WHEN the British arms in Virginia collapsed in October, 1781, desire of revenge rose high in the triumphant patriots. This was a natural if not laudable feeling. From Camden to Yorktown was by far the darkest year of the war in the South and the long-suppressed Tories began to raise their heads in Virginia. The real loyalists were few in comparison, however, with the time-servers who remained passively resistant to the government or carried on correspondence with the enemy and sold supplies at British posts, and with the genuinely criminal, who seized the opportunity for counterfeiting and horse-stealing afforded by the British invasion. The patriot populace along the coast had suffered greatly from privateers and Tory freebooters, and in the Norfolk district a condition resembling civil war existed. Robbery and other outrages were perpetrated, apparently by both sides, but as the lawless and discontented element was Tory simply because the government that afflicted it with taxes and enforced military service was Whig, most of the violence proceeded from so-called loyalists. Open opposition to the government continued around Norfolk until the end of the war and the day of reckoning.
Local patriot leaders recommended strong measures. Colonel Thomas Newton wrote from Surry:
The Tories and Refugees below are still unpunished, to the great dissatisfaction of the well affected. Many of them were in arms plundering and now live in affluence while those who were engaged in their Country's service are ruin'd. I would not wish to persecute, but if some examples are not made, the encouragement is too great for many to withstand the temptation. Too many of the justices below were of the party to bring delinquents to account, but I hope some steps will be taken, to call the whole to trial by impartial men. It is really horrid to think that a man (one of our best soldiers) shou'd be taken out of a justice's house and murder'd, the justice knowing the persons and they never called to account for it. This matter has caused several other murders, as the friends revenge the death of their relations and acquaintances on both sides.<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ii. 593.">
In some places the Tories were rather roughly put down. Colonel Wishart reported from Princess Anne:
I should have troubled your Excellency with this [resignation] some Time ago, had it not been that I was determined to seek vengeance on the Refugees and Tories of this Country (thro' whose means many Friends to the Country, with myself became sufferers) which, thank God with the assistance of Colo. Dabney, have pretty well effected.<a href="#2" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 2
Ibid., ii, 611.">
A number of loyalists in Princess Anne and the neighboring counties suffered arrest and imprisonment. Various offenses were charged - bearing arms against the country, forcing persons into the British service, and other treasonable practices. In Norfolk County the patriots imprisoned four men, "for going with the enemy"; and seven others were each bailed in one thousand pounds specie to appear before the council to answer the charge of disaffection. Similar measures were taken in other counties. Besides arresting Tories, the patriots seem to have subjected them to minor annoyances. The ill-fated Ralph Wormeley declared that troops had been quartered on his estate in King William over a year and had maltreated his overseer.
The government, thinking that examples were needed in the southeastern neighborhood, issued special trial commissions for Nansemond, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, and Princess Anne, but men could not be found willing to act as judges, probably because of the danger to which they might be exposed in a country still glowing with the passions of war.<a href="#3" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 3
Calendar of Virginia State Papers, iii, 14, 15."> The council, on finding its efforts to establish a special court of large powers vain, ordered offenders tried in the ordinary way. But there was one serious objection to such a process; capital offenses including treason were tried, in the normal course of law, by the general court in Richmond and it was difficult to transport a great cloud of witnesses thither. Traitors there were in Norfolk, enough and to spare, "all taken up here and sufficient proof to hang many of them if the Court was to set here, but the witnesses have not money to bear their expenses to Richmond, and the most atrocious villians will escape by it (even murderers) if the public cannot provide some way of carrying the people up . . . if these escape adieu to all order and Government in these parts. Some came to Princess Anne court with clubs a few days ago, but by spirited exertions they were quel'd."<a href="#4" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 4
Ibid., III, 101."> Difficulty of procedure thus stalled the efforts at prosecution. Plainly, it was impossible to try a large number of offenders at Richmond and just as impossible to try them in special courts when such courts could not be organized. It is true that John Scarborough Wills paroled one John Harrison, who had been in the hands of the British, until the meeting of the special commission for the southeastern counties, but this was simply a cautionary manner of discharge. According to Harrison's account, he had been forcibly carried off by the British as a guide, a plea commonly urged by suspects arrested for having intercourse with the enemy; there was just sufficient truth in the defense of compulsion to make it difficult to decide whether a man was a traitor or only a weak-kneed patriot. The council now abandoned all thought of bringing offenders to justice on a large scale. In January, 178, it even allowed John Saunders, a convicted traitor whose life had been spared on condition of working two years in the lead mines, to remain on his own plantation in Louisa.
