Tory or Loyalist?  (Depends on which side you’re on)

When you win a war you get to decide what you call the people who opposed you in the war.  The history of the United States is full of examples of this.  In the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War those who wanted to break with the British referred themselves as Patriots and those who opposed them and wanted to remain under the crown were called Tories.  If we think that our current climate is divisive imagine living in 1775 when you had to choose whether to fall in line with your family or neighbors and take up arms against the governing authority you’ve known your entire life or stay loyal and risk being tarred and feathered, having your house burned down, or worse.

Northern loyalists fled the colonies for Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.  In fact, New Brunswick was once part of Nova Scotia until the population swelled with United Empire Loyalists relocating to areas still controlled by the British.  Southern loyalists fled to Florida and the Caribbean islands under British control.  Many took their slaves with them.  Many others returned to England.

Being from Boston and having a fair amount of Scottish blood running through my veins, I feel a strong connection with Halifax.  When you’re in Halifax that bond with Boston is clear as well.  And there’s also a strong connection to Great Britain in the area.  Over 240 years since the start of the Revolutionary War, and there’s still a fascination with British royalty in all of North America.  How hard it must have been for the loyalists to choose.  Ben Franklin is one of the Founding Fathers.  His own son William was a leader in the Loyalist movement.  This of course drove a permanent wedge in their relationship.

In contrast to the United States, Canada became independent using diplomacy instead of conflict.  They met amongst themselves to discuss it in 1864, and then met with the British to request it.  July 1, 1867 was the day that Canada was granted self-governance with the British North America Act.  I think many of the original loyalists who fled the colonies would have preferred a diplomatic solution like that had it been available to them.  Uprooting your family from a place you’ve grown a livelihood in must have been both challenging and terrifying for the loyalists.  For the Patriots it was a time to take matters into their own hands, birthing a nation through bold action.  It was complicated for both sides.  Taking up arms and fighting for independence is our American legacy.

Growing up on the history taught in school in the 70’s, when the tories were “traitors”, the Indians were “savages” and Columbus discovered America, you never thought much about what life was like for the people on the other side.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I really started to see that you can’t believe everything you’re told about another group of people.  I wish a few more people would stop yelling long enough to learn from history.