Historical Character Essay
#775858 Topic: Historical Character Essay
Number of Pages: 3 (Double Spaced)
Type of document: Essay
We grow up in America seeing the Revolution from the view of the Patriots. Yet, most Americans at the time were not Patriots. There are three goals in this assignment. First, it is an exercise in thinking about what it would have been like to live at a time in the past. Second, it is an exercise in looking at historical events from different views. All Americans were not Patriot Boston Liberty Boys. There was a great diversity in American society. Third, it is an exercise in thinking about motivation.
I: Read the American Revolution Historical Groups lecture notes. Use these notes to choose groups and to develop a character, motivation, and perspective.
II: From the American Revolution Historical Groups lecture notes, select 3 Historical Groups:
Select 1 Patriot Historical Group
Select 1 Moderate Historical Group
Select 1 Loyalist Historical Group
III: Write a total of 6 paragraphs (each about half a page double spaced). Taking on the role of a character from each of the three historical groups, write 2 paragraphs in each character role.
As a Patriot Historical Group character, A1) write a paragraph on why you are a Patriot and A2) write a paragraph trying to persuade a moderate to become a Patriot.
As a Moderate Historical Group character, B1) write a paragraph on why you are a Moderate and B2) write a paragraph (or two small paragraphs) trying to persuade two people not to join either side. One is thinking about becoming a Patriot and the other is thinking about becoming a Loyalist.
As a Loyalist Historical Group character, C1) write a paragraph on why you are a Loyalist and C2) write a paragraph trying to persuade a moderate to become a Loyalist.
IV: Motivation/Difference between the first and second paragraphs for each character
On the first paragraph for each character, on why you are a Patriot, Moderate, or Loyalist,
This can be personal and private. You could think of it as a diary entry or from a letter to a friend or member of your family.
This is where you can show your motivation.
In terms of your character, try to be honest.
On the paragraphs where you are trying to persuade a moderate or an undecided person,
This is public. You could think of it as a statement you are making out in public or a letter to the editor in a newspaper.
This is where you can argue. Say what you think you need to say to persuade a person to come over to your side. Here you can exaggerate and stretch the truth.
Depending on the role you choose there may need to be a sharp contrast between the two paragraphs. Something you can admit to yourself, family, and friends, you might not want to make public.
Examples of how there can be a similarity between the two paragraphs:
If you are a Congregational minister Patriot motivated by anti-Catholicism you can be public about that. If you are a Quaker moderate motivated by your religious beliefs, you can publicly state that you believe to fight is to go against the will of God. If you are a Loyalist on the frontier motivated by wanting protection from hostile Indians, you can publicly state one should support the king because his soldiers protect us from the Indians.
Examples of a sharp contrast between the two paragraphs:
As a Patriot you could privately admit that you are motivated by indebtedness. But publicly you would want to take the high road and not argue we should revolt so we can get out of our debts. You publicly want to make appealing arguments. For another example, you could privately admit that you are motivated by a concern that slaves are escaping to the British side. But publicly, you would not want to be so honest. Instead, you could use the rhetoric of freedom. It would sound better to say you are fighting for freedom rather than to say you are fighting to maintain slavery.
As a Loyalist you could privately admit that you are motivated by the money you are making selling goods to the British army or that, of course, you are a Loyalist because you are an agent for a British company. But publicly, again, you might not want to be so honest. You would want to make patriotic arguments for supporting king and country.
V: Guide for the paragraphs:
Stay in historical character. Do not make references to how the Revolution and War of Independence turns out. Do not refer to the future of the U. S.
Avoid a presentist perspective. Today, we generally think that the number 1 and most common sense reason for and justification for the Revolution was that the colonies were ready and wanted to separate from Britain and be an independent nation. However, the opposition in the 1760s and 1770s had not been a movement to separate colonies out of the British empire to become a new and separate country. Independence was not generally discussed at the time. For Patriots independence as a goal came late. Also, avoid using words such as “nation.” During the war even radical Patriots were not ready to call the confederation a nation.
