Previous Section: The Setting of the Revolutionary War

What must I do?.

The winter long.  

Where do I belong?. (Haiku)

Resistance of the Colonists.  The colonists, shall we say, rather strongly objected to this tax, and refused to pay it on the ground that Parliament had no right to levy a tax of the sort, since the colonists had no direct representation in Parliament.  The Speedwell arrived at Savannah in December 1765 bringing a stamp agent and a quantity of stamps, and it was met by about six hundred Georgians who told the governor that unless the stamps were removed from Savannah they would attack his house and destroy them. Governor Wright had the stamps replaced on the Speedwell!  Similar outbreaks occurred in the other colonies. Parliament, therefore, repealed the Stamp Act, but the seed of trouble had been sown. Quarrels and misunderstandings followed for ten years, as the colonists were pressed harder and harder.  In 1774 delegates from twelve of the colonies (Georgia excluded!) met in Philadelphia to make plans for united action against this tyranny. This body was known as the First Continental Congress.

Division of Sentiment.  Neighboring Georgia was not represented in the First Continental Congress because the majority of Georgians had not yet decided what course of action to support.  There simply was not wide support for a complete break with the crown and revolution.  Recall the arguments of the previous section.  English common law was the most liberal legal system on the planet at the time.  It is estimated that nearly half of Georgians remained faithful to the king.  The same was generally true in South Carolina (and, yes, I am very aware that I have included contradictory statements in this history). I recommend that you try to understand the causes of this division in sentiment.  Most of our families, including mine, contained both Tories and Patriots.  It is probably not as bad as finding a Yankee in your family tree (grin).

Weakness of the Colony.  In addition to the danger of slave insurrection, Indian tribes on the Georgia Frontier had 10,000 gunmen in 1773, and English agents had gained their support through presents.  The Cherokees were on the South Carolina border, and were well accustomed to trade with Charleston.  96 was on the principle Cherokee trading road to Charleston, 96 miles from the largest Cherokee town (in northern Georgia).  These were very real dangers.  In addition, those along the coast, and most of the population was settled along the coast in Georgia and South Carolina at this time, had to worry about the strong British force at St. Augustine, against which South Carolina could make little resistance (We did a bit better with the British navy - read on!  In modern parlance, we "kicked butt!").

The Older Colonists Were Royalist in Sentiment.  In truth, South Carolina, like most of the colonies, did not wholeheartedly embrace the patriot sentiment.   Before you rush to judgment on this issue, recall that South Carolina contained many recent immigrants from Britain itself, plus immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, and other countries. These people fled poverty or persecution at home, and felt no enmity towards the British Government for the opportunity to settle in this new land without that fear of persecution over their heads, and a chance for a new life with land of their own.  Many of them had nothing at home, and no chance to better their cause there.  Here in the colonies they had land and opportunity.  Influential men in politics, society, and business were generally older colonists who had gone through all the earlier struggles of the colony. They remembered the mother country with strong positive feelings. While not always approving of Parliamentary trade acts, some of the older colonists were not comfortable with negative feelings towards King George.  Many influential men were closely associated with the government, and rebellion for them was out of the question.  This attitude was counter to that of the merchant community along the coast, and those supported by them, who were about to be wiped out by the new tax laws and trade restrictions.   The wealthy merchant class, who were mostly older,  were not about to be destroyed by these new taxes. Heady makings for division here!  Alas.  This issue was not clear cut.

Attitude of the Younger Men.  The younger colonists did not have such favorable inclinations towards the Crown.   As the young and brash so often are, they were drawn into the struggle, fired by idealism, the example of the other colonies, and dreamed of making an independent nation in the New World. This unfortunate difference of opinion sometimes separated families.  In my own family, it was the younger ones who seemed to have been Loyalists, while the older were Patriots.  This division of younger and older is consistent with the statements made by Colin Nickerson in his Boston Globe (Massachusetts) article 19 April 1999.  Nickerson's article was based on interviews with Canadians descended from former Loyalists.  (see the section on Loyalists for more discussion on who was "fer 'em" and who was "agin 'em.")

First Revolutionary Meeting.  Patriots began meeting in 1774 to discuss the situation.  Messages were read from revolutionary committees in the colonies (Georgia excepted. Georgia did not send representatives to the first Continental Congress due to efforts of the Governor.). Royalists responded to the turmoil by calling their own meetings of those who were friendly to the King.

First Provincial Congress, January, 1775.  The divided sentiment in South Carolina and Georgia can be seen in the failure of Georgia to even send a delegate to the First Continental Congress because of a lack of general agreement.  In January, 1775, a Provincial Congress met at Savannah, but only five of the twelve parishes even sent representatives. Royalist feeling was strong.

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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.

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