United Empire Loyalists, Late Loyalists and Their Different Folkways



ENGLISH in Canada – Canadian English is a latecomer “lingo” in post-revolutionary British North America (BNA).

The Thirteen Colonies were gone. After the American Revolution, 1783, that which was left of English “claims” and settlements in North America belonged to First Nations and colonial French. French and Indigenous languages marked the territory. There were no English, only military garrisons and fur-trading posts.

Fast arriving in BNA, post revolution (until 1815), are two sets of Anglo-American folkways, whose adherents have enough critical mass to swamp the French and FN and set the rules.

The two sets of folkways (which, taken together, shaped our Anglo-American/Canadian speech) fundamentally describe two different culture clubs: United Empire Loyalists (UEL) and the late loyalists.

Points to remember:

a) In the fullness of time, UEL and their descendants are responsible for Toronto and English Montréal’s hyper-loyalism.

b) Various other components of this country are far older than its English-speaking component. Though nothing in comparison to First Nations, the French were in North America for almost 200 years before the American Revolution changed everything.

Before 1776, the English dominated the French in various battles but here’s the question: Could the English ever have held Québec without an infusion of Anglo settlers?

That’s exactly what the American Revolution provided – English-speaking settlers. American-born people loyal to Britain fled north into Québec to occupy “free” land. In 1791, Québec was divided into Upper and Lower Canada. Needless to say, French Canadians (Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba) have no great love for the British Monarchy.

c) Until mid-20th century, received Anabaptist/Calvinistic/Victorian protestant manners, rigorously followed in Ontario, set the (central) Canadian manner.

d) Once upon a time in Toronto, lovers of the British Empire made the city the most “imperialistic” community in Canada.

e) 19th and early 20th-century Canadian UEL imperialists bet on Great Britain’s Commonwealth to rule the 20th-century world; no bets on America. And imperialists were wrong. But elite loyalism died/dies hard in Toronto.

f) For 21st-century Canadians living outside Toronto, the popularity of Canada’s 19th-century imperialism (and Toronto’s role in it) remains a bit of a mystery.

Carl Berger: “Imperialism [the absolute inevitability and surety the British Empire did – and ought to – dominate the pink globe] was one form of Canadian nationalism.” 19th-century Britain was flailing, economically, and Canadian imperialists (mostly in Toronto) wanted to take their rightful place at the head of the British family. “This sense of nationality was grounded upon a definite conception of Canada’s past, her national character, and her mission in the future, and at its heart was a yearning for significance and a desire to obliterate the stigma of colonialism. ‘I … am an imperialist,’ said Stephen Leacock,* ‘because I will not be a Colonial.’¹ ‘There is no antagonism … between Canadianism and imperialism,’ declared the premier of Ontario in 1900 [George William Ross]. ‘The one is but the expansion of the other.’²”

 Berger, Carl, and Doug Owram. “Conclusion.” In The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914, Second Edition, 259-65. Toronto; Buffalo; London: University of Toronto Press, 2013. Accessed May 25, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt5hjw51.17.

Oh my. With the (faint) hope Canada might lead the charge for a new, exciting, and revamped commonwealth, the 19th- and early 20th-century Anglo-Canadian ruling class and the Toronto establishment dashed the hopes of many who wanted a share in establishment prestige, a fact that was dismaying to most of BNA’s astonished non-British or female inhabitants, and thereby marginalizing First Nations, ambitious women, Blacks, and Irish Catholics  – see the colour-coded census of 1901. 

*A funnyman of his time, Stephen Leacock was more than an ardent imperialist. He was a much-admired and well known contemporary mannerist and hilarious mocker of provincial Ontario’s folkways (and against women who wanted the vote), but it must also be said: Leacock’s pro-English bias made this gifted storyteller and economist-mathematician simply impossible as a Canadian visionary. In brief, Leacock’s conservatism stands on the wrong side of Canadian history. His 19th-century ideas about race, culture, women and England are no longer popular (outside some of the enclaves of “old stock” Canada). Wise-cracking satirist Stephen Leacock has proved he was no Mark Twain. Satirist (and liberal) Sara Jeannette Duncan (1861-1922) was just as humorous as Leacock (1869 – 1944). But Duncan was much wiser than Leacock about English-Canadian folkways and Canada’s “feminine” side. Like Twain’s Huck Finn (1884), Duncan’s Advena (new woman) Murchison (The Imperialist 1904) “lights out for the territory,” hoping to be early enough to set the rules of a freer, more liberal/Canadian culture club.

