“Loyalist Trails” 2018-40: October 7, 2018

In this issue:
This Arduous and Invidious Task: Part One, by Stephen Davidson
Vancouver Branch Supports the BC Heritage Fairs
Borealia: Mapping Land Tenure Pluralism in the St. Lawrence River Valley
JAR: John Row and Jenny Innes
Washington’s Quill: To Capture Washington
Ben Franklin’s World: Christian Slavery
Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming
Exporting the Revolution: American Revolutionaries in the Indies Trade
Book Review: The Medical Imagination
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Last Post
      + R. Peter Van Iderstine, UE
      + Beatrice Elizabeth (Betsy) Davidson, UE


This Arduous and Invidious Task: Part One

© Stephen Davidson, UE

Would you ever consider taking a job in which every decision you made would either upset the government or a private citizen? Would it concern you if this difficult task stretched from a projected three-month term to a seven-year commitment? Would you be willing to participate in settling 5,072 disputes, each with its own set of witnesses and documents? Would you be prepared to submit 12 reports on your work? Would you take responsibility for spending £2,613,260 of taxpayers money on people who were not even citizens of your country? Would you be willing to take the job at age 73? Finally, would you be willing to do all this for free?

It is hardly an ideal job description. In fact, the man who answered “yes” to all of the questions posed above described his work, as an “arduous and invidious task”. (Invidious means “that which is likely to arouse resentment or anger in others”.) His name was John Eardley Wilmot, and he was one of two British members of Parliament put in charge of the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists (RCLSAL).

Historians and genealogists interested in the loyalist era spend a great deal of time reading over the transcripts of the RCLSAL, piecing together the stories of loyalist refugees, but very little attention has been given to the British politicians who were the compensation board’s commissioners, serving – as Wilmot once observed – as both “judge and jury”. It was a task that would receive little thanks, but Wilmot thought it was important that the commissioners’ side of the loyalist compensation story be told.

Following his term of office on the RCLSAL, Wilmot sat down and wrote an awkwardly titled** but very detailed book “to record and to perpetuate this eminent instance of national honour, and to give a faithful representation of the facts and persons connected with the whole transaction”. While loyalists and the British government may have found the whole process of compensation to have been a long and tedious one, Wilmot felt “no inconsiderable satisfaction in having been instrumental towards the completion of the work which must ever reflect honour on the character of the British nation”.

Wilmot knew he had taken on a job that no one else wanted, and that he would be unpopular with either the loyalists or the government – or both. Yet he thought it might be worthwhile “to collect together the different Proceedings which were had for that purpose, and to give a short account of the result of the Enquiry, and of the liberal compensation granted to that suffering and meritorious class of his Majesty’s subjects”. In doing so, Wilmot has provided historians and genealogists with a much-needed “other side of the story” for the work of the loyalist compensation board.

Even before the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in the summer of 1776, loyal Americans had been seeking refuge in Great Britain. Initially, it was civil servants and Anglican clergy who fled Patriot persecution, but as the revolution continued, the latter were joined by hundreds of loyalists of all classes and situations. Thinking that the rebellion would be over sooner rather than later, the British government granted three-month allowances to American refugees, renewing them on a regular basis. By the fall of 1782 over £40,000 had been doled out to 315 loyal Americans. These allowances were not intended as compensation, but merely as temporary provisions for a displaced population.

By the spring of 1782, the British government suspended all “fresh donations” to American refugees and appointed two members of Parliament to “enquire into the cases of all the American sufferers” with the view of imposing some sort of limit on the hemorrhaging financial aid system. The Board of Treasury invited John Eardley Wilmot and Daniel Parker Coke, two independent MPs, to assume the role of commissioners. The men agreed to serve on the condition that they not be paid. They did not want to be seen as trying to curry favour for future government positions or as acting in the interests of one particular political party. It is worthy to note that both Wilmot and Coke had voted against Britain’s involvement in the American Revolution.

Within months, the two men had reviewed the situations of the 315 Americans receiving refugee allowances. 25 did not qualify as loyalists, 90 were receiving inappropriate amounts, and 10 were recommended to receive larger allowances. Then the men turned their attention to 428 new claims that had accumulated since the government’s freeze on loyalist allowances.

The three-month duration of Wilmot and Coke’s inquiry had already been extended when the entire refugee situation took a dramatic turn. Britain realized that it had no hope of winning a war that had dragged on for seven years. It signed the Articles of Peace in November of 1782 and began to negotiate a treaty to bring about peace with its former colonies. The trickle of loyalist refugees making their way to Britain turned into a raging flood. The task of assigning short term allowances now became one of providing appropriate compensation for all that the loyal Americans had lost during the revolution.

