A Biography of Daniel Leonard (1740- 1829)
Daniel Leonard (1740- 1829) was a prominent lawyer and member of a wealthy family who was long established in the province Massachusetts. He lived in Taunton, Massachusetts and practiced law in Boston. He was a very wealthy man and one of the most aristocratic barristers of his day. John Adams marveled at hist gold lace and magnificent coach, which was so expensive that no other lawyer could have afforded such luxury. Leonard was a thorough Tory in his political views. In 1774 a number of patriots, who were outraged at his espousal of the cause of the crown, drove him from his Tounton home. He found refuge in Boston.
Leonard was also the author of a series of seventeen
letters signed with the synonym "Massachusettensis" and adressed to
"The inhabitants of the province of the Massachusetts-Bay", to which John
Adams wrote a reaction under the pseudonym "Novanglus". From
December 1774 to April 1775
the letters were published in a Loyalist Boston newspaper and later
republished in pamphlet form. Leonards letters are by general admission the
best expression of the Loyalist view that the colonists' grievances were
largely without foundation. His very conservative Loyalist view was not a
popular one in Massachusetts, that harboured many radicals.
The Loyalists believed that the actions of the First Continental Congress (September-October 1774) had set the colonies on the highroad to independence without any appreciation of the dangers involved. For they would be thrown into the arena of amoral states without the protection of Britain. Leonard feared, as he wrote in January 1775, that America would become "an easy prey, parcelled out, Poland like". Not the "three crowned sinners" (Austria, Russia and Prussia) but the hereditary enemies of America, France and Spain were feared. And these two could not be treated with, warned Leonard. America would be overreached and subjugated, for it could "make them no return for protection but by trade" and "of that they could have no assurance, unless America would become subject to their laws". John Adams replied to this with great confidence, and yet in early 1775 he proved right; America had adequate power to sustain herself as an indepedent nation.
The Whigs believed that they had two assets for national self-preservation: their country's power and the European balance of power. If the balance was properly manipulated by America, it would guarantee her national security. But Daniel Leonard scoffed at these pretensions; in his view the colonies were merely the "light dust of the balance". He couldn't see why, by establishing free trade between Europe and America "all nations would join in protecting their common mart". The Whigs had faith in the American commerce that would prove so valuable it would protect itself.
Leonard was a convinced Loyalist; he denied the notion of a mere common allegiance to the Imperial Crown. The king could only appear under such a system as king of each seperate colony and if these were constitutionally and not absolutely governed, the consequence would be chaos. There was no point in the comparison of the provincial legislatures with the British Parliament since the former had no houses of peers and did not have many of the latter's essential powers. There could not be two co-ordinate authorities in one state. This imperium in imperio would be the height of political absurdity. The American colonies were and could only remain, essentially subordinate.
His views made it necessary for Leonard to leave Massachusetts when the British troops evacuated Boston in March 1776, and his loyalty to Britain was eventually rewarded with the post of Chief Justice of Bermuda.