United Empire Loyalists
Loyalists arrive in Canada in 1791
The United Empire Loyalists came to Canada from the United States when the Thirteen
Colonies revolted against England and set up an independent country in 1776. As their name
suggests, the Loyalists were loyal to Britain and did not share the Americans' independent
aspirations. Some fled north during the war of independence. Some came after, fleeing
persecution by the victorious revolutionaries.
Many Loyalists headed for Nova Scotia. Many others arrived in Quebec, but the Governor,
General Frederick Haldimand, was afraid of conflict with the French so he encouraged the
new settlers to move up river. Here they rapidly populated the north shore of Lake Ontario in
what became, under the Canada Act of 1791, the new colony of Upper Canada. Its first
lieutenant-governor was John Graves Simcoe. Simcoe wanted to re-create a piece of
England in the new world and he encouraged the immigration of Loyalists from the United
States. Depending on their rank, the newcomers received varying grants of land and other
assistance in clearing and establishing farms.
It was pressure from the UEL's that led to the Canada Act of 1791. They wanted to ensure
that they had free title to their lands - the freehold system of land tenure - and they wanted an
elected assembly like they were used to in the United States.
They also wanted a certain amount of land set aside for
Protestant clergy reserves (just as the Catholics had). The Canada Act provided these
reserves, but didn't specify which Protestant church was entitled to them. The Church of
England Anglicans assumed the clergy reserves belonged to them. But a generation later,
other Protestant churches, like the Scottish Presbyterians, were demanding a share, too.
Not all Loyalists were white Anglo-Saxons. A lot of black slaves had fled to the British side
during the American revolution and came north after the revolutionaries won. Most of them
settled in Nova Scotia. About 2000 Iroquois Loyalists came north as well. Perhaps the most
famous was Chief Joseph Brant who settled with his people around the Grand River in
Ontario. The city of Brantford is named after him.