ONE of the most interesting, if pathetic, incidents in the history of Canada and one which had a marked effect on the early settlement of Ontario and the Maritime provinces was the immigration of loyalists who sought refuge on British territory after the close of the American War of Independence, and who determined at all hazards to live under British laws and institutions. These loyalists consisted of those who served with the Canadian regiments, as well as those who were described as ” unincorporated.”
History records that the movement from the States was rendered possible by the firm and courageous action of Sir Guy Carleton (afterwards Lord Dorchester) as mentioned already, whose name is held in high esteem in Canada where he became Governor in 1786 in succession to Sir Frederick Haldimand. To Carleton was entrusted the duty at the close of the war of transporting stores belonging to the Crown, baggage, artillery and the royalist troops, and the manner in which, in the interests of the loyalists, he carried out his task, has always been held to be worthy of great praise from his fellow countrymen.
Upper Canada, as the territory now comprising the province of Ontario was then called, was but sparsely settled, the population consisting of probably no more than a couple of thousand souls, dwelling for the most part in the neighbourhood of fortified posts on the St. Lawrence, Niagara and St. Clair Rivers. The loyalists who went there and made their homes were therefore practically the founders of the province.
From the commencement of the war, numbers of those who remained loyal to the Crown found their way to Canada. In 1778, 192 souls were furnished with rations and sent to Machiche, to the north of Lake St. Peter. The number had increased to 853 in the following year and the immigrants were distributed as follows :Montreal, 208 ; Machiche, 196; St. John, 209; Chambly, 27 ; Point Claire, 126 ; Sorel and Nouvelle Beauce, 87. In 1782-3 the numbers were greatly augmented, those receiving rations, etc., amounting to some 3,000 odd. A return in the Canadian Archives gives detailed particulars of 4,487 at the close of 1786, so that the influx was not by any means rapid, although the treatment accorded to these unfortunate people by Governor Haldimand, acting on behalf of the home government, was in every way considerate. It had been held that some hesitation was felt in coming to Canada from the belief that the government of the country was of a purely military character, but when its true nature was realised, many came to settle under the British flag as they ardently desired to do. Some came by way of Lake Champlain, ascending the River St. Lawrence in open boats, others came by way of Oswego. From North Carolina some came by waggons to the mouth of the Genesee River, beyond which there was no road. The towns of Hamilton and York (now Toronto) at this time attracted attention by reason of their favourable situation from the point of view of these early settlers.
There are records to show that some 28,347 souls among these refugees went to Nova Scotia. Out of these 202 went to the Island of St. John (afterwards the province of Prince Edward Island). Others to the number of 4,131 went to the banks of the St. John River in New Brunswick, and 3,401 remained at Shelburne in Nova Scotia. These came late in the season of 1783 after peace had been established.
How many loyalists actually crossed the border it is difficult to say with any amount of certainty, but a reliable historian states that we may approximately compute the total as :
Settlement on the St. Lawrence 4,487 Refugees reported in Nova Scotia (including St. 28,347 John, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island Cape Breton, 630 familes 3,150 Total number given as being settled about Montreal 5,628 Chambly, St. John and the Bay of Chaleurs Total 41,612
Some writers have placed the numbers of those who left the United States at this time as 100,000, but it is practically impossible to offer any evidence of this, as giving a liberal allowance for those unenumerated in any returns, the first movement cannot be placed at more than about 45,000.
It may here be mentioned that when the Treaty of Paris was completed orders were given for the various provincial regiments to be disbanded. The idea of Governor Haldimand was that these troops would usefully serve to settle the country from the shores of Lake Francis. He refused to accede to applications which were made for grants of land near Mississquoi Bay, as there was danger of bad feeling being aroused between the new settlers and those in the adjoining state to the south. He therefore regarded it as better policy to have lands surveyed at points near the Bay of Quint è on the north of Lake Ontario and on the Niagara and St. Clair River. One regiment (theRangers) was established near the Mohawk territory, the settlement consisting of 1,568 men, 626 women, 1,492 children and a number of servants, making in all some 3,776. Others were settled at Cataraqui, near Kingston.
A free grant of two hundred acres of land was given to each settler and each child, even to those children born after immigration, on their coming of age. Assis-tance was also rendered in the shape of food, clothing, implements, many of those arriving having lost all their belongings. An axe, hoe and spade were granted to each settler ; a plough and a cow to every two families, and a whip saw and cross-cut saw to each group of four households. Tools of various kinds and other useful requisites were also given to enable these new settlers and pioneers in a new and unknown country to make a start in their new environment.
By the year 1806 the population amounted to between 70,000 and 80,000, the emigration from the United States having greatly increased and, though some may have come with the idea of bettering their condition, it is fairly certain that large numbers were induced to join friends and relatives, having the same hopes and aspirations as those who had gone before them.
The term United Empire Loyalist, or more correctly speaking, ” U.E. Loyalist,” is derived from an Order in Council dated November, 1789, which laid it down that daughters as well as sons should in each case receive a grant of 200 acres of land, the sons on attaining full age, the daughters on their marriage.
It was further provided that all loyalists who had adhered to the British cause before the Treaty of 1783 and their children of both sexes, were to be distinguished in the records by the letters ” U.E.,” in this way preserving the memory of their adherence and devotion to a United Empire. Thus the title of ” U.E. Loyalist ” was proudly handed down to succeeding generations, and there are many Canadians to-day who can justifiably boast of being descended from those who sacrificed so much in former days to adhere to their principles and the cause of their fathers.