I am adopted and only recently found out my paternal lineage thanks to my 23andme DNA test that linked me to my half-brothers (John and Gavin Anger) and my paternal relatives!
My maternal relatives are in the UK, (Rees, Lyons) (in Pontypridd/Wales & Hampstead/ London) as my birth mother was born and raised in London until her mother came to Canada after marrying a Canadian Soldier.
I have not met my birth parents but I now have more information about them and with that – more understanding of ‘me’.
From having no ancestral connection in this world to finding out I had roots both in the UK and in the establishing of the Canada we know today, has given me not only roots but renewed pride in being a Canadian!
The United Empire Loyalists were generally those who had been settled in the thirteen colonies at the outbreak of the American Revolution, who remained loyal to and took up the Royal Standard, and who settled in what is now Canada at the end of the war.
United Empire Loyalists (or just Loyalists) is an honorific given in 1799 by Lord Dorchester, the governor of Quebec and Governor-general of British North America, to American Loyalists who resettled in British North America during or after the American Revolution.
Loyalists During the American Revolution
Americans today think of the War for Independence as a revolution, but in important respects it was also a civil war. American Loyalists, or “Tories” as their opponents called them, opposed the Revolution, and many took up arms against the rebels. Estimates of the number of Loyalists range as high as 500,000, or 20 percent of the white population of the colonies.
What motivated the Loyalists? Most educated Americans, whether Loyalist or Revolutionary, accepted John Locke’s theory of natural rights and limited government. Thus, the Loyalists, like the rebels, criticized such British actions as the Stamp Act and the Coercive Acts. Loyalists wanted to pursue peaceful forms of protest because they believed that violence would give rise to mob rule or tyranny. They also believed that independence would mean the loss of economic benefits derived from membership in the British mercantile system.
Loyalists came from all walks of life. The majority were small farmers, artisans and shopkeepers. Not surprisingly, most British officials remained loyal to the Crown. Wealthy merchants tended to remain loyal, as did Anglican ministers, especially in Puritan New England. Loyalists also included some blacks (to whom the British promised freedom), Indians, indentured servants and some German immigrants, who supported the Crown mainly because George III was of German origin.
Patriot authorities punished Loyalists who spoke their views too loudly by stripping them of their property and goods and banishing them on pain of death should they ever return. They coerced others into silence with threats. Throughout the Thirteen Colonies that were under Patriot control, Loyalists could not vote, sell land, sue debtors, or work as lawyers, doctors, or schoolteachers. To be fair, in Loyalist controlled areas, supporters of the Revolution met with similar treatment at the hands of British authorities.
Approximately 70,000 Loyalists fled the Thirteen Colonies. Of these, roughly 50,000 went to the British North American Colonies of Quebec and Nova Scotia. For some, exile began as early as 1775 when “committees of safety” throughout the Thirteen Colonies began to harass British sympathizers. Other responded by forming Loyalist regiments: The King’s Royal Regiment of New York, Skinner’s New Jersey Volunteers, The Pennsylvania and Maryland Loyalists, Butler’s Rangers, Rogers’ Rangers and Jessup’s Corps were the best known of some 50 Loyalist regiments that campaigned actively during the war.
The signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783), which recognized the independence of the United States, was the final blow for the Loyalists. Faced with further mistreatment and the hostility of their countrymen, and wishing to live as British subjects, Loyalists who had remained in the Thirteen Colonies during the war now were faced with exile. Those who wished to in North America had two choices; Nova Scotia (Maritimes) or Quebec (Ontario-Quebec).
EXODUS TO AN UNKNOWN LAND
Fleeing in panic and confusion, forced to leave behind most of their possessions and burdened with the prospect of building a new life in a new land, the Loyalists faced unpromising beginnings. The lands they were to settle were isolated, forbidding and wild.
In addition to the anguish of defeat and the trauma of exile, Loyalists had to face isolation and feelings of helplessness. Shortages, harsh living conditions, and worry plagued the Loyalists in the hastily erected refugee camps. Many had to live in tents during the first winter. Many didn’t live through the first winter; many left with the relief fleets when they set sail the next spring. Those who did survive had to deal with delays in completing land surveys and shortages of tools and provision. But the Loyalists’ determination and resourcefulness assured the ultimate success of many of the new settlements.
Although there was some Loyalist migration into what is today the Province of Quebec, by far the greatest numbers came to present-day Ontario. The disbanded Loyalist regiments provided the majority of settlers. Colonel John Butler, a powerful landowner in the Mohawk Valley of New York, organized Butler’s Rangers and fought along with Native Loyalists. He led his followers to the west bank of the Niagara River when the regiment disbanded in 1784.
Disbanded Loyalist Regiments also settled along the St.Lawrence River upstream from Montreal and along the North shore of Lake Ontario. At their request they were settled according to nationality and religion. The majority of the settlers had been frontier farmers before the revolution and they were used to wilderness conditions, but they had lost almost everything they owned when they fled from their homes. The government gave them a limited amount of support with the most extensive reward being in the form of free land. They granted land to the heads of households according to their military rank and extended grants to wives and children born and unborn.
The Loyalists brought with them the tradition of freehold land tenure, British Laws and representative government. They did not want to give up these rights by living under the Quebec Act which guaranteed the seigneurial system of landholding and denied an elected assembly to the people of that colony. Shortly after their arrival, Loyalist representatives petitioned the government to alter the system of holding land in Quebec to freehold tenure similar to that of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
In 1791, the British Parliament passed the Canada Act, usually known as the Constitutional Act, which provided for the division of Quebec into Upper and Lower Canada. Both colonies were granted an elected assembly and the freehold system of land tenure went into effect in Upper Canada (later Ontario). These laws clearly show the influence of the Loyalists.
THE LOYALIST HERITAGE
Of less practical value than land and supplies, but of more lasting significance to the Loyalists and their descendants, was the government’s recognition of the stand that they had taken. Realizing the importance of some type of consideration, on November 9, 1789, Lord Dorchester, the governor of Quebec, declared “that it was his Wish to put the mark of Honour upon the Families who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire…”. As a result of Dorchester’s statement, the printed militia rolls carried the notation:
N.B. 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.
The initials “U.E.” are rarely seen today, but the influence of the Loyalists on the evolution of Canada remains. Their ties with Britain and their antipathy to the United States provided the strength needed to keep Canada independent and distinct in North America.
In the two centuries since the Loyalists’ arrival, the myths and realities of their heritage have intertwined to have a powerful influence on how we, as Canadians, see ourselves. Truly, the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists not only changed the Course of Canadian history by prompting the British government to establish the provinces of New Brunswick and Ontario, but is also gave them special characteristics which can be seen today. Perhaps the most striking of these is the motto on the Ontario coat of arms: Ut incept sic permanet fidelis that is, “As she began, so she remains, Loyal”.