Some offenses, however, were too serious to be passed over without making the government seem weakly lenient. Such cases came before the general court, which began treason trials at the April, 1782 session, when Robert Smith, of Hampshire, and James Hughes, of Henrico, were sentenced to death. Smith, if he may be believed, was in no sense a loyalist, but took up arms in the Hampshire rising in order to obtain relief from oppressive taxes. The governor pardoned four Hampshire rioters, who, in conformity with ,the assembly's pardoning resolution of June, 1781, had not been tried; and pardons were also given a number of other Hampshire insurgents in prison.
Smith and Hughes, the condemned traitors, were still in jail awaiting execution when the general court, in June, 178, likewise passed capital sentence on James Lamb, Joshua Hopkins, and John Ripley, of Henrico. In Lamb's case the court advised executive clemency, stating that he had been "convicted upon satisfactory evidence of the overt act of Treason charged in the Indictment; but it appeared in the course of the Evidence that the Criminal was actuated in this Conduct, rather from resentment against a party of men who belonged to a Boat called the Dasher and who had committed sundry unwarrantable outrages, on the persons and property of the Citizens of this State within the Enemies lines, than from a desire to assist the Enemy."<a href="#5" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 5
Executive communications, 1782."> Lamb had joined a party of refugee loyalists in taking one Nathaniel Davis prisoner. At his trial he attempted, unsuccessfully, to show that he had been forced into the enemy's service,<a href="#6" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 6
Legislative Petitions. Princess Anne"> for this defense had become rather threadbare by this time. Lamb, Hopkins, and another condemned prisoner, one Caton, applied for pardon of the House of Delegates, which passed a resolution to that effect. The senate, however, failed to concur, and the three traitors remained under sentence almost to the date set for execution.
The general court, at the October, 1782, session, sentenced to death Albridgton Holland, John Holland, Levi Moore, Dempsey Butler, and Henry Norfleet, all of Nansemond, and William Hill, of James City, and acquitted Benjamin Bucktrout, of York.<a href="#7" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 7
Calendar of Virginia State Papers, iii 361."> But the court in all these treason cases acted not without thought of final clemency, allowing the condemned an unusually long time before death. The latter now united in a petition for pardon. They admitted their guilt, but according to their account, which is probably true, they had joined the enemy because of the despondency prevailing in southeastern Virginia in regard to the American cause, especially among the lower classes. Later on they had left the British and taken arms against them, but this circumstance had not protected them from indictment though it may have had some influence on the success of their plea for mercy.<a href="#8" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 8
Legislative Petitions, Nansemond (B3813).">
The case of William Hill, one of the convicted, illustrates the temptations to which the poorer people were exposed during the British invasion. When the royal troops left Williamsburg, Hill happened to be looking for two stray cows and was accosted by a cavalryman, who insisted on his accompanying him and giving information as to the position of Lafayette's army. Hill refused, but the soldier carried him to a brandy-shop, made him drunk, and went home with him. His conduct had been observed and several patriots came to his house to arrest him; he escaped and lay in hiding in the woods for six weeks. Patriots came repeatedly to his home seeking him and hacked his horses with their swords. Finally, Hill, finding the chase growing warm, attempted to pass over into Isle of Wight, but could not cross the James at Burwell's Ferry. He fell into the hands of a party of British and was released, only to be taken in turn by Lafayette, who tried him and likewise set him free. In contradiction of his story, however, one of the witnesses testified that Hill had enlisted in Tarleton's legion.<a href="#9" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 9
Executive communications. 1788.">
Prosecution for treason was dying out with the war. The general court, in December, 178, tried, but failed to convict Adam Levitt, of Princess Anne, and Henry Burgess;<a href="#10" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 10
Auditor's Journal, xv. 579."> and in January, 1783, it considered the case of Isaac Riddle apparently the last treason trial of the Revolution in Virginia. Mercy, in truth, followed hard on the heels of justice. The assembly, in the fall of 1782, pardoned Albridgton Holland, Henry Norfleet, John Caton, and Levi Moore on condition that they serve a year in the Continental army; and James Lamb and Joshua Hopkins, provided they left the State within two months, to return no more during the war. Dempsey Butler, the murderer of Nott, was also pardoned at the same time.<a href="#11" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 11
Hening, xi. 129."> If any man deserved death it was Butler, who, though a citizen of the State, had shot down in cold blood a Virginia officer while in pursuit of duty, and it appears that the assembly acted overleniently in letting him go. But it probably thought that severity in individual cases was out of place where there had been so many offenders, and that mildness would best heal the wounds of the warworn community. In May, 1783, it pardoned John Holland, seemingly the last man under sentence of death. Edmund Tallon had been a fellow prisoner under the same sentence to a late date.
