"Is it not for our iniquities that we are thus Stricken Smitten of God & afflicted..."
The Sol Feinstone Collection includes a run of letters from Anna Winslow, matron of a Loyalist family in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. In this installment, our third for our Women's History Month series, we see Anna in a reflective mood as she writes to her younger friend, Elizabeth Dering, scion of a neighboring Loyalist family in early 1778. Within the playful dialogue of Winslow's missive lies a darker observation: while some Loyalists remained in Massachusetts following the British evacuation of Boston, they came under increasing pressure from the dominant Whig element. Winslow's letter includes references to Elizabeth's Aunt, Sarah Dering Thomas, and her family, who had been deprived of some parts of their property, including a summer residence on Shelter Island. Originally part of the Plymouth Colony, Shelter Island was eventually claimed by New York and used by the British Army during parts of the war. Dering's invitation to go to Shelter Island may well have been a thinly concealed suggestion of escaping Whig oppression in Massachusetts for safe haven behind British lines. Instead of accepting Dering's offer, Winslow advocates for a more conciliatory strategy for repairing the damage done to New England's social networks by the political schism of the Revolution. Winslow had some reason to hope for a "peace upon honorable & equitable terms," since the British Army was at the time occupying Philadelphia and new peace commissioners were attempting to negotiate with the Continental Congress. This letter, the full transcript of which is available below, provides a window into the mindset of Loyalists behind American lines at a crucial stage of the war.