“Loyalist Trails” 2018-41: October 14, 2018

In this issue:
This Arduous and Invidious Task: Part Two, by Stephen Davidson
Loyalist Gazette Fall 2018 Issue
Battle of Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia
Atlantic Loyalist Connections: The Beckwiths of New Brunswick
Borealia: Beyond the “System”: The Enduring Legacy of Seigneurial Property
JAR: What Strategy Could Either Side Have Used to Win the War in 1776?
Ben Franklin’s World: Young Benjamin Franklin
Resource: A Beginner’s Guide to Online Canadian Historical Images
Where in the World?
Region and Branch Bits
From the Twittersphere and Beyond
Editor’s Note


This Arduous and Invidious Task: Part Two

© Stephen Davidson, UE

The throne speech for the 1782 session of Parliament demonstrated the best hopes of the British government for American loyalists: “that a due and generous attention ought to be shewn to those who have relinquished their properties or professions from motives of loyalty.” But the realities of negotiating a workable peace treaty with the victorious Americans thwarted the best hopes of the government.

In his book,** John Wilmot – who was privy to the correspondence between the treaty negotiators and the government – confessed that “the utmost possible pains were repeatedly taken to procure more substantial terms for the loyalists” but “if more favourable tersm for the loyalists had been insisted on, all negotiations must have ceased entirely.” In the end, it fell to the British government – not the new United States – to provide compensation for American loyalists.

The government then gave Wilmot and Coke a new job description that was far larger in its scope than merely reviewing refugee allowances. They were to “enquire into the circumstances and former fortunes of such persons as are reduced to distress by the late unhappy dissentions in America”. And thus the Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists (RCLSAL) came into being on June 25, 1783. The commission empowered Wilmot and Coke to “examine all persons” they thought fit, on oath, and to send for any and all books, papers and records required. Blissfully ignorant of the numbers of loyalists who would seek compensation, the government limited the submission of claims to March 25, 1784 – a mere nine months from the beginning of the RCLSAL’s work.

Wilmot, Coke and three other commissioners (Col. Robert Kingston, Col. Thomas Dundas, and John Marsh) rented a house in the fashionable Lincoln’s Inn Fields area of London that was to be the site of the commission’s hearings. They also hired various clerks, messengers and officers, and quickly placed advertisements in major newspapers in the United Kingdom, New York, Canada, Nova Scotia and East Florida. These ads informed the loyalist refugees that the RCLSAL was ready to hear their claims for compensation.

The RCLSAL commissioners wisely called upon prominent loyalists in and around London to provide them with much needed background information on the revolution and the general experiences of those who remained true to the crown. Thirteen men became the Agents of the American Loyalists: Sir James Wright, Sir William Pepperell, J. Wentworth, George Rome, James DeLancey, David Ogden, Joseph Galloway, Robert Alexander, J.R. Grimes, Eustace McCulloh, W. Knox and James Graham. These thirteen were either attended personal interviews or submitted written responses to the commissioners questions. In the end, they provided “a body of information which formed a very good general knowledge of the subject, and was of great service in the course of the commission”.

The last bit of business to be worked out before the RCLSAL heard any loyalists’ claims was to determine the precise definition of a loyalist. Was it someone who had never wavered in their loyalty? Could a former Patriot who later sided with the crown be allowed? Should financial compensation be based on the years of loyalty, on whether the person bore arms for the crown or on one’s ultimate allegiance? In the end, Wilmot and his fellow commissioners created six separate classes of loyalists, leaving it to Parliament to decide whether to compensate each class differently.

Having set out the parameters for their job, hired the necessary staff, set up an office and advertised their services, the RCLSAL held its first hearings on September 18, 1783.

It quickly became apparent that this would be “a very arduous and delicate undertaking”. While some loyalist claims were of “no great length or difficulty… others took up several days each.”

Added to this, was the ongoing problem of “numberless persons” who were seeking asylum in Britain “without any means of support or even subsistence… their existence depended on immediate relief upon – or as soon as possible after – their arrival”. Often described as cruel inquisitors by their detractors, the RCLSAL commissioners demonstrated their genuine compassion for loyalists by dedicating their evening sessions to arranging temporary relief for over one thousand desperate refugees.

Human nature being what it is, Wilmot and his fellow commissioners were ever mindful of how unscrupulous persons would try their hand to defraud the government of hundreds or thousands of pounds. More than one genuine loyalist felt that in the commissioners’ treated them as guilty parties rather than ever-faithful supporters of the crown. Loyal claimants often referred to the RCLSAL’s cross-examinations as “an inquisition”.

