Another Type of Reparations I
Bil Long 10/23/06
Where White Protestants Get the Land
The report by Brown University's Committee on Slavery and Justice and its discussion on reparations in history provoked me to uncover some research I did about four years ago on a similar issue which no one, yes no one, ever mentions. It has to do with the reparations received by more than 1850 Connecticut families for the losses they suffered when the British burned their homes and businesses during raids from 1777-81. The reparations received by inhabitants of nine mostly coastal towns were in the form of land grants in, drum roll, OHIO. The story of how reparations were granted and why they were so granted in Northeastern OH is the subject of this and the next essay.
The British Sack of CT Coastal Villages
When the Revolutionary War seemed to go not so well for the British in 1777-1780 in New York and New Jersey, they beat a retreat along Long Island Sound. CT has a coastline of about 120 miles along the Sound, making it vulnerable to raids of frustrated British troops as they left other theaters of war. So, on April 26, 1777 the British destroyed much of the Colonial town of Danbury because there were military supplies there. Then, on Feb. 26, 1779 Greenwich received the same fate, to be followed by the towns of East and New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk early in July 1779. Finally, in Sept. 1781 the British raided New London and nearby villages, and torched the towns. The last invasion particularly stuck in the Colonialists' craw because the leader of that expedition was none other than the traitor Benedict Arnold, whose ancestral home was only 12 miles from New London. The destruction of property in New London was augmented with the deaths of about 20 residents.
When the smoke cleared and assessments of loss were made, the following figures were accepted by the Connecticut Legislature. My source is a helpful article by Helen Carpenter in the Ohio Archaeological & Historical Quarterly 44 (1935), 162-203. Other sources I consulted generally agreed with these numbers, though there were minor discrepancies.
New & East Haven
279 (or 281)
AMOUNT OF LOSS
Appeals to the Connecticut Legislature
As early as the 1780 Legislative session, hundreds of families who had lost everything they had at the hands of the British raiders memorialized the Legislature for assistance. These people, often referred to as the "claimants" or "petitioners" or "Memorialists" would annually appear before the Legislature asking for some kind of redress. Perhaps taxes could be remitted or grants might be received from the Legislature to begin a new life, they thought. But CT was poor at the time and was not in the position to accord its citizens any material benefits. The best the colony/state could do was to to appoint a committee to look into the losses and report back. In May 1788, the following report was returned:
"That it hath been usual for other humane civilized nations, particularly the Dutch, to extend more or less Relief, to their suffering Subjects, in similar cases, upon the return of the Peace. That therefore it is the opinion of your Comtee, that Equity, Justice, and good policy require, that some further Consideration and allowance be made to the men."
Then came the words that would move the issue along to its consummation: "That the only means in the power of this State at present to pay the same is in the Western Lands owned by this State reserved their late cession to Congress." Bingo! But, what does that mean? In a nutshell, it means that lands long claimed by Connecticut in the Ohio area, and which had been ceded to the Federal Government in 1786 except for a 120 mile long and 40 or so mile wide swath of land "reserved" for the State of CT, appropriately known as the "Western Reserve," would be the place where these sufferers' would be compensated. Reparations would happen. The next essay explains all of this.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long