By James Shepard
During the first few years of the revolutionary war, this state was liter-ally full of Tories. They filled our jails to overflowing; many of them were confined within the court-house at Hartford, and others were confined under guard or within certain limits on parole in various parts of the state where they would be out of contrast with the British, while many others of fighting age and burning zeal for their King left their families, property and homes and took up arms against the American cause.
In addition to our own Tories those of other states were sent here for confinement. The Tories were so numerous that it would be impossible to notice them all in one paper and besides it would be an almost endless task to find in the voluminous manuscript records of the state, the various superior courts and towns, the names of those who were brought to answer. And even if one should do all this, there were many more bearing coldness or hatred to the American cause who by a judicious self-control kept their hands and tongues from committing any overt act and thus left no history.
A Tory was an American who adhered to the King, and by sympathy or otherwise favored the part of Great Britain in the revolutionary war. They were sometimes called Loyalists, but the terms Loyalist and Tory mean precisely the same thing, excepting as the word Tory may carry with it an element of contempt. Those who strenuously insist on saying Loyalist instead of Tory would be very likely to apply the name Rebel to our revolutionary Patriots. The Tories were certainly loyal to their King, they upheld the existing state of affairs—in fact one of the principles of Tories in any country has always been ” the maintenance of things as they were.”
In May, 1775, the Colony of Connecticut passed an “act regulating and ordering the Troops that are or may be raised for the Defence of this colony,’ which act was called the articles of war. In December, 1775, an “act for restraining and punishing persons who are inimical to the Liberties of this and the rest of the United Colonies ” was passed, which provided among other things “that if any person by writing, or speaking, or by any overt act, shall libel or defame any of the resolves of the Honorable Congress of the United Colonies, or the acts of the General Assembly of this Colony, and be thereof duly convicted before the Superior Court, shall be disarmed and not allowed to have or keep any arms, and rendered incapable to hold or serve in any office civil or military, and shall be further punished by fine, imprisonment or disfranchisement.” The same act provided also for the confiscation of real estate. At a special session in June, 1776, this act was amended to cover the confiscation of both real and personal estate of all convicted Tories. The year of the King’s reign headed the record of this act of ’75 opposing the King, but that was the last time that such dating appears in the journal.
The Governor and Council of Safety on July 18, 1776, voted that, “Where- as many persons inimical to the United States do wander from place to place with intent to spy out the state of the colonies,” etc., and “no person be al-lowed to pass unless known to be friendly, or unless by proper certificate or otherwise they can prove themselves to be friendly to America.” A more stringent act of the same nature was passed in May, 1777.
In October, 1776, an act for the punishment of high treason and other atrocious crimes against the state was passed which provided “That if any person or persons belonging to or residing within this state and under the protection of its laws, shall levy war against the state or government thereof, or knowingly and willingly shall aid or assist any enemies at open war against this state or the United States of America by joining their armies or by enlisting or procuring or persuading others to enlist for that purpose or shall form or be in any way concerned in forming any combination, plot, or conspiracy for betraying this state or the United States into the hands or power of any foreign enemy, or shall give or attempt to give or send any intelligence to the enemies of this state for that purpose, upon being convicted shall suffer death.” At least six persons were convicted of high treason under this act, but Moses Dunbar of Waterbury is the only person who was ever executed in Connecticut under the civil law.
It was further provided in May, 1777, “that all Tories confined within this state may at all times be taken for debt, provided they are returned after having worked out their indebtedness.” In October, 1777, it was enacted “that no person can be administrator on any estate till he has taken the oath of fidelity, and that anyone who refuses to take the oath of fidelity shall not be capable to purchase or hold or transfer any real estate without license from the General Assembly.”
It was not necessary that a man should be convicted of toryism by a justice of the peace or a judge before he could be confined or removed and compelled to pay the cost of removal. In October, 1776, the General Assembly voted “That the civil authority, selectmen and committee of inspection within the several towns of this state shall have power to confine within certain limits or remove all such persons as they shall upon due examination judge to be inimical and dangerous to the United States, at the cost of such persons, and that His Honor the Governor and Council of Safety shall determine the place or places of confinement.”
In August, 1777, it was enacted “that any person convicted under the act relating to treason shall not be allowed liberty on bail, but shall be imprisoned until delivered by due course of law.”