Wilmot addressed this charge in his book. “The only general murmur against the commissioners, as to their mode of conducting the enquiry, was their examining the claimant and witnesses separately and apart, and their not making it an open and public enquiry.” Wilmot pointed out that the claimants and their witnesses were in their turn witnesses for one another, so they had a natural bias to support each other’s claims. Examining the claimant and his witnesses separately was common legal practice: it encouraged witnesses to speak the truth and to give full answers. “Besides,” admitted Wilmot, “if the mode of an open enquiry had been pursued, it must have taken some more years that it necessarily did, and it would have been almost impossible to ever have brought the commission to a conclusion”.

Next week’s Loyalist Trails finishes the account of a British member of Parliament who tried to see justice done by the loyalist refugees.

** 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.

Loyalist Gazette Fall 2018 Issue

The Fall issue of the Loyalist Gazette will be printed and distributed in November.

The editorial/design/layout team indicates that it is currently in the “Beginning stages of layout”. The process from now until being “in the mail” will take some time, meaning deliver to Canada Post probably around mid November?

I have seen the early draft of the cover page – it struck me as a great photo.

If you have not yet signed up for the digital version, which you will see somewhat earlier than the paper copy, as a UELAC member or paid subscriber to the Loyalist Gazette you can still sign up to receive the digital copy, or both digital and paper. Just go here and submit the request.

…Publications Committee

Battle of Fort Cumberland, Nova Scotia

The Battle of Fort Cumberland (also known as the Eddy Rebellion) was an attempt by a small number of militia commanded by Jonathan Eddy to bring the American Revolutionary War to Nova Scotia in late 1776. With minimal logistical support from Massachusetts and four to five hundred volunteer militia and Natives, Eddy attempted to besiege and storm Fort Cumberland in central Nova Scotia (near the present-day border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) in November 1776.

The fort’s defenders, the Royal Fencible American Regiment led by Joseph Goreham, a veteran of the French and Indian War, successfully repelled several attempts by Eddy’s militia to storm the fort, and the siege was ultimately relieved when the RFA plus Royal Marine reinforcements drove off the besiegers on November 29. In retaliation for the role of locals who supported the siege, numerous homes and farms were destroyed, and Patriot sympathizers were driven out of the area. The successful defence of Fort Cumberland preserved the territorial integrity of the British Maritime possessions, and Nova Scotia remained loyal throughout the war.

Read more at Wikipedia.

Atlantic Loyalist Connections: The Beckwiths of New Brunswick

By Christine Lovelace on 10 Oct, 2018

For Women’s History Month, we are happy to profile the lives of two New Brunswick women who made an impact in the worlds of literature and art.

Nehemiah Beckwith, covered in a previous post on Atlantic Loyalist Connections, was the founder of the Beckwith family of Fredericton, New Brunswick. His descendants include the first Canadian-born novelist, an artist and a pivotal New Brunswick politician.

Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart: UNB Archives & Special Collections is fortunate to have a cache of papers created by novelist Julia Catherine Beckwith Hart (1796-1867). The materials include original manuscripts of “Edith or the Doom” (volumes 1 and 2), letters, reviews, biographical material and rare copies of her first novel, “St. Ursula’s Convent”.

According to Lilian Maxwell, novelist Julia Catherine (Beckwith) Hart was “born from the union of a Methodist New Englander and a Catholic French woman,” referring to Nehemiah Beckwith and Julia Louise Le Brun de Duplessis (b. 1774, d. 1863) daughter of Jean Baptiste Le Brun de Duplessis, one of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, Marquis de Montcalm’s staff.

Elizabeth Beckwith Hazen: The next descendant of Nehemiah Beckwith to discuss is his granddaughter, Elizabeth Beckwith Hazen, whose works are part of UNB Archives & Special Collections.

She was born on 9 February 1839 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to the Hon. John A. Beckwith and Maria (Mary Anne) Street Berton. Through her mother, Elizabeth was connected with George Duncan Berton and with Samuel Denny Street, a well-known New Brunswick barrister. As a descendent of Loyalists, pre-Loyalists and old Quebec French …

John Douglas Hazen: Sir John Douglas Hazen was born 5 June 1860, the son of James King Hazen and Elizabeth Beckwith. Educated at the University of New Brunswick, he was called to the provincial bar in 1883. The following year he married Ada C. Tibbits of Fredericton, New Brunswick. He practiced law in Fredericton from 1883 to 1889 and in Saint John from 1889 to 1917. While in Fredericton, he served as mayor from 1888 to 1889.

