World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

United Empire Loyalists

Article Id: WHEBN0011476324
Reproduction Date:

Title: United Empire Loyalists  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Annapolis Valley, Canada–United States relations, Cape Breton Island, Canadian English, The Maritimes, Fredericton, List of Scots, May 18, North American English, Province of Canada
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

United Empire Loyalists

The name United Empire Loyalists is an honorific given after the fact to those American Loyalists who resettled in British North America and other British Colonies as an act of loyalty to King George III after the British failure in the American Revolutionary War and prior to the Treaty of Paris. Reasons for their movement north range from loyalty to Britain, to a rejection of the republican ideals of the American Revolution, to an offer of free land in British North America. Many were prominent Americans whose ancestors had originally settled in the early 17th century, while a portion were recent settlers in the Thirteen Colonies with few economic or social ties. Many had their property confiscated by the revolutionaries.[1]

These Loyalists settled in what was initially Quebec (including the Eastern Townships) and modern-day Ontario, where they received land grants of 200 acres (81 ha) per person, and in Nova Scotia (including modern-day New Brunswick). Their arrival marked the beginning of a predominantly English-speaking population in the future Canada west and east of the Quebec border.

Loyalists from the slave-owning regions of the American South brought their slaves with them as slavery was also legal in Canada. Some 2000 slaves arrived in British North America: Some 500 in Upper Canada (Ontario), some 300 in Lower Canada (Quebec) but some 1200 in the main area of resettlement, the Maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The presence and condition of the latter population would become a particular issue, as the community was large in number and the original purpose, in most cases, of their purchase - to work the sugar-plantations - no longer applied. In due course many would be freed and returned to Africa, together with existing freedmen, to be re-settled yet again, this time in the designated colony for freedmen, Sierra Leone. Meanwhile an imperial law in 1790 assured prospective immigrants to Canada that their slaves would remain their property. From 1793, the trade in, but not the possession of, slaves was abolished in the colony of Upper Canada. The trade in slaves was abolished across the British Empire in 1807 and the abolition of possession was completed across the Empire in 1834. Most Black Loyalists were free, however, having been given their freedom from slavery by fighting for the British or joining British lines during the Revolution. The government also helped them resettle in Canada, transporting nearly 3500 free blacks to New Brunswick.[2]


During the American Revolution, a significant proportion of the population of New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, East Florida, West Florida, and other colonies remained loyal to the Crown. They were compelled to flee to the protection of their King, and the British Empire. The reasons were varied, but primarily were either loyalty to the King, or the belief in peaceful and evolutionary independence, as did eventually occur in Canada. As Daniel Bliss of Concord, Massachusetts (who later became a Chief Justice of New Brunswick) stated: "Better to live under one tyrant a thousand miles away, than a thousand tyrants one mile away." Many Loyalist refugees made the difficult overland trek into Canada after losing their homes, property, and security during the Revolution. The Loyalists, many of whom helped found America from the early 17th century, left a well-armed population hostile to the King and his loyalist subjects to build the new nation of Canada. The motto of New Brunswick, created out of Nova Scotia for loyalist settlement, is Spem reduxit ("Hope restored").

Many of the Loyalist refugees had fought bravely for King George. Land in Canada was sometimes allotted to Loyalist refugees according to which Loyalist regiment a man had fought in. See Loyalists Fighting in the American Revolution#The fate of the Tories.

Loyalist refugees, mainly of British descent, later called United Empire Loyalists, began leaving at the end of the war whenever transport was available, with considerable loss of property and transfer of wealth. An estimated 70,000 left the thirteen newly independent states, representing about 3% of the total American population, of which 20-30% had supported the Crown during the American War for Independence. Approximately 62,000 were White (who also had 17,000 black slaves) and 8,000 Black; 40,000 went to Canada,[3] 7,000 to Britain, and 17,000 to the Caribbean. Beginning in the mid-1780s and lasting until the end of the century, some returned to the United States from the Caribbean and Nova Scotia.

