Bradley A. Jones
University of Glasgow
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Friends of the Princeton University Library and the Princeton University Library Special Collections and Rare Books department staff for making my month in Princeton both enjoyable and rewarding. I would like to further extend my thanks to Meg Rich, who helped me to get settled, locate sources, and find my way in the library. I would also like to thank AnnaLee Pauls, who served as both the Photoduplications Coordinator and the library's unofficial Princeton tour guide. Her advice on what to do and where to eat definitely made my month in Princeton more enjoyable and relaxing.
The Friends of Princeton University Library Research Grant allowed me to visit the Special Collections at the Firestone Library for the month of October, 2004 in order to complete a substantial portion of my doctoral dissertation. My dissertation examines the impact of the American Revolution on the patriotic political culture of loyalism throughout the British Atlantic world. It will be the first major study of the ways in which the American Revolution affected how ordinary Britons throughout the Empire conceptualized and experienced their patriotism and loyalism.
The eighteenth century was a crucial period in the expansion of the British Empire, and an accompanying elaboration of a British imperial identity. Military success against the French and Spanish, the emergence and expansion of a powerful Atlantic trade economy and the growth of an influential and widespread print culture allowed subjects from all corners of the Empire to participate in and benefit from their ties to Britain. Meanwhile, by the late 1750s and early 1760s celebrations of British military victories, royal birthdays and the accession of George III allowed a broad and diverse group of British subjects to demonstrate their patriotic allegiance and identity. Whig ideology informed these celebrations, based as they were on dedication to the British constitution and Protestant faith, which guaranteed their rights and liberties as British subjects.
Unlike the Seven Years' War, where demonstrations and expressions of loyalty against a long standing and well-defined enemy were obvious, the American Revolution presented a much more complicated picture. It was also based both on the Whig ideology and the Protestant identity that defined Britishness, and as such it constituted a major challenge to the beliefs and identity of patriotism and loyalism emerging in the British Atlantic world. Britons in North America, the Caribbean and the British Isles were required to rethink and demonstrate their shared identity and allegiance in the face of a republican revolution premised upon a Protestant and Whig articulation of individual rights and liberties. In my dissertation I am exploring how Britons in the key communities of New York City, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Kingston (Jamaica), Glasgow and London set about articulating and demonstrating their continued patriotic loyalty, and how their patriotism and loyalism changed because of their reactions to the American
Various material in both the Manuscript and Rare Books collections further informed my knowledge of the nature of an eighteenth century British identity and how various events and ideas of the period challenged and reshaped that identity. Within the Rare Books collection is a volume of various sermons, proclamations and addresses (Rare Books (Ex) 1446.999, Vol. 5) related to the anti-Papist riots in Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1779 and the subsequent Gordon Riots in London in June, 1780. These events are crucial to my work as they provide amazing insight into the impact of the American War on the lives of Britons living in Glasgow and London. The 1778 repeal of the anti-Catholic laws by Parliament, a result of the government's need for more troops to fight in America, touched off a series of riots in which ordinary Britons in both Glasgow and London sought to reclaim their Protestant British heritage despite the government's pro-Catholic policies. The material in this volume highlights the motives and reason
s for these loyal Britons to oppose Parliamentary policy and sheds additional light on the wider impact of the American Revolution on the lives of Britons living throughout the Empire.
The Rare Books' John Witherspoon Library collection also contains a diverse range of material on Scotland during the American Revolutionary era. Volume thirty-one contains a sermon, originally delivered in 1745 at the outbreak of the '45 Rebellion and republished in Edinburgh in 1779 during the tumultuous build-up to the anti-Papist riots. The sermon aggressively denounces Catholicism in an effort to reaffirm the superiority of the Protestant British identity. Another sermon (Volume fifty), given by Rev. William Thom, minister in Govan, and published in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1778, wonderfully illustrates the significance of France entering the American war on the lives of Britons. Thom argues that the British and American militaries should unite in opposition to French involvement, as the eternal enemy of all Britons. This point is echoed throughout the Empire in sermons and various forms of popular political culture, and plays a significant role in enabling Britons to better understand the nature of
the conflict. After all, until 1778 many Britons struggled to comes to terms with what was more or less a civil war, but with France joining the contest (and then Catholic Spain in 1779) they were better able to understand and articulate opposition to the American cause, which now had the support of their long-time enemy in the French.
Within the Andre De Coppet collection I located various letters and correspondence highlighting the importance of newspapers in defining and articulating responses to war-time events and ideas. Thomas Glyn's, Journal of America Campaign, provided useful insight into the physical destruction of New York City caused by the fire in September, 1776 as the British were entering the city. Richard Montgomery's letter to James Rivington (in the Edward Livingston Papers), the prominent Loyalist printer in New York City, again shows how newspapers served a vital purpose in this war-time period. Together, these findings have greatly enriched my understanding of the impact of the American Revolution on Britons living in the American Colonies and in mainland Britain and have forced me to rethink and reconsider how Britons perceived of their place in the Empire during this period. Let me again thank the Friends of Princeton University Library for providing me with the opportunity to investigate these issues.