection from it; thus the poor are protected against the rich; the weak against the strong; the individual against the many; and this protection is guaranteed to each member, by the whole community. But when government is laid prostrate, a state of war, of all against all, commences; might overcomes right; innocence itself has no security, unless the individual sequesters himself from his fellowmen, inhabits his own cave, and seeks his own prey. This is what is called a state of nature. 21

The "seeds of sedition" having been sown, they spring up and bring forth fruits of death; the "people are led to sacrifice real liberty to licentiousness, which gradually ripens into rebellion and civil war."

And what is still more to be lamented, the generality of the people, who are thus made the dupes of artifice, and the mere stilts of ambition, are sure to be losers in the end. The best they can expect, is to be thrown neglected by, when they are no longer wanted; but they are seldom so happy; if they are subdued, confiscation of estate and ignominious death are their portion; if they conquer, their own army is often turned upon them, to subjugate them to a more tyrannical government than that they rebelled against.22

Leonard then proceeds to supplement the Hobbesian argument by an elaborate appeal to the history of English law, and discovers ample sanction in a recital of a long list of statutory enactments and court decisions against the evil of sedition. As treason is the gravest social crime, so it has always been visited with the severest punishments. He states the history of legislation against treason, and points out how the statutes have been construed to reach so far as to embrace the gathering of private men in a warlike manner, with a design to redress public grievances or to better their economic condition. He makes a parade of the brutal laws of feudal times, and the decisions of Tudor and Stuart judges, justifying those pronouncements as a necessary defense of society against sedition-mongers and their subversive ambitions. By a natural transition he brings the argument home to his American readers. The aims and methods of the Whigs, he contends, constitute a clear violation of the law of treason. They are playing with the gallows, with their Committees of Correspondence "the foulest, subtlest, and most venomous serpent that ever issued from the eggs of sedition," and the imperative need of the hour was to put a stop to all treasonable thought and action.

I saw the small seed of sedition, when it was implanted; it was, as a grain of mustard. I have watched the plant until it has become a great tree; the vilest reptiles that crawl upon the earth, are concealed at the root; the foulest birds of the air rest upon its branches. I now would induce you to go to work immediately with axes and hatchets, and cut it down, for a twofold reason; because it is a pest to society, and lest it be felled suddenly by a stronger arm and crush thousands in the fall. 23

From the first major proposition, that all sedition is heinous, Leonard passed to his second, that the sedition of the American Whigs was peculiarly wicked, for it was grounded in no injustice on the part of England. If loyalty is the highest social virtue, that loyalty might justly be claimed by Great Britain as her due. "Has she not been a nursing mother to us, from the days of our infancy to this time? Has she not been indulgent almost to a fault?" The Whigs, he asserted broadly, have been patching together their supposed grievances out of cloth that never came from an English loom. It is the shoddiest of homespun, mean, and shameful.

We had always considered ourselves, as a part of the British empire, and the parliament, as the supreme legislature of the whole. Acts of parliament for regulating our internal policy were familiar. We had paid postage agreeable to act of parliament. . . . duties imposed for regulating trade, and even for raising a revenue to the crown without questioning the right, though we closely adverted to the rate or quantum. We knew that in all those acts of government, the good of the whole had been consulted, and whenever through want of information any thing grievous had been ordained, we were sure of obtaining redress by a proper representation of it. We were happy in our subordination; but in an evil hour, under the influence of a malignant planet, the design was formed of opposing the stamp-act, by a denial of the right of parliament to make it. 24
Our patriots exclaim, "that humble and reasonable petitions from the representatives of the people have been frequently treated with contempt." This is as virulent a libel upon his majesty's government, as falsehood and ingenuity combined could fabricate. Our humble and reasonable petitions have not only been ever graciously received, when the established mode of exhibiting them has been observed, but generally granted. Applications of a different kind, have been treated with neglect, though not always with the contempt they deserved. These either originated in illegal assemblies, and could not be received without implicitly countenancing such enormities, or contained such matter, and were conceived in such terms, as to be at once an insult to his majesty, and a libel on his government. Instead of being decent remonstrances against real grievances, or prayers, for their removal, they were insidious attempts to wrest from the crown, or the supreme legislature, their inherent, unalienable prerogatives or rights. 25

The prerogative might not be argued, according to Leonard, nor the sovereignty of parliament discussed, for any such comment was an insult to his majesty, and a libel on his government.