The first record I find of any Tory in the doings of the General Assembly is that of Abraham Blakesly of New Haven, captain of a military company in the second regiment of this colony, who was complained of before the General Assembly in March, 1775, ” for being disaffected to this government by speaking contemptuously of the measures taken by the General Assembly for maintaining the same.” His case was referred to the next session, and in the following May he was cashiered. In October, 1775, it was represented that Benjamin Stiles of Woodbury “bath publickly and contemptuously uttered and spoken many things against the qualification of the three delegates of the colony now belonging to the Continental Congress, &c., &c., whereof he hath openly showed his inimical temper of mind and unfriendly disposition.” He was cited to appear before the General Assembly at their next sessions.
It was also reported that a major part of one company in Northbury (now Plymouth) was inclined to toryism, and a committee was appointed to inquire and report.
In November, 1775, “The Brigatine Minerva, an armed vessel in the service of the colony, was ordered on a cruise to the northward on an important enterprise for the defense and safety of the colony, when all hands on board except ten or twelve utterly declined and refused to go, so that the expedition wholly failed.” All these disobedient hands were discharged and their title to receive their wages was suspended.
In December, 1775, Lieut. Benjamin Kilborn of Litchfield was complained of as declaring “that he wished there were ten thousand regular troops now landed in the colony and that he would immediately join with them in order to subdue the Americans who were in a state of rebellion, that he was determined to join the Regulars and would kill some of the inhabitants of said colony! that the late oppressive measures of the British respecting America were constitutional and right and that the conduct of the United Colonies were unconstitutional and rebellious,” etc. He was cashiered and directed to be prosecuted in law for what he would call his firm adherence to the King, and yet the complaint against him was brought by the “Attorney of our Lord the King.” The forms of various processes, oaths, etc., were soon afterwards changed to avoid all reference to the King.
In June, 1776, Capt. Daniel Hill, Lieut. Peter Lyon and Ensign Samuel Hawley, all of the 11th Company, in the Fourth Regiment, and Hezekiah Brown of the 12th Company, in the Tenth Regiment, were ordered to appear before the General Assembly for disobedience, etc. John R. Marshall of Woodbury, missionary, was cited to appear before the General Assembly for toryism. Capt. Isaac Quintard and Filer Dibble, both of Stamford, were suspected of assisting a British officer to the possession of certain barrels of pow-der stored at said Quintard’s house, but Quintard claimed to be innocent and Dibble published a confession and recantation of toryism. He afterwards joined the British army. Capt. Nathaniel Shayler of Middletown refused to muster his company and march to assist George Washington at New York. He was cashiered and declared unfit to hold office. Thomas Brooks of Farmington, a lieutenant, openly professed that he could not join the army against Great Britain or against the King, and was therefore suspended. Jacob Perkins, captain of the First Company, in the Twentieth Regiment, and Samuel Wheat, captain of the Second Company, in said regiment, refused to muster and march for the defence of this state and were ordered to be brought before the General Assembly, but in December, 1776, upon satisfactory information that they had acknowledged their fault, “have since complied and declared themselves sorry and are now ready to defend their country with their lives and fortune, this assembly ready to forgive have and do revoke the aforesaid order.” In January, 1778, Capt. James Landon of Salisbury, for neglect of duty and great unfriendliness to the American cause, cited to appear before the Assembly and later was cashiered. Capt. Solomon Marsh was also cashiered for the same cause, while John Marsh the 3rd declared his willingness to risk his life for America and the complaint against him was dismissed. ” Epa.
phras Sheldon, Esqr., Colonel of the Seventeeth Regiment of militia, was dismissed for disobedience and Lieut. Ira Beebe of Waterbury was dismissed for leading off a number of his company from Fishkill last October.”
In February, 1778, it was represented to the General Assembly “that Robert Martin hath been chosen Captain of the 15th Co. loth regiment, and Reuben Rice, junr. Lieut. and that they are unfriendly to the liberties of America and its independence.” A committee was appointed to examine them, but they subsequently received their commissions.
In May, 1778, “three alarm list Companies of Newtown made choice of persons for their officers that were inimical to this and other of the United States, and for that reason their commissions were refused and a new election ordered.”
