The Pausing American Loyalist


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The Pausing American Loyalist
Middlesex Journal, January 30, 1776

HistoryWiz Primary Source

Not every loyalist was willing to fight their countrymen. But all faced an uneasy choice; they could leave their homes and move to a new land and start over, or they could stay and either risk their lives or pretend to support the rebels and be safe. The loyalist view is well expressed in this poem inspired by Hamlet's dilemma:

THE PAUSING AMERICAN LOYALIST

To sign, or not to sign? That is the question,
Whether 'twere better for an honest man
To sign, and so be safe; or to resolve,
Betide what will, against associations,
And, by retreating, shun them. To fly-- I reck
Not where: And, by that flight, t' escape
Feathers and tar, and thousand other ills
That loyalty is heir to: 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To fly-- to want--

 
 
 

To want? Perchance to starve: Ay, there's the rub!
For, in that chance of want, what ills may come
To patriot rage, when I have left my all--
Must give me pause: --There's the respect
That makes us trim, and bow to men we hate.
For, who would bear th' indignities o' th' times,
Congress decrees, and wild convention plans,
The laws controll'd, and inj'ries unredressed,
The insolence of knaves, and thousand wrongs
Which patient liege men from vile rebels take,
When he, sans doubt, might certain safety find,
Only by flying? Who would bend to fools,
And truckle thus to mad, mob-chosen upstarts,
But that the dread of something after flight
(In that blest country, where, yet, no moneyless
Poor wight can live) puzzles the will,
And makes ten thousands rather sign-- and eat.
Than fly -- to starve on loyalty.--
Thus, dread of want makes rebels of us all:
And thus the native hue of loyalty
Is sicklied o'er with a pale cast of trimming;
And enterprises of great pith and virtue,
But unsupported, turn their streams away,
And never come to action.

Middlesex Journal, January 30, 1776.

 

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