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The Fate of Loyalists After the Revolution
Digital History ID 173

Author:   Brooks Watson


One of the Revolution's most striking consequences involved the confiscation and auctioning of lands owned by British loyalists, a policy which resulted in wider land distribution. About one hundred thousand loyalists, and many former slaves, left America mainly for Canada or other regions following the Revolution. In the following letter, Brooks Watson, a British merchant, a member of Parliament, a founder of Lloyds of London, a director of the Bank of England, and a Lord Mayor of London, describes loyalist preparations for migrating to Nova Scotia. Joshua Mauger, the recipient of these letters, was a leading Nova Scotia land owner.

Watson's correspondence offers a loyalist's perspective on the revolution. In another letter written in 1783, he comments: "The People of this Independent country are run a muck, and will soon become objects of Compassion. The unfortunate People who they are now driving to seek refuge will very soon be envied by the Lawless wretches who now persecute them. In Europe we see the Spirit of Freedom Burning from the flames of Discord as Montesquieu says, but in America, the flames of Discord [are sprouting] from the Seeds of Liberty."

The American War for Independence provided the basis for the establishment of the modern Dominion of Canada. During the Revolution, the maritime provinces, Qu├ębec, and the island colonies stood by Britain. During and after the war, tens of thousands of loyalists (including many former slaves liberated by the British army in the South) migrated to Canada. Some settled in the maritime provinces and others moved to a new province New Brunswick. Many others moved to Upper Canada, or what would subsequently become Ontario.


Here we are without a Line from England since the first of Novem[be]r consequently in total Darkness respecting Peace or War and that at a time the most critical to the Political Interests of the two Countrys, for the power of the Congress is quite broken, nay dissolved, and the people more disposed than ever, during the war, to reconcile with the Mother Country, yet my Commander in Chief without information, without powers.

Coming the Winter my time has been fully employed in settling all my public Accounts, to the end I might be ready to move early in the Spring, this I have completed and am now under orders [as an officer] to hold myself ready to Embark for Nova Scotia....

The Loyalists of this Country, are all preparing to leave it to settle in Nova Scotia.... At least 3000 Souls will Sail hence the beginning of next month, and carry with a body of troops with Cannon...and a very considerable property, a like Number will probably sail for St. Johns at the same time. There you see my Dear friend the Province will at least be settled and that with good People of Property, carrying in their Hearts the most settled Love to the Constitution of England, they will form a Barrier against those of opposite principles, and become the envy of all their Neighbors.

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Brooks Watson to Joshua Mauger

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