Fairfield county was a Tory center. The first Episcopal church in Connecticut was founded at Stratford in November, 1722. The Rev. John Beach, rector of the churches at Reading and Newtown, said in 1767: “It is some satisfaction to me to observe that in this town (Newtown) of late in our elections the church people make the major vote, which is the first instance of this kind in this colony, if not in all New England.” This was the only town in the state in which Episcopalians were in the majority during the war. In 1775, it was represented to the General Assembly “that the towns of Ridgefield and Newtown had come into and published certain resolutions injurious to the rights of this colony and of a dangerous tendency.” A committee was appointed to examine said matter and report. In October, 1777, it was represented to the General Assembly ” that a number of inimical persons in the western towns in the state are forming dangerous insurrections and taking every method in their power to communicate intelligence to comfort, aid, and assist the enemies of these United States and to distress the inhabitants of said towns,” etc. Whereupon a committee was sent to these towns to “examine all such persons with full power to confine them as deemed best.” The town officers may have been Tories, or the towns may have instructed them not to take any action. Such votes were passed in several towns. Even in Middle-town several resolutions to have the town authorities take action against the Tories were voted down. That place was probably a Tory center, for in July, 1776, the Council of Safety voted “that none of the prisoners residing at Hart-ford or Wethersfield be any longer permitted to go into the town of Middle-town without a special license.”
In October, 1776, Ralph Isaacs and Abiatha Camp, both of New Haven, were before the Assembly and adjudged to be “so dangerous to the state that they ought to be removed.” They were sent to Eastbury, in the town of Glastonbury, to be retained there in care of the civil authority of the town, and it was further resolved, ” That if said Isaacs and Camp shall receive any letter or letters from any person or persons, or send any, they shall offer such letters to some one of said civil authority or selectmen to be by them read and inspected.” It was also provided that in case they should leave Eastbury, any officer can take them and put them in jail. In December following, Isaacs asked permission to reside in Durham under the same conditions. His petition was granted, but still discontented, in February, ’77, he complains of his quarters, and at his own request he is ordered to Wallingford. In response to an-other petition the following June, the still discontented Isaacs is removed to his farm in Branford. In October of the same year he is “granted liberty to attend any of the Superior Courts in this state in which he has any action de-pending for tryal upon first taking the oath of fidelity. In January, 1778, he states that he is the executor of his father’s and brother’s wills, that these estates and his own affairs suffer greatly by reason of his confinement, that he has taken the oath of fidelity and done much to promote the good of the United States, whereupon he was discharged and set at liberty.”
His fellow prisoner remained for a while at Eastbury, and while there, Davis’s History of Wallingford says that he applied to the General Assembly for ” permission to be indulged the free exercise of his religion on Sundays at Middletown in attending religious worship by the Church of England, of which he was a professor and member,” but the petition was denied. In December, 1777, he asked to be removed either to his farm in North Branford or to his house in Wallingford. He was sent to Wallingford to stay within the limits of the Parish. He does not, however, appear to have been well received for the town ” Voted, that Abiatha Camp, formerly of New Haven, now being in the town of Wallingford, shall not dwell in said town nor be an inhabitant of said town. Voted that the Selectmen of said town Go and Warn Said Camp immediately to Depart said town.” He was certainly in a straight betwixt two. He could stay only in defiance of the town, he could leave only in defiance of the state. The state came to the rescue and discharged him in January, 1778. He finally went to St. John,, New Brunswick, and died there in 1841. The selectmen of Stamford, when they warned Tories out of town, added the injunction that they were “never to return.”
On January 22, 1777, Ebenezer Hall of Fairfield was by the authorities of that town brought before the Governor and Council as a person dangerous and inimical to this and the United States that his place of confinement might be determined. His Honor the Governor fully instructed him in the nature of the dispute between Great Britain and these states and of the measures taken to prevent any rupture or disaffection between this and the mother country long before the commencement of any hostilities. The said Hall then declared himself fully convinced of the justice of the American cause and of her rights to take up arms in defence, whereupon he was released and allowed to return to his family on giving bail, etc. A similar petition and action was had as to Capt. Isaac Tomlinson of Woodbury.
