Skip to main content

tv   Donald Johnson Occupied America  CSPAN  September 10, 2021 10:04am-11:07am EDT

10:04 am >> you can be a part of the national conversation by participating in cspan's studentcam figure competition. your opinion matters so if your middle or high school student were asking you to create a five to six minute i committed that answers the question how does the federal government impact your life? your documentary must show supporting and opposing points of view on a federal policy programs that affect you or your community using c-span video clips which are easy to find and access at cspan's . cspan's studentcam competition rewards $100,000 in total cash prizes and you have a shot at winning the grand prize of $5000 to increase must be received before january 20, 2022. for. for competition rules, tips or how to get started visit our website at
10:05 am
>> good evening, everyone. were delighted to have you with us. welcome to book talk tuesday. my name is jim ambuske of the center for digital history of washington library. happy new year to you all. we're glad to see back in this new year and delighted you could join and decide to spend your evening with us. tonight i'm going to show i'm excited because will have an opportunity to explore the challenges, the stresses, the opportunities that early american stays while living under british military rule in the american revolution. before we get to that and to forget you are distinguished guest this evening just a programming note. i want to encourage all to join us on january 27, so next week, we will have a special symposium entitled leadership for a more perfect union. this is the symposium, a one-day symposium that a partnership with the brookings institute. we will be talked about some of the serious issues that are facing this country at this time and solutions for the way forward there it will be joined
10:06 am
by some esteemed figures from government, from philanthropy and from business including former secretary of state colin powell, current governor of maryland larry hogan and current associate justice of the supreme court sonia sotomayor. so please go to, check us out there where you can register for this free event. we encourage you to join us in these important discussions and we look forward to seeing you there. i also want to encourage you to help support mount vernon and other public history site over this difficult time. we are delighted to bring programming like this to you free every so often but that does come with the cost so if you are able and as a means to do so we would appreciate you throwing a few clams are we right metric you can find a way to get by going to and clicking that donate button. let's talk about two nights main topic. in a kings 15 as many of you might know, john adams wrote to
10:07 am
thomas jefferson -- in 1850 -- he argued the revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people in the 15 years before a drop of blood was spilled on lexington and concord. he also argued the war for independence and the revolution were two different things. but where they really? that's one of the things were going to explore tonight and many other questions as well. i guess it's evening is doctor donald johnson, an assistant professor at north dakota state university, a former washington library research fellow and the author of a brand-new book, "occupied america: british military rule and the experience of revolution." published in 2020 by university of pennsylvania press. if you like to purchase a copy of that will drop a link in the comments at this time. it is my distinct privilege to welcome doctor johnson to the screen. hello there. >> thank you for having me. >> it's a great honor. thanks for joining us. am i correct in assuming you're coming to us from fargo the seating?
10:08 am
>> i am, yes. >> what's the temperature there right now? >> i haven't checked lately but this morning when i i drove to what it was about five degrees above, so a little nippy. >> do you have a heated garage? yes. yes, i do. >> all right. thanks very much and an excited to talk with you about this book. book. i was really fascinated by your findings and your discussion, the experience people faced during the occupation during the revolutionary war. i want to stop with the big picture question though. a lot of our colleagues and historical profession been writing a lot these days about american loyalists, a lot about the ordinary americans during the revolution look at the plight of women, slaves who were escaping and pursuing freedom. what was missing? what did you think was missing from that conversation? >> specifically from the question of loyalists and patriots, what's missing is kind
10:09 am
of the people who wouldn't have identified as either/or who could have identified as both at various points throughout the war. there's this whole category of people called a different things like neutrals or a recent book called them that disaffected, these people who at certain points side with the crowd, certain points side with the revolutionaries, at certain points side with neither. i felt like those types of people first of all were not well served in this kind of categorization we have of patriots on one side, what was on the other. that it was a much more complicated story, that there had to be, there has to be room for change over time for people's loyalties to be much more complicated, much more inflected by their day-to-day existence. in terms of the everyday
10:10 am
experiences of women, , of enslaved people, of native americans has been a ton of great history on that written in the last decade or so. but i felt it takes the exceptional, , it takes these kd of disenfranchised kind of groups but it doesn't integrate their stories into a more coherent narrative. it doesn't integrate it with what kind of everyone else is doing, and so is trying to get at kind of ordinary people, different races, genders, backgrounds, and get at kind of how the order experience of revolution will ship the lyrical allegiant. >> i am curious then early ancestors and the ancestors being our predecessors in the historical profession shaped this narrative early on.
