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A History of Schenectady During the Revolution
Chapter X: The Activities of Local Whig and Loyalist

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[This information is from pp. 57-63 of A History of Schenectady During the Revolution by Willis T. Hanson, Jr. (Brattleboro, VT: E. L. Hildreth & Co., 1916). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 974.744 H25, and copies are also available for borrowing.]

On May 18, 1775, the Albany Committee had resolved (1) that all who refused to give up arms for the American cause or sold either arms or supplies to "inimical persons" should be held up to the public as enemies of their country. Later any one who refused public service, and on March 6, 1776, every "non-associator," (2) was placed in the same category. Upon the militia acting under orders from the Committees (3) of Safety devolved the duty of apprehending those against whom complaint had been entered.

These complaints and subsequent arrests were incited by a variety of causes: aiding the enemy in any way; (4) associating (5) or corresponding with Tories; refusing to sign the Association or violating its provisions; denouncing or refusing to obey congresses and committees; writing (6) or speaking (7) against the American cause; rejecting (8) Continental money or drinking (9) the King's health, and even mere suspicion was not infrequently deemed sufficient to justify a man's seizure. (10)

To Albany (11) as a concentration center to await their final disposition were transferred the greater part of those arrested in this section, and by December, 1775, so crowded was the jail there that the Committee was obliged to provide additional quarters and secure an extra jailer. (12)

While, as was natural with the spirit of the times, not a few Loyalists suffered not only indignities (13) and loss of property (14) but also sustained sentences on somewhat questionable testimony, (15) mob action was universally condemned (16) by the Whig authorities and an honest effort for the most part appears to have been made by the Committees to give the accused ones fair trials. (17) In Albany County it was permitted the accused not only to produce witnesses to corroborate his testimony and establish his innocence, but to demand that his accuser appear also. (18)

The nature of the individual case appears to have governed the imposed sentence of convicted Loyalists rather than any uniform mode of procedure followed by the Committees; some were placed in confinement, (19) others were released on parole or bond (20) or simply disarmed, (21) some were exiled to neighboring states (22) or sent within the enemies' lines, (23) many were forced to sign the Association or take the Oath of Allegiance and nearly all were required to carry certificates of character (24) and, when leaving the county for any reason, to obtain permission from the proper authorities. (25) All expenses incurred by Loyalists either in their trials, imprisonment or banishment were charged against them. (26)

Throughout New York the Loyalists were exceptionally strong and numerous, and although they had neither organized nor taken up arms as soon as their Whig neighbors, it was not long before Tory plots were everywhere unearthed.

While in Schenectady not a few influential and wealthy citizens were of English sympathies, the Committee of Safety appears to have experienced little trouble from them as compared with the annoyance caused by the Tories (27) in the outlying districts who constantly threatened the Whig settlers in their exposed positions in the Westina and at the Aalplaats.

The failure of the campaign against Canada, the success of the British around New York and the anticipation of an early advance on the part of the King's troops from the north added many recruits to the Loyalist party, and in spite of the various measures adopted for their suppression, so obnoxious did they become throughout Albany County during the summer of 1776, when threats were even made to raise the English flag, (28) that two companies of State Rangers were ordered formed for their apprehension, and in August, John A. Bradt of Schenectady was commissioned a captain and given a warrant by Congress for the raising of one (29) of these companies.

The increasing activities on the part of the Tories, the continuing unfavorable news from the north and, as we have seen, the fears regarding Sir John Johnson, brought with them the necessity of increased vigilance on the part of the Schenectady Committee. Steps were early taken looking towards the conservation of the town's resources, (30) those known to hold Tory sentiments were more closely watched, guards were placed on both sides of the river to prevent the passing either up or down of persons who were not known to be friends of the American cause, (31) and for "fear of broils," because of the number of strangers that thronged the town the watches were ordered doubled. (32) The stockades were strengthened, the work being done by members of the militia, (33) and for the better accommodation of the troops passing through or to be later quartered here, General Washington, on September 23, 1776, at the instance of the Committee, was approached (34) through General Schuyler regarding the erection of barracks.

The site chosen for their erection was the southwest corner of Union and Lafayette Streets, (35) and by November 6 the construction of a building containing accommodations for six hundred men was well under way. (36)