January 22, 1777, Lazarus Beach, Andrew Fairfield, Nathan Lee, Abel Burr of Reading and Thomas Allen of Newtown, being Tory convicts confined in the town of Mansfield to prevent any mischievous practice, having made their escape, and being taken up, were remanded back to the Governor and Council. They were all sent to jail in Windham “to be safely kept until they come out thence by due order of the General Assembly or Governor and Council.” A Thomas Allen of New London was sent to Windham as a Tory in March, 1777.
On January 28, 1777, Rev. John Sayer of Fairfield was before the Governor and Council as a Tory that he might be ordered to some safe place for confinement. He was sent to the parish of New Britain to be under the care of Col. Isaac Lee, and not to depart the limits of said society until further orders. In July of the same year the wardens of the Episcopal church and others at Fair-field, with consent of the selectmen and committee of inspection, petitioned for his release and return to his people to remain within the limits of Fairfield and give bond with surety for good behavior, which petition was granted. He was probably the first Episcopal clergyman that ever resided in New Britain. In a letter he subsequently said: “I was banished to a place called New Britain, where I was entirely unknown except to one poor man, the inhabitants differing from me both in religion and political principles; however, the family in which I lived showed me such marks of kindness as they could, and I was treated with civility by the neighbors.”
In January, 1777, Ebenezer Holby, Elliot Green, Jonathan Husted, Josiah Seely, Benjamin James, Isaac Hubbard, Jacob Scofield of Stamford, Nathan Fitch, Frank Smith, Gold Hoit, Stephen Keller and John Betts of Norwalk, convict Tories, were permitted to return home upon giving bond of 1,000 each for their good behavior, and not to give any intelligence nor do or say anything against the interests of the U. S. A. John Sanford, a person confined in Mansfield as an enemy to his country, was permitted to go to Reading to settle his mother’s estate on giving bond for J1,000 to be forfeited if he did anything against the interest of this state or the other of the U. S. A.
In February, 1777, Capt. Hall of Wallingford took considerable time of the General Assembly on business about Tories, and the 24th of that month was a day appointed for Tories to bring their cases before the General Assembly. Job Barnlock, Enoch Warren, Jos. Olmstead and Richard Patrick of Norwalk, residing in Coventry, Frederick Dibble and Stephen Wilson of Stamford, re-siding at Lebanon, were permitted to return home, having signed a full and ample declaration of the justice of the American cause with profession of their friendship to it. The next day three more Tories, viz., Gardner Olmstead of Norwalk, Nathaniel Munday and Samuel Crissey of Stamford came and signed the same declaration and were discharged. William Fitch of Stamford was also allowed to go home, John Wilcocks, Ira Ward and James Ward, all of Killingsworth, and confined in Willington, repented and were released. George Folliot of Ridgefield, having been confined first in Fairfield jail and then in Hartford jail, was released on paying cost, etc. One Hubbard and Jno. Wilson, of Stamford, visited houses and persons infected with small pox and then went about among people not so infected. They were consequently put in charge of the selectmen of Lebanon.
Hanford Fairweather of Norwalk, sentenced to Windham jail for two years, had the privilege to work out days, but had to return to jail at night, asked permission to stay outside of the jail and also to go to Norwalk and re-move his family to Windham to reside there with him. His request was granted.
Of Tory property that was confiscated, we find but little in the published state reports. In December, 1776, the property of John McKey of Norwalk was confiscated, and he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for harboring and secreting persons who were about to go over to the enemy. In May, 1777, he was released and his estate restored to him.
Sundry farms in Hebron, belonging to Barlow Trecothick and John Tomlinson of Great Britain and to the Rev. Samuel Peters, then in Great Britain, were confiscated in May, 1778, and the State Attorney for Hartford County was empowered to lease the said farms for the benefit of the state.
In May, 1777, Mary Hoyt, wife of Isaac Hoyt, late of Danbury, represented to the General Assembly that she had ever been a true friend to the rights of her country, but that her husband, being an enemy to his country, joined the British during their raid on Danbury and thereby justly forfeited all his estate, both real and personal, which had been seized and left her without the necessities of life. She requested that she might be allowed one-third part of said estate, which request was granted. Nicholas Brown of Hartford went over to the enemy in New York and left his wife Hannah and four children. She was given liberty to follow him with her children to New York at her own pleasure and expense. Hannah Church, the wife of Asa Church of Danbury, was also given permission to follow her absconding husband to New York.