10:11 am
as you said we have been accustomed to thinking of two categories, , patriots and loyalists, and this gray area gets lost in between but early on in the media aftermath of the war i gather people started writing history of the wars, make those determinations, helped shape the store you will tell you even up until recently. >> yes, absolutely. ramsey was a prisoner of war in occupied charleston. warren was witness to a lot of
10:12 am
the trials and tribulations of occupied boston in newport. they knew they would of note also their personal experience kind of the ambiguities, the nuances of allegiance during this time but it was in their interests as kind of the ruling elite on the republic after the war, not to cast the struggle itself like that. it's kind of like the adams quote that you open with, adams writes something, , i'm going to butcher it, but the revolution was complete before the first shot was fired, that everyone had turned against the british well before the war and that the war was an aftereffect of this kind of change in people's minds. people like ramsey and war and it was in in their interest o create this narrative of the patriotic kind of revolutionary cadre to which people could
10:13 am
cling and to which people whose own experiences didn't necessarily fit that, could been claimed after the war and say i was always a patriot for i was always kind of on the side. it's interesting in reading their histories one of things i things i found in going back through with an eye towards how their defining loyalty and political allegiance is how very few loyalists made outright. many times the people that they name are either notorious loyalists, people like joseph galloway or the allen brothers the philadelphia who have already fled the united states, or else they are this inculcate kind of group of the loyalists but never kind of with an actual definition. and how far they bend over backwards to forgive people who strayed at certain points from what they see as patriot path.
10:14 am
>> is it your sense to doing that after the war because there is intensive reconciliation in both places, welcome all the cost the 13 colonies? >> absolute. it's one of the things that even some of the kind of higher profile founding fathers are involved with. john jay, alexander hamilton, a lot of these figures in new york are making the argument that you can't really alienate some of these people who sided with the crown early on in the war because they are contributing a good deals to society. they have money, they have expertise, they have the tools that people need to build a nation. if you're going to have this straight, if he did anything against the crown during the war you could not be part of the american polity then you have to
10:15 am
exclude one history estimated happening people either served in arms for the crown, spoke in support of the crown or took some action that could be construed as loyalists. if you're going to exclude that many people, that's a quarter of the population. >> that could get awkward pretty fast. i want to take this opportunity to buy the audience feel a chance to ask questions of dr. johnson the second half of the program so please do post your questions in the comments at facebook, twitter or youtube wherever you're watching with us. just a second ago you mention boston, newport come charleston. your book does look at port cities exclusively. why port cities? what do you get from these urban spaces that were not going to get from the hinterlands or the backcountry? >> i looked at urban spaces for two reasons. first, records are more likely to survive perhaps in these places and in greater
10:16 am
concentration. and in kind of the hinterlands. so this is where the sources that spoke to the experience of military occupation really existed and survived. and second place of occupation was the most intense and had the highest stakes. in terms of intensity the british occupied vast swaths of those were in america, role america, pretty much the entire state of georgia, the entire state of south carolina at various points come most of new jersey, large parts of new york and pennsylvania. but in the countryside in places that were ostensibly controlled occupied by the british, ordinary people might go months or weeks without even seeing a single british soldier. whereas in cities where people are really kind of living cheek by jowl, you are interacting
10:17 am
with the occupied force every single day and the things move much more quickly and with a greater intensity. and that in terms of the stakes, the cities were crucial to kind of the plant on both sides. for the british this strategy was to take the cities and use them as bases to conciliate loyalty from the surrounding countryside. and if there was any way that would be welcoming of the british army it was likely these port cities which were much more cosmopolitan, much more transient in the population and largely depend on trade with the rest of the british empire for their livelihoods before the revolution. in many places, for example, newport, rhode island, welcomed the british army with kind of a council of their higher citizens
10:18 am
reading a proclamation of greeting sir henry clinton when he lands. a lot of these places they were people who welcome the chance to get back to business when the british arrived. but over the course of the war they realized that the cost of having soldiers quartered there and the experience of occupation made them realize the empire was in canada place to go back to. >> i want to come back to the british occupation in a second but one of the things that struck me about your book and maybe think about things in different ways is the extent to which the revolutionary regime that comes into being an immediate months or the early months of the war or themselves a kind of occupying force. what do these rabble governments look like and how did the people respond to them when this dramatic change occurs in 75 and
10:19 am