Popular feeling against Tories did not die down as quickly as governmental resentment; it long outlasted the war. All through 1782 patriots were inclined to retaliate for injuries, and the troops continued to make impressments, which had been justified before by the gravity of the crisis, but which were always a most vexatious burden on the people. Needless to say, such seizures bore hardest on reputed loyalists. At length John Lowry, of Elizabeth City, ventured to sue Colonel Dabney for impressing four cows belonging to him. The military promptly retaliated. Lowry was arrested and tried and his plantation was plundered. On receiving his complaint, Harrison, the governor, ordered Dabney to remove his soldiers from Lowry's house, declaring his intention of protecting citizens from the violence of the troops, whose presence in the district was, however, necessary because some of the people continued to supply the enemy with cattle.<a href="#12" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 12
Letter-Book (1781-88), 251."> Other Tories were likewise annoyed by the troops, but cases of violence seem to have been rare.
Depredations of soldiers on the property of Tories and half-hearted citizens were possibly stimulated by the continuance of hostilities on a small scale along Chesapeake Bay throughout the year 1782. Water thieves and privateers swarmed in as great numbers as a year before when the chances seemed to favor the British cause. The ruin of the Virginia navy in 1781 permitted this state of warfare to continue long after it should have ceased; it ended only with the actual declaration of peace. Chief among the ravagers was a Scotchman who had adopted the appropriate name of Kidd, and who swept the Chesapeake waters with a flotilla of small craft called barges and manned partly by British seamen and partly by Maryland and Virginia Tories, outlaws, and runaway slaves. These pirates plundered and burned out-of-the-way houses along the shore and committed outrages on the inhabitants. At length, in November, 1782, Commodore Whaley, of Maryland, sallied forth against Kidd with a fleet of small craft similar to his, but being short of hands, put into Onancock Creek in Virginia for recruits. It happened to be courtday in Accomac and a crowd of people had gathered at the court-house, among them John Cropper, the county lieutenant, who had been a noted officer in Washington's army. This man raised a considerable force of volunteers on the spot and added a boat to the fleet. The commodore then ventured out into the Bay in search of Kidd, whom he ran across off Tangier Island just south of the line dividing Virginia and Maryland. Both fleets were composed of barges, boats especially built for shallow navigation and fitted out with sails and oars and carrying guns of fair size. Whaley, who was a better fighter than strategist, sailed ahead of his other barges in the Protector, and ardently attacked Kidd's whole fleet single-handed. The enemy concentrated their fire on this vessel, with the result that she blew up, but not until she had succeeded in sinking four British barges. This accident decided the engagement. Whaley was killed, and Cropper, badly wounded, fell into the enemy's hands with the other survivors of the Protector. The "Battle of the Barges," or Cagey's Strait,<a href="#13" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 13
Southern Literary Messenger, xxiv, 215-21."> ended the warfare which had been going on in these accessible waters ever since Dunmore's attack on Hampton in 1775.
