STANSBURY, JOSEPH. (c. 1742–1809). Loyalist secret agent, poet. England-Pennsylvania. Son of a London haberdasher, Stansbury immigrated to Philadelphia in 1767, opening a china store. He became well-known for his humorous and satirical songs. Although he sympathized with the Patriots, he opposed separation from the empire and in 1776 was briefly imprisoned for his Loyalist sentiments. He held several minor British posts during the occupation of Philadelphia, signed the oath of allegiance to the Patriot cause after the British left, paid for substitutes in the Pennsylvania militia, and remained in the city until he was arrested for treason in 1780. After six months in jail he was permitted to leave the city with his family for New York City, the Patriots remaining ignorant of his role in Arnold's treason.
In New York he continued to write political songs and satirical prose. Stansbury's writings lacked the bitterness and anger that marked the works of the other Loyalist poet, Jonathan Odell. In August 1783 Stansbury went to Nova Scotia for a year and then to England, where the commission on Loyalist claims disallowed his appeal for one thousand pounds on the grounds that his loyalty had been too flexible. In November 1785 he resumed his business in Philadelphia, but in 1793 he gave up and moved back to New York City, where he was secretary of the United Insurance Company until his death in 1809.
Sergent, Winthrop, ed. The Loyal Verses of Joseph Stansbury and Doctor Jonathan Odell. Albany, N.Y.: J. Munsell, 1860.
revised by Michael Bellesiles