76? >> six? >> a lot of people didn't know what to make of them. they were these groups of citizens that formed themselves into committees, councils, militias, kind of resistance organizations. starting around april 1775 after the battles of lexington and concord is started seizing the apparatus of power, and the six cities that and looking at here in the book were each capitals of their respective colonies, and it order to obtain legitimacy and the sanction of a proper government, revolutionaries maintenance almost immediately to secure those places, secure the records, security apparatus of civil government. this took place almost in somewhat of a comical way. one of my favorite examples
10:20 am
happened in savannah, georgia, where the clerk of the kings council in savannah, basically the person in charge of record-keeping at the colony house in savannah gets woken up at 6 a.m. by one of his neighbors say hey, the provincial congress, this revolutionary organization, we broke into the courthouse can we want the keys to your office so we can get the colonial records. he basically says no, i'm not going to give you the keys. they come back a couple hours later and they threaten his life and they say we will rough you up if you don't let us in and give us the colonial records. he still says no, i'm not going to give you the cues to my office. they come back a couple hours later and basic okay, we broke into your office. we can't make heads nor tail of the records. you please, chose what's what? he said all right, if you've already broken and i'll go at least you are not going to make
10:21 am
a mess of it. they let him organize the record for them and take anything that is private for him and go about his way. it's this kind of soft occupation almost, this seizing a public buildings and grand records and hospices of power at the beginning of the revolution. >> so when we didn't have a hard occupation then when the british take new york or charleston, these other cities, boston, philadelphia. what does it look like what you mentioned a moment ago what other goals was to conciliate the american colonists back to the crown into the kings government. what is a a process look liken what's the role of collaborators, i guess would be the word come in this process? >> it's a great word. i use in the book in the sense historians of the french, the german occupation of france,
10:22 am
almost anybody living and occupation collaborates to some degree or another. what the british do is pretty much immediately when they land and they retake the cities starting with new york and newport, philadelphia, savannah and charleston, they start distributing loyalty ousts and they go around -- posts. the first do this in new york in the fall of 1776 and they get people to sign these loyalty oaths. you guys are ahead of me. but they give out these things that basically these little slips of paper that are held in duplicate, one of them is in a book that is held at military headquarters and one of them is given to the person who signs them. that has been kind of renounce
10:23 am
any loyalties to the revolutionary, sign over their loyalties to the crown. in some cases promised to defend the crowns interest, though they're not usually interested in making people the fifth suspect loyalties of fight for them. what they do is to get people to sign disloyalty oaths as an affirmation of acceptance of royal rule and it's its cac church, which and what we call the kings peace, which is reconnecting to the old british empire, getting back access to trade routes, getting back access to royal courts, the inability to sue and reclaim property and that's common kind of getting back all of these old connections to the british empire. for a lot of people especially people living in urban centers this was attracted picky for people who made, a lot of the made their living based on
10:24 am
transatlantic trade and depended upon the note of the british empire for that likelihood. for a lot of people kind of signed on thinking they would kind of get their lives back essentially, the what turned out to be very different. >> how successful were the british and i guess the best sense in their life in achieving the king's peace or restoring civil government? maybe we can look at for example, new york city and savannah which are two of the critical places where these experiments are taking place. >> and i mean new york and savannah are great compare and contrast because there really different in the ways they succeed. in new york the british invade in late summer and fall of 1776. they seize a long island, manhattan island, staten island, what we now think of the
10:25 am
boroughs of new york city as well as some of the surrounding area but there are never able to penetrate deeper into the country. so there exists this kind of no man's land, this kind of hard border in between revolutionary new york and british occupied new york. because of this the british are indwelling to restore full civil government to the areas they occupy. instead there's this kind of mix of military government led by the commanding general of the army, william howe and then sir henry clinton and thin guy carleton and the commandant's of the city of new york itself who are responsible for keeping order on the streets. they work with a series of a group of civilian, former officials led by andrew elliott, a customs collector who is given
10:26 am
the title of chief of police or chief magistrate of police or superintendent of police, depending on which source you read, and he's kind of responsible for this civilian apparatus that then keeps order in the streets and reports back to the military with offenders. they give civilians a stake in the administration and provide, for example, lodging for the poor and people who couldn't afford it, based on loyalty and adherence to the crown. they confiscate the estate and the houses of known what they would call traders of the revolutionary, and rent those out to loyalists or people kind of adhere to them come into the city.
