I ——— here, in the presence of Almighty God, as I hope for ease, honour, and comfort in this world, and happiness in the world to come, most earnestly, devoutly and religiously swear that I will neither directly or indirectly assist the wicked instruments of ministerial tyranny and villany commonly called the King’s troops and navy, by furnishing them with provisions and refreshments of any kind, unless authorized by the Continental Congress or Legislature at present established in this particular Colony of Rhode Island.I've never really been all that interested in oaths. To me they are mere weapons of mass distraction that don't really amout to a whole lot either way. But I know that they have been a topic of great interest here at American Creation (especially for our resident oath guru, Ray Soller), so I thought Mr. Bell's article deserved some attention here. Here is what he had to say about Charles Lee's oath:
I do also swear, by the Tremendous and Almighty God, that I will neither directly or indirectly convey any intelligence, nor give any advice to the aforesaid enemies described; and that I pledge myself, if I should by any accident get knowledge of such treasons, to inform immediately the Committee of Safety; and as it is justly allowed that when the rights and sacred liberties of a nation or community are invaded, neutrality is not less base and criminal than open and avowed hostility:
I do further swear and pledge myself, as I hope for eternal salvation, that I will, whenever called upon by tho voice of the Continental Congress, or by that of the Legislature of this particular Colony under their authority, take arms and subject myself to military discipline in defence of the common rights and liberties of America. So help me God.
Of course, the problem with a coerced loyalty oath is that you don’t need to administer it to people who are already loyal while administering it to people who are enemies or neutrals simply makes them feel coerced and more likely to abjure the oath once they get free of the coercion.
And then there’s the question of whether any New Englanders respected a lecture from Lee about what they should “devoutly and religiously swear.” He was admired for many qualities this early in the war, but great piety was not among them.
Less than twelve months after Lee visited Rhode Island, the British military took over the island that includes Newport. That royal authorities held that territory against American assaults until 1779.