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The United Empire Loyalist Settlement at Long Point, Lake Erie
Chapter VI. British Parliament and the Loyalists

The fifth article of the agreement of the Peace Commissioners at Paris provided that Congress should recommend the different state legislatures to show leniency and a forgiving generosity to the Loyalists and to take measures to reimburse them for their losses.

The gross abandonment of the faithful minority to the spasmodic and uncertain justice, in fact we may say, the certain injustice, of the state governments, was severely assailed in both Houses of the British Parliament. At the opening of Parliament the King, in his speech from the Throne, alluded to the “American sufferers,” and trusted that Parliament would see fit to pass measures for their compensation forthwith.

Lord North said: “I cannot but feel for men thus sacrificed for their bravery and principles—men who have sacrificed all the dearest possessions of the human heart. They have exposed their lives, endured an age of hardships, deserted their interests, forfeited their possessions, lost their connections and ruined their families in our cause."

Lord Mulgrave said that, in his opinion, “it would have been better that it should have been stipulated in the treaty that Great Britain spend £20,000,000 in making good the losses of the Loyalists, than that they should have been so shamefully deserted, and the national honor so pointedly disgraced as it was by the 5th Article of the Treaty of Peace with the United States.”

Mr. Burke declared that “to such men the nation owed protection and its honor was pledged for their security at all hazards.”

Mr. Sheridan “execrated the treatment of these unfortunate men, who, without the least notice taken of their civil or religious rights, were handed over as subjects to a power that would not fail to take vengeance on them for their zeal and attachment to the religion and government of the Mother Country.”

Mr. Townsend declared that “this country would feel itself bound in honor to make them full compensation for their losses.”

Sir Peter Burrell said that “the fate of the Loyalists claimed the compassion of every human heart. These helpless forlorn men, abandoned by the Ministers of a people on whose justice, gratitude and humanity they had the best founded claims, were left at the mercy of a Congress highly irritated against them.”

In the House of Lords, Lord Walsingham said that “with patience he could neither think nor speak of the dishonor of leaving these deserving men to their fate.”

Lord Stormont asserted that “Great Britain is bound in justice and honor, gratitude and affection, and by every tie, to provide for and protect them.”

Lord Loughborough declared that “neither in ancient nor in modern history had there been so shameful a desertion of men who had sacrificed all to their duty and to their reliance on British faith.”

Lord Sackville argued that “peace on the sacrifice of these unhappy subjects must be answered in the sight of God and man.”

Lord Shelburne, whose Ministry had concluded the treaty, could only say, in reply, that he “had but the alternative to accept the terms proposed or to continue the war, and a part must be wounded that the whole empire might not perish.” He also stated that he did not doubt the honor of the American Congress, who would doubtless be just and fair in their restitution of the lands of the Loyalists. As to how far this was likely to be the case they might have concluded from the fact that even before the peace was signed the State of Virginia decreed “that all demands of the British courts for the restoration of property confiscated by the state were wholly impossible;” and the State of New York, “that the scales of justice do not require, nor does the public tranquillity permit, that such adherents who have been attainted should be restored to the rights of citizens, and that there can be no reason for restoring property which has been confiscated or forfeited.”

Since even the mockery of justice was denied them, the Loyalists organized an agency and appointed a committee of one delegate from each of the thirteen states to prosecute their claims in England.

A Board of Commissioners was appointed to examine the claims preferred.

The claimants were divided into six classes:

1. Those who had rendered service to Great Britain.
2. Those who had borne arms for Great Britain.
3. Uniform Loyalists.
4. Loyal British subjects resident in Great Britain.
5. Loyalists who had taken oath to the American States but afterward joined the British.
6. Loyalists who had borne arms for the American States and afterwards joined the British army or navy.

The rigid rules of examination caused much dissatisfaction and gave the Board the title of the “Inquisition.” The inquiry lasted through seven successive years. Their methods may be best stated in the words of their report: “Our mode of conducting the inquiry has been that of requiring the very best evidence which the nature and the circumstances of the case would admit. We have demanded the personal appearance and examination of the claimant, conceiving that the inquiry would be extremely imperfect and insecure against fraud and misrepresentation if we had not the advantage of cross-examining the 'party himself, as well as his witnesses, nor have we, for the same reason, allowed much weight to any testimony which has not been delivered on oath before ourselves. We have investigated with great strictness the titles to real property, whenever the necessary documents could be exhibited to us, and where they have not been produced we ha\e required satisfactory evidence of their loss or the inability of the claimant to procure them.”

The amount of claims preferred was £10,358,413, and the sum granted in liquidation thereof £3,294,452, which was distributed among 4,148 persons.

In addition to this money satisfaction they were given land in the “country of their exile,” and supplies and provisions for a certain time, as will be detailed in the following chapter.

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