J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

“Five thousand acres of land from Government”

As I described yesterday, the war separated Thomas and Eunice Hazard of Newport, Rhode Island for more than three years, starting when he left the town with the British military in late 1779.

Thomas had to leave since he was an active Loyalist—raiding New England shores for livestock before the British evacuation, spying on Newport’s defenses and commanding an outpost on Long Island afterward.

But with the end of the war in 1783, Thomas Hazard decided to come back to his home state. The Rhode Island Assembly had assigned Eunice his estate (at least, the part not taken to pay debts). What’s more, his older brother Jonathan J. Hazard, who had supported the Continental cause, was an influential member of that legislature.

I’ve found a couple of accounts of how Rhode Islanders received Thomas Hazard. Based on family tradition, his grandson Wilkins Updike wrote in his History of the Episcopal Church, in Naragansett, Rhode-Island (1847):
After the war, Mr. Hazard returned to this State, and the General Assembly, through the influence of his brother, Jonathan J. Hazard, a leading Whig, were inclined to restore his estates if a satisfactory submission should be made. This he indignantly refused, and the confiscation was consummated.
A couple of years ago the Loyalist Trails newsletter drew on Hazard’s own contemporaneous correspondence to provide this account:
Having successfully settled his financial matters in Martha’s Vineyard, Thomas Hazard returned to his Rhode Island home. He anchored his schooner in a convenient harbour and went ashore to see his family. Rebels arrested him, and imprisoned him for five days. They confiscated his vessel and seized all of its contents. The rebels then threatened to execute Hazard unless he paid “the most extravagant charges” to let him go. Ransoming himself, the loyalist was told never to return to Rhode Island “upon pain of death”. Hazard was furious. He concluded his letter to [Gen. Sir Guy] Carleton by saying “if the friends to Government are to be treated in this manner and no notice taken of it, I should be glad to know how to conduct myself for the future.”
Hazard’s attempt to get Carleton to restart the war on his behalf didn’t work.

His Loyalism reinvigorated, Thomas Hazard sailed to England in 1785 and petitioned the Crown for a reward. He received a large land grant in the new colony on St. John’s, now Prince Edward Island. In 1786 he summoned Eunice and his children to come settle with him there.

The three surviving children of Thomas’s first marriage had married in Rhode Island, however. He wrote to his daughter Abigail Watson, inviting her to emigrate:
I have got five thousand acres of land from Government, and am to settle it in one year, or give up that which will not be settled on. I have for you, if your husband will come and settle on it, five hundred acres of good land that lies on a harbor, where you can catch plenty of all kinds of fish, and there is good timber and hay on it; if you do not come or send and settle on it this summer, you cannot have it in the same place.
Neither Abigail nor her full siblings took up that offer to resettle in Canada.

Eunice made the move with her children, their ages then ranging from early twentysomething to preteen. That branch of the family changed the spelling of their surname to Haszard (which Thomas might have used previously). Reunited as a couple, Thomas Haszard died in April 1804 and Eunice five years later.

5 comments:

Don Carleton (Jr.) said...

Interesting stuff as always, John!

FYI googling the "Haszard" spelling of the family name and "Prince Edward Island" brings up some interesting material. The loyalist branch seems to have made their mark there.

I wonder how well known this connection between these two North American provinces/states with "Island" in their name is...

J. L. Bell said...

The Hazards/Haszards are definitely a "leading family" in both provinces. One theme in the secondary sources, especially as tinged by the grandson, is how unjustly they were deprived of property. Rhode Island took control of Thomas's land, leaving Eunice at the end of her resources, and then the Crown didn't provide as much in compensation as it promised, and so on.

But the couple seems always to have received the deference and boons of being genteel. Thomas was actively waging war and spying for the Crown, but the Rhode Island government granted Eunice his property when she asked for it. The land grant in St. John's wasn't as big as Thomas had hoped, but that's probably because he couldn't get as many settlers to come as he'd hoped.

Thomas's descendants remained prominent in both Rhode Island and Prince Edward Island, enough to help write those histories. I don't think they stayed in close touch, though—just enough to exchange genealogical information.

RodFleck said...

There is a case in the Susquehanna, where the loyalist who was seized of his property returned and argued the case in court. I need to find my notes about the outcome, not my kids' lineage but one of the allied families from that region, in that court case.

J. L. Bell said...

A scholar named David Maass did a thorough study of the surprisingly large number of Massachusetts Loyalists who came back after the war. Some, like the painter John Gore, were able to reenter American society easily because they had left relatives behind who preserved their property from confiscation. Their return thus didn't hurt anyone's economic interests. Others, like Dr. Silvester Gardiner, tried to wrest property back from well-connected new owners, and that didn't go well at all.

In the case of the Hazards, it looks like his neighbors would have let Thomas stay if he'd apologized for his conduct in the war, didn't complain about their anger, and kept quiet politically. His estate had been reduced to pay his debts, but not entirely taken away from the family. But he didn't want to settle for that, so he settled in Canada.

Chaucerian said...

This strikes me as a typical "my way or the highway" story -- or, as a relative used to say, "I can do what I want." Not getting a lot of sophisticated political thought here --