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Robinson, Beverley

Robinson, Beverley

ROBINSON, BEVERLEY. (1721–1792). (later changed to Beverly). Tory leader. Virginia-New York. Born in Middlesex County, Virginia, on 11 January 1723 to a prominent family—his father, John, was president of the Virginia council and acting governor at his death in 1749—Robinson raised a company in 1746 for a proposed expedition against Canada that never materialized. He led his troops to New York, where he stayed, becoming a business partner of Oliver De Lancey and marrying the wealthy Susanna Philipse in 1748. Robinson held a wide variety of offices, from judge to colonel of the Dutchess County militia to New York's commissary and paymaster during the Seven Years' War. He built a stately home called "Beverly" on the Hudson River, two miles south of West Point. One of his many visitors was George Washington, who stopped in to borrow money from Robinson in 1756. As one of the owners of the Highland Patent, lands seized from the Wappinger Indians while they were off fighting for the British during the Seven Years' War, Robinson was a target of the riots by the local white settlers against this land grab. In 1765 Robinson had to flee to the safety of New York City until the government put down this uprising the following year.

By the time the Revolution started, he had increased his wife's fortune to include tens of thousands of acres—annual rents alone amounted to £1,250—and had become one of the state's wealthiest landowners. Initially, Robinson hoped to remain neutral during the Revolution. But on 20 February 1777, after John Jay told him he would have to choose one side or the other, Robinson refused to take the oath of allegiance. Leaving his fine house, which subsequently was used variously as American headquarters for the Highlands district and as a hospital, Robinson took refuge with the British in New York City. Here he raised, mostly among his tenants, the Loyal American Regiment, of which he was made colonel. Later he was named colonel and director of the Loyal Guides and Pioneers as well. He led his troops with distinction on several occasions, particularly in the storming of Fort Montgomery on 6 October 1777, during Clinton's expedition to the Highlands.

His main contribution, however, was in the secret service. General Henry Clinton used Robinson in an attempt to recruit leading Americans to the British. Robinson's efforts failed with General Israel Putnam (whose headquarters was in Robinson's house) and Colonel Ethan Allen but had more success with General Benedict Arnold. Robinson made the arrangements for a meeting between André and Arnold and served as Clinton's emissary to Washington in the effort to save André's life. In early 1780 the New York legislature banished Robinson and confiscated his property. In August 1782 he left New York for England. Appointed to the first council of New Brunswick, Robinson never took his seat, staying in England to pursue his claim for compensation of eighty thousand pounds; he eventually received seventeen thousand pounds for the loss of his estate. He settled in Thornbury, near Bath, where he died on 9 April 1792. Four of his sons fought with the British during the Revolution; one became a lieutenant general, another commissary general; both were knighted. The other two sons settled in New Brunswick.

SEE ALSO Arnold's Treason; Clinton's Expedition.


Countryman, Edward. A People in Revolution: The American Revolution and Political Society in New York, 1760–1790. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles

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