THE VIRGINIA EXILES by Elizabeth Gray Vining


Email this review


A little-known incident of the American Revolution forms the basis of a story, the major purpose of which would seem to be a sympathetic presentation of the Quaker convictions relating to war. The story itself revolves around the arrest, banishment, imprisonment of the Twenty Philadelphians, most of them Quakers, on a vague charge of being inimical to the cause of the Revolution. Some were prominent as leading Quakers; others had refused to continue their trades because they involved supplying goods and munitions- no matter if the market was the side they sponsored; a few actively opposed the drastic actions of Congress and the Committees; none were actually Tories. Seized, without charge or trial; shipped to Reading, then to Winchester; required to meet expenses out of their own pockets; refused a hearing -- they suffered- not in silence- and fell prey to disease; two leading spirits died; two escaped. And finally, through the plea of their womenfolk back in Philadelphia, they were summoned, and with a shabby evasion, freed, Such is the historical background, and in reviving it, Mrs. Vining not only has served history well, but has used it, perhaps sometimes at too great length for the pace of her love story, as a vehicle for the torturing arguments, pro and con, as the Quakers held fast to their convictions, their determination to sign no oath which pandered to the truth, and their basic belief in the very cause of freedom of thought and speech for which the war they denounced was being fought. The central characters are fictional -- Caleb Middleton, Jr., substitute for an ailing father, an ironmaster who had closed his mines, and the lovely girl, whose path crossed his during the first days of imprisonment. But the love story is tenuous, insubstantial, and of secondary interest to the enlargement of the historical episode.

Pub Date: May 4th, 1955
Publisher: Lippincott