The Patriot Resource - American Revolution

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John Jay
British Supporters of the American Revolution
The Role of 'Middling Level' Activists

by Sheldon S. Cohen
Published by Boydell Press
February 2004

Book Review:
This is a rather brief work, but covers an aspect of the American Revolution that has hardly been illuminated in recent works. The subject of British supporters of the American Revolution is given some coverage, but it is almost always concerning leading politicians or members of the social elite. Of course, these had influence in their own country and consequently, across the pond in America. Those of other classes had little weight with their own politicians and thus are unknown in America. Sheldon Cohen has selected five men who did what they could to support the American cause in Britain.

Four of the men (the exception being Irish merchant Reuben Harvey) apparently were a part of the same loose network which set out to aid American sailors detained in England's two gaols (prisons), many of whom spent much of the duration of the war imprisoned. Reuben added prisoners temporarily housed in Ireland. The men did not interact with one another, but had common contacts within the network and were known to Benjamin Franklin. The two merchants, Irishman Reuben Harvey and William Hodgson made the most significant finaicial contributions to the American cause, but were the only two who also lobbied for preferential treatment by the newly formed American government following the end of hostilities.

The author's style is fluid even with the level of detailed research exhibited, which is inherently dry. The author has obviously done extensive research as exhibited by the thorough notes that accompany this short work. Of note to the reader located in the United States: most of the sources are available only in Britain. This allows Americans a glimpse of lesser known elements of the American Revolution, but further reading in the noted sources may take more effort. This short work is nonetheless valuable because of light it shines on "middling" British natives who actively supported Americans.

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