In February, 1778, it was represented to the General Assembly that the property of Samuel Doolittle of Waterbury had been confiscated, leaving a wife Eunice and three children to be supported by her father, Thomas Cole, and that a certain round table and other articles of the confiscated property were her wedding portion. It was therefore resolved “that the said round table and other articles, being 1 quart cup, 3 pewter platters, 6 plates, 1 pint cup, 3 pewter basins, 3 porringers, teapot, 1 pepper box, 5 spoons, 3 knives and forks, 6 plain chairs, 1 great wheel, 1 Dutch wheel, 1 feather bed, 1 bed quilt, 2 blankets, 2 pair of sheets, 1 iron pot, 1 looking-glass, 1 beer barrel, 1 churn, 1 pair of flat-irons, 1 clock-reel, 1 bed tick, 1 meal sive, frying pan, 1 chest with drawers, .6 black chairs, 1 warming pan, 1 brass kettle, a cow and a calf and ten sheep, which are now held in custody of Samuel Hickox, constable, be delivered to said Thomas Cole for the use and support of said Eunice and her children.
In August, 1779, the town authorities of Derby applied to the General Assembly in behalf of the family of Azariah Prichard, who had gone to Canada and joined the enemy, and permission was granted his wife and children with wearing apparel and a bed and furniture to be removed to Canada.
In May, 1778, the confiscation act was so amended that the constable was not compelled to take household goods away from the families, and all confiscated estates were thereafter brought before the probate courts, who were instructed to grant administration as in other estates, whereby a proper allowance for the wife and children could be made and also provision for the payments of debts.
In January, 1780, the administrators of the confiscated estate of Joseph Hanford of Fairfield, and of William Nichols of Waterbury, asked the General Assembly for certain instructions. In 1777 the town of Wallingford voted “That the families of all those who are convicted of Toryism and the heads of all the families that have absconded to Lord How, they and their families shall be removed to Lord How. Also voted that the selectmen of said town secure the estates of all those persons that are inimical to the States of America.”
In 178o, Pomp, a negro slave belonging to the confiscated estate of Rev. Jeremiah Learning, formerly of Norwalk, represented to the General Assembly that he was “liable to be sold for the benefit of the state and to be continued in slavery by act of the government, praying to be emancipated and set at liberty.” The petition was granted. In the case of a certain negro calling himself James Cromwell, who fled from his master, Major Hudson, a Tory enemy at Long Island, the Governor and Council voted that ” he may be and ought to be protected until the pleasure of the General Assembly may be known.”
In February, 1778, “upon the memorial of Moses Northrup, Patience his wife, and Eunice Northrup his daughter, all of New Milford, showing to this Assembly that the said Patience and Eunice are confined in Litchfield goal upon suspicion of treason against this state, that no court proper to try them will sit in said county till August next and that their services are greatly needed at home,” praying to be admitted to bail as they could not be under the law. This petition was granted.
Various records show that those who were once Tories were not always Tories. The Loyalists of ’75 and ’76 were often the Patriots of ’77 and ’78, and in fact on or about 178o the Tories were mainly banished or repressed. It is, however, seldom that a Patriot has been converted to Toryism, but a few such cases are found, although they generally returned again to the American cause. Nearly all the petitions for favor that we find appear to be from good Tories or those who are weak in the faith. Our state reports are published only to May, 178o, and they contain only such resolutions as received an affirmative vote. Tory petitions that were denied are not placed on the records of the General Assembly and can be found only in various manuscripts, and the trials of the incorrigibles who would suffer anything rather than ask a favor of their opponents can be found only in various court records.
In May, 1777, Joseph Seely junr. had been sentenced to two years in jail and a fine of 20. He says “that he had served the U. S. in the present war with faithfulness, and professing repentance for his evil conduct, promising reformation in the future ” prays for release upon his enlisting into the continental army. Granted, upon his so enlisting and paying or securing the cost of prosecution arising against him.
Nathan Daton of New Milford took an active part on the side of his country at the beginning of the war, yet in November ’76, having his mind from some disastrous incidents of the war filled with gloomy apprehensions, sundry of his acquaintances, by the stratagem of magnifying the dangers of this country and by the strongest assurances of the safety and peace he might enjoy under the protection of the regulars on Long Island, deluded and seduced him to so far join them as to put himself under their protection, but Col. Delaney, then commander, tyrannically forced him to bear arms under pain of military execution. He finally escaped, returned to New Milford and was then sent to Litchfield jail. He was released and pardoned.
