Oct. 12th Question: A Loyalist Satire

Just a reminder: We do not have class on Monday, October 10, because of Columbus Day. We will have our quiz on Chapter 5 on Wednesday as usual, and you can download the review sheet here.

Keep in mind that the midterm will be held on Monday, Oct. 24, as scheduled on the syllabus, and it will cover everything up through Chapter 6 (the syllabus says up through Chapter 7, but we are a week behind due to the semester’s late start because of the hurricane). It would be a good idea to start organizing and reviewing your notes–we’ll talk some more about some study strategies in class on Wednesday.

Lastly, I would recommend that you begin reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, particularly if you are a slow reader. You can buy the recommended version here, or simply read it online here. We will begin our discussion of the first few chapters of this book on the class session after the midterm (Wednesday, Oct. 26).

Now let’s move on to this week’s web comment. The syllabus says that the Oct. 5 comment was required, but since we’re a week behind, we will not yet do the required one yet–we’ll save it for the following week when we actually read about the Constitution. So instead, I have an optional question that deals with the last phase of the Revolutionary War. If you have not yet commented, please think about doing so as you need to do at least six over the semester to receive a decent grade for this component of the course.

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For almost the entire Revolutionary War, New York City was occupied by British forces, serving as the headquarters for the British war effort. A great many patriots fled the city, making it a redoubt of loyalist sentiment. One influential loyalist was the printer James Rivington, who published a newspaper called the Royal Gazette (the masthead is at the top of this post). On January 31, 1781, Rivington published a satirical “last will and testament” of the Continental Congress. You can read his satire here.

Before answering the questions below, make sure you understand what was going on at that particularly point in time. The war was still going on, with most of the fighting now happening in the South. Patriot General Nathanael Greene had just defeated Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, but the war still was far from over. Cornwallis wouldn’t surrender at Yorktown until later that year, in October. Review the events of this period on pages 123 – 125 of your textbook. when you have done that, reread Rivington’s satire and answer the following questions: What tactics is Rivington using to make fun of Congress? Why might his audience find his depiction of the independence movement as pact with the devil amusing? What do Rivington’s attacks tell you about his own position? (He was obviously against independence, but what might be some specific reasons)? Please answer these questions in one-to-two paragraphs, citing evidence from Rivington’s text.

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Published in: on October 8, 2011 at 12:42 pm  Comments (12)  

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i think he was scared,thats why.

    • Mohammed, I think you could be right, but could you elaborate a bit more? What exactly was Rivington scared about? Why does he go so far as to call independence a pact with the devil?

      • i think he is pro-british at that time,and also i think he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

  2. Rivington acts as if rebelling against Britain is a crime. He makes it seem like the Patriots are devil worshippers and fighting for independence is wrong. In his eyes, the king is righteous and it is best to be in his favor or under his ruling. I think that he felt like America wouldn’t survive on its own if it became independent. As he said, the Congress was weak in body,low in credit and poor in estate but had high expectations. Perhaps he viewed them as dream chasers and their dreams would only hurt them in the long run which is why it was a pact with the devil because it would bring no good.

  3. Rivington makes fun of Congress by calling them “weak in body, low in credit, and poor in estate, but high, and strong, in expectations”. I think Rivington’s audience might find his depiction of the independence movement as a pact with the devil amusing because it is unlikely for someone to attack the Congress in that manner. Rivington views the independence movement in a negative way. Rivington probably feels as though America does not have what it takes to go up against Britain. He believes Congress is giving America false hope that is why he compares the movement to a pact with Satan.

  4. First I must say that Rivington’s writing was extremely difficult for me to understand at first, I’m guessing it was the way citizens write at the time. I think the tactics that Rivington used to make fun of congress was by describing Congress as “being weak in body, low in credit, poor in estate” meaning broke and having no way to find money to fund a war had very high expectations of winning a war with Great Britain. He also went on to describe their behavior as “hellish” and how this war will put them in great favor with Satan.
    His audience will find his depiction of the independence movement as a pact with the Devil amusing for the same reason I did, reading it I kept laughing because it felt like he really did believe that Americans were going to hell and that at some point he sounds like an insane person going on a tirade. He talked about how this will “cause out names to be registered among the grand infernal Records of Hell” and “the power of Hell will prevent North American from being subject to Britain”
    Rivington attacks tell me that he was a Loyalist, meaning he was against the war and was still loyal to Great Britain. He mention how great King George waste all his time to promote happiness, loves his Queen and family and how he loves his God. He talks about appointing a hellish noble and devil guardian to America.

  5. I agree with the other responses given. I think Rivington is using the idea of the pact of the devil to make fun of congress. The audience may find it amusing because it kind of sounds like a mockery of people’s belief in the devil/witchcraft, also his sarcasm/exaggeration may be entertaining to the audience.”Now we do nominate and appoint our most infernally noble and dearly beloved DEVIL, GUARDIAN to our dear and only Daughter MISS AMERICA REBELLION, trusting to him the sole care, maintenance, and education of that most dutiful beautiful Child.”, by adding emphasis to the words, it seems as though he is joking with them. Maybe he feared that by them claiming independence that things would become even more chaotic?

  6. At first i couldn’t understand what Rivington was saying but after reading it a few times i understood that he was amusing the American Congress. I defenetly agree with all of the responses given too. First in foremost, Rivington is saying that the congress is “being weak in body, low in credit, poor in estate” and that having the war would bring a pact with the devil. Those noble who were going to fight were predominated under the Devil, Guardian.

  7. This is a profound reading. I total agree with Taeysha when it comes to the view of Americans going to hell. England is extremely religious and though out their history religion was always tied to the king. With this said, forming a revolution is considered treason against the mother land and hits leaders. These are strong words that all have meaning to hit point of view. He said “weak in body, low in credit, and poor in estate, but high, and strong, in expectations”. I personally think he is saying that Americans did not have the number of people, large amounts of money or the infer structure to start a revolution with would lead to war. But that they had high hopes that they would win. This statement can be viewed in many ways for both sides. But knowing where he is and who he writes for determine who he sided with.

  8. Rivington uses “Satan” and “the devil” to exaggerate his point. In reference to the British, the Americans are going to hell since it is American that is pulling away from its mother. It is American that is reforming against its mother. Rivington is extreme to stress his point. In the first few sentences, he explains that Congress is “weak in body, low in credit, and poor in estate, but high, and strong, in expectations”. He to some degree is still fond of Britain hence making fun of Congress. He claims that we are registered in hell and to some degree no more will come of us.

  9. Rivington use of “Devil” is analogous to rulers who rule by pretentious fluff. In other words, a ruling body who bases strategic decisions on unrealistic expectations. It is clear that Rivington and followers believes America will be dominated by the English Empire, as will South America, too. Since this event is inevitable – to their eyes – I can understand why he chooses side opposed to America, after all, America is the rebel.

  10. Rivington idea about making fun of congress and that the constitution is a pact with the devil are some feelings that he and maybe other group of people feel about it.First of all congress was weak, and that’s the most important reason why he didn’t show respect to congress so it was to weak in the state, and the part when Rivington that it is a pact with the devil is that will bring disaster to the US if it is not fix.


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