10:27 am
and they employ a lot of people as street cleaners, as clerks, as rent collectors and so forth. so there's this kind of weird civilian administration but it never really has the full force of law, as long as it is only backed by the military there's this idea they could indent any time once the military comes out, and especially poignant are the examples of boston, newport and philadelphia which the british army does lead before the war ends which loyalists who collaborated with the british or who helped the british in that kind of faring really poorly. even savannah where the british do bring back the royal governor, sir james wright, they are actually able to conquer the
10:28 am
entire province of georgia by the end of 1779, 1780 and they're able to call the colonial assembly back into session in 1780. savannah and later charleston where they the attempt to e thing, though charlson doesn't succeed as well, it is really their best hope, their best hope to restore and show that they're good to be a restored kings peace. and it does work for about a year but again when a british army marches north out of the low country into north carolina towards yorktown it kind of goes away. you get revolutionary guerrilla forces fighting in the backcountry through the swamps and kind of visa feuds between people of different allegiances breakout -- these feuds -- and
10:29 am
even though he tries his best as governor to conciliate the situation comest ever able to to retain the power that he had previously. so even aware civil government is technically put in power, while the were still raging the military really is the ultimate kind of be-all and end-all. >> is the british army trying to take his very cities and in some sense successfully holding at least some of them at least while they're sitting in there and not heading towards yorktown which didn't end well for them, how are the people you spoke of earlier sort of in this middle ground hedging their bets try to figure out how to survive, how are they as you say in the book reinventing and also ruining themselves in the process? >> a lot of them are doing really ingenious things. there's an innkeeper in new york city who runs this arbitrage scam with continental currency
10:30 am
where she keeps, opens her house to prisoners of war from the continental army, houses of them, takes their rent in continental dollars which not a lot of landlords would do and occupied new york, and then she asks the military authorities for a pass to go outside of the lines, crosses the river to new jersey, uses that continental currency to buy a bunch of food, comes back into new york and sells it at three or four times the price you paid for it in british currency, and pockets the difference. there's a lot of people who are kind of working these angles, these kind of schemes to enrich themselves. in her case she breaks her way free of an abusive husband who she is able to out of house and break free from because of this
10:31 am
new source of power, this new source of income. for other people that are more fundamentally reinventing themselves. one of the people i follow in the book is an is slate carpenter and later sailor named austin king. is bored on a plantation outside of charleston, south carolina. he is again trained as a carpenter, please to the british lines. the british were offering freedom to the enslaved people of revolutionaries who fled behind their lines willing to serve in the army. serves in a british regiment as kind of an auxiliary or grunt kind of worker. then instep escaping to new york where he marries another freed slave, works as a carpenter, a hairdresser, i manservant, eventually sales on a whaleboat and ends up reinventing himself
10:32 am
as a free person, into after the war even with the british and living out the rest of his life in nova scotia in in a free k community. there's tons of people like this kind of that are totally changing their circumstance through the occupation. >> that raising a question about source material. in some ways it's easier to write about guys like clinton or folks like that because voluminous papers, george washington of course, but these folks that we don't often see are right about or the people you're tracking across large spaces through time, where did you find some of these individuals? >> through a lot of digging. a lot of it was going to historical societies and digging through people's papers and seeing what they had. part of the reason for that is
10:33 am
again going back to the beginning of our conversation, some of these people went to efforts to hide the extent other activities during the occupation. one of the stories i found most fascinating was that of the owner of a boarding house in newport, rhode island. she was kind of a dari hard -- diehard loyalists given to her husband served in the continental artillery. she wrote a series of letters to him during the battle of rhode island where he was commanding a unit that was attacking newport. she writes these furious letters saying i hope the continental army burns in hell and its commander dies a horrible death, and that when i see you again you're being marched through the streets as a prisoner of war. but then she hides that, like she kind of want to shut once newport reverts to revolution or in the british evacuates in
