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1774/2024: Loyalty then and Now

Before turning the mere three-year anniversary of the insurrection by our Confederacy-loving former President, we should start at the very beginning. The semiquincentennial for the American Revolution really begins to take shape in 2024 even though 1774 does not get the attention of other years.

Last year ended with the spectacular Boston Tea Party on December16. Kudos to the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts for putting on a great show. In case you missed, you can watch it at

In the popular mind, the next big event is the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The battle includes the famous “shot heard ‘round the world. It follows the equally famous ride of Paul Revere. All these events and sayings have become part of American mythology, part of the narrative taught in textbooks for many generations.

Now name an event from 1774? Unless you are a scholar or in the American history business in some way, there is a good chance your mind will draw a blank. As we shall see, it is the events of 1774 that may have more bearing on the events today than any other. For as it turns out, we will not only be commemorating them we will be reliving them. How we do so may well determine if we remain a country as we know it or if the third civil war succeeds whereas the first two failed.


The British did not take kindly to the events in Boston in December, 1773. It responded with what are known as the Coercive Acts or the Intolerable Acts, a good indication of how the colonists reacted to these new British laws.

First, the British wanted their money back. They wanted to be compensated for the tea destroyed and passed the Boston Port Act. The act closed the port of Boston thereby punishing all Bostonians whether they had participated in the Boston Tea Party or not. The closure was to remain until such time as full recompense was made.

Second, and more egregiously, Massachusetts lost its charter under the Massachusetts Government Act. Henceforth it was to be governed by the British government. Many officials now were to be appointees by the crown, Parliament, or the governor instead of elected by the people. Towns throughout the colony were circumscribed by being limited to one annual meeting.

Third, the Administration of Justice Act permitted trials of accused royal officials to be held in Britain or elsewhere in the Empire at the discretion of the royal governor to ensure such officials could get a fair trial not possible in Massachusetts. Exactly who would testify against royal officials in distant lands essentially rendered such trials irrelevant.

Fourth and finally, a new method was devised for the housing of British troops through the Quartering Act. The old policy in quartering troops had proved unsuccessful. Now other buildings could be used if suitable quarters were not available.

As one might expect, these coercive acts were considered intolerable.


The book 1774 by Mary Beth Norton covers this time including the colonial response to the British response to the Boston Tea Party leading up to the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Here is an excerpt from the book.

This book, by contrast, has been shaped by my long-standing interest in the Loyalists. Rather than viewing the months between December 1773 and April 1775 with the common implicit or explicit assumption that resistance leaders commanded a people largely unified around a radical agenda, it reveals many debates, disagreements, and disruptions that characterized the period in all the colonies, from New Hampshire south to Georgia.

This description highlights the fact that 1774 could be considered the first year of America’s first civil war as people were asked to take a stand as Loyalists or Patriots.

Instead of privileging the viewpoints of men like Samuel Adams and focusing almost exclusively on his province of Massachusetts, it gives voice to such moderate colonists as Joseph Reed and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania and details the disputes that rolled New York throughout the year. It pays attention to the opinions of colonial officials and others who sent regular reports to London about political circumstances in their colonies. It also analyzes the writings of the Loyalist pamphleteers, who first published their vehement dissents while the Continental Congress was in session in September, and examines how more radical authors responded to Loyalists’ arguments.

In short, as a scholar, Norton seeks to document from the written record exactly where the colonists stood. In particular, she notes the writings of the Loyalists to show that the colonists were not united in their approach.

I aim, in short, to include the views of all of those who participated in formal political discourse in the colonies in 1774, regardless of their gender, race, or place of residence. I sought evidence in a variety of libraries, from the National Archives of the United Kingdom to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and many universities and state historical societies. The narrative has been constructed from the published and unpublished correspondence of political leaders and ordinary folk alike; from pamphlets and broadsides; from the official records of colonial governments and their revolutionary successors; and from newspapers with reports of local meetings and other activities, along with essays expressing a wide range of opinions. Because of the emphasis on formal political discourse, it devotes less attention to those who are often termed “the people out of doors,” although it does not exclude them entirely from consideration. As will be seen in the following pages, people who did not leave written records of their opinions nevertheless revealed their ideas through their actions. 


Take for example the Town of Rye, NY, where I live. According to Charles Baird’s History of Rye, the first recorded action of the inhabitants was a patriotic meeting at August 10, 1774. It was held in response to the closing of the port of Boston. At that meeting, the participants selected representatives to attend what would become the First Continental Congress scheduled for September 1. The chair of the meeting and one of the delegates appears to be the owner of the tavern now housing the Rye Historical Society. The meeting Sentiments and Resolutions expressed outrage at what had transpired and also loyalty to the House of Hanover.