Next week’s Loyalist Trails will tell the tale of how John Wilmot and a handful of British commissioners tackled the herculean task of trying to compensate over 5,000 loyalists.

** Historical View of the Commission for enquiring into the losses, services, and claims of the American Loyalists, at the close of the war between Great Britain and her colonies in 1783: with an account of the compensation granted to them by Parliament in 1785 and 1788.

To secure permission to reprint this article, email Stephen Davidson.

Vancouver Branch Supports the BC Heritage Fairs

UELAC Vancouver Branch had another – its eighth – successful year participating in the 2018 BC Heritage Fairs.

Over a period of three Spring months, Vancouver branch members adjudicated hundreds of students within the Vancouver school district.

The winners at each school advanced to the Vancouver Regional Fair in May where Vancouver Branch again adjudicated the finalists (161 projects). A key task for Branch adjudicators is to choose the Award Winners for the UELAC Vancouver Branch Awards. Winners of this Regional Fair proceeded to the Provincials held in July in Squamish, BC.

Seven local winning recipients and their families attended our 18th September regular branch UELAC meeting where students presented their Canadian Heritage and/or History projects. This was followed by individual Award Presentations and a reception.

The event was hosted by Vancouver Branch’s 2nd Vice President, Coco Aders. The Vancouver Regional Fair coordinator, Janet Morley attends this presentation evening each year.

See a description and a number of photos of the awards evening.

…Carl Stymiest

Borealia: Mapping Land Tenure Pluralism in the St. Lawrence River Valley

by Julia Lewandoski, 26 Sepetember 2018

[This essay kicks off a Borealia series on Cartography and Empire-on the many ways maps were employed in the contested imperial spaces of early modern North America.]

After the 1763 Peace of Paris, British officials embarked on an ambitious project to probe and depict the territories – many in reality still under indigenous sovereignty – that they now considered to be in their possession. Such cartographic projects, in which maps make bold and sometimes unsupportable claims to geographic mastery, were stock elements of eighteenth and nineteenth century imperial practices. Yet other genres and scales of mapping also proliferated after sovereignty transitions. Cadastral mapping, the practice of determining the boundaries of privately-owned land, was a particularly necessary, and particularly contested, domain of activity.

Most inter-imperial treaties, including the 1763 Treaty of Paris, had standard clauses protecting the property of inhabitants who wished to remain in conquered territories. Thus, the immediate task of many British surveyors after 1763 was not to lay out new British townships, but to locate and delineate the already existing landscape of settler property in the St. Lawrence River Valley, the heart of French settlement. But upholding property required much more than sending surveyors out to confirm lines. It required grappling with the entire constellation of social rights and legal processes embedded in a land tenure system.

In the St. Lawrence Valley, French feudal seigneurial practices, in which lords and tenants each possessed a complex array of rights and responsibilities towards not just land, but to each other, was not easily translated into British-style fee simple tenure, in which each tract of land was discretely and completely owned by an individual. This process of translation appeared so difficult that British officials elected to keep seigneurial tenure intact for nearly a century, and then spent another century achieving its abolition. Seigneurial tenure was officially ended in 1854, and the final French-style feudal rents were paid in 1970.

Read more.

JAR: John Row and Jenny Innes

by Don N. Hagist, 4 October 2018

John Row was a British officer in the 9th Regiment of Foot, and he was in love with Jane Innes. For six years their courtship was maintained largely by correspondence due to separations caused by his military obligations. Dozens of their letters survive in the National Archives of Scotland, revealing a touching love story conflicting with the struggles of an officer trying to advance his career.

Row began writing to Jenny, as he greeted her in every letter, in 1775 when he was posted in Dublin soon after they met. They hadn’t made their mutual interest known to her family, so they agreed to limit their correspondence so as not to arouse suspicions. The next year saw the thirty-two-year-old officer embarking to join the war in North America, his regiment part of a strong reinforcement for the army in Canada. With great enthusiasm for the coming campaign, he wrote to Jenny that “the six Regts who go from here are in the highest spirits, and I can with pleasure say and without vanity that we are by far the finest Regt. of the whole, both in figure and discipline.”

They disembarked in “Quebec which is not the worst Country in the World.”

Read more.

