United Empire Loyalists versus late loyalists

Some researchers think of folkways as easy-going, everyday habits (greetings, food choices, religious choices). Mores, say the same people, are folkways that get codified into policies and bylaws and laws (no parking, no speeding, no murdering). Folkways and mores exist for the same purpose: they’re just manners, set up by a team’s bosses, to lubricate interpersonal exchanges and foster civic order. As a team ages, new teams break off. New teams demand new manners.

I say this because everyone understands Canada and the United States are distinct countries in 2020. Yes, Canada has an American start. But, as we know, Canada has grown into a country with different public manners than our American neighbour.

Further, Canada is an oxymoron: we’re “republican monarchists.” Facts may hurt (we don’t like our American beginnings) but facts are facts. Looking away from facts is tantamount to a lie. Canadians say we don’t like lies but we do. This website is largely dedicated to unearthing facts Canadians don’t like.

The American Revolution blazes a hasty trail to British Québec and the blazing continues into Upper and Lower Canada until 1815. Two kinds of American folkways come to Upper and Lower Canada: first round (pro British) in 1784, and second round (pro American) post 1790.

Ruth McConnell says the immediate effect of the American Revolution (1775-1783) is south-to-north immigration, which carries on, unbroken, until around the end of the next ‘civil’ war (c. 1814-1815): “American settlers continued to move into British North America, and within a generation after 1783 the area that later would become Ontario had a population of over 90 000 – largely land-hungry settlers from the United States, with a sprinkling of British and German soldiers and other immigrants . . .. The base of Canadian English is the North American English spoken by those first settlers of the 1780s and 1790s.” Thus, as McConnell explains, Canadians sound the way we do because of early American settlement.

Many students of Canadians Studies, University of Alberta (1979-2001), imagine American loyalists join in with long-established English-speaking communities in Upper Canada. Not true. American-born settlers, both United Empire Loyalists (UEL) and late loyalists, are the first critical mass of English speakers in the upper country we know as Ontario and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. 

But one must insist American influence does not stop with idiom and intonation. With the late loyalists, American ideas about democracy, republicanism and responsible government also make the trip. 

Egalitarian-minded American “late” loyalists, layered with post-1815 Calvinism imported from the British Isles, have a great deal to do with the fact many modern English-speaking Canadians tend to mock those who believe they are to the manor/manner born. Unlike the UEL of old (who will form the Family Compact and the Château Clique), many Canadians do not appreciate an entrenched aristocracy. Men and women should earn their place. Republicanism, brought north with the late loyalists, marks a great part of the Canadian mindset: plain living and indefatigable industry qualify one for leadership. Meritocracy, however idealistic, is a superb weapon to use against an inherited elite. 

United Empire Loyalists (UEL) versus late loyalists: think city mouse and country mouse

To be clear. American-born late loyalists are not identical in folkways to American-born United Empire Loyalists (UEL).

UEL slavishly cling to and/or imitate gentrified English custom, which is most noticeable in urban centres; late loyalists are simply themselves. Late loyalists are mostly American farmers and tradespeople. They take their tea from wooden or clay noggins and not, with pinkies raised, from Wedgwood bone china. Like boll weevils they are looking for a home. 

After the American Revolution, human migration from south to north is massive. At the outbreak of the second Anglo-American war, the War of 1812, so-called, a full 80% of English speakers in Canada are American-born.

This puts to bed the notion that loyalists seeking land in BNA are English and unestablished in the USA. Late loyalists are born in the USA. They sound American. They think American. On a census form they may swear they’re “British” (the Crown’s prerequisite to acquire land) but they are acculturated* Americans [*see, forthcoming, Weird Tit-for-tat: the game of our lives for ordinary people]. All loyalists arriving between 1784 and 1812 speak in a Northeastern American dialect but the prime difference between the UEL and late loyalists lies not only in their time of arrival but also in their political attitudes.

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 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, p18).

UEL loyalism, as Knowles points out, waxes and wanes, until, by 1884, the Platonic ideal of Englishness (in literature, historical knowledge, public symbols) “suffocates” (see James Paxton and Joseph Brant, Canajoharie Mohawk) the genuine and North American character of the country. (See also Sara Jeannette Duncan’s The Imperialist).

Having faced death and expropriation in the northern states, the urban UEL, over the years, grow ever more frantically and fanatically loyal to England to make sure the Canadian culture is as distinct as possible from American culture. UEL fear American expansion. Late loyalists are meh about England and confirmed in American ways, and remain so.

UEL arrive in 1784, which is the year they celebrate their flight from Pennsylvania (or New York or New Jersey), but the late-comers arrive in Upper Canada and the Eastern Townships post 1791. One particular conversion date for late loyalists, not nearly so merry as the one celebrated for the UEL in 1784 (1884), comes on 20 July 1814 – with the lesson of the Bloody Assize. Be loyal or hang.