10:34 am
october 1779 she takes this kind of bundle of unsent letters, hands then to a good friend of hers and says hide these until long after i'm dead. actually she continues to operate this a boarding house with her husband well into the 1790s and even as a kind of navy legendary washington connection where george washington apparently stays at this house when he comes to newport in the 1790s, at the newport historical society as a blanket they say that says washington slept there. they don't find his papers until 1845, 1850 in her grandchildren are going to the attic and defined oh, my gosh, granda was a loyalists. a lot of people went to great lengths to hide their activities during this time which made hunting for their stories that
10:35 am
much more challenging and rewarding when we can find them. >> that's amazing. it's also a good example of always looking grandmas basement. >> totally. >> is a concrete example of how the occupation of the war put stress on individuals and families. we made a joke about it being cold earlier because it's winter and others outside the other day chopping down some trees and splitting logs with my mighty acts. so i was thinking about that when when is reading a book and you have a wonderful discussion about the stress that the occupation puts on the natural landscape and the environment and the ways in which people heeded their homes, built shelters, bad themselves. can you tell more about those stresses? >> the army was an extraordinary drain on resources in the cities, and especially when you consider these places were not set up for large influxes of
10:36 am
populations. the largest city in close in america so don't had 5000 people living in it during peacetime and that was kind with trade routes open from the countryside. and took an incredible amount of wood, food, fuel to actually heat and keep these people alive. the british army for example, comes into new york comes with about 35,000 troops. in newport, rhode island, they came in with 8000, that almost doubles the prewar population of about 10,000. by the end of the first year of occupation of rhode island, they cut down every single tree on quick nick island in the beginning to tear down fences and outbuildings and barnes and actually even send armed ships
10:37 am
to go and read the connecticut coast for lumber. even as far away as long island. you see this also for food and shelter. there's tons of complaints even from well-off people in new york city that prices for rents are sky high. a lot of it has to do with it was a fire at the beginning of the occupation that burned about a third of the homes in the city but this happens pretty much everywhere the british go because there's so many soldiers that need to be housed and fed and sheltered that get priority over the local population in a lot of places. there's accounts of people going hungry and even kind freezing to death on the streets. in newport, the winter of 1777-
10:38 am
1777-78 we know by climate science one of the coldest in the second half of the 18th century, and we have accounts of people freezing to death and actually even burning animal fat and other things in order to try to survive. in new york city the price of regular brown bread, ordinary stuff goes up about five times its prewar high. this is despite british efforts to protect these populations. so there is really kind of dire straits for a lot of people living in these towns. >> to what extent with it able to restart congress especially when the british takes places like new york or savannah what have more stable control, charleston? are the able to resupply themselves and put back into place some kind of market
10:39 am
economy? >> in the sense yes and no. they are able to bring in a lot of what we might today think of luxuries. for example, there's a merchant in newport, rhode island, who the day after the british land starts writing to his suppliers in birmingham and sheffield saying send me hardware, cindy silverware, sydney ceramics comes in all of this stuff because there's this desire for british manufactured goods that people have been able to get since the outbreak of the imperial crisis. there's a great deal, a lot of these goods that are selling very cheaply and a lot of the cities just because there's been a supply built up in england during the kind of intervening period, and there's a lot of demand from american merchants to sell it. if you're in the market for a
10:40 am
set of really nice wedgewood queens where, occupied new york might be your place. but at the same time they're not really able to connect to the local economies. are not able to reconnect these food supplies, these kind of fuel supplies that kept the cities going on kind of a day-to-day basis. the british army go so far as to even try to ship in food from ireland, which spoils on the way and never really works, but they ship, try to ship dried grain. they tried to ship coal to heat fires and it just never really works. >> that's fascinating. for our audience out there we will be coming to questions in a minute so please get some in if you haven't already and feel free over the rest in the evening continue posting questions if they come to mind.