Washington’s Quill: To Capture Washington

By Benjamin L. Huggins, 6 October 2018

One of the most interesting stories from the past volumes I have worked on at the Papers of George Washington occurs in Revolutionary War Series vol. 24, which presents George Washington’s correspondence from Jan. 1 to March 9, 1780.

In early February 1780, Gen. George Washington’s main army was encamped at Jockey Hollow, New Jersey. But the general maintained his headquarters about three miles away in Morristown, N.J., at the house of the widow Theodosia Ford. That separation from the main army enticed the British high command into undertaking an operation that, if successful, would cripple the Continental army and demoralize the Patriot cause: the capture of Washington.

The winter of 1779-80 was the most severe the Continental army had ever experienced. The deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures had stopped most mills’ production and made long-distance transportation exceedingly difficult. The soldiers remained desperately short of supplies all winter. The Hudson River had frozen solid.

Due to the easy crossing of Arthur Kill1 provided by the ice, many leaders in New Jersey were wary of the potential for quick raids launched from Staten Island designed to capture senior leaders.

Read more.

Ben Franklin’s World: Christian Slavery

Katharine Gerbner, an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota and author of Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, joins us for an exploration of ways Christianity influenced early ideas about slavery and its practice.

As we dive into the long and complicated history between slavery and Christianity, Katharine reveals the evolution of the relationship between Christianity and slavery in Europe; How ideas about Protestant Christianity and slavery developed in the North American and Caribbean colonies; And, the idea of Protestant supremacy and how it influenced and gave way to the idea of race-based slavery.

Listen to the podcast.

Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming

by Geri Walton, 27 March 2017

Battlefield communication using drums and drumming was an important military aspect of war, and this type of communication lasted well into the nineteenth century. During this time, the drum most popular among drummers was the ordinary drum that consisted of a wooden or brass cylinder with a skin head at either end, and described in the following way: [more about the assembly of the drum].

Different drum beats and rolls signalled different commands to the troops and there were various regulation beats that included the following: [a list of named beats with descriptions and meaning]

The drum also served as an accompaniment to the fife.

Read more.

Exporting the Revolution: American Revolutionaries in the Indies Trade

By Dane A. Morrison, 1 Oct. 2018 in the Age of Revolutions

In April of 1791, as Capt. Joseph Ingraham of Boston navigated the brigantine Hope through the central Pacific, he encountered a set of islands unmarked on any of the nautical maps he carried. The Hope was en route to the treacherous waters of the Northwest Coast to find otter pelts for the China trade, part of an effort to establish the new nation within a global economy…..

For Ingraham, the China trade was a continuation of his Revolutionary War experiences and a means of commemorating the layered meanings of that struggle. During the War, he had served aboard the Massachusetts warship Protector, had battled a British privateer, only to be captured, and spent 1781 as a prisoner of war on the notorious British prison ship, Jersey. Ingraham was not alone in constructing the emerging trade with China, India, and ports “eastward of Good Hope” as an extension of republican values. He represents a generation of Yankees who voyaged “round the world” and whose experiences and published accounts exported not just names but what they believed were the values of the Revolution. By reading deeply into their experiences, we see the China trade as an extension of the Revolution and, indeed, construct an extended American Revolution.

The revolutionary symbolism that celebrated the first American voyage to China set the precedent. From Portsmouth to Charleston, newspapers flaunted the departure of the Empress of China for Canton on Washington’s Birthday 1784, to a multitude of toasts, huzzahs, and the booming of thirteen cannon – the “United States salute” – representing each of the new states.

Read more.

Book Review: The Medical Imagination

The Medical Imagination, by Sari Altschuler. Review by Laurel Daen. 26 September 2018

In the early American republic, physicians wrote poetry to try out their medical theories, writers formulated concepts that made their way into medical texts, and everyday people viewed the disciplines of medicine and literature as fundamentally intertwined. Medicine and literature were mutually constitutive and reinforcing, Sari Altschuler explains in The Medical Imagination, and their relationship was seen as crucial to the production of medical knowledge. For example, medical educators urged their students to read and write fiction with the insistence that these practices would cultivate their “microscopic eye” or ability to detect and decipher disease. In addition, many doctors, writers, and doctor-writers used literary forms to conduct medical research, especially about topics that were difficult to test empirically. How, for instance, was one to evaluate the workings of sympathy, the universal force commonly understood to link body part to body part in a functioning human body and person to person in a functioning society? It was through literature that early national physicians and writers engaged with these types of questions, cultivating their skills in “imaginative experimentation” – or use of the imagination to craft and assess models of health.