The illegal Continental Congress had done both and thereby proved itself seditious.

The prince, or sovereign, as some writers call the supreme authority of a state, is sufficiently ample and extensive to provide a remedy for every wrong, in all possible emergencies and contingencies; and consequently a power, that is not derived from such authority, springing up in a state, must encroach upon it, and in proportion as the usurpation enlarges itself, the rightful prince must be diminished; indeed, they cannot long subsist together, but must continually militate, till one or the other be destroyed. 26

The true animus of the Whig attack upon the nice balance of the British constitution Leonard professed to discover in a dangerous republican ambition. From the beginning there had been an excess of the democratic element in the charters and practice of many of the colonies; and this overbalance must in the end be rectified.

Our council boards are as destitute of the constitutional authority of the house of lords, as their several members are of the noble independence, and splendid appendages of peerage. The house of peers is the bulwark of the British constitution, and through successive ages, has withstood the shocks of monarchy, and the sappings of democracy, and the constitution gained strength by the conflict. 27

Lacking a peerage, which Leonard regrets, but which will come with time, American political practice is less stable than the English, more exposed to "the sappings of democracy"; but necessary steps have already been taken to stabilize it. The hands of the royal governor and judges have been strengthened against the democratic House, and "town meetings are restrained to prevent their passing traitorous resolves." The ideal towards which America must travel as fast as circumstance and the colonial temper will permit, is the wise balance of the English government, with local powers vested in colonial lords and commons, supervised by the King and the Imperial Parliament. In the midst of these present agitations, wickedly fomented by Whig smugglers-"a smuggler and a whig are cousin germans, the offspring of two sisters, avarice and ambition"-it should be remembered that "the terms whig and tory have been adopted according to the arbitrary use of them in this province, but they rather ought to be reversed; an American tory is a supporter of our excellent constitution, and an American whig a subverter of it." To bring these American subverters of the glorious British constitution to a sense of their obligations, Leonard refers them to the words of James Otis written ten years before:

It is a maxim, that the king can do no wrong; and every good subject is bound to believe his king is not inclined to do any. We are blessed with a prince who has given abundant demonstrations, that in all his actions, he studies the good of his people, and the true glory of his crown, which are inseparable. It would therefore be the highest degree of impudence and disloyalty, to imagine that the king, at the head of his parliament, could have any but the most pure and perfect intentions of justice, goodness and truth, that human nature is capable of. All this I say and believe of the king and parliament, in all their acts; even in that which so nearly affects the interests of the colonists; and that a most perfect and ready obedience is to be yielded to it while it remains in force. The power of parliament is uncontroulable but by themselves, and we must obey. They can only repeal their own acts. There would be an end of all government, if one or a number of subjects, or subordinate provinces should take upon them so far to judge of the justice of an act of parliament, as to refuse obedience to it. If there was nothing else to restrain such a step, prudence ought to do it, for forcibly resisting the parliament and the king's laws is high treason. Therefore let the parliament lay what burdens they please on us, we must, it is our duty to submit and patiently bear them, till they will be pleased to relieve us. 28
The argument comes back finally to a threat; sovereignty rests not on good will but on coercion. The insincerity and unreality of the Tory appeal are only too patent. Those old pleaders were true to their breeding and their interests, for they regarded fact as little as a modern diplomat. They ignored or denied open and plain evidence. Nowhere, perhaps, does the weakness of Leonard's argument become more evident than in his refusal to admit the theoretical right of revolution. He professed allegiance to a king whose claim to the crown rested on revolution, and was justified by the apostle of Whiggery, Locke. But nowhere does he refer to Locke, and not until he was prodded by John Adams, who insisted that the Whig principles were "the principles of Aristotle and Plato, of Livy and Cicero, and Sydney, Harrington and Locke," did he concede that any other interpretation of revolution than the Hobbesian, was justifiable. In his last paper, of April 3, 1775, he replied to Adams thus:
I hold the rights of the people as sacred, and revere the principles, that have established the succession to the imperial crown of Great Britain, in the line of the illustrious house of Brunswick; but that the difficulty lies in applying them to the cause of the whigs . . . for admitting that the collective body of the people, that are subject to the British empire, have an inherent right to change their form of government, or race of kings, it does not follow, that the inhabitants of a single province, or of a number of provinces, or any given part under a majority of the whole empire, have such a right. By admitting that the less may rule or sequester themselves from the greater, we unhinge all government. 29

