HM - Mar. 2014 - Storer

Classroom Applications


Considering Multiple Perspectives and Reverse Immigration
when Teaching about the American Revolution

Tina Storer, Curriculum Specialist, Center for Canadian-American Studies, Western Washington University
and Stephen Beaupré, K-12 STUDY CANADA Teacher-Associate in New Hampshire

As a Canadian Studies specialist, I was delighted to meet Stephen Beaupré, co-author of this article, when he attended the STUDY CANADA Summer Institute for K-12 Educators almost ten years ago.  At that time, he was a recent retiree with an impressive 43- year career as a principal and middle school teacher behind him yet he was eager to learn more about historical connections to Canada. His social studies classrooms always considered United States history in a North American context and even when teaching a subject as quintessentially American as the Revolutionary War, he ensured that students considered perspectives of all parties to history—the American revolutionaries, the United Empire Loyalists, the British in North America, and Indians in the region whose territorial rights were ignored as the colonies grew.  It is to our benefit that “once a teacher, always a teacher” holds true in Stephen’s case since he continues to share his knowledge of shared North American history and classroom resources through outreach.  His efforts in the classroom and beyond are a model worth following. His students gained greater context for historical inquiry whenever he stepped beyond textbooks to consider multiple perspectives...and yours can, too. Consider, for example, the improved scope of history that is learned when more than a single lens is applied to what happened before, during, and after the American Revolutionary War.
First peoples, as the name implies, should be considered first when teaching about the colonization of North America since they have lived here perhaps going as far back as 23,000 BC.  Eventual discovery by the English, French and Spanish led to colonization of the “New World” with little consideration for its native inhabitants and, sometimes there is not enough consideration of their role in history textbooks either. As the continent’s population grew with European immigration during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the immigration here was entrepreneurial in nature with settlers focused primarily on establishing trade networks for goods such as cod, furs, and tobacco that could be shipped back to Europe.  Unfortunately, they inadvertently brought death with them by exposing Indians to smallpox, measles, influenza, diphtheria, typhus, tuberculosis and mumps for the first time. It is now estimated that, as more immigrants arrived from Europe, between 90 and 93 percent of the North American Aboriginal population was killed by the diseases they carried. From the outset, it’s important to acknowledge their loss of life and territory and consider their perspectives in the course of United States history, including their role in the American Revolutionary War.
That said, by the seventeenth century, commerce expanded into the interior of the continent and the population rapidly grew as penal colonists and immigrants seeking religious freedom and the promise of land arrived; however, all worried that the war in Europe between England and France over territory and religion might spill over to North American soil.  If that were to happen, many American settlers feared that British protection would be inadequate against attack by the French and their Indian allies. Although these fears proved false when Britain ultimately conquered the French on the Plains of Abraham, the lengthy Seven Years’ War took its toll on the psyche of American colonists and established tensions with the British that mounted during the next decade and led to revolution.
In 1763, the signing of the Treaty of Paris gave Britain authority over extensive lands in North America but it did little to suppress colonists’ fears that Indian tribes and land speculators would test the limits of this new world order. Similarly, though King George III’s Proclamation Line of 1763 intended to end conflicts about land between Native Americans and colonists that had arisen during the French and Indian Wars by closing lands north and west of the Appalachian Mountains to settlement by speculators, it did not offer Indians any official territory or homeland and angered many colonists who had already purchased land in those regions or had been given land grants in exchange for their recent military service. Settlers began ignoring the Proclamation Line and even succeeded in officially moving the line further west. In the end, the proclamation served only to escalate rising tensions between them and with Britain.
In the meantime, because the many years of conflict with France and the cost to protect its colonies in America had taken a toll on Britain’s economy, Parliament began enacting taxes on some colonial activities to replenish its treasury. With poor communication between Britain and the American colonies, and little representation by Americans in its own governance, colonists were roused to action.  Some were more enthusiastic than others.  Some were led by individuals or groups that were furthering their own interests.
Starting in 1765, when Americans rejected British authority to tax them without elected representation in Britain’s Parliament, protests escalated. A few examples of the ongoing power struggle were the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the British-imposed punitive laws on Massachusetts in 1774. Each colony had its own reasons to protest British rule and each soon established new governments to take over control. Of course, the British soon responded by sending combat troops to re-establish royal control and thus, in 1775, the American Revolutionary War began.  Though independence was proclaimed in 1776, Patriots continued to fight the British through the Second Continental Congress in 1783.
Some regional reasons to oppose British law included the following:   