10:41 am
a little bit ago you mention the fact the experience of occupation and the since eroded whatever loyalty many colonists felt for george iii and discovered just by virtue of experiencing and going through hardships. can you tell us more about the process? was it sort of all that once that some people decided enough was enough, or was it a slow burn, a by 1773 when peace comes they decided they're not going to go into exile by the state in the united states? >> it's much more of a slow burn and i compared to muscle memory almost. what a lot of these people even if they were, had the utmost loyalty to the crown at the beginning of the occupation, because of the hardships, because of the strain the british army put on these communities they are forced to break the law to turn to a licit
10:42 am
means in order to survive. for example, the brimley family of rhode island which has branches in boston and new york is constantly smuggling food and resources to one another across enemy lines. one brother and revolutionary newport, one brother in occupied new york, one brother in boston, they're constantly writing to each other and send each other food and money and other things kind of illicitly under the nose of the british. the same thing is happening in the south. you see people keeping guys to revolutionary friends, neighbors, relatives, not necessarily out of ideological reasons but for practical reasons. that's how they can survive, and also vice versa. people in revolutionary held areas keeping guys to british
10:43 am
occupied areas in order to save that. so i think by having to constantly undermine these governments, these occupation regimes, it erodes their authority. it erodes the idea that they came can actually, thinking sources i should say, not the king personally, but the king's horses can actually meet the needs of the population. while it doesn't necessarily turn people into stalwart revolutionaries, at least gives them this alienation from oil governments that didn't necessarily exist before the war. >> that makes a lot of sense. reformatory to audience questions i do want to know you did teach to back class today so thank you very much for being with us. i want to close my portion of the conversation by asking you, what , what do you often tasted is a
10:44 am
most important thing that i to know about the occupation, or maybe even better, what surprised you most about this project when you are researching it? >> what's surprising most about the project and the occupation was really kind of the amount of good faith people put into actually making society work under british occupation. we often think of when the military comes, it's this kind of catchall or this dire situation where people are closeted. a lot of people, i feel like this category of in between patriot lows, this category of -- they get a bad rap in early histories and in modern histories. i think it is -- i think a lot
10:45 am
of these people held strong political opinions but he didn't necessarily have the luxury of acting on them. they didn't necessarily, i mean, the best sources i found was this book of poems from a woman in new york, who was a quaker, daughter of a quaker merchants who in her poetry was pro-revolutionary. she wrote these romantic couplings that revolutionary heroes and virtue and that she goes and marries a british soldier and ends up living and moving to british canada. that kind of disconnect is really fascinating to me and it doesn't mean she didn't hold deep beliefs. she obviously did but the in in her day-to-day life she didn't have the luxury of acting upon them. i think that shows us a lot of
10:46 am
what happens during his revolutionary upheavals. >> this is been great. thanks very much for talking with me and now let's talk to the audience. a question coming about the transition of capital cities from places like philly to harrisburg and charleston to columbia and he's asking to what extent if he does the occupation of the cities laid to the removal of these capitals to other places in the states? >> that's an interesting question. i've never really thought of it that way. the traditional narrative is that it's this east versus west, frontier versus establishments that lead to the movement of capitals, you know, like philly to harrisburg, charleston to columbia, savannah to atlanta, places like that. but occupation may have had something to do with it as well. again, i am not sure on the timing of that sort have to punt
10:47 am
on that question come somebody might know it better but that is really interesting. >> thank you, adam. there's your research topics are get to it. a question coming into the williamsburg, virginia, and your dan and james kent and cindy is asking how she scares about the struggles that the cities face to hold off any british occupation as long as they could. >> you could argue that your account does get occupied at the end of the war by cornwallis for about two months, and actually norfolk, virginia, into occupied at the beginning of the war and basically burned by patriot leaders in order to prevent its use as a base by governor dunmore. but really the chesapeake towns tended to be too small really for the british to worry much
10:48 am
about. it's one of the reasons and i mentioned this in the book as well that it's not a coincidence that the six cities that i'm talking about, boston, new york, newport, philadelphia, savannah entrusted with the biggest cities in colonial north america and the the most important economically. and the most important kind of strategically. williamsburg, jamestown, yorktown just were not on that map of an imperial come from an imperial standpoint. they did face waves. yorktown gets occupied by cornwallis but really only circumstantial only when cornwallis was seeking an escape back to new york. again, they are just not as important economically.
