Fighting for the King

The Americans Who Became The Canadians

You may not know this, but the original name for Canada, dreamed up by a parliamentary committee in London, England, was that of “Cold North Dominion”. However this was too long, so they abbreviated it to C.N.D.  The King’s Royal Governor then presented the new name to the inhabitants of the land, but they didn’t say a word. “Well, what do you think?” asked the Royal Governor? “C, eh?” said the first fellow, and just looked at the Governor. “N, eh?” said the second guy. “D, eh?” said a third one.  Then silence. “Hey,” thought the Governor. “I like that.  It’s a lot easier to pronounce when you spell it that way – C(eh)N(eh)D(eh).” And that’s how Canada got its name!

The above is not historically accurate as to how Canada got its name, but the following is as to how Canada got a number of its first citizens.  Let me explain.  One of the mistakes we make when it comes to the 1776 American Revolution is to see it solely  as a battle between the independence-minded Americans and the oppressive-minded British.  However, such is far from the case.  In reality, there was a great divide within the colonists between loyalists (pro-Britain) and patriots (pro-American).  It bitterly pitted towns, churches, neighbours, friends, families, even couples and siblings against each other.  Historians have even called this America’s first real civil war
Here’s an example from a soldier’s journal in 1777:

We were passing through this particular town in Virginia and a shoemaker stood at his door and shouted, “Hurray for King George!”  No one took any real notice, but after halting in the woods a little distance beyond, the shoemaker came to us again and began to hurrah for King George.  When the general and his aids mounted and started, he still followed them, hurrahing for King George; upon which the general ordered him to be taken into the river and ducked.  We brought a long rope  which we tied around his middle and sea-sawed him backwards and forwards until we had him nearly drowned, but every time he got his head above the water he would cry King George.  The general then having ordered him to be tarred and feathered; a feather bed was taken from his own house, where with his wife and four little daughters crying and beseeching him to hold his tongue, he still would not.  We tore the bed open and knocked the top out of a tar barrel, into which we plunged him headlong.  He was then drawn up by the heels and rolled in the feathers until he was a sight, but still he would hurrah for King George.  Finally, the general ordered him to be taken way out of town and told him expressly if he plagued him anymore with that kind of talk he would have him shot.  We never saw the shoemaker again.

Of the 2,500,000 colonists, around 20% (500,000) were loyalists.  And when the patriots were victorious, these monarchists fled north to Canada, realizing that they could not, either in safety or in philosophy, remain in a country that did not give allegiance to the crown.  In so doing, they had to leave behind their homes and lands, taking only what could be carried.

Now most Canadians know the stories of the famous colonial patriots (Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, etc.), their exploits having been well documented in many biographical accounts.  But few Canadians know that the exploits of the loyalists have also been put in biographical form as heroic founders of this nation.  And here are two recent books for students we’re adding to the church school library:

Buckskin Pimpernel: The Exploits Of
Justus Sherwood: Loyalist Spy

At the beginning of the American Revolution, Justus Sherwood left his young family in Canada in order to serve with the King’s forces, He was soon appointed Supervisor of Spies and from his “Loyal Blockhouse” on Lake Champlain he sent out raiding parties and spying missions to harass the patriots in New England.

With Nothing But Courage: Loyalist
Diary Of Young Mary MacDonald

When Mary’s family sides with the British against the American patriots, they are branded traitors and forced to flee their home.  Heading north to Canada, all they have is what they can carry with them – plus their determination and courage.  Along with other Loyalists, they hope to start a new life where there is land for those loyal to the King. But the journey is treacherous, the winter bitterly cold, and they find it hard to survive. Even with assistance from Britain, clearing the land to build their home is a struggle, but one they survive to forge a new life in a new land.

The bottom line?  It was not just America that came into being in 1776, in so many ways, so did Canada.