Case of A Non-Loyalist
Loyalist to Patriot

Case Example For Errors Made In Loyalist Research


The Lt. James Breckenridge Sr. - Argument

Jeannie Celli has been trying to prove that her ancestor, James Breckenridge of Bennington was really not a Loyalist as some very small record samples have “suggested”. She has been diligently researching this problem for several years and after gathering much information and furnished it all to me during that time, I found no absolute proof that James was a genuine Loyalist, especially by the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada’s standard which is the highest standard of qualification used to determine who hold the right to be considered a Loyalist by official review.

Here are the unsubstantiated documents that suggested he was a Loyalist and I provide the evidence disproving any such claim . All archives US, Crown and Canadian documents agree he was not a Loyalist.

  1. Three years after the death of her husband, the widow of James Breckenridge filed a petition for losses from her Vermont home, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. 1786. Petition and Documents were reviewed by Sir Thomas Dundas, the Crown’s Commissioner from London
  2. Dundas correspondence text which can be found in collections in Quebec Canada National Archives state that these petitions to the crown were not to be used to establish ideology- it was merely an inventory of losses of displaced people and not evidence of Loyalist ( 1786 era Halifax NS) –the petition was rejected out of hand immediately  the Commissioners saw through the claim according to analysis by National Canadian Archivist Patricia Kennedy
  3. Canadian National Archives Colonial Era Specialist Patricia Kennedy -Quebec authority in American Loyalist Claims shared this thought- “This means that widow’s claim is hearsay- Widow Breckenridge gave no evidence of husband’s service to the Crown -mandatory-  nor did Widow Breakenridge state that her husband  James Sr. was a loyalist.  -which is mandatory in any Crown Claim petition; and the Widow gave no proof for any of her statements-
  4. Fact: Summary of Widow’s rejected claim Canadian Archivist Colonial Era’s analysis is that the widow’s claim is unsubstantiated] and may not be used as evidence of Loyalist proof”.
  5. James Breckenridge/Breakenridge has relations who were loyalists (young sons joined Loyalist  Rangers).

This does not make one’s father a Loyalist. As many of us know, many families were split over this rebellion (1/3rd for; 1/3rd against; and 1/3rd neutral). This Loyalty assumption was incorrect.

4.  Fact: Secretary of State of Vermont in a 2006 affidavit affirms that the Vermont State Archives holds original manuscripts of Lt. James Breakenridge Sr. of Vermont dated 1780-81 stating Lt James Sr. as citizen of Vermont“ was supplying the Vermont State Troops and giving Livestock to, and for the “State of Vermont”. Such actions are accepted as proofs of patriotism by American genealogical societies This action constitutes a patriotic act according to The National Society of  the Daughters of the American Revolution standards as the transaction with Governor and Council is financial 1780 and James Sr.  is paid by the State of Vermont a year later-according to manuscripts ongoing transaction 1780-1781

James Breakenridge was a miller and at the time gristmills and sawmills were needed for Vermont war supplies.  Note he was older man- history states “it was a young man’s war” NSDAR standard age for military service is 18-50 years and James age shows he was too old to fight at the time of Revolutionary War. The archive documents show he gave Patriotic Service but his experience and knowledge qualified him to be useful and supportive to obtaining independence for Vermont.

Fact: Vermont, an Independent Republic had its own government which required that all Vermont citizens give an Oath of Allegiance. In Bennington “to refuse to take the Patriotic Oath of Allegiance” - meant to be a labeled in Vermont legal documents as a Tory (James does not exist in any Legal manuscripts as a Loyalist)

Fact: Prompt action by VT Patriots was to immediately remove a Tory from their property and often times legal records show punishment of Tories. The standard was to be beaten each day with Beech Seal, no more than 40 stripes until the Tory removed to British territory with family- this punishment continued until the Tory left town. Tories experienced immediate action by Vermont Governor and Council- who implemented  immediate Sequestration and Confiscation of all land and goods if legal trial did not show patriotism and person refused to take oath ( all Tories were given a  second chance to join patriots by oath and become citizens of Vermont). If the Tory refused, these immediate consequences resulted – his land was taken and he and his family were banished.

