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Title: The United Empire Loyalists A Chronicle of the Great Migration Volume 13 (of 32) in the series Chronicles of Canada
Author: W. Stewart Wallace
Release Date: April 9, 2004 [EBook #11977]
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CHRONICLES OF CANADA
Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton
In thirty-two volumes
THE UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS
A Chronicle of the Great Migration
By W. STEWART WALLACE
I. INTRODUCTORY II. LOYALISM IN THE THIRTEEN COLONIES III. PERSECUTION OF THE LOYALISTS IV. THE LOYALISTS UNDER ARMS V. PEACE WITHOUT HONOUR VI. THE EXODUS TO NOVA SCOTIA VII. THE BIRTH OF NEW BRUNSWICK VIII. IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND IX. THE LOYALISTS IN QUEBEC X. THE WESTERN SETTLEMENTS XI. COMPENSATION AND HONOUR XII. THE AMERICAN MIGRATION XIII. THE LOYALIST IN HIS NEW HOME BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
The United Empire Loyalists have suffered a strange fate at the hands of historians. It is not too much to say that for nearly a century their history was written by their enemies. English writers, for obvious reasons, took little pleasure in dwelling on the American Revolution, and most of the early accounts were therefore American in their origin. Any one who takes the trouble to read these early accounts will be struck by the amazing manner in which the Loyalists are treated. They are either ignored entirely or else they are painted in the blackest colours.
So vile a crew the world ne'er saw before,
And grant, ye pitying heavens, it may no more!
If ghosts from hell infest our poisoned air,
Those ghosts have entered these base bodies here.
So sang a ballad-monger of the Revolution; and the opinion which he voiced persisted after him. According to some American historians of the first half of the nineteenth century, the Loyalists were a comparatively insignificant class of vicious criminals, and the people of the American colonies were all but unanimous in their armed opposition to the British government.
Within recent years, however, there has been a change. American historians of a new school have revised the history of the Revolution, and a tardy reparation has been made to the memory of the Tories of that day. Tyler, Van Tyne, Flick, and other writers have all made the amende honorable on behalf of their countrymen. Indeed, some of these writers, in their anxiety to stand straight, have leaned backwards; and by no one perhaps will the ultra-Tory view of the Revolution be found so clearly expressed as by them. At the same time the history of the Revolution has been rewritten by some English historians; and we have a writer like Lecky declaring that the American Revolution 'was the work of an energetic minority, who succeeded in committing an undecided and fluctuating majority to courses for which they had little love, and leading them step by step to a position from which it was impossible to recede.'
Thus, in the United States and in England, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other. In Canada it has remained stationary. There, in the country where they settled, the United Empire Loyalists are still regarded with an uncritical veneration which has in it something of the spirit of primitive ancestor-worship. The interest which Canadians have taken in the Loyalists has been either patriotic or genealogical; and few attempts have been made to tell their story in the cold light of impartial history, or to estimate the results which have flowed from their migration. Yet such an attempt is worth while making—an attempt to do the United Empire Loyalists the honour of painting them as they were, and of describing the profound and far-reaching influences which they exerted on the history of both Canada and the United States.
In the history of the United States the exodus of the Loyalists is an event comparable only to the expulsion of the Huguenots from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Loyalists, whatever their social status (and they were not all aristocrats), represented the conservative and moderate element in the revolting states; and their removal, whether by banishment or disfranchisement, meant the elimination of a very wholesome element in the body politic. To this were due in part no doubt many of the early errors of the republic in finance, diplomacy, and politics. At the same time it was a circumstance which must have hastened by many years the triumph of democracy. In the tenure of land, for example, the emigration produced a revolution. The confiscated estates of the great Tory landowners were in most cases cut up into small lots and sold to the common people; and thus the process of levelling and making more democratic the whole social structure was accelerated.
On the Canadian body politic the impress of the Loyalist migration is so deep that it would be difficult to overestimate it. It is no exaggeration to say that the United Empire Loyalists changed the course of the current of Canadian history. Before 1783 the clearest observers saw no future before Canada but that of a French colony under the British crown. 'Barring a catastrophe shocking to think of,' wrote Sir Guy Carleton in 1767, 'this country must, to the end of time, be peopled by the Canadian race, who have already taken such firm root, and got to so great a height, that any new stock transplanted will be totally hid, except in the towns of Quebec and Montreal.' Just how discerning this prophecy was may be judged from the fact that even to-day it holds true with regard to the districts that were settled at the time it was written. What rendered it void was the unexpected influx of the refugees of the Revolution. The effect of this immigration was to create two new English-speaking provinces, New Brunswick and Upper Canada, and to strengthen the English element in two other provinces, Lower Canada and Nova Scotia, so that ultimately the French population in Canada was outnumbered by the English population surrounding it. Nor should the character of this English immigration escape notice. It was not only English; but it was also filled with a passionate loyalty to the British crown. This fact serves to explain a great deal in later Canadian history. Before 1783 the continuance of Canada in the British Empire was by no means assured: after 1783 the Imperial tie was well-knit.
Nor can there be any doubt that the coming of the Loyalists hastened the advent of free institutions. It was the settlement of Upper Canada that rendered the Quebec Act of 1774 obsolete, and made necessary the Constitutional Act of 1791, which granted to the Canadas representative assemblies. The Loyalists were Tories and Imperialists; but, in the colonies from which they came, they had been accustomed to a very advanced type of democratic government, and it was not to be expected that they would quietly reconcile themselves in their new home to the arbitrary system of the Quebec