04 June 2015

Loyalist Sympathies

"Noblesse Oblige" ©1972 Charles Pachter; 
postcard reproduction by Charles Pachter
This is a year of seeing at least two Canadian icons expressing their appreciation of Loyalist history. An invitation to two UELAC Branches from artist Charles Pachter drew a full-house crowd in Toronto. And what a house! An architectural gem in a quiet old neighbourhood, it encompasses his Moose Gallery studio. The artist was a lively raconteur, entertaining us with stories of his artistic growth. Pachter's love for Canada and his impish humour are familiar to many in this country. 

Photo: CBM, January 2015
Finding some historical items related to the life and times of John Graves Simcoe ‒ Upper Canada's first lieutenant-governor ‒ turned into a fascination extending to the entire Loyalist founding era of the province, informing and influencing his art. We saw numerous renderings of the Simcoes and other pieces evoking the period. A delightful experience altogether, with so many of Pachter's paintings, artifacts, and books on display. You can see his own photos and historical essay at

Then there's Peter C. Newman, the incredibly prolific and irrepressibly-spirited author of popular historical and political books. Many of his bestsellers deal with families of corporate fortune and power. Publicity is warming up for Hostages to Fortune, How the Loyalists invented Canada to be published in the fall. Speaking about it at the UELAC Conference a year ago (2014), Newman promised a fresh look at history. 

Photo: Intelligencer (Belleville)[1]
Something tells me Newman might be in for a bit of criticism and debate. Why? Because of quotes like the following:
"Newman said that hundreds of books have been written on the Loyalists but almost all of them focus on genealogy – who begat whom – and not the adventure of their exploits." 
"The Loyalists were tortured and killed during the American War of Independence when the Americans turned on anyone loyal to the King. Tarring and feathering was the torture of choice, Newman said." 
"A religious, self-effacing people, the Loyalists spurned the chest-thumping bravo of the Americans and developed styles and attitudes that are very much like the Canadian personality of today, he said." 
"Instead of settling disputes with guns and violence, the Loyalists preferred to argue things out and reach a consensus, he said."[2]

There's no question the Loyalists suffered persecution, losses, and displacement. But it's not as if we haven't heard from proficient historians on both sides. Granted, the quotes are from an interview and not the book itself, but they beg argument:

▪ What has Newman read, or not read, amongst the Loyalist literature? "Almost all of them" are genealogical in nature? Whoa. Numerous historians (and genealogists) may disagree.
▪ "Loyalists were tortured and killed" — but hey, they did fight back and returned the favours.
▪ "Religious" and "self-effacing" are extremely broad, sweeping adjectives. No doubt many of them were perhaps one or the other, perhaps sometimes both at once. Were they more "religious" than their foe? What connotation does "self-effacing" conjure?
▪ As for "guns and violence," ask military historian Gavin Watt. Did the Loyalist corps not strive to give as good as they got? Or is Newman time-shifting several years down the road to political issues?

Will the quotes hold true in the content of the book? We shall see.

LATEST UPDATE: Hostages to Fortune: The United Empire Loyalists and the Making of Canada by Peter C. Newman will be published November 2016.

[1] Luke Hendry, "Newman delves into UEL history," 19 July 2013, ( : accessed 2 June 2015).
[2] Wayne Lowrie, "Literary Lion Has Den in Gananoque," 6 April 2015, Gananoque Reporter ( : accessed 31 May 2015).

© 2015 Brenda Dougall Merriman

1 comment:

BDM said...

Anyone who wishes to see that the Loyalists gave as good as they got need read no further than the book "Blood Traitors . . . by Marq de Villiers & Sheila Hirtle (Harper Collins, 1996) in order to see the exchange of misery in Carolina during the Revolution.

If the Loyalists were so self-effacing, why did the British government divide the colony of Nova Scotia into three (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton), if not in an attempt to relieve the lobbying being carried on by those "self-effacing" Loyalists?

Then there is the "Petition of the Fifty-Five" dated at New York on 22 July 1783. Its tone is scarcely "self-effacing". In fact, there is more than a whiff of elitism arising from the pages. However, perhaps their very wish to set themselves apart as a special case could be interpreted as evidence that. while their fellow Loyalists were humbler and self-effacing, this group of 55 were of a different character?

Let's see what Mr. Newman will say when he actually writes down what he has to say about the Loyalists whom I fear he may regard as a monolith rather than as a collection of people differing by place of origin, place of residence, religion, line of work, wartime experiences, and so forth.

Terrence M. Punch, CG(C)