Avoid a Patriot bias. Again, we grow up in America seeing the Revolution from the view of the Patriots. Part of the assignment, as an exercise in looking at historical events from different views, is to avoid having a Patriot bias when you assume a moderate or Loyalist character. When you are a moderate or a Loyalist, here are some things that you would probably not be thinking about and would not be writing or talking about. These were not commonly held views among colonists. You will find these views mostly in Patriot propaganda:
That colonists came over to get away from oppression in Britain
That the king is bad
That colonists were consciously feeling a burdensome taxation from Britain
Do not stay in the abstract. Try to be like a real person. Think of realistic and personal motives that would lead a person to take positions during the Revolution. Consider that people did not always act because they just wanted to do good things. Consider other motives than the noble, principled, and idealistic ones.
American Revolution Historical Groups
The following is a breakdown of society at the time of the Revolution and War of Independence in terms of different interest groups and group associations. This gets at the social diversity of the period. All Americans were not the same, nor were all Patriots the same nor all Loyalists the same. Different people had different motives and goals. I hope this will help you work with the confusing times of the Revolution.
You will use these notes to pick groups and assume characters for the Historical Characters Essay assignment.
Patriot New England Congregational Minister (male)
Congregational ministers had been very supportive of the king and British government as they fought and defeated Catholic France in the French and Indian War. They celebrated Quebec becoming part of the British empire and the Catholic Church there being disestablished. They went to the complete opposite and condemned the king and Parliament for the Quebec Act which allowed the Catholic Church to again be the established church of Quebec. This was proof that the king had sold his soul and was in league with the devil. They gave political sermons calling for opposition to the king and Parliament, organized the ladies of their congregations into spinning groups, and encouraged their congregations to support the boycott on English goods.
(Or you could be the minister’s wife, daughter, sister, or mother). You could be among the ladies in the Congregational Church who were in spinning groups making cloth so that there would be no need to buy any cloth from England. They were supporters of the boycott on English goods. They would use all of the social pressure they could to try to get the women of a New England town not to buy English goods. Historians have sometimes referred to these women as â€œDaughters of Liberty.” During the war they will raise money for the Patriots.
Patriot Boston Smuggler/Privateer (him or any member of his family)
New England had had economic problems since the 1740s. Many were going into debt to British creditors. Boston and the other port towns were declining in population and local taxes were rising. Many of the New England shippers only did well as privateers, attacking enemy commerce, during war. They could not engage in privateering during peacetime and increasingly moved into smuggling in Dutch tea (which was cheaper than the legal English tea).They prospered privateering during the French and Indian War, but, with the peace in 1763, the privateering ended, and their economic troubles returned. The Sugar Act offered them another way to gain wealth, by smuggling illegal French rum into North America. Boston was the leading smuggling capital, a center for illegal trade within the empire. The two main products they smuggled were Dutch tea and, after the Sugar Act, French rum. With the recession that followed the Panic of 1772 the economic problems of New England merchants mounted and they fell further into debt to British creditors. The Boston smugglersâ€™ interest inclined them to not support the British central government and its Navigation Acts regulation. They wanted to trade free of government regulation. They wanted to trade whatever they wanted with whomever they wanted whenever they wanted. Often having to avoid customs they supported the Sons of Liberty in return for their support against the British customs officials. They supported the boycott on importing English goods hoping to drive out of business colonial shippers and merchants trying to continue a regular and legal trade with England. They supported the Massachusetts country opposition party against the colonial governor and supporters of the central government. Then the Tea Act in 1773 would make legal English tea cheaper than illegal smuggled Dutch tea. So smugglers and Liberty Boys joined in the destruction of English tea in Boston harborâ€”what later would be called the â€œBoston Tea Party.â€ Boston continued as a smuggling center and Boston and eastern Massachusetts became a hotbed for the Patriot side. Many leaders had debt and smuggling connections such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Revolution and war could get them out of their debts and protect their smuggling interest while at the same time allowing them to return to privateering. During the war the smugglers became Patriot privateers attacking British and Loyalist commercial ships.
