This post appeared on the RenounceUScitizenship blog. This is another book that I would highly recommend. Given the recent reference to books, perhaps the Isaac Brock Society should create a page of recommended books/readings?
Meet "Liberty's Exiles" – Were they the Loyalists or Patriots in the American Revolution? http://t.co/KijqEeRQca
— U.S. Citizen Abroad (@USCitizenAbroad) August 9, 2013
History is always written by the victors. The American Patriots were a little like George W. Bush. When it comes to the British:
“You are either with the Patriots or you are with the British”
In an earlier post I noted that not all the residents of the colonies wanted to break ties with Britain. Those who wanted to keep ties with Britain were called Loyalists. Given the persecution and/or punishment of American Citizens abroad, I have become interested in the lives of the Loyalists during the American Revolution.
The truth is that the Patriots were NOT an overwhelming majority. In fact it is not clear who were the true patriots. Were those who opposed the British the patriots? Were those who supported the British the patriots?
Who were the True Patriots? (Note the similarities between the British of the 1775 and the Americans of 2013.)
In fact, the early colonies came within one vote of agreeing to something close to the British North America Act. Would you like to have a Loyalist during the American Revolution? If you knew what they had to endure, the answer would be no.
I cam across a fascinating book (just walking around a bookstore) titled “Liberty’s Exiles” by distinguished Harvard professor Maya Jasanoff. I read the first chapter and was hooked. Then I came across the video of the author herself. This video is worth an hour of your life.
Both The Independent and the New York Times wrote very interesting reviews. If you watch the video and read the reviews you will have a good sense of the value of the book.
Here is a excerpt from the book – Liberty’s Exiles:
“On November 25, 1783, the last British troops pulled out of New York City, bringing the American Revolution to an end. Patriots celebrated their departure and the confirmation of U.S. independence. But for tens of thousands of American loyalists, the British evacuation spelled worry, not jubilation. What would happen to them in the new United States? Would they and their families be safe? Facing grave doubts about their futures, some sixty thousand loyalists—one in forty members of the American population—decided to leave their homes and become refugees elsewhere in the British Empire. They sailed for Britain, for Canada, for Jamaica, and for the Bahamas; some ventured as far as Sierra Leone and India. Wherever they went, the voyage out of America was a fresh beginning, and it carried them into a dynamic if uncertain new world.
A groundbreaking history of the revolutionary era, Liberty’s Exiles tells the story of this remarkable global diaspora. Through painstaking archival research and vivid storytelling, award-winning historian Maya Jasanoff re-creates the journeys of ordinary individuals whose lives were overturned by extraordinary events. She tells of refugees like Elizabeth Johnston, a young mother from Georgia, who spent nearly thirty years as a migrant, searching for a home in Britain, Jamaica, and Canada. And of David George, a black preacher born into slavery, who found freedom and faith in the British Empire, and eventually led his followers to seek a new Jerusalem in Sierra Leone. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant resettled his people under British protection in Ontario, while the adventurer William Augustus Bowles tried to shape a loyalist Creek state in Florida. For all these people and more, it was the British Empire—not the United States—that held the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet as they dispersed across the empire, the loyalists also carried things from their former homes, revealing an enduring American influence on the wider British world.
Ambitious, original, and personality-filled, Liberty’s Exiles is at once an intimate narrative history and a provocative new analysis—a book that explores an unknown dimension of America’s founding to illuminate the meanings of liberty itself.”
Update – comment from Schubert – August 2013:
I’ve read the Jasonoff book and think it should be required reading in US high schools as well as in Canadian high schools. I know that when I was in US high school I had no knowledge of the extent of opposition to the declaration of independence by many American colonists (notably in New York City) nor the acts of what today would be described as terrorism by the “Sons of Liberty” and other Sam Adams followers against those who didn’t want to split from the British Crown.
The huge gulf in awareness and understanding between Americans and Canadians on both the Empire Loyalist and War of 1812 issues is proof positive that history is written by the “winners,” at least locally, and that what history is taught in the schools isn’t always the truth, all the truth, or nothing but the truth.
On a tangential matter, it wasn’t until I was an adult with post-graduate degrees that I starting reading ALL of Mark Twain (beyond Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer), notably his diatribes against US policy, BS propaganda and war crimes especially in the Phillipines during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Never got exposed to any of that in high school (nor to Thoreau’s excellent essay on the duty of civil disobedience, which I discovered during my anti-Vietnam-war days in the US in grad school). I think Twain and Thoreau are the best writers America ever produced, and they both have been heavily-censored in the public school system down there.
Speaking of Mark Twain:
Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it – #MarkTwain http://t.co/1WPGHnjGGI Would he have renounced?
— U.S. Citizen Abroad (@USCitizenAbroad) August 9, 2013
I’ll repeat what I said in my earlier post that USCA copies above — this book should be required reading for both Canadians and Americans. It is rare that one finds a book of history which presents the other side of the “revealed wisdom” or popular mythology of what happened in a particular war or series of events. Most US school systems and US publishers of secondary-school American History textbooks have systematically ignored or censored the facts described in Jasonoff’s book. One is reminded to an extent of the censorship and propaganda disseminated in the schools in the former Soviet Union …
Couple this book with the news today of the US-government-forced shutdown of the Lavabit website (see Petros’ post also today on this blog), and you don’t have a very pretty picture of the so-called Land of the Free.
My family were United Empire Loyalists, leaving the Northeast US during and after the revolution. They moved to New Brunswick and were among the first settlers in St. Andrews, NB receiving a land grant in that area. They left the US in secrecy and under threat. They lost everything. Basically had their land taken away and most of their possessions were confiscated. Family stories would indicate that many supported the British and there were not as many revolutionaries as doctored up history would suggest. There was also a perception that taxation without representation was overplayed. The British parliament was discussing the abolition of slavery at the time and this was not well received by the founding fathers many of whom had many slaves. The British parliament also wanted to stop the takeover of native Indian lands, a practice which George Washington was deeply engaged in. When my ancestors first came to the US in 1752 they were treated badly by wealthy land Barons who did not follow through on promises re available land and the readiness of the wilderness to accommodate those they recruited from Europe. They also caused them to be indebted during their atlantic journey and they had to spend a year in Boston working off trumped up debts before they could proceed to the land they had been promised. So it is good to see that the truth is being revealed on this book. Many of the current attitudes of those who govern in the US were in fact established by the founding fathers. What has happened to the very democracy they sought to establish or did they?
My family on my father’s side were United Empire Loyalists with German roots. Thank you for that extra background information, Joe Zinga. My family I believe went via New Brunswick to eventually settle in Oakville, ON.
@Em. My family also had German roots coming from the Ruhr Valley area sailing from Amsterdam on the ship Priscilla. Due to bad weather and delays in England, they were 6 months in making the crossing, ran out of food and had to be fed from ship stores. This caused them to be indebted to the land barons who paid their passage and offered promises in the new world. The hardships on the crossing were incredible. The ship was overcrowded and there were survival issues en route. The land barons overfilled the ships to serve their own purposes. Eventually the British put a stop to this and established occupancy standards for these ships
I watched the video last night, very worthy watching! I’m interested in this book too. Having had a child go through the Canadian school system I was aware of a bit more of this history than most stateside “U.S. persons” Yes, it should be required reading!
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