Stamp Act protest in New HampshireRevolutionary War

The Conscience of a Loyalist

Engraving: A New Hampshire protest against the Stamp Act in 1765

Sir Richard Saltonstall arrived in Salem aboard of the Arabella with the Winthrop fleet on June 12, 1630. His son Richard, was born in 1610, became a miller and a prominent citizen of Ipswich, but also returned to England, where he died there in 1694. His son Nathaniel settled at Haverhill, where he is considered to be a founding father.

Richard Saltonstall, the sixth generation from Sir Richard was born in 1732, and became a colonel during the French and Indian War. He escaped the slaughter of British and American soldiers at Fort William Henry and remained in active service until the close of the war. He was appointed Sheriff of Essex County and resided at the family estate in Haverhill.

A steady Loyalist, Saltonstall defended the right of the Crown to tax the Colonies. In 1765, a mob from Haverhill and neighboring Salem, NH proclaiming themselves to be “Sons of Liberty” marched to his home, armed with clubs. Saltonstall opened his door and told them he was under the oath of allegiance to the King and therefore was bound to discharge the duties of the office he held under him, but that he was as great a friend to the country as any of them. He then ordered refreshments for the assembled crowd, who soon began to relent, and requested them to go to the nearby tavern at his expense, upon which the rioters began to sing his praises.

In October of that year, Saltonstall was removed as regimental commander, and a second mob appeared at his house, led by Timothy Eaton, a member of Haverhill’s Committee of Correspondence, proclaiming that his “bold and unpatriotic words were obnoxious to the public opinion of the town.” Saltonstall promised “to give them no more cause for offense” and was forced to signed a loyalty oath.

In March, 1775 Captain James Brickett of Haverhill raised a company of men “in the cause of liberty” who voted at a meeting that they adopt a uniform consisting of a blue coat with yellow plain buttons, buff or nankeen waistcoat & breeches, and white stockings with half boots or gaiters, and that the hats be cocked alike, and that they should all received a bright gun and bayonet.

Fearing for his safety, Saltonstall fled to Boston, still under control of the British, and was appointed as Captain in the Loyal American Association, assembled to “prevent all disorders within the district by either Signals, Fires, Thieves, Robbers, house Breakers or Rioters.” He left America forever when the British evacuated Boston in March, 1776 and settled in London. Refusing to enter the British service against the Colonists, he stated that although he could not conscientiously engage on the side of his native country he would never would take up arms against her.

In 1778, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts banished hundreds of Loyalists from returning, and his Haverhill home passed into the hands of his brother, Dr. Nathaniel Saltonstall, who had sided with the Patriots.


Categories: Revolutionary War

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3 replies »

  1. thanks for your breath of truth. all my mother’s family were here during the war… on both sides.. as history is written by the victors, most folk have no clue what really transpired – the story is very complex and well worth the digging one has to do to find the true tale.

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