Loyalists Flee to Canada

Munich, English Garden
Munich, English Garden (Photo credit: palestrina55)


There are many Canadians today who are proud to be descendants of the United Empire Loyalists.  They were the people who lived in the United States until the American Revolutionary War led to the break with Britain.  Remaining loyal to Britain, they decided to move to Canada, many of them giving up beautiful homes.

Some of them went back to Britain but found it difficult to fit in there.  An exception was the famous Boston painter Copley, whose son became Lord Chancellor as Baron Lyndhurst.  Another was Benjamin Thompson, who went to live in Germany where he became Minister of War.  He created the English Garden in Munich and was eventually made a member of the Institute of France, a fellow member with Napoleon.

George M. Wrong in his excellent history, The Canadians, makes an interesting point.  When the American Revolutionary War broke out, there were people in Britain and Canada who favoured the American cause, and spoke out for it.  They were not punished.

In the United States, however, those who were against the war were given rough treatment.  When the British evacuated Charleston, twenty-four Loyalists were executed.  Many more suffered the same fate later on.

Although Sir Guy Carleton did not finish evacuating New York until November 1783, the Loyalists began crossing to Canada in 1782.  Gradually the trickle built up into a flood.  On May 4, 1783, 471 families from New York landed at Shelburne, Nova Scotia.  Eventually, 35,000 Loyalists settled in the Maritime Provinces.  Many others went to Upper Canada and turned the scale against Canada’s being a predominantly French country.

By 1785, Shelburne had received so many Loyalists that it became a bigger city than Halifax.  The British government supplied food and other needs, but when this aid stopped, Shelburne’s growth collapsed.

By May 18, 1783, more than 7,000 Loyalists had landed at Saint John.  They resolved to make it a greater seaport than New York.  It didn’t work out that way, but the Saint John River, 400 miles long, provided forest and farmland for settlement.  Saint John is sometimes known as the “Loyalist  City” today.

Another 20,000 Loyalists sailed all the way up the St. Lawrence to Quebec or Montreal, and then made their way to Upper Canada.  Others escaped from New York and crossed into the Niagara area.

The Americans never honoured the agreement to repay the Loyalists for their losses.  Britain offered partial reparation but payments did not begin until 1790.  Until then, the Loyalists in Canada went through some very hard times. Nova Scotia, in particular, was called “Nova Scarcity.”


Interesting time … want more about this crossover to Canada? There are a few places you can start your quest: United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada is a great place to start; You’ll find beautiful photos at Adventures on the Eastern Edge; The History Place is a good timeline from the United States’ point of view. A few books I suggest are Crossing the Border: A Free Black Community in Canada, and Canada and the American Revolution: The Disruption of the First British Rule, and lastly, Land of the Loyalists.



  1. You good folks are missing the point. Do some research and see that the “Loyalists” took up arms against the Americans and fought on the side of the Brits. They also burned rebel homes and turned rebels in to the Brit Authorities, they were responsible for many American deaths…yes, they were treated harshly after the war…they earned it. They could not stay in the country they tried to prevent from being born. I live in Loyalist Country in Ontario.


    • Yes and the Americans did exactly the same. They burned homes and farms and commit atrocities as well. Some were worst. The New Englanders were staunch anti-Catholic as well. John Adams, Samuel Adams were religious bigots. John Jay suggested all Catholics be banned from voting, holding office and owning property. They manipulated the lower classes to riot. While heroes such as John Hancock filled his pockets. All childish 4th grade level history being propagandized by 238 years of lies. Meanwhile Barrack Hussein Obama is destroying the United States and doing more Usurpation than King George can be accused of. At least he didn’t look for ways to circumnavigate the British Constitution he followed it. The so called Son’s of Liberty acted no better than the terrorist of today. Who Obama ironically support.


  2. I grew up in Shelburne and am aware of it’s history. It was taught to us then that Shelburne had the third largest harbour in the world. Having walked (and biked) the streets many times it is apparent that it anticipated becoming a city. All of the streets are blocked in squares. It does have a beautiful harbour and view. As a young-er man one of my first jobs was looking after the grounds of one of the oldest houses in Shelburne ( Ryer- Davis House)- then owned by a Phylis Davis. The house was located at the northern most point of the harbour. Here’s a link showing the house now that it has been renovated and modernized. http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/image-image.aspx?id=7540#i1
    Anyways thanks for the post and I hope you find these musings interesting.


      • Imposing? Heck No! Please feel free to add your voice to any and all postings on this blog! I love when people drop by and add their opnion, experience, questions … I quite enjoy the back and forth, the give and take. I thank you for dropping by and adding your value. Absolutely thank you!! 🙂


      • Found this quite interesting. I actually lived in this house back in the 60’s. My parents rented the home from Phylis Davis. My father had been posted to Shelburne with the navy. Do you know if the house is a museum now?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow ! You actually lived in the house. Phylis was very careful about who she let into the house. She had quite the phobia (or good sense) about germs. I spent many hours mowing, trimming, prepping a garden there,etc. I’m not certain if it’s a museum. I live in the valley and only get home to see my folks occasionally. I can ask them the next time I call though. I would have been there in the early 80’s or late 70’s. Phylis always treated me well.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This post really make me so proud of Canada. Even tho’ we were occupied by Americans for a century, I think, I never became fond of Americans. I don’t dislike them either. But I care about them. I really really like this post, TK. Viva Canada! Have a grand day. 😛


  4. Many “Patriots” in US then, as now, have little room for middle ground: “Yer either with us or again’ us,” might be a better motto for them than “In God we trust.”
    Of course when I think of what happened in Acadia the same could be said for many in my country…


  5. I’ve read accounts of the Americans mistreating people they deemed insufficiently enthusiastic about the war, as well. It was a tough time to be equivocal, or to question collective wisdom.


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