By such logic does he whittle away the doctrine of the right of revolution. As a lawyer Daniel Leonard discovered a distinction between the Continental Congress of 1774 and the Revolutionary Convention of 1689, which rendered the former treasonable and the latter glorious. But the rising liberalism of America could see no such nice distinction, and a year later the brilliant young lawyer was forced to withdraw to Halifax. He was rewarded by a grateful King with the post of chief justice of Bermuda, lived to be nearly ninety, and died in London in 1829, one of the last of the exiled Loyalists.




Tory Priest

The extremest expression of American Toryism came not unfittingly from an Anglican priest. The English church has always been the mother of loyalty, and Jonathan Boucher of Virginia and Maryland was the spiritual son of a notable line of bishops and priests who upheld the royal prerogative through evil times and good, throwing the august sanction of religion about the monarchical state. A fearless, capable, outspoken man was this English-born southerner, taking counsel of his own thought, not overtolerant of those who differed with him, holding himself in loco parentis to his parishioners, and exacting obedience from them. He was another Increase Mather, with the same love of domination, the same directness of purpose and strength of will. A man of conspicuous parts and equally conspicuous position: not only a clergyman, but a gentleman of affairs, owner of a large plantation and many slaves, concerned with public business and a volunteer statesman: a sort of unofficial adviser and secretary to draft provincial laws. Above all of independent mind. He would truckle to no man, and he subjected the opinions of his neighbors to the same scrutiny that he gave his own. For the popular orator and the demagogue he had frank contempt, and mass prejudices and mob power held no terrors for him.

There was both courage and futility in his free, outspoken career. He refused to be intimidated or turned aside by popular disfavor. "For more than six months I preached, when I did preach, with a pair of loaded pistols lying on the cushions; having given notice that if any one attempted, what had long been threatened, to drag me out of the pulpit, I should think myself justified in repelling violence by violence." One day he promptly knocked down a burly blacksmith who had been set on him, but there came a time when his church was filled with armed men, and his friends, fearing for his life, held him back forcibly from mounting the pulpit. That episode marked the end of his career in America. He had plainly become obsolete, and he was driven home to his native England. There as an old man, he published in 1797 thirteen sermons, preached in America between 1763 and 1775, with an historical preface, under the title, fl View of the Causes and Consequences of the American Revolution, and dedicated to his old neighbor and friend, General Washington.

The political philosophy of Jonathan Boucher, as elaborated in these discourses, is frank and unequivocal. It is the voice of seventeenth-century Cavalier England, speaking to an alien people, bred up in another philosophy of government. Church and state, the Bible and the British constitution, the divine authority of God and the divine authority of the status quo, have got themselves curiously fused--and confused--in the mind of this disciple of Laud. It was the result not of ignorance but of conviction. When the revolutionary movement began to make a stir about him, the parish priest took the situation seriously and set about preparing himself to cope with it. Before then he had been no student of political theory, but now he turned to his books. "With sincerity in my heart, and my Bible in my hand," he said, "I sat down to explore the truth . . . to read and study what had been collected and laid down on the subject of government by writers . . . who got their materials . . . from the only pure sources of information, the law of God, and the law of the land." 30 The restriction in his choice of writers is suggestive of his bias; it eliminated at one stroke the main body of political speculation, not only the English thinkers of the preceding century, but the continental followers of the natural-rights school. Actually, however, Boucher did not limit himself so narrowly, for he refers frequently to Locke, and he was fairly familiar with the main doctrines of the revolutionary philosophy. But his most cherished discovery was Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, and having digested Filmer's quaint theory, thenceforth he remained a confirmed patriarchist. The absurd jumble of Hebraic precedent and Tory prejudice which Filmer had laboriously put together and which Locke had knocked to pieces, was wholly convincing to this belated advocate of divine right, who proceeded to wipe the dust off the precious volume and expound its doctrines to an amazed congregation.

