As with all memoirs, written as they are in later life, one cannot assume they represent an accurate picture of the events described. Bearing this in mind, Eliza Morton Quincy’s recollections written in 1821 are nevertheless revealing. (See her description of George Washington’s entry into New York City in 1789.) She was an infant at the beginning of the Revolution so her account of the actions of her father during that stressful time represents family lore. It does give some idea of what pressures he and others like him were subject to.
Soon after the marriage of [my parents, my father] . . . entered into business as a merchant, and soon acquired a large property. He made two voyages to England, or ” Home ” as it was always termed by the colonists, to arrange correspondences with merchants and with manufacturing establishments. He owned a large brick house in Water Street, New York, in which he resided; and also a wharf behind it, which extended below low water mark. His ships used to unlade into his spacious warehouse situated on the wharf. . . . At that period, the importations of merchants comprehended a great variety of articles. [My father’s] large establishment was filled with every description of English manufactures, from the finest laces to broadcloth and blankets, and also those of other countries,—superb mirrors, engravings, china, glass, &c —often sent directly from the manufacturers, on the most advantageous terms; and his commercial relations were, therefore, very prosperous.
In 1774, the family of my parents consisted of four children,—two sons, and my sister Margaret and myself, then an infant. From the commencement of the Revolution, my father and all the connections of our family took the side of liberty and the Colonies, and became what were called warm Whigs. After the scenes attendant on the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax, when war seemed inevitable, and when the “Asia,” a British man-of-war, came into the East River, opposite [our] house, and threatened to fire upon the city, he determined to leave New York. He was promised protection and security if he would remain a loyal and quiet subject; but he did not hesitate to abandon his property, rather than submit to the unjust measures of a government which had become tyrannical and oppressive to his country. A vessel belonging to him had arrived from England, laden with valuable merchandise. All the goods in the warehouse were hastily packed and sent on board this ship, which, with its cargo, was ordered round to Philadelphia,—a place then considered out of reach of the British,—under the care of Mr. Gallaudet, the confidential clerk of [my father]; where they were sold at high prices, and the money deposited in the Loan Office. The amount thus devoted to the use of the American Army by [my father] caused him to be denominated by the British ” the Rebel Banker.” As he was not able, and his sons were not old enough, to fight the battles of his country, he said he would pay those who could, to the last farthing he possessed.
[My parents] sent over their furniture, and all their effects which could be removed, to Elizabethtown in New Jersey, and hastily followed with their family; abandoning their excellent house and all their real estate to their enemies, who soon took possession of their pleasant dwelling, and appropriated every thing to their own use during the seven succeeding years. My father’s property was also diminished by the depreciation of the paper money issued by Congress, in which currency he was obliged to receive all debts due to him. The partial interest allowed by Congress for the money deposited in the Loan Office, after the French Loan was negotiated, was paid in specie; and this, together with merchandise taken out of New York and sold or exchanged for articles requisite for the family, furnished their means of support during the war.
Don’t you love the expression “warm Whigs”?