To ensure that they were not misunderstood, a follow-up document entitled The Declaration of Loyalty was signed on September 24, 1774.affirming loyalty to the Crown. One of the signers was Abraham Bush who resided at the still standing Bush-Lyon Homestead. Thomas Lyon, from a collateral line and with a descendant in the Port Chester Historical Society today, did not sign. So here we have an example of if not brother against brother, at least cousin against cousin.

I refrain from quoting some of the more vociferous responses to these actions except to note they would be right at home on Twitter today.

Undoubtedly this sequence could be repeated for other communities in Westchester, in New York, and in other colonies. Before we declared our independence from Britain on July 4, 1776, the first civil war in America already was engaged.


So how should Rye and other communities in the county, state, and country, commemorate the signing of loyalty oaths in September 1774?

September 2024 will be right in the middle of a presidential campaign. One candidate already is compiling loyalty lists so federal government workers will be loyal to him. The other candidate calls the first candidate an existential threat to democracy and that the rule by law is on the ballot this upcoming election.

Students or adults engaged in mock debates on signing the loyalty oaths or not in 1774 easily will make the transition to the vote in 2024. Students and adults reading the newspaper accounts, pamphlets, broadsides, letters, sermons, etc., from 1774 as Mary Beth Norton did for her book will readily discern that the battle being debated in America’s first civil war corresponds to that of today in our third civil war.

To complicate the matter further, the celebration of the Lafayette Bicentennial for his return visit in 1824-1825 at the invitation will be underway precisely when these debates are being held. In September 1824 he was in New York, Brooklyn, West Point, Albany, Troy, Princeton, New Brunswick and Philadelphia among other places. Thus at the same time communities will be celebrating America’s victory in the American Revolution, we will be commemorating America’s division in the first and third civil wars with the fate of our country hanging in the balance over whether we even get to the 250th of July 4, 1776, in one piece.

New American Revolution 250th Logo during the Current Civil War

New logo from Chermayeff&Geismar&Haviv

Chermayeff&Geismar&Haviv has designed a new logo for the Semiquincentennial. The company also was involved in the creation of the logo for the Bicentennial in 1976. For this event, C&G&H operated on the basis that America250 goal was to create the most inclusive commemoration in American history on July 4, 2026. Events which occurred after July 4, 1776 through Evacuation Day, November 25, 1783, when England withdrew from New York City after seven years of occupation are not included in the national event.

For the 2026 anniversary symbol, Chermayeff&Geismar&Haviv once again used a ribbon-based mark. The red, white, and blue ribbons “signify commemoration, celebration, and purpose,” according to the New York-based brand design firm.

The number 250 is formed from a single continuous sweep of the three ribbons, “suggesting unity, cooperation, and harmony,” C&G&H continues. Aiming to form a “dynamic, vibrant icon,” this is coupled with “elegant” serif lettering spelling out ‘America’.

The title for the release in the print copy of The New York Times was:

Challenge for the Semiquintcentennial: Unite the country with a logo: That was a design studio’s almost impossible mission 12/10/23 print).

The challenges facing the U.S. Semiquintcentennial has been the subject of several previous blogs. Besides Congress excluding seven years of the actual fighting on the ground, the national commission was wracked with internal problems. These were summarized by the NYT:

The commission lost a major sponsor, Meta, and its original chairman was replaced after a lawsuit from employees accused the commission’s supporting foundation of sexism and mismanagement of funds. It is still wrestling with how to commemorate a nation’s complex history at a time when Americans are deeply divided.

The logo will first be displayed at the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 2023.


The first big 250th event that would be known nationally was the Boston Tea Party on December 16. A prelude to the event occurred on December 13 with a talk hosted by the American Revolution Institute by Benjamin Carp Brooklyn College.

On the day and location in question, there were a series of events

250th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party: Faneuil Hall & The Boston Tea Party, A Protest in Principle A Retrospective on Revolution

Faneuil Hall Boston, MA, United States

The 250th Boston Tea Party Anniversary & Reenactment begins with a dramatic look at the Boston Tea Party throughout the centuries. At Faneuil Hall, 250 years ago, the citizens of Boston resolved to “prevent the unloading, receiving, or vending the detestable tea sent out by the East India Company.” These efforts would ultimately result in the Destruction of the Tea and propel America down the road to revolution. In the years following, citizens would return to Faneuil Hall to reflect upon the Boston Tea Party and seek inspiration from its legacy as they discussed the pressing needs of their time.