The closing months of the war witnessed one of its saddest phases - the forced exile of British subjects still remaining in the State, and the barring-out of the poor refugees who had begun to return from New York and other places on the approach of peace. Many loyalists with Cornwallis at Yorktown attempted to remain after the surrender, and others used various artifices to gain entrance to the State. Business in one form or another served as an excuse for many merchants or agents anxious to find Cropper had been Morgan's second in command and had won a great reputation. admittance, and no doubt some of them managed to evade the law. Others failed, as did James Riddell, a former Yorktown merchant, who had been taken prisoner and allowed to go to New York on parole, but returned in April, 1782, to collect debts. On his arrival in Yorktown he was promptly ordered back on shipboard, possibly because he was a loyalist, possibly because he was a bill-collector.
The government was much readier to grant permission to leave Virginia than to enter it, and a good many loyalists who had held out to the last seem to have gone off to British posts. William Andrews, a minister notorious for disaffection, applied for a passport to leave the State, "where my conduct has been lately obnoxious." He complained that he, as well as a colleague named Bruce, had suffered unjustly in being accused as hostile, because the presence of the British at Portsmouth had necessarily made the whole population of the region appear lukewarm towards the patriot cause.<a href="#14" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 14
Calendar of Virginia State Papers, iii, 139."> Andrews had been tried for treason, but had not been convicted, and the council finally granted him permission to leave the State with his family and several friends on condition that they did not return. Later on, however, the two ministers came back to Norfolk and resumed their professional labors without interference. Others also occasionally managed to return. The widow of James Hubbard, who had been allowed to go without proper authority from Williamsburg to New York to see her dying husband, asked leave to come back. The council granted Esther Muir permission to go to New York with her children, on condition of never returning.<a href="#15" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 15
Council Journal (1782-83), 4."> Constant attempts at evasion of the laws forbidding intercourse with the enemy and the residence within the State of British subjects annoyed the government. British shipmasters and merchants were the chief offenders. Thomas C. Williams, captain of a flag-of-truce brigantine lying at Yorktown, went to Richmond without permission on pretext of asking leave to stay in Virginia to settle accounts arising from transactions made at the time of Cornwallis's surrender. The council thereupon ordered Williams to return to his ship and immediately sail for New York on penalty of having it seized and of suffering imprisonment. Exasperated by this and similar incidents, Benjamin Harrison, the governor, on February 4, 1782, ordered British merchants remaining in Virginia under the terms of the surrender to wind up their affairs and those who had overstayed their leave to sail for New York. Many Britons managed to escape the order. Harrison, on May 22, 1782, directed the Surry militia commander to require all British merchants in his county to go without delay to Hampton to take ship for New York.<a href="#16" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 16
Council Journal (1781-82), 70."> The governor, in July, 1782, sharply reproved William Mitchell, flag-of-truce officer at Yorktown, for allowing the British brig Alexander to go to Norfolk to buy slaves and refit. Congress added to the embarrassments of the Virginia government in attempting to rid the State of enemies by entering into an agreement with British merchants in New York to supply them with tobacco. Virginia, of course, had to furnish the commodity, and the British ships that were to carry it put into Hampton. Harrison applied to the assembly to know whether an agreement so dangerous as the opening of trade with the enemy should be carried out;<a href="#17" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 17
Letter-Book (1781-82), 137."> the government eventually allowed the tobacco to be exported under rigid conditions. When a vessel flying the white flag sailed up the James River from Hampton, Harrison put a guard of troops on board her to prevent traffic with the people. Such precautions were necessary, as the State teemed with Englishmen and refugees in spite of all efforts to drive them out. Harrison ordered the commanding officer at Portsmouth, in September, 1782, to seize John McLean, a British subject, and deport him to New York; and sent out similar orders to other commanders. The smuggling-in of refugees in flag-of-truce ships finally grew to be such an annoyance that Harrison applied to the attorney-general, Edmund Randolph, to know whether ship-captains could be proceeded against for the offense, and received a negative reply.