Patriot VA Indebted Tobacco Planter & Slaveholder (him or any member of his family)
There had been too much tobacco on the English market since the 1750s, prices were mixed to low, and most tobacco farmers had grown very indebted to their British creditors. The Revolution offered them a political solution to their economic problems. Separating from the Mother Country could get them out of their debts. The Virginia tobacco region was a hotbed for the radical Patriot side. It furnished many Patriot leaders such as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson who were debtors. They took a colony-rights position against the central government in London and British creditors, outsiders who they said were robbing them of their wealth. Added to this was the threat of losing slaves. The British had been pointing out the hypocrisy of slave owners talking of liberty. The word was getting out after the Somerset Case that slaves could become free in England. Then once the rebellion began it was official that slaves who escaped from rebel slave owners would be free within the British empire. Virginians took their stand and seceded from the British empire. As Henry said, they would fight a war for liberty.
Patriot Non-Citizen Soldier (male)
Part of our patriotic myth is that the War of Independence was fought by idealistic citizen soldiers who fought for the cause of liberty and independence. This group is often referred to by historians as the â€œ army of 76.â€ However, when property owning citizens with families saw real action and real bullets killing men, they had had enough. They went home and never came back out. This â€œarmyâ€ that we celebrate today had disappeared by the winter of 1776-77. Washingtonâ€™s Continental Army would be made up of non-citizen/non-property owners, young men raised as regiments of the states for periods of enlistment (usually 2-3 years) in return for land. The young men who enlisted were rural agricultural workers or workers in shops or mills or the docks in port towns. Many of those who enlisted from port towns were recent immigrants to America. For these young men enlistment was their chance to own land to farm. This was like in the 17th century when young people became indentured servants in order to become landowners. The Continental Army soldiers enlisted so they could own land to farm. Unlike the â€œarmy of 76â€ they were fighting for something real, land.
(Or you could be the soldierâ€™s wife or girlfriend)
You could be one of the Patriot campfollowers, women who followed the Continental Army. There were three major groups: officersâ€™ wives, soldiersâ€™ wives and girlfriends, and prostitutes. The soldiersâ€™ wives and girlfriends earned their keep by performing several functions: nurses, cooks, and laundry.
Patriot SC Rice Planter & Slaveholder (him or any member of his family)
The Low Country in the Lower South, the rice growing area, was the only area in English North America where slaves were in the majority. The white rice planter elite was always dreading slave uprisings. The British had been pointing out the hypocrisy of slave owners talking of liberty. The word was getting out after the Somerset Case that slaves could become free in England. Then once the rebellion began it was official that slaves who escaped from rebel slave owners would be free within the British empire. A panic ran through the South Carolina planter elite that lived in Charleston. This drove many of them to the Patriot side in order to protect and maintain slavery, their economy and society. During the war, after British occupation of Charleston, they lived out on their rice farms. They supported the Patriot side or fought in the Patriot militia, which had the double purpose of 1) policing slaves and hunting for runaway slaves and 2) fighting the Loyalists and attacking British supply lines.
Patriot Waterfront Liberty Boy (male)
Sailors, dockworkers, or other workers at the waterfront of port towns, either free or slave, who turned out for the free beer and rum at the â€œliberty ralliesâ€ and who participated in the urban riots led by the Sons of Liberty. They participated in the throwing of the Stamp Act stamps into the sea. In Boston they participated in throwing the Tea Act tea into the seaâ€”later known as the â€œBoston Tea Party.â€ They attacked British customs officials and the customs houses. They tried to prevent customs officials from inspecting and seizing ships of smugglers. They were part of the â€œmobâ€ for carrying out the coercive side to the Revolution of threatening and harming colonists who spoke out against the opposition/Patriot movement or did not cooperate with the boycott on English goods. If in Philadelphia or a port town in New England, they went on to work in connection with Patriot privateering during the war.
They appear to have gotten nothing out of all their radical activity and, without contemporary written sources, historians have debated over their possible motivation. Was it just the fun of all the free rum and beer? Was it just the fun of bullying and tar and feathering people? Was it gains from looting during the riots? Was it the fun of opposing authority and beating up customs officials? Was it the understanding that if the smugglers like Hancock stay prosperous then the sailors and dockworkers who work for the smugglers will keep their jobs? Or did they believe that more would come from their actions? Did they believe after the Revolution they would be able to vote? Did they believe that in time they could successfully demand better jobs and better pay? Were they trying to destroy the world of the rich and share the wealth?
