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United Empire Loyalists
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LESSON 13: United Empire Loyalists
(includes activity)

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This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 5 A Question of Loyalties

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Backgrounder and Activity

This activity focuses on the two chapters of Episode 5 entitled "Exile" and "Brave New Worlds."

In 1775, 13 of Britain's North American colonies revolted against the Mother Country in the hopes of severing their ties. The population of these colonies was seriously divided, and many people sided with Britain. As a result, they were driven from their homes and eventually became refugees, with some fleeing to the province of Quebec, but most settling in Nova Scotia. Along with them came many fugitive slaves who hoped to build a life of freedom and prosperity on promises they received from the British.


During the American Revolution (1775 to 1783) the thirteen colonies were torn by civil war. A third of the population remained loyal to the king of England, a third fought for American independence and the final third remained neutral. In the Province of Quebec, the American invasion was successfully resisted and the territory remained loyal to Britain throughout the war.

Loyalty to the British often involved serious risks. American revolutionaries frequently seized Loyalist property, and waged campaigns of terror. The newborn nation would not welcome those faithful to Britain back to their American homes.

Most Loyalists were like their rebel neighbours - small farmers, artisans, soldiers and politicians. About 2,000 Iroquois also had to flee. Their villages were nearly all destroyed by rebels. Three to four thousand Blacks escaping slavery also fled the new nation carrying with them a British promise of liberty and free land, but their arrival in Nova Scotia was marred by racial tension. A third of these would be deported to Sierra Leone.

Most of the 30,000 refugees settled in Nova Scotia. Others settled in the Gaspé region, along the St. Lawrence Valley, along the shores of Lake Ontario and in the Niagara Peninsula. By 1784, the population had increased sufficiently to justify dividing the Province of Nova Scotia in two, creating the Province of New Brunswick. In 1791, the Province of Quebec was also divided into Upper Canada (Ontario) and Lower Canada (Quebec). The influx of Loyalists and this new division of territory led to establishing elected assemblies in the four colonies.

Activity: Dear Diary

Have students assume the role of a Black Loyalist. Have them write a series of diary entries tracing their life's journey from slavery in the American south, to the refugee camp in New York City, to their eventual arrival and settlement in Nova Scotia. They can discuss their fears, hopes, adventures, and opinions as they make their way to a new life.

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    Lesson 12 Conflict in Quebec, 1775
    Lesson 13 United Empire Loyalists
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