cover image DIVIDED LOYALTIES: How the American Revolution Came to New York

DIVIDED LOYALTIES: How the American Revolution Came to New York

Richard M. Ketchum, . . Holt/Macrae, $30 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-6119-2

In this magnificent new book, Ketchum (Decisive Days, etc.) shows the falsity of traditional accounts of the Revolution—depicting colonies united against a detested oppressor—by focusing on one colony's agonizing decision to enter the fray. While Robert Walpole was Britain's prime minister, he pursued a policy of "salutary neglect"—he avoided war, kept taxes low and encouraged trade. Walpole's policy allowed the American colonies to prosper and to believe they were the masters of their own destiny. When George III ascended the throne in 1760, however, things changed dramatically. He led the colonists in wars against the French and Indians, and he imposed numerous taxes on goods the colonies exported and imported. For 15 years, unrest grew in the New York colony, and loyalties were divided; as much as one-third of the colony, the author says, remained loyal to the king. Ketchum puts a human face on the conflict by focusing on two families, the Delanceys and the Livingstons. Both families were prosperous landowners. But as tensions rose, the Delanceys moved to England, while the Livingstons joined the Sons of Liberty and encouraged revolt against the throne. Ketchum captures the prosperity of the New York colony, as well as its inhabitants' confusion about which side they should join. His lively narrative offers readers insights into the tension, fear, patriotism and loyalty that marked the beginnings of the American Revolution. 28 b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Oct.)