10:49 am
>> that makes sense. thank you cynthia very much. our next question is looking at whether or not any of the cities occupied by the british were what you regard as a faster. is boston such an example? what were some common themes we saw in some of these places? >> i i think you all failed in e end because they all get returned to the united states. the british actually when you negotiate for peace there is a movement because of come even after the battle of yorktown the british old new york, savannah and charleston and there is a directive by the ministry to save new york, to keep it as kind of an american gibraltar or a trading outpost to which the british can keep some of their economic clout in north america and kind of station there may be an kind of have a strategic cold
10:50 am
out. the populations of all these cities turn against the british by the end of the war. by the end of the war even kind of the people who had been the most excited about british rule at the beginning of the occupation of new york, they are exhausted. they are tired. they are ready to make peace with the revolutionary governments. i mean, even william smith, jr. one of these kind of really cantankerous loyalists basically says enough is enough, like the population here will not follow you if you try to hold new york is kind of an american gibraltar or a british post in north america. they ultimately have to give it up because the population has turned against them. i think the common theme is they
10:51 am
kind of collapse after british military defeats. >> this question makes me wonder though about what lessons the british learned in various cities over the course of occupations and extent to which they say, for example, apply lessons they may have learned in boston to new york or savannah or charles silver places like that. >> they do kind of, it does evolve over the course of the war. the police system they create in new york gets replicated in philadelphia on in savannah, in charleston. i believe in newport although the records of new force occupation sank to the bottom of the sea when the british evacuated and the ship carrying the town records sank. but these police systems the fall. in charleston former attorney general james simpson creates this really elaborate plan for
10:52 am
different districts and tendencies of police and he even kind of ideological indoctrination of the population. idea and never really takes hold and largely it's not necessarily the fault of these officials. it's mostly kind of these military officers who are unwilling to put conciliation in front of military victory. >> one of the tools at the disposal is revolution regimes and the british authorities use this tool. in what ways are they using property confiscation as a means to entice people to one side or the other? >> one of the things that is especially apparent in occupied south in south carolina and georgia the british sees a large number of plantations and a
10:53 am
large number of enslaved people when they initially invade georgia and south carolina and they kind of dull these out as kind of rewards to people who return to the loyalty, able to reclaim the property or reclaim in some cases there enslaved people. even for some people who stuck with the crown even before the occupation, they are gifted, kind of given the land of former revolutionaries, given slave people do do what they will with during this period. alternately, the courts in new york, in charleston have the power to kind of take away property, to educate, to seize land, to seize material in goods. so there's a lot of using
10:54 am
people's property, people's wealth as a way to entice or punish them alternatively. >> speaking of taking territory we have a question about how far inland the british managed to occupy the country during the war. >> it depends on the region. in most of the places that in which half it didn't go in that much further than the territory, the actual cities. in boston they never really controlled beyond the auspices of the city itself. in philadelphia as well they controlled the city and some of what we think of as kind of the inner suburbs, but the lines were pretty narrow. in the south it's a little more
10:55 am
all-encompassing. they occupied georgia up to augusta, so they got pretty far into western georgia. the occupied south carolina as far back as 96 which was a frontier settlement, sorry, south carolina as far back as 96, and were able to at certain points exercise control over those entire states. and so it really buried from place to place. and then there are places -- varied -- both sides claimed regions are in new york city for about 100 miles in either direction were kind of no man's land where places where militias either loyal to the king or to the revolutionaries kind of fought one another for control, and neither side really had a clear advantage. >> we had a question about
10:56 am
disaffection amongst the citizens and want to build on what you just said because i'm wondering when rebel and british armies were contesting these no man lands, to what extent did the lead to either disaffection or did it lead people to side with one government or the other? >> i think both. there were certain amount of people who were willing to side with whichever side was stronger overlooked more ready to win the war. i found correspondence between family members in different places where they say all right, maybe next month is the time to jump ship and come over to the revolutionary side, or maybe in a couple of months if win this battle we should switch to the crown. so there's a lot of kind of fence swapping or side swapping
10:57 am
in these areas. in terms of disaffection there's also a lot of that come a lot of people who are kind of militantly anti-both sides. i can draw for comparison to the english civil war where there are these groups called kind of club men who would defend their towns against both the wireless and the parliamentarians. you see that more and kind of the backcountry of the carolinas and georgia, where they call people beyond the mountains, these tennesseans and kentuckians who just want to defend their settlements and will attack pretty much anyone who comes through the region. i would say yeah, there's definitely disaffection there. in terms of the question, the