The Beckwith story is that of a family that illustrates the arc of many New Brunswick families over time, arriving here as pre-Loyalists or Loyalists, and become intriguing historical figures who leave behind documents and images through which we may interpret their lives.

Read more.

Borealia: Beyond the “System”: The Enduring Legacy of Seigneurial Property

By Benoît Grenier and Alain Laberge, 9 October 2018

Following the release of Allan Greer’s latest book, a colossal work of comparative history that we would like to salute from the outset, our distinguished colleague from McGill University has declared the inexistence of the seigneurial “system” (a declaration more pronounced in the original English version of his text). Over and beyond the openly polemical title of his piece, Greer’s remarks are relatively consistent with the historiography, and, more specifically, with our own conception of the Canadian seigneurie. However, as historians who posit and study “seigneurial history” as an area of research in its own right, it goes without saying that we felt a need to respond.

We would like to begin by drawing attention to our common ground with the author. In fact, our points of agreement are so many that beyond the rebellious title of his piece, there is little left for us to debate. These points include the relative nature of private property and the idealized interpretation of other forms of tenure outside the seigneurial case; the very debatable role of the state in regulating the seigneurial regime; and, especially, the tenuous link between the seigneurie and the long, narrow shape of lots.

To turn now to the controversy surrounding the “system,” Greer essentially denounces the myth of a seigneurial “system” that would in every way distinguish the people of the St. Lawrence from other spaces of colonization in North America. He also critiques a vision of the monarchy as wishing to establish this seigneurial “system” in its Canadian colony. But who exactly has spoken of a “system,” in the way the word is commonly defined?

Read more.

JAR: What Strategy Could Either Side Have Used to Win the War in 1776?

By Editors, 9 October 2018

Open warfare began in America in 1775, and the colonies declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. We asked our contributors to speculate on this critical time period during the conflict: “What strategy could either side have used to win the war in 1776?”

As an arm-chair army commander, on either side, what would you have done to end the war in that crucial year?

Read more – varied responses from a goodly number of editors.

Ben Franklin’s World: Young Benjamin Franklin

Nick Bunker, author of Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity, joins us to explore Benjamin Franklin’s early life and how family, childhood, and youthful experiences combined to shape the great scientist and diplomat of the 18th century.

During our investigation, Nick reveals the English roots of the Franklin Family and why those roots were important for Benjamin Franklin; Franklin’s boyhood and education in Boston; And, details about Franklin’s printing business and how he was able to grow it so he could retire at the age of 42.

Listen to the podcast.

Resource: A Beginner’s Guide to Online Canadian Historical Images

By Andrea Eidinger, 11 September 2018

Are you ready for another resource guide? This time I wanted to address the issue of online Canadian historical images. Many of us love to add images to lectures or presentations. However, you’ve likely learned by now that it is really hard to find Canadian historical images online. Google is fantastic, but even if you put the word “Canadian” next to an image search, you’re still going to end up mostly with American images. Unwritten Histories to the rescue!

Read more.

Where in the World?

Where are Ivy Trumpour and Jack Twells of Calgary Branch?

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.

  • Reminder of the UELAC Pacific Regional Celebration of the arrival of the Fall Fleet, hosted by Chilliwack Branch on Saturday October 20th, 2018. Details.
  • The Mohawk Country Association will hold a ceremony commemorating the 238th anniversary of the Battles of Stone Arabia and Klock’s Field Saturday Oct. 20 at 10 am at the Stone Arabia Dutch Church. More details.
  • An update on the War of 1812 Veterans Grave Marker Dedication at Bowman Cemetery, Ancaster ON on Sun. 21 Oct. Bob Rennie will be there in his 2nd Lincoln Militia attire, and there will also be representatives from the 1st Oxford Militia, and the British Indian Department.
  • Adam Bunch will be talking about the Toronto Book of the Dead & how death has shaped our city at the Heliconian Hall on Wed. 24 Oct, while Nicole Hanson talks about challenges faced with cemeteries today.
  • Thursday, October 25, 2018, Fort Plain Museum presents, “The “Willigee Negroes:” Sir Peter Warren, Sir William Johnson and the First Permanent Settlement in the Mohawk Valley West of Schenectady” by Daniel T. Weaver. The earliest settlers – the Coppernol, Van Olinda and Phillips families. Evidence will be presented concerning the identity of the “Willigee Negroes” mentioned in Sir William Johnson’s Papers as well as William Johnson’s relationship with the Willigee Negroes during his first years in America. (See the lineup of Fall Lectures.)

