Independence!?!

When people talk about independence, I often laugh inside; “You damn fools,” We should be grateful to King George III and follow the rule of law. There is no benefit in chaos and disorder, and we will risk all our wealth, our livelihood, and even our life by disobeying the Great King.

Of course, Robert Chesney and his family were against the idea of ​the revolution and consider themselves to be loyalists. Robert Chesney’s son, Alexander Chesney was appointed as a Capitan of a loyalist militia. Also, one of their closest family friends was Col. John Philips, who later became the commanding officer of the Jackson’s Creek Loyalist Militia during the Revolutionary War. Chesney families were loyal to the king and usually interact with other loyalists, who had the same mindset as them. Loyalists were from all different classes of society. Of course, most of the British officers, government officials, and British soldiers were loyal to the Crown. There were also the majority of small farmers, shopkeepers, artisans, wealthy men, and many merchants who did not like changes, and therefore they were part of the loyalist. Everyone who works for the Crown or benefited directly like a British officer, or indirectly like merchants or businessmen, were on loyalist sides. Historian believed 1 quarter of the population of the colonies, about 500 thousand people, considered to be Loyalists.

There both loyalists and Patriots had their similarities, strengths, and weaknesses. First, we talk about who was on each side of the Revolutionary War. Both the Loyalist and Patriots were colonists, they just had different opinions about who should win the war. Most loyalists have been working for the King or benefited from the status quo remaining the same, while patriots tend to lead protests and boycotts to make changes happen. Both were harassed if they lived in the area dominated by the other side. Most Patriots had to fight for the American army, while only some Loyalists fought for the British Army, many were mercenaries who were paid to fight for the crown. Some of the Loyalists give up at the beginning of the war and return to Great Britain. The Patriots were led by the sons of liberty and the continental congress.

The British Army’s strength was with a very powerful Navy, a large army, and a lot of supplies. They British wealth allow them to hire the best mercenaries for the war, including the brutal Hessian mercenaries. The weakness of the British Army was the long distance from the British Kingdom to America, which causes the soldiers’ movement to be very slow. Also, most of the British Army was fighting for a paycheck, versus Patriots that were fighting for homes and families. The American Army had a home field advantage, they know the land and know how to get places fast. The American also had access to new soldiers, many people who were sick of British, joined the American Army. Also, the American Army had France as their ally. The Patriots’ weakness was not having a strong navy, most of the soldiers were not trained properly, and they had a shortage of supplies throughout the entire war. However, the biggest strength of the Patriots was George Washington. Washington may have lost some battles, but he was one of the few who was important to inspire his men and eventually win the war.

After the War, I, my families and many of the Loyalists left America for Great Britain or move to Canada. Some of the Loyalists, however, decide to stay in America and be part of a new nation.

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How To View The Imperial Crisis

When most people look at the Imperial Crisis leading up to the American Revolution, they have a tendency to look at the conflict in a top-down structure.  They view events from the conflict in the perception of how decisions made at the top levels filter down to affect the lower level classes of society, and study the opinion of those who were a part of that higher class order.  In recent years however, many historians have begun to view the Imperial Crisis from a bottom-up assessment.  This is when they make an interpretation of the perspective of the common man and how these events impacted not only the lower classes but the ruling class as well.  The argument has become whether historians need to study the crisis from the top-down or bottom-up angle of history to see which point of view better explains the breakdown of the colonies relations with the British Empire.  In order to see which standpoint is the most accurate, one should try to understand both perspectives, and then see how a person in the revolution would have tried to understand the events of the crisis around them.

The first perspective to take into consideration would be the bottom-up viewpoint where we look at the imperial crisis from the standpoint of a lower class person.  When one evaluates the crisis from this angle, they see how decisions from lower class citizens would affect the choices that the higher classes made in society.  A good example of this is the boycotting by colonial citizens of British made goods due to the new tax laws that were imposed by Parliament. While this is an important perspective to consider, most people at the time of the revolution would not have viewed events from this perspective. The colonists at this time had a more deep-seated concept of authority in that they viewed events that happened in their lives resulting from decisions made by those over them.