This world of “epistemological flexibility” and medical knowledge derived from imagination rather than physical experimentation likely seems unusual to readers today. How, you might be wondering, can literature provide a testing ground for medical concepts? And what does imagination have to do with rigorous scientific research?

Read more.

Where in the World?

Where are Cathy Darbell, Vera Ash and Sylvia Pugh?

To participate, submit a photo of yourself in UELAC promotional gear at a place of some note and tell us where it is (if you are a member of a branch, please indicate that as well). Send your submission to the editor at loyalist.trails@uelac.org.

Region and Branch Bits

From the UELAC branches, news and events of interest to others.

  • Pacific Regional Celebration of the arrival of the Fall Fleet Hosted by Chilliwack Branch. An invitation is extended to all BC Branches to join us Saturday October 20th, 2018 at 11:45 am until 3:00 pm at Carman United Church Hall, 7258 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, BC.  Cost: $25 per person – $10 for a child under 11. The program includes a special Guest Speaker, Certificate presentations and the presentation of the Philip Leith Award.
  • Park House In Amherstburg Receives National Historic Designation. The actual date of its construction is unknown, but it has long been contended that this combined dwelling and warehouse were floated down the Detroit River to Upper Canada by its Loyalist owners when Detroit was handed over to the Americans by the British in 1796. Read the news... Visit the website...

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Tecumseh’s death 5 October 1813 was a turning point in the War of 1812. Learn more from the description of an NEH-funded @PBS documentary
  • New Brunswick Provincial Archives project to give genealogists, others fast access to ‘goldmine’. CBC 30 Sept 2018. Hundreds of Anglican Church registers dating back to the 1790s will be a lot easier to access after they are scanned and put online in a project underway at the Provincial Archives. The goal of the project, undertaken with the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton and the New Brunswick Genealogical Society, is to make it easier to access some important records housed at the archives in Fredericton. The registers include information about baptisms, marriages and burial dates and locations. Read more…
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 6 Oct 1781 Americans & French begin siege of Cornwallis at Yorktown; final major battle of the Rev War.
    • 5 Oct 1776 Georgia Constitutional Convention meets to draft plan of gov’t for post-colonial state.
    • 4 Oct 1777 Americans defeated at Battle of Germantown; nonetheless, Washington’s audacious attack impresses French.
    • 3 Oct 1781 French cavalry & British forces skirmish at Gloucester, Virginia; French block supplies to Cornwallis.
    • 2 Oct 1776 Thomas Jefferson resigns from Continental Congress to serve in Virginia House of Delegates.
    • 1 Oct 1776 Benjamin Franklin learns that the French plan to supply arms to Americans through West Indies.
    • 30 Sep 1777 Congress convenes for one day in York, Pennsylvania for one day, then adjourns.
    • 29 Sep 1780 British spymaster Major John André sentenced to hang.
    • 29 Sep 1814 – The body of Major-General Robert Ross is returned to Halifax NS on the HMS Royal Oak for burial at the Old Burying Ground. He had lead the British forces in the ‘burning of Washington’ on August 24. He died on Sept.12th at the battle for Baltimore.
  • On 3 Oct. 1775, George Washington banned the soldiers in his Cambridge camp from gambling at “toss up” or “pitch and hustle.” But what were they? Read more…(at Boston 1775).
  • Townsends:
  • A chance encounter on a cruise ship on the Danube has brought a sword owned by one of the city’s founding families home to Brockville ON. The sword left the city more than a century ago and travelled across the country twice before ending up in the collection of the Brockville Museum earlier this year. Read more…
  • 2 October, 1752 – The 1st Nova Scotian Representative Assembly met at Court House, Halifax, corner of Buckingham and Argyle Streets. This was the first elected general assembly to take place in what eventually became Canada. (1908 plaque Commemorating First General Assembly)
  • The shoes one selected in the heady decade leading up to the American Revolution had strong political overtones: buy local, boycott British shoes. Here, shoes by Capt Winthrop Gray. Gray enlisted, and apparently, he did not design shoes after the American Revolution.
  • The Massachusetts Historical Society MHS1791 exhibition is open in Boston! 18thc-19thc silk dresses on custom mannequins by Schaeffer Arts Costume Exhibition & Care with conservation Museum Textiles. Come by for a visit!   The party guests waiting for the party to start!
  • In the MHS1791 treasure house, I may have a new favourite find. Now on display, enjoy this fantastic chair, made from a red cloak that John Adams wore whilst in London in the 1780s.
  • Embroidered evening dress that is a one-piece “round gown” pretending to be an open robe. Embroidery probably executed in France. c. 1798-1800.
  • 18th Century dress, Robe à l’Anglaise, c.1770’s
  • 18th Century dress, Robe à la Française, ca. 1770-1780
  • 18th Century dress, sleeve detail embroidered & trimmed with floral details, British c1760’s
  • 18th Century dress, rear view of Robe a la Polonaise, 1780
  • 18th Century men’s 3 piece court suit, embroidered silk, 1770-80
  • 18th Century man’s suit, pink silk, silver brocade with rich embroidery in gold, 1780 via Swiss National Museum
  • There are bits and pieces stashed away in drawers and boxes we sometimes forget to appreciate like this man’s vest panel from the 1780s made up from Indian painted chintz glazed cotton.
  • I mean, is there ANYTHING you can’t do in a cardigan? Love the way a gentleman can carry his pocket watch as well as ride all sorts of bikes, skate, play pool, dig up spuds, sell oranges and serve drinks. From the copyright registration records
  • A ticket for the British Museum, 1790.  No tipping!
  • On 5 Oct 1789, the women of Paris marched on Versailles to confront Louis XVI. It was a turning point in the French Revolution.