Fact: Vermont archives record  all that was seized by Patriots  which in turn was sold by public venue or auction by Confiscation and Sequestration Committees of Bennington when authorized by Independent Vermont  rule of Governor and Council (twelve elected men); and immediate action was  taken that Tory families were sent directly without leniency to British territory. The monies from sale of goods were used by Governor Chittenden and Council to fill the treasury for the Cause of Patriotism and Revolutionary War. James had huge holdings- if Lt James Breakenridge Sr had been a Tory – the Council and would not have missed an opportunity to take his vast possessions –but he remained with all intact and continued to serve the cause.

Fact:  Government did not take his land or possessions as shown in his primary proof Probate Court records after his death he lived and died as a citizen in Vermont with all inventory intact According to legal documents of Vermont-there is no record of confiscation of his properties and goods- fact is that the Council and Governor did not sequester or confiscate his goods or property.

Fact: Lt. James Breakenridge’s probate court records show that the authorities of Vermont at that time were in the best position to know Lt James Breakenridge’s ideology and allowed him to remain in Bennington living in peace until his death with all his rights of an Independent Vermont Citizenship intact means that they considered him a Loyal Citizen of the Sovereign Republic known as The Independent State of Vermont.

Fact: In 1783, Lt. James died at home in Bennington, Vermont  and is buried in Bennington– his probate record states that his vast amounts of goods, buildings, mills, livestock, grain, carriages, library, and 4000 acres of land etc. were intact. All was inherited by his widow according to Bennington Town Probate Court records which also include lists of people who did business with James- 99.5 plus percent Patriots according to latest NSDAR Patriot Index 2003. - This court record constitutes primary proof.

 Fact: At Breakenridge’s death his widow inherited and at widow’s death, all was divided and was inherited by her heirs without interruption according to Bennington Court Record. Vermont Widow’s law of 1779 states one spouse must be untainted in order to inherit. Widow inherited.

Fact: In the case of Lt James Breakenridge Sr. “the absence of evidence, is evidence”.  There is no primary evidence from beginning of the society DAR records from  1889-2010 that he was a Loyalist-no Loyalist Act is recorded in legal Vermont documents nor shared legal Documents of New York –Continental Congress nor elsewhere. Instead there is continuous primary evidence as proof of his Loyalty to the Continental Congress and American Colonies as a Patriot and that he gave his “all “ for the Independence of Vermont from 1760’s as one of the Founding Fathers- as Colonial Era expert Patricia Kennedy recognized him, and until his death in 1783 in Bennington where he died and is buried.

Fact: Lt James signed the Dorset Convention with the first signature at the Dorset Convention in 1776- (which infers he shaped the document).  Lt James is recorded first in Continental Congress Papers manuscript- as he took the Dorset document and traveled with Fay and Allen to Continental Congress with a letter of introduction from Chairman of New Hampshire Grants/ now Vermont- to President of Congress John Hancock- letter used words stating “Our Trusty, Loyal, Friend” Lt. James Breakenridge of Bennington (then  called New Hampshire Grants/now State of Vermont). (record available  Continental Congress Papers)  He was held in esteem internationally. He was not unknown.

Using as evidence Vermont State History volume - Volume 1 VT Governor and Council series of legal records: Vermont was not a colony during the time of the Revolution but continued to ask for admittance as 14th colony.

Fact ”Due to incautious historians, Lt James was removed in error from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolutionary Patriot Index around 1930 by use of an unsubstantiated footnote by editor   The researcher who submitted the data to NSDAR to remove Lt James from Patriot status used a “footnote” in above volume 1 of VT Governor and Council as evidence - this was false. The compiler of this Volume 1 gave a personal opinion in the footnote without foundation. James.Breakenridge Sr. was listed as a proven patriot in earlier index until removed by the NSDAR from their Patriot Index because a compiler of the 1800’s Governor and Council Vol  wrote in a footnote- his unfounded opinion- that he   seems to have….”  [??] fact- footnote is total hearsay- ‘seems’ is not a fact.