New England
  • taxation without representation
  • no political voice
  • injustice of parliamentary rule
  • trade merchants
  • local control growing limited
Middle Colonies
  • no political voice  
  • injustice of parliamentary rule
  • land speculators in west
  • support westward expansion
past Proclamation Line of 1763
Southern Colonies
  • protective of slave-based economy
  • no political voice
  • injustice of parliamentary rule
  • land speculators in west
  • support westward expansion past Proclamation Line of 1763
After teaching more fully about the series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in society, government, and ways of thinking that led to the American Revolution, consider the following essential questions (and answers) to better include multiple perspectives of history and deepen classroom knowledge about the Revolutionary period.  Of course, whether or not you provide the answers through instruction or have students do so through assigned research and select activities depends on your preferred teaching methods. Classroom debate and role-playing activities can be particularly useful for students’ learning experience.
Who were the Loyalists and why, as new settlers to America, would they want to leave their homes?
United Empire Loyalists were, for the most part, rural or urban workers, craftsmen, farmers, free men and slaves, rich and poor.  They were hardworking, community-minded members. They represented all races and were from several nationalities, although most were English, Scottish, Irish, and white.  Most of them were then called “Tories” because they embraced political convictions that supported, whether or not one liked the laws, King George III and Britain’s Parliament. They were also known as Loyalists, Royalists or King’s Men because of this allegiance to the British Empire.
Despite intending to permanently settle in the American colonies, Loyalists soon sought to leave the area to protect their families and livelihoods. Patriots suppressed Loyalist voices in the pre-Revolutionary period of dissension and, in 1774, expelled all royal officials. Once dissension grew into outright fighting between American Patriots and the British, they fled for their lives to the larger cities where British protection was still present.  Many of them remained there until British forces pulled out and then terms of the Treaty of Paris (1782) were met by relocating all Loyalists outside the borders of the new United States.
Benjamin Marston - Loyalist Profile:  Most Loyalists who moved from the American colonies to British North America were able to successfully re-establish their incomes and social standing in their new homeland; however, that was not true for Benjamin Marston. A Harvard graduate, he lost his family and fortune by declaring himself loyal to the British crown in the revolutionary stronghold of Boston.  At the start of the war, he fled to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for safety and a fresh start.  Unfortunately, the years that followed were a struggle to survive. The diary that Marston kept for the remainder of his life—from 1776 to 1787—has proven a remarkable primary historical resource on the Revolutionary War and Loyalist period, especially regarding early development of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during that tumultuous time.
Why would indigenous peoples want to resettle in undisputed lands controlled by the British?
Because Indian lands were not defined by the Treaty of Paris (1763), Indian groups before, during, and after the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris (1782) were not sure where their loyalties should lie.  Many tribes tried to stay neutral at first, but the Iroquois Confederacy was divided.  The British learned from the Seven Years’ War that Indians made good allies and actively sought their help. Indeed, French forces in North America would not have been able to hold out against British forces for so long in that earlier war otherwise.  First Nations peoples hoped that the British would help them reclaim territory. However, the British did not seek a reward from Americans for Indian efforts during discussions of peace after the Revolution. In the end, they and other Indian nations lost most of their land.  They were forced to move north of Lake Ontario or remain to fight for what they could keep in the lands west of the Proclamation Line of 1763.  The fact that so many indigenous peoples had no defined homeland remained an unresolved issue and became one of the key factors that later led to the War of 1812.

Joseph and Molly Brant - Loyalist Profile:  Many among the Mohawk First Nations allied with the British. Joseph Brant, a Mohawk chief in upper New York State, was educated at Dartmouth College and served the British as a military tactician and as a native diplomat who helped gain Indian support for the British.  His sister Molly was a consort of Sir William Johnson, a royal agent and Mohawk Valley land owner. She sheltered and fed fleeing Loyalists and furnished intelligence for the British.  Although both did much to help the British, they are most honored as war heroes for keeping the welfare of Mohawk peoples foremost in their hearts.
Why would Black Americans want to leave the USA in favor of lands still governed by the British?
Some blacks in the American colonies were free men and women but most were slaves. Understandably, freedom was the human right that they sought above all. When British governors in the colonies received little help from England for adequate forces to protect their rule, they recognized that these slaves represented an untapped source of support. Lord Dunmore, notably the last Royal Governor of Virginia, issued an edict known as Dunmore’s Proclamation that allowed slaves and indentured persons to gain freedom if they took up arms with the British in his attempt to squash the rebel effort in Virginia. Not surprisingly, over 2,000 slaves flocked to British bases and signed up. Sir Henry Clinton, British Commander-in- Chief at New York, similarly issued the Philipsburg Proclamation stating that, if any Negro were to desert the rebel cause by joining British forces, he would receive full protection, freedom and land.  The latter allowed slaves in other regions to be affected, too.  It is not surprising that, as a result, there was indeed an influx of black Americans into the British Forces. However, at the same time, declarations such as these struck protectionist nerves in the hearts of American Patriots since they threatened the colonial economy and the social structure of the American South. 