However, the most common approach to studying the imperial crisis is looking at the top-down viewpoint.  While this sounds more narrow minded in a historical perspective, it is easy to see when studying this time period how choices made by those in the elite or ruling classes affected people in their daily existences. The colonists were not responding to events around them, but were reacting to decisions made by Parliament which had a definite impact on their everyday lives. In both conducting historical research and looking at how colonists would have viewed this situation, the most logical scenario to view the imperial crisis is from a top-down position.

In this colonial area, one man who would have most likely viewed the situation of the imperial crisis from a top down perspective would have been John Philips.  Born in Ulster, Ireland, Philips immigrated to America in 1770 with his family.  He was a relative newcomer to the American political crisis. When Philips arrived in America, he was wealthy enough to purchase his own land in the back-country of South Carolina.  Although he was not in the elite gentry of South Carolina society, he did have a voice in voting since he was a man who owned property.  It is uncertain how much political activity Philips was involved in immediately following his arrival in America. However, it has been documented that during the Revolutionary War, he became a Colonel in the South Carolina Loyalist Militia.

Since he had recently arrived in America from the British Isles, Philips would most likely have viewed the revolution from a top-down viewpoint.  However, due to his location in the South Carolina back country, he probably would have had more compassion for lower class citizens than most of the more well to do established people.  No doubt, Philips viewed himself as a loyalist because of his strong British ties and relative newness to America.  Up until the war began, he probably had a desire to remain on peaceful terms and be as neutral as possible.  But, at the outbreak of war, he chose to remain a loyal British subject, rather than fight with the American colonists.

One family that Philips was closely connected to, that shared his same political views was the Alexander Chesney household.  The Chesney’s like the Philip’s family had emigrated from Ulster, Ireland around the same time.  Mr. Chesney had also purchased land near to the Philip’s landholdings.  Being in a similar position to John Philip’s, as new arrivals to America, the Chesney’s would have more than likely wanted to remain neutral in the political conflict prior to the war.  Yet, being from a section of the British Empire that was very loyal to the crown, they would have viewed themselves as always being British subjects first.

 

Looking at the perspective of John Philips and how he along with other colonists would have viewed the crisis during this time period, it must remember that this is not the only way to look at the conflict.  While yes, the most logical way to see this is from the top-down point of view, it is vitally important to include the bottom-up perspective to gain a better understanding of how this imperial crisis impacted everyone and eventually led to the demise of America’s loyalty to Great Britain.  When people take the time to look at a scenario from two different points of view, they can be able to figure out how something really took place. If one studies something from a single point of view, then they might be leaving out the truth of what really happened in history.

Resources:

Breen, T.H. Baubles of Britain, The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2014.

“Philips DNA Project.” Accessed January 24, 2019.https://phillipsdnaproject.com/forum/19-military-records/1685-col-john-phillips-from-ulster-to-camden-dist-sc-in-1770-loyalist-to-the-crown

 

Taxes or Land?

What do I think is the most pressing concern of the day? I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. I’m relieved the war with the Indian tribes has ended, and the violence has subsided, but I do still fear for our safety out here in the backcountry of South Carolina. But I take it the question has more to do with other matters, specifically in the realm of politics, perhaps even economics? I shall do my best to speak to such things, although you must forgive me as I’m afraid I’m less conversant in these topics. Nevertheless, I will attempt to elucidate our family’s position in regards to any current or future tax levies imposed on us by the Crown, or matters concerning the Chesney estate. Before we begin, however, I must warn you that Mr. Chesney—or Alexander, my loving husband, for whom I am devoted—remains a staunch supporter of King George III. Therefore, as his wife, so am I. Please, if you are interested in criticisms of the Crown, best that you look elsewhere. Furthermore, please excuse my ignorance about matters that have never before been of direct concern to me.