See readings

Below, see article by Philippe Lagassé


Different Folkways

United Empire Loyalists (UEL 1784) versus late loyalists (1791-1815): think city mouse and country mouse

After the American Revolution, migration direct from south to north was massive. This ought to put to bed the notion that loyalists seeking land in British North America (BNA) were English-born and unestablished in the USA. All loyalists, United Empire Loyalists and late loyalists, sounded “American,” i.e., they spoke like others in their former homes – 18th-century New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania.

Immediately following the end of the American Revolution, United Empire Loyalists (UEL) arrived in BNA because they were the injured parties. Patriots hated them. (For a quick glimpse of the rancor, see Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman, Major Molineux.”)  Patriots chased British loyalists from the United States and many UEL fled north. The fugitives were the first mass of English speakers in Canada. UEL stepped into a literal colonial vacuum – both in space and leadership – and assumed many offices necessary for colonial governance. UEL mark their anniversary from 1784. UEL, largely Anglican, and their descendants slavishly clung to and/or imitated gentrified English custom, which was/is most noticeable in urban centres in Upper and Lower Canada.

Late loyalists (arriving in the British colonies after 1791) were farmers – county mice – and not so much injured by the revolution as perhaps bullied for being pacifists. Late loyalists wanted land, and freedom to practise their plain-living, egalitarian sects – Mennonite, Quaker, Children of Peace, Hicksite. Late loyalists were mostly American farmers and tradespeople and builders. They took their tea from wooden or clay noggins and not, with pinkies raised, from Wedgwood bone china. Unlike UEL, late loyalists thought of themselves as Americans, not displaced English persons. Of course, on a census form late loyalists swore they were “British” (the Crown’s prerequisite to acquire land) but they were acculturated republicans, used to responsible government. 

In contrast, many UEL (Family Compact and Clique du Château) were all right with executive government, responsible to the Crown.

Late loyalists were not so keen on an executive system, where the cabinet answered to a governor and not to the people. They wanted a government responsible to the people. Norman Knowles writes, “there is little truth in the image of the Loyalist as an Anglophile who venerated all things British and detested all things American. Governor Haldimand [sic] was shocked when Associated Loyalists insisted upon ‘a form of government as nearly similar as possible to that which they Enjoyed in the Province of New York’ (Inventing the Loyalists, 18).”

UEL loyalism, as Knowles points out, waxed and waned as useful, until, by 1884 (the centennial anniversary of the UEL’s flight from USA), the platonic ideal of Englishness in literature, historical knowledge, public symbols “suffocated” (see James Paxton and Joseph Brant, Canajoharie Mohawk) the grass-roots North American character of the newest North American country. 

Having faced death and expropriation in the northern states and worried about the American manifest destiny, UEL over the years, grew ever more frantically and fanatically loyal to Victorian England to make sure the Canadian culture was as distinct as possible from loose and degenerate republicanism. For a hundred years UEL feared American expansionist impulses.

Late loyalists were meh about England, and confirmed in puritan, egalitarian ways, and remained so.

Anti-American rhetoric, an attitude so well appreciated in English-speaking Canada, had its early beginnings in loyalty and prospered like a toxic weed. 19th-century British governors wanted to pinch a looming rival in the bud. For many years after the revolution, the Crown and colonial administrators feared the growing power of America, but most of all they dreaded the creeping American invasion of Canada. To combat such a dire and humiliating occurrence as a soft takeover, and to gin up the base, as it were, the Crown and colonial governance in Canada badmouthed America, non-stop, slinging at the republic various derogatory names. After decaying and republican, the worst slur was disloyal. Canada of today, according to the research company, Environics, has inclusive folkways, which are distinct from the USA, the former being more complementary to Northern European countries. The most right-wing province in Canada is still left of the most left-wing state in the USA.