Joshua Stone, confined in Hartford jail, was a hearty friend to his bleeding country at the beginning of the war, but by the crafty insinuations and persuasive arguments of his near relatives to the contrary and the persuasion of his unfortunate father, he was influenced to go to the British at New York, where he was confined as a spy, but soon after made his escape to Stamford, where he was taken, bound over to the superior court of Fairfield county, then sentenced to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of 20, which he peacefully endured, but in working out the fine he was permitted to labor for one Elisha Wadsworth, who, being an enemy to the United States, persuaded him to run away. He was apprehended and confined in Hartford jail. ” But by the powerful arguments of a worthy member of the General Assembly on the justice of the American cause, he is fully sensible of his error.” He was discharged
on paying cost, etc., and further that he “may enlist in the continental army for three years.”
Marchant Wooster, of Derby, represented that he was ” always a friend to the United States and faithfully served as a soldier in ’76, but was afterwards unhappily seduced by one Major French, a British officer, to join the enemy, where he was taken a’prisoner of war.” Professing a hearty and sincere repentance, he was discharged on taking the oath of fidelity.
” John Elliott junr. of Middletown bath ever been friendly to the U. S., but by means of a most trying scene of disgrace and disappointment he had met with, he rashly and unadvisedly went to New York, and, expressing deep remorse and penitence, his request for a stay of prosecution was granted.” From these and similar petitions, it appears that all able-bodied Tories who went into the territory in possession of the British were forcibly impressed into the service.
Persons were sometimes unjustly detained as suspected Tories. Col. Wadsworth reported three prisoners of whom it was “highly probable that they had never shewn themselves inimical to or being active against the United Colonies,” and consequently they were released.
Benjamin Betts of Stamford was taken from his bed, carried to Long Island and forced into the British service. He subsequently escaped, and was then arrested, fined and imprisoned for Toryism.
Twenty-six other prisoners whose cases require no special mention were before the General Assembly in various ways as follows: Seth Hall, Ebenezer Sturgess, Timothy Beach, Gurdon Wetmore (probably of Middletown), David Adams junr., Squire Adams, Gideon Lockwood and Albert Lockwood, all of Fairfield; Daniel Lockwood, Isaac Peck, Gilbert Lockwood, Solomon Wright, Isaac Anderson, James Merrill, Benjamin Wilson and Nathan Merrill, all released on request of the selectmen of Greenwich; David and Benjamin Peet, of Stratford; Jabez Sherwood, junr., Hezk. Holby, Solomon Merrit, junr.,, Silas Knap, Wm. Marshall, Joseph Galpin and Jonathan Mead, of Greenwich, and Roger Veits of Simsbury.
In October, 1777, “Eight Disciples of Robert Sandeman, Daniel Humphreys, Titus Smith, Richard Woodhull, Thomas Goold, Joseph Pyncheon, Theophilus Chamberlain, Benjamin Smith and Wm. Richmond, all of New Haven, who, on account of their religion, were bound in conscience to yield obedience to the King, signified their desire, if they may not continue at New Haven, to remove to some place under the dominion of the King.” The request was granted under certain conditions, excepting as to the daughter of Richard Woodhull, “who shall not be removed,” as she was heiress to considerable real estate in New Haven.
Seventeen prisoners from Farmington—Nathl. Jones, Siemon Tuttle, Joel Tuttle, Nathaniel Mathews, John Mathews, Riverius Carrington, Lemuel Carrington, Zerubbabel Jerom, jr., Chauncey Jerom, Ezar Dormer, Nehemiah Royce, Abel Royce, George Beckwith, Abel Frisbie, Levi Frisbie, Jared Peck and Abraham Waters—were released on taking the oath of fidelity and paying costs. The committee who examined these prisoners found that they had been much “under the influence of one Nichols, a designing church clergyman (the Rev.. James Nichols of Bristol), that they had refused to go in the expedition to Danbury, that Nathaniel Jones and Simeon Tuttle each of them have as they believe a son gone over to the enemy, that they were grossly ignorant of the true grounds of the present war, and that they were convinced since the Dan-bury alarm that there was no such thing as remaining neuters.” Poor Mr. Jones thought that his son John was in the British service as captain of the marines, but he had been killed in his first engagement about six months be-fore this time.
