Compact Luncheon, November, 2004
David Moore, a professor at Appleby College in Oakville, Ont. spoke to us on: "The Key Decision: Why so many of Canada's early settlers decided to remain loyal to the Crown". Mr. Moore gave us the Loyalist viewpoint, dressed in the 18th century military regalia of a Sergeant Major of the King's Loyal Regiment of New York.
Mr. Moore began his talk by making a comparison between Quebec Separatism and the situation in the states prior to the revolution. He said in spite of the fact that we Canadians are fully aware there is still a faction in Quebec who even now is actively working to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada, we tend to ignore the problem the moment it ceases to be front page news. Our ancestors reacted in much the same way to events prior to the Revolution. Crises came and crises went. People would get excited for a while but as soon as they realized nothing more was going to happen, they tended to push the incident out of their minds and go on about their own lives. The chances are if they did think about it again, they saw what had happened as a criminal act rather than someone making a political statement.
The Boston Tea Party is a case in point. Nowadays it is viewed as the ultimate protest against an unjust tax. It has been conveniently forgotten that it was also an act of vandalism and theft, the equivalent of which would be if we went down to the Toronto Harbour and threw a shipload of IBM computers into the lake. For like computers today, tea was a valuable commodity. (It had, after all, traveled all the way around the world on a sailing ship to get to Boston). It was far too valuable a commodity to throw away. That being so, it goes without saying, that many of the so called patriots, who participated in the Boston Tea Party, filled their pockets with tea before dumping it in the harbour. Our ancestors were law abiding citizens and they did not approve of what they perceived as the work of a bunch of hooligans.
The Boston Massacre is another example where the facts got twisted to suit the Revolutionaries' ambitions. To hear the Americans tell it,the British army just showed up and gunned down a bunch of them for no reason whatsoever. In point of fact the whole thing started with a group of teenagers hassling a sentry by throwing snow balls at him. Others came to join in the "fun" and added sticks and stones to the mix. Before long, that one sentry had a full grown riot on his hands. It was at this point that reinforcements were summoned to restore order. The situation still continued to deteriorate. A stone thrown by one of the rioters hit the sentry, knocking him down. When he fell, one of the soldiers, jumping to the erroneous conclusion that he had been shot, fired into the crowd killing three men and mortally wounding two others.
Presented with situations like these, our ancestors saw criminal behaviour rather than revolution. It is therefore not surprising that they wanted and expected someone, namely the authorities to do something about it. Indeed, it is because of incidents such as these that, contrary to what modern day Americans would like to believe, when the revolution finally did get underway, it did not have the support of all the people. In point of fact only about one third of the populace were in favour of it. Of the other two thirds, one third tried to stay neutral, and the other third most decidedly wanted to remain loyal.
It is the group who chose to remain loyal that we are most concerned with. Although it is quite true many of them were conservative in their thinking, in that they were wary of change, this did not mean they were opposed to the concepts of freedom. It was more that they did not believe change necessarily brought freedom. They had learned through bitter experience that revolutions more often than not end up in dictatorships. The English Civil War had been such a case in point. They had overthrown a king only to find themselves living under the military dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. And for all the revolutionaries' talk about freedom, our ancestors could not help but remark on their reluctance to extend this freedom to people who disagreed with them. All around them, people were being tarred and feathered, and having their homes burned just for speaking out against the Revolution.
Many of those who chose to remain loyal were members of minority groups. Quite understandably they feared the tyranny of the majority. Catholics who were in the minority in Virginia were afraid that if the revolutionaries won, they would lose their right to their religion. Blacks had no incentive to join the Revolution. The equality of mankind as spouted by the revolutionaries did not include them. George Washington was a wealthy landowner with slaves before the Revolution. He fully intended to and did in fact remain a wealthy landowner with slaves at the end of the Revolution.
Natives were another group who for the most part chose to remain loyal to the crown. One of the revolutionaries' primary ambitions was to open up the west for settlement, something which up to now the ruling British had opposed. (Not out ot any altruistic reason, mind you. The British just wanted to preserve the west for the fur trade and to have people to move northward into Quebec where they hoped they would overwhelm the French.) Natives knew that any opening up of the west for settlement would lead to the destruction of their culture. The fur traders felt much the same way; settlement would ruin the fur trade.
Then there were those who remained loyal simply because they were given no opportunity to be anything else. A brief attempt at rebellion in Halifax was quickly squashed by the British naval base there. New York City became and remained loyal after the British took it for a base. Others transferred their loyalty according to circumstance. Some revolutionaries captured by the British saw switching their loyalty to the crown as a far better alternative to rotting in a prison ship for the duration of the war.
However, now matter what their reasons were for remaining true to their King, the fact remains the Loyalists paid dearly for their choice in that they lost everything - their homes, their lands, their goods and in some cases, their lives.
Mr. Moore finished his speech with a brief description of various reenactments of battles and war games he participates in. He said reenacting of a battle is a way of bringing history to life, and he highly recommended we come out and watch one of these spectacles. David said he enjoyed participating in the war games most of all. He then went on to give a very entertaining and highly humourous description of a revolutionary war game he had been in recently which, due to their superior training, the British had won. (Apparently the people taking the part of the Americans don't like to drill.) David concluded his speech by saying that even though we might have lost the original Revolutionary War, if the war games kept going the way they were going, he could guarantee we would get our lands back tin New Jersey yet!
By Recording Secretary,
Last Updated: January 25th, 2005
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