Last Post

R. Peter Van Iderstine, UE

Van Iderstine, R. Peter, 70, beloved husband, father, stepfather, brother, uncle and friend to many, passed away peacefully on September 30, 2018, after a brief illness. Originally from Belfast, PE, he was the son of the late Fred and Nellie (Hollingsworth) Van Iderstine. Peter was a proud soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces and retired to Prince Edward Island after almost 50 years of service. He married his sweetheart, Anita (Coffin) on September 16, 2017, who was by his side as he passed. He was a devoted father to Laura Noe (Derek), Mandy Hynes, Kurt Van Iderstine (Kelly), and loving stepfather to Doug Coffin (Wendy), Mike Coffin (Karen), and Vicky Blacquiere. An affectionate grandfather, Peter loved to spend time with Kim (Shawn), Nicholaus, Ashleigh, Logan, Letitia, Mallareigh, Catie, Jade, Masan, Maddy, Caleb, Brady, Kalen, Aleah, Ellie, and Karlee. He was looking forward to the addition of two new grandchildren by the end of the year. Peter is survived by three brothers; Tom (Nancy), Kent (Theresa), and John McTavish (Marie), and two sisters; Debbie Lowes and Darlene Ketch (Mark). Predeceased by older brother, Warren. He was a dear uncle to many numerous nieces and nephews.

A private ceremony will take place for family in celebration of life. Special thanks from the family are sent forth to Dr. Chawla at Unit 3 of the QEH and nurses and staff, as well as Dr. Baker, nurses and staff at Provincial Palliative Care Centre. Our family is so grateful for the excellent care given in his final days. To honor Peter’s commitment to the Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, donations offered in his name are asked to be made directly or in care at Hillsboro Funeral Home. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” – Psalm 23.

Completion of funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Hillsboro Funeral Home. Online condolences may be sent to hillsborofuneral@eastlink.ca or shared on the website.

…Carol Harding, UE

Beatrice Elizabeth (Betsy) Davidson, UE

Betsy passed away on Monday, October 1 in Mississauga after a brief illness. She was born on August 12, 1929 in Toronto to Vaughan Maclean Howard and Emily Merritt, both descendants of Loyalists. Vaughan MacLean Howard was a past president of UELAC in 1934. Betsy was a long time member of the Governor Simcoe Branch, which was started by her father.

Her proven Loyalist ancestors were Archibald MacLean of Nashwaak, New Brunswick and Thomas Merritt of St. Catharines, Ontario, along with his father Thomas Merritt of St. John, New Brunswick. Betsy was predeceased by her husband, George. Her children include Suzanne Davidson of Calgary Branch and James Davidson of Governor Simcoe Branch.

Betsy grew up in Toronto and finished her high school education at Bishop Strachan School. She worked at her father’s law office before marrying George Davidson. They moved to Mississauga and raised five children. Betsy also ran a block of row houses in Toronto after her father’s death and maintained George’s company finances. She played tennis on a regular basis until her late seventies and bridge until dementia started taking its toll.

Betsy’s ashes will be interred in the MacLean Howard vault at St. James Cemetery. A memorial service will be arranged at a later date in Spring of 2019.

…Suzanne Davidson, UE