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An important counterpoint to all the myth that has built up around the American Revolution...
on 28 April 2013
American legends would have you believe the American Revolution was a relatively civilised affair, a unanimous uprising from the oppressed and downtrodden colonists against a tyrannical king and unrepresentative parliament. The truth, as with anything, is very different. It was more akin to a civil war; indeed, at the time it was described as such, rather than revolution, with families split asunder, neighbours turning against one another, this man a revolutionary, that man a loyalist.
This book explores the stories of those who did not 'fight for freedom', who remained loyal to King and Country and paid for it by losing everything but their lives, evacuating from America with the departing troops in fear of 'patriot' reprisals. The British government of the time offered free land grants and compensation for losses to any who chose to leave America, a fairly radical and humanitarian offer for the time, especially since it extended to those other, often-neglected participants of the Revolution, the British' Mohawk and Creek allies, and the free blacks and ex-slaves who had been offered freedom in exchange for fighting for the Crown.
The loss of the American colonies had a remarkable effect on the British Empire itself, setting it on a path of empire-building in Asia, Africa and Australia to compensate for the loss, aided in no small part by those same loyalists. They spread out in a diaspora across the British Empire, from Nova Scotia in what was then known as British North America, to Jamaica and the Bahamas, to the new black colony of Freetown in Sierra Leone, and eventually to the British Empire's newest jewel in the Crown, India. There they had a remarkable influence on the evolution of those colonies, often setting the tone for the countries we know today. They brought with them a legacy from the Revolution of protest and a desire for reform - just because they had remained loyal to the Crown did mean they did not earnestly desire and agitate for reform and for their rights as British citizens, just as had the American revolutionaries before they decided to fight for independence.
It's a fascinating story, tracing a really neglected area of history. The American Revolution was by no means unanimous; studies estimate that between a fifth and one third of all colonists at the time were loyalists, and over 60,000 fled after Yorktown and the signing of peace terms, some one fortieth of the entire population of the time. It's just a shame that it has taken so long for such a book as this to reach a mainstream, non-academic audience, to serve as an important counterpoint to all the myth that has built up around the American Revolution.