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Colonial Loyalists As Modern Conservatives With Bonus Tarring-And-Feathering Picture


Here is a description of the mindset of the 18th-century British loyalist —or Tory— in America on the eve of the American Revolution. This excerpt comes from Vernon Parrington’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Colonial Mind 1620-1800.

See how what Parrington describes matches political types we see in America today—

We must first take into account….Tory philosophy. Compressed into a sentence, it was an expression of the will-to-power of the wealthy. It’s motive was economic class interest, and it’s object the exploitation of society through the instrumentality of the state. Stated thus….it lays itself open to …criticism….In consequence, much ingenuity in tailoring was necessary to provide it with garments to cover its nakedness.

Embroidered with patriotism, loyalty, law and order, it made a very respectable appearance; and when it put on the stately robe of the British Constitution, it was enormously impressive. 

It seems that the conservative mind and the conservative approach to politics does not change much with time. (Hence, I suppose, despite the radical nature of some on the right today, the term “conservative”)

As a low-minded bonus to readers, please note the illustration of the man being tarred-and-feathered in Colonial Boston.        

In this case, British tax collector John Malcolm is being tarred-and-feathered and forced to drink hot tea as reprisal for the tea tax that spurred the Boston Tea Party.

The image is a British propaganda piece. Though, that said, the noose is an awful image at any time in history.   

Tarring and Feathering was vigilante justice. I’d like to think that even a friend of Samuel Adams such as myself would not have taken part in the practice.  

I would have been , like Thomas Paine then, or a blogger today, a propagandist for the Revolutionary side.

October 9, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Colonial America, Political History, Politics | , , , , ,


  1. okkkkkkkay u suck! i did not get enough info 4 my report

    Comment by Tylor | January 31, 2008

  2. Why don’t you try a library. Ever heard of a library? You’d better get with the program because in this global economy the good jobs are going to dry up and a dumb-ass kid like you will be out of luck.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | January 31, 2008

  3. The comparison is a bit oversimplistic. One of the major issues some colonists had was that, or the perception that, the Crown was violating established legal traditions and the idea developing in Great Britain at the time that Parliament determined whether an Act was acceptable or not. Opponents of this used the term ´innovation´but not in a good way. Sort of like the living Constitution versus the fixed Constitution debate. Liberals, in the American sense of the word, strike me as those who support a living Constitution; in much the same way that the British and men like John Malcolm did.

    Comment by ABC | November 11, 2008

  4. ABC—Thank you for this comment. I think at the core of the colonial argument was self-interest. Just as it was for the British. More abstract ideas played a role, but I think people were looking out for themselves in many respects.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | November 12, 2008

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