Following the end of the Revolution and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Loyalist soldiers and civilians were evacuated from New York and resettled in other colonies of the British Empire, most notably in Canada. The two colonies of Nova Scotia (including modern-day New Brunswick), received about 20,000 Loyalist refugees;[3] Prince Edward Island 2,000; and Quebec (including the Eastern Townships and modern-day Ontario) received some 10,000 refugees. An unknown but substantial number of refugees were unable to establish themselves in British North America and eventually returned to the United States.[4] Many in Canada continued to maintain close ties with relatives in the United States, and as well conducted commerce across the border without much regard to British trade laws.[5]


The arrival of the Loyalists after the American war of independence (1783) led to the division of Canada into the provinces of Upper Canada (what is now southern Ontario) and Lower Canada (what is now southern Quebec). They arrived and settled in groups of ethnicity and religion.[6]

Loyalists soon petitioned the government to be allowed to use the British legal system they were accustomed to in the American colonies, rather than the French system still in place after the fall of Quebec to Great Britain. The creation of Upper and Lower Canada allowed most Loyalists to live under British laws and institutions, while the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain their familiar French civil law and the Catholic religion.[6]

Realising the importance of some type of recognition, on November 9, 1789, Lord Dorchester, the governor of Quebec and Governor General of British North America, declared "that it was his Wish to put the mark of Honour upon the Families who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire".[7] As a result of Dorchester's statement, the printed militia rolls carried the notation:

"Those Loyalists who have adhered to the Unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their Children and their Descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following Capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. Alluding to their great principle The Unity of the Empire."

Some of the richest and most prominent Loyalists went to Britain to rebuild their lives, and many received pensions. Southern Loyalists, many taking along their slaves, went to the West Indies and the Bahamas, particularly to the Abaco Islands.

Thousands of Iroquois and other pro-British Native Americans were expelled from New York and other states and resettled in Canada. The descendants of one such group of Iroquois, led by Joseph Brant Thayendenegea, settled at Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest First Nations Reserve in Canada. Another smaller group of Iroquois led by Captain John Deserontyon Odeserundiye, settled on the shores of the Bay of Quinte in modern day Southeastern Ontario.

The government settled numerous Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia, but they faced discrimination and inadequate support. The government was slow to survey their land (which meant they could not settle) and awarded them smaller grants in less convenient locations than those of white settlers.[8] When Great Britain set up the colony of Sierra Leone in Africa, many Black Loyalists emigrated there for what they perceived to be the opportunity of self-government, and established Freetown.

Numerous Loyalists were forced to abandon substantial amounts of property in the United States. Restoration or compensation for this lost property was a major issue during the negotiation of the Jay Treaty in 1795. Negotiations settled on the concept of the United States negotiators 'advising' the US Congress to provide restitution. For the British, this concept carried significant legal weight, far more than it did to the Americans; the U. S. Congress declined to accept the advice. More than two centuries later, some of the descendants of Loyalists still assert claims to their ancestors' property in the United States.

War of 1812

The British government transported to New Brunswick and settled about 400 of 3,000 former slaves from the United States whom they freed during and after the War of 1812. It made promises to them similar to those made to slaves during the Revolution: to grant them freedom if they left slaveholders and fought with the British. Enslaved African Americans risked considerable danger crossing to British lines to achieve freedom. They moved to a new nation and frontier to make it happen. [9] The War of 1812 today is considered a great victory in Canada and Ontario's highway 405 in Niagara has been dedicated in honour of Isaac Brock as the Sir Isaac Brock Parkway, who played an early but vital role in the defeat of the American invaders along the Niagara border. Brock died in battle, and Brock's Monument in Queenston, Ontario was built to his memory. It is one of the oldest memorials in Ontario.


Modern-day descendants of those original refugees often employ the term "United Empire Loyalist", sometimes using "U.E." as postnominal letters (the honorific is not part of the official Canadian honours system but was an attempt to recognise the sacrifices of the Loyalists).[10] The practice is rare today, even in the original Loyalist strongholds like southeastern Ontario, but historians and genealogists still use it extensively as a kind of shorthand for identifying the ancestry of particular families.

