The Declaration of Dependence signed by 547 New York City Loyalists in November 1776 was not the only such declaration written and signed by loyal inhabitants of the colony of New York soon after British military forces established their presence in the region. At least three others are known to exist, bearing a total of 3,414 signatures of individuals willing to pledge their support of, and subservience to, the British government.
In the December 1776 issue of the London publication The Lady’s Magazine or Entertaining Companion the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement under “Home News,” this article was reprinted from an American newspaper:
From the New-York Gazette, Nov. 4.
To the Right Hon. Richard, Lord Viscount Howe, of the Kingdom of Ireland, and to his Excellency the Hon. William Howe, Esq; General of his Majesty’s Forces to America the King’s Commissioners for restoring Peace to his Majesty’s Colonies North-America.
Your Excellencies, by your declaration bearing date July 14, 1776, having signified that “the king is desirous to deliver his American subjects from the calamities of war, and other oppressions which they now undergo, and to restore the colonies to his protection And peace:
And by a subsequent declaration, dated Sept. 19, 1776, having also been pleased to express your desire, “to confer with his majesty’s well affected subjects upon the means of restoring the public tranquility, and establishing a permanent union with every colony, as a part of the British empire.
We there, whole names are hereunto subscribed, inhabitants of the city and county of New-York, in the province of New-York, reflecting, with the tendered emotions of gratitude, on this instance of his majesty’s paternal goodness; and encouraged by the affectionate manner in which his majesty’s gracious purpose hath been conveyed to us by your excellencies, who have hereby evinced that humanity is inseparable from that three magnanimity, and those enlarged sentiments, which form the most shining characters, beg leave to represent to your excellences.
That we bear true allegiance to our rightful sovereign George the Third, as well as warm affection to his sacred person, crown and dignity.
That we esteem the constitutional supremacy of Great-Britain over these colonies, and other depending parts of his majesty’s dominions, as essential to the union, security, and welfare of the whole empire, and sincerely lament the interruption of that harmony which formerly subsistedbetween that parent state, and these her colonies.
That many of the loyal citizens have been driven away by the calamities of war, and the spirit of perfection which lately prevailed; or sent to New England, and other difference parts.
We, therefore, hoping that the sufferings which our abused fellow-citizens undergo, for their attachment to the royal cause, may plead in their behalf; humbly pray. That your excellencies would be pleased, on these our dutiful representations, to restore this city and county to his majesty’s protection and peace.
New York, OC. 16, 1776
This petition was reprinted in 1861 in a collection of manuscripts from the Mercantile Library Association of New York City, and included the complete list of 948 signers. In that published version, their surnames, of which 402 are unique, are listed in alphabetical order, which makes it easy to find a person, but is not as historically useful had they had been listed in signing order. It can be very instructive to know how the names are related to each other on these signed Loyalist Declarations, as family relationships may appear, or those of neighbors. The publication does, however, provide some detail on the lives and occupations of some of the signers.
In November 1776, the people of Kings County, New York, “after a few had been persuaded or forced into rebellion” found that their fellow countrymen had abandoned them “to all its penalties.” Wishing to make peace they lost little time in petitioning the King’s commissioners with a declaration of their own. This Declaration reads very closely to the one printed in The Lady’s Magazine, but one notable difference is that the location of this Declaration’s signing is given, as well as the name of the person who witnessed it: “(in the church at Flatbush) before Wm. Axtell, Esq., one of His Majesty’s Council for this Province.” The petition was signed by 1,174 area residents; not surprisingly, many from the prominent Wyckoff family signed this Declaration, the location being so close to their homes.
The freeholders and inhabitants of Queen’s County also found it necessary to make a “humble representation and petition” to “the Right Honorable Richard, Lord Viscount Howe, of the Kingdom of Ireland,” commander in chief of the Royal Navy in America, and “to his Excellency the Honorable William Howe, Esquire, General of His Majesty’s Forces in America.” A copy of their petition can be found in the Library of Congress. Essentially it reads in the same manner as the above two petitions, and was signed by 1,292 subscribers of Queen’s County and dated October 21, 1776.
The Freeholders and Inhabitants of Queen’s County found it necessary to send the following, also signed at Queen’s County on October 21 to His Excellency William Tyron, Esq., the colonial governor:
To His Excellency WILLIAM TRYON, Esq;
Captain General and Governor in Chief of the Province of New-York, and the Territories thereon depending in America;Chancellor and Vice Admiral of the same, &c. &c. &c.
May it please Your Excellency,
WEthe Freeholders and Inhabitants of Queen’s County, are happy once again to Address your Excellency in the Capital of the Province. We heartily congratulate you on your Return, which we consider as the Earnest of farther Success, and hope e’re long the whole Province will feel the Blessings of your Excellency’s upright Administration.
Anxiously do we look forward to the Time when the Disobedient shall return to their Duty, and the Ravages of War cease to desolate this once flourishing Country.