Richard Pierpoint - Loyalist Profile:  Richard Pierpoint was a black Loyalist, born around 1745 in Bondu (Senegal) but captured, sent to the colonies and sold as a slave.  When the British forces needed recruits at the time of the American Revolutionary War, Richard gained his freedom by enlisting in the Butler’s Rangers of the Fort Niagara, New York area.  He was also later a hero in the War of 1812 as a fighting member of the Black Corps of Upper Canada.
Where did the Loyalists go?
In rural areas, many Loyalists in the American colonies found that there was little room for differences of opinion as to how the government was run.  Some of them initially fled to urban centers like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Savannah and remained there until British forces pulled out at the end of the war.  If able to successfully rebuild their lives and subdue their objections to the revolution, they likely remained there while many others crossed the border to more northerly regions still under British rule.
The Treaty of Paris (1782) determined the terms to be followed at the end of the American Revolutionary War and these terms included evacuating all Loyalists from areas in and around New York City.  From there they were deported to other parts of the British Empire to receive so-called free lands if they had fought with the British forces and/or had lost their lands.
White Loyalists moved primarily to Nova Scotia (which was later divided to include New Brunswick) and Upper Canada (now Ontario) or went back to England.  Immediately following the Revolutionary War, some Americans relocated to British North America because they felt there was not enough fertile land available locally, they wanted a new start after the revolution, or they felt economic strain in the new United States.  These folks, often called Late Loyalists, mainly settled in Upper Canada and the Eastern Townships of Quebec.  Black Loyalists were evacuated to the Birchtown area of Nova Scotia, which became the largest community of Free Blacks anywhere in North America. Many of them later moved to colonize the new nation of Sierra Leone.  Thomas Peters, a former slave who lived in Nova Scotia for eight years after fleeing North Carolina on a British ship during the war, recruited and led a large contingent of African settlers in Nova Scotia there. Peters became the leader of Freetown and is remembered as an African-American hero and founding father of that nation. 
Other parts of the British Empire that Loyalists were evacuated to included:
  • St. Augustine (West Florida) – This land was first held by the Spanish but then by the British, before going back again to Spanish rule and, eventually, American rule.  Loyalists from the South who were also slave holders moved here, and then later moved to the Bahamas, Nassau, Jamaica, and to other Caribbean areas governed by the British.
  • Lower Canada (Quebec) - Resettlement lands were made available by the British in Quebec (to add an English presence to former New France) and later in Upper Canada (Ontario).
  • Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – There is some irony to the fact that Loyalists were resettled in this region which was the homeland of Acadian settlers who had been exiled themselves little more than a decade earlier (1755–1764).  Communities in Nova Scotia included Shelburne, Birchtown, Guysbough, Antigonish, Manchester, Cape Breton Island, Annapolis Valley, and Windsor; communities in New Brunswick on the west side of the Bay of Fundy, included including Saint John, Kingston, Fredericton, St. Andrews, and the Kennebecsis Valley.
  • Island of Saint John (now known as the province of Prince Edward Island).
  • Britain…back to the homeland.
Did these emigrants from American colonies successfully resettle in British North America?
Simply put, some did and some didn’t. Resettlement occurred in several regions and each area tells its own story; for this article, Nova Scotia is the focus.  It is estimated that 40,000 United Empire Loyalists went to Nova Scotia with 3,500 black Loyalists among the group.  Each family was to receive 100 acres for each family head and 50 acres for each person in the household (wife, son, daughter, and servant).  A military officer was to receive 1,000 acres, while a private in the British armed forces received 100 acres. On the surface, these reparations seem generous and, though many former American colonists re-settled comfortably in their new homeland, several problems had to be overcome for white, black, and indigenous emigrants:
  • Promised supplies became limited because of large numbers of newcomers and many Loyalists had no knowledge of the needed skills for farming.
