Andrew Fulford Archive Authors Nota Bene

Apathetic Tories

William H. Nelson writes in his 1961 work, The American Tory, about the failures of the loyalists leading up to the Revolution. He summarizes several defects, two of which are:

Not only did they not develop and proclaim an agreed alternative to revolution, the Tories did not even consult among themselves except in the most haphazard and informal way. They developed no Committees of Correspondence, and very little political correspondence at all. Their letters remained the desultory and amiable communications of complacent gentlefolk. …

Most of all, the Tories were simply unable to cultivate public opinion, to form it and inform it. They showed not a trace of the skill with which, for example, Samuel Adams learned in these years to involve the reading public and the local politicians in a reciprocal catechism of alarms and grievances, of petitions and manifestoes echoed interminably back and forth, from committee to assembly, from assembly to committee, from the press to the public to the press. The Tories were, in fact, afraid of public opinion, afraid of men gathered together, even symbolically, in large numbers. They were afraid, for they felt weak. Here indeed is to be found the basic Tory inhibition during these years of argument, the real and compelling excuse for their apathy. They had ideas, beliefs, values, interests which they were afraid to submit to an American public for approval or rejection. … So, as the American quarrel with the British government grew more bitter and more deadly, the Tories began slowly, under the guise of loyalty, to sink into a helpless dependence on Britain, an attachment no longer voluntary but growing desperate, and as it became desperate, ceasing to be quite honourable. [19-20]

In other words, they failed to grasp the lesson for which Edmund Burke is perhaps most quoted.