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For King, Constitution, and Country

For King, Constitution, and Country: The English Loyalists and the French Revolution

Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    For King, Constitution, and Country
    Book Description:

    England trembled in 1792. In May, George III issued a proclamation warning his subjects of "diverse wicked and seditious writings" then being circulated which might "excite tumult and disorder." The response to this proclamation -- an unprecedented expression of loyalty to crown and constitution -- marked the beginnings of a movement that was to influence British political life well into the nineteenth century. For King, Constitution, and Country is the first full-scale exploration of the nature and origins of this loyalist movement.

    The British government had genuine cause for concern. While France was convulsed by revolution across the Channel, the writings of Tom Paine and the actions of organized English radicals seemed designed to import that revolution to England. The formation of loyal associations throughout the country indicated that the overwhelming majority of Englishmen opposed such aims, and their public declarations of loyalty strengthened the hand of government in suppressing dissent, real or imagined. When war with France was declared in 1793, the loyalists, already organized, continued to provide social stability, as well as money and men -- the volunteer corps -- to defend their country.

    Until now historians have concentrated on the radical side of this struggle. Robert R. Dozier's detailed study -- based on sources as diverse as the private papers of government officials, provincial newspapers, and the declarations of radical and loyal societies throughout England -- now makes possible a balanced view of this chaotic period. Mr. Dozier shows that the English loyalists rejected the French Revolution on social as well as political grounds, and argues persuasively that their words and actions enabled England to escape the legacy of revolution that was to plague the Continent throughout the following century.

    This important book reveals much about the character of the English people, the structure of English political society, the nature of England's unwritten constitution, and the breadth of English liberties.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6271-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-25)

    On May 21, 1792, George III signed a proclamation warning his subjects that “divers wicked and seditious writings” had been circulated throughout the kingdom which might excite tumult and disorder.” He urged his subjects “to avoid and discourage all proceedings, tending to produce riots and tumults.” Included in this proclamation was an injunction to all magistrates to do their duty by forwarding all information about seditious activities to the central government. The public response to the proclamation was overwhelmingly favorable. By September, 386 loyal addresses from cities, towns, and counties were presented to the king. To be sure, 10 counties...

    (pp. 26-54)

    The alarm which prompted government to issue the May Proclamation had been generated by the appearance of propaganda, and of propaganda-distributing groups which may or may not have been in contact with persons in “foreign parts.” These groups, whether or not their activities were curtailed, attracted little attention between July and September 1792. From the latter month through December, however, their renewed activities, or a reawakened sensitivity to their activities, generated a new concern in the public and among members of government that far overshadowed the “ferment” that had led to the first appearance of the loyalists. More alarmingly, government...

    (pp. 55-75)

    The loyal association movement which grew and flourished from November 1792 through February 1793 must surely have gratified the wishes of Grenville. Not only were all Englishmen made aware of the government’s fears of the probability of internal disturbances, but also thousands took active steps to avow their determination to aid the civil magistrates in maintaining the peace and to work to “undeceive” those who might support the plans of the radical clubs. More germane to the thesis of this book, this was the largest peacetime appearance of the loyalists, who had been apparently only waiting for a signal to...

    (pp. 76-102)

    On December 9, two weeks before the wave of enthusiasm for founding new societies crested, theObserveroptimistically commented that the loyal movement had, “in the course of ONE WEEK, triumphed over the evil machinations of a dangerous and deluded faction, which was too long permitted to disgrace this country.”¹ Making allowances for the prematurity of the opinions of theObserver’s lead writer, to a degree he was correct. A victory of sorts was in the making, and before December was out, was rapidly turning into a rout of the enemy. Practically every person active in the political community of...

    (pp. 103-137)

    The wave of loyalty swept into wider channels after the beginning of hostilities between France and England, and as a consequence lost much of its momentum and identity. Now Englishmen focused their attentions upon a greater variety of objects and goals, so that the single-mindedness of the loyalists, which in spite of the lack of any concrete organizational structure had led to their easy identifications, was merged into a larger stream of activities in which the loyalists acted not in control but in cooperation with patriots devoted to winning the war. Undoubtedly many of the personnel were the same, since...

    (pp. 138-171)

    In March 1794 the loyalists of England quit the realms of debate and entered into full-fledged physical opposition to their enemies, the radical artisans. In the belief that invasion was inevitable sooner or later, and convinced that the radicals in England were not only assisting the French in preparations for that invasion but planned to join the invaders once they landed, the loyalists stepped forward to offer their money, their exertions, and finally themselves as defenders of the internal and external security of the nation. The loyal volunteers grew to a force of over 300,000 before peace was concluded in...

    (pp. 172-180)

    Circumstances and events created the loyalists, and circumstances and events ended their movement. In their brief, three-year existence they influenced much that happened in Britain. Their resolute defense of king, constitution, and country at the beginning of the war committed them to an endurance in the struggle which would reduce in importance petty annoyances, war-weariness, or setbacks in the military and diplomatic struggles of the next twenty-odd years that might have detracted from the ultimate goal of victory. English tenacity, and hence ultimate English success, owed much to the fervor and enthusiasm they imparted to the struggle. While it is...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 181-201)
    (pp. 202-207)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 208-213)