Dr, William Samuel Johnson of Stratford was one of the most noted men of Connecticut ever arrested for Toryism. In military affairs he was first appointed a lieutenant in 1754, afterwards a captain, and in 1774 was made a lieutenant-colonel. He was a member of the General Assembly at various times from 1761 to 1775, serving in both houses. He was a representative from Connecticut to the Stamp Act Congress at New York in 1765. He drew up the petitions and remonstrances to the King, and about one year thereafter, when the Stamp Act was repealed, lie drafted the “Address to the King” for the colony, “returning their most grateful tribute of humble and hearty thanks.” He was made a Doctor of Laws by the University of Oxford, January 20, 1766. In February of the same year he was appointed special agent of Connecticut before the King and Lords in Council at London, where he remained until 1771. He was a judge of the superior court of the colony from 1772 to 1774. He was chosen to represent Connecticut in Congress at Philadelphia, in 1774, but other duties prevented him from accepting. After the Battle of Lexington, in 1775, he was appointed by the unanimous voice of the Assembly one of the committee to enter Boston under a flag of truce with a letter from the Governor to General Gage, then in command of the British forces, pleading for a stay of hostilities. After the Declaration of Independence he persuaded himself that he could not join in a war against England, and resolved to remain neutral. In the midsummer of 1779, after General Tryon raided Fairfield and Norwalk, it was rumored that Stratford was also to be destroyed. Knowing Dr. Johnson to be well acquainted with the British general, the frightened people insisted that Johnson should seek an interview with Tryon to dissuade him from burning the town. He reluctantly consent-ed. Major General Wolcott, in command of the Continental forces along the coast, sent an officer with a detachment of troops to arrest Dr. Johnson and send him under guard to the town of Farmington. The arrest was made, but Johnson persuaded the officer to accept his word of honor to proceed at once to Farmington and place himself in the custody of the selectmen. On arriving there, one of the selectmen proved to be an acquaintance of Mr. Johnson, and they declared that they “had no business with him,” but at Johnson’s request they accepted his parole and permitted him to go alone to Lebanon and pre-sent himself to the Governor and Council. Johnson solmnly declared ” that he never bath communicated with the enemies of this state in any way, nor done or said anything in prejudice of the rights and liberties of this state.” He had even “hired a soldier to serve during the war,” that in the Stratford matter he only yielded at the “pressing importunity of the people.” The board disproved of the course taken by the people of Stratford, commended the measures taken by General Wolcott as prudent and necessary,” etc., but nevertheless, being satisfied with Dr. Johnson’s word and oath, he was released.
But this arrest did not prevent him from receiving further positions of honor from our state. He was one of the three counsellors of Connecticut in the Susquehanna case, was a member of the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1787, he aided in drafting the Federal Constitution, and Dr. Beardsley says that “the first action of the Legislature of Connecticut under the new Federal Constitution was the election of Dr. Johnson as a Senator in Congress.” He held this office from 1789 to 1791, and was then president of Columbia College till 1800.
The motives that may have induced many to join the enemy are set forth in an act of the General Assembly passed at its May session in 1779, which,. after referring to the crime of treason when committed with deliberation as. justly deserving the most severe and exemplary punishment, they say: ” But whereas it is apprehended that very different motives and principles have influenced the conduct of the deluded few who have taken part against their country—some through ignorance of the nature and grounds of the dispute between Great Britain and America, some through particular prejudice, prospects of reward and gain, others deceived by the treacherous acts of subtle and secret enemies, have without deliberation given way to the force of various temptations, which persons are now convinced of their error and lament their folly. This Assembly, taking the matters aforesaid into consideration and ever willing to exercise leniency and mercy according to the genius of this free and happy constitution as far as may be consistent with justice and public safety, do therefore in tenderness and compassion to such deluded persons resolve and declare, that any and all such persons who shall return into this state on or before the first day of October next and deliver themselves up to. the civil authority of the town to which they belong, may and shall be suffered to remain and dwell in safety in such town, provided,” etc. And His Honor the Governor was advised to issue a proclamation accordingly.