The assembly at the fall session of 1782 attempted to remedy the evil by passing an act prohibiting intercourse with British subjects and forbidding their admission to the State.<a href="#18" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 18
Hening, xi, 136."> This act required special leave from the governor before the opening of any communication with a flag-of-truce, on pain of fine and imprisonment. British subjects coming into the State, unless shipwrecked, and British subjects who had come in after January 1, 1782, and had not become citizens, were to be held as prisoners. Harrison had secured this law in his determination to prevent the influx of undesirable foreigners and Virginia refugees, who grew more and more insistent in their efforts to gain entrance as the war visibly wore away. The governor wrote Benjamin Grymes in August, 1782, concerning one Nicholls, for whom Grymes had interceded, that he had no doubt Nicholls was a worthy man, but that even if the law allowed one connected with the enemy to become a citizen he could not receive him because of the swarm of similar applications sure to follow. The council, in September, 1782, advised the governor to refuse all future applications of British subjects to be allowed to stay in the State,<a href="#19" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 19
Letter-Book (1781-82), 250."> and such appeals were rejected. Dr. Middleton, a former surgeon in the American army who had accepted British protection, was not only refused leave to remain, but was guarded until he left Virginia. The governor, on December 19, 1782, issued a proclamation ordering civil magistrates, county-lieutenants, and militia officers to arrest all British subjects within their jurisdiction. A number of such persons, he declared, continued in the State because of the mistaken indulgence of local civil and military authorities and might establish a Tory party and alienate the people from the government.
When the war finally came to an end in 1783, refugees fairly plied the government with applications for permission to return. Now that the British were no more enemies, even after the apathetic fashion of 1782, the exiles stood on a different footing; they were no longer possible spies and belligerents. Many had made themselves obnoxious to the patriot government, but they hoped for indulgence notwithstanding this. Among them were John Wormeley, of the well-known loyalist family, Dr. Alexander Gordon, of Norfolk, and John Goodrich, Jr. The government allowed Mrs. Goodrich to come back to Virginia with her children, but forbade her husband's landing. He had sinned too
1 deeply for forgiveness. John Wormeley, who had served as an officer in the British army, gained leave to remain at Yorktown until the next ship sailed for New York. He expressed a desire to become a citizen, but the council, while admitting that he was not literally a traitor, since he had never taken the oath of allegiance to the State, viewed him in another light than that of an ordinary enemy. Dabney, the officer commanding at Yorktown, let Wormeley go into the country for a visit,<a href="#20" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 20
Council Journal (1782-83), 297."> for which imprudence the governor reprimanded him. Ralph Wormeley, the father, then petitioned the assembly to admit his son to citizenship. The young man, so he said, had been in Scotland for a mercantile education before the breakingout of the war. Forced by the cutting-off of home remittances at the beginning of hostilities to return to America, he entered the British army in New York and saw service in South Carolina, where he married. The usual plea of kindness to American prisoners in New York was advanced in his behalf.<a href="#21" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 21
Legislative Petitions. Westmoreland."> At the same time, Presley Thornton, who had likewise been sent to England for an education and had accepted a commission in the British army, asked leave to become a citizen. The assembly admitted Wormeley, Thornton, and another applicant, Philip Turpin, on taking the oath of allegiance, expressly excluding Wormeley, however, from holding any office for four years.
The people were less tolerant of unpopular refugees than the government, which had begun to relax immediately at the end of the war. Mob violence occasionally attended the appearance of a loyalist venturing back in the hope that peace settled all scores. Thomas Hepburn, who had left Virginia early in 1776, attempted to resume his residence at Port Royal and was waited on by a self-constituted committee of citizens and informed that he must leave the State. A meeting in Petersburg in 1783 urged the government to enforce the law forbidding refugees and British subjects from settling in Virginia, and a petition went to the assembly from Essex in May, 1783, opposing the return of loyalists. Probably some mobbings occurred of which we have no account. The best known case of violence offered a returned refugee was that of Joseph Williamson, in October, 1783. Williamson had once been a merchant at Tappahannock, but went over to the British, and attempted, it is said, to bring tenders up the Rappahannock to burn the town. After the war the council granted him permission to return, and he brought a cargo of goods to Tappahannock for sale, but in spite of his official sanction a mob tarred and feathered him after he had ignored a warning to leave.<a href="#22" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 22
Council Journal (1782-83), 290."> The council, irritated by this outrage in defiance of its authority, ordered a prosecution in the general court. The participants appealed in great alarm to their representative in the legislature, Spencer Roane, who secured for them an act of immunity.