That we may be restored to the King’s most gracious Protection; torn from us by the Hand of Violence, and quicken others by our Example, to embrace the repeated Invitations of His Majesty’s Commissioners, we have resolved on, and subscribed, a dutiful Representation and Petition, setting forth to them our loyal Disposition, and praying that the County may be declared at the King’s Peace.
We intreat your Excellency to present our Petition; and rely on your known Humanity and Benevolence, for the Exertion of your Influence in Behalf of the well-affected County of Queen’s, that it may again, in the Bosom of Peace, enjoy the Royal Favour, under your Excellency’s paternal Care and Attention.
Signed by Desire and in Behalf of the Freeholders and Inhabitants,
Queen’s County, Oct. 21, 1776.
By DAVID COLDEN.
A reply was sent three weeks later from Wm. TYRON:
New-York, Nov. 12, 1776.
IN Compliance with the Request in the Address presented to me by you, in Behalf of the Inhabitants of Queen’s County, I immediately after my Return from Head-Quarters, waited on Lord HOWE, one of the King’s Commissioners for restoring Peace to His Majesty’s Colonies, and presented to his Lordship the very dutiful and loyal Petition and Representation of the said Inhabitants, who was pleased to say “He would take the earliest Opportunity of communicating with General HOWE on the Occasion.”
This public Testimony from the Inhabitants of Queen’s County, of their unshaken Loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign, and of their zealous Attachment to the British Constitution is particularly agreeable to me, and entitles them to my best Endeavours for a speedy Accomplishment of their Wishes; the Season and Expediency of the granting whereof, are safely and happily committed to the Wisdom and Discretion of His Majesty’s Commissioners.
I am, with Regard, Sir, Your most obedient Servant.
David Colden, Esq; of Queen’s County.
The petition that was sent from Queen’s County on October 21 can be found transcribed on the Northern Illinois University Digital Library with 1,292 subscribers’ names following. The names are not in alphabetical order but likely in the order in which the declaration was signed.
A Lady’s Magazine Vol. VII (1776), 672, books.google.ca/books?id=ZEpGAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA672&lpg=PA672&dq=to+the+right+honorable+richard,+lord+viscount+Howe,+of+the+kingdom+of+Ireland+and+to+his+Excellency&source=bl&ots=ZTzOREN0Pr&sig=Ekk2L0JI-PPBk-59R5PeHVt-I-c&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixroKN5NfZAhXs5oMKHfEHA2kQ6AEIRjAJ#v=onepage&q=to%20the%20right%20honorable%20richard%2C%20lord%20viscount%20Howe%2C%20of%20the%20kingdom%20of%20Ireland%20and%20to%20his%20Excellency&f=false.
New York City during the American Revolution being A Collection of Original Papers (now first published) From the Manuscripts in the Possession of The Mercantile Library Association of New York City (New York: privately printed for The Association, 1861), books.google.ca/books?id=DxFH_pUmqHcC&pg=PA117&lpg=PA117&dq=to+the+right+honorable+richard,+lord+viscount+Howe,+of+the+kingdom+of+Ireland+and+to+his+Excellency&source=bl&ots=7rYccbbYbm&sig=gS6KciVmGbpxeUJTJKZhGz7u7VI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixroKN5NfZAhXs5oMKHfEHA2kQ6AEIPDAF#v=onepage&q=to%20the%20right%20honorable%20richard%2C%20lord%20viscount%20Howe%2C%20of%20the%20kingdom%20of%20Ireland%20and%20to%20his%20Excellency&f=false.
Henry Onderdonk, Jr., Documents and Letters intended to Illustrate the Revolutionary Incident of Queen County; with connecting narratives, explanatory notes, and addition (New-York: Leavitt, Trow and Company, 1846), books.google.ca/books?id=KWc-o4q5WkUC&pg=RA2-PA166&lpg=RA2-PA166&dq=to+the+right+honorable+richard,+lord+viscount+Howe,+of+the+kingdom+of+Ireland+and+to+his+Excellency&source=bl&ots=BlsKqJAkjE&sig=OXkU5psz6hFwmJDgUmYIkuhh5bQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiNhq3j59fZAhUJKKwKHWlABlE4ChDoAQgoMAA#v=onepage&q=to%20the%20right%20honorable%20richard%2C%20lord%20viscount%20Howe%2C%20of%20the%20kingdom%20of%20Ireland%20and%20to%20his%20Excellency&f=false.
To the Right Honorable Richard, Lord Viscount Howe, of the Kingdom of Ireland, and to his Excellency the Honorable William Howe, Esquire … The humble representation and petition of the freeholders and inhabitants of Queen’s County, on the Isla,New York, 1776, www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.10902500/.
Petition and Representation of Queen’s County,Northern Illinois University Digital Library, v2:1159, digital.lib.niu.edu/islandora/object/niu-amarch%3A94490.