But it appears that in the following August, the Governor, through a press of more important matters, had not issued said proclamation, and whereas it appeared that “the inimical persons described in said act both in this and the other states have been very active of late in favor of the detestable cause which they have chosen, and many of them on board and assisting the fleet and army who have lately committed the inhuman destruction of several important towns in this state, and otherwise discover great malignity against their country,” etc., they advise “his Excellency the Governor not to issue said proclamation until otherwise advised.”
Resolutions desiring the Governor to issue a proclamation of pardon had been passed at the May session in 1777. General Putnam had also issued such a proclamation.
Seventeen persons, in addition to those hereinbefore named, escaped from the British and received pardon, as follows: Pardon Tillinghast Taber, of New London; Elijah Elmore, of Stratford; Israel Rowland and Samuel Haw-ley, of Redding; David Manvill, Jesse Tuttle, Seth Warner, Ephraim Warner, Richard Miles and Daniel Finch, of Waterbury; John Moorehouse and Comfort Benedict, of Danbury; James Benham, of Wallingford; Michael Ames, of New Haven; John Davis junr., of Derby; Elisha Fox (residence not stated) and Nathan Fitch, of Greenwich.
In January, 1778, David Washburn of New Milford represented to the Assembly that he was under the sentence of death, having been convicted in November, 1777, of high treason, and that the particular species of treason for which he was condemned was going on board an armed brig belonging to the enemy. His sentence, with that of David Whelpley, Solomon Ferris and Wm. Peck, all of whom were to be executed on the loth of November, 1779, for high treason, was suspended until the first Wednesday of March, 178o; but before that time it was arranged to have these persons exchanged as prisoners of war. Probably they were not executed through fear that the British would retaliate.
In January, 1779, Nehemiah Scribner of Norwalk, being under sentence of death for high treason, had his sentence changed to confinement and labor at Newgate prison “during the pleasure of the General Assembly.” Other per-sons whose names are not published in the state reports were held for high treason, as a resolution was passed in January, 1779, that all persons so held in the New Haven, Fairfield and Litchfield jails be transferred to the jail at Hartford.
Moses Dunbar was hung for high treason at Execution Hill, Hartford, near the present site of Trinity College, on March 19, 1777. His treason consisted mainly of enlisting men for the British army and having a captain’s commission for that purpose. A full account of the affair, including his farewell let-ter to his children and his dying speech, may be found in the new History of Waterbury. His widow retired to the British army for a time, but afterwards returned to Bristol.
Referring now to non-resident prisoners, Dr. Benjamin Church of Boston, a member of the 1774 Congress, was confined at Norwich from November, 1775, to May, 1776, with the privilege of going into the jail-yard once a week. He was a supposed Patriot, but was sentenced for treasonable correspondence with the enemy, a letter written in cipher having been found on his person. Many Tories were sent here by order of the New York convention. In May, 1776, a newspaper says that ” forty-nine dirty Tory prisoners, taken at Johnston, N. Y., were brought under guard from Albany to Hartford, and others were on the way.”
Gov. William Franklin, a natural son of Benjamin Franklin, arrived here in July, 1776, and was confined for a time at Wallingford and afterwards at Middletown. He was the last royal governor of New Jersey, and was sent here by the New Jersey convention as a person “that may prove dangerous.” In August, 1776, nineteen Tories from Albany arrived here and were sent to New London, and a little later were removed to the town of Preston. Mr. Mather, the mayor of New York, was confined at Litchfield. John Munroe and Henry Van Schaack, Tory prisoners from Albany, were sent to East Haddam; Munroe had served in the British army and Van Schaak had talked too much. He was released in January, 1777. Judge Jones, who afterwards wrote the History of New York in the Revolutionary War, was at one time a prisoner in ‘Connecticut. In the latter part of 1776 it was found that these non-resident Tories were a great burden, owing to the scarcity of food. In fact, our own people were really suffering, and by the force of circumstances were compelled to send these non-resident prisoners home with the request that they deliver themselves up to the authorities who sent them here. This was done without the knowledge or consent of those who had placed these prisoners here for safe keeping.
Nearly all the names thus referred to in this paper are found in the published colonial and state records, but they include only a small per cent of the
The Connecticut Quarterly April, May, June, 1898 Vol.IV No.2