Such deeds of violence as the mobbing of Williamson were rare in Virginia, which, unlike almost all the other States, had been only to a slight degree the scene of interparty warfare. The great mass of the population had no such humiliations and injuries to revenge on Tories as had the people North and South; in fact, the loyalists in Virginia were much more sinned against than sinning. Consequently it is not surprising that the level-headed Virginia assembly in the fall of 1783 magnanimously repealed the laws forbidding Tories to return to the State, with the exception of those who had taken an active part in the war. Prohibition of intercourse with British subjects was likewise and as a matter of course withdrawn. The repeal did not pass, however, without opposition. Anti-loyalist feeling was strong enough to array a considerable part of the legislature against measures of toleration, but Patrick Henry pleaded the cause of the exiles in one of his best speeches and carried the day.<a href="#23" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 23
Henry's Patrick Henry, ii, 192-96."> It was fitting that the great agitator who had done so much to bring on the Revolution should close it with a plea of mercy for his defeated opponents.
A good many peaceful exiles who had fled abroad, or had been driven out of the State during the course of the war, now returned in the hope of recovering their forfeited estates. Most of them were doomed to disappointment, though sometimes a child or other relative received what had been taken from the loyalist emigre. There were other cases like that of Alexander McCall, of Essex, who had gone abroad in 1775 and had not returned within the two-year limit allowed by the Virginia government, with the result that his own estate was confiscated and that of his infant daughter jeopardized by her absence in England. The assembly, when appealed to, decided that Catherine McCall might claim the estate if she returned within the legal period.<a href="#24" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 24
Legislative Petitions. Essex (A5351)."> While a number of refugees returned and some new citizens came in from the British Isles, the great majority of the hundreds of men who had gone away on account of the war never came back. In actual numbers Virginia lost less heavily than the other States, but at that she lost nearly the whole of her mercantile class. In a purely agricultural community, much exhausted by the war and greatly depleted by emigration to Kentucky, the loss was irreparable, and from this time Virginia, which before the Revolution had been one of the least provincial of colonies, began to narrow in her interests and life.
A last and most vexatious question remained as the direct heritage of the Revolution. The Treaty of Paris, among other concessions, granted British debtors the right to recover debts in the United States, while, on the other hand, Great Britain agreed to assist slave-owners in recovering runaway and kidnapped slaves. Immediately after the conclusion of peace, several Virginians went to New York to secure lost slaves, but received small encouragement from the authorities, and this cool attitude of the British was generally resented by planters. At the May, 1784, session of the assembly, Madison and Richard Henry Lee, mindful of treaty rights, attempted to repeal the legislation still barring the recovery of British debts. Henry opposed them, however, and induced the legislature to declare that it would not repeal the prohibitory laws until England made reparation for breaking the treaty in regard to runaway slaves. The English government retaliated by refusing to surrender the Lake ports to the Americans. When the Virginia legislature reassembled in October, 1784, the question came up again and a bill providing for the payment of British debts in installments was debated, but failed by a small margin.<a href="#25" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 25
Henry's Patrick Henry, ii, 233."> The matter of debts had now become serious, since the refusal of Virginia and other States to allow recovery suits had given England an excellent pretext for continuing to hold the Western posts and foster designs upon the great territory which is now the Middle West. Congress appealed to the States to repeal legislation barring the treaty fulfillment, and in October, 1787, George Mason and George Nicholas offered a repeal bill in the Virginia assembly, but Henry, the determined advocate of the debtors, again defeated a measure so generally obnoxious. The Constitution of 1787 ended such efforts of States to nullify treaties, and a number of suits were brought by British merchants in the federal court in Richmond when it opened for business in 1790. The defendants employed John Marshall and Patrick Henry, who had effectively championed their cause from the beginning. Henry, by his genius and personal influence, managed to hold off decision in several cases until 1794, but in the end a number of suits were instituted and a good many judgments secured. The debts recovered were but a "drop in the bucket" of the liabilities standing against the Virginia planters in 1775, and the end of procedure found the British creditors a generally defeated class. It could not well have been otherwise. Virginia, after the terrible drain of war, was in no condition to discharge claims which would almost have bankrupted her in the days of her colonial prosperity. For many people the canceling of debts was the practical benefit conferred by the Revolution.