From the Twittersphere and Beyond

  • Postcard from 1959 showing Loyalist House in Saint John, New Brunswick
  • Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, by Allan Ramsay, who died on this day (Oct 12) in 1784. Edinburgh-born Ramsay learned his craft in Italy under Francesco Solimena.
  • Today in History: Lars D.H. Hedbor @LarsDHHedbor (see his page for associated photos):
    • 13 Oct 1775 Continental Congress orders construction of a naval fleet, marking birth of the U.S. Navy.
    • 12 Oct 1776 Americans thwart effort to land British forces at Throg’s Neck, New-York.
    • 11 Oct 1775 On his way to Canada, Benedict Arnold arrived at the “Great Carry.” This was an 11 mile portage from the Carritunk Falls on the Kennebec across 3 lakes to the Dead River.
    • 11 Oct 1776 British defeat Gen. Arnold on Lake Champlain, but delay causes them to return to Canada for the season.
    • 10 Oct 1780 Great Hurricane strikes Caribbean, killing over 22,000 & sinking over 50 British & French warships.
    • 9 Oct 1779 Polish General Pulaski mortally wounded leading Patriots in attack on Savannah.
    • 8 Oct 1775 General officers of Continental Army meet, decide to bar slaves & free blacks from enlisting.
    • 7 Oct 1780 Patriots crush Loyalist militia at Battle of Kings Mountain, North-Carolina.
  • Townsends:
    • 1780’s Dutch Oven Pot Roast with Bacon, Sour Cream (?), and Carrots! This is another fantastic German recipe translated by Old Salem Museums and Gardens in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The sour cream sauce mixed with the meat and veggies makes this a must-try!
    • We Haven’t Gone Far Enough. We’re Starting Now. There are certain times when you really feel like you are back in history. That’s the goal and the feeling we want to shoot for on our channel. More than just reading journals. More than just tasting food. A true experience in early American history.
  • Woman’s Dress and Petticoat (Robe à la française) circa 1765 Silk plain weave (taffeta)
  • Details- Coiled floss silk makes a garden of rosettes on the bodice of this circa 1760s robe a la française.
  • 18th Century dress, robe à l’anglaise, c1770-80’s
  • Abigail Adams and Her Dimity Pocket, late 18th Century
  • Cheery American pocket, c. 1760-1800; crewel embroidery on plain weave linen Note block printed binding On view at Historic Deerfield
  • It’s yo-ho-over. I leave you with some pirate cosplay inspiration: the coiffure a la Belle Poule, inspired by a real French frigate that fought in the Battle of Ushant in 1778.
  • From my recent visit to Historic Deerfield: Suit (coat & breeches) striped silk velvet textile, probably England or France; ensemble made up in MA.1775 to 1790. Worn by Dr. Benjamin Shattuck, Templeton, MA. Silk velvet was costly & coveted.
  • 18th Century men’s 3-piece court suit, British, 1780-1785 via Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
  • Huge flag captured from French battle ship by Admiral Lord Nelson to go on display for first time in 100 years. The ensign of Le Genereux, which is roughly the size of a tennis court, was taken by Nelson and his men in 1800 and is believed to be one of the earliest Tricolours in existence
  • Battledore and shuttlecock was the forerunner of the game we now know as badminton; shuttlecock games go back around 2,000 years and are found in many different countries. Today, we are going to take a look at the game during the long eighteenth-century.
  • Some doodling humour from the Museum of English Rural Life “Ok, we found something amazing and we demand you to come on a journey with us:” Read the tweets which tell a story from a diary (at least look at the pictures), about Richard who doodles.  The best part ends by the time you get to Mick (yes, Jagger) but about twenty tweets further a drawing of a hen (in green…), a couple of hippos and finally a pair of stuffed jeans. (Thanks Bonnie….)

Editor’s Note

In mid-development of this newsletter, I lost it due to a problem with my computer. I am concerned that a couple of items I had done earlier in the week, especially branch announcements in Region, Branch and Member Bits, have not been recovered. My apologies for whatever I have missed.

We will be away the next three Sundays. I wonder what level of internet access we will enjoy (or miss), and the time available to research, compile and send Loyalist Trails. I plan to send at least a minimalist issue each week, if possible.