The American Revolution was a time when most colonists in the New World were fed up with the British Monarchy. The British served astronomical taxes on the colonists who began to resent their subjugation to British rule.
Most Americans know about the famous ride of Paul Revere and the infamous words, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” However what is lesser known is that there were some colonists that did not join in the mounting excitement of the formation of a new county in the New World.
There were people who were loyal to the British Monarchy and wanted to continue the status quo. These people were known by many names: United Empire Loyalists, Tories, Royalists, and Kings men. Many of these Royalists were Black African descendents, freemen and slaves alike.
Once the War with Britain was over and the colonists gained their independence about 20% of the United Empire Loyalists left for other places in the British Empire. Many of the Black United Empire Loyalists migrated north to land that one day would become Canada. They settled in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and some made their way to Quebec.
It is estimated that between 75,000 and 100,000 wanted to leave the hostile new country but many never made it, having been captured by Patriot slave owners.
However, remaining in the colonies at this time would prove to be reckless. The Empire Loyalists were no longer welcome by the Patriots and they were met with threats to be tarred and feathered if caught. Furthermore, the Empire Loyalists were no longer free to live life the way they had prior to the independence movement. The Empire loyalists could not vote, sell property, or reclaim debts by suing the debtors, or become lawyers, schoolteachers or doctors.
The United Empire loyalists were exiled from the 13 colonies as early as 1775, when British sympathizers were no longer wanted in this pre independence historical period. The climate was hostile and many of the Blacks as well as white Empire loyalists fled in panic, to unknown, sometimes un chartered and wild territory where they would have to toil and labour day and night to make a new life for themselves. They left penniless with barely the shirts on their backs.
Though many did not make it out of the colonies but between 3,500 and 4,000 did get to Maritimes to farm the land and make a new life for themselves in this virgin territory.
Most Black Empire Loyalists settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while others actually chose Quebec. The Black Empire Loyalists became the first wave of Blacks to enter into Canada migrating from the United States. Birchtown, Nova Scotia became the largest Black Community in North America with over 1,500 new Black settlers. Many of the Black Empire Loyalists were soldiers in an exclusive British regiment and were promised land in exchange for their service. They thought they were equals with the white soldiers.
Eventually many of the Black Empire Loyalists were dissatisfied with their lives in Nova Scotia, for one they were treated unequally. They were paid less for the same work done by their white counterparts and some may have been treated like slaves. When the dissatisfaction grew to a critical point the British agreed to relocate the dissenting blacks to Sierra Leone, in Africa.
There were pockets of loyalists in Sidney, Cape Breton, and Digby, Nova Scotia, and Fredericton and St. John New Brunswick. The older settlers did not care for the Yankee newcomers and they were forced to live in isolated communities without the ability to commingle with the white settlers.
The Legacy the Black and White Empire Loyalists brought to Canada was their dislike for mob rule, their loyalty to the monarchy, and their hard work and determination to forge a new nation distinct from The USA, in North America.