Tories or Loyalists?

Loyalist Reenactors at Kings Landing, New Brunswick

Back in the days before the Cretaceous Extinction, when I was in high school learning the history of the American Revolution, we heard a lot of nasty things about the so-called Tories. These were American colonists who would have no part of the Revolution and who wanted to remain loyal to King George III.

We did not treat these Americans particularly well. We destroyed their property, threatened their lives, and keyed their carriages. The result was that many, if not most, of them fled to Canada or back to Britain.

When one is in Canada, there is an entirely different point of view. The Tories here are called Loyalists. And the United States is seen, particularly from the point of view of the 18th and 19th centuries, as the enemy. After all, we sent Benedict Arnold to invade Canada during the Revolution; but he failed, as he himself was conflicted over his loyalties. Then, during the War of 1812, we invaded twice and were beaten back twice.

In New Brunswick, one of Canada’s Maritime Provinces, there is an open-air park near Fredericton called Kings Landing Historical Settlement, which honors the Loyalist settlers. When the Saint John River was dammed near Fredericton, many old 19th century buildings were moved to Kings Landing and re-assembled as an outstanding museum, complete with costumed reenactors in the houses and shops who were able to explain the details of farming, cooking, printing, milling grains, sawmills, furniture manufacture, and other typical activities of the time.

Martine and I spent a whole day here, from opening time to closing. We even had an excellent lunch at the King’s Head Inn. I don’t suppose we were disloyal Americans for sympathizing with these Tories who, after all, were for the most part decent people who contributed greatly to Canada’s growth in the early days after the English occupied the country after the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

In general, it was interesting during our vacation to see so many of the populations that make up Eastern Canada, from the Loyalists to the French Canadians of Quebec to the Acadians of the Maritime Provinces (who are very distinct from the Quebecers) to the so-called First Nations tribes.

We Americans joke about the Canadians lacking a national identity. We did not find that to be so. It’s just that most Americans don’t bother to see for themselves, or else they just won’t open their eyes.