A LETTER FROM A REPENTANT ROYALIST
By Miss Ellen D. Larned
Published in the Connecticut Quarterley
October, November and December 1895
........Not a blind partisan, not a self-seeking office-holder, but a fair-minded, intelligent
citizen of Connecticut, constrained by principle to remain loyal to king and government was the author of this
epistle, -- Joshua Chandler, of New Haven. The mass of Tories, during the American Revolution was made up mainly
of office-holders, monied men who feared the loss of property, and Episcopalians who honored the King as head both
of Church and State. But there was also a class of moderate conservatives, who apart from personal considerations
clung to the king, and believed rebellion unjustifiable.
........The Chandler family at this date embraced all classes. Capt. John Chandler of Woodstock, (then in Massachusetts), was the most prominent citizen of Worcester county at the time of its organization, and his children and grandchildren held the highest offices in the gift of the government. As a matter of course, they were Loyalists of the most intense stamp, so bitter in opposition to the Patriot cause that out of six citizens of Worcester, sentenced to eternal banishment, enforced by the penalty of death if found a second time within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, five were of this family connection.
........On the other hand, Charles Church Chandler, whose father had remained in Woodstock, was a leading patriont, member of the Committee of Correspondence, and but for his early death might have filled the highest offices in the State of Connecticut. Another cousin, Thomas Bradbury Chandler, became at Yale college a convert to Episcopacy, entered upon holy orders, served acceptably as missionary and pastor, received a degree from Oxford and was offered the Bishopric of Nova Scotia. He and his family were devoted adherents of king and church, and by their position and wide influence, were able to give much aid and comfort to distressed Royalists.
........Joshua, son of a fourth Chandler brother, after his graduation from Yale college, in 1747, remained in New Haven, engaging in the practice of law, and in extensive business operations, and acquired a large property. That he gained the respect and confidence of the community was manifested by public charges entrusted to him, and very notably by being placed first on the Committee of Correspondence in 1777. But, it would soon manifest that his sympathies were with the mother country. He could but think "his countrymen were in the wrong." His sons became, indeed, violent partisans of the Royal cause, even piloting British troops in their invasion of New Haven, so that their father was obliged to join the British in hot retreat from the town, leaving property valued at £30,000 to be confiscated by the State government. His prosperous career ended in "days of darkness." Repairing to England, after the close of the war, hoping to gain some equivalent for his loses in the Royal cause, he met but bitter disappointment. The subjoined letter [Genealogy of the Chandler Family] shows the innermost heart of one whose loyalty to the crown had wrecked his life and fortune. He felt that "the lost cause " had not been worth the sacrifice:
"To the Rev. Dr. Chauncey, New Haven, Conn.
..............Reverend & Dr Friend;
........On my taking my Final and Everlasting Farewell of my Native Country, I addressed you and my Good old and Dr Friend, Mr. Whitney. I hope you Received that address as a Token of my Love and Friendship; as I flatter myself that you have a Friendship for me, and would be glad to know my Present Situation and Future Prospects in Life, I have taken the Liberty of once more Giving you the Trouble (I hope) the pleasing Trouble of this.
........I left New York on the 9th of October Last, with a Design of Calling at New Haven, and for the Last Time, to have bid adieu to that Delightful Spot, and to all my friends; but the Winds, but more the Feelings of my own Mind and the Visible feelings of the Family forbid it. We had a most Terrible Passage to Nova Scotia, our Decks were swept of all our Stock, &c. &c. We arrived at Anapolis on the 23d. Mrs. Chandler was overcome with the Passage. She languished, mourned and Died in about 3 weeks after Landing. She is certainly Happy. She Died in the Death of the Righteous, and it is the first wish of my Soul, that her Family and her Friends might be as happy and composed as she was in the moment of her Death. Soon after the Death of Mrs. Chandler, I removed my Family about ten miles above Anapolis Royal. I provided as well as I could for them. I staid with them a few days. I then left them to the Gracious Protection of the Almighty, who I hope will be their God and their Comfort and Support. I left Halifax on the 9th of January, and Arrived, after a mixed Passage, in this Great Sink of Pollution, Corruption and Venality, on the 8th of February. I found the Nation in Great Tumults and Commotions. I found myself Perfectly Lost in Politicks, as well as in Compass; East was West and North is yet South.
