In the process of gathering as much information about the revolutionary times within which I can place John’s story with some degree of accuracy, I came across a book by Thomas B. Allen entitled Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.
What? First Civil War? It was the fight for independence against the tyranny of the crown … wasn’t it? Not a civil war at all!
Is not a war where the citizens of a country fight one another over divisions in their view and desires for that country actually a civil war? Those who were Tories, or Loyalists, joined with the forces of the King, to fight the Patriots, or Rebels. And the Patriots targeted and fought the Loyalists with as much fierceness and determination as they did British forces; in some cases, with even more rancor. The was a war of rebellion against external control, but was also a fight between the established citizenry of different views of governance – citizens fighting citizens.
From the battle at Concord to the battle at Yorktown, Patriot troops fought armed Loyalists as well as British troops. By one tally, Loyalists fought in 576 of the war’s 772 battles and skirmishes.
Allen, Thomas B.. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition. p. xi
When I observe the current state of affairs in the United States, I wonder if we are not in the nascent formation of the sides of our third Civil War. I read posts from both sides of the argument that are vicious, condescending, inaccurate, inflammatory, hate-filled, filled with religious bigotry and intolerance. Fueled by the impersonality of social media, the sides fling insults and invective at each other with ferocity and disregard that they would never do in person.
The new president models a scorched earth style that leaves little room for reconciliation, only bombast. Individuals who are friends of mine have adopted the rhetoric of the president in that anyone who does not agree with them are “whiners” and “losers” and “idiots.” From the other side the slings and arrows of “ignorant”, “stupid”, and “haters”, and “liars” fly with gleeful abandon. In person, with those who you count as friends, or who count you as a friend, the division would be there, but the insulting, inflammatory rhetoric would not come so easily. After all, the person looking in your eyes is your friend. You know that you can count on that person if you have a need, you know that you have that persons back if they run into problems; you support that person in their business, family life, dreams, passions. You know the person is a friend – white, black, Mexican, Korean, Arabic, Native American. No matter if the friend is Nigerian, Japanese, British, French, Canadian, Italian, Syrian, or Sioux – he or she is a friend.
In revolutionary America, Germans, Scots, Irish, British, Native American counted each other as friends. It was much like when I moved from the northeast to the south, I noticed people were rejected by group, but befriended individually. So it was in the new colonies where friendship developed even amongst those who held different views of religion, heritage, and language.
We are in a pivotal time. We are a divided nation, at best a 50/50 split of political views, but that is also a false view. Of eligible voters, 57.9% voted – the popular vote was essentially split in half. So, the winner of the election was chosen by approximately 25% of the eligible voters. Records show that over 92 million eligible voters did not vote. Of course, we do not have any idea what the split would be, but we can say there are over 92 million people who did not voice an opinion.
When Brig. Gen. Nathanael Greene took command of the Continental Army of the South in 1781, he wrote to Col. Alexander Hamilton: “The division among the people is much greater than I imagined and the Whigs and Tories persecute each other, with little less than savage fury. There is nothing but murders and devastation in every quarter.”
Allen, Thomas B.. Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition p. iii
I hope the increased rancor, suspicion, and disenfranchisement do not create a snowball effect that drives us into a level of contempt and paranoia that triggers persecution with little less than savage fury.