The single and sacred duty of the subject, Jonathan Boucher was convinced, is faithful obedience to the powers that are set over him. Those powers derive from cod and are instituted for the subject's good. It follows, therefore, that the unpardonable sin is rebellion against lawfully_constituted authority. "The doctrine of obedience for conscience sake," he asserted, "is . . . the great cornerstone of all good government." 31 With Daniel Leonard he makes much of it, but he appeals rather to the sanctions of religion than to the law.

Obedience to Government is every man's duty, because it is every man's interest; but it is particularly incumbent on Christians, because . . . it is enjoined by the positive commands of God . . . . If the form of government under which the good providence of God has been pleased to place us be mild and free, it is our duty to enjoy it with gratitude and with thankfulness . . . . If it be less indulgent and less liberal than in reason it ought to be, still it is our duty not to disturb the peace of the community, by becoming refractory and rebellious subjects, and resisting the ordinances of God. 32

Those great and good men, who, like noise master-builders, have from time to time so fitly framed together our glorious Constitution, well knew that other sure foundation no man could lay than . . . obedience, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake. 33

Because this spirit of obedience was openly flouted in America, where every influence made for rough individual liberty, Jonathan Boucher feared for the future. Loose principles were abroad, notions of popular sovereignty under the majority will, that must give "rise to a low and unworthy opinion of government," unless the people were recalled to their duty. Particularly dangerous, he thought, was "that loose notion respecting government, which has long been disseminated among the people at large with incredible industry, namely, that all government is the mere creature of the people, and may therefore be tampered with, altered, new-modelled, set up or pulled down, just as tumultuous crowds of the most disorderly persons in the community (who on such occasions are always so forward to call themselves the people) may happen in some giddy moments of overheated ardour to determine." 34

The unhappy results of such evil principles Boucher saw spread through America. With the insidious undermining of respect for law and government, the vicious conception of republicanism made its appearance. "Everything in America had a republican aspect," he commented in after years; and he agreed with Bernard that "the splitting America into many small governments weakened the governing power, and strengthened that of the people."35 If Parliament had been wise enough to consolidate government in America, drawing it to a single head, and investing it with dignity and authority, the country would not have become, like revolutionary France, "a mean and odious republic." As a minister and a loyal British subject, Jonathan Boucher would not seduce the American people "by any flowery panegyrics on liberty. Such panegyrics are the productions of ancient heathens and modern patriots: nothing of the kind is to be met with in the Bible, nor in the Statute Book. The word liberty, as meaning civil liberty, does not, I believe, occur in all the Scriptures." 36

To respect the laws, is to respect liberty in the only rational sense in which the term can be used; for liberty consists in subserviency to law. "Where there is no law," says Mr. Locke, "there is no freedom." . . . True liberty, then, is a liberty to do everything that is right, and the being restrained from doing anything that is wrong. 37

The evils which flow from disrespect for authority carry much further than the unsettling of the political status quo; they end by overturning the entire social order. If any group or class rejects the divine plan according to which God has set each in its due place, society as a whole is involved in strife that may lapse into anarchy. It was an unhappy scene, prophesying an unhappier future, that the minister beheld in contemporary America.

There never was a time when a whole people were so little governed by settled good principles . . . . Both employers and the employed, much to their mutual shame and inconvenience, no longer live together with anything like attachment and cordiality on either side; and the laboring classes, instead of regarding the rich as their guardians, patrons, and benefactors, now look on them as so many overgrown colossuses whom it is no demerit in them to wrong. A still more general . . . topic of complaint is, that the lower classes, instead of being industrious,, frugal, and orderly (virtues so peculiarly becoming their station in life) are become idle, improvident, and dissolute. 38

With social morality thus dangerously undermined, the Americans were a natural prey to demagogues, who filled the land with their clamor of patriotism and liberty. The situation in Virginia was peculiarly dangerous by reason of longstanding debts to English merchants which the planters were unable to pay; they found themselves in consequence, impaled on the horns of an unhappy dilemma, "to be loyal and be ruined, or to rebel and be damned." 39

Instructed by the colonial troubles, Jonathan Boucher elaborated a theory of the true origin and purpose of government, a theory taken straight out of Filmer, which he expands thus:

