Where to find records of South Carolina Loyalists

Why Were Some of Our Ancestors Tories?

Recall, dear reader, just to play the contrarian, that the "Patriots" were the rebels, opposing what at the time was the most liberal government on the planet!  The English colonists in north American had unparalleled freedom and economic opportunities.  English Common Law was nearly unique in history, beginning with the Magna Carta (The charter of liberties forced from King John by the English barons at Runnymede, 15 June 1215, a basic law guaranteeing personal liberties.). Perhaps we can get a genuine historian (which I am not) to weigh in here.

Moore, p29 states: "Research by Robert S. Lambert indicates that the prime source of Loyalist strength in South Carolina was the newcomer, whether from the British Isles or Virginia, and the back country had more of them in 1773."  (FOC) This is consistent with my own family, which had both, and the younger ones seem to have been Loyalists, while the older seem to have been patriots.  And, yes, this is backwards from what some have stated in print.  Moore continues: "In addition, upland regions at that time had no real quarrel with London, while the mere mention of Charleston could stir old wounds (FOC- this rings true.).  Lambert estimates that one-fifth of this state's free population could have been classified as Loyalist during the struggle that followed.  But, he cautions, as a result of the ebb and flow of war these same individuals may have aided the patriot cause, too.  Lambert sees two high points of Loyalist sentiment: at the outset of hostilities when initial choices were being made and again in 1780 when British troops invaded the state." (ibid p29)

English.  Colin Nickerson of the Boston Globe (Boston Massachusetts), wrote an excellent article 19 April 1999 on Loyalists who fled to Canada.  He states: "The Loyalists sought peace, order, and good government - not the American dream of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."  "Most had not so much opposed the goals of the revolution - tax relief, more democratic representation, home rule - than the violent means.  Many had simply feared that replacing monarchy with a revolutionary republic would cost them the cherished liberties guaranteed by English common law."  (read your English history on that one! -FOC).  Now I (FOC) ask you, do these statements not make you think about our cherished "DAR" and "SAR?"

Irish.  The Irish, recalling their long battle with the invaders from England, tended to be unanimously patriots.  For the history deprived, the Irish, Welsh, and Scots (The Scots, or Scotti, were Irish immigrants to what we now call Scotland c600 AD) were the last remnants of the Celts, as they were pushed off the continent of Europe by more or less continuous invasions from the East, and nearly right off the British Isles, as we now call them, by successive invasions of Germans and Norsemen.  The Irish, labeled by some as the "keepers of Western Civilization," remember this ancient feud, and were patriot to a man (and woman).  They still hate the "English."

Germans.  Moore states that the Germans living on the west bank of the Congaree (across from modern day Columbia) were "a hot bed of Loyalism," because they feared their land grants might be annulled if they sided with the patriots.  I believe many, if not all, of these Germans (called "Dutch "in the early records, for "Deutch" - pronounced Doy-itch - but as one syllable - which is German for German) were poor, seeking an economic chance, and protestant, seeking escape from tyranny by the Catholic majority in their region of their homeland.  They had strong incentive to fit in, and were grateful to the English King for providing this chance.  They did not want to rock this boat! (Moore, p28 & 29)

The Tories (Simms 1844). "While the friends of liberty were active, the adherents of the crown were also active in the colony. These, in many parts of the country, were equally numerous and influential. They possessed, indeed, certain advantages in the discussion, which, in some degree, served to counterbalance the impelling and stimulating influences which always belong to a `movement' party. They carried with them the prestige of authority, of the venerable power which time and custom seemed to hallow; they appealed to the loyalty of the subject; they dwelt upon the dangers which came with innovation; they denounced the ambition of the patriot leaders; they reminded the people of the power of Great Britain -- a power to save or to destroy -- which had so frequently and so successfully been exerted in their behalf in their numerous and bloody conflicts with the Indians, and which might be brought, with such fearful emphasis, upon their own heads.  They reminded the people that the Indians were not exterminated, that they still hung in numerous hordes about the frontiers, and that it needed but a single word from the Crown, to bring them, once more, with tomahawk and scalping-knife, upon their defenseless homes. Already, indeed, had the emissaries of Great Britain taken measures to this end.  The savage was already shaking off his apathy, scenting the carnage from afar, and making ready for the onset. The assurance, that such was the case, was doing the work of numerous arguments among the timid and the exposed.  Such were the suggestions, appealing equally to their fears and gratitude, which the leading loyalists addressed to the people. They were supported by other suggestions, scarcely less potent, which naturally flowed from their own thoughts. Why should they dare the conflict with Great Britain?  There was no such reason for it as in the case of the northern colonies.  They had known her chiefly by benefactions; they did not conflict with her in shipping or in manufactures; and the arguments for discontent and resistance, as urged by the patriot leaders, did not reach them with sufficient force.  What was the tax on tea, of which they drank little, and the duty on stamps, when they had but little need for legal papers? And why should not taxes follow protection, which Great Britain had not often withheld in the need of a favorite colony, as South Carolina had unquestionably been?

