Friday, August 08, 2014

Refugee camps in Canada (1775-1780)

I love watching "Who Do You Think You Are." The latest episode features Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen who search for their Canadian ancestors. They discover a family who settled on the shores of Lake Champlain in the mid-1700s and got caught up in the Revolutionary War. Their ancestors supported the government (Great Britain) against the revolutionaries and when General Burgoyne's invasion from Canada was stopped at the Battles of Saratoga (1777) the loyalists had to flee to Canada with the retreating army.

The McAdams ancestors spent a year or so at a refugee camp near St. Johns in Quebec, near the American border. The sisters visit the site during the show. It looks like one of the young sons of their ancestors died during the stay in the refugee camp—probably because the conditions were pretty horrible.

One of my ancestral families was Isaac Montras and his wife Tamar Betts. They had a farm near Saratoga and they supported the British side during the revolution. They also had to leave their farm and flee to Canada after the Battles of Saragota. They were settled at another refugee camp in Machoche, Quebec where they stayed for a year before moving on to settle in Nova Scotia.

Tens of thousands of United Empire Loyalists came to Canada after the Thirteen Colonies gained their independence from Great Britain. Nobody knows how many of the residents of the Thirteen Colonies remained loyal to the government in Great Britain but it may have been as much as one-third of the total population. Only a small percentage of them left after the war was over.

You can watch a clip from "Who Do You Think You Are" featuring the McAdams sisters at: Rachel McAdams Learns Her Ancestors' Loyalties. If you want to watch an entire show, I recommend the British version that's been around for ten seasons. Here's one on J.K. Rowling.



17 comments:

  1. This topic is soft-peddled in US history textbooks to put it mildly. We were all supposed to be united against the dastardly King George. The existence of "Tories" (loyalists) is admitted, but their abundance is not.

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    1. American propaganda has been very effective. Most Americans think that Great Britain was an absolute monarchy with King George in complete control. In fact, the Patriots were rebelling against the most democratic country in the world at that time and it was the British Parliament that passed the laws and carried on the war not the king.

      The colonies enjoyed a system of government that promoted elected councils and local decisions. That's why they each had their own "parliaments." It was part of their British heritage.

      The Wikipedia article on American Revolution explains it very well. It hardly mentions King George and it describes how the loyalists in the colonies were gradually ousted by the Patriots. It was the first civil war.

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    2. Larry says: Most Americans think that Great Britain was an absolute monarchy with King George in complete control.

      No. Most Americans don't care. They've heard of Mad King George, but the common complaint is remembered as, "Taxation without representation" [in Parliament].

      the Patriots were rebelling against the most democratic country in the world at that time

      Uh, no. Nice attempt at justifying bad behavior (non-democracy) by trying to point to worse behavior. But Iceland had a parliament long before England did, which cannot claim to "the most democratic" or even close to the oldest democracy; and arguably even the Iroquois Confederacy was more democratic than the English parliament.

      and it was the British Parliament

      Which had a House of Lords with inherited peerages, but had no representation for the colonies, leading to the justifiable complaint, "taxation without representation", and undermining a claim to democracy on the part of parliament.

      that passed the laws and carried on the war...

      The colonies enjoyed a system of government that promoted elected councils and local decisions. That's why they each had their own "parliaments." It was part of their British heritage.


      Uh, you're leaving out big fat problems like the Dominion of New England which pretty much contradicts everything you just said. Massachusettes, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont etc. are called "New England" thanks to the Dominion. Hostilities toward GB ran deep in New England for just this reason.

      WIkipedia: By 1686, King James II had become concerned about the increasingly independent ways of the colonies, including their self-governing charters, their open flouting of the Navigation Acts, and their growing military power. He therefore established the Dominion of New England, an administrative union comprising all of the New England colonies.[27] In 1688, the former Dutch colonies of New York and were added to the Dominion. The union, imposed from the outside and contrary to the rooted democratic tradition of the region, was highly unpopular among the colonists.[28]

      The Dominion significantly modified the charters of the colonies, including the appointment of Royal Governors to nearly all of them. There was an uneasy tension between the Royal Governors, their officers, and the elected governing bodies of the colonies. The governors wanted unlimited authority, and the different layers of locally elected officials would often resist them. In most cases, the local town governments continued operating as self-governing bodies, just as they had before the appointment of the governors.[29]

      After the Glorious Revolution in 1689, Bostonians overthrew the royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros. They seized dominion officials and adherents to the Church of England during a popular and bloodless uprising.[30] These tensions eventually culminated in the American Revolution, boiling over with the outbreak of the War of American Independence in 1775.