New York Tenant Farmer (him or any member of his family)
Most New York tenant farmers were either Patriot or Loyalist
In New York, most of the Hudson River valley was successful farmland. It was a major food producing region. It consisted of family farms. The farmers did not own their land. They rented the land. Their rich landlords lived in New York City. They were known as the â€œ Lords of the Hudson.â€ From time to time the tenants would rise up against bad landlords. This happened on a mass scale during the Revolution. During the Revolution, tenant farmers tended to pick sides by which sides their landlords took and whether they were good landlords who had always had a fair rent or were bad landlords always raising the rent, demanding full payment, and evicting if the rent payment was late. Tenants tended to remain loyal to good landlords and rose up against the bad ones. Tenants with bad landlords took advantage of the Revolution and breakdown in law and order to rise up. In their county they would try to destroy the records of their lease. They would not pay rent and would claim the land as their own.
So, if the landlord was a good one and he was a Patriot the tenant would be a Patriot. And if the landlord was a bad one and he was a Loyalist the tenant would rise up against him as a Patriot. During the war they supported the Patriot side or fought in the Patriot militia. If they were Patriots rising up against Loyalist landlords they fought believing that if the Patriots won they would own their farms and no longer be tenants.
If, instead, the landlord was a good one and he was a Loyalist the tenant would be a Loyalist. And if the landlord was a bad one and he was a Patriot the tenant would rise up against him as a Loyalist. During the war they supported the Loyalist side or fought in the Loyalist militia. If they were Loyalists rising up against Patriot landlords they fought believing that if the British and Loyalists won they would own their farms and no longer be tenants.
Loyalist Georgia Frontiersman (him or any member of his family)
Indian attacks were the biggest concern for frontiersmen. They wanted protection with forts and troops in the area to police the Indians. They would complain to their colonial governments and ask for help. But the colonial governments would not keep militia units in the frontier. People from the eastern settled areas were very indifferent to the problems the frontiersmen had. So the frontiersmen looked to the central government for help. The king would send in army troops to police the Indians and protect the frontiersmen. This had been the occasion for problems between the central government and the colonies over paying for the troops. Many frontiersmen knew the same colonial easterners who would not raise taxes to pay for colonial militia to be in the frontier also opposed paying taxes to the central government to support army troops to be in the frontier. Georgia frontiersmen had Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles to worry about. They needed protection and they would remain loyal to the king. During the war they supported the Loyalist side or fought in the Loyalist militia. In the war, with the British and other Loyalists for a while they will win control of Georgia.
Loyalist Free Black (male or female)
The word was getting out after the Somerset Case that slaves could become free in England. Then once the rebellion began it was official that slaves who escaped from rebel slave owners would be free within the British empire. Many slaves ran away from their owners during the war. Most of the major Patriot leaders, like Washington, Jefferson, or Henry lost slaves. Thousands escaped in urban areas such as New York and Philadelphia, Tidewater Virginia and Maryland, and the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia. It is estimated that as many as a third of all of the slaves of South Carolina and Georgia escaped during the war. Many headed down into the Floridas. As British and Loyalists took control of several port towns, escaped slaves would head to these locations: Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina, Wilmington, North Carolina, and New York City. Also, the peninsula of the Virginia and Maryland eastern shore became a refuge for Loyalists during the war. Men and women escaped, many with their children, going to the British side for their freedom. Many of the free black men fought in Loyalist militia units or served as Loyalist privateers on the seas.