Why are 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 leaves Great Britain with a pressing problem in Upper Canada: how to hold a sparsely populated British territory against the might of the First Nations, who own the territory, and how to resist an expanding French-Canadian settlement, who want it.

Though significant, United Empire Loyalist numbers in 1784 are 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 Joseph Brant has the same problem: how to hold on to the territory designated for the Six Nations/Haudenosaunee with sparse Indigenous numbers [see Classic demonization: Joseph Thayendanegea Brant, Canajoharie Mohawk.] 

To solve the problem of the Protestant, English-speaking sparsity in the upper country, the Crown turns to citizens of its erstwhile enemy. Britain feels it needs an immediate influx of ‘Anglo-Saxons’ to take up agricultural pursuits in the Maritimes and Québec. And fast. Québec, divided, and after 1791 called Upper and Lower Canada, remains, somewhat shakily, in Britain’s grasp. Lower Canada and Nova Scotia are home to diverse but large French populations. Beautiful places. Montréal. Québec City. The villages of Acadie. But there are gaps.

We do well to remember the emptiness of central Canada. In the late 1780s in western “Québec” (soon to be Upper Canada), there is yet no English Toronto. No Hamilton. No London. An impressive and dense Carolinian forest blankets the country above Niagara. Huronia, former home of the Huron/Wyandot, is done. The Great Lakes’ lands, which hover over the border, now belong to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League/Six Nations Confederacy). Massive cross-border Indigenous territory is close, too close, to (expansionist) America. Britain feels it needs to populate the upper country with English-speaking farmers who know and understand how to conquer the Carolinian expanse. Incredible as it seems, population density two hundred years ago is the exact reverse of today. An invitation to the former enemy is issued and the stage is set for the Bloody Assize.

The invitation – and different folkways. 

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

United Empire Loyalists are English loyalists. They flee war and persecution to save their English hides but the late loyalists are, of course, late. During peacetime on 7 February 1792 Lieutenant-Governor Clarke of Lower Canada decides the land above the Vermont border will be open to settlement and all a citizen of the United States must do to receive the Crown’s munificence (land and land and land) is to take an oath of allegiance to King George lll. 

Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe of Upper Canada finds inspiration here. Accordingly Simcoe invites American patriots to try out his new colony. Late loyalists take up the Crown’s kindly offer and move over the border to claim land in British North America. They travel north because king and colonial minions assure them all will be well. Understood is 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” of English-speaking folkways settles in Upper Canada. These folks do not share the UEL’s growing passion for Mother England. For many late loyalists, feelings are quite the opposite. They are small r republicans. Many are Quakers or Anabaptists.

Most particularly in Toronto, the UEL overload their American speech intonations and two-hundred-year-old continental customs with an icing of received la-di-dah Englishness, clipped t’s (listen to Catherine O’Hara of Schitt’s Creek clip her t’s and puff out her a’s in delightful mockery of the Toronto loyalist received English accent). UEL Englishness requires quaint landed-gentry amusements, like (coyote) fox-hunting. 

Late loyalists, being rural, tend to stick to their curious old-country ways. They hunt for food. A late loyalist has quite a matter-of-fact and pragmatic puritan-American manner. A late loyalist may be a pacifist. He may be a blacksmith. She may be a teacher or a farmer or a nurse. Maybe there’s a land jobber among them. Or a retired officer. Or an old Indian fighter. But land is wealth. What New Jersey (or New York or Pennsylvania) man or woman with no reasonably priced farmland available stateside will not respond to the king’s siren call? It is far easier 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 move north and sign up for Crown land in the 1790s and duly swear their oaths to King George. Late loyalists are painfully familiar with British militarization. However. They also know the British political system has responsible government. The new American-born immigrants coming to Canada want freedom. They want to enjoy the rights of Englishmen. After land, late loyalists want civil rights, which lie uppermost in the minds of the disciples of several pacifist religions, always treated rather badly in the USA.

Simcoe assures the pacifists – such as the Anabaptist Mennonites and the “inward light” Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Children of Peace who settle at Sharon (see Bella Davis) – that, signing on as British subjects, they are welcome in Upper Canada. Various non-violent sects settle in the Haldimand tract and the Huron tract and the Home District. Simcoe promises them exemption from military service. Late loyalists of the extreme pacifist stripe most definitely do not ape Anglican Englishness. They have the egalitarian manners of their own cultures to cling to.

Take a peek into the future: in 1837, American-born pacifists who have pioneered in the Home District, and their pacifist sons and daughters, will take a decidedly non-pacifist stance against the Family Compact. They stoke an uprising against the Crown, They despise the snooty colonial administration in Toronto. They loathe the Family’s Compact for its failure to grant responsible government to Upper Canada. UEL 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 republican historians giving us a better picture of the period and outlining the grievances and praising the courage of the rebels.

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.”






Elements:, , , , , , , , , , , ,