10:58 am
experience of different occupied cities. yes and no. what i try to do in the book is draw common threads as much as i can, and in each city there's kind of an arc, there's a hopefulness can when the british arrived at least among a lot of the population that they will be reconnected to the british empire, that things will get more peaceful, that this is kind of the beginning of the end of their travails. then there's this kind of period of deprivation and kind of hardship of military rule, and other things that occurs is violence. a lot of militaries in the british army particular was very violent society and there's assaults, there's rapes, there are murders are duels, all kinds of violence in these cities. that experience is common to all six. there are certain things in some
10:59 am
cities that set people often don't think others. one of the things the bostonians are costs of the complaining that is the british soldiers cursing and not respecting the sabbath on sundays and not letting them go into their churches. one of the things that they carolinians are always complaining about is how the british are free with enslaved people and that they are allowing blacks to kind of have more liberties than they are used to. so the our regional differences and cultural differences like that, but there are a lot of common experiences. >> we won't swear on the program this evening. we have one final question here and i want to build on these questions little bit turkey asking about the promise between benjamin franklin and his son. a concrete example of a loyalist
11:00 am
and relish her family. i want to build on by asking but the long-lasting effects of occupation in the postwar period. what did it mean for people who had been occupied or divided and went into exile? what kind of lasting effects did the occupation have on their lives? >> that's a good question. as many notable splits as the franklin's but there were definitely a lot of families that were divided this way. .. there's a lot of these and franklin with benjamin
11:01 am
franklin's son and the governor of new jersey going into exile whereas franklin himself was. it does hang over a lot of people but in a certain way they are able to sweep it under the rug and forget it and going back to the beginning of the conversation, there is a permissiveness in the earlier public or a willingness to forget a lot of the complexities and nuances of the wartime experience. one thing, it's someone a lot of us are familiar with, a political economist in the department of treasury fund the washington and jefferson administration and in his younger life he was a diehard loyalist. he lived in philadelphia,
11:02 am
married the daughter of a prominent loyalist family, basically profiteering off the occupation, painting licenses to sell to the british west indies from new york and caribbean's of philadelphia but it just was at the right time when he gets word the british are getting ready to evacuate, he writes a relative outside the town and speaks of philadelphia week before the british leave signs to the revolutionary state of pennsylvania. he comes back and writes his contacting new york basically he's breaking contract with them and he writes he's going to be the most perfect american if they'll accept him and he's able to make a career in politics in the early republic elected to congress and confederation of
11:03 am
the 1780s and the treasury department in the 1800s and it comes up every now and again when he's running for office or in public view almost treated as a useful indiscretion. you can't blame him for that, he was only 20. so there is this part of that is everyone had something like that but they did during the war they wouldn't brought out so the critics are never able to get any traction because there is this forgive and forget mentality. >> have to say, i know earlier contacts, i hadn't read much about his life in the 1790s so use showed in your book and i'm like, what is he doing there? it's a great example of the ways in which i think he talked about
11:04 am
people reinventing themselves during the war and even after. >> absolutely. another ended up mutilating, he looked at his records in pennsylvania and you can see that in his books they are just ripped out. on the one hand, it's frustrating but on the other, it's interesting to see the way people reshape their lives. >> that's very telling, this has been a fantastic, thank you so much. when we are able to travel again, let's occupy a table. i enjoyed our time together and i want to thank you and our audience for your terrific questions. thank you for tuning in all of you out there. thank you to sam schneider and
11:05 am
patrick behind the scenes working their magic as usual. take care and hope to see you soon and everyone else have a good evening good night and good luck. >> thank you, it's been a pleasure. saturday 9:10 a.m. american artifacts. we will tour the national memorial in pennsylvania the story behind the hijacking of passengers who attempted to take control of the plane heading for washington d.c. then 2:00 p.m. eastern on the presidency, president bush's oval office address to the nation on the night of september 11. 5:30 p.m. eastern from a former white house chief, gary walters recalls events within the white house falls after terrorists crashed into the twin towers and the pentagon.
11:06 am
book tv features leading authors discussing their latest nonfiction books. assembly 2:55 p.m. will continue to look back on 9/11 with historian gary in his book the only plane in the sky, oral history of 9/11. 4:15 p.m. eastern, pulitzer surprise winning, the looming tower, al qaeda and the road to 9/11. watch american history and american tv on c-span2. a full schedule on your program guide or visit ♪♪ >> the 20th anniversary of the


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on