Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
April 20, 1893
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
LXII [sic should be LXIII] THE UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS.
[Rev. W. O. Raymond, M. A.]
10.-The Loyal Refugees.
The feelings of the Loyalists at the close of the war may be more easily imagined than described. The motives that had induced them to espouse the cause of the mother country we have already to some extent considered.
Sabine claims that thousands espoused the royal cause because of a dread of the strength and resources of England and the belief that successful resistance to her power was impossible. This appears, however, to be a mere supposition. The fear of Englands power may indeed have deterred for a time many disloyal spirits from taking active part in the conflict; but that it caused any considerable number of people to embrace the royal cause against their natural inclination there is really no evidence at all. From the very first all who did not manifest sympathy with the revolutionary movement were exposed to the bitter persecution of mob violence. There was an element, doubtless, that held aloof as much as possible whilst the issue of the contest was in doubt; but the great majority of this cowardly class really sympathized with the rebellion. Sabine himself, speaking of this class of Whigs, says,
If the sky was bright and a Whig victory had been obtained somewhere, and if, above all, no kings troops were near, why then these changing men were steadfast for the right; but if news of reverses reached them, or the royal army came among or near them, then by their own account they always had supported their lawful sovereign, his most gracious majesty.
This was the class that endeavored, when the success of the Americans was assured, to convince the world of their patriotism by ardently joining in the clamor for vengeance on the Loyalists if they should remain in the country.
Doubtless there was a large proportion of the Loyalists who at the close of the war would have preferred to return quietly to their homes rather than go into voluntary exile. Some of them would have accepted the altered condition of affairs with a fairly good grace; others with more reluctance. There was, however, a numerous class whose resolution to abandon the country was fixed when separation from the British empire became an accomplished fact. Those who formed this heroic resolve were influenced by various reasons, chief among which were-(1) a sincere attachment to the mother land and love for British institutions, with a corresponding dislike of republicanism; (2) the oaths of allegiance and affirmations of loyalty taken in former years, the fulfillment of which was regarded as a matter not merely of inclination, but of duty; (3) the probability of having to endure the scorn of the winners in the strife, so mortifying to the pride of those who felt that with proper management the conditions might have been reversed; and (4) lastly, that love of adventure which for young and enterprising spirits has always a certain fascination.
But the great bond of union among the Loyalists, pervading all classes, superadded to all the incidental motives that exercised an individual influence, was the desire to maintain the integrity of the British empire; and for that sentiment thousands upon thousands voluntarily abandoned comfortable homes to begin a new life in the wilderness. But, then,
T was British wilderness!
Where they might sing
Long live the king!
And live protected by his laws,
And loyally uphold his cause.
T was welcome wilderness!
Though dark and rude
For there their sturdy hands,
By hated treason undefiled,
Might win from the Canadian wild
A home on British lands.1
The Loyalists who left New York in the spring of 1783 were for the most part voluntary exiles. It was not at that time absolutely known that the provisions contained in the fifth and sixth articles of the treaty would be repudiated by the various state legislatures. These articles provided not merely that the Loyalists should be safe in their persons, but that there should be a restoration of their confiscated property. The event subsequently showed that there was not only no attempt to restore confiscated property, but that gross personal violence was suffered by those who had made themselves especially obnoxious to the American authorities whenever they attempted to return to their former homes. Those who had not taken an active part on the side of the king were not seriously molested as a rule.
The savage threats and violent temper manifested towards all who had aroused the special animosity of the Whigs, very materially increased the emigration, of that there is not the slightest doubt.
The Loyalists were left in a sad plight by the issue of the war. Their official positions, houses and lands were all necessarily abandoned. They had practically lost all but honor.
Meanwhile they were not without active and influential sympathizers in England. In the House of Commons such men as Burke, Sheridan, Wilberforce, Townshend and Lord North strongly advocated their claims for compensation for their past sacrifices. In the House of Lords, Lord Walsingham, Viscount Townshend and Lord Stormont pleaded their cause with equal earnestness and ability.2 The efforts thus made were productive of substantial benefit. Pensions were voted to Provincial officers and to some of the rank and file who had served in the war. A commission was appointed for inquiry into the losses, services and claims of the American Loyalists. The proceedings of this commission extended over a period of seven years, during which time 4,118 claims were examined, some in Nova Scotia and Canada and some in England. A large number of claims entered were not pressed. It is to the credit of the Loyalists that the commissioners reported having met with the utmost honour, veracity, and candour, not only from the Agents of the Committee of Loyalists, who were chosen from each Province for their character and abilities, but likewise from many other of the American Loyalists.