Notes

  1. The Minutes of the Albany Committee of Safety.
  2. On February 6, 1776, the Schenectady Committee resolved that inasmuch as "a number of the inhabitants of [the] Township was from home at the time the General Association was handed about to be signed, consequently had not an opportunity at that time, and by carelessness [had] neglected doing it since," and that inasmuch as they were "willing to give all those who [were] friendly to the American cause an opportunity of Evincing their sentiments to their neighbors… that the association paper be again opened, and that all who [were inclined] to sign it [might] have an opportunity by applying to the Chairman of [the] Committee." The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  3. With the establishment of the state government, the passing of laws to deal with the Tories and the appointing of committees to enforce these laws the powers of the local committees gradually waned and their activities ceased.
  4. Alexander Campbell was sent a prisoner to Connecticut for having warned Sir John Johnson of his danger.
  5. John Duncan owed his recommendation as "a dangerous person" and subsequent arrest to the fact that enemies of the American cause were supposed to meet not infrequently at his house.
  6. On January 14, 1776, Benjamin Hilton was brought before the Committee for writing a letter to Sheriff White "containing some expressions very unfriendly to the American cause." The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  7. On January 31, 1776, George Ramsey was brought before the Committee on the complaint of William Murray because "said Ramsay called him a Tratore and a Rebel, and asked him if he was not ashamed to fight against his king." On February 8, Joseph Kingsley was committed to the Albany jail for making use of "unwarrentable expressions." The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  8. At the meeting of the Schenectady Committee on July 31, 1777, a resolution was brought in by a subcommittee "concerning John Sanders and Daniel Campbell with respect to their refusing the Continental Currency in payment and in general for all Persons guilty of the same crime." Sanders was subsequently delivered over to the State Committee of Safety at Kingston. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  9. On August 6, 1777, John Gregg was committed to the Albany jail upon the evidence of John A. Bradt and William Moore, who swore "on the holy Evangelists of Almighty God" that they were present when said John Gregg drank "a Health to King George the third and success to him in all his proceedings." The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  10. On May 13, 1777, the Schenectady Committee resolved that inasmuch as they looked upon certain persons (ten in number whose names are mentioned) as "dangerous," "their names should be given in to the field officers." All were subsequently arrested. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  11. The Minutes of the Albany and Schenectady Committees of Safety.
  12. The Minutes of the Albany Committee of Safety.
  13. On July 14, 1775, the Schenectady Committee was informed "that Serjeant Welsh, with a party of men, had gone to Currey Bush and brought in Simon Vedder to town in a riotous manner." The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  14. In 1776, because of his action in warning Sir John Johnson (note 4, above), a mob burned the storehouse of Alexander Campbell at Sehoharie and later destroyed "his store at Schenectady with goods and merchandise burning at the same time eight loads of hay and poisoning two milch cows." Loyalists' Papers.
  15. The Minutes of the Albany Committee of Safety.
  16. Alexander Clarence Flick, Loyalism in New York.
  17. The Minutes of the Albany and Schenectady Committees of Safety. Alexander Clarence Flick, Loyalism in New York.
  18. The Minutes of the Albany Committee of Safety.
  19. The Minutes of the Albany and Schenectady Committees of Safety.
  20. John Duncan on December 19, 1776, was ordered confined to the limits of his farm and required to give a bond of 500 pounds for his good behavior and the carrying out of the order. The acceptance of bonds by the Commissioners of Conspiracies was quite frequent.
  21. The treatment accorded some was even more lenient. On August 28, 1777, one John Moneer was summoned before the Committee to answer the charge of being an "inimical" person. Moneer alleged that he had come to Schenectady for the sake of his health, as he received much benefit from the air here. Upon hearing his testimony the Committee immediately resolved that he be permitted to remain "for his health." The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  22. Alexander Campbell was one of these (note 4, above). He was later released on parole.
  23. Daniel Campbell, James Ellice and others were under orders to remove, but at the last moment were permitted to stay on their signing the Oath of Allegiance. Alexander Campbell, John Doty (the rector of St. George's) and John Stuart (the Indian minister at Fort Hunter who was confined at Schenectady), were sent to Canada.
  24. These certificates were refused to those who had not signed the Association.
  25. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  26. In the case of Kingsley and Ramsey (7, above), Kingsley was charged twenty shillings for a sled and two men to carry him to Albany. This he absolutely refused to pay and the Committee therefore ordered that he be given until nine o'clock on the following Monday to pay and that if the account was not settled at that time he was to be again committed to the Albany jail, there to remain until the amount was paid, together with what charges might arise on account of his second confinement. Ramsey was charged sixteen shillings, which amount he promised to pay. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  27. One that caused the Whigs no end of annoyance was the famous Joseph Bettis. "He and his associates did great injury to the American cause by communicating intelligence to the enemy, and gave the country great uneasiness and trouble for two or three years. Spies and detached parties were again and again sent in pursuit of them but without success." [Pension Office Records, Adam Van Patten S 17168.] He was at last taken and hung in Albany.
  28. American Archives, 4th Series, Y, 343, 345.
  29. The original roll of this company is in the possession of the author.
  30. On December 29, 1775, the Committee resolved to apply to the magistrates to use their authority in putting a stop to the customary firing of guns on New Year's Day, believing that such a custom was attended with an unnecessary waste of powder. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety.
  31. This action was directly connected with the affairs at Johnstown and the precaution was taken that no news of the intended expedition against the Tories in that quarter might precede it.
  32. The Minutes of the Schenectady Committee of Safety, January 14, 1776.
  33. When not on guard duty or out on expeditions members of the militia were often employed in this work.
  34. Washington Papers, Library of Congress.
  35. Jonathan Pearson, History of the Schenectady Patent, p. 318, note. On the present site of the German Methodist Church. Lafayette Street had not, of course, been cut through.
  36. Philip Schuyler to Congress. Orderly Book of the Northern Army, p. 168.

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