      England (and Scotlands)'s great achievements were

      1. equality before the law, and

      2. the secular political philosophy of John Locke and the Enlightenment in general, which entailed a challenge to the divine right of kings, and upon which American political philosophy was, and is still, based.

      Have to give them credit for that.

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    3. Connecticut is called "The Constitution State" today because the Brits tried to seize the state constitution the Yankees had written themselves, and it was hidden in a famous tree, the Charter Oak. Each US state has a quarter dedicated to it, and Connecticut's quarter features the Charter Oak on the obverse side.

      The name "Charter Oak" stems from the local legend in which a cavity within the tree was used in late 1687 as a hiding place for the Charter of 1662. The oak was blown down in a violent storm on August 21, 1856, and timber from it was made into a number of chairs now displayed in the Hartford Capitol Building.

      This much regarding the charter is history:

      King Charles II, in 1662, granted the Connecticut Colony an unusual degree of autonomy.
      In 1686, his successor, James II, consolidated several colonies into the Dominion of New England, in part to take firmer control of them.
      He appointed as governor-general over it Sir Edmund Andros who stated his appointment had invalidated the charters of the various constituent colonies, and presumably seeing symbolic value in physically reclaiming the documents, went to each colony to collect them.
      Andros arrived in Hartford late in October 1687, where his mission was at least as unwelcome as it had been in the other colonies.

      According to the dominant tradition, Andros demanded the document and it was produced, but during ensuing discussion, the lights were doused, concealing the spiriting of the parchment out a window and thence to the Oak by Captain Joseph Wadsworth, ancestor of Elijah Wadsworth.

      ...Andros was overthrown in Boston two years later, in the 1689 Boston revolt. The Dominion of New England was then dissolved.

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  2. I've never quite understood the Canadian obsession with counter-revolutionaries. After all, in 1867 they finally realized enough was enough and that they needed their own government themselves (even though, like Australia, they managed to do it more or less peacefully).

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    1. The so-called "obsession" is an important part of Canadian history. The Loyalists represent a huge addition to Canada's immigrant population in the late 1700s. Why is that so difficult to understand?

      The history of former British colonies is mostly a gradual transition from colony status to independence and the vast majority of former British colonies celebrate the British contribution to freedom, democracy, and economic growth. In fact, most of them are still members of the Commonwealth.

      There's one major exception to this pattern. That's the anomaly that most people have trouble understanding.

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    2. But the Commonwealth wouldn't exist if weren't *for* the American Revolution. Do you seriously think Britain would have let Canada and the others go without a fight if they hadn't already seen the futility of that in America? It's a bit like how the Russian Revolution led to fairer labor laws in US, Canada and so forth as governments hoped to prevent Communist uprisings in their own countries by making workers happier.

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    3. You don't know what you are talking about. Almost none of the other countries were interested in completely severing ties with Great Britain. The exception is South Africa and that didn't work out well for thr rebels. In modern times we have Ireland fighting for independence and Great Britain fought back in spite of their experience with the Thirteen Colonies.

      I wonder why the Northern States didn't just let the Confederate States go, having seen the futility of trying to suppress rebelion?

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    4. Larry:"the vast majority of former British colonies celebrate the British contribution to freedom, democracy"

      Aye, British imperialism and the rape of natural resources is remembered so fondly in Ireland and Africa. Say to an Irishman, "To Hell or Connaught" and he gets a sentimental tear in his eye, 'tis pinin' for the old days he is, and he buys you a drink and doesn't punch you in your ugly mug a'tall, arra.

      There's one major exception to this pattern.

      Ireland again? No? Oh wait... Hong Kong, maybe? The Chinese did adore how you stole Hong Kong with your $%&*king Opium Wars, took two of those, and deliberately drug-addicted AN ENTIRE CIVILIZATION to correct your import-export balance, and to make a continent easier to slice into little bits which were so much easier to steal. Just say "Opium Wars" or "Burning the Summer Palace" to a Chinese and he will fill your glass with wu liang ye and kung fu chop your enemies and give you his precious daughters' hand in marriage.

      "Almost none of the other countries were interested in completely severing ties with Great Britain... In modern times we have Ireland fighting for independence"

      In modern times!? Uh, over a 600 year period the Irish fought and died for independence with the exception of perhaps from the Battle of the Boyne to the Famine. Twenty years later, the Fenians were formed, and 10 years after that they were invading Canada.