The commission, as a general rule, awarded a little under one-third of the amount claimed in each instance, the total amount granted being £3,292,455 sterling. The commissioners in their report aptly observe,
Whatever may be said of this unfortunate war, either to account for, to justify, or to apologize for the conduct of either country, all the world has been unanimous in applauding the virtue and humanity of Great Britain in rewarding the services, and in compensating with a liberal hand the losses of those who suffered so much for their faithful and firm adherence to the British Government.
The act of the British government does indeed redound to its credit, yet it is to be borne in mind that the number of claimants, especially in the humbler walks of life, was but a fraction of those who suffered losses and hardships during the civil war. Many either would not or could not employ agents or appear personally to present their claims.
The emigration to Nova Scotia began as early as 1776, when about 1,100 refugees embarked for Halifax with the army on the evacuation of Boston. Individuals and small parties continued to find their way from time to time to Nova Scotia from various points in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and elsewhere, uring [sic] the progress of the war. Before the close of 1782, a party of 500 Loyalists from New York had arrived at Annapolis. Sir Guy Carleton, in September, wrote Lieut. Governor Hamond, at Halifax, that about 600 refugees wished to embark at New York for Nova Scotia in the autumn, and a much larger number in the spring, but that he could not find shipping just then for more than 300.
In connection with the arrival of the pioneer band of Loyalists at Annapolis the following extract from the London Political Magazine is of interest:-
When the Loyal Refugees from the northern Provinces were informed of the resolution of the house of Commons against offensive war with the rebels, they instantly saw there were no hopes left them of regaining their ancient settlements or of settling down again in their native country. Those of them therefore, who had been forward in taking up arms and in fighting the battles of the mother country, finding themselves deserted began to look out for a place of refuge and Nova Scotia being the nearest place to their old plantations they determined on settling in that province. Accordingly to the number of 500 they embarked in nine transports for Annapolis Royal; they had arms and ammunition, and one years provisions, and were put under the care and convoy of his Majestys ship Amphitrite, of 24 guns, Captain Robert Briggs. This officer behaved to them with great attention, humanity, and generosity and saw them safely landed and settled in the barracks at Annapolis which the Loyalists soon repaired. There was plenty of wild fowl in the country and at the time of their arrival a goose sold for two shillings and a turkey for two shillings and six pence.
The Reverend Jacob Bailey, the clergyman at Annapolis, himself a Loyalist from Pownalborough, Maine, exerted himself on behalf of the exiles concerning whom he writes:
Every habituation is crowded and many are unable to procure lodgings. Many of these distressed people left large possessions in the rebellious colonies and their sufferings on account of their loyalty and their present uncertain and destitute condition render them very affecting objects of compassion. Many of them are people of education and refinement from every Province on the continent except Georgia.
Shortly after their arrival Mr. Bailey preached what he terms a refugee sermon from the words,
Let them give thanks whom the Lord hath redeemed: and delivered from the hand of the enemy: and gathered them out of the lands from the east and from the west: from the north and from the south.
Even the Whigs, writes Mr. Bailey, were not unmoved at the representation of our distresses.
Captain Briggs had spared no pains for the comfort of the Loyalists both during the voyage and after their arrival at Annapolis. He expended £200 pounds out of his own pocket on their behalf-a fact which, whilst it speaks volumes for the captains goodness of heart, clearly indicates their distressed condition. On the eve of his departure for New York he was presented with an address expressive of the gratitude of the loyal refugees and signed on their behalf by Amos Botsford, Th. Ward, Fred. Hanser, Sam. Cummings and Elijah Williams. The address is dated at Annapolis Royal the 20th of October, 1782.
The next to arrive in Nova Scotia were some of the unfortunate Carolina Loyalists who fled from Charleston at its evacuation. Governor Parr wrote from Halifax to the British Minister, Dec 7, 1782.
I have the honour to inform you that with the arrival here of the heavy ordnance from Charleston came 500 Refugees, men, women and children, in consequence of directions from Sir Guy Carleton to Lt. Gen. Leslie, who has sent them to the care of Major Gen. Patteson, commander of the troops in this Province, with whom I have concurred as far as in my power to afford them a reception.
In January, Governor Parr reported further arrivals. The Loyalists who arrived in Nova Scotia towards the close of 1782 were, however, but the advance guard.
2See Ryersons Loyalists of America, vol. ii., pp. 159-164.
Correction: Article LXIV contains the following correction to this one: "Last week's instalment should have been numbered xliii [sic - should be lxiii], and the name 'Hanser,' in the fourth paragraph from the end should read 'Hauser.'"