As soon as there were some to be governed, there were also some to govern.... The first father was the first king: and . . . it was thus that all government originated, and monarchy is the most ancient form. 40 The glory of God is much concerned, that there should be good government in the world: it is, therefore, the uniform doctrine of the Scriptures, that it is under the deputation and authority of God alone that kings reign and princes decree justice. Kings and princes (which are only other words for supreme magistrates) were doubtless created and appointed, not so much for their own sakes, as for the sake of the people committed to their charge: yet they are not, therefore, the creatures of the people. So far from deriving their authority from any supposed consent or suffrage of men, they receive their commission from Heaven; they receive it from God, the source and original of all power. 41

Instituted by God and functioning under divine sanction, government becomes, therefore, a divine instrument, for the security of which He is greatly concerned: "Everything our blessed Lord either said or did, pointedly tended to discourage the disturbing a settled government." "Unless we are good subjects, we cannot be good Christians." Jesus "thought it would be better, both for Judea in particular, and for the world in general, that . . . the people should not be distracted by a revolution, and . . . that there should be no precedent to which revolutionists might appeal." "The only very intolerable grievance in government is, when men allow themselves to disturb and destroy the peace of the world, by vain attempts to render that perfect, which the laws of our nature have ordained to be imperfect." "To suffer nobly indicates more greatness of mind than can be shown by acting valiantly." 42

Jonathan Boucher was the high Tory of the Tory cause in America. He refused to strike his flag to the pirate craft of republicanism; he would not truckle to newfangled notions; but stood up stoutly to be counted for God and the King. In laying bare the heart of Toryism, he unwittingly gave aid and comfort to the detested cause of liberalism. It is reasonable to assume that such militant loyalty to the outworn doctrine of passive submission was a real disservice to the ministry, for it revealed the prerogative in a light peculiarly offensive to American prejudices. What a godsend to the liberals was such doctrine on the lips of so eminent a divine!


1 Diary and Letters, Vol. 1, PP. 46-48.

2 See Hosmer, Life of Samuel Adams, p. 259.

3 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay, Vol. III, p. 255.

4 4 "Answer of Bernard to the Petition of the House of Representatives to the King," in Works of Samuel Adams, Vol. I, pp. 365-367.

5 Quoted in John Adams, Novanglus, Second Letter.

6 See his Life of Thomas Hutchinson.

7 Quoted in ibid., p. 189.

8 Ibid., p. 206.

9 Hutchinson assumes the act of incorporation will lay restrictions upon the right of suffrage and the powers of the town meeting.

10 Ibid., pp. 206-207.

11 Ibid., p. 199.

12 Resolves of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay, June 16, 1773.

13 Ibid., P. 436. Compare the view of Van Tyne, The Causes of the War of Independence, p. 85.

14 Speech of January 6, 1773.

15 History of Massachusetts Bay, Vol. III, PP. 381-382.

16 Answer of Bernard to the Petition of the House of Representatives.

17 For Hutchinson's statement of the Tory case, see Vol. III, PP. 352- 355.

18 History of Massachusetts Bay, Vol. III, P. 399.

19 Works, Vol. X, pp. 194-195; quoted in Tyler, Literary History of the American Revolution, Vol. I, Chapter XVI.

20 Preface to Novanglus and Massachusettensis, 1819.

21 Letter of February 6, 1775, in Novanglus and Massachusettensis, pp. 187-188.

22 Ibid., PP. 152-153.

23 Letter of January 2, in ibid., p. 159.

24 Letter of December 19, in ibid., p. 147.

25 Letter of March 27, in ibid., pp. 217-218.

26 Ibid., p. 219.

27 Letter of January 9, in ibid., p. 171.

28 Letter of January 23, in ibid., p. 181.

29 Ibid., p. 225.

30 A View of the Causes, etc., p. 591

31 Ibid., p. 309.

32 Ibid, PP. 507-508.

33 Ibid., p. 306.

34 Ibid., p. 313.

35 Ibid., p. xliv.

36 Ibid., p. 504.

37 Ibid., pp. 509 and 511

38 Ibid., p. 309.

39 Ibid., Preface, p. xlii.

40 Ibid., p. 525.

41 Ibid., p. 534.

42 Ibid., pp. 535, 538, 542, 543.