Monday, June 2, 2014

A Tribute to the "Summertime Patriots" of 1776

As taken from the book, History of the town of Southampton  by James Truslow Adams;  Chap. VIII, The Revolution pages 170 – 171; published 1918.  Enjoy:

When  Washington [under the cover of  night darkness and heavy morning fog] retreated [from the August 27, 1776 Battle of Long Island], necessary and wise as that retreat was from the military standpoint, the result was six years of incalculable and undeserved suffering for the people at this end of the Island.  The western end was largely Tory in sentiment, Kings County not having signed the Association at all, the Queens County but slowly and unwillingly.  It was not so, however, in Suffolk County [Brooklyn].  There the feeling was deep and strong in favor of the patriot cause and had been freely expressed.  The battle left its inhabitants cut off from the rest of their fellow sympathizers, the British army and impassable barrier, their own men largely scattered in the confusion following the retreat, and themselves and their property absolutely at the mercy of the enemy, with no possibility of resistance or defence.

Surrendered as they were to the Bristish at the end of August, but a few anxious weeks passed before Gov. Tryon made his hand felt and forced the oath of allegiance to the English Crown, in a most obnoxious form, upon all those who, for one reason or another, could not escape to their friends on the main land.  The unfortunate people who had been so quick to send help to the cause in Boston, and who ever since by word and deed had, with practically no dissenting voice in the two entire townships, aided it in every way possible, now abandoned by their friends and with no refusal possible, were forced to take the following oath: 
“I do swear upon the Evangelist of Almighty God, that I hold true and faithful allegiance to his Majesty King George the Third of Great Britain, his heirs and successors; and hold an utter abhorrence of congresses, rebellions &c.; and do promise never to be concerned in any manner with his Majesty’s rebellious subjects in America.  So help me God”!
 A joint meeting was held by the men of two Towns at Sagg on September 1776, to endeavor to secure mitigation of the oath, but to no avail.

Col.  Abraham Gardiner was chosen, and forced, to administer the oath to the people of the Towns, and it is said that the after surrounding their respective houses at Sagg and East Hampton, he forced Cols. Jonathan Hedges and David Mulford both to take it, although all three afterwards became refugees. As to the ethical case in the oath extorted by force, I leave the matter in the hand of Judge Hedges, who wrote the following:

“What should they do? Take the oath and live? Refuse the oath and die? They took the oath, but in their heart were as devoted to their country and as hostile to their oppressors as before. This is a subject avoided by writers but fidelity to historic truth demands expression. When residents of Sag Harbor and the Hamptons took this oath, as they in fact did, they reasoned thus: Refusing I die with no benefit to my family, friend’s or country’s cause; living, I may help all, ministering to the aged parents, to sick and dying of family and friend, protector of wives, sisters, and children  from brutal assaults on their purity and honor. I law and morals, fraud or force annuls a deed or contract, and undue influence voids a will, and why not an oath? To hold an oath procured by force valid, is to hold force the law and above the right, When Col. Gardiner as commissioner, with a company surrounded the house of Col, Jonathan Hedges of Sagg, and at the point of the bayonet compelled the old hero to take the oath, what else could he do? It was their death. They were both known as patriots then and after. If Col. Gardiner did not compel Col. Hedges and others to take the oath, he was liable to th e penalties of martial law, just as Col. Hedges was if he did not take it, At this very time, Nathaniel Gardiner, son of Col. Gardiner, was a surgeon in the American Army, and served as such until the end of the war.”.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

In the 21st century, oaths are a joke anyway. "Swear" on the new Godzilla movie for all it matters.

Let's not bother anymore, Ray. You win. All this theater does is disgrace the concept of oaths in the first place, that we're subject to something higher than ourselves.

Such a brave new world.