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The name United Empire Loyalists is an honorific name which has been given after the fact to those American Loyalists who resettled in British North America and other British Colonies as an act of fealty to King George III after the Britishmarker defeat in the American Revolutionary War and prior to the Treaty of Paris. Some sought to recover fortunes (land and private property) lost under laws enacted by the Continental Congress as a way of financing the revolution. Most, however, are believed to have gone north because the British offered them free land, or because they rejected the republican ideals of the American Revolution, which they regarded as anarchistic. A portion of the Loyalists were recent settlers in the 13 colonies and had few economic or social ties to leave, while other prominent Americans, having originally settled in the early 1600's, lost everything. These Loyalists settled in what was initially Quebecmarker (including the Eastern Townships) and modern-day Ontariomarker, where they received land grants of per person, and in Nova Scotiamarker (including modern-day New Brunswickmarker). Their arrival marked the beginning of a predominantly English-speaking population in the future Canadamarker west and east of the Quebec border. Many Loyalists brought their slaves with them because slavery was legal there. An imperial law in 1790 assured prospective immigrants to Canada that their slaves would remain their property. However some black Loyalists were free and they arrived too.


During the American Revolution, a significant proportion of the population of New Yorkmarker, Massachusettsmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Virginiamarker, North Carolinamarker, Georgiamarker, East Florida, West Florida and other colonies remained loyal to the Crown, and later chose to flee to the protection of their King, within the British Empire. The reasons were as varied as the people themselves, but primary reasons were either loyalty to the King and unwillingness to rebel against the Crown, or the belief in peaceful and evolutionary independence (as occurred in Canada under the impetus of the resettled U.S. Loyalists). As Daniel Bliss of Concord, Mass (who later became a Chief Justice of New Brunswick) stated, "Better to live under one tyrant a thousand miles away, then a thousand tyrants one mile away." Many Loyalist refugees made the difficult overland trek into Canada after losing their place, property, and security during the Revolution. The Loyalists, many of whom helped found America from the early 1600's, left a well-armed population hostile to the King and his loyalist subjects to build the new nation of Canada. The motto of New Brunswick, created out of Nova Scotia for loyalist settlement, is "Hope Restored."

Loyalist refugees, later called United Empire Loyalists, began leaving at the end of the war whenever transport was available, at considerable loss of property and transfer of wealth. An estimated 70,000 left the thirteen newly independent states, representing about 3% of the total American population, of which 20-30% had supported the Crown during the American War for Independence . Approximately 62,000 were White and 8,000 Black; 46,000 went to Canada, 7,000 to Britain and 17,000 to the Caribbean. Beginning in the mid-1780s and lasting until the end of the century, some returned from the Caribbean and Nova Scotia.

Following the end of the Revolution and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Loyalist soldiers and civilians were evacuated from New Yorkmarker and resettled in other colonies of the British Empire, most notably in the future Canada. The two colonies of Nova Scotia (including modern-day New Brunswick), received about 34,000 Loyalist refugees, Prince Edward Islandmarker 2,000 and Quebec (including the Eastern Townships and modern-day Ontario) received some 10,000 refugees. Some unknown number, but in places a large percentage, of refugees were unable to establish themselves in British North America and eventually returned to the United States [31251]. Many in Canada continued to maintain close ties with relatives in America, and as well conducted commerce across the border without much regard to British trade laws (ref. Rees, 2000).


The arrival of the Loyalists after the war of independence led to the division of Canada into the provinces of Upper Canada (what is now southern Ontariomarker) and Lower Canada (what is now southern Quebecmarker). The creation of Upper and Lower Canada allowed most Loyalists to live under British laws and institutions while the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could maintain French civil law and the Catholic religion.

Realizing the importance of some type of recognition, on November 9, 1789, Lord Dorchester, the governor of Quebec and Governor General of British North America, declared "that it was his Wish to put the mark of Honour upon the Families who had adhered to the Unity of the Empire." As a result of Dorchester's statement, the printed militia rolls carried the notation:

Those Loyalists who have adhered to the Unity of the Empire, and joined the Royal Standard before the Treaty of Separation in the year 1783, and all their Children and their Descendants by either sex, are to be distinguished by the following Capitals, affixed to their names: U.E. Alluding to their great principle The Unity of the Empire.