  • Single men could not find wives and the different climate was difficult for some to get used to.
  • Many British-born Loyalists eventually went back to England due to dissatisfaction or inability to follow the conditions placed on land grants.
  • The indigenous people of Eastern North America not only lost control of their traditional homelands but also their culture when their rights not considered in both the 1763 and 1782 Treaties of Paris. They needed to gain a political voice in order to reclaim their native territories.
  • Thousands of white English-speaking New Englanders known as Planters were lured by Nova Scotia’s Royal Governor Charles Lawrence to replace the French-speaking Acadians after their expulsion from the region in 1759.The Britishwere concerned about the influx of former slaves to the region and discrimination clearly remained an issue that had to be overcome.Plus, there were land disputes between the new grantees and the Planters and the few remaining Acadians.
  • Most significantly, black emigrants still faced some serious difficulties.
    • Former slaves who had been evacuated from the American colonies by the British or who had escaped behind British lines before the end of the war were identified after the war by the British-American Commission to plantation owners in the American South wanting to recover their lost “property”.  The commission was compelled to identify 3,000 former slaves.  Learn more about this part of black history in the The Book of Negroes which records their names and provides descriptions of those evacuated by ship to points in Nova Scotia as freedmen where slavery was actually still legal until 1834.
    • One of the biggest fears for blacks in North America was being kidnapped and sent to the West Indies or taken back to the United States (as depicted in the true account of Solomon Northup in Twelve Years a Slave).
    • Out of 649 black Loyalist men, only 187 received land in Nova Scotia.
    • Large numbers of black Loyalists were forced to live in urban areas of the Maritimes and Upper Canada to secure work as domestic servants or craftsmen. 
These points will hopefully lead students to further discoveries about other resettlement regions and, more significantly, lead them to a broader understanding of not only the nation-building battles that led to the American Revolution and followed afterwards but also the many perspectives that merit consideration when studying any historical era. Extensions for learning can be discovered by teachers and students with the resources and recommendations that follow.
Recommended Reading and Websites for Further Study
The United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada provides a comprehensive selection of books appropriate for elementary and middle school students. Download the list at Bibliography (“S” indicates suitable for students to read and “T” indicates suitable as a Teacher reference book.)                            
  • Calloway, Colin G. The Scratch of a Pen 1763, and the Transformation of North America.  (Oxford:  Oxford University Press; 2006.) (T)
  •  Epps. Bernard. The Eastern Townships Adventure. (Ayers Cliff, Quebec:  Pigwidgeon Press; 1992.) (S & T)
  • Gilbert, Allen. Black Patriots and Loyalists, Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence. (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press; 2012.) (T)
  • Hill, Daniel G. The Freedom-Seekers—Blacks in Early Canada.  (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing; 1992.) (S & T)
  • Hilchey, Doris. Refuge - The Loyalists Come to Nova Scotia. (Halifax:  Four East Publications; 1985.) (S & T)
  • Jasanoff, Maya. Liberty’s Exiles, American Loyalist in the Revolutionary World. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff; 2011.) (T)
  • Moore, Christopher. The Loyalists - Revolution, Exile, Settlement. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc;1994.) (T)
  • Pachai, Bridglal. BLACKS - People of the Maritimes. (Halifax, NS:  Nimbus Publishing Limited; 1997.) (S & T)
  • Pachai, Bridglal and Henry Bishop. Historic Black Nova Scotia- Images of our Past. (Halifax, NS:  Nimbus Publishing Limited; 2006.)  (S & T)Philbrick, Nathaniel.  Bunker Hill - A City, a Siege, a Revolution. (New York:  Viking; 2013.) (T)
  • Robertson, Marion. King’s Bounty - a History of Early Shelburne Nova Scotia. (Halifax:  Nova Scotia Museum; 1983.) (T)
  • Rees, Ronald. Land of the Loyalists: Their Struggle to Shape the Maritimes.  (Halifax:  Nimbus; 2000.) (T)
  • Spray, William and Carole L. Spray. New Brunswick:  Its History and Its People. (Toronto:  Gage Publishing Limited; 1984.) (S & T)