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American Independence (Chapter 8) by Ben Ponder

American Independence (Chapter 8) by Ben Ponder

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Chapter 8: Transatlantic Resistance
Chapter 8: Transatlantic Resistance

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Published by: Estate Four Publishers on May 02, 2012
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06/19/2012

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B
EN
P
ONDER
From
Common Sense
to the
 Declaration
Independence 
AMERICAN
 
Chapter Eight 
Transatlantic Resistance 
 You are shocked by Accounts from the Southward of a Disposition in a greatMajority, to counteract Independence. Read the Proceedings of Georgia, Southand North Carolina, and Virginia, and then judge. The Middle Colonies havenever tasted the bitter Cup—they have never Smarted—and are therefore a lit-tle cooler—but you will see that the Colonies are united indissolubly. Marylandhas passed a few eccentric Resolves, but these are only Flashes which will soonexpire. The Proprietary Governments are not only encumbered with a largeBody of Quakers, but are embarrassed by a proprietary Interest—both togetherclog their operations a little: but these clogs are falling off, as you will Soon see. John Adams to Benjamin HichbornMay 1776I observed that in writing
Common Sense 
however easy it may appear now it isover, the necessity of knowing both countries was so material, that no person who had reflected only on one could have sufficiently succeeded in a proposi-tion for their political separation: and though that pamphlet has much to say respecting England, it has never been attacked in that country on the score oerror or mistake, which scarcely would have happened had the writer knownonly one side of the water. Thomas Paine to a Committee of the Continental Congress1783
 
Transatlantic Resistance 
326
P
 ART
O
NE
 LOYALIST WHIGS AND PATRIOTIC TORIES
The Gamble of Loyalism
In this chapter I shall begin folding into my analysis of the in-dependence movement more detail on the resistance to
Common Sense 
 and independence. Gaining a clearer picture of the political movementthat led to American independence requires a thickened description of “loyalists” as well as “patriots.” To understand the American Revolutionat over two centuries’ distance, one of the first things we must do isforget the end of the story. To grasp the motives and to make sense of the behaviors of political actors in the period, we must remember theuncertainty of outcomes and the contingency of political affairs. Wehave a tendency to confuse our hindsight and the revolutionaries’ fore-sight. No one alive at the end of the eighteenth century could haveforetold how America would grow in size and significance, but many had vague intimations that they were launching an experiment of mas-sive consequence. To inhabit the “mind” of the time period as a studentof early American history is to participate in wild swings of military momentum, constant anxiety for the safety of friends and family, frus-tration at the ineptitude of leaders and fickle public resolve—all punc-tuated with glimmers of expectant confidence.Surviving in a world of manifold uncertainty required meas-ured risk-taking, and loyalism was, in this climate, a very sensible pos-ture based upon cool calculation. Imagine yourself, for example, a wealthy colonial merchant in New York. Your material abundance istied up in the transatlantic trade in consumable goods between yoursmall city (the third largest in provincial America) and the billowingmetropolis of London. Maybe you are a lifelong Anglican, and youpossess, from childhood forward, dozens of fond memories associated with the Church of England: baptisms, weddings, friendships, movingsermons, etc. You were raised by your parents to adore the king and torespect his decisions as innately just, even if those decisions becomeburdensome on occasion. Because you are, in your mind, an English-man who
happens
to live in America, you endure hardship for thegreater good of your parent and protector, Britain. In fact, to be a “pa-triot” means remaining loyal to Britain at all costs.Now imagine that a bunch of “middling class” activists—in your eyes, a flock of nobodies—begin canvassing for support to cut off all imports and exports to your largest market, and they begin disparag-ing a country of which you are a happy subject. When they begin totalk about declaring a political separation between the countries, youget squeamish. You have much, and, therefore, have much to lose. The world’s most devastating army and navy are now on your shores on a

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