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The Loyalists of America and their Times
From 1620 to 1816 by Egerton Ryerson, D.D., LL.D., Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada from 1844 to 1876. in two volumes (1880)


As no Indian pen has ever traced the history of the aborigines of America, or recorded the deeds of their chieftains, their “prowess and their wrongs”—their enemies and spoilers being their historians; so the history of the Loyalists of America has never been written except by their enemies and spoilers, and those English historians who have not troubled themselves with examining original authorities, but have adopted the authorities, and in some instances imbibed the spirit, of American historians, who have never tired in eulogizing Americans and everything American, and deprecating everything English, and all who have loyally adhered to the unity of the British Empire.

I have thought that the other side of the story should be written; or, in other words, the true history of the relations, disputes, and contests between Great Britain and her American colonies and the United States of America.

The United Empire Loyalists were the losing party; their history has been written by their adversaries, and strangely misrepresented. In the vindication of their character, I have not opposed assertion against assertion; but, in correction of unjust and untrue assertions, I have offered the records and documents of the actors themselves, and in their own words.

To do this has rendered my history, to a large extent, documentary, instead of being a mere popular narrative. The many fictions of American writers will be found corrected and exposed in the following volumes, by authorities and facts which cannot be successfully denied. In thus availing myself so largely of the proclamations, messages, addresses, letters, and records of the times when they occurred, I have only followed the example of some of the best historians and biographers.

No one can be more sensible than myself of the imperfect manner in which I have performed my task, which I commenced more than a quarter of a century since, but I have been prevented from completing it sooner by public duties—pursuing, as I have done from the beginning, an untrodden path of historical investigations. From the long delay, many supposed I would never complete the work, or that I had abandoned it. On its completion, therefore, I issued a circular, an extract from which I hereto subjoin, explaining the origin, design, and scope of the work :—

“I have pleasure in stating that I have at length completed the task which the newspaper press and public men of different parties urged upon me from 1855 to 1860. In submission to what seemed to be public opinion, I issued, in 1861, a circular addressed to the United Empire Loyalists and their descendants, of the British Provinces of America, stating the design and scope of my proposed work, and requesting them to transmit to me, at my expense, any letters or papers in their possession which would throw light upon the early history and settlement in these Provinces by our U. E. Loyalist forefathers. From all the British Provinces I received answers to my circular; and I have given, with little, abridgment, in one chapter of my history, these intensely interesting letters and papers—to which I have been enabled to add considerably from two large quarto manuscript volumes of papers relating to the U. E. Loyalists in the Dominion Parliamentary Library at Ottawa, with the use of which I have been favoured by the learned and obliging librarian, Mr. Todd.

“In addition to all the works relating to the subject which I could collect in Europe and America, I spent, two years since, several months in the Library of the British Museum, employing the assistance of an amanuensis in verifying quotations and making extracts from works not to be found elsewhere, in relation especially to unsettled questions involved in the earlier part of my history.

“I have entirely sympathized with the Colonists in their remonstrances, and even use of arms, in defence of British constitutional rights, from 1763 to 1776; but I have been compelled to view the proceedings of the Revolutionists and their treatment of the Loyalists in a very different light.

“After having compared the conduct of the two parties during the Revolution, the exile of the Loyalists from their homes after the close of the War, and their settlement in the British Provinces, I have given a brief account of the government of each Province, and then traced the alleged and real causes of the War of 1812-1815, together with the courage, sacrifice, and patriotism of Canadians, both English and French, in defending our country against eleven successive American invasions, when the population of the two Canadas was to that of the United States as one to twenty-seven, and the population of Upper Canada (the chief scene of the War) was as one to one hundred and six. Our defenders, aided by a few English regiments, were as handfuls, little Spartan bands, in comparison of the hosts of the invading armies; and yet at the end of two years, as well as at the end of the third and last year of the War, not an invader’s foot found a place on the soil of Canada.

“I undertook this work not self-moved and with no view to profit; and if I receive no pecuniary return from this work, on which I have expended no small labour and means, I shall have the satisfaction of having done all in my power to erect an historical monument to the character and merits of the fathers and founders of my native country.”

“Toronto, Sept. 24th, 1879.”

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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