Fact: National Canadian Archivist Patricia Kennedy, Loyalist Claims Expert said “ like the Widow’s rejected petition at Halifax this footnote in Vermont volume 1 “ is yet another unsubstantiated statement”-without proof. There is no evidence that James was a Loyalist. In his lifetime Lt James Breakenridge never stated he was a Loyalist and it is Patriot Libel because the widow’s rejected claim occurred three years after his death. “ Kennedy Why submit the claim she asked-and answered-…- Archivist Kennedy in Canada said “it was a way to get money as colonist were cash poor after the war” like an insurance claim-  but she stated  the widow  did not qualify- the Commissioners did not believe the widow and rejected her petition of losses of inventory out of hand. As noted on official copies of claim date as received stamp and date rejected.” It was immediate.

Fact: The books written closer to Lt. James’ time by Lorenzo Sabine, the author of the “original bible of American Loyalists”-as his books are called by historians, wrote two books containing the list of American Loyalists and it is important to note that Sabine was alive in an era where he could have interviewed relatives of Lt James in the 1860’s- and the fact is that he did not include James Breakenridge Sr.

Fact:  It speaks volumes that Sabine did not put James on his list of Loyalist in volume 1 nor volume 2; and neither did  the Crown’s General Haldimand of Canada. Haldimand’s list of 1000 Loyalists does not include James as a Loyalist. Had he been a Loyalist doing active service for the crown it would have been a known fact to Haldimand as the Crown head of Canada- Both men would have placed him on the Loyalist list if he had qualified as Loyalist;-but as he was well known by international reputation; especially since his two sons David and James Jr. were First Loyalists in military service to the Crown in the Loyalist Rangers..  Clearly, his two Loyalist sons knew Haldimand personally and worked under him as soldiers according to Vermont and Canadian history. No Loyalist List, by Sabine or by Haldimand contains the name of the Lt James Breakenridge/Breckenridge Sr. of Bennington, Vermont.

Fact: For example-Vermont Citizens under law were supplying troops-Quote From Records - Aug 27, 1777* To Mr. Harris, - You are hereby directed to employ some men to Harvest Mr. Breakenridge’s wheat and put the same in his barn, you also pay the expense out of the wheat, and what is not wanted for the use of the family you will keep until further orders from this Council. (Ira Allen, Secy-)

Analysis of statement - Get Breakenridge wheat harvested for storage. Put enough into storage for family

Pay yourself for the labor

Take care of the extra grain not needed for family for the state of Vermont  until called.

Fact: In Vermont Governor. and Council, Tories are dealt with swiftly and harshly- the above is demonstrating that Lt Breakenridge is acting as a typical citizen of the time with all rights and privileges intact. Tory lost all privileges of citizenship and were removed..Fact: Lt. James is an older man almost 60. His two older sons have gone to Canada and he needed help because he had a huge 300-wheat acreage that must be cut by hand.( I know I was reared in wheat country- ) VT Governor and Council recognized his contributions to State of Vermont  by sending someone to help him- for whatever reason. History records him as an “ honest and useful man” during this era for patriots. Archivist Patricia Kennedy states “it is a thundering silence that his two Loyalist sons “did not” sign their mother’s widow’s petition which would have given each of them more land in Canada according  to rights of Canadian Loyalist Claims”. Instead the petition was rejected and land records show that their land was their own not as result of their father.

Fact:  Instead unlike son of same name- James Breakenridge Sr. was never elevated in military rank as Lt is the lowest rank of officer status from town militia prior to Revolution, James Sr. never received land nor money in Canada from Crown for service rendered which would be automatic said Claims Expert Kennedy- whereas his son  of the same name attained the first rank of Lt, then elevated to Capt, at beginning of war; then reached a honored crown title of Col. In finale named Duke of Leeds by Crown- indeed given  title with his family crest registered- James Jr. settled with The First Loyalists in Canada evident in Canadian records.  His father James Sr. remained a citizen in Vermont without rank and continuous Patriot status  in records of Vermont, USA, Crown and Canadian archives.1776-2010.