Loyalist NYC Shipper/Privateer (him or any member of his family)
Many of the shippers in New York City had had a good business trading in the British empire and wanted to continue to do legal business with England. They knew they were connected to trade on the seas and did not see how it could benefit themselves and the colonists to restrict legal trade. They opposed and tried not to cooperate with the non-importation boycotts. Others had also smuggled in illegal Dutch tea. However, once the British navy came into the port, and New York City became the headquarters for British military operations in North America, smuggling became more difficult. Shippers of the city formerly engaged in the illegal Dutch tea trade could now profitably switch to trading with the British military. New York City did well during the war. Merchants had a brisk trade with the British navy and army. Many of the shippers owned mills that produced flour and cornmeal that they sold to the British military. During the war they also transported and sold food and other goods to the military operations in North America. It was clearly in their interest to be Loyalist. Many of them became Loyalist privateers and attacked Patriot commercial ships. New York City was the biggest Loyalist privateering port.
Loyalist Small Merchant/General Store Owner (him or any member of his family)
The big smugglers with big inventories in their warehouses, such as John Hancock, backed the boycotts on trade from England. They could keep selling out of their warehouses and keep making money while small shippers and small merchants would run out of goods to sell. The big traders used the boycotts to drive out the small traders. Many of the small traders wanted to continue to do legal business with England and resented illegal smugglers financially gaining at their expense by backing the coercive tactics of the Liberty Boys who enforced the boycott. Many of the small traders were in port towns. Other merchants were far removed from the coasts. These were among the main retailers in the rural areas, those who ran a general store. They either owned the store or worked as an agent for a company that owned it. They resented the restrictions imposed by the boycott organizations and the means they used to enforce the boycott. Whether they were in a port or got goods from a port town to their general store, they knew they were connected to trade on the seas and did not see how it could benefit themselves and the colonists to restrict legal trade. Many of the small traders went into opposition to the opposition, to the people who became Patriots. They would remain loyal. Among these shippers in the port towns, they had opposed the Patriot boycotts to keep their shipping business and now, during the war, they increased their business becoming Loyalist privateers and attacking Patriot commerce.
Loyalist Indian (male or female)
Indians had long favored governments that sought to trade with them over settlers who came in to take the land. This is why Indians generally preferred the French in Quebec or the Spanish in the Floridas to the English. After 1763, the British government had taken the place of the French and Spanish. Granted, to protect the colonists, the British government sent in the army to police the Indians. But the government did not take land away from the Indians. Indeed, by the 1770s the government had been very successful in getting Indians to see that they could trade with the British in Montreal and Detroit like they used to with the French or in Mobile and Pensacola like they used to with the Spanish. The view Indians had of the colonists, however, was quite different. They saw that with the colonists nothing changed in 1763. The colonists just kept coming. The Indians saw how colonists moving south and west in Georgia or west in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, or Pennsylvania did not come in small numbers just to trade. They came in large numbers hunting and trapping and then taking the land, clearing the forests for farms, and building dams over the streams. To resist the colonists who would come in and take the land, generally, Indians will ally with the British government during the War of Independence just as they had allied with the French during the French & Indian War. During that war the Iroquois had allied with Britain. The Iroquois will stay allied with the British government during the War of Independence. Here are some examples of Indian nations you can choose from: Iroquois (a nation in the Iroquois league), Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Cherokee, Creek, or Seminole.
You are an Indian who knows English or, we can pretend, what you are saying has been translated into English.
German (male or female)
Germans were mostly Moderate or Loyalist
Many Germans had migrated to America. About a third of Pennsylvania was German. There were also Germans in northern Maryland and northwest Virginia. They tended to stick to themselves and stayed out of politics. They wanted to stay out of the Revolution. They saw it as a dispute amongst the English people. But Patriots brought great pressure on them to commit to their side. The Patriots raised taxes and would take property such as cattle to support the Patriot cause. Germans protested.
German Loyalists. Some went into the opposition to the opposition and fought back to protect their farms. They supported the government against the rebels and became Loyalists.
German Moderates. Others continued to try to remain neutral. They continued to stay out and would support neither side. They were moderates who would try to get their families and farms through the war.
Write as a German who knows English or we can pretend your German has been translated into English.