To do justice to the loyalists, or Tories, they were, probably, in the majority of cases, governed by principle, by a firm and settled conviction, after deliberate examination of the case.  They likely would gradually have adopted the opinions of the patriots, given time, and had the course of the latter been more indulgent and considerate. Unfortunately, this was not the case; and the desire to coerce where they could not easily convince, had the effect of making a determined and deadly, out of a doubtful foe. This was terribly proved by the after history. To this cause we may ascribe, in some degree, the terrors of that sanguinary strife, in which, to use the language of a distinguished officer, they "pursued each other rather like wild beasts than men." (Letter of General Greene. See Johnson's Greene.) We shall see something of this history as we proceed in ours.

There was yet another circumstance which tended, in some degree, to give courage to the Tories. It was the somewhat temporizing policy of the patriots. There was still a feeling of doubt, a hesitancy, on the part of the latter, as the prospects grew stronger of a final breach with Great Britain. There were many who still clung to the hope that the differences of the two nations might yet be reconciled; and though the means of such reconciliation did not make themselves obvious, they yet fondly cherished the conviction that something might turn up, at the last moment, to prevent the absolute necessity of bloodshed. This portion of the patriots necessarily influenced the rest; those who, looking beyond the moment, saw the true issue, and properly regarded the declared objects of difference as pretexts which must suffice when the better reasons might not be expressed. They dared not openly broach the idea of national independence, which, there is very little question that the noblest of the American patriots everywhere, though secretly, entertained from the beginning. The people were not prepared for such a revelation -- such a condition; and appearances were still to be maintained. Their proceedings, accordingly, still wore, however loosely, a pacific aspect. Though actively preparing for war, the professions of the patriots declared their measures to be precautionary only -- a refuge, an alternative, in the event of greater oppression. They still spoke the language of loyalty, still dealt in vague assurances of devotion to the crown.  But such professions deceived nobody, and least of all the loyalists.  They derived courage from the reluctance of the patriots to embark in a struggle, for the fruits of which, if successful, they evidently longed.  In the interior, the Tories were even more active than their opponents; had already taken arms, and gained advantages, which nothing but decisive movements on the part of the people along the seaboard could possibly induce them to forego. This necessity was apparent for other reasons. In consequence of the temporizing policy already mentioned, the crown was still in possession of most of the shows of power in and about Charleston. The royal governor was still in the city, and in some degree exerting his authority. Fort Johnson, on James' Island, was suffered to remain in the hands of the king's troops for more than three months after the Provincial Congress had ordered a levy of troops, and had resolved on taking up arms.  Two British armed vessels, the Tamar and Cherokee, lay in Rebellion Roads, opposite Sullivan's Island. This force was quite sufficient, under existing circumstances, to have destroyed the town.  But the royal leaders were not prepared for this issue; they shared the reluctance of the patriots to begin a conflict, the issues of which were so extreme. Their policy, like that of the patriots -- influencing it, and possibly influenced by it -- was equally halting and indecisive.  It was sufficiently satisfactory if, by the presence of such a force, the citizens should be overawed and kept from action." (end of quote from Simms 1844)

Treatment of Tories After the War

Treatment of the Tories.  Some terms of disengagement were not carried out swiftly, if at all.  Loyalists were often not protected, nor their property restored. By this time, the hatred for the loyalists was intense, very especially so in South Carolina where local depredations were dreadful, and the malicious and even barbarous activities of some loyalists during the war even extended to any who had not actively supported the loyalist cause.  This explains why Levi Youmans was unable to remain in SC after the war!  Thousands of loyalists were driven into exile and their property confiscated, sometimes under very harsh circumstances.  Many of these people probably would have accepted the outcome of the struggle and made good citizens, but the feeling against them was intense.  The American Congress promised to recommend to the States that loyalists be protected and their property restored, but Congress could only recommend, it could not make the States obey.  It has been estimated that the States lost 100,000 loyalists by exile during or after the war. Most of them went to Canada or to the Bahamas.

Indeed, Colin Nickerson of the Boston Globe (Boston Massachusetts), in his excellent article of 19 April 1999 on Loyalists who fled to Canada, quotes Finn Bower, of the Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Museum in stating that "Our settlers (former Loyalists) came fleeing for their lives from up and down the 13 former colonies, from the Carolinas to Boston."  "They were escaping mob terror."  (Nickerson continued, quoting Christopher Moore of Toronto, author of "The Loyalists," a historical account): "These exiles had been threatened by mobs, seen their lands and possessions stolen in the name of 'liberty,' and given the option of renouncing their principles or fleeing their homes."

Where to find records of South Carolina Loyalists

Return to the Outline of the Revolutionary War in SC
Return to Genweb South Carolina Home Page

Copyright ©1999, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy.  However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same. Please send any errors, corrections, conjectures, updates, etc. to Dr. Frank O. Clark.