Why are the country mice– late loyalists (American patriots and the former enemy) – allowed into British territory anyway?  


Ending the American Revolution, the Anglo-American Peace of Paris in 1783 left Great Britain with a pressing problem: how to hold sparsely populated British North American colonies against the might the new republic, against the First Nations, who owned the territory, and against an expanding French-Canadian settlement, who wanted it.

Though significant, United Empire Loyalists’ numbers in 1784 were not enough to fill the Upper-Canadian empty spaces with the critical mass of agriculture-minded settlers necessary for a thriving British colony to feed itself. Pine Tree Mohawk Chief Thayendanegea Joseph Brant had the same problem: how to hold on to a vast territory with few numbers (meagre numbers not reaching critical mass). In the event, to solve the problem of few WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon protestants) in the upper country, the Crown turned to citizens of its erstwhile enemy. Britain felt it needed an immediate influx of hardy ‘Anglo-Saxons’ to take up agricultural pursuits in the Maritimes and Québec. And fast. Québec, divided, and after 1791 called Upper and Lower Canada, remained, somewhat shakily, in Britain’s grasp. Lower Canada and Nova Scotia were home to diverse but large French populations. Beautiful places. Montréal. Québec City. The villages of Acadie. But there were too many heavily forested gaps.

One does well to remember the human emptiness of the upper country. In the late 1780s in western “Québec” (soon to be Upper Canada), there was yet no WASP urbanity. No English Toronto. No English Hamilton. No English London. No English Ottawa. An impressive and dense Carolinian forest blanketed the country above Niagara. Huronia, former home of the Huron/Wyandot/Wendat, was done. The Great Lakes’ open lands, which hovered over the border, now belonged to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League/Six Nations Confederacy). Colonials felt the massive (cross-border) Indigenous territory was close, too close, to (expansionist) America. The Seneca wanted their brothers- and sisters-in-arms close by. That was one reason Thayendanegea chose the Grand River Valley. In any case, Britain felt it needed to populate the upper country with English-speaking farmers who knew and understood how to conquer the Carolinian expanse. Incredible as it seems, population density two hundred years ago was the exact reverse of today. An invitation to the former enemy was issued (and the stage was set for the Bloody Assize of 1814, whereby the British, hypocritically, hanged several pro-American settlers, who had been charged with treason for showing their natural sympathies. Some late loyalists had been in BNA for less than 10 years.)

The invitation – and different folkways. 

City mouse “UEL” and country mouse “late loyalist” have different attitudes to governance.

United Empire Loyalists were English loyalists. They fled the American war and persecution and expropriation and tarring-and-feathering to save their hides. In today’s world, UEL grievances would be similar to the grievances of anti-communist Cubans in Florida. In contrast, late loyalists were, of course, late. Extreme Protestants among them, late loyalists claimed they were keen on their pacifist religions and wouldn’t fight the Crown, and that was about it. During peacetime on 7 February 1792 Lieutenant-Governor Clarke of Lower Canada decided the land above the Vermont border would be open to settlement and all a citizen of the United States had do to receive the Crown’s munificence (land and land and land) was to take an oath of allegiance to King George lll. 

Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe of Upper Canada found inspiration here. Accordingly Simcoe invited Americans to try out his new colony. Late loyalists took up the Crown’s kindly offer and moved over the border to claim land in British North America. They travelled north because king and colonial minions assured them all would be well. Understood was the following: “Declare your allegiance to the Crown and move in and make improvements. By all means squat on Indian land. Our biased anti-aboriginal colonial courts will support you [see Harring, White Man’s Law: Native People in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Jurisprudence].” And so, another “culture club” with critical mass and egalitarian folkways settled in Upper Canada. The folks did not share the UEL’s hysterical passion for Mother England, or Canada First or Imperialism. For many late loyalists, feelings were quite the opposite. They were small r republicans. 