Regulator (him or any member of his family)
Regulators were mostly Moderate or Loyalist
When the Scotch-Irish moved down into the Up Country of the Lower South they became ranchers in beef and pork. The Low Country rice planter elite that lived in Charleston and Savannah did not want to share power with them. The ranchers were not represented in the colonial legislature. The colonial governments of South Carolina and Georgia did not even set up counties in the Up Country so the ranchers did not have sheriffs, militia, or a courthouse in which to record deeds for land. When rustlers began stealing their cattle the colonial governments were indifferent. So the ranchers formed their own patrols. This was the Regulator movement. They were successful in policing the hills but the colonial governments, far from being grateful, called them vigilantes and sent in militia to fight the Regulators. The Regulators had a great dislike not for the king and the central government but the rice farmer elite in Charleston and Savannah that ran the South Carolina and Georgia colonial governments. When the Revolution came and the fear of a slave insurrection pushed many of the rice farmers into being Patriots, the Regulators were not inclined to join the side of the rice farmer elite. The Low Country rice farmer Patriots, knowing how badly they needed support from the Regulators during the war, tried to negotiate with them. The British and Loyalists also tried to recruit from them.
Regulator Moderates. Some Regulators were inclined to stay out. They tried their best to stay out going in the end with whichever side won.
Regulator Loyalists. Other Regulators were inclined to fight the rice farmer elite and became Loyalists. In the war, with the British and other Loyalists, for a while they will win control of Georgia, Charleston, and much of the colony of South Carolina.
Moderate Pennsylvania Quaker (male or female)
Quakers, because of their religion, were pacifists. They did not serve in militia. They wanted to stay out of the Revolution and the war. But Patriots brought great pressure on them to commit to their side. The Patriots raised taxes and would take property such as cattle to support the Patriot cause. Quakers had problems similar to the Germans. No matter how hard pressed by the Patriots, however, they would not fight back. They continued to try to remain neutral. But there was another dimension. Unlike the Germans the Quakers wanted both as farmers and as merchants to actively trade with both sides. They thought they should have a free trade right to trade with both sides. The Patriots tried to prevent them from trading with Loyalists and selling food to the British army. Patriots set up political prisoner camps to house the Quakers who refused to comply with Patriot orders. Whether imprisoned by the Patriots or not, Quakers would not commit to either side. Again, to fight would go against their religion. They were moderates who would try to get their families, their farms, and their shops through the war.
Moderate Squatter (male or female)
This is the biggest group that usually gets left out of the story. As people moved into the frontier or hill and mountain areas they would build log cabins and squat on the land. They staked their claim to the land but did not buy it from anyone who claimed it. They would sometimes be informed some distant landlord expected rent to be paid. This they ignored. For the most part they were too remote from the market to be engaged in commerce. They went hunting and fishing, did some trapping, made leather clothes, grew some corn, and â€œsqueezedâ€ the corn into whiskey. This is where they raised their family. They were clannish and kept to themselves. They wanted little contact with the world beyond their hills. They refused to pay any taxes and would take their rifles out against any tax collectors or revenuers who came around. They resisted the efforts of Patriots to tax them or confiscate their property. But they did not go over to the other side. They did not join the Loyalists. During the war, both sides tried to recruit from their families but they stood firm. They wanted nothing to do with the Revolution.
Switch sides NJ farmer (him or any member of his family)
Many a NJ farmer appeared to be a Patriot or a Loyalist but actually was a Moderate
Early in the war the British made New York City their headquarters for operations in North America. The city was Loyalist. Across the Delaware in Pennsylvania, Valley Forge was usually Washingtonâ€™s headquarters and Philadelphia was usually the location for the Continental Congress. New Jersey Loyalist militia operated out of and was supplied through New York City. The Patriot New Jersey militia often operated out of the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. The New Jersey Loyalist and Patriot militias battled it out through the war in New Jersey. The British army and Washingtonâ€™s Continental Army several times marched through New Jersey. New Jersey was a battleground area and was in the middle of the civil war aspect of the Revolution. Both sides controlled New Jersey at different times during the war. Both sides came in demanding that inhabitants take a loyalty oath. Refusing to do so meant at least the confiscation of oneâ€™s property. New Jersey farmers switched sides as they struggled to get their families and farms through the war. So they were loyal to the cause or to the kingâ€”Patriot or Loyalistâ€”depending on which side was controlling the area.