      The Irish wanted independence. They fought for it in the Easter uprising and the British hung them as criminals. The British Empire understood how to break the spirit of the best, bravest people in any civilization: make them swear loyalty to the King. That way nobody can ever fight for independence without breaking a vow and being dishonorable. That's why the British demanded that the leaders of the Irish Free State swear loyalty to the King, and why the Republicans-- or the best of them-- refused.

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    5. The difference was that the South voluntarily *agreed* to be a member of the American Union. I don't think anyone bothered to ask the Thirteen Colonies, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, etc. on whether they wanted to be part of the British Empire.

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    6. Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia clearly agreed. Texas agreed. But I don't see how you can make a case that any other Southern state agreed. They were all American territories to begin with and were never offered any sort of choice, other than to become states or remain territories.

      But I presume Larry was being facetious about that anyway. This is one of the sillier arguments this blog has seen.

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  3. I wonder why the Northern States didn't just let the Confederate States go, having seen the futility of trying to suppress rebelion?

    The answer to that one is very simple. If the Southern states had been allow to depart, the rest of the country would have split up too with New England defecting and the upper Midwest defecting. I wonder what the history of the 20th century would have looked like if what is now the United States of America had been split into 5 or 6 independent nations. The British should be glad that didn't happen because if it had, there would have been no USA to pull Britain's chestnuts out of the fire in WW1, not to mention WW2.

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    1. The USA made an insignificant contribution to achieving an armistice in 1918. In World War II, Britain's chestnuts were already out of the fire by the time the United States entered the war more than two years after it began. By then, it was far too late for the French chestnuts. That wasn't a very nice way to treat their main Revolutionary War ally (France).

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    2. If the USA doesn't intervene in WW1, Britain and France lose the war. They nearly managed to lose the war anyway, despite the incompetence of the German high command until Ludendorff and von Hindenberg took over. As for WW2, remember Lend Lease? No USA, no Lend Lease, no Lend Lease, Britain is out of the war and under German occupation in 1941.


      By the way, in 1940, the USA was in no condition to do anything to help France. The French managed to get themselves ousted from the war by the incompetence of nincompoops like Gamelin.

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    3. Larry, now you're just saying weird shit to be provocative. The U.S. did little to save Britain from invasion (on this I disagree with colnago80), and that danger was over by the time we entered the war. But the uboats could have defeated Britain without U.S. intervention, and we were fighting that battle long before December 1941. Victory in Cyrenaica and Egypt would have been unlikely without U.S. material aid to 8th army, and I don't just mean Torch. As for winning the war, Britain and the Empire were largely exhausted by the time of Overlord. Anyway, without the U.S., there probably wouldn't have been a German occupation of Britain, but there could easily have been a stalemate ending in a negotiated peace and continued, long-term Nazi occupation of Europe. Is all this just you asserting Canadian exceptionalism?

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    4. If the USA doesn't intervene in WW1, Britain and France lose the war.

      I suppose it's debatable. See: American Expeditionary Forces.

      As for WW2, remember Lend Lease? No USA, no Lend Lease, no Lend Lease, Britain is out of the war and under German occupation in 1941.

      The Lend Lease act was passed by the US Congress on March 11, 1941, That's about six months after Great Britain won the Battle of Britain.

      By the way, in 1940, the USA was in no condition to do anything to help France.

      Could they have helped in 1939? That's when Great Britain and the other allies sent troops to defend France.

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    5. Re Larry Moran

      Could they have helped in 1939? That's when Great Britain and the other allies sent troops to defend France.

      No, the US Army in 1939 was in no shape to help anybody. The draft wasn't reinstituted until 1940 and the US Army wasn't much more then a corporal's guard. Besides which, Roosevelt would quite likely have been impeached and removed from office if he attempted to send the corporal's guard to France, not that it would have contributed anything substantive to the war effort at that time.

      By the way, the British/French defeat in 1940 was due to the fact that the high command sent virtually all the armored units into Belgium in anticipation of a repeat of the Schlieffen Plan of WW1. Unfortunately, the Germans sent their armored units through the Ardennes, which the French high command considered impenetrable by tanks. General Gudarian thought otherwise and was proven right. It was only due to Frankenberger holding up the advance of the Panzer divisions for 24 hours that allowed to units in Belgium to escape into Dunkirk where they could be lifted off back to Britain by sea. Had he not done so, the Germans would probably have beaten the British forces to Dunkirk and bagged the lot of them.


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