Most particularly in Toronto, the UEL overloaded their American speech intonations and two-hundred-year-old continental customs with an icing of received la-di-dah Englishness, clipped t’s. UEL Englishness required quaint landed-gentry amusements, like (coyote) fox-hunting. 

Late loyalists, being rural, tended to stick to their curious old-country ways. They hunted for food. A late loyalist had quite a matter-of-fact and pragmatic puritan-American manner. Late loyalists might have hated war. Maybe there was a land jobber among them. Or a retired officer. Or an old Indian fighter. But land was wealth. What persecuted New Yorker or Pennsylvanian man or woman with no reasonably priced farmland available stateside would not respond to the king’s siren call? It was far easier for a community to travel north into the British colonies – the Canadas or the Maritimes – than to make the trek west into dangerous Indian country: Ohio or Kentucky or Indiana.

Thousands of land-hungry Americans moved north and signed up for Crown land in the 1790s and 1800s and duly swore their oaths to King George. Late loyalists were painfully familiar with British militarization. However. They also knew the British political system had responsible government. The new American-born immigrants coming to Canada wanted religious freedom. They wanted to enjoy the rights of Englishmen. 

Simcoe assured the plain-living folk – the Anabaptist Mennonites and the “inward light” Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Children of Peace who settled at Sharon (see Bella Davis) – that, signing on as British subjects, they were welcome in Upper Canada. Various non-violent sects settled in the Haldimand tract and the Huron tract and the Home District. Simcoe promised them exemption from military service. Unlike UEL, late loyalists of the extreme pacifist stripe most definitely did not ape Anglican Englishness, à la Toronto. Late loyalists practised the manners of their own egalitarian religious cultures.

(Take a peek into the future: in 1837, American-born pacifists who pioneered in the Home District, and their pacifist sons and daughters, will take a decidedly non-pacifist stance against the Family Compact. They will stoke an uprising against the Crown. The Children of Peace despise the snooty colonial administration in Toronto. They loathe the Family Compact and its failure to grant responsible government* to Upper Canada. Loyal historians have written extensively about this messy chapter in Canada’s development. The story they tell is not the whole story. UEL historians belittle the rebels. We look forward to folkways’ historians giving us a better picture of the period and outlining the grievances and praising the courage of the pacifists.)

Sharon Temple. Children of Peace, Society of Friends (Quakers)

David Mills (The Idea of Loyalty in Upper Canada, 1784-1850says “few Loyalist leaders articulated their fundamental beliefs because they were not concerned with analyzing the reasons for their loyalty; instead they sought to capitalize on that loyalty by linking it with such tangible rewards as land grants, government offices, and political and social influence.”





Canada’s two English-Speaking culture clubs (folkways), monarchist and republican, date from United Empire Loyalists (1784) and late loyalists (1790 – 1815). Needless to say, many Canadian are viscerally aware of how insulting the British Crown is to half the country – large segments of our population don’t need daily reminders of 17th and 18th-century colonialism.

*From Philippe Lagassé

Republicans can find comfort in the fact that Canadians who are keen on the monarchy are in the minority. The question is whether the republican movement, such as it is, can make anything of Canadians’ tepid support for the monarchy.

Monarchists have the upper hand in this debate. When Canada patriated its Constitution in 1982, monarchist premiers ensured that any change to Canada’s status as a monarchy would require a unanimous constitutional amendment, with the support of all provincial legislatures and the federal Parliament. Specifically, paragraph 41(a) of the Constitution Act, 1982 states that the unanimous amending procedure must be followed to alter matters related to “the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province.”

If republicans hope to make headway, they will need to work within the courts’ interpretation of this constitutional provision.

What does the “office” of the Queen cover? Recent court rulings have told us that the rule that decides who holds the office is not part of the office itself. As argued by the federal government and supported by courts in Ontario and Quebec, Canada follows a “rule of recognition,” whereby whoever is the monarch in the United Kingdom is automatically the Canadian sovereign. But this rule does not fall under the protection of paragraph 41(a). According to the recent Quebec Court of Appeal ruling in Motard, the provision protects the institution of the monarchy but not the procedural rules about who succeeds to the throne.