........Before I left America, I supposed Lord North to be Rather attached to the Prerogatives of the Crown, and Lord Sidney and Mr. Pitt Rather Jealous for the Liberty of the People. But how Greatly was I mistaken. I found Lord North Decidedly against the Crown, in favor of the Democratical Part of the Constitution to the Ruin of Monarchial; and Mr. Pitt and Lord Sidney, &c. &c. &c all in Favor of the Prerogative; these Political Squabbles you will see more Perfectly Depictured in the Newspapers, as also the Dissolution of Parliament, and the Calling of a new one; the Elections in many places have taken place, and the New Ministry will have a Great Majority in the New Chosen House; but their continuance cannot be long, the present Ministry are occupying ground that they are Strangers to; they stand upon Tory Ground, and are at Heart Republicans in Principle, if there is such a thing as Principle in the Kingdom, the existence of which I greatly doubt. This Kingdom, without a miracle in its favor must soon be Lost; you can have no idea of their Corruption, of their Debauchery and Luxury; their Pride; their Riches; their Luxury has Ruined them; it is not in the Power of Human Nature to Save them, If they are saved, it must be by some Heavenly Power. I like not the Country, either their manners or even their Soil -- the Soil is Nothing to America, you cannot see a single Tree but what wants a Flesh Brush -- it is True that Agriculture and all the Arts are carried to great Perfection; but give America the means, and in one Half the Time she will Rise Superior to anything in this Country.
........My own prospects in Life are all Dashed, my only care is now for my Children; the Idea of a Compensation is but very faint. It is probable I may Have about £400 stg. per annum. My only effort now is to procure that Sum to be Settled on my two Daughters and my youngest Son for Life; my Son William Stands some Chance for a Separate Support for his Life. I find my Health on a Visible Decline; when I can Get my Little affairs Settled here, I shall go into Yorkshire or into Wales, to procure an Asylum for my Daughters and my two youngest Sons.
........Thus this unhappy Controversy has Ruined Thousands; the Sacrificing the Prospects of my Family for life is not the only thing that fills my mind with distress. I yet have a very strong Affection to, and a Predilection for my Native Country; their Happiness would in some measure alleviate my Present Distress; both though I have found myself Greatly lost in Politicks, I cannot yet suppose my Country can be happy in their present state. A Democratical Government cannot long subsist in so great and extended a Country; the seeds of Discord I see Sown among you, former prejudices and future jealousies will cause Convulsions; the subversion of your present constitution cannot take place without bloodshed. I have sent in a small package to my Son, M. De Solme's (advocate in Geneva, Switzerland) History of the British Constitution; it is well wrote; I wish Dr. Stiles would admit it into the Library -- it may be of some service to my Country in forming their new constitution, for a new one must be formed at some future time. In the hour of the Contest I thought, and even yet think my Country wrong; but I never wished its ruin. I wish her to support a dignified character -- that can be done only by great and dignified actions, one of which is a sacred and punctual adherence to public faith and Virtue. Men of your character may preach forever upon moral Virtue; but, if the people see and find that there is no public Virtue, your preaching will be like the Sounding Brass and tinkling Cymbal. I wrote to my Son a few days since; I wish you to enforce my regards to him, and also to remind him of sending the papers and documents I sent for. Tho' I am about to leave this city, and address to me, No. 40 Norton Street, near Portland Chapel, will always find me, while I can find myself. Pray remember me with the most sincere affections to your family, and to all my friends. They must excuse my not writing to each one, neither my health or my feelings will permit; but let us all bear up under all our losses and separation with a becoming fortitude. My own time, and the time of my dear friend, is Short, very Short, in this world. My first and last prayers will be to meet where no Political disputes can Ever Separate from near and dear friends.
.....................................Your humble &c. &c.
........Mr. Chandler's sad fore-bodings were too quickly realized. After his return to Annapolis he set out with his son, daughter, and a fellow-sufferer, for St. John, N.B., with all his books, papers, and evidence of colonial property, to be laid before the Commissioners and have their claims allowed. A terrible snowstorm drove their vessel upon the rocks. A slate-stone slab, in the old burying-ground, King street, St. John, gives the sequel to this sad story:
Here lyeth the Bodies of Col.
of the late Major ALEXr
Return to History at Rays