The influence of the Loyalists on the evolution of Canada remains evident. Their ties with Britain and their antipathy to the United States provided the strength needed to keep Canada independent and distinct in North America. The Loyalists' basic distrust of republicanism and "mob rule" influenced Canada's gradual, "paper-strewn" path to independence. In effect, the new British North American provinces of Upper Canada (the forerunner of Ontario) and New Brunswick were created as places of refuge for the United Empire Loyalists. The mottoes of the two provinces reflect this history: Ontario's motto is Ut incepit fidelis sic permanet ("Loyal she began, loyal she remains"); New Brunswick's, Spem Reduxit ("It restored hope").

The word "Loyalist" appears frequently in school, street, and business names in such Loyalist-settled communities as Belleville, Ontario. The nearby city of Kingston, established as a Loyalist stronghold, was named in honour of King George III. And on the outskirts of that city is a township named simply "Loyalist".

In 1996, Canadian politicians Peter Milliken (a descendant of American Loyalists) and John Godfrey sponsored the Godfrey-Milliken Bill, which would have entitled Loyalist descendants to reclaim ancestral property in the United States which had been confiscated during the American Revolution. The bill, which did not pass the House of Commons, was intended primarily as a satirical response to the contemporaneous American Helms-Burton Act.

In 1997, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario passed a bill declaring June 19, "United Empire Loyalist Day" in the province of Ontario. United Empire Loyalists are also remembered in the province's motto, "Loyal she began, loyal she remains", which can also be found on the province of Ontario's Coat of Arms.

On 1 July 1934 Canada Post issued 'United Empire Loyalists, 1776-1784' designed by Robert Bruce McCracken based on a sculpture "United Empire Loyalists" by Sydney March. The 10¢ stamps are perforated 11 and were printed by British American Bank Note Company.[11]


In Canadian heraldry, Loyalist descendants are entitled to use a Loyalist coronet in their coat of arms.[12][13]

List of Loyalist settlements in present-day Canada

18th-century names are listed first, alongside their present-day equivalents.

See also


Further reading

  • Hill, Lawrence. The Book of Negroes. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. 2007.
  • Jasanoff, Maya. Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World. Knopf, 2011
  • Jodon, Michael. Shadow Soldiers of the American Revolution; 2009, ISBN 978-1-59629-726-5. The History Press, Charleston SC.
  • Moore, Christopher. The Loyalists: Revolution, Exile, Settlement; 1984, ISBN 0-7710-6093-9.
  • Rees, Ronald. Land of the Loyalists: Their struggle to shape the Maritimes, Nimbus, 146 p., 2000, ISBN 1-55109-274-3.
  • Wallace, W. Stewart. The United Empire Loyalists: A Chronicle of the Great Migration; Volume 13 of the "Chronicles of Canada (32 volumes) Toronto, 1914.

Primary sources

  • Gray, Rev. J. W. D. A Sermon, Preached at Trinity Church, in the parish of St. John, N. B., on the 8th December, 1857, by the Rev. J. W. D. Gray, D.D., and Designed to Recommend the Principles of the Loyalists of 1783. Internet Archive pdf; title incorrectly gives the year as 1847.

External links

  • The United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada - fraternal association for descendants of Loyalists
  • Example of Loyalist claim from New York state
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Biography of Loyalist Philip Crouse, ca.1760-1856
  • "The Myth of the Loyalist Iroquois", argues that it is misleading to describe Joseph Brant and other Iroquois leaders as "Loyalists"
  • Ontario Plaques - The Loyalists In Upper Canada
  • Photographs of the United Empire Loyalist monument at Country Harbour, Nova Scotia
  • "A Short History of the United Empire Loyalists", by Ann Mackenzie, M.A.
  • Une Courte Histoire des Loyalistes de l'Empire Uni, French translation of "A Short History of the United Empire Loyalists" by Ann Mackenzie, M.A.
  • missioners in Canada, Project Canterbury, Anglican History
  • Haldimand Collection A major source of information regarding the installation of more than 50 thousand American Loyalists in Canada : Cataraqui, Quebec, Sorel, Nova-Scotia, New-Brunswick
  • Benjamin Franklin on persons who called themselves "Loyalists", whom he judged better called "Royalists"), Franklin Papers, Yale University
  • "Black Loyalists in New Brunswick, 1783-1854", Atlantic Canadian Portal, University of New Brunswick
  • "Loyalist Women in New Brunswick, 1783-1827", Atlantic Canadian Portal, University of New Brunswickfr:Loyalistes
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.