This appears to mean that not the unanimous amending procedure but the general one — requiring the support of two thirds of the provinces with at least 50 percent of the population — would need to be used to abandon the existing rule of recognition. A case might also be made that the federal Parliament could undertake a unilateral amendment under section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982 to alter this rule. If the United Kingdom becomes a republic, for instance, it might be necessary for Canada’s Parliament to quickly establish rules of succession to the Canadian throne.

Could republicans leverage this decoupling of the office from the rule governing who holds the office? Perhaps. But it’s important to note that the courts did not suggest that Canada could do without a monarch. While there may be some flexibility around how we might amend the rule that determines who holds the office of the Queen, the fact that we have a monarch, and are a monarchy, is protected by the unanimous amending procedure.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Senate Reference, moreover, suggests that our highest court wouldn’t be particularly open to clever ways of changing the rule of who gets to be monarch to make the governor general the head of state or to make the monarch an elected office. In that 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the idea of using consultative elections to guide the appointment of senators without a constitutional amendment, so it seems unlikely that the justices would give republicans a creative way of undermining the monarchy. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Senate Reference, moreover, suggests that our highest court wouldn’t be particularly open to clever ways of changing the rule of who gets to be monarch…

This still leaves the question of what does fall under the office of the Queen. As part of its ruling in Motard, the Quebec Court of Appeal provided an answer: paragraph 41(a) of the Constitution Act, 1982 protects “les pouvoirs, le statut et le rôle conférés au monarque” (the powers, the status and the role conferred upon the monarch). A change to the status of the monarch as the head of state and the personification of the state, this seems to suggest, would require the unanimous amending procedure. Similarly, the powers that the sovereign retains in the Constitution, such as the appointment of additional senators under section 26 of the Constitution Act, 1867, would be protected by this procedure. Although nearly all the Queen’s powers have been delegated to the governor general, both their offices are covered by paragraph 41(a), cementing the Crown’s constitutional authorities.

Governor General David Johnston (right) and Richard Wall, Chief of the Currency of the Bank of Canada, unveil a commemorative $20 bank note takes during an unveiling ceremony of stamps, coins and bank notes commemorating the reign of Queen Elizabeth at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General in Ottawa, on September 9, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

That said, the Queen has other personal rights and privileges that can arguably be displaced by regular statute or a change in practice. These include her prerogative to create new honours for Canada, her authority to decide how royal symbols and the royal cipher are used and her appointment of honorary colonels-in-chief for certain military regiments. She is also consulted on the use of royal effigies and regarding the regulations that surround the Great Seal of Canada. It should be noted, furthermore, that there is no constitutional requirement to have the Queen on our bills and coinage, to hang the sovereign’s portrait in government buildings or to invite the monarch and members of the British royal family to take part in royal tours of Canada. As well, the oath that new citizens take to the Queen, which the Ontario Court of Appeal has diluted to the point of meaninglessness, is not a constitutional requirement and could be changed by Parliament. The choice to retain these practices remains with Parliament or the government of the day.

Most important, the Letters Patent 1947 appear to give governors general the power to appoint their own successors. The Letters Patent 1947 were apparently written this way to avoid the need for a Canadian regency act. Instead of identifying a regent if the monarch is a minor or incapacitated, the Letters Patent 1947 empower the governor general to exercise all the Queen’s powers. Thus far the appointment of the governor general has been left with the monarch, but a future government may decide that a change is in order.

It is ultimately in these areas —the soft underbelly of monarchical symbolism— that Canadian republicans will have to focus their attention, at least until they can hope to convince all provinces and the federal Parliament to reconsider our constitutional order. While paragraph 41(a) ensures that Canada is a monarchy, the Queen’s remaining personal rights and privileges are vulnerable, as are many of the practices that emphasize royalty and the sovereign’s standing.

While republicans stand little chance of altering Canada’s monarchical form, therefore, they can effect changes in our monarchical substance. And while monarchists can take comfort in the fact that the Crown is constitutionally entrenched and protected, they would do well to recognize that the public may not be especially wedded to the symbols that give the monarchy substantive meaning in Canada.