Some of the richest and most prominent Loyalists went to Britainmarker to rebuild their lives, and many received pensions. Southern Loyalists, some even taking along their slaves, went to the West Indiesmarker and the Bahamasmarker, particularly to the Abaco Islandsmarker.

Thousands of Iroquois and other pro-British Native Americans were expelled from New York and other states and resettled in Canada. The descendants of one such group of Iroquois, led by Joseph Brant Thayendenegea, settled at Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest First Nations Reserve in Canada. Another smaller group of Iroquois settled on the shores of the Bay of Quinte in modern day South-eastern Ontario. A group of Black Loyalists settled in Nova Scotia but, facing discrimination there, some emigrated again for Sierra Leonemarker.

Many of the Loyalists were forced to abandon substantial amounts of property, and restoration or compensation for this lost property was a major issue during the negotiation of the Jay Treaty in 1795. Negotiations rested on the concept of the American negotiators 'advising' the Congress to provide restitution. For the English this concept carried significant legal weight, far more than it did with the Americans; the U. S. Congress declined to accept the advice. More than two centuries later, some of the descendants of Loyalists still assert claims to their ancestors' property in the United States.


Modern-day descendants of those original refugees often apply the term United Empire Loyalist to themselves, using "UE" as postnominal letters; the honorific is one of few hereditary titles in Canada, although it is not part of the official Canadian honours system. Such everyday practice is rare, even in the original Loyalist strongholds like southeastern Ontario. However, it is used extensively by historians and genealogists.

In Canadian heraldry, Loyalist descendants are also entitled to use a Loyalist coronet in their coat of arms. [31252][31253]
Loyalists civil coronet
The influence of the Loyalists on the evolution of Canada remains. Their ties with Britain and their antipathy to the United States provided the strength needed to keep Canada independent and distinct in North America. The Loyalists' basic distrust of republicanism and "mob rule" influenced Canada's gradual "paper-strewn" path to independence. In effect, the new British North American provinces of Upper Canada (the forerunner of Ontario) and New Brunswickmarker were created as places of refuge for the United Empire Loyalists. The mottos of the two Provinces reflect this history - Ontario's motto is "Ut incepit fidelis sic permanet" (Loyal she began, loyal she remains), New Brunswick's motto is: "Spem Reduxit" (Hope restored).

The word "Loyalist" appears frequently in school, street, and business names in loyalist-settled communities such as Bellevillemarker, Ontario. The nearby city of Kingstonmarker was established as a loyalist stronghold, named in honour of King George III. There is also a township named Loyalistmarker in the suburban outskirts of Kingston.

In 1996, Canadian politicians John Godfrey and Peter Milliken sponsored the Godfrey-Milliken Bill, which would have entitled Loyalist descendants to reclaim ancestral property in the United States that was confiscated by the American government during the American Revolution. The bill, which did not pass in the House of Commons, was primarily intended as a satirical response to the contemporaneous American Helms-Burton Act. Milliken is a descendent of American Loyalists.

List of Loyalist settlements in present-day Canada

Monument to United Empire Loyalists.
Fountain in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.
18th-century names are listed first, alongside their present-day equivalents.

See also


  1. Patrick Bode, "Upper Canada, 1793: Simcoe and the Slaves." Beaver 1993 73(3): 17-19
  2. Dorchester Proclamation, transcript at ""
  3. see for example this on Rootsweb
  • Ronald Rees, Land of the Loyalists: Their struggle to shape the Maritimes, Nimbus, 146 p., 2000, ISBN 1-5510-9274-3.

Further reading

  • Lawrence Hill; The Book of Negroes; Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. 2007.
  • Christopher Moore; The Loyalists: Revolution, Exile, Settlement; 1984, ISBN 0-7710-6093-9.
  • W. Stewart Wallace; The United Empire Loyalists: A Chronicle of the Great Migration; Volume 13 of the "Chronicles of Canada (32 volumes); 1914, Toronto.

External links

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