To be perfectly honest, I cannot speak to the concerns of Mr. Chesney. At least, not with any accuracy, I’m afraid. You see, Alexander does not often discuss such affairs with me. Take, for example, the acquisition of our land in the South Carolina colony. When we first arrived here and acquired this land, I was not privy to the transaction. Through what means was it obtained? I haven’t any idea. Alexander is responsible for our family’s holdings. This property, when looked at as merely an asset, is unfamiliar to me. But, as you know, a piece of property is not just an asset to be bought and sold; not only a means to build wealth; and, of course, not a source of pride for men and men alone. Upon the property purchased and owned by the man—upon this property owned by Mr. Chesney—a home has been created by his wife. Not only created but maintained. While Mr. Chesney may speak of our land in terms of its valuation, I speak of it in terms of its significance to our family. So, am I concerned at all about the Chesney farm, its fate? Of course, but perhaps not for the same reasons as my husband. As I said earlier, I am concerned about our safety more than anything. Where we live, it is remote, isolated and vulnerable to attack from the Indians, you see. As far as any issues with the crown interfering in our affairs, well, I trust that Alexander will take care of that. I will keep my focus within my sphere as he continues within his; the center of both being our home but important to us both for very different reasons.

Taxation is another issue I really cannot speak to with much authority. I know that Alexander, always loyal to our Parliament and our King, sees taxes as necessary to keep us safe, especially out here in the hinterland. I, of course, agree with him. Safety is of the utmost concern to me, if I have not already made that point clear before. Also, on a recent visit to Charleston, I overheard some ladies grousing about the taxes on imported goods. This, at least to me, seems to be of more significant concern to urban families. Our family relies less on products from Great Britain being so far from the seaports. Personally, I am far too busy with household chores to be worried about taxes on our furnishings. Perhaps those ladies in Charleston, confined to their households, have more time to worry about such things. If Alexander sees these taxes as necessary in order to secure our borders, those women should be grateful that the Crown is doing its part to protect our families. It might be wise for them, and their husbands who have spoken against the King, to reconsider their position on the matter.

There you have it. I have spoken to these issues as best I can. A few words—things I would like you to consider—as I wrap up. First and foremost, the Chesney household holds very few, if any, resentments towards the Crown or Parliament. Therefore, concerns or cries of indignation that one may hear coming from families further east have not arisen within our home. Second, property concerns or taxation should really be taken up with Mr. Chesney. There is a division of responsibility that exists within our household: external affairs are handled by Alexander, while internal affairs are managed by me. I worry about our safety, whether or not we have enough food to eat and concern myself with maintaining a pleasant home for Alexander. My responsibilities are not trivial or inconsequential, especially out here in the backcountry—family is at the center of everything. Lastly, even if I did ask Alexander to share more with me, specifically in regards to taxes on imported goods or matters of the estate, there is just too much to do around here to be worrying about all of that. The stock must be cared for, and fields must be tended to. I trust my King and my husband and look to them both for security.

Blog Post 1: Introducing the Chesney Household

Greetings! I am Alexander Chesney. I, along with my mother Margeret, my father Robert, and my siblings of course, emigrated from our native Ireland to South Carolina in 1772. After a rough ride across the Atlantic, which included an outbreak of the small pox on our vessel, our journey reached its terminus in the new world just before the beginning of the harvest season. The occupation of my family had been farming for generations, so it was natural to continue it on the other side of the world. We, the Chesney family, were now settled in the backcountry of South Carolina along the Pacolet River. There, the nearest families were often miles away from efficient means of travelling to them such as roads. Consequently, journeying to them meant travel on foot and by way of canoe.

View of Dunluce Castle and the sea in County Antrim, in the Province of Ulster, place of my birth.
Here’s a wonderful view of some falls in the Pacolet River in South Carolina where my family settled in America.