Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hailed as a Traitor, a Tory Writes Home

"My Dear Lydia, At last the prospect opens for my return to New Hampshire" writes revolutionary war soldier Samuel Hale in an affectionate letter to his wife. He asks with concern about the health of his family and the education of his son: "How does Jack? Does he read well? I fear you have pushed him forward too fast. Is he healthy? Is he rugged?"

Samuel Hale was a Tory who served with the British army in defiance of his Patriot relatives. He wrote to his wife from Philadelphia on June 9, 1778, less than two weeks before British forces abandoned their occupation of the city. Hale tries to keep a positive outlook on his circumstances: "If they should carry their point the same princ[iples] that made me a good British Subject will make me a peaceable member of their State and I shall submit...."

Samuel Hale had larger problems, though, than the simple fact of his Loyalist service.  His cousin, Nathan Hale, was hanged by the British army as a spy in September of 1776 and hailed as a martyred hero by the Patriots. Samuel Hale's Loyalist service made him a natural object of suspicion in his cousin’s betrayal to the British, and although no conclusive evidence was ever provided to support his guilt, Samuel Hale was vilified by the press for his suspected treason.

Samuel Hale never mentions Nathan’s death in his letter to Lydia, but he defends his own integrity, asking that his wife: “Make my respects to my old friends and when they decide upon my Honor I hope they will not forget their own.”

Hale's hopes of a swift return to New Hampshire were in vain; he fled to England and died there in 1787, having never been reunited with Lydia and Jack.

Ask for MS 72 to see the entire collection of Hale-Chandler papers.  This letter can be found in Box 4 and a guide to the collection is available in Rauner.

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