December 16 @ 6:15 pm – 7:15 pm

250th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party: A Reenactment of the Meeting of the Body of the People

Old South Meeting House 310 Washington Street, Boston, MA, United States

At Old South Meeting House

Join Revolutionary Spaces in the room where it all happened—Old South Meeting House! This building hosted a number of meetings about the East India Company Tea sitting in Boston Harbor waiting to be unloaded and taxed. On that fateful night, 5,000 men gathered for a final meeting about the controversial tea tax, resulting in Samuel Adams giving the signal that would start the Boston Tea Party. Colonists then marched from the meeting house to Griffin’s Wharf and dumped 340 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor! Led by multiple fife and drum corps, the general public is invited to march from Old South Meeting House to the Harborwalk where Griffin’s Wharf once stood. Along the way, those marching will encounter a regiment of Red Coats in Post Office Square.

250th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party: Huzzah for Griffin’s Wharf! A Rolling Rally

December 16 @ 7:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Atlantic Wharf adjacent to the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum 8:00pm-8:30pm

The general public is invited to watch a grand-scale reenactment of the Destruction of the Tea from the Harborwalk. Watch as the Sons of Liberty storm aboard the brig Beaver and ship Eleanor to destroy wooden chests of East India Company tea in the very same body of water where the Boston Tea Party occurred exactly 250 years before.

The event received great press coverage. Here in New York, the NYT had in on the front page of the Arts section and most of page 2 (print). The less celebratory title of the article was “Does Tossing the Tea Still Earn Our Sympathy?: A 250th anniversary raises questions relevant today about violently destroying property in the name of a cause.” Jennifer Schuessler wonders how to celebrate a fight for liberty when many Americans including in Boston were not free. “And how do we really feel about protest, violence, and revolution today?”

We now live in a time when even the date 1776 has become a divisive symbol (Nathaniel Sheidley, president and chief executive of Revolutionary Spaces. According to Jonathan Lane, executive director of Revolution 250, the Massachusetts umbrella organization for the 250th in the state, “The idea that what happened in Boston could now happen in any of the colonies is really what brought the American people together.”

Schuessler observes that scholars today see the Boston Tea Party as part of a global event. It linked tea growers in China with British sugar plantations in the Caribbean along with proper Bostonians. As Benjamin Carp stressed in his pre-Tea Party talk on December 13, one had to have sugar when drinking coffee or tea. She reports how the tea party imagery has lived on most famously with the Tea Party in the time of Barack Obama (which became the Freedom Caucus now in the House of Representatives).


There are local ramifications to the Boston Tea Party. It means that 1774/2024 is a big year for the 250th.even if you live in a municipality far from Boston. The Town of Rye, where I live, just had its kickoff meeting to plan for the 250th here at home. The problem is that 1774 marks the first year of civil war in the United States. In response to the Boston Tea Party, Britain instituted the Intolerable Acts. The colonies held a joint meeting called the First Continental Congress on September 5, 1774. So while the Boston Tea Party was a local event, hence the name, the Continental Congress was in response to the Intolerable Acts which applied to all 13 colonies. So before there was a July 4 in Philadelphia, there was a September 5 in Philadelphia.

That Congress was followed here on September 27, 1774, by people signing or choosing not to sign a loyalty oath to King George III. Many of the names on that petition are familiar not because their families still live here but because streets have been named after them. That means in the fall of 2024 right smack in the middle of the presidential campaign we will be asking students to debate loyalty to the crown or the patriots just as people in the community 250 years ago did.

In 2024, we will not simply be remembering 1774, we will be reliving it. One presidential candidate already is compiling loyalty lists, of being dictator for a day, and expressing his admiration for dictators around the world in the present. The second candidate will be touting freedom and the Constitution. It won’t be difficult for even elementary school students to make the connection between the events of the past and today.

In addition, 2024 marks the beginning of the bicentennial of the return of American Revolution hero Marquis de Lafayette. The American Friends of Lafayette will be celebrating that event starting with his arrival at Staten Island on August 15 followed by a Broadway parade on August 16. The Westchester County Executive and now Congressional candidate has designated August 18 as Lafayette Day in Westchester (I have the framed proclamation). So just before the school year begins in Rye, there will be a celebration on behalf of Lafayette who obviously was not loyal to King George III. From Westchester, Lafayette continued along the Boston Post Road to Boston.

The celebrations on behalf of Lafayette who was wildly popular will be occurring just as Americans today are divided in third civil war and commemorating the events during the first one. This means that Lafayette’s visit in 1824-1825 to promote unity in a divided country during that presidential election year will play out just as the country comes to blows during the upcoming presidential year and its aftermath. By coincidence, on January 6, 1825, Lafayette was in Washington, D.C. and that is where he will be on January 6, 2025, perhaps even at Lafayette Park.