The American Revolution (1775-1783) created not one country but two. Without
the infusion of almost 60,000 American Loyalists into the remaining
British North American colonies, Canada could have offered little
resistance to the expansion of the American Republic.
Canada has been the haven for many political refugees, of which the
United Empire Loyalists were first. Representing varied ethnic and
religious groups who had left Europe to settle in the American Colonies
since the early 1600s, they brought with them to Canada their common
loyalty to the Crown, their respect for the rule of law and their
determination to make new lives for themselves and their families.
The Toronto Branch of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of
Canada in a review of its records where national origin of the member's
Loyalist ancestor could be ascertained found that 28% were from Germany,
23% from Scotland,18% from England, 12% from Ireland, 8% from Holland,
5% from France,4% from Wales, 1% from Switzerland and less than 1% from
Denmark and Sweden.
In what has been called the 'first' American Civil War, more than 50
provincial corps of Loyal Americans opposed the rebellion. Loyalist
corps were raised in all colonies from Georgia to Massachusetts and
fought with the British throughout the war. To name only a few, there
were the 1st Battalions of DeLancey's Brigade, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd
Battalions of Skinner's New Jersey Volunteers, Simcoe's Queen's Rangers
(1st American Regiment), the Pennsylvania Loyalists and the Maryland
Loyalists. These and other Loyalist corps fought in the skirmishes and
battles around New York City, Philadelphia and in the southern colonies
until hostilities ended at Yorktown Virginia, in 1781.
In the Northern Department, Johnson's King's Royal Regiment of New
York, Butler's Rangers, Jessup's Loyal Rangers and McLean's Royal
Highland Emigrants 84th Regiment),were raised from among the Loyalists of
the northern frontier. The troops of the Northern Department were
stationed at posts from Sorel east of Montreal, to Fort Michilimackinac.
They fought in General Burgoyne's campaign that ended at Saratoga and
led many excursions into the Mohawk Valley of New York Province.In most of these forays they were joined by Iroquois Indians
led by such chiefs as Joseph Brant and John Deserontyn.
During the hostilities, Loyalists had left the colonies for England,
Florida, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Nova Scotia and Quebec. It is estimated
that 100,000 American colonists, loyal to the Crown, were driven into
exile by persecution, confiscation of their properties and threats upon
At the end of the war, Sir Guy Carleton, later Lord Dorchester, was
appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British forces and was responsible
for the evacuation of the troops and Loyalists remaining in New York
City. Approximately 35,000 Loyalist troops and civilian Loyalists,
'Incorporated' or 'Associated' into groups,were transported to Nova
Scotia by ship. The influx of disbanded troops and Loyalists into the St.
John River valley brought demands for their own government. In 1784, the
'Loyalist' Province of New Brunswick was separated from Nova Scotia and
Thomas Carleton, brother of Sir Guy Carleton, was appointed Governor.
In the spring of 1784, 6,000 of the 10,000 disbanded troops and
Loyalists who had gathered in Quebec, were settled in townships along the
north shore of the St. Lawrence River, west of Montreal, and around the
Bay of Quinte. Some 900 'Associated' Loyalists, the Van Alstyne and
Grass groups,who were taken by ship from New York City to Quebec where
they wintered at Sorel,were settled at Adolphustown and Kingston.
Butler's Rangers, stationed at Fort Niagara, had settled some Loyalists
across the Niagara River in what later became Ontario as early as 1781,
and when disbanded in 1784, settled mainly in the Niagara Peninsula and
along the north shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
Transportation, provisioning, and settlement of the disbanded troops
and civilian Loyalists was conducted by the military establishment. The
method of raising troops and assembling the civilian groups had brought
together neighbours, friends, and relatives who were later settled
together for their mutual benefit.
On the 9th of November 1789, in Council at Quebec City, Lord
Dorchester, Governor-in-Chief of British America, gave particular
recognition to the 'First Loyalists' by differentiating them from other
Loyalists and settlers, i.e. 'Late' Loyalists,'Treasury' Loyalists,
'Simcoe' Loyalists, and from regular British and German soldiers who were
considered to be 'Military Claimants'. The 'Dorchester Resolution proved
by the Council-Defined the 'U.E. Loyalists' as those "who had adhered to
the United of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard in America before
the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783".
"Put a mark of Honor upon the Families" of the U.E. Loyalists.
Approved the granting by the Land Boards of 200 acres of land (without
fees) to the sons and daughters of the U.E. Loyalists. Accompanying the
resolution to London to be laid before the King, was attached a "Form of
Militia Roll for the Western Districts to discriminate the Families
before mentioned"which included the following heading: "N.B. Those
Loyalists who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire, and Joined the
Royal Standard [in America] 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."In the
covering letter, Lord Dorchester explained: "Care has been taken to
reward the spirit of loyalty and industry, to extend and transmit it to
The Loyalists in the newly settled western part of Quebec were not
satisfied to be governed by the terms of the Quebec Act of 1774. Their
petitions for English civil law, freehold tenure of land and elected
assembly brought about the separation of the Old Province of Quebec into
Lower and Upper Canada in 1791, with John Graves Simcoe, former colonel
of the Queen's Rangers (1st American Regiment), as Lieutenant-Governor of
Upper Canada, now Ontario. From 1783 to 1812, the U.E. Loyalists of
Upper Canada were joined by many U.E. Loyalists from the Maritime
provinces; by 'late' Loyalists who may have supported the Crown but who
were not within the British lines until after 1783; and those who came to
swear allegiance to the Crown to escape what one settler termed the
"Chaos, Taxes and Anarchy" of the new republic.
When the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812, Upper
Canada had a population of nearly 100,000,four-fifths of whom were
American-born. The Upper Canada Militia and Indians who joined the
British regular troops to resist the invasion were defending their homes
and farms, as had their fathers and grandfathers in the American
Revolution. Their success in turning back the invaders who would have
severed the eastern provinces from the future western provinces ensured
the development of Canada as a nation.