In conclusion:

As I first stated over a year ago, I know that James Breckenridge is not a Loyalist and others in my field agree. The widow Breckenridge never stated that her husband was a Loyalist, and I feel that she was trying to jump into an opportunity as her Loyalist sons did to collect badly needed assistance from the British in the name of her Vermont Patriotic husband. This was easily seen in her petition, and why it was denied? As claims expert Patricia Kennedy stated- “widow’s claim is total hearsay- Widow Breckenridge gave no evidence of husband’s service to the crown; nor did Widow Breakenridge state that her husband  James Sr. was a loyalist  -said the  Archivist and further states-which is mandatory statement  for any claimant   to provide with her document as proof for  Crown Claim petition; and the Widow gave no proof for any of her statements” according to Claim’s Expert.

James Breckenridge/Breakenridge was clearly, An American Patriot, not a Loyalist.

Two of his sons were Loyalists- First Loyalists.

Research done by Paul J. Bunnell, UE             

 This case is listed in my Vol. 7 of The New Loyalist Index 2008

UPDATE- 2010 James Breakenridge/Breckenridge Sr.  The National Sons of the American Revolution honor as their Patriot James Breckenridge/Breakenridge Senior of Bennington , VT.

30 April 2010  The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution-proclamation document  which certifies that “James Breckenridge” Senior   Bennington, Vermont- also known as an important Vermont leader spelling of  Breakenridge; and  by title of Lt James Sr. has been admitted as recognized Patriot of the American Revolution-with stamp of approved with  the official NSSAR seal upon the stated primary evidence which verifies James Breakenridge Senior’s patriotic acts of supplying livestock “to the State of Vermont and for the Troops of Vermont” during the American Revolution cites years of  1780-1781. James Breakenridge/Breckenridge was received and officially registered on Patriot Index NSSAR,in 2010. NSSAR founded in 1889.




Kind Comments

Dear Confrere Paul.

I am a Fra` in the Order of Malta but I am the sole one that is, who lives in the Southern Hemisphere.

I know that 1,500 Maltese and Knightsof our Order fought for the Independence of the USA in the ways that lead to it.

Now I know Jeanne and Thomas Celli very well indeed in their doing charity works and looking after the really terminally ill at Lourdes.

And so I know Jeanne’s saga for Lt  James Breakenridge quite well.

You have done a magnificent job for James Breakenridge and I thank you so very much.

I am a historian and a musicologist, and so I am aware of these things from a certain perspective.

Please accept my sincere thanks to you for all that you do.

You have done great works Paul for James and for very special people.

Fra` Prof Richard Divall AO OBE

The Order of Malta in Australia.

The University of Melbourne/Faculty of Music

I am truly honored and thank Prof. Divall for all his kind words of support. Since our meeting, we have become very good friends exchanging our carreer experiences and my appreciation of music leaves me speechless over all Richard's accomplishments. The thousands of miles that we have between us, is no barrier for our friendship. Isn't the Internet fantastic? Here are the many credincials of my new found friend:

The Mediterranean Institute at the University of Malta is honoured to hold to a public lecture on Maltese and Australian Musicology by Fra` Professor Richard Divall AO OBE under the title of The Early Music of Malta and Australia: A Critical Appreciation. The talk will be held at the Aula Magna, Old University, St Paul Street, Valletta on Thursday, 7 May 2009, at 1900 hrs.

Currently, Richard Divall is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He served for 26 years as Musical Director of the Victoria State Opera in Melbourne and was for 5 years Principal Resident Conductor of Opera Australia, conducting over 150 different operas. During this period, he conducted both in Melbourne, throughout Australasia and overseas, but his singular contribution was in building a vibrant Opera Industry based in Victoria. For his Musical contribution, he was awarded the OBE in 1981 and 3 honorary doctorates, including Doctor of Letters from Monash University and was made Doctor of the University from the Australian Catholic University. As a Musicologist he has edited many works by Maltese composers including major works by Nicolò Isouard, Michelangelo Vella and Francesco Azopardi. His editions of Maltese music have been published by Lyrebird Press which is one of the principal Publishing Houses of historical editions of music works. His editions of Maltese music were also played by the Maltese National Philarmonic Orchestra