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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter III. Motives of the Loyalists

The majority of American historians have been unfair to the Loyalists. They have spoken of them with scorn and ridicule; they have called them weak, because they submitted to tyranny; they have called them cowards, because they refused to fight the British; they have called them unnatural, because they took up arms against their countrymen; and they have called them the dregs of society, because they had spirit enough to seek a new home under British rule.

American writers have further unfairly questioned the motives of the Loyalists. They have denied to their enemies that freedom of choice which they reserved to themselves: they have charged the Loyalists with being “Tory office-holders;” they have declared that the possession of offices of emolument from the Crown was the sole reason which prevented these “office-holders” from taking up arms in company with the “victims of Britain’s injustice.” On the other hand, according to these writers no eulogy is too strong, no commemoration is too extensive for the “Patriots” who, in the face of fearful odds, swept the British army from the plains of Yorktown, and planted the standard of liberty on the erstwhile down-trodden and benighted land.

A more impartial age has brushed away the deception of a century. The honor of the Loyalists has been amply vindicated. It is seen that those who were called weak, were strong enough to leave all they held dear for the sake of principle; those who were called cowards, fought to the bitter end of a losing struggle; those who were called unnatural, were not as unnatural as the matricidal sons who took up arms against the Motherland; and those who were called in malicious hatred the outcasts of society, have since been acknowledged the brightest and best of their age.

It is noticeable that the bulk of the Loyalists were men in no mean positions in their native states; men who possessed a high moral ideal and an elevated mind; men of education and of unsullied honor. Even American historians are now coming to admit that they were of the noblest descent and of the most upright character. Colonel Sabine says, in his well-known work, “It is evident that a considerable proportion of the professional and editorial intelligence and talents of the thirteen colonies was arrayed against the popular movement.” (Vol. I., p. 50.) And we have others. Dr. Geo. E. Ellis, in the “Narrative and Critical History of America” (page 186), says, “Among those most frank and fearless in the avowal of loyalty, and who suffered the severest penalties, were men of the noblest character and highest position.” And Mr. M. C. Tyler, writing in the American Historical Review, so lately as October, 1895, says, “To any one at all familiar with the history of colonial New England, that list of men, denounced to exile and loss of property on account of their opinions, will read like the bead roll of the oldest and noblest families concerned in the founding and upbuilding of New England civilization; and of the whole body of the Loyalists throughout the thirteen colonies, it must be said that it contained more than a third of influential characters, that is, a very considerable portion of the customary chiefs in each community.” Nearly all the clergy were Loyalists. “Fear God, Honor the King,” was their unvarying doctrine. Lawyers, judges and physicians also, in a great number, were ranged on the side of loyalty, men of education and refinement and of deep religious conviction, the moral tone of whose lives puts to shame even that of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence.

So much for the general character of the Loyalists. Let us consider their motives. To charge them with being all office-holders under the Crown is false on the face of it, because upwards of thirty-five thousand came to Canada after the war, and it is absurd to suppose that even one-tenth of that number remained faithful to the king from mercenary motives. And if the Loyalists had been influenced by monetary considerations they would probably have deserted the ship before the final plunge, and made overtures of friendship and reconciliation to the victorious party. Base and sordid men are not the kind who are willing to leave rich and luxurious homes on the banks of the Hudson and the Delaware, for a cabin in a northern wilderness, and scarcity and hardship withal.

Those of the New Englanders who remained faithful to the old flag possessed all the ardor of a lofty patriotism. With an unswerving trust in the fundamental justice of the British Government, they believed that the misunderstandings were only temporary and would be removed. They believed that most of the disaffected were laboring under an erroneous idea of oppression and an egregious conceit of their own importance, and to the last they remained true to their conviction, that to take up arms against the Mother Country was high treason, and morally as well as legally wrong.

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