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Committees Consider and Sanction Three Loyalists

Committees Consider and Sanction Three Loyalists

One of the primary functions of the county and township committees was enforcing compliance with the Continental Association – a pledge to boycott British goods and resist British policies that infringed on the rights of Americans. In 1775, across the Thirteen Colonies, local leaders who opposed the Continental Association faced punishments for doing so.

In Monmouth County, it was the County and township committees that enforced the Continental Association. While documentation is uneven, it appears that the committees of Monmouth County began to move against pro-British local leaders in early 1775. There are three actions reported in the incomplete surviving committee documents, but the full number of actions taken by the committees during this time period is certainly higher. (For example, Samuel Osborne, who opposed the Continental Association, recorded that he was “frequently arraigned before the County Committee.” Henry Perrine wrote that he “was deemed an enemy to my country” by the County Committee for refusing to sign the Continental Association. But neither name appears in appear in the incomplete surviving committee documents.) 

The Dover Township Committee (in present-day Ocean County) may have been the first to act. A document from the Dover Township committee records:

Whereas Peter Woglom from Staten Island has lately come to this place and brought a quantity of India tea and exposed the same to sale…. in violation of the agreement and association of the Continental Congress lately held at Philadelphia; and as we, the Committee of Dover, having full proof of the fact above, are of the opinion that said Woglom ought to be shunned as a public enemy; therefore we advise every friend to his Country not to have any kind of dealings with him.

At roughly the same, the Monmouth County Committee, meeting in Freehold, considered the conduct of Elisha Lawrence, the county sheriff under the Royal Government. The Committee declared that Lawrence’s conduct “has been deemed inimitable to the rights of America” and summoned Lawrence. He “did voluntarily appear in this chamber” and apparently repented for whatever offense he had given. “With readiness & freedom, [he did] sign the general association and afterwards gave this Committee full and ample satisfaction with regards to what had been alleged against him."

The Committee unanimously concluded that Lawrence "is restored to their good opinion" and it encouraged the people to once again treat Lawrence with "friendship.” That friendship would not last—shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed, Lawrence joined the British Army. He was commissioned the Lt. Colonel of the First Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers, a Loyalist corps of the British Army.

Finally, on April 5, 1775, the Freehold Township Committee considered the actions of Thomas Leonard. He was summoned to appear before the committee but refused to do so. The committee heard evidence against Leonard and declared him "guilty of the breach of the Continental Association.” The Committee warned that “every friend of freedom ought immediately to break off all connection and dealings with him, and treat him as a foe to the rights of British America."

Less than two weeks later, Leonard’s isolation fueled a conflict with John Forman. The two men were vestrymen charged with fundraising for the construction of St. Peter’s Church in Freehold. Leonard sent a letter to Forman claiming that Forman needed “to lay the state of the monies received & paid by you" for the church before Leonard. Forman apparently reneged on whatever agreement had previously been reached—probably because of Leonard’s status as an enemy of the committee and Continental Association. Leonard demanded a full accounting of Forman's collections for the church. Fifteen months later, Leonard became a major in the Loyalist New Jersey Volunteers.

The activities of the committees in Freehold were noticed as far away as New York City. In April 1775, a pro-British newspaper, the Royal Gazette, blasted the committees in Freehold as “a snarling, pediculous litter of raccoons." But, in comparison to the mob activity in the cities, the activities of the Monmouth County committees were quite moderate. The committees conducted their affairs with due process and the selected punishment (ostracism) was non-violent.   

The moderation that guided the Monmouth County committees in 1775 would not last. By the later years of the Revolution, a large faction of Monmouth County patriots, centered in Freehold, embraced violent vigilantism under an extra-legal organization known as the Retaliators.

St. Peter's Church, Freehold


Sources: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Edward Carey Gardner Collection, Misc. Manuscripts; William Horner, This Old Monmouth of Ours (Freehold: Moreau Brothers, 1932) p 25; Proceedings of the Committees of Freehold and Shrewsbury, Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, First Series, 1846, p 189; Peter Force, American Archives: Consisting of a Collection of Authentick Records, State Papers, Debates, and Letters and Other Notices of Publick Affairs (Washington, DC: U.S. Congress Clerk's Office, 1853), 5th Series, vol. 2, p 254; William Horner, This Old Monmouth of Ours (Freehold: Moreau Brothers, 1932) p 25; Monmouth County Historical Association, Vault, Shelf 4, box: St. Peter's Church of Freehold, folder: 1710-1823; Samuel Osborne’s Loyalist Claim, Rutgers University Library Special Collections, Great Britain Public Record Office, Loyalist Application Claims, D96, AO 13/110, reel 10; William Perrine’s Loyalist Claim, Rutgers University Special Collections, Great Britain Public Record Office, Loyalist Compensation Claims, D96, AO 13/19, reel 6 and AO 13/111, reel 10.

Related Historical Sites: none


Related Articles: #2, #3, #5, #6, #189  

More on People in this Article:  Elisha Lawrence 24, 72, 81; Thomas Leonard 24, 72, 81; John Forman 2.


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