Another New World
Another New World
When Lord Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781, Sir Guy Carleton, governor of Quebec, was sent out as Commander-in-Chief and Commissioner of Peace, to engage in a "happy Reconciliation" with the American authorities. Loyalists at New York were devastated by the news and feared for their safety.
By May 1782, peace negotiations were underway in Paris between the leaders of the "thirteen provinces" and the British authorities. Loyalists in the New York area were convinced that if Britain offered independence to the thirteen colonies, British forces around New York would withdraw, leaving the Loyalists totally vulnerable. It became apparent that a place of refuge within British territory would have to be secured.
As the nearest British territory to New York, Nova Scotia seemed a logical choice. It had a long coastline, arable valleys and at St. John, a large harbour leading to an interior waterway.
"Articles of Settlement" were presented to the Loyalists, who signed papers agreeing to travel to the new location. Many refugees left in the spring of 1783, with agents charged with the task of representing each group and looking after their best interests.
Despite the terms of the peace treaty and their hopes that their properties would be returned to them, most Loyalists were forced to leave American soil completely destitute, their belongings having been confiscated by the conquering government. Those with families in the thirteen colonies often had to face the hostility of their former neighbors as they tried to collect their household goods and dependants. By November 1783, the relocation was complete.
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The mouth of the St. John River was a barren, forsaken place, with few houses and almost no shelter for the cold, tired refugees. Many women and children perished during the first winter from malnutrition and cold. The government provided some tents, which gave a little protection from the elements, but rain and melting snow soon soaked into their beds from the earthen floors.
Some of the men thatched their tents with spruce boughs, which served until the spring, when they could travel up the river and find suitable land on which to settle. They received rations of pork, butter and flour from the government, and tools. The Royal Bounty of Provisions read:
" . . . You will issue to the Refugees on board your Ship, One pound of Bread, and twelve ounces of Pork, or, in lieu of Pork, Twenty one ounces of Beef per Man per day. The Women and Children of ten years old and upwards, are to be victualled as the Men, and all under that age, are to receive only half Allowance, but no rum to any. . . "
Patricia Snider Armstrong © July 2000